Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Market Day

My friend Stacia and I love our market trip days and so when the last schedule came out we compared our days off and set the day- Wednesday.
After a leisurely morning on board, we lathered up with sunscreen and headed out to the hot, sunny streets of Pointe Noire, full water bottles in hand.
1.5km is the walk to exit the port, complete with container trucks jamming up the traffic, cars trying squeeze past and kicking up the dust which stuck to the sweat beading on ours faces.
Once out of the port we made our way to the buses which are minivans with the comfy seats torn out and replaced with more bench seats. Bus number 1 takes us to the market for only 150 CFA (34c AUD). The sun shone in the window browning my arm, forming droplets of sweat on my arms too numerous to be counted. Stacia pointed out cockroaches to our left crawling over the van interior and then to our right coming out of the bag of rice sitting on the lap of the man squashed next to her. She watched their every move, not knowing if they were crawling down her legs or if that was indeed sweat dribbling. 

We hopped out at the market, greeted by a mixture of smells, a flurry of people and traffic and tripping of my feet by the rubbish lining the streets. Stacia and I looked at each other, smiles ear to ear, Here we are!!
We began to wander the streets in search of a few things, an African dress for everyday wear, watches for work since both ours have broken in the past two weeks, and TOMS shoes, which can be found if you can make the right friends.
I always end up buying something at the market that I didn't intend to and today was no exception! I found some beautiful fabric which I bought, a new pair of earrings and then we persevered with our pursuit of the TOMS shoes. You know TOMS? They give a pair of shoes to "a child in need" for every pair bought. Well if you search in the right places you can find them in these nations- whether they are the free pair given or not, we decided the money we pay for them will probably last longer than a free pair of shoes that aren't waterproof and don't wear and tear well. (To buy a pair of flip flops here is only $1 and are truly much more suited to this life.)
So we met some guys in the shop where I bought the fabric that spoke English very well. He asked where I was from, Australia, and he replied that he had Australian currency. Show me, was my response. He pulled out of a secret place behind the counter a big folded stack of notes from all over the world, South Africa, Canada, USA, Britain, Europe, Switzerland, Australia and many other nations. The Australian note was a current $50! Most of the notes were a high amount! I told him that was all worth a lot and he'd better keep it very safe!! Who knows where it came from!?!

Since they spoke English we told them we wanted to find TOMS and they told us to follow one of them. We went into one store and we showed the iPhone photo of the shoe and they spoke together and then we went into the next store and spoke again. One of the men there thought he knew where to find them so we followed him, weaving through stalls packed side by side, dodging cars, women with babies on their backs, men selling carry bags, sunglasses, clothes, stepping over drains and puddles, turning a corner, walking down another street and into a third shop. There the man explained what we were after. We pulled out the iPhone, showed the picture, the men started discussing it and then they told us to have a seat on the bench in the store and two of the guys went off to find them. (This is how it always goes- we sit and wait while they find what we want in the colour and size and then they give us a price which I'm sure includes a commission for them.) So we sat and waited and talked in the limited French that we knew and the limited English that they knew. Soon enough the two guys came back with three pairs of TOMS in different sizes and colours. Pretty ones!! We picked the ones we wanted and sent them back for the correct sizes (they refused to let us just go with them). Then to discuss the price, well, we all know it's a battle. I don't mind a good haggle and the two of us did a good job and got them for a fair price.
On to the next thing, exploring all colours and shapes of wares spread before us on the streets. Our stomachs rumbled and a few minutes later a man came along, rolling his cart of fresh doughnuts, (no holes in these ones) the perfect snack to fill our empty tummies. We picked up an avocado and continued out of the market and down to road to a Lebanese supermarket and bought Za'atar (Middle Eastern herb mix on a freshly made pita bread) Made fresh and steaming hot, we sat on the step at the front of their shop and enjoyed this new flavour and yummy lunch!!
A taxi ride away we went to Grand Cafe 2 and sat to let our sweat finally dry. After a very sweet milky frappuccino, one FaceTime conversation and a little book reading, we'd saturated our appetites for the outdoors. So we jumped in a number 1 bus back to the port. The reaction from the driver and money collector was as though they'd never had white women in their bus. They laughed and chatted and carried on for the entire journey including calling out to men on the street that they had two white women in the front. We tried to communicate but I have such limited French that we didn't do too well. He asked me out for a meal though, which I politely refused ;)
Dropped off once again at the port with another scorching 1.5km walk ahead of us, this is the time we begin praying for a vehicle to come along and pick us up before we melt into a drain and are never seen again. Thankfully we were able to hitch a ride to the ship, very thankful for the air conditioning inside the van.

Once again back home, we cherish both our comfortable living on board the ship, with its air con and many other comforts from home but also these epic, hilarious market days that reconnect me with so many things I love about Africa.


1 comment:

  1. those Toms clash with the carpet! :) Cute though!!!



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