Saturday, November 27, 2010

Voyeurism in the Marketplace

I perch myself on a ledge in the shade and let the market action pass me by.  I like this voyeuristic approach.  I can even go unnoticed, if there is such thing for a white person in Africa.  (Kids without fault will always call you out like smelly cheese, "Fote!" )  A couple young girls approach, one with what appears to be an empty tray on her head, but when she sits down I see she has 2 scrawny bananas still in it.  They don't say anything, so my secret watching spot is safe for now.  A boy to my left is listening to headphones, I know he is watching me out of the corner of his eye, but he pretends to be too cool to notice.  I'm fine with this.  There's a little girl of about 5 with frizzy braids standing 10ft in front of me, in a really chic tie-dyed 'blazen' shirt.  She has a empty plastic coke bottle and is hitting the ground with it just in front of what I see now is a little kitten laying sleepily under her mom's wooden stool.  Atop this stool is a huge mound of medicines in a basket, basically overflowing with boxes and creams and pills and who knows what.  I'm guessing some of that stuff has an expiration date of 1975.  I'm wondering who has bought from her today - while I'm sitting here I see no customers. Also in front of me is my favorite banana lady.  She's already beckoned for me to come buy, but I told her I'm good for bananas today.  I notice for the first time a large plastic jar on the shelf below her table, it looks melted, distorted, and has the residue of some brownish black substance on it.  Dare I ask?  A youth about 20 walks by with a Rocky stride and thick blue head-warmer on.  Taxis jostle for space at the front of the line. Groups of young women and their babies sit to my right , peeling oranges for sale and talking the day through.  They also sell popcorn, salad materials, and the signature oddly shaped cookies (we've been calling them the vagina cookies because of their two lip shape, I mean really, who designed this? ). A woman walks by with my favorite peanut snack on hear head ( a square of ground peanuts, sugar, rice, my Guinean power snack), except usually sellers keep this in a plastic tub, she has hers exposed and in the sun on her head, not the best selling tactic.  Other women in panga's with babies on their backs (when does one NOT see this in Africa? ) A boy walks by eating a fried bread, and the guy with the blue head-warmer cruises back along the other side of the street.  I spy a little girl with a black "I Love Africa" bag on her head, and her friend is balancing a tub of oranges.  Imagine being this young and part of the daily market grind; going from being the baby to having the babies.
       Then my invisible paint seems to have worn off, and someone who I don't know but they seem to know me, comes over and disturbs my observation meditation.  Ggrrr.  I act cordial and try to find the words to get him to wrap up conversation. Little does he know how much of a good time I'm having being the anonymous scene-ster.  

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