A small flame

A small flame

Down Memory Lane - Going to market

Don't you find it amazing how technology has shrunk our world? I do! For instance, I recently found several video clips online from the place where I grew up. It was fun - and amazing! - to see the sights & hear sounds that are still as familiar to me as breathing.

The first minute or so of this video {at the bottom of this post} is a look at the market where we bought much of our produce when I was growing up. Boy did it bring back a rush of memories!

The market is in a large, dusty clearing in the middle of town. Large concrete tables line a covered picnic shelter-type structure and others are scattered around under umbrellas. Saturday is the big market day and sellers begin arriving early in the morning, talking and laughing as they spill out of open-back trucks. Men grunt and strain as they work to lift huge woven string bags called bilum (bee-loom) bulging with garden produce, onto the heads of the women who have been trained from childhood to carry incredibly heavy loads. The bags hang down their backs, swaying and bouncing as they move, heads bowed and necks straining, through the gate and down the row of tables. Once at their assigned spot, the sellers unload their produce onto the tables, grouping them in piles according to how they will sell them. Two kaukau (white sweet potatoes) for 10 toea (pronounced toy-ah:: rough equivalent of American cents); 4 tomatoes for 50 toea; a hand-ful of bananas for 75 toea....

By the time we arrive at market, mid-morning, everything is set up and the sellers are settled in for a long day. Some bring a project to work on - weaving a new string bag, maybe - while they wait, and others simply sit, watching and hoping we will buy produce from their table. While their mamas tended the wares, kiddos entertain themselves by playing under the tables. Sometimes the heat & the boredom becomes too much for the little ones and they wail inconsolably.

Our arrival always causes a bit of a stir. When you're white in a non-white world, you're a novelty wherever you go. Quick fingers straighten piles of produce as we approach and eyes light up, eager for us to notice and buy. Mamas shush kiddos into their best behavior, sometimes even telling sobbing toddlers 'Pasim maus! Misis by kaikaim yu!' {Be quiet or the white lady will eat you!} As if the poor little guy isn't already scared enough of our pale skin and straight hair....

We fill our bilum bags with kaukau, butternut squash, corn on the cob, pineapple, mango, - whatever is in season. December is rainy season which means lots of watermelon. Mom always tries to get a red one, which are far sweeter than the yellow variety. She stoops to look over the selection of melons, asking the seller {translation provided} 'Are these red inside?' To which the seller always replies 'Oh, yes, Missis! Very red!' Whether it is red or not.

When visitors come to us from America, we make sure to take them past the tables of artifacts. Carved wooden dolphins and alligators, jewelry made of local seeds and sea shells. It's a souvenir-hunter's paradise ;o) If we're lucky, Mom lets us buy a treat on market day. Some of my favorites are a small heart-shaped fruit called laulau and {my very favorite!} guavas. Of course there are some things we never buy like the roasted beetles and grubs, sold on fresh green leaves, or the smoked octopus.

Eventually, we've filled our bags and head back to the truck to enjoy our treats. Just thinking about it makes me miss those tropical goodies.....

read more of my MK memories here

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