Trading Niceties at the Market

SILAKARANG ~ Like most villages, or desas, there is a small market in Silakarang where all the women go in early morning to buy food for the day. As many people don’t have fridges (and those who do often fill them full of offerings, like my in-laws), all the food for the day has to be bought and cooked in the morning.

So outside the volleyball court, in a small, covered market, women from the village sell fruit, vegetables, eggs, meat and other staples, like those strange blue-tinted noodles found in bakso.

My mother- and sister-in-law sell lovely sticky rice-cakes covered in coconut and dripping with palm-sugar syrup, which provide energy but have absolutely zero nutritional value.

Every morning they have a huge crowd gathered around their stall and always sell out. It’s a good little business and pays for the family’s food for the day.

When I moved to the village three years ago, I was pretty intimidated by the thought of going to the market, but now I’m just about comfortable going on a Saturday morning when I don’t have to rush off to work.

However, I do have a couple of dilemmas to deal with when buying at the market. First of all I have no idea who I should be buying from. I know all the stallholders and don’t want to spend too much with one person or show any kind of bias; so I try to spread my purchases over a few stalls.

I’m not sure if it’s really an issue, but I can’t help but feel like if I buy from only one stall it may be a market faux pas and the ladies could feel put out.

My sister-in-law Kadek usually helps me out and doesn’t seem to worry about who she buys from, but I like to think it’s a good idea for me to keep it all fair.

My other problem, which is ever more worrisome, is when someone offers a product that looks a bit past its best. What am I supposed to say? Wouldn’t it be rude to reject produce because of the way it looks (or smells)?

In any other market I wouldn’t think twice about voicing my opinion of a stallholder’s product, but I just can’t do it when it comes to my own neighbours and family.

Last weekend when I was offered wrinkly mangoes I almost bought them jut because I was too polite to say anything, but luckily Kadek stepped in just in time and saved me by saying we already had some in the fridge at home.

I suppose this is why it’s sometimes easier to just take a trip to Bintang or Hardy’s, where there is no guilt, only inflated prices.

The problem there is the interrogation about supermarket prices I have to deal with when I get home. Although since giving up plastic bags in favour of my big, green, eco-friendly bag, I have found there is much less snooping and questioning.

I’m being eco-friendly and escaping my mother-in-law’s disappointment all at once.

The other fun reason to go to the market is the village gossip. Women get some time to hang out together and talk about each other, the men and what the young people are up to.

I’m sure they have a good chat about me once I’ve gone (and sometimes while I’m still there), but if I join in it’s more fun and they don’t have so much of a chance to talk about me.

It’s also just a time for the women to relax and sit down to eat their breakfast without being busy doing a million things at once. There is a lot of laughing and joking (not all of it clean).

I like the thought that joining in with women by going to the market makes them more accepting of me and more comfortable with my presence in their village.

After three years it’s nice to be able to gossip and have coffee along with them instead of staying on the sidelines being gossiped about.

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My Compound Life

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