Mzungu Memoirs

To Market, To Market

To market, to market, to buy a fat pig,

Home again, home again, jiggety-jig.

To market, to market, to buy a fat hog,

Home again, home again, jiggety jog.

While I haven’t been buying any pigs or hogs, there are certainly places here you can.  You can also buy chickens, goats and cows, but that is not really the type of place I prefer to shop.  I prefer to go to the butchery shop, such as Rosa’s Butchery, to get my pork and beef.  I’ve pretty much given up on buying chicken.  When it costs more than steak, it just isn’t worth it.  Chicken is the most expensive meat here, with beef being the cheapest and pork somewhere in between.

Actually, you can get just about anything to run the average Ugandan household at the typical Ugandan market.  The Kansanga Market just down the road from us in the heart of Kansanga is a good example.  (Kansanga is the name of the little suburb or neighborhood we live in.)  Essentially, it is a row of little shops, each about the size of a storage shed, with a bunch more stuff set out front on tarps or wherever a vendor can find a spot.  In the row of storefronts you can find clothing shops, usually separated for men, women and children, appliances, household goods, hardware, etc.  Out front, you will find overflow from the shops as well as shoes, produce, livestock, and whatever else you can’t find inside the shops.  In amongst the row of shops, there is also a pharmacy and clinic, a restaurant or two, and at least one Ugandan butchery where they have sides of beef hanging and you just go up and tell them where you want them to carve off a hunk for you.  Out with the sidewalk venders (I use that term loosely as there really aren’t any sidewalks here unless you go downtown), you will also find food vendors selling chapattis, rolex, mandazi and meat-on-a-stick.

While we have bought a couple of things from one of the little shops (a fan and a radio as they were much cheaper than anything we had found at the mega stores downtown) and I would like to check out the clothing shops as my clothes shopping endeavor downtown was less than successful, we don’t usually frequent the market.   It is all very chaotic and a little overwhelming to the reserved mzungu mindset.  For furniture, one can peruse Kampala’s “Furniture Row” as we call it, where carpenter’s build and display all kinds of furniture.  There is also a very large market downtown that I would like to go sometime just to experience (it is kind of seen as a novelty).  But mostly, I prefer what they call supermarkets and the little neighborhood shops and stands that are a little closer to home.

As I mentioned in a blog entry not too long after we had arrived in Uganda, what they call supermarkets here are definitely not what you would think of as a supermarket in the States.   They are usually much smaller, more like convenience store size.  But they are crammed full of stuff from floor to ceiling.  Aisles tend to be a little narrower, so while they do provide small grocery carts it is easier to use a hand-held basket for ease of maneuvering.   I haven’t figured out any rhyme or reason to stocking methods here as sometimes they will have something you are looking for and sometimes they won’t.  Mostly, they have canned and dry goods, some meat and refrigerated products like milk & cheese (although I get the “long life” box milk as Caleb doesn’t care for the “fresh” milk they have here), some household items and a few items of clothing as well.  Supermarkets typically do not have produce, unless it is an imported item like apples or sweet oranges.  Produce is typically sold at a little independent stand just outside supermarket entrances.

There is a small supermarket about half a mile from our house that Caleb and I walk to and then call a boda to take us home.  I typically shop there as it is the closest, but if I’m looking for more “mzungu” type items I have to venture a little further from home to the larger supermarkets that cater more to mzungus in general.  These require a boda ride both ways as there are none within walking distance.

Usually, when we walk to the supermarket close by, we will stop by Rosa’s Butchery Shop before calling the boda.  This shop is a more mzungu style butchery (they have cuts in meat cases rather than sides of beef hanging) but it is a little more affordable than the really nice mzungu butchery shop further down the road or the meat counters at the mega stores.  I really like Rosa’s for their pork cuts.  I used to get mince (ground beef) there, but I have found that I prefer the mince at the Italian supermarket up on the other side of the hill we live on.  We have also found that we prefer the beef cuts from the Italian supermarket as well.

On the way home from our trips to the supermarket, I usually ask the boda driver to stop at a little fruit stand that is just down the street from us.  Sometimes, if we need fresh fruits and veggies but not anything at the supermarket, Caleb and I will walk.  There are stands that are closer, but this one is larger with a little more variety, and he usually has very nice produce.  Besides, the guy that runs it has gotten to know me and what I like.  Our neighbors both in front of us and behind us have produce as well, but their stands are definitely not as big.  The neighbor behind us sells a little bit of everything from cabbage (which I have bought from him) to airtime.  The neighbors in front of us have a little table from which they sell a variety of fruits and vegetables as well as charcoal which they make right there on their property.  I have bought a pineapple from them (one of the best I have ever had), and at some point I intend to buy some charcoal from them as well.

One last little shop that I haven’t mentioned yet is Christine’s.  She is the Ugandan equivalent of the corner convenience store.  Other than the neighbor’s, she is the closest shop/stand to us, and she sells everything from rice and potatoes (in bulk) to bread and mandazi to soap and matches.  I get my eggs (which they don’t refrigerate here), beans (you have to be sure to pick through really well for bugs) and rice (which sometimes comes with rocks) from Christine.  She is close enough that I can send Caleb on an errand for a kilo of potatoes or a half dozen eggs (which are also sold in bulk).  Although the first time I sent him for eggs, he told Christine that he wanted a half kilo of eggs (which works out to 5 eggs, apparently).  Christine and I both had a good laugh about it later.

There are much larger stores downtown more like the stores you would find in the States.  They are “mega-store” chains from Kenya and South Africa.  If they don’t have what you are looking for, it probably can’t be found in Uganda.  But they are all the way downtown and require a longer boda ride, so we usually reserve those trips for the weekends, particularly for Sundays when Robert can drive us on our own boda.

“She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.” – Proverbs 31:14

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