Saturday, February 4, 2012

To Market, to Market We Go!

Dawn on Tuesday arrived with a less raucous welcome due to the absence of Silver's contribution to the rooster chorus, but King did his best to make up for the deficit.  For me this was all part of the charm of being in this faraway place for ten short days, but I wondered how the family tolerated the daily racket before the sun had even found its way above the horizon. 

Having learned the breakfast routine, after a quick bucket shower and some time in God's Word for spiritual sustenance, I helped myself to provisions in the soft morning light of the quiet kitchen.  The choices were: peanut butter and chocolate spread on a portion of the one and only type of bread available in the country, or granola with milk, with fresh bananas or apples.  Those were pretty good options, and most certainly far more lavish than the locals would be eating this morning.  So, as I had been taught, I scooped two heaping spoons of milk powder out of the can and into a bowl, then poured water over it from the dispenser that filters the drinking water.  It didn't look like I remembered it looking the day before, but what did I know about variations of product characteristics in this land so different from my own?  I stirred and stirred but it wasn't dissolving.  Finally I dipped my finger in and tasted the murky liquid, and then I understood.  Apparently Kate uses her large milk powder cans with nicely fitting lids to store the salt she buys in bulk from the local market.  Feeling badly about wasting such a generous portion of a valuable staple that had been produced by the hard labor of some local woman who had carried heavy buckets of salty dirt on her head for who knows what distance so that she could then spend hours and days coaxing the salt out of the dirt, I was nonetheless thankful that I hadn't put the cereal in the bowl first.  And while most leftovers, scraps and culinary mistakes would be given to the animals to enjoy, I didn't think a bowl of intensely salty water would be of worth to any creature, so I poured it down the drain and found another can of milk powder that looked more trustworthy.  Then, after carrying out a sneaky little chicken pecking for crumbs among the cereal bags, I satisfied my hungry belly with a breakfast almost like the one I would have had in my own home.

By the time Kate was ready to go to the local market to purchase what Rosa would need for cooking today's mid-day meal, I was eager to slip on my dusty flip-flops and tag along like a little duckling.  This is a daily chore for local women who have no refrigeration or means of storing the fresh provisions that are the staples of their diet.  There's fish and rice, or rice and fish when you're tired of fish and rice, and a considerable variety of vegetables and seasonings to  delight the palate.  The word organic has no place in their vocabularies, since there are no other options.   Our arrival in the truck stirred a flurry of interest among women with large tubs on their heads and little children at their ankles or tied to their backs.  Goats hurried out of the way, apparently wise to the dangers of motor vehicles, few though they may be.  Pigs ignored us, carrying on with their mucking in the street, and chickens flapped and squawked as we made our way around displays of mysterious packaged goods and tubs of vaguely familiar grocery items that were harder to identify without the western wrappers that make their way into our landfills every day. 

Passing through a dark covered storage area filled with large coolers and storage drums, we entered the market proper, a vibrant, bustling center of local commerce.   Wooden tables loaded with bright vegetables, crinkly seed pods, and displays of shiny fish dominated the scene.  A little girl used an old tin can to measure out a portion of rice for a customer, heaping it as high as possible before pouring the contents into a bag.  A woman sitting cross-legged on the ground kept watch over a tarp loaded with little fish that periodically flipped themselves off and into the path of approaching sandaled feet.  Toddlers and older children squatted near their hopeful mothers, sucking on bits of fruit, while infants nursed at fully exposed breasts.  And everywhere women bartered and haggled over prices, doing their best to convince one another of the value of an onion or the questionable age of a fish. 

In this sea of dark skin, the local white lady greeted merchants and made her purchases like a native.  Kate was a delight to watch as she made her way through the crowd and did business with one after another seller of local fare.  Her hard earned language skills serve her well in this setting.

With her choppa-choppa over her shoulder, and her Walmart shopping bag heavy with her acquisitions, Kate motioned for us to follow her back through the maze of narrow paths and out into the street where we were soon piling back into the truck.  An old woman with a large bundle on her head tripped in the road about fifty feet in front of us, and as a kind man stepped up to help her to her feet she was quick enough to grab a leg of the chicken that had tumbled out of her bundle and stuff it back in.  The man assisted her in twisting the huge cloth sack closed and placing it back on her head, and brushing some of the dust off her dress, and then she was back on her way toward her destination without so much as a limp. 

1 comment:

  1. i like your pictures of the market. it's all so colorful and interesting and nothing at all like food lion. i bet it smelled interesting too.
    those ladies must have seriously strong neck muscles from all the stuff they carry on their heads.