I previously blogged about the shuk after my first visit. It’s less overwhelming now but every bit as exhausting.
In order to make it worth the bus ride, I buy a lot on each trip, which means a heavy cart to pull up the hill (Hadar is built on a hillside) and maneuver on the bus. The bus ride back is always overcrowded, and every single rider has several heavy bags or a cart.
Today on the bus there were no seats at first. I wanted Rafi to stand next to me and hold on, but instead he promptly made himself comfortable on the floor. Why? Because the last time we were on a bus with no seats, it was with my parents on the bus to Ein Gedi. There were no seats either way, so Rafi sat on the floor, and since he is so adaptable, he was fine with it. Now that’s all right on an inter-city bus, but on a city bus he would get trampled of course! A nice lady gave him her seat.
The other difficult thing about the shuk is I really have to pay attention to quality. If the price is especially low, it usually means that the produce is “for today,” but you have to be careful. Last week I bought overripe cantaloupe, watermelon, and mangoes and starchy, overgrown corn. (The cantaloupe was edible, the mangoes somewhat, and the watermelon not at all.) At least I finally found crispy apples and the most incredibly sweet cherry tomatoes.
The most difficult thing about the shuk, however, is that Rafi hates it. Because it’s summer, I’ve had to take him every week, and it’s a struggle every time to get him out of the house.
From his point of view, it’s loud, smelly, crowded, hot, and takes too long. I don’t pay attention to him. There’s nothing to do and nothing to look at (at his eye level). So he whines, cries, and complains.
This week was a little better. Rafi is starting to know his way around, so I don’t have to freak out if he wants to wander away a bit. This allows him to avoid standing in the most crowded and smelly areas. The rule is he has to tell me where he will be, I have to tell him where I will be, and he has to know how to get between the two places. I had a long wait at the smelly fish stall, but we laughed at the jumping fish together.
This week several vendors gave him food–it happens occasionally, but there must have been something in the air today because he was given cherry tomatoes, water, mango, and a date.
I continue to be amazed at how the culture here is very interactive compared to America. In America it’s possible to go shopping without saying a word to a single person. The shuk is obviously an extreme example, but this morning I spoke to several dozen people: vendors, customers, and bus riders.
All of those positive interactions made my complaining preschooler and heavy cart more bearable.