Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Parliament and the Marketplace

Yesterday all of us experienced two places that effect the daily lives of Ugandans. Our first destination was The Parliament of Uganda. This place was where the Ugandan Parliament, the legislative body of Uganda, debate and pass legislation that assist in providing assistance to citizens. Parliament had many long standing traditions. The mess, a gold staff (about the size of a baseball bat), has been used in every session of Parliament and without it Parliament cannot reconvene. The Parliament even still uses an hourglass-like timer to make sure speakers do not exceed three minutes.
Our second destination was the Owenno market. Along with the many stands with tons of items to choose from, the market was filled with hundreds if not thousands of people making their way through. From meat being cut on a concrete slab to multiple stacks of fifty plus shirts and blankets we were exposed to something very different than a farmer's market. With many vendors trying to sell us their merchandise we were very fortunate to have the students from MUBS, Fred, and Dinah with us. They not only helped us navigate around the chaos but also demonstrated some pretty superb bargaining skills.
For all who visited Owenno, what shocked you the most? Or what had the biggest impact on you?

12 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. How do you begin to describe the Owenno market? My group decided to enter through a different entrance then the rest of groups so we were the only white people in the area so we were always targeted to buy their things. I think the thing that shocked me the most is in one of the little boxes we passed one of the ladies said to her friend “Oh, that is Jennifer” The only time my name was maybe mentioned by my group was about 15minutes earlier in a completely different part of the market so it was interesting to see that it was passed through the market. The other thing I found was interesting was their humor they had with us, especially the guy who called me his future wife. Many people who went through the market were scared I was not one of them. I found the experience kind of fun and very interesting watching the different people. Sure people would grab you and try and get you to look at their things but it was in a very non threatening way and everyone was very friendly. They are just trying to make a living and doing the best that they can.

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  3. I have been to several different marketplaces in global south countries, and I naively thought I could anticipate what the market would be like. Boy was I wrong. To be honest, it is pretty darn close to what my version of hell would be. The possibility of thieves and the haggling from sellers was obviously present, and these things I could handle. It was the rancid stink of rotting feces and the inescapable filth surrounding us on every side that was all but unbarable. This situation, for me, highlights the strength of an individual when faced with desperation. I would like to believe I could endure this situation daily were it my only source of income, but I'm not sure that I can. It is a place I hope I never have to return to, but a place that I'm certain will remain in my mind (and nose) for a long time.

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  4. I dont know what shocked me the most. I knew it would be dirty, smelly, crowded, and such. But, I think the experience of it all really opened my eyes and made me realize that not every country has the shopping conveniences that we have in America. It also surprised me that people were cooking inside and grease and remains were running down the aisles. Finally, it was surprising how the second we were in the market they were yelling Muzango and would raise their prices because they knew we would fall for it. Then as we walked through the market, we were constantly grabbed because they wanted our attention.

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  5. I had to almost pump myself up to enter the marketplace. Fred and the other MUBS students were telling us what to watch out for such as pick pocketers and vendors that will try to jack up the prices because they know we can afford more; however, it did not seem like those warnings were the things I had the most trouble with. The stench of the place was rotten. Obviously there was a lot of bodily fluids, but the heat and close quarters were what magnified the smell. Also, I had trouble just walking because of the tight passageways and also the multi-tasking of looking at where I was stepping and trying to follow the guide. The guide was moving really fast through the big crowds, so I had to keep me head up and try to follow her instead of watching where I was stepping in the uneven walkways with rocks sticking up in random places. I almost went down a couple times. The point I'm trying to make was not that the forward warnings of the guides were not the reasons for my dislike of the adventure, which I believe shows the difference in perspective that we have compared to native Ugandans. They were worried about losing the little money they have or being cheated out of their hard-earned money, while we, the Americans, were worried about the smells and being touched or talked to by the vendors. Overall, it was an experience and that is what this trip is all about for me.

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  6. Visiting the market was an incredible experience. I was first of all shocked by the piles of clothing as we entered the market. I did not expect Abercrombie and Fitch clothing or Gap jeans. It seems that these people selling in the market get clothing to sell from imports from Europe or the US. This makes these Ugandans dependable on external sources. Then, we entered a section of the market that had hand-made african dresses. These dresses were being made by women working on sewing machines right in the conjested market. These working conditions are hard to imagine. It was hard enough to walk around this market. It was shocking to see, but more of what I expected to see in the market. Also, once again, all the trash outside and inside the market surprised me. As we left the market, we passed a bridge that had dirty, brown water flowing by with loads and loads of trash. This is sad to see. Once again, trash cans were hard to find.

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  7. Pretty much everything shocked me, from the cramped space where people did there business to the incredibly low prices to the smell that was all around us. The fact that there were people that came there all day every day and barely made any money is what shocked me the most. It really made me feel like a spoiled rich kid.

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  8. The market was not so extreme to me. I have been in crowded areas and I have bargained for prices as well. The thing that surprised me the most about the market was the products. And not what they were, but where they were from. I was expecting more hand made crafts, products made locally, and things more representative of... Africa. They were selling Nikes, business suits, and boom boxes. With the exception of some of the foods, almost everything was imported from another country. That makes me wonder, who is actually benefitting financially from the Owino Market? How much profit do Ugandans make? How much of the money flows straight from the poor Ugandan sellers to the hands of rich Western owners, producers, and suppliers?

    And as for the long standing traditions and assistance to citizens by the Ugandan Parliament. I was talking about it with Dr. Nkote from MUBS. He said the Parliament is more symbolic representation than power broker of Ugandan assistance to its people. I would back that up with evidence from our tour. The Public Relations Officer only named two pertinent issues that were recently discussed in Parliament. The first and most stressed was the passing of a bill that eliminated term limits for members of parliament. I question what assistance that gives the people of Uganda.

