I’m sitting on a bench in the back of a big white van, smushed up against our house mothers, older kids, wooden crates, woven baskets, and neon plastic buckets. We’re making our way downtown into a mass of people, vegetables, and fish.
This is marketing. Like, a verb. Going to the market.
The Market Experience
When we first came here, I had dreamed of sharing a really romantic, stunning post about the market, with lots of beautiful DSLR pictures of the fresh produce and shiny fish. But things didn’t quite pan out like I had expected. When the aunties and uncles warned me not to wear my wedding ring into the market, I realized that bringing the big ol’ DSLR was probably overkill. So here’s the market experience via my iPhone, a little rougher and less polished than what I had imagined, but real.
The house mothers from the orphanage agreed to let us tag along for their 4-am-on-Saturday-morning market adventure.
The expedition left early because it was cooler (literally, the temperature was cooler) and less crowded. We followed them around, just be-bopping through alleys and busy market intersections to find their favorite vendors and directing the older kids for where to bring the buckets of food.
You know what? Grocery shopping for an entire orphanage is not easy. Remember when I could barely find five ingredients for my own dinner? I don’t know how they do it. These women are amazing.
When I lived in Spain I had a made a hobby of checking out the markets throughout the cities that we visited. I went crazy with pictures of jamon serrano, bought at least fifty cutesy-designey little jars of saffron, and sampled lots of olive oil. With lots of bread.
Markets are a food lover’s paradise.
But even for a food lover, the sobering reality is that hobby-shopping at the market and taking foodie pictures is different than the reality of living in the poverty of the market. And that’s what struck me most: literally how many people live in this downtown market. I saw as many people sleeping on boards, or tables, or the street, as I did people awake and selling things.
I don’t want to get too intense here, but I can’t not think about this: that people all over the world live without things that people in wealthier nations consider necessities. Beds. Cars. Refrigerators.
And since I’m writing to a mostly Western food crowd, can I just say that it overwhelms me to consider not only the quantity but the quality food choices that we have to choose from at any given time – bright, crispy, clean, healthy, even organic – when some people don’t even have access to safe water.
My food loving brain and my deep thinking brain clashed a little bit in the market.
Oh, hey. There’s my shoe.
The market is bustling. It’s alive. It’s saturated with culture. It provides me with mini heads of cauliflower so I can make healthy fettuccine alfredo, thank you very much.
It forces me to push my limits of heat and smell and heart overload.
And it finds me head-to-head with an octo.
Surprise! There she is.
The sun started to come up just as we were leaving.
We rode home in the same white van, except this time I had a warm pandesal in my hand and several watermelon rolling around at my feet and the smell of fish soaked into my clothes. I went home, made myself a little peanut butter toast, and went back to bed.
So there’s the market for ya.