So today we went down to the market... I didn't take many pictures because I feel a little foolish taking pictures of "normal life." I mean, can you imagine walking into Albertson's with a camera? But... I did want to share the adventures for the day... perhaps later I'll have opportunities to break out the camera without sticking out too much.
First Stop: Wu-Mart
A distant relative to Wal-Mart, though only the size of a large convenience store, we didn't get anything out of the ordinary here.
Second Stop: Baker
We went to the baker (of birthday cake notoriety) to try out some of his bread. We just wanted to buy a sampling, but it turns out it is sold by the jin instead of piece. A jin is roughly equivalent to a pound, so we ended up with a lot of bread. Didn't cost much, though... 6 kuai. We'll probably share with neighbors. The bread is good; though, like all Chinese bread, sweet. One of them has a filling that reminds us of pear or apple butter. Good for breakfast!
Third Stop: Vegetables
All we bought were potatoes today. Paying is always an adventure. We've finally managed to figure out the number of kuai (aka yuan, equivalent of dollars) that they're asking for, but we can't get the cents. This vendor often resorts to using a calculator to show us the numbers. I have learned how to say potato -- it sounds like "tu-dough."
Fourth Stop: Meat Vendor
Yes, ladies and gentleman, we have bravely ventured where we never thought we would... to the meat stand. After being reassured by some of the other laowai (foreigner) that if you get there early, while the meat is still fresh (it is butchered in the morning) and the flies haven't come, it is ok to eat. The nurse who has been here for 2 years says she's never been sick from it. So, we bought some beef and had him grind it. (1 jin was 15 kuai... this is kind of expensive for the Chinese; comparable to US prices.) The grinding step made us the most nervous, but we had observed that almost everyone wanted their meat ground, so we figured it was pretty clean. (Relatively speaking, of course.) Tonight we had soft tacos, and they were great!
Fifth Stop: Button Lady
The button on my jacket had fallen off, and I saw a lady with her sewing machine on the street. (Have I mentioned that you can get anything done on the street? It is actually a really neat aspect of living in this village... all the necessities can be met; each person does their own thing.) So, I approached her and showed her the button and pointed to where it belonged. She smiled broadly and in no time had it stitched up. She didn't want payment for it, but we did anyway.
Sixth Stop: Sweet Potatoes
We've been smelling these each day we go to the market, and they smell great! Most Chinese don't have ovens (Chinese cooking doesn't require one), so it wouldn't be necessarily easy to bake your own potatoes. There's a guy in the market who specializes in that. He has a coal or wood-fired oven hooked up to a bike. We picked out 2, but I think we really got ripped off. It was 10 kuai for 2 potatoes. But, we don't have the language skills to argue with him, and figured his own conscience will get to him eventually, if he did rip us off. And with aprx. 7.5 kuai to a dollar, it isn't a huge loss to us. Oh well, we had wonderful sweet potatoes with brown sugar and butter for lunch... yum! (There's even a pic on Flickr... but not of the vendor for the aforementioned reason.)
A Note on Honesty:
We would be easy targets. For one, we are easily identifiable as foreigners (duh!), and by local standards, we're filthy rich; and they all know it. Add to that the fact that we can't communicate at all and don't know what things should cost locally, and it would be so easy to "rip us off." Even if they did charge us more, we'd still be getting an incredibly good deal by our own standards from back at home. However, we've found that most people are painfully honest... chasing us down to give us the change we didn't know we had coming or adding an extra tomato to a bag to bring it up to a full jin, instead of just charging us for a jin and leaving out the extra tomato. We've been very blessed by these kind and generous people... because a kuai means a whole lot more to them than to us -- and they know that as well as we do -- but they generally don't take advantage of that.