It has happened before while having a sumptuous dinner with my business woman friend. Her cell phone would go off and she’d accept the call while munching on something and minutes later she’d look at me apologetically and using her sweet, Chinese girly voice, she’d ask me if I could accompany her to the biggest wet market in the city and buy fruit and vegetables. She recently won the bid for the city government’s solicitation for catering to the thousands of Muslims who are soon ending the month-long Ramadan. Without a doubt, this would take a couple of hours going through the maze-like market manned by zombie-like vendors. It is after all almost 12 midnight and we had no choice but to do the last minute procurement for the last-minute add-ons. Of course, as one of her best friends, I helped her out and did my share of selecting the freshest produce of spring onions, lemon grass, potatoes, carrots, bananas, ginger, and green beans
In some countries, walking around the wet market and possibly being exposed to “entities of the dark side” (i.e. robbers, bag-snatchers, and drugged-out beggars) is something you’d rather avoid. But this city, heralded for ranking 9th Safest City in the World according to the crowd-sourced rating site numbeo.com, makes marketing at midnight like a walk outside the White House in Washington DC. Just don’t expect a well-maintained, highly sterile public toilet as that is something this city had to work on.
So there I was buying 5 kilograms of carrots and chatting it up with the farmers from a nearby province. Majority of the vendors are farmers themselves who would rather man the stalls and sell their own harvest produce than rely on another person – unless he or she is family member. I used to work in agribusiness development before so it was easy for me to relate to their lifestyle and it was kind of nice to reminisce those good old times when I used to visit several farms in a month to do marketing flow studies and assessments; organize training activities from pre-production to post-harvest.
Needless to say, those years spent in the mountains, farms, and markets – micro ones, stalls, and as big as this city market, were the highlight of my career. My field trips and exposure has made me less sensitive of the smell, the dirt, and everything that represents the backbone industry of this island.
Now, let’s put this gym-contoured muscles to use and lift this 40lbs sack of bananas. But wait, I may have to teach the lady vendor first how to arrange the bananas in such a way that it doesn’t end up smashed or bruised. Clearly, these bananas were left on consignment basis.