Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Vignette: Tanzania / Tanga -- Market (March 2016)

This is the market in Tanga near the waterfront. There’s lots of dirt and smells and plenty of flies. The guy in the photo? We always go to him first because he’s friendly and funny and always gives us something to try–an orange, a banana, today it was some strange and tasty knobby little fruit. He also always ends up giving Michelle a hug. He lets us slide our bags under his table when it’s time to wander to the other tables. The vendors sit around on plastic lawn chairs, some of them watching soccer games on TV. You buy your chickens alive here. They are stacked in cages along a wall, fine feathered and perky. I don’t know if they kill them for you because we haven’t tried to buy any. What if they don’t and you end up with a chicken on your boat? I’m aspiring to be a vegetarian anyway. You buy your meat from butchers operating out of tiled stalls. It hangs unrefrigerated in big slabs and is not USDA approved. It’s also not covered with shit and you can watch them cut it up. There are no price tags. There are no cash registers. Nobody announces specials from loudspeakers. They don’t take Visa, MasterCard, or American Express. You buy your stuff directly from this guy, or that guy, or from the other guy over there. The guys are all, well, guys. You pick out your stuff–mangoes, ginger, papaya, carrots, oranges, watermelons, beans, rice, etc. Or the guy picks your stuff out for you– you ask him for an avocado that will be good today and one that will be good tomorrow.

Some stuff you purchase by the piece (papaya, mangoes, pineapples); other stuff he weighs on an old and dented balance scale (beans, potatoes). Naturally, you banter about price. Our friend Josh, who knows how locals do things, seems to pay more than anybody else. His girlfriend, who makes no such claim and won’t negotiate, pays maybe half of what he does. Go figure. You give them your money.  If need be, the guys go get change while you wait–they get it from that guy, or the other guy, or from the store across the street. The money vanishes in pockets or maybe in a plastic bag that disappears someplace safe. Sometimes you shake hands, sometimes you don’t.