Saturday, April 22, 2006

The BIG City

Kampala! The capital city. Where to begin? Busy beyond belief. People, people, people, people and more people. I’ve been to NYC a few times and this is comparable to time square. Many van-taxis and mopeds. Not as many bicycles like we see in Luweero but they are there. And people walking over every square inch of the place. There seem to be so many people in Uganda, period, that are just meandering around too. They stand on the side of the road in groups and just talk, but especially in Kampala. A few beggars on the street with deformed feet and hands sitting on cardboard they use for cushioning. And it’s the Ugandans that give them money more so than the tourists believe it or not. It seems like there is even more of a gap in 3rd world countries between the rich and the poor. The rich are very rich and the poor are so incredibly poor. We drove by the foreign embassies today and MAN is there money going into those places! Gated areas with armed guards. I’m going to take a picture of these armed guards so you can see for yourself. The Police, whom you mostly see at the police post and not walking around town, have these massive rifles they carry around with them everywhere they go. There are armed guards at all banks and money exchanges. Armed guards at gas stations. They also spend the night at hotels and churches and banks and anywhere there is money, basically. I want to talk about 2 places we visited in particular today. 2 markets on different ends of town. One near the bus and taxi park called Owino Market and another in a very upscale end of town called Garden City. Owino market. We had heard that there was a place where we could buy second hand clothing in Kampala. Americans love second hand clothing. It’s discounted. It’s fun. You can find bargains there and nice clothes and pay a fraction of the price you would normally pay. Who doesn’t like a sale? I was told that the market was on the other side of a wall we had been walking past for about a block. We had to walk along the dusty city roads, avoiding large holes in the sidewalk, puddles and trash all along the way. We finally found a narrow entrance to what looked like a small shed with ironsheets for the roof, however there were many people going in and coming out of it, plus there were about 100 handbags hanging from anywhere there was space, so we ventured in with Candy, one of our trainers. A dark, seemingly makeshift market with narrow, narrow aisles barely big enough for 2 people to pass with tables and tables of shirts, mostly 2nd hand from America and Europe, trousers, shoes, radios, watches, handkerchiefs, socks, you name it. And we walked and we walked and we walked. Imagine taking hundreds of small storage sheds and putting them back to back and side to side, then removing all the walls and doors and creating a totally enclosed space with a low overhang, then inviting Meijer to put all of their clothing, shoe and cheap electronics made in China inside and you basically have it. It is a breeding ground for thieves. As the dozen of us ‘Muzungus’ (white travelers) walked through we were clearly out of place. We’ve been told to ONLY go here with our trainers and as we walked through what seemed like miles of this place Candy had her arm grabbed by at least a dozen merchants trying to get her attention to their products. I couldn’t tell who was selling and who was buying stuff. People were sitting on the tables where there were clothes and nearly every inch of space was covered with something to be sold. It was really amazing and uncomfortable. You wanted to stop to buy something and you wanted to just keep walking fearing that if you stopped for any time you would be a target. I don’t feel in danger in Uganda at all! But in Owino market it was a different story. So when this place closes they don’t move out all the stuff, they have armed guards that patrol it (like they do with everything else). Then there’s Garden City. After seeing a fair amt of Kampala we ventured up to Garden City. We had heard of this ‘nice’ area in the city where many Muzungus hang out. It was supposed to be an oasis where there were ‘American’ restaurants and nice shopping and internet cafes, so we headed in that direction. What we found was a Kampala version of the Mall of America! It was totally like an American shopping mall. It had a grocery story with cheese, peanut butter, chocolate, snickers bars, real ketchup and a deli! Each of the afore mentioned items are missing from other areas of Uganda. Things you wouldn’t think about missing until they’re gone… So in this mall they also have Ice Cream which is found a couple of places in Kampala. A movie theater, a steakhouse and a pizza restaurant, a Woolworth and other electronic stores where camcorders and big screen plasma TVs are available, and a nice internet cafe. What else is that probably 50% of the people we saw there were WHITE (mostly British, German and American... I think in that order)! And it wasn’t very busy for what a Saturday afternoon in a mall should be! But it obviously was more expensive to shop there. The were working on an addition that would add on a hotel, an ice rink and a go-cart track plus a golf course! So that was our one-day tour of Kampala. It was an eye-opener, that’s for sure!


At 24 April, 2006, Blogger Crystal said...

Not sure if I'd risk taking a photo of the armed guards, many countries frown upon that sort of thing. When I was in Guatemala it was the same way, armed guards with huge guns in front of all the banks and even the McDonald's restuarant! Latin America is like Africa in that there is a huge gap between rich and poor, and I guess when you are living in a society like that it becomes necessary to guard the money around the clock.

I'm happy to hear that "Garden City" has a lot of American goods, though I tend to prefer traditional markets, but still I might check it out when I'm there.

At 03 May, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...


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