Their baskets measure time
both bought and sold,
woven and rewoven
in the language of trade.
from The Market, Jan Olsen
Setting out for the day without a very long list of tasks, if they could even be called tasks, soon became a list of encounters. I hadn’t left through the gate when there was 20 minutes with the landlords before they left for Philadelphia. Then it was off to breakfast with women from the UU at Jens’ and Bo’s cafe.
But I hadn’t turned the corner from the Privada when I saw the woman who cares for the schoolyard and who also takes my trash to the truck holding a baby. She was standing next to a friend of hers who had a small food cart; I asked who the baby was – Isaac – and it was the child of the woman who owned the cart. She offered me a sample of the food she was selling: darkly roasted, caramelized sweet potato baked with piloncillo (the conical brown sugar). It was delicious and reminiscent of American Thanksgiving sweet potatoes and brown sugar.
At breakfast my mind was onto what I will take as presents to Oregon at Thanksgiving and the list formed as we ate. After the breakfast I went into the chocolate shop next door and bought one of the presents while averting the attention of Missionary Man. It was off to the Saturday Organic(?) Market and on the way I saw S having coffee in a cafe near the Instituto where she had a table at the Book Sala’s sale, and she told me that her brother-in-law had died the day before: his three brothers all had massive heart attacks in their 60s from which they never recovered and he followed their precedent. S’s sister and husband had just moved to San Miguel earlier this year, and they and she were renting a house together.
I left her with her coffee and went on to the Book Fair – books are a big thing in San Miguel as there is an annual literary festival (which has nothing to do with the Guadalajara Book Fair, the largest in the Latin world). S has a small publishing company and one of her titles – to my great dismay – is a book that – according to the proud “author” who was attending the table – if one can author such a book – is a book for non-Spanish speakers which they can use to convey to their housekeepers or maids the list of chores (in both English and Spanish!). The book has checklists, schedules (which appeared to be arranged daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) and more!
Then it was on to the Saturday market, but sitting in a doorway was Isabel, the woman who had sold me the embroidered pavo real (royal turkey (literally) or peacock) while R and I were in the Jardin the previous weekend. It is not fine or elegant needlepoint, but I liked it quite a bit and Dolores had liked it, too. Isabel and I had talked the previous week and she had said she needed money for velas (candles) to place at the altars of her family for Day of the Dead. Yesterday she tried to sell me embroidered frogs and turtles, but I escaped this time with my wallet’s contents intact. In the market I ran into seven people with whom I needed to chat and saw another gift, but I didn’t have enough money to pay for it and I wasn’t in a mood to negotiate the price down – the seller would have been willing to come down in price, but I was happy to pay her full price as her work certainly deserved it. The sky had turned from blue to all-over mottled gray and it felt like rain, so I left the market empty-handed and with a task for next Saturday.