6. Locally sourced, seasonally available
All of the fruit and vegetables are locally sourced and organic. You can walk down the "produce" aisle and pick and choose what different ladies have to sale.
There's no searching for labels to certify this, but with no preservatives and no refrigeration, it's the only way to do things. This also means that you eat according to the things that are in season. A few things- like bananas- are available all year long. Other things have one or two seasons each year, ranging from a very short mango season once a year, to things like pineapple and papaya that are available most of the time.
Mama Claire sells onion and garlic every day. She sometimes has eggs, potatoes, or dried beans for sale, too. She would always watch my bike for me while I shopped.
7. No refrigeration
With no refrigeration or preservatives, you only buy what you need for that day, or the next few days. For example, the one type of bread available is made locally with no preservatives. If you don't eat it that day, the humidity will cause mold to grow overnight.
It is possible to buy some fish salted or smoked to make it last longer. I never quite trusted this option!
8. One stop shopping
Even though there is no supermarket, you can get just about anything you need from the various stores in the market- at least anything available in town.
In addition to food, there are other household goods, hardware, paint, medicine, and office supplies.
There is fabric for sale, and tailors who will take your measurements and sew clothes.
9. Time and Conversations
The culture is very relational, and it is important to take the time for conversations. I'm always kindly greeted and welcomed, and people ask about my family's health and well-being and other things about our family or the hospital. It is more important to talk to people than to buy something from them, and I have certain people that I converse with on every trip to the market.
This does mean that you can't take a quick "in and out" trip to the market. Sometimes, what should be a simple search becomes complicated. Other times, people are in the mood for long extended conversations, and it would be rude to rush past them. As long as you know to expect your trip to take some time, you can enjoy the conversation and building relationships.
Part of the openness in communication also means that it is OK to people watch, one of my favorite things. There is nothing unusual about standing and watching the world go by. You can comment on what people are buying and doing, and it's all part of the relational aspect of the culture. Sometimes, I would get a cold drink at one of the few stores that had a cooler, and stand and drink it while watching (and sometimes photographing) the action on the street and in the stores across the street.
My favorite part of the market is the people. The market is fairly small, and there were many people who knew my name- sometimes my actual name, sometimes by things like "mama of Isabelle" or "the giant's wife."
This meant that in addition to making friends, I knew there was a community watching out for me. On the rare occasion that someone spoke in a threatening way, there were people who stepped in and chastised them. I could leave my bike or my purchases with one of the vendors to pick up later.
I also had a chance to get to know a little about some of the different people, their stories, their joys and heartaches. In a few cases, I made some close friends that I will always remember and treasure.
The couple in the last picture got to know our family pretty well, and they came by and spent our last evening in Impfondo with us.
I hope you have enjoyed this little glimpse into the market in Impfondo!