Saturday, April 19, 2008

Nakawa Market

Coming back from visiting borrowers in Bugolobi yesterday, the loan officer, whose name is Teopista, and I needed to change matatus in Nakawa. Teopista is a very serious woman, a single mother, who often seems almost severe in her mien. But when she asked if I wanted to see the market I thought I detected a glint in her eye. I accepted gladly and she led me into the melee that is Nakawa Market.

Wow, is what I have to say. Pictures really don’t capture it. I walked in through this part that looks like a junky flea market with lots of clothes, backpacks, toiletries, durable goods.

Teopista then took me to the vegetable market in the back, and that’s the part that blew my mind. Just the smell of it—a really wonderful wholesome smell of foodstuffs. Pyramids of tomatoes. Piles of greens. Bags of rice and beans. Mounds of fruits that I couldn’t even identify. I was so glad to have Teopista with me to tell me what some of them were. Popo, which looks like a cross between a football and a watermelon with an orange meat inside and a hollow center. Tamarind. Passion fruit—of several varieties. Citrus fruits that looked like large limes on the outside and oranges on the inside. I bought some tomatoes from a vendor who had allowed me to take her picture, as you see here. You can also see how they pile the tomatoes into little tomato cairns, which sold for 300/= per cairn.

Some vendors seem offended by the idea of being photographed. They're business people and not a tourist attraction after all, and so I was a bit skittish about asking or taking pictures without also offering some remuneration, but I did also take this picture of bags of spices, unidentified. I have no idea what the brown grounds are.

I bought some cauliflower, the first I’d seen in Kampala, from another man. Teopista had no idea what cauliflower was, so I was at least able to tell her something!

Lots of people calling out to me, “Mazungu!” but in that setting I didn’t feel bad about ignoring the calls. I would have liked to buy some rice there, maybe some peas, but Teopista was moving along and I didn’t feel right about being leisurely about all this.

We went through the open air fish market where a man was hacking away at a huge fish, a tuna, I’m guessing. There were lots of very tiny silver fish that I asked Teopista about; called matote, or something like that, piled high in bins and dried, scooped out with tin cups. Long eely fish that were placed on the block in a serpentine manner.

And then back through the hard goods again. Teopista said that on Saturdays, you can’t even move it’s so crowded at Nakawa Market. I can believe it. It was crowded enough today. I'm mighty grateful to Teopista for taking me. For one, I don't think I would have dared try it on my own. For another, all I would have seen were the cheap plastic items facing the street. I doubt I would have made it as far as the spectacle of the food market. I wondered at the time why Teopista was taking the trouble to show me this, but then, if the roles were reversed, I would do the same thing, showing something authentic to my home and yet spectacular. I feel very fortunate to be here in a role that gives me guides who aren't interested in me as a tourist but as a visitor or a guest.

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