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  9. This day was filled being immersed in the culture.
    Our first stop at Parliament was surprising. It was a lot smaller than I imagined and pretty undeveloped. Being an outsider, their strategies and way of performing tasks doesn’t match up with my common sense, but the importance of tradition and culture shine.
    The Owino Market was amazing. While it took a long time to get past the smell, inappropriate remarks, and stares, I learned to appreciate what these people do every day of their lives. The people who work here are from the lowest income area of Kampala. Many of the clothes/souveniers were actually donations and gifts from NGOs that were rerouted. Fred said that only about 15% of things sent to orphanages and people here actually make it where they were intended. These people rely on a single sale to provide for their family that day.
    I am still shocked and don’t understand pick pocketing/stealing here. I witnessed some kids trying to grab a bag out of an older gentleman’s hand. Provia quickly grabbed me and forced me to keep walking. I later learned this was because it was all a stage. The kids and man may have been working together to distract people – they then have other thieves pickpocket from the people watching (i.e. – me.) I had an intense conversation with Fred following the market. I asked where all of the merchandise goes at night when the merchants go home. Much of the merchandise stays in the stands. While security guards walk around at night, I do not understand why they are so trusting that people won’t walk by and take things. Even if it’s one shirt that they put on or to come barefoot and leave with a pair of shoes. Fred tried to explain that people don’t really steal from their own people. If you do, it’s believed that ‘karma’ will punish you. Some also believe that voodoo type things happen to you. I then asked many questions because I don’t understand why pick pocketing is ok, but stealing from a merchant is not. While I never really got an answer, I learned that even the shops on the side of the road leave their merchandise outside at night. Fruits, vegetables, clothes, etc are left open to the world. Fred said that even if someone does take something, they leave money for it. While I am so happy to hear this and impressed (because this is not how it is in America) I do not understand. Any help?

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  10. Yeah I got to with Austin on this one. Chaos is not enough to describe just how intense the whole place was. Everything around you moved. The walls reached way up with all ungodly amounts of things blocking out the sky. It was just so much plight and poverty densely concentrated in such a small space. It was almost suffocate with all the smell and humidity and people and lack of light. The idea that this is what they must endure every day to make a living is so unimaginable. But it is what they have to do. This is how they make their money to afford food and the basics necessary to survive.

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  11. Kelsey, that was a great summary of our day. I'm not personally a big fan of government, but I really enjoyed learning about some of the traditions that they've been using for some time.

    Up until this trip I thought that I was a rather well rounded person and had experienced many things around the world. That idea was quickly trumped upon arrival to Uganda. Each day taught me how little I really knew about the world outside of the US. Coming here, I knew exactly was to expect. But that was in no way a true representation of the experiences I was about to have. If coming on this trip trumped my knowledge of the world then the Owino Market was the Ace of Spades hands down.

    I had talked with a few people from the Uganda trip last year and they told me all about the Owino Market and what to expect, so I had a little picture in my head of what was there. It was not accurate at all. Upon driving up to the Market Fred, our guide, put us all into groups with the MUBS students who were well versed with the area and the culture. They were there to protect us, keep us from getting lost, and help us talk down prices if we felt like buying something. Even knowing that we actually needed somebody to take care of us in this market kind of scared me giong into it. After turning the corner to enter the market we were immediately part of the action. The floor was always uneven, if there was one. There was never more than 3 feet from side to side to walk, and soemtimes there was as little as a couple inches separated by only the clothes hanging off the walls from the vendors across from each other. The thing that got to me the most though was the odor. You couldn't go anywhere in the entire market without smelling something, good or bad, usually bad though.

    On our first pass through the market I was, for the most part, rather interested. Near the end though there were some rather interesting odors and I was, somewhat, scared. Throughout the entire time at the market, thought, we were always being grabbed, called Muzungoo (white man), and asked to come to each person's "stand." However, when we got out the first time we all shared the same thoughts: we wanted out. But in order to do so we had to enter it again to get to the other side because the market was simply too large to go around. Unfortunately, the place in which we entered was the single place that I couldn't handle: the meat department. Here we found the most raunchy smells and the largest variety display of meat that I've ever encountered. There was the usual steak cuts as well as cow hooves, stomach, liver, head (including their brain, eyes, and tongue, which is usually made into a soup), and offuls (cow intestines). This was all sitting out cut up on tables, or meat hooks, with flies attacking every bit of it. It clearly had been sitting out for a while. All of these characteristics were enough to make my eyes water and my stomach act up. With that I directed our guide/guard to get us out of there as soon as possible.

    When I was writing my journal for the day I made a rather interesting entry. The market was not only my biggest shock of the day, but also my biggest highlight because no matter what I tell other people about it they'll never understand the experience without seeing it for themselves.

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  12. Unfortunately I was not able to experience the meat section of the market, I heard that was quite the experience. I was really shocked by the market in general. It was not what I was expecting. I envisioned a long wide road that had vendors on each side selling more traditional clothing and more arts and crafts. When I got there I was pretty shocked at the clothing that was being sold and the design of the market itself. The clothes were very american and seemed to be hand me down clothing. I am interested in where they get this clothing? Is it donated or do they buy it? It is crazy to me that they are dependent on this clothing for their incomes, if they were to be suddenly cut off from the supply they would be a lot of people out of jobs. This dependency is scary and definitely not sustainable. Also the design of the market was surprising to me. It was like a maze and very hard to get through, the ground was rocky and dirty and men would constantly be grabbing onto us trying to sell us things. I did not picture it like this at all. Overall, the design of the market and the dependence the people have on the items sold were most surprising.

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