My editor has been going through my book and making suggestions about what I can add to make it more interesting to the reader. She thought it might be interesting to know what’s at the Saturday Market in Banko. However, “My Life in the Peace Corps” consists of the “Letters home from Guinea, West Africa and the Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love.” (Pre-order the eBook at Amazon or the paperback at Penguinate.com.) As discussed earlier, I’ve realized that memory is a reconstruction, so the letters are more accurate because they were written through one lens – my own culture. The following observations on the market are written through the lenses of time and culture and may not be accurate. I served in Guinea from 1998 to 2000.
Saturday was Marche or Market Day in Banko. Twenty-four vendors or so would come up to the Banko from Dabola and Bissikrima to sell things that were difficult to obtain during the week. Most of the items would be the same. You could get onions, tomatoes, okra, and leafy greens regularly. There was a three-week span during the year when you could get guavas super cheap. I ate as many of those guavas as I could. Mangos were also seasonal.
Some things were split and sold. A two-ounce can of tomato paste would be divvied into small plastic bags containing a half-teaspoon. Peanut butter from freshly cut peanuts would be sold in two-ounce portions. Uncooked spaghetti strands were also sold in small lots, like some precious and rare vegetable meant only for those who had the income to afford such a treat. AA and D Batteries were sold singly.
The biggest attractions for me, aside from trying to find fresh fruit, were the “dead tubab” market and the cassettes guy. The “dead tubab” market sold vintage t-shirts from the U.S. at cut rates. There were some great finds from the 1980s and 1990s. (It was called the “dead tubab” market because we assumed the t-shirts came from dead white people. They really came from the inventory of secondhand shops that couldn’t be sold in the U.S.) The cassette guy sold pirated cassettes of various music. Most of it was West African and Guinean, but every once in a while, he would have something in English.
At the end of the day, meaning about 2pm, the vendors would pack up their wares and offer rides, for a price, back to Dabola or Bissikrima. This was the only day people could get consistent rides out of Banko.
“My Life in the Peace Corps: Letters from Guinea, West Africa” will be released on Dec. 28, 2020 in eBook format on Amazon. I will try to publish the paperback on Amazon about that same time. If you want to get it quickly, watch my Facebook page for a link. If you want an autograph, you can pre-order the paperback on Penguinate.com. As soon as I get some copies, I will sign them and send them out. This process will take longer than ordering directly from Amazon because I cannot order them ahead of time.