Friday, September 10, 2010

The Fish Market

        After this title I feel like there should be that music that goes "dun dun dun..." in a movie that signifies that nothing good can come from the current situation. This is how I feel about the Brikama fish market.
        When we first moved to Brikama there was a large structure being built in the middle of the market that was hidden behind walls. We spent a few months wondering what it would be and when it would be done. One day however, the walls were down and what was revealed to use was a large building with concrete tables. We still had no idea what this building was going to be used for, but all we knew was that it was in the middle of the market. We eventually found out that it was to be the new fish market.
        Prior to this building fish would be sold in various parts of the market from bucket or a little stand made of wood with a tin roof. It was fairly easy to pic up fish on your way to buying other items if you so desired. This did make the majority of the market quite smelly and it wasn't uncommon to try and avoid fish parts or fish fluids when trying to maneuver the narrow walkways throughout the market. But now a building has been erected for all the people selling fish and with large ice chests to keep the fish. This isn't a bad idea. All the smell is condensed in one building and you know when you enter into the building that you will have to avoid fish parts and fluids, for which drainage has been made.
       However...I for some reason, find the fish market to now be extremely intimidating! I hate the thought of having to go and pick out fish. I never thought I would actually have to experience this part of the market until we were in Ramadan. Our cook, Agnus, informed us that during Ramadan, fish would not be available until the afternoon or evening. We usually have Agnus go on Monday morning with money to pick out what she would need for the week, but since fish was not available in the morning and she lives quite a long distance from the market, she asked if we could go in the evening and get it. As much as I dreaded it, I knew we had to agree.
      So one day, when we had the car and my parents were here, we ventured for the first time into the dreaded fish market. The closer we got the stronger the smell became, and as we passed by buckets of fish parts we were greeted by swarms of flies that had been feasting on these fish remains. Then we arrived at the area where the fish is actually sold and we have to face all these tables where everyone is looking to sell you their fish, yet we have no idea what kind of fish we should even get! So, we chose the first table we came to, bought 3 fish for 10 Dalasi, about $0.37, and headed home. The next day we discovered that we bought the worst fish that we could have chosen as it is very boney and has a strong flavor that neither my father nor I appreciated very much. But, much to our demise, we would get another chance the following week to try again.
       The following week went a bit better as it was later in the day and there were less vendors and less fish. This time we went after the smaller, less boney fish and we were successful! This being said, I don't think that trips to the fish market will become a regular part of my week if I can possibly avoid it. Thankfully Ramadan is now finished and the job of fish buying will return to Agnus.
So it may not look that menacing, but believe me, this is only the outside!

Picking out the boney "bongo" fish, when little to our knowledge, the small fish sitting next to it was the better option.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


        This week will mark the end of the month of Ramadan. Since the last new moon, all of the Muslims here have been fasting from both food and drink each day from sunrise to sunset. This has marked some changes of daily life for both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Rather than being able to go to the market at any time of day and get water, icy treats, bread or even fish, most items don't appear later in the day when people would begin preparing to end their fast. To go to the market in the evening however, the market comes alive and their is more food available than we would even find at any other time of year.
         For those of us who have tried fasting in any form we know how difficult the discipline can be. However, here it is just that much more difficult. Just because they are fasting doesn't mean that the work stops. The women are still out in the fields working in the hot sun with no water all day. For me, this puts up some red flags when it comes to health. "You can't be out in the hot sun in 100% humidity and not drink any water!" is what my brain is yelling at me. Yet, since they don't typically drink enough water according to our American standards anyway, they do it and don't realize the effects that it has on their bodies. I was even told by a Christian friend that her Muslim friend who was pregnant was trying to fast, and thankfully after trying and finding it extremely difficult, she heeded the advice of our Christian friend and chose not to fast for the safety of herself and her baby.
        Overall this is a challenging month for Muslims, yet they remain faithful to what they believe. This brings some questions to mind regarding faithfulness. If you think of what you believe to be truth and then imagine that it would require you to fast everyday from sunrise to sunset for a month while maintaining a vigorous work schedule, would you remain faithful? I am thankful that as a Christian I don't have this demand put on me and that I can choose if and when I want to fast, for how long and the activities that I do during that time, yet I have been challenged by the dedication of the Muslims here and I am challenged to think about my level of dedication and commitment to what I believe to be truth and the calling that I feel that God has placed on my life.
        We ask for prayer for our Muslim friends as they finish this time of fasting, and we ask that they would remain healthy and strong.