Friday, December 19, 2008

'Tis the Season - To Go Shopping

Christmas preparations began in early November. Another volunteer and I painstakingly gathered all the children and took their measurements - inseams, waists, heights - all 26 of them. Forget about a list; we made a shopping chart with each child’s name, their measurements and then listed everything they wanted or needed for Christmas. It was an intricate grid, complete with boxes so we could easily keep track of things we purchased. We were ready.

The donations, that were given specifically for Christmas, made this possible, but we were still on a budget. We were off to Owino Market. Owino is a massive market near the taxi park area in Kampala where you can, if you are willing to work for it, buy anything you want. It is a narrow maze of shops and booths that are covered in tarps. The floor is comprised of mud and/or broken, unsturdy and sometimes treacherous planks of wood. If your foot goes through or you can’t make the jump, beware of the bog of eternal stench that lies, unassumingly, beneath.

The pathways are winding and branch off in all directions in what seems like an impossible labrynth of people - grabbing you, yelling prices, throwing their garments. The market is always packed; you are always uncomfortably close to many people and there is always a man with a massive parcel on his head sucking his teeth behind you (much like Wal-Mart on Black Friday).

Armed with the shopping chart and measuring tape, this is where I spent several days a week until Christmas. I quickly learned to strategically maneuver through the chaos, bargain for fair prices, and dig through the mounds of second-hand merchandise that lie in piles on the ground.

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