Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Market

Dan and I are unusually lucky amongst Peace Corps volunteers.  Because we live in a border town, we have access to food and other goods that are not available elsewhere in the country.  We can, for instance, purchase eggplants, peanuts, okra, and shrimp on a daily (well, seasonal) basis.  These specialty items are in addition to the more common marketplace items:  tomatoes, onions, rice, beans, and garlic.  Our market is not the largest that we have been to- it's actually rather small- but in it we have everything that we want.  Even obscure goods (yeast, baking powder, toilet paper) exist in certain well-stocked bancas.

The tortuous, kilometer-long path to the Zobue marketplace

It is always an exciting adventure to walk to the market.  Because there are no large roads that lead directly to our home, the fastest route to the marketplace is actually a thin, winding footpath between the houses in our densely-packed bairro.  The path is sandy, long, and twisted.  It is also packed with children, all of whom get a real kick out of chasing us down the corridor yelling "A'zungu!  A'zungu!"  (White person!  White person!)  When Dan gets insulted by this, I gently remind him of my "White tiger theory."

"Say you live in a town that has one giant mansion."  I said.  "And in that giant mansion, there lives a very rich man who owns a white tiger.  Let's say that once every few days, he straps a diamond-studded collar on that tiger and takes it out for a walk down the street.  Now if you were a child playing in your front yard and you saw the man walk his tiger right past your house, wouldn't you be tempted to call out to your friends, "White tiger!  White tiger!"?  It's not because you hate the white tiger or are making fun of it.  It's because it's fun to see the white tiger from time to time, and that excitement is worth sharing with others."

"Are we the white tiger in this story?"  Asks Dan.

"Yup," I confirm.  "We are the white tiger."

Our favorite thing about Zobue is that nobody tries to cheat us.  We are always quoted a fair price and are treated well by the other adults in our town.  Dan and I always feel happier after visiting the marketplace- 

("Hello!  How are you!?"
"I am fine, thank you!  How are you?!"
"I am fine, thank you!")

and even I feel comfortable going shopping by myself.  

I chose to write about the marketplace because it is an absolutely integral part of our daily life in Zobue.  It takes a full hour to walk to the market and to return home again, and we make the trip nearly every day.  It is an repetitive, habitual activity that serves to make us predictable and, I think, more normal.  It helps link us to our community, and it gives us a good chance to wave at all those neighborhood children.

Two girls in pink wave as we pass by on the way to the market.  
Their little sister, also in pink, is skeptical about the camera.
Notice the Santa doll strapped to her back.

Dan and our closest neighbor Kevin (Peace Corps Malawi) en route
to the marketplace with Bwino.  This familiar route gets rather swampy
during the rainy season.

The entrance to the marketplace.  This is also the view from the road (hence the giant billboard).  Because we border with Malawi, about half of our advertisements are in English.  What a cheerful sign!  It makes me happy every day.

Inside the market.  In general, a Mozambican marketplace seems to be nothing more than a rambling pile of junk stretched over no less than a quarter-mile of straw-thatched lean-tos.  Prices are low, but the products are poor.  

Selling peanuts

Selling okra.  In Mozambique, okra is "quiabo" (key-AH-boo).

Dan and Bwino buying tomatoes

In Mozambique, one always refers to "tomatoes" in the singular form - tomatie.  More than one tomato, in Portuguese, has a more obscene meaning.  "Tomato" are always bought in groups of four, called "Little Mountains."

Today, we discovered this delicious-looking pile of dried shrimp.  Minnows are also sold in piles like this.  We have been told that they can be eaten raw, but have been reluctant to try.


A well-stocked banca.  This is where you can find your flour, margarine, eggs,
powdered milk, toenail polish, and skin-whitening cream.

Another well-stocked banca.  

In Zobue, vegetable oil is usually bought in 20 gallon jugs (see jug-stool pictured below) and separated into various waiting receptacles.  It is possible to buy oil in an unopened container, but is more expensive.

A man poses in front of his collection of capulanas

Dan's favorite treat- three-cent fried dough.  Without a firm grasp on
Portuguese, the vendor is unable to understand my question
("Can I take your picture?") and eyes the camera with uncertainty.  

Some of the beautiful Chinese junk available in Mozambique

Beautiful red beans.  The vendor was actually sleeping when I took this picture, which made my job (asking permission) much easier.

Hot chili peppers (known as piri-piri)

Oil in a variety of receptacles, including Sprite and whiskey bottles

Bright, cheerful capulanas


  1. Lisa it looks like you are doing well and having fun! I love looking at your blog :) Enjoy your time in Africa.
    Your cousin Holly