The shopping experience

April 29, 2009

April 26, 2009

I left the US reassuring myself that I would have fewer number of choices to make in the Old World.  I wouldn’t have to choose among the myriad brands of cereals, flavors of soymilk, and distinctions of cheeses.  Shopping would be easy in Africa, where I envisioned a virgin land free from the pangs of consumerism.  I even thought that it might be hard to buy yogurt in a store, as they probably make yogurt in their homes.  The last supermarket visit to buy cooking oil took 30 minutes.    I should be happy that peanut butter, veggie masala, soy meal, oatmeal, tomato paste are available in Fractalville.  Even though I’m thousands of miles away from Kroger, or Publix, I feel the same desperation when I shop at the mini-supermarkets in F-town.

Visiting the local market is a different story.  Meeting new vendors, introducing myself in Lusoga, and inquiring about their day is a more enriching shopping experience.  Red onions, cabbage, red spinach, carrots, bell peppers, ndisi (small sweet bananas), bagoya (big bananas), matooke (cooking bananas), mangoes, and avocados add color to the market.  I relish the satisfaction of getting a good bargain.  I joke with the sellers and tell them not to give me a muzungu price.  Most relent and laugh at my remark.  I feel proud when I buy 3 bell peppers for a 100 shillings (the young vendor initially quoted 100sh for 1).  I try to learn their names (it takes me a second when they tell me their last name before their first name ).  I shake their hands and promise to visit again.   The different smells, the narrow aisles, the rows of stalls, and the spongy ground with the decaying veggies make me feel I’m maneuvering through a narrow canal filled with water hyacinths.  As I walk back out of the market, I am glad for the experience.  The people make it worthwhile.

“The contents of this Web site are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps.”

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