One of the entertainments of the bored Kitwe housewife is the DAPP shop. An acronym for Development Aid from People to People; these shops receive second-hand clothes from Europe and sell them at a pittance, the proceeds of which go entirely to charity. At the end of every month there is a clearance sale where remaining stock is sold at K2 per item (yes, I’ve bought T-shirts for three South African Rand, fine for gardening) and the following week the new stock is jammed onto the clothes rails. You can pick up trench coats and jeans for K30, tops for K15 and scarves and table cloths for K5.
There is the occasional local who will sneer disapprovingly at these “rich muzungu” wives riffling determinedly through what they view as clothes for poor people – why don’t we go shopping at Edgars and Foschini at Mukuba Mall? Because it’s not as interesting. It takes over an hour to really go through everything in the shop, and is quite a challenge to find items that are in line with one’s tastes and (sadly a deal breaker quite often) the right fit. My friend Les is a DAPP maven – it’s almost like she can sniff a Nike vest or Adidas track pants out from ten metres away and pounces upon them, taking bags upon bags home like treasure. Emerging from DAPP with five items that cost less than K100 and that no one else in Kitwe will be wearing is a triumph. You feel like clicking your heels together and rushing home to launder it so as to be able to wear it all as soon as possible.
It’s not without some typical Zambian quirks. There’s no air conditioning so there is one fan running that will blow you away or at least radically restyle your hair. The attendants hover behind you like human shopping baskets, offering to keep your items aside until you’re ready to try them on. One lady was a bit put off by this and exited the shop, only realizing down the hall that a coat hanger with a blouse on it had attached itself to her handbag. “How come I was stalked in the shop, and yet I could walk out the door with a blouse and no one noticed?” she mused, and dutifully returned it to a smiling cashier.
Two friends and I were sharing the one changing room mirror (there is one changing room for ladies and it’s tiny and there’s nowhere to hang up clothes so we were piling our things onto bales of new stock and standing just outside the “room”) as we tried on tops over our T-shirts when one of the attendants came along and closed the changing room curtain.
“Excuse me!” said Les. “We are all using the mirror!” She pulled the curtain open again. He pulled it closed again. She pulled it open again. Just as he was about to close it again, another older attendant intervened.
“Look, they are using the mirror!”
Next month I will no doubt receive another “new stock!” sms and hightail it into town for another adventure.