The first signs that we are approaching the Chsokone market is the sudden congestion and confusion of cars, people are dodging the vehicles as cars are worth more than the people’s lives here. We step out of the taxi and head towards what looks like chaos. But underneath the surface there in lies the iceberg. You have to look closer to see that everything has its place and everyone knows what their purpose is. I have yet to figure all this out and still cannot understand why it take five men for me to be able to purchase fabric or some oranges, but one day. For now there is still a tourist sticker on my forehead, I am lost puppy trying to look like a big dog in some other canines’ territory.
Take a breath and step in, step left, step right, step over.
We dodge the cars we dodge the people.
We dodge their goods in transit coming at our heads. (Liz got hit in the noggin last week by a sack of potatoes a man was carrying on his head, she's ok!)
We try not to hit the children and the wheel barrels.
We plug our ears and hold our breath where it is required.
We do our best to ignore the crude remarks, the proposals directed at me, the in-law comments to Liz, the demands and requests for money.
We feel like walking dollar bills, ATMS with unlimited cash withdraw limits.
The shouts broadcasting of the colour of our skin, as if people can't see us coming from a mile away.
Everyone is calling to us "Mazungu!" “Madame!” “Talk time! Fresh naches! Slippers! Spices!”
I always think of my goal and try not to look too long at one thing or the owners will come running up and try to direct you back to their stalls "Looking and touching is free madame!" If you look too long you are doomed so those peripherals come in real handy!
I have a habit of being too accommodating sometimes and so when I first came to the market it would take me about five minutes to make someone understand that I do not need a four foot laundry stirring paddle and apologizing to them all the while. Now I am much better, I can just say no thank you and move on! Oh, the break-throughs.
Last week Liz and I were searching for this one area that had a lot of fabric to choose from we couldn't find it and got hopelessly lost. The market is pretty big but what makes it larger is the maze integrated into it. It is just waiting for victims like me!! Going to bring out that compass my Pa gave me that I never thought I would need. I said lets go straight until we get out somewhere and we eventually got out, but the annoying part is we went back to look for this place again and found it (incredible) and we were only one alley/path way away from it last time blarrrrghh! Oh well.
This market is crazy nuts and at first my insides were like aaah! but I really like going now. It is insanely grimy, dodgy, worn, colourful, gritty, chaotic, smelly (good and bad), undaunted, living and breathing Zambian life. It is completely normal. One day I will see the whole iceberg and understand Zambian culture, this year may not even be enough, my understanding comes good and bad, and always in little bits.