We live just south of one of the few surviving traditional markets or pasar in Medan, Pasar Pringgan. Walking through this market is a fascinating blend of what Indonesia has probably been like for decades, and the country it is becoming. A mix of old and new, adapting and accommodating each other with a degree of grace that continually astounds me.
The traditional market centers around a building specifically designed for the market. The two-story building provides shade for a host of vendors selling everything from sandals to freshly slaughtered chickens, fish, and pork. Around this main building sprout up additional merchants under tarps selling their wares out in the sun. The streets are paved but full of potholes, and there is a continual flow of mopeds and cars as well as becaks, traditional motorcycle carriages and even a few pedi-cabs, also designed to carry passengers or cargo but with leg power instead of horsepower.
We remain a spectacle as we move through the market, despite the fact there is a growing gaggle of bule (Western foreigners) living in the area and attending the same language school. People are curious and usually friendly. If we greet them with a nod of acknowledgement or the morning greeting – Selamat pagi! – or the afternoon greeting – Selamat siang! – we are invariably greeted with a smile and either surprised or bemused response.
Gradually we are more recognized, particularly by the folks we buy fruits and veggies from. Becoming neighbors instead of spectacles is a gradual process, but one we continue to work at on a daily basis.