As you all know, the market is a highlight of my life right now. As I walk through it each morning, I exchange greetings with not only my regular vendors, but with just about thirty or so people I pass.
Most of the vendors are quite gracious; however, some of them are a bit pushy. A few women in particular make the gesture for me to come and buy their fruits or vegetables and when I don't, they give me a pouty face. I hardly ever buy from these women because, of course, I would rather give my business to a gracious vendor. But last week I needed some pineapple and stopped to buy from a pushy vendor.
This morning, I need some pineapple for a black bean salad I am making for the party tonight. I am not thinking of anything except that I need to get my shopping list taken care of, and I stop at a vendor right next to the one I bought from last week. She cuts the pineapple into chunks for me and then I buy some little green apple looking things. Naturally, the market sounds and voices are just white noise to me since I can't understand any of it, but as I am squatting in front of this woman, I suddenly become aware of a harsh voice above me. I am so accustomed to the market people treating me with such kindness that it takes me a second to register that she is telling me off. She points to my vendor from last week and I think she must be saying,"You bought pineapple from her last week, and look, you are buying those green little apples and she has those exact ones, too. You are being disloyal. Shame on you."
She walks off angrily. I look over at Last-week's-pineapple-vendor and she is frowning. She points to her array of fruits and says something like, "You bought pineapple from me last week and from her today. Why? I even have these little green apples, too." She makes a sweeping gesure, the equivalent of a little kid stomping his feet. I am not sure what to do, but I look up and get disapproving looks from three other women. I look at my current pineapple vendor and she just smiles and tells me "Cam on." (Thank you.)
I feel awful. Little did I know that buying six cents worth of pineapple would be considered such perfidy. The only thing I can do is to continue on with my list, but it stings. I turn the corner and feel a hit on my back. I think, uh oh, there is going to be a smack down over my insenstivity. But no, it is a little tiny older woman, and she is smiling, but is covering her mouth (I think it's because she has bad teeth.)
"Hello," she says, and I can hardly make out her word because of where her hand is. She motions for me to come over to the side of the alley.
"I want to practice my English," she says. We exchange a bit of information...where we live, where I work, where I am from. She is so shy, but very sweet.
And then she says, "I would like to invite you to my house." And then, "Right now."
Part of me wants to go to this woman's house. But most of me just wants to get back and cook and clean for the party. I tell her I must go home, that I have friends over.
"Next time," she says, and I agree.
Not two minutes later, I feel a firm grasp on my arm. What now? I turn and see Nam's great aunt. She is smiling and asking me to come to their home. I have never seen her away from her perch, and I have no idea why she wants this, but she is particularly smiley this morning. Usually she keeps quiet unless she feels like adding something like her "Souvenir." I tell her thank you, but that I have much shopping to do. She nods and says, "Next time," and I agree.
I purchase the rest of my ingredients (Mexican fiesta Christmas) and am heading back home when I get one more surprise in my market. There is a plastic bag hanging from the handlebars of a motorbike, and inside that plastic bag is a pure white goose. I guess I should clarify that it is a live, pure, white goose. Just hanging out in the bag on the motorbike, looking quite happy and unaware that he is about to be glazed and hanging from one of the glass carts in the market.
-As I pass the Pineapple-from-last-week-vendor, I look at her, nod, and say, "Xin loi," -which means, "I'm sorry." She gives me a nod and a partial smile, acknowledging my apology. I think we are good. But how can I know for sure? I cannot. And I sure don't want to buy pineapple from her anymore.
After four months, there are still days that I must just come home and take a nap and write in my blog that "this is a place of endless confusion."