Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Christmas Bazaar

Well, it's over (mostly). The 2009 Maadi Women's Guild Christmas Bazaar was held on Friday, 12 December, at Wadi Degla. Most of the silent auction items sold; many of the raffle winners were there to claim their prizes. Some weren't, necessitating phone calls to let them know they had won and to make arrangements for them to take possessions of their prizes. That part isn't over yet; I need to make some phone calls this afternoon. There's also a report to write and a few odds and ends to clean up--one of the donors wants me to let her know how much her donation went for in the auction, that type of thing. But the majority of the event is over.

It was a crazy two days. The day before the bazaar, we were supposed to be there from noon to 6pm to set up. It was good that we were supposed to be done by 6pm; Jeff had a rare office party, and both of us wanted to go (even aside from the knowledge that it would be good for office politics if we attended the boss's party). Jeff had taken the day off work to help, because I had been told that we would need men to help move the heavy stuff like tables. Then I was told that, no, the guy who's renting us the tables will deliver them and set them up. So Jeff had the day off, but he was able to do the commissary run and then relax. Pam and I had planned to be at Wadi Degla at noon, but I received a phone call around 11:15 from Pam, asking me to come to the church. Apparently people were meeting there to pull items from the storage cage and then going over together. She had been summoned to the church, but had to go back home to get something, so she asked that I go to the church to answer questions about what was needed. By the time I got there, everything was loaded and the trucks were pulling away, so it was just a matter of waiting for a ride.

Shortly after I arrived at Wadi Degla, it was time to unload the trucks that had come from the church--after a brief delay when the drivers were arrested (I never heard the reason, but they were released quickly). So we unloaded the various decorations, easels, and other random stuff, hauling it to a central location. We got some amused looks from the male soccer players who were practicing; upper class Arab women don't do manual labor of any type, and here you had all these Western women (upper class by definition!) hauling boxes and laughing while they did it. It didn't take too long to get things unloaded, and then we sat and chatted while we waited for the silent auction room to be swept out and for word on when the rented tables would arrive.

The room where the silent auction was going to be held is a coffee shop in real life, so it had tables and chairs that we had permission to use, but we had planned to use the rented tables instead. That plan changed instantly once I found out that the rented tables wouldn't be delivered until 5:30. So I'm not sure what the women responsible for setting up the other areas did, but Pam, Halina, and I got started rearranging the tables in the coffee shop so that we could use them to display our silent auction wares. After setting up the tables, we decorated them with white tablecloths and silvery-glittery-blue mesh, which was fashioned into bunting by Pam's skillful hand. We set up a couple of Christmas trees--with much laughing, since one of them was a broken down tree top that used an upside down laundry basket with a hole in it as its base; we had to break out the duck tape to make it stand even almost upright. We covered the unsightly base with a pretty red tree skirt and no one was the wiser--as long as no one touched it, because then it tipped over about 30 degrees. Then we made two large signs to hang outside the room, to let everyone know where we were. We decided to wait until the next morning to hang them up, to prevent anything from happening to them overnight. Our decorating done, we were ready to go home until the next morning, when we would hang the signs, display our items, and set up the bid sheets. It was around 4 or 4:30 at that point.

So we headed out, and Jeff and I made it to our party that night. It was fun, but we left a little early. We had to be up early for the bazaar. We planned to be at Wadi Degla by 9:30; that would give us 2 1/2 hours to finish setting up before the doors opened at noon. Unfortunately, we forgot to plan on just how long it would take us to load all the donated items into our SUV. We pulled up to the Wadi Degla gate around 10. Then we had to go through security and walk everything down to our room, with help from Pam, her husband Dan, and another volunteer. We had just gotten everything into our room and were beginning to unpack when we were told that we all had to go to the fenced area that would be the food court--it was time for guards with dogs to go through everything for a final security check. I paced and fumed and muttered and took deep breaths and tried to calm myself down by not thinking of all the work still to be done while trying to spot the security detail doing the inspection. For a long time, I was convinced that there was no security detail; there was not a dog in sight. Finally, though, they appeared and began a long, slow circuit of all the vendor tables.

