Wednesdays are the days I make the extra effort to wake up before the sun is shining and hop in the car to head to Mercado 12 de Abril. We arrive early to set up our stand before the rush of people come in to compete for the goods that we are literally bringing to the table. The sense of gratitude that I feel when a customer takes away the produce makes every bead of sweat worth the effort. This magical feeling is overwhelmingly powerful, but by far the best and most enjoyable part about going to the market is the string of encounters with people. I am exposed to such a diverse and unique culture every time I step inside, and for Mercado 12 de Abril to have a foreigner working underneath its roof has been a shock to almost every person that I have had the opportunity to speakwith. These conversations have led to interactions and experiences that never would have been possible had I not been a part of the market.
The interactions that I am granted at Mercado 12 de Abril are not something that would ever be possible if I was just walking along the street. They have only been created because of my involvement on the farm, my understanding of the produce, and by me wearing the apron. Without people making immediate judgments about what I am doing, they are taken back when they see a foreigner working in the market. What I now realize is how rare of a moment it is when people are burning with questions, and wanting to talk with me. Instead of making immediate assumptions, they are confused to see a foreigner working alongside the other vendors. With so many questions, and so much curiosity in the air, I have found that my days in the market involve less of me working and more of me talking. This desire for understanding has allowed me to build connections that would not have been possible. The overwhelming sense of curiosity has led to several lunch dates, going out to dinner with a family, teaching how to start gardens, and invitations to be a part of fishing trips.
Going to the market has become less of a time when I work, and more of a time when I talk. The time passes not by the minutes on the clock, but through the conversations held with people. It has become my favorite day of the week, only because I have found an environment where judgment is tossed aside and curiosity boils over. People want to know where I am from, who I am, and what I am doing. This only leads to more in-depth conversations, and then the exchanging of contact information. Those moments have become milestones in my year here, and are memories that I will never forget. It couldn’t have been made possible had it not been for my involvement in the market, and the constant exposure that I have to different people every time I go to Mercado 12 de Abril.