Sandema has market day every three days. The whole concept of market day was so hard for me to grasp. There are Yab-Jeura’s (Traders) who travel to three towns, Sandema, Navrongo and Chuchiliga. In each town there is a large area set aside for the market.
My first market day was around 27 August.
First day I went to the market I dressed in my baggie Khaki long shorts and an everyday shirt. I walked the mile to the junction to pick the bus and meet Simona. She would be my guide for the day. When I saw Simona she was dressed in her best. We waited for the bus. We waited for the bus. We waited for the bus. Luckily there is a nice big tree at the bus stop and we could wait in the shade. And we waited for the bus some more.
It’s three miles into town and neither of us wanted to walk. Some women did put their bowls and baskets on their heads and start the walk into town. Others waited. Many were also dressed in their best clothes. I thought market day must be like a football game in the south. A time to get all dressed up.
While we are waiting for the bus I will tell you the many ways I have gotten into town. Took the bus of course. One day Abigail and I were waiting for the bus and Abass came down the road from the school with his car. He took Abigail, I and another person. Once we hitched a ride on the back of a pickup. When you are waiting for the bus and another vehicle comes someone will go to the side of the road and beg a ride. To beg a ride you put one hand out palm up and pat the palm with the back of your other hand. One day I had to turn down a ride on the back of one of the other teacher’s motos. Boy was I bummed. I have hitched a ride with Perpetua’s bread lorrie and the school’s bus.
So the bus finally came and we all piled on and paid our 20 pesowas (about 20 cents), The bus is old and worn. People pack the bus wiht bodies, bundles and beasts. Actually beasts was for illiteration really I have only seen chickens in buses but I have seen goats tied to the top of a bus. What is weird is that they just calmly ride up there. Ghanaian goats are so laid back! The aisles will have at least one bag of grain, some baskets and once a sewing machine. People will sit on their bundles in the aisles.
Along the way I did see many people walking to town. The sides of the road are lined with women carrying bundles or baskets on their heads and babies wraped in 2 yards onto their mother’s backs. Kids and adults are riding bikes into town and the ever popular moto is also on the road going to town. I even saw a donkey cart.
At last we arrive in town. But where is the market? Looks like the same Sandema town I have seen the other two times I was taken into town. I ask Simona she say’s it’s behind the bank. So we walk down a small alley and there before me are tens maybe even 100 yab-Jeura’s (traders) and their stalls. Most of the stalls are made of four branches at the corners and a thatched roof. some stalls have a back wall or use the back wall of the stores on the main street for their back wall; some are open on all sides. The stalls are owned by the Yab-jeura and stay in Sandema town. They traders also have stalls in the other two towns.
It’s bigger than a Super Wal-mart and almost as much variety. The stalls are pretty much grouped by what is being sold. Vegetables, Ghanaians call them ingredients they call leaves vegetables. Spices, oils and seasonings. Cloth. Shoes. Cloths mostly Obruni Wayroo. Toys. Personal care products (haven’t seen deodorant). Grains. Ground nuts (peanuts). Cola nuts. Fruit now there are just oranges, bananas and coconuts. Flour. Scarves. Purses. Yams The cow butcher is way in the back of the market but he is in Sandema all the time. Any way you get the idea.
The food is laid out on a table or tables in small piles.The tomatoes at Mercy’s stand are in a pile of four, three on the bottom and one on top. There are usually two sizes. She also has a small basket that sometimes has a cucumber or two in it and very small “American” green peppers. The cabbage are piled at the back of the table. Garlic is in a basket as well. Perpetua thinks I eat a lot of garlic! I can go through two bulbs in a week. The onions are in small clear plastic bags, so are the garden eggs. I am not sure why these are wrapped and the other things are not. At Mercy’s the ginger root is wrapped but I have seen it loose in other stalls.
The food stalls remind me of a farmer’s market. The yab-jeura’s are not farmers though. They get their produce from the irrigation farms here in the north or from the south during their rainy seasons.
