Grocery shopping. While I usually don’t mind this task in the States (I know, most of you gals out there just hate it) it is a beast I have not been looking forward to tackling. I am not sure how things work yet, to take on this venture alone. Sure, I can get my point across and tell people what I need, but when they talk back to me I don’t get half of it. So, I asked to go with my neighbor (and I drug our great interpreter Edril with us too.) She is so sweet, and so kind to Brandon and I. Plus, she speaks no English, so it forces me to learn. My list wasn’t long really. I just needed rice, eggs, butter, garlic, onions, fruit, and ingredients for Haitian spaghetti. I was pretty excited to venture down town to the open air market. I felt ready with my sun hat and shopping bag. We walked around through a huge maze of people. I had a hard time deciding where to look-at the different food sprawled out over tables and the floor, or people passing by selling things from baskets on their heads, or men mowing people down with their huge wheelbarrows full of goods, or the huge puddles and ditches filled with questionable things that snaked through every single street. My sweet neighbor would look behind at me to make sure I didn’t get swallowed up or ran over. I loved watching her as she would walk through the market scanning the whole area for what we needed. I was confused because it seemed that there was only about 7 different types of booths. Yet, there are ‘booths’ down several streets packed in right next to each other. They all seems to be selling the same thing- Produce stand, rice/beans/grains stand, household items stand, meat stand, fish stand, misc stand, canned goods stand. Then, when she would see something she liked we would stop. And let the haggling begin! I couldn’t pick up everything she said, but I got a lot from body language… and she was good. We walked away from items twice, and once even had a woman come find us down the next street with a pineapple! I did feel sorry for her though, cause one vendor asked if the items were for her or me. I felt like responding something snide back in creole, but instead used some self-control. I know that I will pay more because of the color of my skin (which is a whole separate issue) but it’s not fair that she has to simply because she is with me.
Anywhoo, we made our way through the part I was dreading the most-the meat section. I can’t help but chuckle, hours later, as I tell you this. We walked in between two stands where the men were hacking away some kind of meat, and I hold my breath and look down as I walked quickly. Splat!! Something smacked my neck and I let out a half gag and half laugh as I pull off a small piece of meat from my neck. I keep moving. When we have to pass it again to get out, I decide I am going to conquer my fears and stare at what is lumped on the tables. I know my vegetarian friends would gag, but even those hearty red meat lovers would be weak in the knees. Before my eyes was a huge table that was holding the massacre of I am not sure what. The first thing I saw was a ‘moving’ stack of meat. Yes, there are so many flies on all of the meat, it looks alive. Then, I saw a brain. How did I know it was that? Well, they had nicely arranged it just how it is supposed to look inside of the animals head, so I could tell exactly what it was. Next? A long bone that looked see through. After that, I stopped looking. I thought my Vietnamese friends would have been so proud of me, I had my poker face on the whole time-giving the allusion that seeing all that was completely normal for me and not a problem at all. Later, much to my added revulsion, I noticed three small chunks of meat of my skirt and chuckled again to myself as I scraped them off. But, the day was not complete until the final lap on our way out. I was scanning the tables soaking in all I could, when I felt a wet squishy sensation on my left foot. Yup, my first full foot submersion in a puddle of death. For those of you who don’t know-puddles are a very common thing in Haiti. But, there are some puddles, that if you step in them, you might just drop down dead. This one was somewhere in between. I didn’t want to be dramatic, afterall, I wanted to be invited back to market day. So, I casually walked a little while longer with black funk oozing between all my toes. When we came to a clearing where we could stop I found a girl selling small bags of water. I paid her, ripped it open and poured it on my foot. I felt instantly better. Yet, suddenly, I was very aware that almost all the people around me had dirty feet from the mud around us, and I was that white person-pouring drinking water that most can’t even afford to drink, on my feet. So, I tried to gracefully recover and casually strolled away. Oh, thank you market day. The things you taught me today are endless!!