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Sunday in Bulawayo,
Let's Head To The Market!

As we've written about before, one of our favorite things to do when we travel to new places is to visit the outdoor marketplaces like the meat markets in San Cristobal. They are always a great insight into local culture---from food to music to crafts. Here in Bulawayo, EVERYTHING-I mean everything- is closed on Sundays, except the good 'ole street market. Abeja just got to Bulawayo late last night and wanted to see what this town that Monica and I speak so fondly of is like. So we went walking through the empty Sunday streets of Bulawayo. I could tell she wasn't too impressed-UNTIL we got to the market!

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Friendly vendors make the market a very pleasant place
Friendly vendors make the market a very pleasant place
The Bulawayo market is not the largest market place, especially after seeing all the sprawling, lively, enormous markets in Latin America. However, the calm, tree-shaded streets and the kind, friendly vendors make the market a very pleasant place. The first section you come across is the crafts. All over Zimbabwe incredibly skilled artists set their beautiful work out on the sidewalks hoping to sell enough to afford dinner that night. It is so unbelievable to see such intricate, delicate sculptures and carvings for sale for so cheap. You could buy a beautiful marble sculpture of a mother and child for less than 3 US dollars! Or how about an incredibly life like figure of an elephant made in hard stone? Or a beautifully detailed carved ebony mask? Things that are displayed in the classiest art museums and shops back in the States cost a fortune. Here, they are just stacked on the side of the sidewalk and super cheap. There are beautiful tapestries and necklaces, emerald beads and mahogany chess sets-all for a negotiable price. The artisans that make the crafts are so underpaid and eager to sell their work that they will often bargain with you down to half of the original price they quoted. No market experience would be complete without a little bargaining! If you can't bargain you might as well buy it in a store!

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Incredibly skilled artists sell their beuatiful work out on the sidewalks
Incredibly skilled artists sell there beuatiful work out on the sidewalks
Here in Zimbabwe, many of the artisans will give you their crafts in exchange for some fair trade. For instance, items made in other parts of the world are very expensive to buy here in Zimbabwe, since the Zimbabwe dollar is currently so low (one Zim dollar is worth less than 3 US cents!). Old clothes from the U.S., music from abroad, watches, sunglasses- just about anything you've got that you no longer need-can be traded for something new and beautiful.

All the artisans tempted us with amazing offers for their beautiful goods, but unfortunately Abeja and I had to walk through without buying a single thing. As much as we wanted to, the thought of packing and carrying a sculpture- or even an extra piece of cloth in our already stuffed backpacks through the rest of Africa- kept us from giving in. Trust me, that's one of the hardest things about traveling like this: Seeing some of the most beautiful clothing, decorations, and bags- for less than the price of lunch and not being able to buy them!

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After the craft section is Bulawayo's alternative to flower shops
After the craft section is Bulawayo's alternative to flower shops
After the craft section is Bulawayo's alternative to flower shops After passing through the craft section, the second half of the block is Bulawayo's alternative to flower shops. All day long florists sit in the shade making beautiful arrangements and baskets of colorful flowers. My mom owned a flower shop when I was in high school in D.C., and I remember how much time flower arrangements took. We only made them after they were ordered and paid for. But here in Bulawayo, people are so desperate to earn money that they make arrangement after arrangement and line them on the street, hoping that someone will see one and decide to buy it. I can't imagine how many of these beautiful arrangements probably die in the sun without ever getting sold.

When you turn the corner from the flowers, you enter our favorite part of any market-the food! Here again, the markets in Zimbabwe aren't as inviting as the markets in Latin America, which were always full of exotic, new fruits and savory smelling local delicacies. In Zimbabwe, the markets stick to your usual fruits and vegetables, and unprepared dried goods that you in turn have to take home to make into a local delicacy your self. The problem is, neither Abeja nor I knows how to make any of the local delicacies, we didn't even know what most of the dried stuff was- let alone what to do with it! Luckily for us, the nice vendors at the market, amused at our curiosity and ignorance, explained to us what everything was.

