selling a spiderman kite

dominican republic, santo domingo, street, vendor, sales, selling

Written by Dan King

Christ-follower. husband. father. author of the unlikely missionary: from pew-warmer to poverty-fighter. co-author of activist faith: from him and for him. school of ministry and missions instructor. president of fistbump media, llc.

April 14, 2011

dominican republic, santo domingo, street, vendor, sales, selling

They were literally everywhere! One thing that certainly stands out as we drove through Santo Domingo (and other cities in the Dominican Republic) was the massive amount of street vendors.

And no, I don’t mean sidewalk vendors. I mean street vendors.

These are dudes that walk around on the street selling things to people stopped at the intersections. Some sell bread and other food items, others offer pre-paid phone cards to charge up your mobile device.  Some are trying to move the inventory of hand-woven straw hats and baskets that they’ve made.

I even saw a gentleman in the car next to me buy a bag of goldfish… and it wasn’t the cracker kind! Yep… actual fish swimming in a baggie of water!

Then there’s my personal favorite. It’s the guy selling children’s toys with a Spiderman kite flying right over his head as if it were some sort of banner advertisement for his little business.

So often we perceive people living in poverty as lazy. But I was seeing something different here. Impressed with the hustle of these men doing whatever they could to make a few bucks, I turned to Pete and said something like, “man, these guys are really working hard out here in the hot sun!”

We swapped a few observations about the workers we saw. Then I recalled seeing people doing the same thing in other countries I had visited… Kenya, Uganda, and Haiti. I told Pete, “in fact, the only place I haven’t seen this yet is in the United States.”

Granted, I haven’t been everywhere… But it was an interesting trend seeing this kind of activity only in poorer countries.

Then Pete replied, “Yeah, all we do is hold up signs asking for money.”

For more from this trip check out the dominican republic diaries.

12 Comments

  1. Gy2103

    Was he selling the spiderman underoos too?

    Reply
  2. Duane Scott

    Oh Dan,

    I too have seen it all.

    And there is NOTHING like buying a bag of water, ripping the corner off with your teeth, and drinking by squeezing the bag.

    NOTHING.

    I want to go back to Ghana just so I can buy water.

    -DS

    Reply
    • @bibledude

      it amazes me what people do to make money in other countries… i love the innovation that i see in people doing whatever it takes to survive. maybe that’s the deal… they are literally working to survive in many of these poorer countries.

      i’d love to get back to kenya and uganda to experience some of this again too!

      Reply
  3. Hazel Moon

    I wonder if we don’t see more of street vendors in the USA is because we have too many “Laws.”
    In our town, we have times in the summer for a street fair, where vendors rent a small space. Any other likening to, would be at individual persons who host a yard sale, or schools who put on an event. Your ending was catchy! People in the USA only hold signs requesting money for ???

    Reply
    • @bibledude

      i don’t know that we can blame the “laws” for a culture of laziness. lack of ambition exists regardless of the laws. i recently offered a meal to a man who was holding up a sign asking for money, and he turned me down! i couldn’t believe it! i don’t want to label every homeless person in this way, but there does seem to be more of a culture of apathy in our society… all while we point the fingers at other countries and call them lazy. while i’ve seen a lack of resources, i’ve not seen the same entitlement and apathy in other countries.

      thanks for sharing your thoughts hazel! i appreciate you joining the conversation!

      Reply
  4. Denadyer

    I really appreciate your observations, Dan, and am thrilled you linked up in our cross-cultural writing project. I do think we have a culture that esteems getting the most you can for as little effort as possible. Why else would a college invite Snooki to give the graduation speech? Sheesh. 🙂

    Reply
    • @bibledude

      It’s the classic perspective that Jesus talked about, “don’t talk about the speck in your friend’s eye without recognizing the plank in your own.” It bothers me that we are quick to judge without know the people or the truth about their lives. Visiting other cultures has been a real eye-opener, and I’ve learned a great deal about myself in the process.

      Reply
    • @bibledude

      It’s the classic perspective that Jesus talked about, “don’t talk about the speck in your friend’s eye without recognizing the plank in your own.” It bothers me that we are quick to judge without know the people or the truth about their lives. Visiting other cultures has been a real eye-opener, and I’ve learned a great deal about myself in the process.

      Reply
  5. Ann Kroeker

    Oooo…so interesting that people on our streets are asking for money without offering anything in return compared with the other places you’ve traveled. Fascinating. And definitely a great crossing cultures story!

    Reply
    • @bibledude

      The difference in cultures is shocking when you really think about it! I loved seeing the motivation and innovation that I see in other cultures. They always seem to do the best they can with whatever they have, while we (as Dena pointed out too) seem to try to get as much as we can for as little effort as possible.

      Thanks for dropping by Ann!

      Reply
  6. Monica Sharman

    This reminds me of the really great street vendor food I ate in Puerto Rico. Also, at our local REI parking lot there was a woman selling tamales. I can’t wait for her to show up again, ’cause next time, I’m stopping.

    Reply
    • @bibledude

      you had me at ‘tamales’! i have a sister-in-law from mexico who makes some SLAMMIN’ tamales… all cooked and wrapped in corn husks and everything. if you get ’em, then i want to hear about how awesome they are…

      Reply

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selling a spiderman kite

by Dan King time to read: 2 min
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