Black Market

by sumpteretc

Today, I decided to venture out on a shopping excursion to the Central Market, more commonly known as the Black Market. I’m not sure the origin of that title, but it doesn’t appear to have anything to do with illegal activity. I left the apartment a little after 10:00 a.m. A lady was cleaning the elevator, so I decided to take the stairs down. We are staying on the 12th floor. On the landing for the 10th floor, I found a man sleeping. At the 8th floor, I could smell tobacco smoke strongly. I was a little worried about what I might encounter in the stairwell but I made it down without incident.

It took me 7 or 8 minutes to walk to a shopping center called Sunday Plaza. According to the signs on the doors, the stores opened at 10:00. There were very few stores open, however. I think this shopping center might be only a month or so old, so there are lots of vacancies. More common, though, were stores that were existent and well-stocked but not open. I think part of the issue was a relaxed idea about opening at 10:00, and part was a relaxed idea about working the weekend after a holiday. At any rate, I walked on down the street to the “24-hour” shopping center. Oddly enough, they also were not opening until “10:00” and the guard in the lobby didn’t seem to be allowing anyone past him. I walked back outside and around the corner to the Black Market.

As I was about to enter the gate, my way was blocked by a woman demanding an admission fee. I gave her a questioning look and she showed me a 50 tugrik bill. I fumbled around and finally found a T100 bill and traded her for her T50. Even though it was now well past 10:00, merchants were just beginning to set out their wares.  I wandered around for a bit in the stationery section of the market and then meandered back through stalls selling hundreds of bolts of cloth. More and more clothing booths were starting to open, but it was very cold and I was having trouble finding anything I was looking for. When I got to the area selling oriental rugs and rolls of linoleum, I surmised that I was approaching the rear of the market and headed back towards the front. I bought a couple of pens and notebooks for school next week. I headed back towards the back of the market again to see if anything else had opened. A number of shops selling boots and other cold-weather clothes were opening up, so I wandered through, casually looking for a hat. I noticed an area selling furs and hides. This time after walking past the linoleum rolls, I discovered that the market extended quite a bit further. I would say the whole complex might encompass thirty or more acres. I walked through the furniture section stopping to inquire about the price of a bunk bed. Then, I hit the hardware section which extended across much of the back row of the market. I bought a few electrical adapters and made some mental notes for the future.

I’m running out of steam, so I’ll wrap this up by saying that I also found the saddle section, the toy section, the household goods section, the grocery section, eventually even the meat, produce and haircut sections of the market. If somebody has made up a map of the place, I need a copy. It’s an exhausting place just to think about.