Saturday, 9 March 2019
At the Market
The Baatsona market on Saturday morning offers a complete assault on the senses.
The marketplace in Ghana is one of the last vestiges of traditional and cultural practices that resist any movement into modernity. It never ceases to amaze me. From the randomly, haphazardly organized stalls, to the communal existence apparent in the human interactions, it is as though time froze here, and a visitor from the 1940s would have no problem fitting right in.
The vast array of red tomatoes, white garden eggs, green okra, blackened smoked fish, orange peppers and silver salted fishes are enough to leave you crosseyed. I head for my favourite crab lady first. She has large orange-hued moon crabs and delicious flat blue ones of all sizes. She 'mistakenly' gives me double what I ask for, and tries to convince me to buy it all. I sweetly refuse, and she sweetly acquiesces, prattling non-stop about her delicious crabs.
A table piled high with smooth, round shiny red tomatoes catches my eyes. Of course, the vendor caught me looking and wasn't about to let me go. "Oh mummy, please come!", she cried plaintively. (nevermind the fact there was NO way I could be her mother). Nevertheless, I liked the look of her tomatoes enough to comply.
As I stood there, the insistent cries of a little girl nearby caught my attention, and I wondered why no one else seemed bothered by it. It was the tomato seller's daughter, being chided severely by a woman at the next table. The mother finally intervened, and I wondered if a quarrel was about to break out between the women, but no, not at all.
"You must listen to Auntie Esi when she asks you to stop," she said to her daughter.
I recognized it immediately from way back when I was little....the child-rearing style among females. Our mother's friends had every right to tell us off if for some reason she wasn't there to do it herself. We knew it, our mothers expected it, and the whole community valued it. It just isn't much in evidence among most modern parents today.
After a few more purchases my time in the market was done. Just as I turned to leave I remembered I hadn't bought okra. I stopped to get some but realized I had run out of money.
"Don't worry, you can have it," the okra seller said to me. "If you come next time you can pay me."
I couldn't believe it. This lady most certainly made a fraction of what I earned in a month, yet she was willing to give money away to a perfect stranger with no guarantee of ever getting it back. My heart was glad. Old fashioned values are still very much alive...even if only in the marketplace.