At last, around 11, we were released from the food court. I was one of the first out and made a beeline for the silent auction room. Then it was a flurry of activity getting all the items displayed and the bid sheets out. We had to add a couple of tables--and use some chairs as tables--because we had so many items (over 80, possiby closer to 100). Finally, the items were set out, but I realized that we had not set the start prices yet. Marge had been telling me for weeks that she would do it, but in the short time between when the items were all collected and the start of the bazaar, she either had forgotten or had not had time. So Pam and I went through with pens, setting start prices almost at random. Neither of us knew what most of the items would retail for, and we didn't know if we should start really low and let prices work their way up or if we should start just under retail. So we just did the best we could on each item. We were still setting start prices when our first browsers came through the door.

By 12:15, we were finished with the start prices and setup. From then on, it was just a matter of answering questions, encouraging high bids, and keeping an eye on the smaller, more valuable items. Most of the time, I stationed myself right behind the pearl necklace, bracelet, and earrings that had been donated by Antwerpen Jewellers (they appraised at around $450--dollars, not pounds--total, if I remember correctly). Most of our other jewelry was on the same table, so I kept an eye on all of it and allowed Jeff, Pam, Dan, and a couple of other volunteers to handle the larger items. Dan and Jeff took turns going out to bring back food for themselves and for Pam and me. When we had another volunteer show up, I sent Pam out to roam around and shop. I hadn't brought extra money with me, expecting to be in the auction all day, and it's no fun to go shopping with no money.

While we were in the silent auction room, Halina set up a table outside to sell raffle tickets. We also had some local boys, residents of an orphanage, who walked around selling tickets. The raffle drawing was scheduled for 3:30pm, which unfortunately was the same time as the end of the silent auction. Somehow we were supposed to shoo everyone out of the auction, determine the winners, and bring them back into the room in small groups to pay and collect their prizes, while at the same time handing out raffle prizes to the winners whose names were drawn and announced over the loudspeaker by a local man. Since that wasn't going to work for us, we commandeered the loudspeaker to announce the winners of the silent auction at 3:30, thus denying its use for the raffle. We were almost done with the silent auction when Marge re-commandeered the loudspeaker and started announcing raffle winners. I told her bluntly that she was handling the raffle while we finished with the auction; if she wanted two things done simultaneously, she had to do one of them herself, because we couldn't do both. (Dan had had to leave early to prep for his office party that night, and Pam was about to have to leave, so we didn't really have volunteers to spare at this point.) Halina had mercy on Marge and handed out the raffle prizes while Jeff and I finished up with the auction.

Once all the prizes were handed out and all the auction money was collected, we handed over the money box to the treasurer. She was less upset than I expected when she realized that we had combined the auction and raffle money, which should have been kept separate. I think she understood that we didn't have much choice, since we only had one money box. (Apparently we started out the day with a second one, but it was re-appropriated to someone else who should have had one but didn't.) When I get around to organizing the bid sheets, I'll be able to tell from that the total amount brought in by the silent auction, so she can subtract that from the total raffle/auction amount if she wants separate amounts recorded. I'm not going to say total amounts here without authorization; I'm not sure how public the Guild's financial records are. It's a bit different here than similar organizations would be in the States.

Then Jeff, Halina, and I gathered the few items that didn't sell at the auction--most of them had received only one bid, and the winner wasn't there. Those items will be sold at Guild meetings over the next couple of months, with the money still going to the charities. We took down all the decorations and created two piles: one pile'o'stuff to go back into the storage cage at the church, and another pile'o'stuff to come home with me until I could contact the raffle winners and disperse those prizes. That's something I need to work on this afternoon.

So, the bazaar happened. The silent auction and raffle combined brought in more money this year than last year, probably because we had a larger total number of items. All our donors will be listed in the January issue of the Maadi Messenger, and I intend to list them here as well, but not today. There isn't enough distance between me and the bazaar yet. I've been putting off writing this blog, and especially writing my report. The bazaar was just more stressful than it had to be. Some of it was due to my inexperience, but some of it was due to . . . other factors. We pulled it off, but there were definitely some things that I think should change. I'm letting all the stress bleed away, and trying to let all the conflicting ideas in my head sort themselves out, before I try to put anything down on paper for my report. But now I'm off to make some phone calls--it's time to reclaim my den by getting the last of the raffle items out of there.


  1. Wow. What a few days! Sounds like lots of work, but I hope you raised a lot for your cause. I see Jeff has instilled in you how to use Duck tape to fix anything. My husband swears by the stuff too.

  2. Villette-Duck tape is a wonderful thing :-) I think the bazaar overall didn't do quite as well as it did last year, but that's because the only date we could do it was right after a long eid (holiday), so a lot of people were out of town. But we raised enough that we should be able to give most of what the charities need this year, if not what they want.


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