I was determined to get the best bang for my buck so I went shopping in the heart of Jamaica- in it’s most renowned city, Kingston. For an early Monday afternoon, the streets were clear, except for the vendors that lined the streets. People have come from near and far to sell their goods- from ground provisions to seafood, to pots and pillows. All of these things were on my to-buy-list for school. I needed pots to cook, fruits and vegetables, and everything to start my life on campus. I still needed more household products and items to dress up my bathroom. After putting my $225 into the Jamaican economy, I am satisfied with my purchases. I bargained two dutch pots for a price of $20, the original prices were $15 and $13. I have converted the amount into the Canadian dollar equivalent. I walked away feeling pleased about my negotiation skills, but saddened because this is the vendor’s livelihood. I know I would not get a pot like that in Canada for $10. The price would have been doubled. Am I contributing to stealing from the poor? When I was unpacking the same pots and preparing to cook, I thought about the man. I hoped he made many more profits after selling to me.
Seeing a woman pushing her cart filled with okra and callaloo, in her unpushy voice, she looked at me as I stood by the fish stand and asked if I wanted okra. I thought about it and told Tallia’s friend (the one holding my money and actually doing the shopping for me), that she should buy the okra and the callaloo. The lady gave me my change and continued on. I am standing next to the fish lady, who is scaling my fish, and listening to her.
“How many years are you studying…three-four years?”
“Just one year”
“Come on, it hot” Patrice said in her Jamaican accent. The woman ignored her and continued her interrogation.
“So how many months you gone now?”
“I just started yesterday” I replied and then ask questions of my own.
“What time did you start to work today?”
“I started after 9am, I have to be with my family.” Upon further inquery she meant that she had to send the children off to school before she arrived at the market.
By the time she handed me the fish, Patrice packed it away in the black plastic bag and walked away. The woman was offering words of encouragement as I was walking away. I tried to listen, but Patrice was building an uncomfortable distance from me. I bid the woman farewell and went on my way.
The day was hot and my feet started to hurt from all that walking. It was getting later in the evening and the crowd started to build. Maneuvering my way and keeping up with Patrice, was a bit hard. I saw the water melon cart and I had to stop to purchase some. Then a woman stood by me with her bags of lettuce. It wasn’t on my list, but I had to buy one from her. Patrice suggested I choose the one I wanted, then took it from me and added it to one of the black bags. Patrice held the bulk of the groceries and I had my hands filled with a crate of eggs in one and water melon in the other. We go back to the wholesale shop to retrive the rest of groceries I had bought and with no hands to carry them, Patrice asked Lisa, the woman working in the store, to carry the groceries back to the store Patrice works at- the one my cousin, Tallia owns.
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After Tallia drove me back to campus, I sat down on the sofa, removed the shoes from my burning feet and let the breeze from the fan blow on them. It was a long, hot day downtown, but the hustle and bustle wasn’t too terrible and it was worth the trip. It helped tremendously to have someone else do my shopping while I follow and make final decisions. The experience was a good one and now that I’m back in my apartment, I am thinking that it’s beginning to feel like home.