22 February 2009

MARKET DAY - Part 1 Dawn

This is Part 1 of a 4-part series describing
a typical Saturday ---Market Day ---in Glória.

Note: Some of the names in this story have
been changed because I can’t remember the
real names of all of the people in the town.


        Saturday was the best day of the week in Glória.
If I hadn’t been awakened by crowing roosters or braying donkeys, I would have been aroused by horses and mules clomping along the dirt road in front of the four-room house we rented. Brunie, the other Peace Corps Volunteer with whom I shared a house, woke before I did. She often sang as she did morning chores, which was a more pleasant way to wake than a braying donkey.
        With shiny black hair, dark eyes, and nearly perfect Portuguese, Brunie fit completely into the Brazilian landscape. Only her five-foot-ten inch height gave her way as an American. I was about five foot eight, with light hair and green eyes and imperfect Portuguese. No one ever mistook me for a native. Brunie had spent a little over a year in Brazil’s northeast before I arrived in Glória. I’m not sure if I would have survived without her guidance.
        Overloaded trucks roared past the house, sending billows of dust through the shutters that covered our glassless windows. Each truck was loaded with goods to be sold at the weekly market and with passengers, either those arriving to sell their wares or to buy goods for that week. Ox carts with large noisy wooden wheels, also moved through town to transport goods.
        I slipped into a robe and rubber thongs. After a trip to the outhouse, I dressed in a cotton shift, glided into leather sandals, and ran a comb through my sun-bleached hair.
        When I emerged from my room, Brunie stood inside the front door with Seu Vicente, an elderly man who stopped at our house every Saturday before heading to the market.
Bom dia, Seu Vicente. And how are you this morning?” I said. Seu Vicente’s chocolate-colored face broke into a toothless smile. His cheeks looked like the cracked earth of a deeply-eroded field.
        “I am well, and you?” he responded, lifting his leather gaucho hat. “I have again asked Dona Brunie if she will marry me, but she always says ‘No’. Maybe next week she will accept my proposal.”
        “Next week we won’t be here. I’ll pay you now if you will remember to leave my eggs with Dona Nininha,” Brunie said.
        The old man’s eggs rested in a large reed basket, each egg wrapped in a leaf for protection. He counted a dozen into the bowl Brunie held and accepted several crumbled bills, stuffing them into the small leather pouch he wore at the waist of his unbleached muslin trousers. Seu Vicente then shuffled toward the center of town.
        Brunie and I grabbed canvas totes, plastic bags, rope sacks, baskets and small cooking pails ---everything we had that could hold our purchases. Most of the items we could buy at the market were not available in local stores, so we needed to purchase enough to last the entire week. Since we would be in the capital city the following weekend, we needed to buy a little extra, but we could shop in Aracajú before returning to Glória the following Monday. In the capital, market day was every day except Sunday. Or we could ask a neighbor to purchase items that would be difficult to transport on the bus.
        Before seven a.m. the tropical sun was already blazing. The temperature in the shade would probably hit over one-hundred degrees that day. Glória was only ten degrees south of the Equator. Back in Pennsylvania everyone was probably complaining about winter weather.
        We headed for the Banco do Brasil. Fifteen or twenty horses or mules were tied to posts in front of the modern building. The bank collaborated with the owner of a huge storage silo on the edge of town to provide farmers with storage space for beans and other crops. When beans were plentiful they would bring only pennies per kilo. Depending on a farmer’s harvest, the bank would loan him enough money to store his beans and live for several months. When the price of beans went up, the farmer could remove some from storage, sell them at a higher price and gradually pay off the loan.
        After waiting in line behind a gaucho who emitted a leathery scent, we reached our friend Carlinhos at the teller’s window. We withdrew enough money from our accounts to pay for expected purchases.
        As Peace Corps Volunteers, we each earned about sixty dollars per month, plenty to purchase food and survive in Brazil’s interior. Our rent was five dollars, split between us. We paid a woman to wash and iron our clothes and a neighbor boy everyone called Gugú to carry water from a damn a few miles outside of town. He had four huge cans strapped on the sides of his donkey. 
        We splurged on a monthly trip to Aracajú to collect our living-allowance checks, stay in a pensão, luxuriate in a civilized hot shower, take in a movie, and relax at the beach.
        We left the bank walking on cobblestoned streets to the praça near the center of town where the mercado was held each Saturday.

(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)
See other posts in this series:
Market Day - Part 1 Dawn (this one)
Market Day - Part 2 Shopping
Market Day - Part 3 Morning & Afternoon
Market Day - Part 4 Saturday Night

Find another great story about shopping on 
market day in northeastern Brazil HERE
It, too, was written by a former PC Volunteer.

1 comment:

  1. Part 1 was great. Our world is big and extraordinary, And I know we can't see it all. But I do wish one day I can experience a morning like that one. So cool. I would however have to have a cup of Brazilian coffee with the old guy who brings your eggs.

    I can't wait to read Pt. 2. But I'm saving it for tomorrow.

    Keep up your humanitarian efforts, I can't tell you the temp in PA but here in Cincinnati it's about 18 degrees.

    Stay safe, feeno