Welcome to Sudanomena! The newest section of Blog #45, where we’ll be covering some of the phenomena that make Sudan, Sudan.
(Get it? Get it?)
Anyway, without further ado, let us begin.
bring me kabaabi~
make them the shiniest that I’ve ever seen~
Seed Al3idda, or the 3idda Man, or the Housewares Vendor, was (is?) a staple of the Sudanese social landscape. He is the bringer of dreams. He is the promise of new things. He is the epitome of trade and the barter system. And I *loved* it when he came around.
How could I not? First of all, he rode a donkey. I am a city kid, so when the 3idda Man comes around it was like having a petting zoo right outside your door. Sure, there was also Seed Allaban (The Milkman), and he rode a donkey, too, but… it just wasn’t the same. We’ll cover that later. Anyway, my mother never really let me pet Seed Al3idda‘s donkey because she thought it was gross and inappropriate. But I did pet Seed Al3idda‘s donkey once, behind her back, and it was the most glorious feeling.
I’m talking about the anim— you know what, let me just stop.
Anyway, Seed Al3idda had everything: silverware, (what I thought were) fancy glasses, tea sets, plates, and sometimes even pots and pans. The best part? You didn’t pay with money! You gave him old clothes that you didn’t even want anymore. How cool is that?
Every once in a while, my mother would collect our outgrown pants, ripped shirts, my dad’s faded jalabiyas and 3immas (turbans), and prepare them in anticipation of Seed Al3idda‘s arrival. I don’t know how she knew he was coming – it’s not like he had a schedule – but we were always ready. Children’s apparel was always in demand, but men’s clothes and women’s tiyab [Sudanese sari] were worth the most. You could really score some quality product with a few good tiyab.
He’d knock on the door, and I’d run hurriedly back into the house and scream, “Ummi, ummi, Seed Al3idda ja!” (Mom, Mom, the Housewares Man is here!). We would walk out together to the courtyard (I faster than she), where we would find him crouching in the shade with his bag of loot. Mom always knew how to keep a poker face – if he had judged our housewares situation by the look on my face, he’d probably guess that we used bricks for plates.
My mother never brought out the clothes with her, always choosing to examine the merchandise before engaging in the barter game. She also started with, “Ani7na ma dayreen 7aja aleila” (we don’t want anything today), even though she almost always ended up trading for something. He knew this. She knew this. I didn’t. Each time, I would look up at her in a mixture of shock and disappointment, as if our family’s future depended on this; or, better yet, that she was being rude. “How dare you say no to him! He came all this way!”, my eyes would say.
I was a dumb, dramatic child.
Then the dance would begin. He would spread out his merchandise, and my mom would inspect. If she liked what she saw, she would go in to the house and get the clothes, while I squatted next to Seed Al3idda with a comforting look that said, “You’re gonna like what she’s bringing out”. Despite my excitement, I often protested once my mother brought the clothes out
“Hey! That’s my shirt!”
“But I like that shirt! It’s my favorite shirt!”
Even if it wasn’t, I always hotly claimed that it was. My attachment to any item of clothing grew tenfold the moment it was brought out to Seed Al3idda, as if suddenly aware of its value. Ironically, I was very much okay with my mother using my father’s, my brothers’, or her clothes as bartering chips.
I was also a selfish child.
The negotiation with Seed Al3idda was a lengthy process, and involved lots of arguing. He would point out the hole in the underarm of the shirt, while she would point out the chipped fourth cup from the left, “7assi di asawi baiha shinu Ana? Ma 3indak wa7da andaf min di?” (What am I supposed to do with this? Don’t you have a ‘cleaner’ one?). I tensely watched the exchange, trembling in suspense. I was in awe at how in control of her emotions my mother could be; but Seed Al3idda wasn’t no amateur, either. He had me convinced that the three pairs of pants and two shirts my mother offered were worthless, that he could easily make twice that at some other house, and offer less 3idda in return.
I would release my breath only after they had come to an agreement: faded corduroy pants and a dress I refused to wear for sa7an talis (enamel bowl) and a set of teacups. My mother is an excellent bargainer.
One time, Seed Al3idda came with a play teaset, and I was beside myself with excitement. It was like Christmas. Like all my hanging around and “advice” on which teacups to choose finally paid off. Like he finally saw me as an equal, and brought that toy as recognition of my aficionado expertise. Of course, my mom didn’t trade for it, and from that day I vowed to give away my children’s best clothes to get that teaset.
One day, Mr. 3idda Man. One day.