Thursday, March 7, 1968
On the return trip from our food run to Hill 37, we pulled to the side of the road next to the weekly market place. It was an open area with temporary stalls set up by the local vendors (farmers market). There were chickens in wire cages, ducks, baby pigs and a variety of fresh vegetables for sale.
Mama-San appeared from the crowd and said, “Why you here?” I explained, “Just looking.” She called for Hua and started introducing me to different vendors. It became clear, my interest was only in the novelty of the market and the cultural influence of the products being sold. One vendor was selling raw sugar cane, and I asked Hua if they ever gave samples to taste. The woman vendor cut a piece of cane and peeled off the thin green covering. She handed me a 2-inch piece of the fibrous center, and Hua said, “Chew.” It was very sweet and had a refreshing flavor. The Vietnamese were laughing at my reaction, and Hua said, “They use for Baby-San.” I thanked the woman and moved on.
There was a vendor selling woven baskets, and as I admired them, the woman said something which Hua interpreted, “Easter Baskets.” As we continued, I asked Mama-San about a good price for the baskets. She said, “50 cents each.” I was thinking of decorations for Easter Sunday and filling baskets with colored eggs.
We moved to a large two-wheeled cart filled with mysterious jars of herbs, spices and medicinal remedies. The old woman on the cart was frail, and I thought she was blind, but she saw me. Mama-San had told her about my grandmother’s herbal tea. The old lady reached for a jar and handed it down to me . . . it was the same recipe of chamomile, lemon balm and hawthorn. After some conversation about seeds, she said we could trade resources. She would supply the herbal tea in exchange for pepper seeds (my grandmother’s specialty). I agreed to send for some seeds, and we could do a business exchange.
As we were leaving the old woman suggested putting a cane fiber cube in my tea . . . it would sweeten the beverage.
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