29 August, 2010

To market to market…

Every Sunday the kids get paid for their chores and 10 or so are allowed to go to the market (the children rotate each week). Yesterday, Wayne mentioned that they were going to market and I thought that since he is going, I will tag along. The trusty red truck soon had kids crawling into the back and cab and I went to take my place in the front when I realized that Wayne was walking back to his office. I then had a decision…do I go without him or go it alone (with the driver and kids).

You see, I am actually not an adventurous type, per se. Yes, I travel all over and to places others have never gone, BUT a Lewis and Clark, I am not. I do like to go off the beaten path and I like the thrill of the unknown, but within boundaries. As much as I fight it, fear holds me back sometimes…fear of the ‘what if’. I’m more of a “go where someone has gone before – and see if you can improve upon what they have done” kind of person. I realized that fear was holding me back and I crawled into the front seat. I was met by 5 little ones in the back seat who were super excited to be going to market with Melinda!

We bounced out way down the dirt road for about 10 minutes and then came to the main road, took a right turn and headed down the pavement for another 10 minutes or so. Along the way the driver (still can’t remember his name!) pointed out to fields we were passing. Fields of dirt as far as the eye can see. Fields that should have been planted with rice…fields that are left bare because of the drought. Come November, there won’t be much to harvest and then come February, people will be going hungry. 

I thought of what Kansas would look like in the summer with no fields overflowing with crops…Francis Rupp, my mom’s elderly neighbor across the street mentioned that when he can no longer plant a large garden, then maybe it will be time for him to pass on – the garden is what he looks forward to each year. His way to till the land and give the excess produce to all the neighbors. I thought about these Cambodian farmers who, like Francis religiously plant their crops of rice; although unlike Rupp, it’s not a hobby, it’s their livelihood. Like Francis, their crops are a family affair, but unlike him, they may not have another way to feed their family if they have a bad year.

As I pondered the people’s despair come harvest, we were soon pulling into the village. More of a town bustling with Sunday Market life! The Market reminded me of a very large, very compact flea market. The driver pulled over and everyone crawled out. He looked at me and said “I’ll pick you all up in an hour and a half.” I thought, surely I heard him wrong, so I just kind of looked at him. He then said something to 10 year old Miss Kunthy (Koon-Tee) which I gathered was “Take the foreigner with you and for God’s sakes, take care of her”.

Kunthy took my hand in hers as I got out of the truck and she and I, along with Srey Nou (Sray-New) started weaving our way through the individual stands/booths. The girls drug me along as I tried to take it all in. They bought some shorts, nail polish and looked at some shoes. I have trouble taking pictures of ‘everyday life’. I see tourists snapping photos and pointing at things they that are different than what they know. I have a deeper respect for people than that; which means that I may not photographically document everything like I wish I could (such as the man laying on a cot getting some form of suction cup medical treatment and the woman sitting on a huge pile of clothes that she is selling –Just tell her what you are looking for and she will magically produce pretty much what you asked for.)

We went to a fruit stand so Srey Nou could buy an apple. I asked the ladies working if I could take a photo of their fruit –which in Cambodia is freakishly interesting! They blushed and laughed as I stood there pointing at my camera. Finally one of them nodded yes as she tried to hide her face while she giggled.

Finally the kids started wandering back to where the pickup dropped us off. They found a shaded place to sit out the wait while eating their fruit and playing with their new things. Soon, like clockwork, the truck came pulling up and everyone piled in. On the way back, with the children gleefully bounced in the back of the truck with the wind in their hair, I was happy to have ignored the unnecessary fear of the market. Even happier since I was holding 2 small loaves of bread which I bought for 2000 Riel ($.50) and happier still because the driver had filled the tank which goes to the gas stove in my room. Hot tea and bread for snack today!!

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