In my corner of West Mamprusi District, market day happens every three days. It is a traveling market where most vendors hit up other market towns on a rotation. As a village, Macondo itself does not have a market and a lot of our life revolves around market day at our market town – many women are vendors who take part in this local market. Mornings are spent harvesting and preparing produce to sell and the market only comes alive at about 1pm and runs until sunset.
On non-market days, the area looks like a ghost-town, with only a handful of local vendors selling essentials, which consists of beans, tomatoes (although my most recent visit yielded zero and this was ON a market day – the rains are only now starting back up!), onions, groundnut paste and in-season leafy veg. Right now that is B’ri (bra in Dagbani), Hibiscus cannabinus.
Because I live without electricity and therefore no refrigerator (the latter being the case for most PCVs), I only buy small quantities, enough to last until next market day. Even the smallest quantities are sometimes too much!
Customer/vender loyalty is a thing and the practice of adding a little extra to return customers is common and known as ‘dashing.’ For example, my vegetable lady always dashes me extra tomatoes when I stop by.
It is an in and out event – none of this casual strolling through every air-conditioned, fluorescent lit isle, where there are ten choices of toothpaste. The only thing that is the same about my shopping habits here as in the USA is bringing recyclable bags. Going to the market is a crowded affair – always dodging the wide loads some vendors carry on their heads and winding through narrow two-way paths. I have formed a routine at market:
-Greet the mobile money man and wife and my seamstress friend
-Stop by the section of market where the women of Macondo congregate to greet them
-Go to my vegetable lady
-Buy some dried fish for Iceni (my cat)
-Buy some in season fruit (one cedi for four oranges, that is about 25 American cents!)
-Flag down a tofu seller and buy enough for snack and dinner
-Away from the market area, I buy bread and canned goods
-Buy a few cold water sachets to last me the rest of the day (water is most commonly sold in 500ml square bags of plastic)
I can usually do this in under an hour so sometimes I will have lunch with my seamstress friend and spend the late morning/early afternoon at an ICT center (where I am, there is no such thing as an internet café or Starbucks) updating this blog and charging up some appliances.
Market days are fun and are the days you can get good prices on other items like chickens and goats, farm tools and second hand clothes. They can be equally overwhelming with the amount of people out. Regardless, I found this was the best way to pick up the rhythm of life, accustom myself to the staring and silimiŋa calls and most importantly, make friends.