Today I am thinking of going to the market. I haven’t gone in months.
When I first got to site, I went every market day, 3 times a week. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday I would go with my plastic bag down the dusty road, through all the people and the shops to the place tucked back in the deep part of town. I’d follow the same path, stop for coffee at the same place. I’d greet the same people, and sometimes new ones. I’d buy carrots, tomatoes or onions, garlic, ginger, sometimes beans, once in awhile beets or potatoes. I’d always leave with a sack full of things and walk back through the crowded streets.
Women on the ground selling fruit from tarps would sometimes tempt me to stop and add something.
At home, I would experiment with cooking elaborate meals of stews and chili, or different stir fries.
After awhile I became exhausted of it. My appetite decreased, both for the food and the stimulation of all the people. I resorted to eating oatmeal and bananas, scrambled eggs… anything simple and available nearby.
Even now, I wonder if I’ll really go to market. It sounds daunting. At some point the novelty of being a novelty wears off. When you’re here long enough, you just want to live your own life, not under the guise that everyone projects of you. It can make you jaded, cynical I think. You begin to brush off a simple greeting, your mind so focused on being done and getting home. You question every hello as a possible request for money or sexual harassment. And deep down that part of you that really likes people, that loves to connect and socialize, gets stifled. It becomes lost and suppressed under your barrier of protection. I feel it. I feel it all the time. When I recognize it, I pull the barrier down, just a little. I smile at people. I take my time to crouch down and greet the kids. I look them in the eyes and ask how they are, what their name is. Then I repeat it back to them, as best I can, to show that I understand. They giggle at the sound of their name in my voice. Their laughter relaxes me, and I continue on a little lighter.
I realize that moments like those are passed every day. I just have to take the time. It’s about getting out of my head and letting others in. The requests for money, the lewd comments from guys who are high on khat… those will never go away. But I shouldn’t let them steal away all the moments of happiness that lurk inside the cracks.