As I get settled in my new apartment, I have been doing the usual neighborhood reconnaissance to determine where the closest shops and services are. In the groceries department, the closest supermarket (about 3 short blocks) is a place called “C-town“. I believe the “C” stands for “community”, as the stores are meant to be responsive to the needs of the communities in which they find themselves. If that is the case, this community needs food help badly. The vast majority of items they carry are processed, pre packaged crap I haven’t seen since the early 80s. There is a ton of space devoted to Little Debbie, and none devoted to any kind of decent milk or cheese product. The produce was sad (although it is winter in New York and this may be true everywhere). Here and there you would actually see things that tell you a little about the community, in the form of imported items from Mexico, and the cereal selection was mostly ok. A lot of things looked as if they had been sitting years and years on the shelves with little to no movement. It made me wonder about stocking decisions. Who makes them and how? What is the evolution of these things? If someone was stocking some product line since the 70s, let’s say Birds Eye (something we grew up, and whose products are truly horrible) for example, what is the likelihood that over time they would stop stocking it? Do they notice buying trends decreasing or increasing for their products? Do they wait for the customers to demand a change? Is it likely that in poorer neighborhoods people are less likely to bring these things up to the store owners? Do they just buy what is in the store because it is in front of them? Perhaps the owner is looking for the greatest profit margin. And I should mention that prices didn’t seem less here than in other parts of Manhattan. Whatever the case, it really makes you think about the total environmental picture of neighborhoods, and the variety of things that go into making a neighborhood a compelling place to live.
Sick though I was, I had promised my friend Marites that I would try to procure for her 46 molinillos for a project she is doing, since they are so much more costly in the States. I also took the opportunity to take a few snaps of the Mercado Merced, which even in my sickened state is a wonder to behold.
I only have a week to go before leaving Mexico City, and I’m not sure if I will come back here to live after my trip to the States. Still, I have been feeling fairly pleased with myself for the number of things I have seen and experienced in Mexico City. Until today, that is. Gerardo took me to the Merced Market, which is in a part of town I hadn’t been to before. The place was amazing and enormous and I was clearly the only gringo there. As we were on our way there and moving about, I realized how much more there is to DF than the parts I have seen, wonderful though they have been. There is more of an underbelly and chaos that calls out to be explored, and this makes me want to come back. The market was the most extensive I have been to in Mexico and reminded me a lot of the enormous market on the outskirts of Bangkok.
Gerardo and I took a trip to Tlatelolco (try to pronounce THAT) yesterday, which was fascinating for a variety of reasons.
First, we took a stroll through the massive street market there, where just about any pirated item can be found for about a dollar. It was fascinating to me how this place operates in broad daylight. In some ways it puts Bangkok to shame. Gerardo speculated that the reason they can operate in the open is that some higher ups in the government are probably involved in the piracy and need an outlet to sell the stuff.
After that, we took a stroll across the way to the Plaza de Tres Culturas, so named because it contains Aztec ruins, a Spanish colonial church, and independent Mexico’s modern constructions all in one place. It is also the site of a horrible student massacre in 1968. Check out the slideshow below, pretty interesting stuff.
Yesterday I walked to the Berkeley Farmer’s Market with M&K and the kids.
I’ve been to street markets in the States, lots of times before. I’ve been to this particular market in Berkeley before. But I was astounded by just about everything this time. My many months away and many market experiences in Asia could not be more different from a sensory perspective.
Take for example the two images below. The first is from the (several hundred years) old vegetable market in the city of Madurai. The second is from Berkeley. On the left, I distinctly remember the following features: chaos, shouting, animals milling about, dirt garbage and dung everywhere, a crazy stink, a cool sense of scale, an ad hoc approach to everything. On the right: sterile environment, neatly aligned vendors, lots of perfectly safe to eat samples of cut fruit, an incredible sense of calm and quiet. It all seemed so strange.
It was so sunny and beautiful in the morning, we decided to leave our umbrellas at home. We arrived just a few minutes walk from Bishnu’s mom’s place and no sooner than we stepped out of the cab, it began to pour. And I mean really pour. THIS was the monsoon rain as I imagined it. When we finally got to the house, we were soaked, and the rain continued unabated this way for the next 2 hours. It was beautiful to watch and cozy being inside having a fabu meal.
After the rain subsided, we decided to go to the New Market area of Kolkata. Reminding me a little of Crawford Market in Mumbai, this is an amazing place, with layers of history piled all over each other and a crazy mess of shops and smells and people all around. Bhaskar describes the place as exhausting and exhilarating at the same time, and I think that is an apt description.
Wow. Talk about chaotic, smelly (good and bad), exciting. A walk thru Crawford Market is a must in Bombay.
Which is what we did in the night market after our exhilarating ride up to Doi Suthep and back down to the city. After making a few wrong turns we discoverd the other night market. The one the locals actually shop at, not the more sanitized one for the tourists. Check out the pics: