Monday, February 23, 2009

Sokoni (In the Market)

One assumption can be made when traveling into a country that is developing- there will be a market. (I am pretty sure of this, but of course I could be wrong in some cases.) My definition of a market: People coming together in a dusty, outdoor venues to sell locally grown produce. Each country I have been in has its own little differences in the feel or essence of the market, but they are essentially the same in their function, with changing behaviors and food.
The market in Morogoro is just like this. I have been cooking a lot since I have been living here and thus the market has become a weekly destination for me. I love going to the market because it is a whole new experience in itself. The large market in Morogoro is in the middle of the city center, and probably the reason for the city center’s location. It is the center of the activity- every morning I see hundreds of people walking into the city with bananas and sugar cane on their heads heading to the market to sale their goods whole sale. People gather there to work, to buy food, to sale food, bags, carrying services and to meet and talk with each other. It is the life of the city during the day.

Today I need to buy many things- leeks, carrots, flour (chapatti flour- they also have maize flour that is very popular), eggs, tomatoes, potatoes, sugar, onions, garlic. Most of the time I am lucky enough to have a car to drive to the market, but I can also take a DalaDala into the city center from SUA (Sokoine University of Agriculture). Most of these run into the market, and they leave constantly throughout the day so it is an easy cheap way to travel.

I arrive at the market at 4 pm or so ready to shift through all of the people and goods- and dirt. The rainy season has begun, but the dirt is still dry and wild now. Nothing is safe from the dirt’s sticky grip, and a trip to the market always promises very dirty feet and legs. I look at my clean-ish feet and walk into the chaos ready to buy, to learn, to experience.
There are buses everywhere in the front section of the market bringing some unknown goods to the market. There are huge mounds of random dirt every once in a while. As I walk, I jump over holes and climb hills as I get closer and closer to the main section of the market. I can see pineapples and mangos everywhere with a strong smell of fish coming from the other side but taking over the whole of the air.

A boy I have seen before walks up to me and says “Mambo” and the usual greetings continue as he follows me during my shopping trip. There are many boys that hang around the market looking to take people around, but it doesn’t matter if you want to be taken around, they won’t leave and they will always find you. I think that they probably add something on the top of the normal prices for them to make money. I don’t really like this though; I want to shop by myself and find my own food. I like to find the shops I want to support, so I walked on. He followed me still.
I walk up to a main section of the market- it is a large wooden structure with little booths and roofs, but not much else. People have built little tables to hold their products out of wood and the food lays on bags or dirctly on wood. There is not a thought about sanitation or refrigeration; in fact, it is not an option. The vegetables and fruits are piled on top of each other, and the shop workers sit on a stool next to their food ready to sell tomatoes or carrots or onions to passers. There are not very many women present at the market, but there are a few sitting at stalls so I attempt to buy things from them. Around the market there are dirt gutters that contain water and waste and other things that I probably don’t want to know about. They have little wooden “planks” that work as bridges to the little outdoor shops.
I walk up to a man who sells onions and garlic and ask “Shilling n’gape Kilo?” (how many schillings for a Kilo) and point to the onions. “Moja?” (One?) “Ndiyo” (yes) and the boys that have been following me show up, and I am irritated that they just follow me. They start taking over the process of shopping, and I think of India. There were lots of people like this there, but the culture is also more upfront, or shall I say honest in situations like this. In India, I would tell them I will do it myself please leave. So I decide to try to go to another shop and do it myself. The boys follow me again, and I sigh and tell the shop owner that I want to talk to him, not them. This would have been okay in India, but Tanzania is a place where people seem to suffer anything not to be rude in any way. I learned that I shouldn’t have said that, but it worked. After a bit they left me alone. Next time maybe I will try a different way- because although I try to experience and be in a culture, I am also not a person who will suffer anything to not be rude and it is almost against my person not to say what I think! Maybe that is bad, but it is me.

I continue on by myself down the little rows of shops and search for eggs. I try to haggle down prices, but I have learned that there is not as much haggling here as there is in other countries. I take the price and move on, but I am starting to learn the normal prices more so I can tell if they are trying to cheat me with a high mzungu price (white or European).
I walk into the center market section and find the only man who sells leeks in the market- sometimes he even has fresh mint! I love to make tea with it. He smiles and shakes my hand when I come up. He has gotten used to seeing me and always looks so joyful when I arrive. “Karibu sana” (very welcome) he says, and I say “asante sana, Shikamo (thank you, and a respectful term for elders that acts as a greeting). He holds my hand a bit longer and his eyes shine with a certain happiness that I have rarely seen in the united states or Europe. It seems like a total and honest happiness at that moment. It is not something that I can completely understand or explain, but it is a captivating smile. I talk with him a little bit and then buy leeks and ask about the mint, but the mint is not read until Sunday. I say thank you and continue on.

Next, mangos! I have fallen in love with mangos. They are basically my favorite thing to eat (except maybe chocolate, but that is almost impossible to beat). I arrive at the mango area and begin talking, but then I hear “hodi” (something like coming or so) and see a man carrying a huge crate of mangos over a little wooden bridge towards me. I move and say pauli (sorry). The crate is huge and looks incredibly heavy, but he carries it very easily. I am about finished with the market now so I buy a bag for all of my vegetables and walk back to the bus to go home.
There is so much real culture at the market. I learn way more at the market than I could ever learn at a cultural museum. This is real culture- seeing how people work and talk and what they eat. How people live on a daily basis, and how they express themselves. The market is all of those things and more.

Nitarudi nubani kupika chakula jioni na ninafriyhe. Ninapenda Kuenda sokoine. Ninajefunza sana kwo watu lini ninaenda sokoine.
(I will return home to make dinner, and I am happy. I like to go to the market. I learn a lot about people when I go to the market. My elementary kiswahili practice!)

Ninapenda kuishi, Ninapenda Kuona,
(I like to live, I like to see,)


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