To market, to market to buy a fat pig… Or maybe just have someone push past you and rub a dead one against you…
…Home again, home again, dancing a jig… Or just walking for two hours in the heat lugging a weeks worth of vegetables home…
Market day in Mahitsy wasn’t quite as glamorous and jolly as Mother Goose led me to believe as a child…
During my time volunteering in Madagascar, Saturday was the most important day of the week. Saturday was market day. The day I would dedicate to a one and a half hour 8km walk into town to stock up on food and then lug it all home.
Grocery shopping was no longer a simple drive to Woolworths and a quick stroll through the aisles before returning home in a swift half hour expedition. There were no friendly checkout chicks to bag up my watermelon next to my sweet potato, no self-service checkout to save me the effort of interacting with a human being, no neatly labelled prices to make budgeting a breeze…
There was just me, the market and a whole lot of craziness.
I must admit my first visit to Mahisty was nothing short of overwhelming. After the long walk in the sun I was already exhausted and upon entering the crowded aisles of food, clothes and an eclectic mix of paraphernalia I felt instantly inundated .
My lack of Malagasy and my minimal French didn’t help much either…
But I was on a mission. I knew that this was my one opportunity to stock up for the week and I wasn’t going to leave empty handed.
With the assistance of another volunteer, Maya, who had managed to grasp the Malagasy numerical system I was able to stock up on vegetables and fruit that might give me enough fuel to survive another week in Ambohitrakely.
I watched the local stall-owners and vendors use scales and different sized bricks and rocks to weigh my bananas, I held my breath as we passed through the lanes of slaughter and I breathed a sigh of relief when I found the pineapples.
Pushing my way through the crowds I managed to survive my first market experience without breaking down in tears… (I must admit, for a split-second I almost did)
The walk home felt much longer than the walk to town but after about two hours from leaving the markets I was home, sweaty, exhausted but stocked up with fresh goodies.
My future market days featured a much more confident version of myself. I was prepared for the craziness and managed to use my minimal French to work out prices and quantities.
Besides a few encounters of fresh meat being thrown against me and hitting my head on the low make-shift roofing of the stalls, market day became a fun expedition. A shopping trip with much more excitement than your typical ‘day at the mall’.
I became used to seeing locals transporting 30 chickens tied over their shoulders – still alive – while carrying a boxful of ducks on the back of their bike, I would say hello to the women carrying heavy loads on their heads with absolute ease while I struggled to carry my plastic bags home and I was no longer shocked to see the men dragging immensely stacked carts for kilometres – with bare feet.
Even though there were times when I missed the convenience and organisation of Woolworths – grocery shopping had become an adventure. A weekly challenge where I was always bound to witness something crazy.