To Market, To Market
Purchasing staple goods in Karatu is very different from what we rely on in Canada. A few streets over from our home is the daily market where we frequently stop to buy vegetables for our dinners. One large covered area, packed with tons of vendors in small stands are all selling essentially the same products. How do you choose who to buy from? At first the task was a bit daunting. We knew that it is common for vendors to charge “mzungu prices”, an inflated cost for tourists. Fortunately, with a little prep we were able to find a friend in the marketplace and decided this would be our go-to vendor.
Last Tuesday, the CPAR Tanzania team brought us to the monthly market. On the 7th of each month vendors travel from the surrounding area to come sell their wares in field off the main road in Karatu. This market is significantly larger, to say the least. This field becomes covered with tarps, stands, and portable shacks, that are full of clothes, shoes, electronics, produce, and livestock. A vast majority of the goods, food aside, are second hand. As you wander through the field, people start following you around trying to sell you smaller items such as jewellery and carvings.
The evening was finished off with dinner: fresh beef cooked over an open flame. Served on a stick, this dish looks like a massive skewer that is eaten by slicing pieces off with a knife. I dined on sugar cane, an equally interesting experience. Tanzanians use their teeth to peel back the bark and then start chewing on the highly fibrous, yet extremely juicy insides. Once you have enjoyed all the juice, spit the fibre out. The mzungu way to eat sugar cane involves removing the bark with a knife and scoring the fibre so it will break apart more easily. The sugar cane was delicious! The taste was much lighter than what I expected.
It is interesting to experience a culture that primarily relies on marketplaces to buy and sell goods. While we see markets in Canada, our society mainly shops for food at large grocery stores. We visit separate outlets for clothing or other needs. The marketplaces in Tanzania present more of a one-stop shopping experience. While second hand clothing has become trendy recently in Canada, in Karatu, it is what everyone wears.
However, what I found most interesting was the livestock. We frequently talk about how disconnected Canadians are to their food source compared to Tanzanians. We go to the store, buy a package with all one cut of meat, and take it home to cook. In Tanzania, the animal is purchased alive and the family or restaurant turns it into dinner. The cut you get is luck of the draw. This process was very visible at the monthly market. First, there is the fenced area with cows, goats, and chickens for sale. Along the edge of the field are people preparing the meat while someone else cooks it over the open flame. Then dinner is ready to eat!