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Monday, May 25, 2009

Market Place

I just kind of wanted to hear everyone's impressions of the market place. Obviously it was quite the culture shock. I have been to many flea markets and crowded farmer's markets but I have never had anything in my life to compare to the place today. Aside from the overwhleming crowds the shockingly extreme lack of hygene will probably what will stick with me the most. But what I would like to everyone to think about the most is the level of entrepreneurial determination the people there must had. Remember how the tried to sell their goods. They spend all day there from 6 in the morning to 7 at night. For them to put up with those conditions day in and day out there must a far worse fate waiting for them if they don't make those sales.


  1. I am assigned to post along with Quint, so I am going to comment on his post, but you can treat it like another post. I figured that would be easier than making two posts and having you comment on both his and mine.

    So, today after our usual breakfast at MUBS, we had a tour of parliament. It seemed that the history of parliament started around the same time or shortly after the history presented in the Martyr site and the King's Burial site. So the Ugandan history that we have learned thus far is almost like learning Ugandan history of the colonial and post colonial eras. Many of the traditions we have learned about (like the common dress, style of government, and education system) originated after Europeans (mainly British) arrived in Uganda. What are your thoughts on this? Do you agree or disagree? If you agree, why do you think it is like that here?

    After the tour of Parliament, we ate lunch then went to the market. It seems the market has left a strong impression on us. What are some of the main differences between the market here and large malls back home? More importantly, how and why do you think these differences developed here in Kampala? Are those differences beneficial or detrimental to life and developement here?

  2. I have to agree... the market place was quite a culture shock, but once again, it was a very interesting experience. I distantly remember entering a homemade dress section, where workers were selling and producing homemade dresses at the same time. They had sewing machines and were making these dresses in the market. I feel that these people have a great dedication to work and making of a profit. I admire this work and ability to work in these conditions. I also noticed a lot of hand-me down clothes. We saw jeans from GAP and I even noticed an older shirt that read "Iowa City, Iowa". I feel that selling of these items may be profitable and able to work in time, but what happens when these Ugandans stop receiving these imports? This could be detrimental to their ability to make money to survive. This also makes these people dependent on outside sources. This is another example showing how some Ugandans are dependent on external regions and people of the world. I think that this is because Uganda does not have all the necessary infrastructure and internal industries to produce clothing such as these. They have no GAPs or ABERCROMBIEs to go shopping in or companies such as these to produce this clothing. But, we also do see (as I already mentioned) homemade clothing being produced. It seems that Uganda lacks the big, efficient industries that produce these items at large. This may hinder development because large industries are more inefficient and this leaves Uganda vulnerable and dependent on outside sources.

    As for Eric's question regarding traditions that originated from Europeans, I feel that this is natural due to colonization. Because England was responsible for events taking place in Uganda during colonization, a lot of these traditions and ways of life turned into commonalities and mundane experiences.

  3. I couldn't believe the congestion inside Owino Market! I was trying to think of a good analogy to describe it, so here's my best shot: it was like how a cornflake must feel when it's packed inside a box of cereal. And us white people ("muzungus") stood out like Froot Loops. The merchants were always clamoring for my attention, many of them reaching out to grab me by the arm and one following me with a cell phone to take my picture. It was a strange and fascinating situation at the same time.

    I can't begin to compare the difference between the malls at home and Owino Market. We were only walking through the tight, dirty passageways of the market for about an hour, and by the end of it, I was so desperate to get even a foot of personal space. The Iowa State Fair on a Saturday afternoon is far more spacious, and that's saying something.

    It's sad to know that these people in the markets make very little money, because they have so much competition, but as Quint said, what choice do they have? The merchants in the market work long, hard hours in small, hot spaces, but it's something they are used to. At the same time, I think the market can be expanded to limit some space constraints. Owino Market will never be as pleasant as an American open-air mall, but perhaps it can be improved so the merchants and shoppers have just a little more room to breathe.

  4. I was really impressed with the determination of the people in the market. They spent all day in horrible conditions, and the prices they asked were so low, I can't understand how they could make any profit.

  5. Owino Market what the experience. I spent half the time watching where I was walking and the rest of the time trying to look around. There was not a step that I thought I might fall over or step on rotten fruit. I wish I could have taken pictures but it was so tight and fast paced that taking pictures was not an option.

    Professor Bishop asked questions to one of the shoe sellers and I found his answers very interesting, so I thought I would share. Though I do not know his name, the middle age man has been selling shoes for eight years. He had a small area to work with in the portion that had a roof. He can sell about ten pairs a day at around the price of twenty thousand shillings or about ten dollars. Ten pairs sold a day sounded like a lot to me; all of the vendors sold similar shoes and other competitive items. He says his shoes come from China and Europe; they must be mainly overstock items from previous seasons. He has enough inventories available to sell shoes for about two months and he keeps it in a back room warehouse. I would love to have found out how profitable his business is but we did not ask the price of rent or the inventory.

    Owino was overall the first culture shock experience of my trip. And I am glad we were able to go.

    Hello to all you are at home and abroad reading my blogs!

  6. The conditions that people work in while they are selling materials in their shops (be it a small building on the side of a road, a section inside the Owino Market, or a blanket laid down in the dirt) are very unsanitary and polluted and surely pose as health risks for the people and the environment. These are both things that are not conducive to sustainable development. I don't think that we can hold the people who own and run those little shops responsible for fixing the situation and cleaning their environment they work in because they are merely doing what they can to get by. They do not have the 'luxury' to show concern over environmental issues when their basic needs aren't necessarily met.

  7. Even though its two days later, we are all still talking about the Owino Market, and I think that we will continue as long as we are here. It was quite the experience. As everyone has already said, it was filled with hundreds of vendors and customers. The passageways were small and yes the smell was a little overwhelming. But, to see so many entreprenuers in one space was amazing. I also think that many people forget the shrine in the center, commemorating the lives of the two men who were persecuted for their religion.