As I was getting ready to bake on Saturday evening (yes, I consider baking one of my fun Saturday night activities), I realized we didn’t have any eggs. I biked to City Mart, one of the 3 big super markets in town. They also had no eggs. Or milk. Or any other kind of dairy. I accepted this without question and moved on (the things in stock in the markets (both super and local) varies from visit to visit and season to season. Ok).
I stopped by the smaller iMart on the way home. Normally, they reliably carry eggs, on a shelf, next to many other nearly non-perishable packaged snacks. I learned recently that in most countries outside of America, eggs are not refrigerated so a shelf is an appropriate place to put them. As I entered the store, they commented on the sweat dripping down my face: “exercise?” and giggled over their appropriate usage of the word, not my state. The ladies that work at this store are especially friendly. One asked what I was looking for, but couldn’t understand my answer. So she followed me up and down each aisle as my shadow, just in case I needed some other help with whatever I may be seeking.Finally I found the empty place on the shelf where eggs should be, English-language price sticker and all. I pointed and asked, “eggs?” She shook her head no and I turned to leave, but then I turned back around. Let’s remember I’d been biking with this as my sole mission and it’s H-O-T. I asked a single-word question: “why?” She also answered with one word: “Saturday,” as if that explained it. When she registered the confusion on my face, she clarified: “Sunday delivery.” I said ok, smiled and turned to leave again.
Before I reached the door, My Shadow and sent a new shadow to my side. As we walked through the door and onto a rare square of sidewalk, she asked “eggs?” and motioned I should follow. I did. Straight into the middle of the road, dark with night and lack of street lights. I was surprised by how slowly we walked considering we were in a 4-lane road and cars were coming. Our feet led us safely though to the dirt on the other side. She walked into the unlit deserted market area. I couldn’t imagine a stall was open! She kept up her same slow pace as we passed the raised bamboo stalls, including one with 5 young men having a more typical Saturday. One was playing a soothing song on a guitar and they all were having a casual drink in the dark. We turned up an aisle right next to them and headed into an alley on the other side of the market. We stopped at the first shop on the left. It had a dimly lit room with all sides closed but the one we entered. A woman was behind a counter in the nearly empty shop. She didn’t move quickly, but was somehow by our side quickly. The Shadow explained what I wanted and told me the price. As the woman counted eggs from a pallet on the floor into a plastic bag, I counted out the 720 kyat (under 60 cents). My shadow reached out in the polite local way with one hand resting on the other forearm and transferred the money to the shop keeper and the eggs into my hand. Although she had facilitated the exchange, it was almost as if she hadn’t moved because she did it so gently.
Then we used the same un-rushed pace to walk back through the market, where the young men had disappeared. I wondered if we would chat in broken English, but neither of us found even a single word. We slowly walked back across the dirt shoulder of the road, back across the street with cars coming, and back to the storefront. I said thank you with a wave and a smile then she was gone and I was pedaling off quickly into the night, bracing my small plastic bag of eggs so they wouldn’t hit the handle bars.