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Our new friend Madzidzwa Gomba
Our new friend Madzidzwa Gomba has a beautiful stand, chock full of different dried beans, grains and leaves that look unlike anything Abeja and I have ever seen. As it turns out most of what she sells are things we can get and have used back home, but they are in completely different forms and used for different things! There are two huge sacks of a beautiful small grain, one white and one pink. When we ask Madzidzwa what it is, she tells us it is sorghum! Sorghum?! Abeja and I have only ever seen sorghum in the form of molasses-yummy, sticky sweet molasses. Who knew it came from a grain like this? Madzidzwa goes on to tell us that they use sorghum to grind and make sadza (porridge mush that is the equivalent to rice in Asian meals-Zimbabweans eat everything with it!). They also use it to ferment and make beer, which is much a surprise to hear as making molasses out of the stuff!

She is also selling something they call "round nuts" and something they call "ground nuts." I've never seen anything like round nuts in the states before- they are hard and small, more like a bean than a nut. The ground nuts, however, as it turns out, are just another word for peanuts. Did you know peanuts grow in the ground (as opposed to most other nuts, which grow on trees)? My friend Patricia made me a wonderful dish the other day out of round nuts, peanuts, and corn, boiled together for hours, then salted and served-deeeelicious! I tell Madzidzwa that we make peanut butter out of ground nuts in the U.S. Here in Zimbabwe, peanut butter is very popular too, but that's where the similarities end. A traditional Zimbabwean dish is made with cooked vegetables, rice and peanut butter-, which may sound as unappealing to you as the idea of putting peanut butter on bread with a sweet fruity spread (jam)is to them!

Abeja and I are excited to buy most of the new things we come across and take them home to experiment until we get a sack of dried, black fuzzy things that we aren't sure about. We pick up a few, examine them closer and still have no idea what they are. No they aren't pieces of grain or beans- maybe dried leaves or herbs? Nope, Madzidzwa laughs as she explains that we are actually holding worms! Dried worms from the Mupani tree! We drop them immediately and decide to pass on buying that local delicacy. She insists that they are very good when cooked and an incredible high source of protein, but we still decline. Being a vegetarian can be a great excuse sometimes!

In front of the sorghum is another dark, small grain, which looks completely unlike anything we've ever seen. It turns out to be millet! When you buy millet back home, it is small and white, but here the millet is sold still in the husk. This is then ground and also used to make sadza with. Unfortunately though, Madzidzwa does not get very good business for her sorghum and millet anymore. Nowadays, most Zimbabweans make sadza from mealie-meal. Mealie-meal is processed, pounded flakes of maize (corn) that can be bought in huge, easy to use sacks from any grocery store. All you do is add the powdered flakes and stir. Even though mealie-meal makes making sadza a much quicker and easier process, the processed corn has virtually no nutritional content and absolutely no taste. Furthermore, since corn was brought to Africa from the Americas by Portuguese colonists, the non-native crop is much more taxing on the local soils to grow.

Luckily for people who still want sadza done the old-fashioned way, people like Madzidzwa are still selling it. And luckily for us, Madzidzwa was patient enough to explain how to make it to us. So, tonight after our adventurous day in the markets of Bulawayo, Abeja and I will attempt to make up a traditional local delicacy of Zimbabwe the old fashioned way. As it turns out, Madzidzwa means 'they learn something' in Shona! Let's see just how much we really learned today! If the sadza turns into a mess of millet and sorghum-I bought a package of pasta just in case!


Kevin - 13 Guys and a Girl: Training to Become a Commodity
Monica - Elephants, Elephants Everywhere! A Visit to Hwange National Park
Making a Difference - Go and Score a Goal!
Monica - To Be, or Not to Be: The Question of Elephants at Hwange
Abeja - From 1st World to the 3rd: How Big Is Your Mess?

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