What do you do when vegetables are scarce?
You ask Taiwan of course!
The time is 05:30 Friday morning and we are on the airstrip on our way to the Taiwanese garden. The Taiwanese is the only embassy on Tuvalu and they are running the garden which is also the only place selling fresh fruits and vegetables on Funafuti.
So, since we haven’t got a garden ourselves, this is our sole opportunity to get our weekly vegetables. But why that early?
Because we have to (of course – 05:30 is a bit early even for early wakers like me). This is not like an ordinary out sale. We can’t just walk around and pick what we want before we pay. No, when the small pieces of paper with numbers on are ready, everyone get a number each, based on your arrival.
When the ripe veggies and fruits are picked around 07:00, four different portions with the best and most exclusive vegetables and one or two papayas if we are lucky. Then, the first four can take what they want (mostly everything). Then the veggies are weighed and paid to the lady (with a calculator, notebook and pen).
The veggiemen then make four new portions with a bit less good and less exclusive vegetables and so it goes. If you are later than number 12 (the total number can go over 30), you will most likely end up with a lot of cabbage and something looking like squash.
So, if you don’t grow anything yourself, this is the place to be Friday morning if you want to avoid getting all your vitamins through (a weird – but ok – tasting) juice, potatoes, onions, apples, and semi-old carrots, cabbage or orange.