Saturday, January 26, 2008

i think this means something

today JC and i went to the market to get groceries for tonight's feast (steak night!) and fabric for new clothes (senegalese steezy). the market can be a really exhausting experience, in the past i have always come back from being downtown tired and cranky and hot and fed up. the place can get very crowded, very hot, and very aggressive with everybody trying to make you buy things or wanting to talk to you or kids asking/begging (begging, really) for money and just...the place can be very overstimulating.

however, today was the best market day i've had in country. first, it is really hard for me to orient myself to new places and get lost all the time so all the past times i've been in kaolack i have always been a little unsure about where i'm going which can be kind of annoying and unsettling. today when i got there i knew exactly where i was and where to turn and just had a lot of certainty about where to go for vegetables and meat and fabric.

when we got to the vegetable alley, i got down to buying lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, garlic, and carrots. being that i've been working in the garden at my village and asking lots of questions about how much things can be sold for, i knew most of the prices for everything. buying vegetables can be hard because for the longest time i didn't know how much things were but i knew that people were overcharging me but this time nobody could mess with me. it was great. i got vegetable shopping done in like, 5 minutes when it used to take a long and harrowed 10-15 minutes as well as time taken for wandering to different parts of the market in search of vegetables. moreover, i was really happy to be buying produce from women who i knew lived in villages and worked really hard in their gardens and then made the long and expensive trip out to the city in order to try to make money to bring home. i know because i live with people who do the same thing and i see how much labor and care and investment goes into one head of lettuce and in actuality, it ought to cost more than just 100 CFA (500 CFA = $1 USD).

after vegetables we went to get fabric and made a bunch of friends and i was even able to give a girl a little lesson in feminism in wolof when she first asked me where my husband was and then when i said i didn't have one asked me why. i told her that i don't have time for a husband and that i can take care of myself and that i would like to spend my time working and learning. she listened. then she said i must have a boyfriend and i said no and just as i did, a man came up and told me that he would be my husband and she proceeded to then give him the lecture i just gave her. so i don't know, maybe that'll be something she'll think about later.

JC and i both managed to get beautiful fabric for pretty decent prices, although i think when i get to thies i will ask my sister to go to the market with me and find out the right prices for all the different kinds of fabrics because like i was saying earlier, it really sucks going to buy something and not knowing how much it ought to cost. i am getting fabric because i need a new "complet" (senegalese outfit) as i have been attending a lot of ceremonies in and out of the village that call for something more appropriate than my ratty skirt and shirt...that "something more appropriate" being a complet. moreover, i would like to be culturally appropriate when fatou pops out that baby and we will have a big baptism ceremony in my compound. i have one complet -- the one i wore for swear-in -- but i hadn't gotten to choose the fabric and was never entirely very comfortable in it so this complet should be a bit more to my liking.

after the fabric was the meat section. at this point i was feeling pretty good about the market experience but the meat section is always hard because it's a very male dominated place. women do not work in the meat section. women shop there but they do not work there and being young fresh toubabs, we typically feel like a piece of meat ourselves in that section. we get there and go to the guy who sold us our beef last time and he remembered us and the kind of cut we wanted. last time it took us 20 minutes to explain to him that we wanted slabs of meat and not chunks. because we're "friends" now, he gave us a few extra pieces for free. the operation was quick and harmless.

we jumped into a cab to get back home and the cab driver in slight astonishment asks us (in wolof" "why do you speak wolof?!" we laughed and JC was all (in her LA 'tude), "because we work here!" that was nice.

last stop: epicerie. the guy for sure knows us now and for some weird reason wanted me to talk to some lady on the phone so he called her and had me talk to her and even though it was weird that i was talking to this random lady on the phone, we had a conversation and she understood me and i understood her.

overall a very successful market experience. we think that it went so well because this was the first time we were so confident about where we were going, how much things were, what to say to people, and just...maybe it means we're adjusting. woah.

thies tomorrow!


treesaver said...


iris said...

hey cuz,

grandma told me you were in africa now. sounds like an adventure. hope you're having fun. oh yeha, i'm no longer on the carrier now, i'm stationed in san diego, shore duty, got my own place and all. everyone's gotta come out and visit sometime. grandmas wants a picture of all her grandkids. anyways, i've lost/forgotten everyone's email, if you could email me at my new email,, i can save your email and hopefully not lose it. anyways, have fun out there, take care of your self.