Thursday, June 24, 2010

To market, to market to buy a fresh fish

After our trip to Saronde Island last week, Amad, Vana and Vany asked me if there was anything else in Gorontalo that I wanted to do before I left. And actually there was. I wanted to go to the fish market. And not only that, I wanted to go there by bendi, a type of horse-drawn carriage that was the traditional means of transportation around town until bentors arrived on the scene about ten years ago. And so, at 6 am on a Wednesday morning, I met my students at the language lab on campus and we headed off to the morning fish market by bendi.

Off to the market by bendi

With Vany and Vana on the bendi

The fish market is held at a place called Tangga Dua Ribu or Two Thousand Steps that’s right at the mouth of the Bone river. We would pass it every morning on the dive boat as we headed off to our dive sites and it always intrigued me because it seemed to be a bustling, happening place. The fishing boats pull right up to the shore and hordes of people are always swarming about, buying their daily fish. Miguel’s Diving also happens to be located on the same street that leads to the fish market, so every day when we drove up to the dock to get on the boat, we would see fish sellers whizz by on their bikes, fish tails sticking out of the baskets besides them, as they hurried off to sell their fish in town. I was also particularly pleased whenever I saw bentors laden with large yellowfin tuna. I became convinced that seeing one was a good omen that a great day of diving was in store.

Clickety-clack, clickety-clack - we trotted along the early morning streets of Gorontalo in our horse-drawn carriage at a surprisingly brisk pace, passing the morning street cleaners busily sweeping the streets. In a country known for its littering problem, Gorontalo is unique in that its streets are swept clean every morning. We also passed fruits sellers and a shoe repairman who seemed to have taken up shop in the middle of the main street. Then we went by the Governor’s mansion and a string of colonial era houses. Along the way, Vana taught me an Indonesian children’s song about a young child going to the Sunday market with his father by bendi and sitting up front next to the kusir or driver. Children’s songs about going to market in a horse drawn carriage seem to belong to an earlier, simpler time, yet, in Gorontalo, this time still exists.

As could be expected, my arrival at the Gorontalo fish market did not go unnoticed. Shouts of “bule, bule!” filled the air as men dangled their fish in front of me and barked out the prices. “Mrs.! Di sini!” Come over here, Mrs.! The fish sellers beckoned and called to me while I manovered my way around the tables of shipjack tuna, tarps of trevally and buckets of small silvery fish. I did not find their shouts obnoxious at all. Instead, I reveled in the moment and enjoyed being the center of attention. I enjoyed exchanging a few words with the men in Indonesian, taking pictures and just generally soaking up the atmosphere of the early morning market. Vana bought some fish to take home to her aunt and I treated my students to a delicious pastry from Bandung called buroncong that we ate on the steps overlooking the ocean after our market visit.

Fish for sale!

I got to take the wheel of this bentor full of yellowfin tuna!

Once again I felt a pang of sadness that I’m leaving Gorontalo just when I’m finally starting to figure it out and really appreciate it. Thank you Vana, Vany and Amad for showing me another one of Gorontalo’s hidden treasures.

1 comment:

  1. What a huge fish! Did you happen to see the article in the New York Times on the extinction of the wild bluefin tuna? It came out just a few days ago and is excellent (but long).

    It's sad, as you say, to be leaving a place just as you really start to get the hang of how it works, but think of how much that's going to help in Yogyakarta. There'll still be a lot of cultural differences from Gorontalo, but I bet you'll find that making a life there goes far faster than it did for the first posting.