Ok, so I was looking forward and fearing today all at once. We are going shopping. I’ve been to one market this week already, and learned to let go of my European sense of personal space or sensitivity to strange odors. Mercia has been laughing and saying “Let’s take Kathy to the Terrible Market and let them push her around a little.” Gee thanks, Mom.
Mercia and Mom have nicknamed this market the Terrible Market because it sells consumable things. You know, food. First we pass nearly ¼ mile of onion stalls. No joke. I have never seen so many onions in one place in my life. And the women are carrying 50 lbs. onion sacks – ON THEIR HEADS. My back aches just watching them.
We park the car and Mom declares “I want to take Kathy to see the giant snails.” Again, gee thanks. Mercia must have read the look on my face because she asks me three times if I’m ok. I stretch the bandana over my hair to tie it all back and assure her that I’m fine. Ok, I lied a little.
This market was not nearly as compact as the one we entered the other day, and in fact it was almost quite pleasant with all of the colorful produce. Well, if you don’t mind the flies. I can’t help but remember the joke I learned as a kid: “How can you tell a happy biker? By counting the bugs in his teeth.” I remind myself again to breath through my nose, regardless of the various odors.
I actually enjoyed this market quite a bit. Most of the vendors were women, and with large amounts of food in baskets, they were not as pushy as the previous markets we had seen. I did manage to find the giant snails. We bought some so that I could get a photo of them, and asked the woman if I could keep an empty shell and take it home to the US. She thought I must be some crazy woman, but my husband, the scientist, will love me for getting this back to the states (sorry to ruin the surprise, honey.) Ah, the things you do for love…
Next, we head to the Cultural Market. This is what I’ve been looking forward to, because I love to shop and it’s 10 days before Christmas. Bargaining, however, is a pastime I regard slightly lower than un-sedated dentistry. But I know that it is how you operate in this part of the world. Mom, however, is the Mohammed Ali of white-woman bartering, so I let her take the lead on the first few purchases. I feel more comfortable bartering in the women’s shops, and that’s basically just because I’m a weenie. But I had a nice long talk with one of the guys about the meaning of all of his statues, and he was gentle to bargain with, so eventually I grew into my own big girl pants.
What I really came to buy, however, was a Djembe. Ok, nerd alert: I’m a traveling music teacher. I already crashed a choir rehearsal this week, so I was looking for a real African drum, made by a real African. Mom took me to a shop in the back called “Thunder Drums”. This was the real deal. The guy made the drums right there in the shop, the skins were all out hanging to be tanned and dried, and was very personable and knowledgeable. We talked wood, rope, heads, and finish. He had some newly created Djembes with the fur still on the heads. I negotiated a price, which I thought was more than reasonable – especially since I know what these go for at your local music dealer – and asked him if I could have a photo with him. He called his brother over, and the next thing I know I’m in the middle of a drum circle. OH MY GOD, an African drum circle….IN AFRICA. He shows me a basic rhythmic ostinato and then he improvises over top, all while Mom is taking video. Seriously, I would have paid double just for the experience. After we were done, he spent nearly 30 minutes cleaning up the drum, shaving any last bits of hair off the head, and applying another coat of sealer for the travel. When I finally made it out of the market, I know I looked like some hippie backpacker shouldering an enormous drum in a patterned sack and grinning like an idiot. I don’t care, as long as it fits in the suitcase; I’m a happy girl.