Here's an excerpt from my journal about the local marketplace. The market is about 1/4 of a mile down the street from my house. The market IS NOT the same as a grocery store. The grocery stores are more like small American supermarkets. The market place is where local Liberians sell their wares to one another.
Accurately explaining the market place really requires pictures. I don’t know if I can adequately relay the sights and sounds of that place.
First, I must say that the markets are located behind the street vendors I had been seeing on the sides of the streets. There was no indication that these stalls went back so far! Street vendors sell things from roughly hewn tables or wheel barrows (I saw one guy selling large snails from his wheelbarrow!) and make stands out of tin roofing material turned on it’s side and covered with cloth for its roof.
Second, the market is – well – imagine the dirtiest flea market you’ve ever been to and multiply it by 100. The roof is tin and held together with string and/or held down by rocks. The tables are blackened by the same filth that’s on the floor. The dirt here isn’t hard-packed. Rather, it’s fine and gritty and impossible to keep out of your shoes.
The stuff sold at the tables varied from spices, peppers, fufu, vegetables, and fruits. It was when I caught sight of a massive amount of flies that I realized there were also tables with meat – pig feet, chicken feet, livers, fish, etc. The smell was awful. I tried to hide the fact that I was gagging and had to put a considerable distance between me and the meat tables until the urge to faint finally subsided, or went away.
Third, the people in the market are interesting to watch. Some are like vultures, wondering if I will be their prey. I always have to look to my friends to see if the prices I’m quoted are reasonable. There are children playing in the mire and muck on the floors. I’ve noticed that many of the toddlers are taken care of by children only slightly older than themselves. Older women have no problems falling asleep on top of their tables, while younger women might be seen slaving away using mortars and pestles to grind what looks like butter or cheese. There aren’t many men here, but one kind guy did let me take his picture as he used a meat grinder to process some cassava leaves. (I had to promise to print a picture and bring it to him.)
After I made my way home with my meager, or small, purchases of bananas, oranges and sweet potatoes, I set about the task of scrubbing my flipflops. There’s so much trash mixed in with the dirt that I can’t stand the idea of carrying that filth in and around my apartment. So, part of my nightly routine is scrubbing my feet and my shoes with soap and water. I bought a special brush for the purpose.