By Alexandra S.
It’s a problem every girl has faced at some point. I flip through my closet, and then comes that timeless statement: “I have nothing to wear”. I feel more than a twinge of guilt saying that after being in Uganda, and seeing children whose clothes are closer to rags and who don’t own a pair of shoes. My thoughts and failed attempts to justify myself are interrupted. “Don’t go down there by yourself, it’s not safe”, one of the guys instructs me, and I can’t hold back a frown. (I know he is right, but I am ever frustrated by the precautions and restrictions that are part of being a girl in Kampala- I had never realized how free I am at home until I came here). So I roll my eyes at him, and ask “Can I have an escort?”
A few minutes later a group of us are strolling toward the markets in the Saturday afternoon sunshine. Just a few blocks from our apartment, we are engulfed in the crowd. The markets are vibrant, fascinating, overwhelming- I barely know where to look first. Cars and bodas rush toward us, blaring their horns and completely ignoring any traffic rules- I am convinced that I take my life in my hands every time I try to cross a road in Kampala. People are so packed around us that it is difficult to move, and the constant shouts of “mzungu” ring in my ears. Women sit outside along the street, selling freshly cut mango as well as other fruits I have never before seen.
The street vendors sell a vast array of brilliantly colored items, and we begin with the typical purchases- Uganda soccer jerseys. After hearing the initial price offer, I shake my head and reply, “it’s too much”. I get a small thrill out of bartering with the local vendors, who know that sparring over the price is all part of the game of buying and selling here.
After our clothing purchases, we head to the Nakasero fruit and vegetable market. We buy fresh pineapples, mangos, and avocados nearly the size of a football- all for the equivalent of a few dollars. As we are heading out, we pass the building for the poultry market and I drag the group back to go inside. Narrow aisles of crates at least 12 feet high are filled with live, squawking chickens. “You want a local hen?” the seller asks as he grabs one from the crate, holds it by the wings as it kicks, and thrusts it toward me. I quickly shake my head no. That’s no problem, he has others, and he throws that chicken back into the crate and reaches to grab another. I scramble backwards, overwhelmed partly by shock and partly by the stench.
I’ll be returning to the market, but will stick to the pineapple from now on.