El Mercado Central reminded me of one of the central markets I have seen on international travel shows. Crowded with exotic choices. When I entered, I was in the midst of a crowd moving forward. Wanting to take a bird’s eye view photo, I lifted my arms above my head and with my camera in my hands, I started taking photos. If this doesn’t scream potential tourist, I don’t know what would. Actually, I do. It would be a map and a fanny pack. Queue “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”
I was focused on observing and less on actually purchasing items. I was here on one of the weekly activities the study abroad program offered. They said, would anyone like to take a public bus to the central market. Yes!?!?! So, let me backtrack to the public bus ride. From the international program office, we walked to the bus station which actually, was a lot farther than what we expected. The sun beat down on us, and yes, I was wearing a black hoodie. I suppose you could ask, why wear a black hoodie? Because I wanted to. Simple. I thought it was a good idea, okay. We stopped at the bus stop, and, to be honest, there were so many people in the group, we didn’t really fit around the bus stop. Some of us had one foot on a stair that entered a store right in front of the bus stop. I opened my wallet to get exact change for the bus ride because I didn’t want to have to get change. When we entered the bus, my objective was to get a seat. I did not want to be standing up. I went all the way to the back of the bus and sat near the window. Great, except, wind blew on me the whole bus ride and I could smell the smoke coming from the cars because the window was open. There was no air conditioning, so, the windows being open was vital.
I just looked out the window the whole bus ride. Didn’t talk to anyone. Sat there observing the people and the places we passed by.
The bus ride took about 30 minutes. We arrived at a bus station and walked to the central market. There were foods I had never seen before and just color. Color everywhere.
There came a point where we all stopped and I wasn’t sure why. Turns out it was wait to use the bathroom. In that time I took photos and asked about the wide variety of beans that were in bags near me.
Once we left roofed portion of the central market, we walked outside where we were a spectacle to the locals. I stopped at this table that had a fruit called guanabana which apparently is very good, but also, very costly. I asked the vendor how long this fruit would last before becoming rotten. For instance, if I wanted to take it back home, how long could the fruit last without refrigeration. She ensured me that a plane ride would be fine, but, that wouldn’t be weeks from now, so, I thanked her and left without purchasing anything.
As we were leaving the market, I local looked at our group and pointing out people who looked American and non-American. Funny enough, one of the students who is from the US but whose family is from Central America was not recognized as an American. We arrived at the bus station once more and went on a public bus. I sat next to a local around my age and we talked the whole bus ride. Wherever you go, you may fit in or stick out like a sore thumb. Sometimes, not even being in a crowd may help with this. Regardless, know where you are going, walk confidently, and don’t be afraid to talk to new people.