Once a month there is a craft market at the Moresby Arts Theatre. It is a beautiful collection of carvings, culture, colour and diversity where people share their stories and their wares. Most people will go for the morning, after the traders have set up and long before they leave. I doubt that many people think about who these traders are, what their lives are like or where they come from. They are just simply there, as much a part of the landscape as the wide drooping trees and the dusty stones on the path.
One day, I happened to stay at the market as they began to pack up. Great bundles of carvings were rolled into cloth and loaded up onto vehicles. People lay on the grass in the sun and soaked in the freedom of being able to relax in a safe place. Then I heard water running, and turned to see two children in an outside sink having a bath. They used a Coke can to catch the water and pour it over their heads, relishing in the cold water on the hot day. Their little eyes went wide as the icy water went down their back, they shivered in delight and splashed each other playfully for as much as the small concrete sink would allow. Their soft voices pierced my heart.
Their mother was standing close by, washing her own face and hands and feet in the sink adjacent. In that moment, I was struck with understanding. To me, the markets had simply been a communal gathering point to sell wares, I had never thought of it as an opportunity for people to have access to amenities. I looked around. A number of women who had been selling flowers and crafts were now filling up bottles of water. Others were using the flush toilets, and children were chasing each other through the outside poles, using them to swing themselves around in great delight, safe, simple, happy.
I sat and watched those children in the sink for what seemed like hours. I watched how they shared the can between them, how the water trickled between their toes, how their little voices giggled, and how the drops of water clung to their small noses. Eventually their mother took them out of the sink and made them put on a pair of matted and torn shorts. They ran off to play in the sun and I sat watching the water drain, seeping into the ground the way these children had seeped into my heart.