Tuesday, May 15, 2007

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The impromptu market that forms on the sidewalk in front of our house every day is getting bigger and bigger. When we first moved in, it barely peeked out of the gates of the official wet market. Notice the mostly empty sidewalk:

View from our balcony: west

Then over the weeks it started filling up the sidewalk even below our third floor balcony.

Our sidewalk market

Now the vendors span the sidewalk up and down the block, selling all sorts of fresh fruits, vegetables and meats: corn, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, all sorts of leafy greens, yams, bamboo shoots, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, green beans of all sizes, apples, oranges, pineapples, bananas, mangoes, lychees, bayberries, strawberries, cherries, chinese mulberries, different kinds of fish, chicken, ducks, doves... even (sting?) rays!

Lunching on the job
Corn stretch
Pile o' green beans
Fish vendor

(You might wonder how they sell the fowl. Like this: snip the main veins with scissors, drain the blood in the planters that line the street, stuff the bird into a metal cannister of boiling water, and then pull it out and pluck off the feathers. Fresh!)

Then the extra stuff started rolling in. Food carts selling a kind of rice wine soup (酒酿), different kinds of noodles, BBQ skewers of vegetables and lamb or chicken wings, and breakfast food. Last night I discovered that I don't have to walk all the way over to Yulan Rd for a late night snack, there's a Sichuanese 麻辣汤 soup guy setting up at the wet market door every night now, probably for customers from the 24 hour net cafe on the third floor.

酒酿 / Rice wine soup
Snacks by the jin
Cold noodle vendor

Even non-food vendors came to join the fun. You can buy clothes sewn by neighborhood grandmas, kitchen and laundry room utensils, potted and cut flowers... I've seen salesmen with little amps and microphones selling slice-and-dicers and kids books. Even the volunteers in white doctor's robes who used to sit outside the preschool around the corner measuring blood pressure for senior citizens and giving medical advice have moved over to our street to set up their equipment.

Flower vendor
Belts and buckles

And lately when I walk to the subway station each morning I see plastic bags set out to reserve places for vendors who haven't arrived yet — all the way to the end of the block! Location, location, location! I don't have any good recent pictures of the market because it's too hard to fit the whole thing into one frame.

There are a couple of downsides to this market. One is the arguments that sometimes break out 30 feet below our house between vendors and customers, and if you've heard the Shanghainese argue then you know what I mean. Also the market generates an enormous amount of trash: corn and bean husks, feathers, plastic bags... mostly organic, and most of it gets swept up the next morning.

So what does this all mean? I'm guessing it means that the crackdown by city officials is not too far behind. Expect it!


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