Monday, September 1, 2014

$3 for a cucumber and piglets everywhere

Our first Monday morning in Neiafu (the capital of Vava'u) we visited the farmers market with its wooden tables of fresh vegetables and herbs. Carefully arranged stacks of tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers and carrots were on display.

The market as seen from above.

Josh checks out the produce in the distance while I ogle the ripe, homegrown tomatoes.

I was delighted to see cucumbers and asked the wrinkled, smiling lady behind the table for the price. $3 Tonga Pangan roughly ($1.80 US), she said holding up three fingers. I gave in, pleased to have a nice, firm cucumber to snack on. I turned to the table on the other side of aisle, reaching for the tomatoes. $3 the young woman in the burgundy dress said, pointing to the pile of five tomatoes. I held up two small tomatoes. $0.50 was their price. What a deal! I thought. Then I felt a tap on my shoulder. The cucumber lady was holding up two more cucumbers and when our eyes met she stuffed them in my bag. Oh! It was $3 for three cucumbers. How nice!

Our shopping continued, us admiring each woman's table of fresh produce, each seller telling us the piles were $3. In addition to the cucumber and tomatoes, we bought the tartest star fruit I've ever eaten, limes with orange flesh and sweet finger-sizes bananas. Then we checked out the grocery store on the wharf, bought a bag of plain potato chips ($5) and found a bench overlooking the harbor to devour our snacks.

Mini bananas!

Lots of root veggies! Taro and kava (like yams) piled high in baskets made of palm fronds.

The thing about shopping in Neiafu is that there is only one market for fresh produce yet dozens of shops that sell canned goods and frozen meats. There is no Walmart or Costco or other international grocery store. If you are looking for plain potato chips, curry powder, or corn flakes cereal, you may very well have to go to four or more stores. And size doesn't seem to matter. Some of the shops are hardly 100 sqft, yet they have things that the bigger stores don't.

Fresh, unfrozen meat doesn't seem to exist, even though there are pigs everywhere. Because it is springtime here, all the animals have little ones. The pigs have piglets--up to eight for one sow. I spotted chickens wandering the streets with a cloud of chicks behind them and I even found a sweet puppy to befriend at the farmers market. I really wanted to cuddle the piglets and chicks, but I figured their parents would not approve and I wasn't in the mood to be attacked by a full-grown pig or a feisty mother hen.

Fluffy chicks!
Piglets, oh how I want to cuddle you!
Sweet little puppy loves a tummy rub.

For a place in the middle of the ocean, there is surprisingly little seafood available for sale in Neiafu. Behind the farmers market is a little white concrete building with a freezer case like what you'd find in Safeway. But they only had red snapper and white snapper for sale. No prawns, no mahi mahi, no lobster--nothing but whole snapper. Luckily for us, our Seattle friends Jeff and Cheri caught a Dorado on their way into Vava'u, and had shrimp, tuna and a lobster tail tucked away in their sailboat's freezer for us to feast on in the coming days.


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