Tuesday, 1 March 2005

to market to market

is it wrong to gorge yourself on pineapples? kind of...every day? they are so sweet and cheap ... no, not people i have known, pineapples. yum; i have decided i will stop if i get ulcers. the markets here are fantastic - in terms of food and price (did a big shop on sunday and with ibaika (spinach type thing), spring onions, ginger, loads of bananas, pumpkin tips (unexpected but ok sauted with butter and ginger, even a bit of chilli; locals laugh in disbelief when i tell them in australia we throw them away; each to their own...) and this was all 1 kina 30 - about 70 AUS cents!! chuck in a pineapple - better throw in 2 actually - for 50cents and i am smiling ear to ear.

- but some of the conditions at the local markets are not ideal. when i say local i don't mean that they are small - there are literally hundreds of buyers in there at any one time; imagine a royal show, it's that type of crowd. there are two or three aisles with cement floors, where people sit and put out a mat and display their goods; but the majority of the sellers put out their mats on the muddy ground - i don't mean dirty, i mean muddy! rain's pretty frequent, and there are a lot of people walking through here. the sellers are squished in, and you walk down aisles 1.5 people wide, tracking your grub with you - so there you and they are and you push and squish and pause and are pushed and you try and get a good pineapple (you can get it skinned - someone skillfully wields a machete and leaves the top on which you use as a handle; great snack on a hot afternoon) - and as this goes on now and then the crowd parts, for two things:

1. if there's a fight or sometype of trouble, EVERYONE leaves whatever they were doing and runs to go and stare. the highlanders are a staring type of people. never anywhere else i've been have i come across such starers! not just me-as-whitey, but at anyone at all who is different (ie. not a highlander) - and they're pretty keen lookers so they can tell instantly. they fall silent usually, and stare if you're blacker or whiter or your nose is a little longer than a local's would be or your hairstyle is different etc etc. anyway, that's just day to day staring - when there's some type of action, you can taste their dust as they race to see...

2. if the pig is around. the market area is split in half and has two owners. one of the owners has a big pig which is allowed to roam freely, snuffling through the mud and around the food. it is funny, but people who have been here for more than ahem 1.5 weeks find it outrageous. and it is. grotty pigs and mud and food don't go. but you can't touch the pig because the owner is a big man and i've heard he went into a fit of rage when someone tried to push the pig away from their stock. so, people just part and try and keep out of the pig's way.

getting to the markets can be a bit of an ordeal too - if there are hundreds inside the markets, there are double that amount hanging around outside. they chew betel (few people here smoke), talk, listen to radios, stare...i don't know what else. oh yes i do: they also play darts. there are about 20 dart boards set up right alongside the road (this road is also the national highway; i don't know if this is typical or just this town; here too the airport is in the heart of town; think carrington st as your airstrip to pultney or king william as your main st), and people crouch down and chuck the darts in the general direction of the board. haven't seen a championship player emerge from the huddles there yet, but you never can tell...

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