Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Day at the Market

By Josée Dussault

            It was a normal Tuesday afternoon in San Jose, and the Central Market was buzzing with customers. As I walked through the maze-like indoor marketplace for the first time, I peeked through stands to see what sort of items were being sold. Nearby merchants stood by their products, asking me what I was looking for, what they could help me with, etc. I passed a multitude of souvenir shops, but instead of spending 4,000 Costa Rican colones (equal to about $8) on a "Pura Vida" shirt, my friends and I headed towards the food and produce area of the market. With the 1,000 colones given to us by our professors, we had to purchase 2000 calories worth of food. Furthermore, this food had to be healthy and part of a well-balanced diet, representing all food groups in their proper proportions. But with only 1,000 colones, less than $2, how could we really be expected to provide three nutritional meals? This question is a reality that approximately 2.2 billion people in the world face every day ("Poverty" n.p.). However, their question is even more weighted; for less than $2 a day, these 2.2 billion people are expected to take care of all of their survival needs. Food, shelter, clothing, and health, among many other things, are expected to be provided for less than $2. Is this even achievable? And, if not, how are these 2.2 billion people given even a remote chance at life?
            To answer that first question, we tried to just fulfill one of those primary needs—food—for less than $2. We gave it our best effort. We haggled with many merchants, asked how much of certain items we could get for a named amount of money, and received many scoffing replies of "that is very little". In the end, for 1,000 colones, we had purchased one plantain, one banana, two small yellow potatoes, a carrot, a fistful of black beans, a small block of cheese, and one portion of fatty chicken. Collectively, we had managed to get about 1500 calories worth of food. However, we had not collected enough portions of fruits and other food groups in order to consider this a balanced daily diet. From the exercise, we concluded that it was nearly impossible to supply a nutritional diet with less than $2 daily. Furthermore, because food prices vary, two people receiving the same amount of money might not be able to afford the same quality and amount of food as one another.  
            While this exercise was challenging, it is nothing compared to the challenge that those 2.2 billion people struggle with daily. I have only received the slightest taste of what it might feel to go to the market and know that you have little chance of getting all that you really need. I have never had to face the harsh reality that I cannot provide food for myself or my family. And, I have never had to pick who was or wasn't going to be able to have dinner. I cannot begin to imagine what that feels like. But, for 2.2 billion people in the world, this is life.
After we finished doing our food shopping for the exercise, we went to an ice cream shop, where I was lucky enough to be able to buy myself a small cup of ice cream for 1,100 colones.



"Poverty Overview." Poverty. The World Bank. Web. 11 Nov. 2014.

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