Originally Posted by Wahoo
My question is this...what are good bartering items to have along and what might their value be per item?
Also, I was going to lay in school supplies, used eye glasses ( aquired from optical shops ), etc...
Reading glasses, for sure. It helps if you have various items that the people can read to see which glasses work for them.
Children's clothing. Bed linens, towels. T-shirts. Women's clothes. In some places, plastic containers that can be used as water carriers. Just about any container with a tight lid. Shoes. Before we left for Papua New Guinea and the Solomons I visited the Australian Salvation Army and St. Vincent DePaul shops, buying up school uniforms, 50-cents each.
Elastic bands. Balloons. - these should be gifts. Don't take advantage of unsophisticated children who will rob their parents' garden to get trade items for balloons. Ball point pens. School exercise books (similar to the blue books we used in college).
There is no dollar value you can place on these items. We would trade for lobster. I gifted the balloons, etc., to the children. Some people bring hard candy, but I'm not one for giving candy to children far from any dentist. I would ask the children for bush limes in return for the balloons, and let them decide on the fair amount. Since the balloons were really gifts, my accepting the bush limes (in some places, a chicken egg) was in deference to the village chiefs, who occasionally would ask us to not teach their children to be beggars.
In Tonga, due to the presence of the Mooring charter boats, I found the locals to have become beggars. Where the tourist presence was minimal or nil, the relationship with the locals was much better.
In the Solomon islands and other islands in the area, where there is no such thing as free, though food to visitors is a gift, most of the parents are looking for at least some money, since they need it to pay for their childrens' schooling.
Women's magazines - Good Housekeeping, Women's Day, that type - not the Cosmopolitan type. the men would read them for the ads for women's underwear. Costume jewelry - you can buy dozens of necklaces, etc. for a dollar or two in the jewelry wholesale outlets. Very desirable, but please don't take advantage of their innocence. I gave them as gifts, and the women would send food to our boat on a daily basis! I baked papaya bread, one for us, one for the village, whenever they brought me papaya.
Sweet smelling soap - the small bars you get in hotels and motels are good. Small tubes of toothpaste. Small shampoo. Just about anything that we take for granted. I carried little in the way of consumables, leaning towards durable goods, but had small quantities of these soaps, sample vials of cologne and perfume, to give as gifts.
NO pornography, Hustler, Playboy. In many places this will be extremely offensive. In others, you just might be told to leave the country. I understand, but have no first-hand experience, that in Mexico Playboy is a very popular trade item with the fishermen.
If it needs batteries, it's unfair to trade with villagers who might wait a year before getting more. Yet they will want batteries, headphones, etc.
Essentially, just about anything is a gift or trade item. I gifted most things, though, with the t-shirts and children's clothes the primary trade items.
I loved visiting with the locals, and almost always invited visitors aboard our boat. The keyword was invite, though. Anybody who tried to board the boat without an invitation was politely told "sorry, this is not a good time for you to come aboard." No self-respecting villager would ignore this apology, so anybody too pushy is not someone you want aboard, and you might want to consider upping anchor and leaving. However, women villagers in some places - San Blas Islands for example, will be pushier than men and they are not a threat.
I'll end with a thought. How would you feel if some strangers drove up and parked their RV in your driveway and settled down to live for a while? You might not want to agree, but that is what you do when you anchor in these islands. All the land, and the seabed down to the limit of a free dive, belongs to someone. That you are made welcome does not mean you have a right to be there, and you will be happier, as will your hosts, if you acknowledge the courtesy extended to you in allowing you to stay.