Saturday, August 1, 2009

Balancing Goods

In the village and city alike a dominant means of transporting and selling goods is on top of the head. The bowl or basket is filled far beyond the rim, and may be directly balanced on the head, or a scarf is wrapped in such a way to provide a bit of cushioning.

In the village bundles of firewood (far beyond what Id ever imagined could be carried by one person for a distance), metalic basins filled with potable water from a local well, and bags of sand for construction are a routine sight. Some walk holding one side of the bowl, while others walk with yet more in their hands, and often a baby strapped securely with a scarf to their back.

Most carrying goods on their heads are women, though in the city I have seen men selling goods from their head- though quite light weight goods such as sunglasses, pens, remote controls, or fabric. Women bear the heavier loads, including trays of fruit, either pinneapple, coconuts, banannas, or apples (and they dont go light on how many they pile on). Some carry complete meals on their head, and even tote along a stool to set down their tray on while they prepare your bowl of rice and sauce.

Baskets with a diameter of 2 feet are packed full of baguettes standing on end, while others precariously hold fried fish in a variety of sizes- the key being that the product is visible to the passerby, the potential client. Following just behind a women selling fried fish might be a young girl selling balls of pate (made of corn flour and water, eaten as a staple starch). I met one such 8 year old, Jeremie, whose father died and mother abandonned her. Without anyone to pay for her schooling, she walks the streets for 7 hours a day selling pate that her grandmother makes.

Many of the vendors have a set route and regular clients, who expect the mobile sale of cleaning or beauty care products. Last night the lady that we buy water from was having her nails done by a woman who arrived with all of her supplies on her head. Some sell clothes on hangers that dangle from a tray on their head, quite an impressive way to display a number of outfits all at once.

When traveling, our bus or taxi-van would stop in a random town and immediately our vehicle would be surrounded by women selling goods in baskets on their heads- bread, fried dough balls, cookies, banannas, fish, crabs... and it was all easily within arms reach from our windows. And at times their were men too, their products were normally cold drinks or grilled meat on a tray that they would plop down and swiftly cut up into bite size pieces in a matter of seconds. Cant say we tried the last one (the swarm of flies was a deterent).

Basically, anything you can imagine might be sold by a mobile vendor.


1 comment:

  1. hey k, you have a pretty fantastic way of portraying a scene with words. personally, the fly infested meat wads sounded pretty appetizing, but i guess to each his own, right? keep up the good work sistaaa


    ps. ray---nick and i are preparing for your family initiation ceremony, i dont want to spoil it, but just so you dont freak out i thought i should tell you to expect avh wild dogs to be involved....