This is not the Supermarket
If you’re looking for the heart of any Taiwanese city, head over to the marketplace.
It’s bound with restless energy, bustling with gossip and barter,
the vendors cheerfully greeting old customers and asking after their children.
There are mountains of peaches (of course they’re sweet — or your money back!);
Aroma of hot steamed buns (I made them just this morning! Do you want brown sugar or plain?); Trays of beautiful cherry tomatoes as red as my grandmother’s lipstick.
As a newcomer in the city, I didn’t know where to start, or what the etiquette was,
and for a fleeting moment I wanted to turn around and head back to the supermarket,
where the bread is sold in plastic bags and lined up neatly on the shelf, and the vegetables are wrapped in styrofoam containers, each with their own price tags.
That was the world I was familiar with. Clean and orderly. Safe.
But this, the market, here — this has a heartbeat, an unrelenting rhythm, and it called to me irresistibly. I caught the eyes of a food vendor, my mother’s age. She smiled at me, and held out a sample of the pickled plum she was selling. I smiled back, inched closer to her, and took the piece of plum. My fingers became sticky in the process — but that’s alright, I thought. Life is supposed to be messy.