Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Morning at the market

After a couple of ugly days (weather-wise), this morning dawned with a beautiful blue sky.  I had been wanting to check out the market and buy some things, so I decided to take advantage of the nice weather and some free time this morning.  My goals: to buy hummus, fruit, and whatever else might strike my fancy.

Some other volunteers had told me about a good place to get hummus.  I knew the name of the place (Mamma Mia) and had a vague idea about where it was.  The Project Hope house is pretty near the market and part of the market is down the street from where we are.  Once in the market, I wandered down that street for a while, noting the different shops and things I might buy from them at some point.  I was approaching one shop and noticed a lot of cats hanging around the door.  When I got closer, I saw that the shop was full of live (caged) chickens.  I guess the cats were hoping to get some snacks later on.  During my walk I passed a number of similar chicken shops.  I didn't notice if they sold anything else.  The other shops didn't have the cats hanging around like the first place...

And since I mentioned cats above, let me say a little more about them: they're everywhere.  A friend in Jerusalem said, "You see cats here like you see squirrels in the U.S."  It's true.  They're all over, in the streets, checking out the trash, and they come in all colors, sizes, and states of well-being.  Though many are strays, some are quite friendly.  Others, not so much.  Being a cat person, I love seeing them and occasionally I pet the friendlier ones.  I'm not sure other people are quite so excited about this plethora of cats...

Anyway, eventually I bought some fresh still warm pita bread and at another shop some dried chickpeas (I've been missing eating them Indian-style).  Then I decided to go down another street in the market that leads to the center of town (where I needed to go to get my hummus). The shops along the first street sold mostly canned items, household items, oils, dry foods, and such.  The next street I walked down was full of fresh food: vegetables, fruits, fish, meats, more (live) chickens, and this street was, and I think usually is, quite crowded.  As I headed down (the street goes downhill) I scoped out where I'd buy fruits on the way up (so I wouldn't have to carry them down and back up the hill).  I got to the end of the street and was in the center of town.  I wandered a little, trying to find Mamma Mia (trying to remember what I'd been told about its location).  Having no luck in finding it, I randomly wandered down a few streets just to get familiar with the city.  I noticed one vendor selling something that looked like custard apples, what had become my new favorite can't-find-it-in-the-U.S. fruit in India.  I made a mental note to buy some on the way back.

While walking, I ran into the only person I've met who doesn't work or volunteer for Project Hope. Small town.  I was introduced to him my first night because he spent some time in Barcelona and may be interested in practicing Spanish (which wouldn't be a bad thing for me either).  He invited me into his relative's shoe shop (he'd been standing just outside it) for coffee.  I'm not a coffee drinker, but I wanted to be polite, so I both accepted the invitation and drank the coffee.  With sugar, it was OK.  After coffee, I had to start heading towards Project Hope for my second class.  As I stepped out of the shoe shop, I saw down the road in front of me the sign for Mamma Mia.  I'd passed the place several times in my wandering, but hadn't noticed it because the English part of the sign only faces one direction.  It was literally right at the end of the street I'd walked down and was about to walk back up.  So I walked in and ordered my hummus to take back to the house.  They didn't have enough to fill the 2 containers I ordered, so one of the men get more hummus.  While I waited (5 minutes perhaps), I was offered coffee (which I declined since I'd just had one), a strawberry (which was perfect in color, shape, and taste, sooooo delicious), and a cigarette (which I also declined, being a non-smoker).  I had experienced wonderful hospitality in Jerusalem while staying with the family of a friend from home ("You are in your second home'" they so generously and graciously told me), but now receiving  from a stranger, I was beginning to understand Arab hospitality even more.  I think it may rival Indian hospitality, but the jury's still out on that one...

I got my hummus and walked back up the hill.  On the way I bought some apples and tangerines and hurried back to the house, realizing along the way that I hadn't bought my custard apples.  I'd have to remember for next time... Once at the house, I scarfed down some hummus and pita, having not really eaten before doing my shopping and headed over to Project Hope, only to find that my class had been rescheduled for an hour later.  The woman in charge of scheduling classes had sent me a text, but I hadn't checked my phone, so it wasn't her fault for me arriving (now) an hour early.  Guess I need to check my phone messages more regularly... Going back to the house to relax for a bit before the class, I ran into another volunteer who was going walking in the market.  Now that I had another free hour, I walked with him and bought my custard apples.  Yay!  I've eaten one and I think they are a different variety than the ones I ate in India, but it was still quite tasty and I still have 4 more to eat.  The other volunteer also showed me his favorite place to buy hummus.  I am looking forward to becoming a connoisseur of hummus while I'm here.  I am equally looking forward to more explorations and adventures in the market.  That's all for now.  

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