Every market has a mad person, but in Kongowea the madness is in the air and free for all to inhale it! I love going to the market, since I love me some good bargains and fresh vegetables. It’s a trip I always have to mentally, emotionally prepare myself for twice a month, Saturday 6 am to be specific! You might probably think I’m exaggerating when I say that I have to prepare for it mentally and emotionally, but a trip to the market requires all the strength and willpower you need. Allow me to explain:
It’s 6am on Saturday, the bed has its grip on me, should I leave or should I stay? Finally I manage to let go, jump in the shower, look for my peasant market day outfit, cover my hair and leave all my jewelry, carry my shopping bags, no purse, money secured safely inside my shorts that require an incision to remove. Reach there at half 6, start strolling through making a mental list of what I need to buy, along the way a man wearing dresses shouts; “dada mali ni ya leo, kuona ni bure”, for those who don’t know Swahili; “Fresh stock, viewing is free”, (for originality’s sake I prefer sticking to Swahili when it comes to the expressions since it gives the story more oomph) I try to give myself a lecture, trying to reason I came here for vegetables, not clothes but then the seller entices you by mysteriously handing you an eye catching dress that you can’t resist. His other workmates, blaring on the loud speaker “Mali freshy ya leo”, your mind learns to block the noise around you. The bargaining game starts; it’s a back and forth game until either of you budges. Finally you get your outfit and head on to the vegetable section. Two or three funny looking men start following you closely (sometimes in my head, I pretend they are my minions) They insist on carrying your shopping bags for you, despite you trying to ward them off by telling them you have your own carrier person. They still follow you around, you start walking around in circles hoping they will finally leave you alone.
You enter the vegetable section, the cabbage carpet spread on the ground, the smell of rotten tomatoes and mangoes; alas! You’re in the right place. “Mrembo! Mrembo!” the fight for your attention has begun; your eyes scan around, who has the best tomato, who looks like they will be won over by my smile when I try to bargain? Finally you settle for one elderly lady, “she seems nice” you mutter to yourself. As she carefully hands you the basket and you are busy examining the tomatoes, a rat jumps on you as it tries to scatter away. Screaming with horror you scamper for safety only to realize you have become the laughing stock of the market. Everyone goes about their business, still recovering from the Ninja Rat, you get back and start the tomato scrutiny process all over again, three more carrier boys are there waiting for you. You try to tell them in a firm voice; “nina mtu wangu wa mikono” they still insist, this time, you pull the maybe if I keep quiet and act deaf they will go away, move on them. Finally you enter the sane side of the market, the familiar sellers who know you; happily you continue your vegetable shopping, since you spotted your carrier person. He stores your vegetables for you while you embark on the chaotic side of the market known as the fruit section.
The fruit section doesn’t disappoint to live up to its chaos. Depending on which fruit is in season then, the ground always has a pungent smell that you get accustomed to with time. The moment one of the sellers notices you have given them the side eye, they will come ready with a sliced avocado for you to taste, while packing some for you despite you not asking for them. They coerce you to buy some; you hurriedly leave and go to another section to get bananas. You still have carrier boys following you around, some trying to throw paper bags on your face, others insisting on carrying your things at a cheaper price. It’s like rummaging through a field full on mines at the market; you never know when someone will jump on your face, forcing you to buy something, cat calls from the idle men around or the carrier boys. A woman in front of you panics as she tries to find the boy who was carrying her things, the heartache that comes with getting a good “mtu wa mikono” guy at the market is always such a daunting task that you hold on to the one you have since you already established a good loyalty please don’t run away with my things, relationship. Finally you manage to emerge out of the market, feeling sweaty and dirty but glad you have two more weeks before you have to go through it all over again. On your way out you make sure you are blind to all the bales full of clothes that are being opened’ every click entices you to stop and look hoping to get a good bargain, but your “mtu wa mikono” guy is already at the stage waiting for you, you have no choice but to pass the second hand clothes, while your eyes linger on back. You take a deep sigh of relief as you board the matatu back home, grateful you survived another morning at Kongowea Market.