A consistent highlight has always been street food deliciousness – there are so many, wonderful, cheap eats that are almost always worth the risk of a sick tummy. Even the couple times I have gotten an upset stomach, I’m pretty sure its because of the unclean water that I drink involuntarily, in the form of ice, soups, coffee or water-washed fruits. Hygene isn’t great either, with the narrow, winding alleyways becoming the main garbage collection spot for all the grocers and food vendors while dozens of stray dogs linger nearby, waiting for an edible morsel of food to drop to the ground. One gentleman who sold me a $0.20 icecream cone had the sniffles and kept wiping his nose with the same hand he held the icecream in, probably thinking it was more polite not to hold out the snotty hand to take my money and give back change, but I’m not sure that was better than accepting the icecream from that hand.
I love going into churches, since even the smallest towns have usually half a dozen, and the surrounding plazas and squares that are always full of local people, night life, or bustling markets. Shopping and bargaining those markets is an amazing sensory explosion, because you could never imagine more options of stuff for sale in such quantity, variety, or density. One Mayan market I went to in Solola totally covered every walkable inch of central park, and in one breath you could smell coffee, dried fish, barbequed meat, and chicken poo from the live chics being sold by the dozen. You could also buy grains, vegetables, pirated CD’s, cell phone accessories, leather products, individual razors or shampoo, and all all sorts of pretty cloth. All the new mothers carry their infant children in long pieces of cloth tied around their backs, keeping their hands free and their heads reserved for carrying baskets full of heavy items, and sometimes even live chickens and turkeys tied down and balanced ontop their heads, clearly suffering in the direct sun.
Shopping in the markets for your daily needs is status quo for most locals, and when there arent any franchise alternatives to getting your groceries then why not do it too. Even if I don’t need to buy anything, it’s just too interesting of an experience to pass up, since walking through any market will give you so many pretty things to see and smell, all the while guessing what half of the unrecognizable merchandise is. When you’re just learning spanish, it also doesn’t help to ask what something is, because of course they’ll respond what the spanish name of it is, and if I pride myself in knowing all the words for different colours and my ability to count, translating the name of an exotic fruit I’ve never seen or tasted just doesnt happen. One of those was nance – anyone know what the equivalent or comparable english description of that fruit is?