Sunday Market Extravaganza

Gina writes:

In Koraput, we work six days a week, so we're definitely going to learn to make the most of our Sundays. Here is what our first Sunday was like. My apologies for such a long entry, but I thought this would give you a feel for a) the hospitality that we're experiencing here in Koraput, and b) the process of shopping in India.

6:30 a.m. - Corey got up, had cereal and bananas for breakfast, and hand-washed all of our clothes from the past week.

9:00 a.m. - I finally got up (is it any surprise?) and ate breakfast.

9:45 a.m. - We received a text message from Hilary asking if we wanted to join her and her husband (who's visiting from the U.K.) for a trip to the market. We'd been looking forward to going to the market on a Sunday, since it's the day when hundreds of tribal people come into Koraput to sell their wares, and people bus/drive in from all over the district to shop, so of course we said yes! We'll be away at a conference near Delhi until Thursday night, so we weren't planning to buy many perishables, but we wanted to see the market anyway.

10:45 a.m. - We walked to Hilary's house (about 3 minutes away) and left for the market. We had made a list of housewares and kitchen staples that we wanted to purchase during our first weeks in Koraput, so we started working on it. Store #1 had a pressure cooker, but no screw-top food containers. Store #2 had screw-top containers of various sizes and shampoo. Store #3 had a large kettle, complete with a lid (very hard to find in Koraput!). Store #4 had most of the spices and kitchen staples that we wanted (rice, oil, flour, baking powder). When we entered the market, Hilary purchased eggs from the egg store, vegetables from the vegetable store, spices from the spice vendor, and stoneware pottery from yet another stall. We purchased a wool blanket for the cold Koraput nights and some paper-thin towels for cleaning rags (yes, from two different stalls). On the way back out to the main road, we made the mistake of walking through "non-veg alley" where you can buy the freshest chicken and fish you've ever had (I'll leave it to your imagination what that means and what that area smelled like...). We then separated from Hilary and her husband and went in search of lunch. (Store count: 7)

1:00 p.m. - Lunch at Hotel Annapurna (restaurants are called hotels here for some reason). There were some seats available at the same table as three young girls (maybe 18 years old?), so we asked if we could sit with them. Since nothing on the posted menu was actually available, we just asked to have the same thing that the girls were eating, which was three samosas and some potato onion curry. The girls spoke decent English and were happy to talk to us, so lunch was entertaining in addition to being delicious and cheap (just under $1 total for water, 2 meals, 2 desserts).

1:30 p.m. - We stopped in at Amar's store to say "hi" and to pick up a gift that he had for Mike (he lived in our house until Saturday and we'll see him at the conference before he returns to the U.K.). Amar speaks good English, works hard to order anything that we Westerners want, and maybe most importantly, owns the only shop in town that sells toilet paper (sometimes).

2:00 p.m. - We finally arrived home, sweaty and exhausted and heaving with bags of stuff. We relaxed a bit, then put away our purchases and finished unpacking/organizing our belongings from our suitcases. We also spent a good deal of time cleaning the kitchen and arranging the shelves just the way we wanted (oh, the excitement of making a place your own!).

4:00 p.m. - Our landlord, who lives above us, had extended an open invitation to come up to meet his family. We didn't want to turn down such a generous offer, so we got ready to go up, but then realized that his gate at the bottom of his stairway was locked.

4:30 p.m. - Corey received a call on his cellphone from Siba, a young guy from SOVA. Siba asked if we had plans for the evening and then invited us to go with him to his friends' house and then just hang out for a bit. He showed up about 20 minutes later and, for a few minutes, we entertained our first guest in our new home! He took a look at incomplete shopping list and said he'd help us find some of the items and get a fair price.

5:00 p.m. - We made our way toward the center of town to go to Siba's friends' house. We had some pleasant conversations about why we were volunteering and what we hoped to achieve, a nice change from the standard (where are you from? how long will you be here? do you have children?). We were of course served chai and biscuits.

6:00 p.m. - On our way to the center of town (for the second time in one day!), the power was out and it was getting dark. A few days ago, one of Koraput's two transformers blew, so power has roughly been supplied to Koraput about 1/3 of the time. A frightening experience wandering lost in Koraput in competely pitch-black darkness last Thursday made us really regret forgetting our flashlights. Luckily, the power came back just as it got completely dark. For the next two hours, Siba's help was invaluable as he led us to shop after shop that had exactly what we needed, and at fair prices. Store #1 had nuts and chickpeas. Store #2 had a dish strainer. Store #3 had eggs. The liquor store (which is unlit, behind black metal bars, and not a place where women are welcome) had beer. Store #5 had hangers and a laundry brush. Store #6 had straw floor mats. Store #7 had onions, potatoes, and ginger. We stopped at a street vendor for coffee and when Corey was talking to a curious gentleman (who paid for our coffee!), I was invited into a home nearby to chat and pet the dog. Store #9 had metal bowls and a wok (called a "kaida" here). Store #10 had yogurt. We also stopped at about 5 stores that did not have what we were looking for or were charging too much. (Store count: 15. Total store count for the day: 22.)

8:00 p.m. - We trudged home with our second set of goods. Siba offered to take his motorbike to pick up dinner, but we invited him to eat a simple meal with us. We were just planning to eat toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, so we asked Siba if he wanted to try one. People in Koraput aren't familiar with peanut butter, so we aren't sure if Siba's exclamations of "Fantastic! Delicious!" were genuine or not! In any case, it was fun to serve American food to our new friend.

9:00 p.m. - Siba left for home, we unpacked the rest of our purchases, and sat down to enjoy our new home. The power was out again, but the candlelight helped us to appreciate our minimal lifestyle in a simple and charming way.