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Tuesday 25 November 2008

To market (for real this time)

Last year, Latifa relied a lot on help from others to run the house, but this year, she has decided that she would like to take charge. To do this, we have been keeping accounts, questioning how things run and how we can be more economical, and working on our food requirements. We have spent a few weeks making a menu of the week and using that to make a shopping list. This week was it. Souq – here we come. I was a little concerned about the finer details, but thought I would just ride it out. I tried hard to maintain my cheerful disposition on Friday when, as we were preparing the lunch, she casually pondered what we might like to buy at the souq tomorrow. After I reminded her of the list (and sprouted some grey hairs) we were fine – yes… We have a list…

Everyone was shocked to see Latifa in the market. For one thing, women do not go to the souq. Also, she must be far too busy and incapable of buying what she needs. So, every person that she saw who knew her stopped her to ask what was going on. In a big flurry of hands, lots of pointing and shouting (just talking actually), she was thoroughly questioned on what SHE was doing at the souq. When questioned, she promptly whipped out her list, and presented it, brandishing it like a sword, saying, ‘It’s easy! I have a list.’ At this, at least 4 men would be drawn towards her, looking at this marvel. Well, thinks Mohammed, I’d like my wife to give me a list so that I don’t get in trouble for forgetting something! And, the man at the vegetable stall thought it was great! Latifa just jumped in, started grabbing what was on the list and then piling it all onto the scales. He just sat in his seat working out the bill – and then reporting the cost of each item to Latifa! I think he might have needed a mint tea when he was done with us!

So, I hear you asking, ‘what was your role in all of this?’ Out of concern that the prices would be inflated on seeing a foreigner (Latifa cannot believe this practice and she is appalled at her countrymen), I was parked in a corner as a dumping point for carrying the purchased items. I was also sent off to scout out some nice looking produce for the trickier items. This was all fine, until we got to the meat. Now, I’m not a vegetarian (anymore) but I’m also not a great fan of meat. So, when I was parked in the meat ‘department’ I stood in shock for a few minutes. To my left were a stack of chickens (pulled from a drum when stocks were running low) with the heads still attached. Don’t be concerned – these can be lopped off if you no longer want them, and they won’t be added to the bill. In front of me, in direct eye line, was a row of heads. No, not just heads. Huge, fur covered skulls, oozing blood, with glazed over eyes peering out at you. As if this was not enough (I haven’t even mentioned the pools of blood on the ground or the trails of innards floating around), but to my right was a scene reminiscent of an episode of Bewitched. It was as thought, by some act of sourcery, whatever animal was on my right had disappeared. Vanished… Leaving only the cloak of skin that it used to inhabit. Truly sensory overload. I don’t think I should attend the Aid Celebrations.

Anyway, after the day was done, it was all worth it to see Latifa, with the biggest smile on her face, reporting the events of the day. She was so proud of herself, and all that she had achieved. She was especially excited about the list! This will definitely be used again! In fact, after a visit from a friendly neighbour, who came to see if she would like anything, Latifa promptly replied that she didn’t, thank you very much! She was fine. In fact, she is now going to be like Linda. When she told me this, I asked ‘how so?’ I shouldn’t have. The response…

“I want to be like Linda. She is the man and the woman. I want to be the man and the woman.”

Oh, what a journey of self-discovery this has turned out to be…