The vegetables or leaves as we would think of them are sold by women sitting on stools. They are surrounded by baskets of leaves. I have seen three varietys of leaves here. I have tried one dark green leaf. Abaigail, Doris and I made it into a soup.
The stall where spices and seasonings are sold have small packs of the spice or seasoning. I have seen the traders making them from large bottles of spices. Saltpeter is very popular here for a soup thickener. This is also where I get salt and sugar. Salt is sold in a three coursnesses. The first time I did not know this and ended up with very course salt!
The cloth sellers have more elaborate stalls. They are an open wooden frame with two or three pieces of wood between the corner posts. They wood is spaced from top to bottom so they cloth can be hung and displayed. The cloth is not in bolts but in two to five yard pieces. Beth the cloth here is so different. You would go wild. I could get in serious trouble buying cloth. I made a deal with myself only to buy enough to make a dress or two. Then I must get that made before I buy more. an aside. I paid 5.60 Cedi to have a dress and a shirt made and the tailor bought the lining for the dress.
Helen imagine me trying to find my way around. The first time I went by myself it took me three tires to find the vegetable yab-jeura I had visited at least 4 times before that. Luckily Simona was navigating. She introduced me to Mercy. Mercy is my favorite market lady. She always give me a dash of extra tomatoes. And once she saved some big tomtoes for me. I bought my veggies. I got some ground nuts. And a half a bowl of beans. They sell dry beans by the bowl here.
Then we just wandered around. I saw sandels laid out on the ground on a plastic tarp. A large pile of bags on a table. Someone was drying corn on a tarp in front of their stall. There was a very large stall about the size of an american livingroom, with a bazillion pairs of jeans on display all sizes for young and old. This stall was set up like the cloth sellers stall. Stalls with plastic ware the shades of the rainbow. Stalls with pots and pans. I am sure I still have not seen everything in Sandema market.
Next I needed some things like margarine, tea etc that are not in the market but in a supermarket. The supermarket is a building made of cement in Sandema town. Actually there are two but I like Good Family Supermarket. Don’t get excited this is nothing like a supermarket in the USA. It’s more like a small closed stack library. Good Family is about 40 feet wide and 30 feet deep. All the products are arranged on shelves along the back three walls. There is a counter that runs in front of the three walls. You cannot go to the shelves but must peer through and around other people standing at the counter to see what is there. One time I asked if they had Laughing Cow Cheese and I ended up with some corn chips (not fritos by a long shot), There ae soda cases in the front of the counter and a freezer with frozen treats like Fan Choco or Fan Yogo. I think the freezer is a great marketing ploy just like candy in the checkout aisle. Any way i told the clerk what I wanted my dish soap, margarine (The only butter i have heard of is imported from France and very expensive so margarine it is.), tea, milo, tuna and powdered milk. I paid and they put it in a black plastic bag called a poly here.
Then Simona introduced me to my second friend in the market, Raf. Raf’s store sells plastic goods and other household items. Raf is a true sales woman. She encourages me to buy the nicer item i really want and always says “Oh I have some new things you might like.” She is Simona’s age and I think it’s her mother who owns the shop and who is the cashier. Like the supermarket this is a store in the town. It’s made of cement but it has a wooden overhang that makes the store twice as large. She also has shelves in front of the overhang. I bought bowls to wash my dishes, towels to dry them, dishes, bowls and silverware. cooking utensils and a dustbin at least.
Market day is a day to dress up. Most of the women shopping were wearing their best clothes. I saw many people talking and visiting, When I go to market even if I don’t have anything to buy from Raf I will stop in and say hello. And I dress up too. When in Rome. But I still wear flip flops cause everyone does!
Raf let us leave our bags there while we went to the cold store to buy fish. I had hoped for chicken but the chicken was finished. I bought three fish for 1 ghana cedi. It was a deal until I found out that they had not been gutted!
Then we headed back to Raf’s and picked up our packages. We went to pick the bus. Again we waited a looooooooooooong time for the bus. We waited under a tree and visited with some of Simona’s friends.
The bus finally came. We road home and Simona helped me bring my things home.