Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Clothing Market

I love the market.  It appeals to all sides of me, it’s adventurous, it’s a bit dirty, you get to practice your bargaining skills in all sorts of languages and when you wear the dress around town that you bought you can say “I got this from the market” and look casually away as your inquirer is left marveling at your street smarts and prowess. 

Kampala has a great market called Owino.  The entrance is a narrow corridor hidden by an impressive amount of clutter.  One must count 9 and ½ backpacks to the right, wave your Boda helmet next to an old UNICEF jersey, and then duck in.  The ground is muddy—even if it hasn’t rained in a week.  Men and women sit at their booths, 2 feet deep and 3 feet wide, and grab at you to stop at their stall, to pick their pair of used converse.  When you stop at their stall, the woman who was sprawled out sleeping on some shirts a second ago is now up and animated.  She’s showing you her florescent pink, sequined shirt with Tweety Bird on it.  Or how about a nice Wells Fargo baseball cap?  A DARE shirt?  Owino is wear all your donated promotional clothing has its second, third, and fourth life.

I have my camera out which is risky, but its Sunday and quieter than normal.  And if I can’t take pictures, what’s the point of having a camera?  It makes a scene as everyone wants me to take their picture rocked back, arms crossed, kissing their fingertips and looking at the sky.  Jesus is just beyond the tarped ceiling.

After every fifth row there are two women bending over, cooking something in a pot over some coals.  They’ll supply the entire market with ground peanut sauce, mashed bananas and rice. 

I love the market.  It’s claustrophobic in a way that is comforting.  Foggy with sweat, loud with  the vendor who swears he has the best price and the cutest babies sleeping on beds of skinny jeans. 

I bought a bright green dress bargained down from 45,000 to 20,000 shillings ($15 to $6).  I got on the back of a Boda and drove home.  When I showered, mud circled round and round my drain.

Entrance into Owino

Friday, March 20, 2015

New Job

I have left CHIA and have joined another international NGO.  This one is particularly sexy.  I am the Immunization Research Specialist.  A specialist!  Ha!  Crazy!  I spent my first two weeks up up in Northern Uganda, 9 hours drive on a bumpy dusty road from Kampala, to the district of Kitgum, bordering South Sudan.  I met my boss who is a tall blonde with Dutch descent who started working in conflict zones when she was 20.  I met her, she hugged me, we got in the car, and did not stop talking until she left 4 days later. 

The project is researching how to increase immunization coverage for children under 1 in Northern Uganda.  I remained in the field a week longer than expected to get my sea legs.  Went into clinics, into government offices, into villages and asked what they saw as the main barrier to vaccination.  Based on the results, I’m designing an experiment to address these barriers.

 I move to New York in May!  I’ll be based there but will be traveling more than 45% of the time to support immunization research in other countries. 

I am giddy and trilling at this new job.  My life is unreal.  I hope I don’t wake up.