I could mill around the produce for hours. I love listening to the vendors talking to one another. I watch as they pat each other on their backs, laugh and share a cup of tea. There is a sense of community that we don't find in our local supermarket.
There is another section in these markets that offers more than color: spices. They tickle my nostrils with the unfamiliar. The spices remind me of the meals I share with the people with whom I travel. They remind me of family dinners, even though I rarely make a stir fry.
On every trip to a market, I buy a bag or two of spices. They are never used to cook. In fact, they I don't think they have ever made it back to the U.S. I just like to buy them. I generally leave them in my hotel room before checking out of the hotel in the city or village in which they were purchased.
I buy them not for their future use, but for the present moment. Even if I did not speak the language, the transaction would still make an impression that shapes the way I see the world. The smelling of the spices. The smile of the vendor, noticing my appreciation. The offer of a sample taste. The unusual flavor as it hits my taste buds. Pointing at a small bag. The scooping of the spice. The trade of spice for money. The bag in hand as I walk away. No words required.