The Bazaar – Underpinning Social Engagements

Swaying from one shoe bargain to the next in Sri Lanka, I tried for months for semi-fair prices. I didn’t mind bargaining, the interaction, the confidence, the light heartedness, until one gives in like when siblings bicker over who has to take the trash out.

Fruits galor- Middle Sri Lanka

Fruits galor- Middle Sri Lanka

I  made my blond hair-blue eyes Swedish host sister wait on another street as the prices tended to go up when she was around. Her lack of bargaining skills cost me double though her sweetness was priceless. I watched how others did, with questions of socially acceptable behavior, respectable behavior, and on my obsession grew.

Yogurt business man- Galle, Sri Lanka

Yogurt business man- Galle, Sri Lanka

I gathered my veggies and high-piled cucumbers from the Sunday village market near Tibaani — an off-the-map village in the republic of Georgia. Rarely afforded the chance to buy my own, and willing to be escorted by men in obedience to  social norms, I wandered to test my Georgian and  observe the elderly women filling their plastic bags with carrots, cucumbers, and potatoes, depending on the seasons. I became accustomed to eating seasonly and shifted my eyes to those and their gendered practices. Men trailed by women. She would whisper to him, slightly pointing at the items needed for following dinners. Slipping into their purses they handed coins to their brothers and husbands, exchanging a negotiation, the transfer of the coin from his to the venders. I watched the women venders with thier aprons and weathered hands measure precisely, only to add a few less depending on their relation to the customer or a few more depending on the time of the day. Wandering to the side of the hung carcasses, men butchering off pieces of limbs, yelling, throwing, slicing, performing for their colleagues and surrounding men.

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