For New Year’s Eve this year, we had a progressive dinner on base and I was in charge of appetizers. Last year, I spent all day making appetizers and they were sure delicious, but I just didn’t want to spend that much time cooking this year. So, instead, I settled on bread and potato soup, with one little hiccup: I had no potatoes. And getting potatoes requires a trip to the pasar (the open market).
Here’s the thing: I love the idea of an open market. I like the idea of wandering from stall to stall and checking out what everyone is selling. I want to buy things like fresh honey and homemade soap and then maybe the potatoes I came for. But in reality, the market in Papua is nothing like the little farmer’s markets you find in small-town America. The pasar is crowded, hot, muddy, stinky and everyone wants to touch my kid. And so I end up not only carrying pounds and pounds of vegetables, but also my 30 lb child who continual tells me that he wants to go home and screams every time someone touches him.
But, potato soup needed to be made, so to the pasar we went, along with two of my friends. Upon arriving, we discovered that the market was extra crowded, being the day before a holiday. From the safety of the car, Elias seemed excited about the prospect of the market (“Look at the toys, mama! Can we buy those?”), so I was hopeful that it wouldn’t be as horrible as I expected. But once a parking spot was secure and we stepped out of the car, Elias immediately clung to my leg and said “This place is stinky. I want to go home.” Sigh. Potatoes. We need potatoes.
About five steps into the market, there are now flies swarming around us and the 4-hour old meat that’s been sitting in the sun; three ladies have touched Elias, so I pick him up and he squeezes my neck too tight and grumbles about “those ladies” and says “I don’t like this place mama.”
Ok, so we find some red tomatoes that I also need and I quickly buy those from a nice Papuan lady thankfully does not try to touch Elias, but she does talk to him. He proceeds to pretend to hit her (“Sorry! He’s scared.”) We move on and I find potatoes! Score! The market is busy though, so it takes the seller awhile to weigh out my potatoes. Elias and I stand in the aisle. I place my body between him and every passerbyer who wants to touch his cute little checks. He continues to squeeze my neck harder and says again, “I don’t like this place, Mama. Can I buy that toy? It stinks here. That lady is trying to touch me.”
Now, I’m holding three pounds of potatoes, a pound of tomatoes, some onions and a thirty pound kid. Sweat is dripping down my back and there is mud squished between my toes.
My friends still have a few items on their list, so we wander a bit farther and I find some bananas. “We get banas, mommy?” Yep, we get banas.
All items checked off the list, we head back to the car.
“We go home now? Yay!”