Filling a bag of groceries in Guyana isn’t like loading a cart full of goodies at Whole Foods. Similar to shopping in Manhattan, you purchase only what you can carry. And, no, you don’t have the option to pay for delivery to your front door. There are a limited number of grocery stores in town, but they tend to overcharge for most items, so I’ve learned to do most of my shopping at the market. The market can be wonderful fun. It’s a colorful scene filled with ripe tropical fruits and rich green vegetables displayed on wooden stands over a carpet of sewage water and litter. The experience isn’t quite a leisurely stroll through a farmer’s market. Every vendor regardless of their gender shouts, “Hey baby, what you shopping for?” If you stop and chat for a bit, you find that sometimes they can be very friendly and generous. Other times, they just want to continue marketing.
Each trip can be a grab bag. Here are a few of my experiences fresh off the market so anyone who might want to check out the market will be better able to.
- Sometimes you feel like a celebrity. “Look, it’s Bruce Lee’s daughter.”
- Sometimes you feel like you’re blessed with good genes when walking with other volunteers. “Hey! White and Chinee make beautiful babies!”
- Sometimes you feel a sense of security after being grabbed by a strange man. “Girl you walking too close to the bus.”
- Sometimes you feel like you’re in Baskin Robbins “You never eat this before? Here taste it”
- Sometimes you feel like you belong, “You Guyanese? You sound like Guyanese”
- Sometimes you don’t. (me) “I just got tomatoes at that stand for $200.” (Guyanese shopper) “No girl. She only charged me $140.”
- Sometimes you feel like they think you’re a sucker. (me) “How much for two?” (vendor quickly packs 4 in a bag) “This, only $200.”
- Sometimes you are. (vendor) “Look. I saved all the good mangoes for you.” (me) “But, some are all bruised up.” (vendor) “Mangoes scarce now. Ya want it?” (me) “(sigh) Fine.”