We recently saw that there is a flea market on Sundays in Davis Square in Sommerville Massachusetts. This happens to be near one of our bicycling routes, so we decided to take a ride over there. For all of the advertising, we thought that it would be a bit bigger, but as you can see, they had some interesting items for sale.
When you first walk through the markets here in El Salvador, it looks like people are just sitting or standing around and not doing much. If that’s your impression, look closer.
First consider the dynamics of whether you sell food or other goods. Those selling food have the advantage that people need to eat every day. Unfortunately, food has a definite shelf life, especially sitting out in the market. If you don’t sell before the food spoils, you lose. Meat and fish lose their value the quickest. People selling other goods, such as belts, watches, electronics, and a countless other things, have the advantage that their goods last a long time. Unfortunately, these are not everyday purchases. Some augment the goods they sell by also selling a service. The man selling watches, can also make basic repairs on watches, replace the battery, or fix your watch band using the supplies in his fanny-pack.
No matter whether people have food or goods, they need to work on selling. People selling food are often stationary. They might be sitting there but they are looking for people to sell to. Some are calling out to people all of the time. They are using their energy the least efficiently. Most are watching you carefully. If you even let your eyes briefly rest on their wares, they will begin talking to you trying to sell to you. Some people selling goods wander are more mobile. They may sit down at times that tend to be slow for sales. Then during times at which they are more likely to make a sale, lunch hour for instance, they are up and trying to find customers.
Then there is the maintenance and marketing of their goods. People selling fresh fruits and vegetables want their food to look the freshest. They sprinkle their goods with water or rotate better looking items to be more towards the front of their display. While waiting for the bus in La Palma, I stood next to a woman selling tamales and other cooked foods. It looked like she was just sitting there and occasionally calling out that she had food to sell. But, every ten seconds she waved a cloth over her food to chase away flies. People here do not like flies and other insects. People also have to be prepared for inclement weather and often have to bring their young children to the market because there is nobody else to care for them.
Selling is challenging, make no mistake. It may look like they are not doing much, but looks can be deceiving.
Don’t spend five minutes of class time handing out prizes to the winning team in a contest. Deputize one of the students to do this task. They take the authority very seriously and do a better job than you.
If someone asks for something special don’t give it during class. Everyone will want it. Tell them to see you after class. I doubt you’ll see them again
If the class won’t quiet down and focus, write the wrong date on the board. If you write “December 25, 1969” that gets them to focus really quickly.
I can now almost eat pupusa like a native. It sounds simple, but let’s see you eat two pupusas with veggies and salsa and only use one napkin.
When I am tired, I can barely speak English. Speaking Spanish is a real challenge.
Life is unpredictable enough. When you don’t speak the native language well, it is even more unpredictable. In any outing, I am always the last person to know what is going on.
You have to be who you are in this world. I’m amazed how much my life here mimics how I spend my time and, with the notable exception of my relationship with my wife, the relationships I have back in the USA.
My first day here, I made some photos in the plaza and market. When Marina, my Salvadoran life-coach and landlady, and Joaquin saw them, they cautioned me to not have my camera out in the downtown lest it get stolen. This caution was repeated for the first few weeks that I was here.
But the market area has the shots that I really want. Risks can be managed. Sunday morning, I went to the market as the vendors were setting up at 6:00. My theory is that thieves are essentially lazy and that they are still sleeping at this hour. I also believe that they would rather steal in a crowded market where they can blend in than stand out early in the day.
Even Joaquin and Marina could not argue with this logic. Both laughed in acknowledgment of my Yankee wisdom. These images and the ones from yesterday were the ones I made that morning. At last!
After exiting the bus from Santa Tecla, where I am staying, to San Salvador, we walk up a narrow street lined with vendors. We can see the dome of the Catedral Metropolina de San Salvador in the distance. There is a sharp contrast between the beauty of the white dome and the grime of the calle. As we enter, Joaquin cautions me to be careful with my backpack and camera. Besides my backpack, I have with me just my small Lumix camera, a copy of my passport photo page, and a few dollars cash. This has become my usual routine.
The big Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid game is today and many of the vendors are selling team jerseys. At one point along the calle, we are inside where it is dark and cool, though the wares are mostly the same. People yell to us to buy their things. A man runs up to us holding three pair of athletic shoes he is trying to sell me. I wave him off politely; if nothing else, none are in my size. Does anyone in El Salvador sell a size 13 shoe?
We come out into the light and Joaquin is pointing at something on the ground and saying “This is the center of El Salvador!” There is a large circle in the middle of the street marked with an “X”, the points of the compass and “Km. 0”. Joaquin explains “This is the center of the country. Everything is measured from this point.” I want a photo but it is an active road. Joaquin helps me to time jumping into the road and getting the photo. I get it and we cross. There is another block of merchants. These are now in front of genuine brick and mortar shops.
Later, walking back to the bus, Joaquin needs to buy a computer keyboard for a student. We walk into a couple of stores. Finally, he finds what the girl needs, he pays and I stow it in my back pack. It turns out that he also needs flip-flops. We go into a zapateria and look around. They have many pairs of flip-flops but I can’t find any big enough. I ask the sales clerk “Tienen los chanklas en talla trece, por favor?” She smirks and shakes her head no. As we exit, a guy sitting on the curbs says something about “gringos” and “zapatos”. Nope, nada en talla 13.
A woman walks by with a goat on a rope. Is this her pet? Is it for sale? Is it for dinner? None of the above. She also carries some Styrofoam cups. Joaquin tells me “She will sell you a glass of very fresh milk.”
“No thanks, I prefer mine ice cold with a few Oreos.”
Note: Joaquin runs the local program in El Salvador. He has been my mentor and guide the past week; teaching me so much. I must introduce you all to him soon.
Since the 1830’s, this has been the site of an open air food market. It can vastly undercut the prices at the grocery store. Individuals, families and restaurants can be seen buying food here on Fridays and Saturdays. Here are a few images from last Friday.
The Marche’ Bonsecours opened in 1847 as the main public market in the Montreal area. It has also served as city hall and briefly housed the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada. It ceased to be a public market over 50 years ago and today it houses a number of craft boutiques and restaurants.
When many people think of Orlando, they think of the theme parks nearby. We stayed in downtown Orlando during our recent vacation and used it as a base for cycling some bike trails and having a few day trips. When we arrived on Sunday, our first stop was the Orlando Farmers Market in the park around Lake Eola. Here are a few views.