Open Market in Choma by Kara Heber

As a follow-up to my last post, I wanted to share a little about the market in Choma. We rode the bus about an hour into town where Mr. Chance pretty much let us off the bus and pointed in a general direction where the open market was. “Meet over there at the lawn of the museum”, he said. We filed off of the bus just to look at each other and wonder where to go. The paved street was lined with stores and filled with families shopping. I heard one little girl say to her mom, “look at all of the white people”.  Our huge group excused our way through the crowds of people and ended up splitting into smaller groups after a quick stop at the grocery store.

My small group wondered in the direction Mr. Chance suggested to again, look lost. One gentleman came up to us and said, “are you looking for something?”, to which we asked where we would find the open market. He said it was right behind the row of stores behind us, and offered to escort us through the bar instead of walking the whole way around. We all looked at each other, knowing it wasn’t the best idea for a few reasons. Tori stepped up and stated that wouldn’t be necessary and we continued on our way around. “Are you afraid?”, he asked. We weren’t necessarily afraid, but it’s good we followed Tori’s lead.Behind the stores we found dirt roads decorated with the same tarp tents we saw in Kalomo. The road followed railroad tracks for miles. I’m assuming they are no longer in use based on how close the tents were to the tracks. Some tents had music blasting, numerous tents/stands had little speakers that shouted some type of announcement, everyone starred, many asked us to come to their tent, and some tried to walk with us. It was an unusual feeling being watched so closely from every direction. I’d be lying if I said it was not intimidating.

This market had more to offer than the previous. Here we saw everything from barber shops to stands selling car parts, live chickens to piles of minnows on the table in the sun. We even saw a guy drive by with a small goat in the front basket of his bike. I wanted to take so many pictures, but it made me nervous because we already had so much attention. We were friendly, though. I tend to greet people more than normal (I guess), so I would say “muabukabuti” which loosely translates to “good morning” in Tonga. They LOVED to hear us attempt to speak Tonga. Most of them laughed…I’m sure I’m pronouncing it wrong, but they seemed surprised by our efforts, replying “kabuti” (fine) and waved back with great big smiles.

We walked in one direction for a loooong time. Eventually we figured we should probably turn around. Instead of figuring out which little roads we took to get where we were, we found the railroad tracks and followed them to the lawn of the museum.

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At the museum, we had a fresh chicken and fries picnic on a few bed sheets. When I Say fresh, I mean Mr. Chance said, “don’t look out back behind the restaurant”.

We did not go through the museum, but we did stop at the gift shop inside. They had beautiful woven baskets, hand-carved items, African masks, and countless other things. Our group spent hundreds of dollars in the gift shop. I think it was a little overwhelming for the lonely employee who calculated and wrote down each item by hand.

On our way home, the bus was packed with people and a plethora of souvenirs. As people made room on the seat to sit down, the souvenirs were PILED on top of laps and in the aisle way. Just when we were all comfortable with our seating, our bus was stopped by officials along the highway. They insisted that we all get off of the bus. For a few seconds, we were all confused about what was going on. We stood up, left our things behind, and followed the person in front of us to a basin of water with a small stream of water flowing out of it. They stopped our bus to make us “wash our hands” to prevent the spread of hand, foot and mouth disease that we could get from the animals…I don’t know. We are still confused. We got on the bus and whipped out the hand sanitizer as cows crossed the path on our left. Good thing we washed our hands.

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