Saturday, August 7, 2010

To market, to market to buy a fat pig

The butcher, the fisho and the betel nut seller.

I just love visiting Asian markets. They are so alive with the daily business of life. Travelling with local guides, Willie and Wenton , means we can have the unusual explained to us. Our first visit is to NekiNeki, ½ hour from Soe. It’s crowded with locals and we create much amusement and calls of Mrs! Mrs!

(Eleri & Willie our West Timorese guide who is married to an Australian.)

Meat is freshly slaughtered and they definitely take the “Nose to Tail”, use all parts of the beast trend very seriously. I think, maybe, they invented it. Coils of intestine, cow head, the snout and hearts it’s all here for the buying.

(Butcher's stall NekiNeki)

Flat fried discs the size of your palm overflow from large bags 3 feet high, it’s NekiNeki version of a doughnut. Betel nut and accompaniments seem to be the main thing being traded along with chickens, dried fish and chilli. I buy a bright yellow and pink crocheted doily. The women said it was “haark”, the Dutch word for hook as in crochet hook. In comparison to the other textiles people buy this is probably the ugliest thing in the market but as I also crochet so I just fell in love with it. The other tour members view my purchase with raised eyebrows.

(Man with chickens, not sure whether he was buying or selling but he was very happy.)

Our next market visit is the thriving Maubesi market (30 min from Kefamenau). Set along the banks of the river, this large sprawling noisy market is overflowing with fish, taro, and fresh meat. The live meat market is down at the riverside, goats, pigs, fowl and the odd dog are all being sold at a brisk pace.

A woman is selling small pancakes cooked to order over a tiny smoking fire. Willie explains they are made from the inside of a particular palm tree, the dry pulp is grated and then added to coconut. The flavour is nutty, a little sweet and smoky. They are delicious or enak. The woman has tattoos on the backs of her hands and shins, her hair is styled up in a bun and her teeth are painted black. Willie says this is because she is from a village south of her and this is their tradition. The teeth blackening comes from the liquid of a plant also used for dyeing, it’s heated and then painted on daily.

(Woman cooking at Maubesi market.)

Our final Timor market is Oeba, in downtown Kupung which is by the sea so the fish stalls are overflowing with fresh parrot fish, tuna, squid and a whole lot of other unidentifiable sea life-forms.
Fresh tofu, fresh tempeh, spices and traditional medicines are for sale. Wenton buys fruit for our picnic lunch and we taste palm sugar which has been dried into small round discs encircled with thin strips of lontar palm

We have caused much laughter, I find my expressions of delight are quickly mimicked by the stall holders which ensures even more laughter. Our etiquette is that we ask permission for a photo and then show them the photo. Now there is even more laughing and friends are called over to view it.

My lasting memory is of the beautiful display of all the produce which is always carefully grouped in neat rows with a great attention to colour and composition. I’ll also remember the smells.

(Betel nut artfully displayed.)

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