Poverty is rampant in Zambia in spite of being a tourist destination. Unemployment is extremely high and government-funded education only goes through 7th grade. Given these circumstances I was pleasantly surprised to see how friendly the people are and what a beautiful unspoiled country they offer to their guests.
The locals shop and or trade in the barter market downtown Livingstone where the vendors try to make their wares available to everyone even if it means selling only 1/4 cup of sugar. Many of the goods are used clothing sent from other countries and any extras are used to buy food.
Probably the biggest draw for foreigners is the incredible Victoria Falls and there are many eager salesmen standing by, hoping to get some of their dollars. Of course, bargaining has become the norm here and I hate it when my fellow travelers try to get the best possible price when so much is at stake for the locals. It didn’t take long for the vendors to get me, the non-shopper into their “stores”.
They would remark on something of little value that you had and ask you to trade, but of course, they would need extra money since what they had was of greater worth and handmade to boot! I appreciated the effort and enjoyed this new game. By the time I was done I had paid one guy to take my raincoat (meaning, I guess, that I didn’t have to carry it around anymore? or that I was truly a bad negotiator?) and another went home with my Merrill shoes as I hopped into the van barefoot with a small bowl. My watch was also asked for but I selfishly refused only to leave it behind at airport security….karma….