Monday, March 3, 2008

Going to the Market

Going to the market

Going to the market is a regular occurrence here. Without refrigeration, people buy their vegetables often and so there are many places one can shop along the way. Busy highways always have markets. They consist of a row of women sitting on the ground alongside the road with their wares on a cloth in front of them. It looks like terribly boring work, just sitting there; maybe that is why they all rush up to the car windows when we pull up. I don’t quite know who I’m actually buying from. I’ll say something like “one kg tomatoes” and hand some kwatcha out the window. Somehow it gets into somebody’s hands who then fetch some tomatoes and, finally, my change. There is a gift to sitting alongside a road day after day, month after month, hoping someone will choose your tomatoes over your neighbors’.

Another type of market crowds into rickety wooden stalls, generally under some type of cover. These kinds of markets sell all sorts of things…much more than vegetables even. Alan has gone hunting hardware sorts of things in this jumble. I went to one that sold curios/souvenirs, but it was a hot day under the black tarps and I just wasn’t up to the extended bargaining and close quarters that the situation called for. I did, however, enjoy the indoor vegetable market with my friend, Emily. The produce looked fresh and fine. We went to the fish section where she likes to buy kapente—a tiny dried fish—for her domestic help. The kapente are about two inches long and the size of your little finger. They are soaked and rehydrated before being cooked. There were many selections of dried fish, a good idea when one doesn’t have refrigeration. The moapani worms were looking quite fine that day too; I am told that they also have to be rehydrated and then cooked. I tried to eat some once but just couldn’t put them in my mouth. Alan says they’re chewy like octopus; I’m happy to let him have the privilege of having eaten them.

Finally, there are these tiny little kiosks along the road at odd places. One I saw had the sign “Cheap Shopping Stand.” It’s not a creative name, but all the words were spelled right and it was pretty clear what it meant. None of these stands carry much, perhaps a few single-serving bags of maize, or perhaps a bit of oil. Mostly it looks like people just like to hang out and visit. Sometimes I think that’s why people go shopping back in the States too—just to hang out and visit while they’re thumping the watermelon or perusing the Mall.

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