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  • Writer's pictureShelly Bandelman

Errands to Adventure

Wednesday dawned like any other day. The sun was shining through some wispy clouds, and birds were singing. The obnoxious loud speaker in the trading center at the bottom of our hill was broadcasting at full volume. Bosco, our askari, was yelling at the monkey trying to cross over and steal our tomatoes. Brie, Zoe, and I had some errands to run at Quality Supermarket after the morning Bible lesson with Zoe and Noah. I had some blouses I needed altered, and Brie had fabric for new skirts for Zoe and her. Seth Garments on the side of the shopping center is our current favorite tailor, so we set off to get our sewing done. We took a few minutes at the grocery store for some staples, and headed home.

From Quality we swung by our house to pick up Isaac for the next round of errands. We had ordered some new masks from Anne Marie. Anne Marie is the wife of Coopy Bly. Coopy is a Ugandan dance hall/Afro beat gospel musician, producer, and friend of Isaac’s. Ann Marie is the founder, owner, and director of Yimba (sing) Uganda, a program that teaches young ladies tailoring. We like to order our masks from Ann Marie’s girls. They do a great job and it supports both the ladies learning and our friends.

The workshop had recently moved from Makindye to Munyonyo, so Isaac called Coopy and got directions to the new shop. Anne Marie’s shop is in the front of a large, modern, stucco, brick red and cream house perched on a small hill overlooking a section of Lake Victoria. We picked up our masks and circled around to the back to visit Coopy’s studio. Isaac was greeted with a back slapping hug from a big, burly friend from the past, Cmert Keys. Cmert is the head of production for Coopy’s studio, Backyard Studio, and was so excited to give us the tour of the new place. The studio boasts the usual recording equipment in a dark blue lit room with 24x36 black sound absorbing panels on the walls and ceilings. Another room is being prepared for recording with live bands. After a short visit we posed for a photo, said our goodbyes, and headed off amidst a sprinkle of rain.

Sally, my older sister, had asked me to bring her some vanilla beans. Uganda grows vanilla, but they export almost all of it. Finding the beans, for retail in country, is no easy feat. I had a lead on some on Tank Hill in Muyenga. Winding through the twisted streets connecting the two sub divisions of Kampala we passed an assortment of upscale walled compounds, a large rock quarry, and descended into a neighborhood boasting Café Roma’s and the Italian Supermarket. When our family first moved to Uganda, Tank Hill was a usual haunt for us and the Volz family. Café Roma’s had the best pizza, and the Italian Supermarket had a variety of hard to find vegetables, pastas, and cheese. Being only 15 minutes from the US Embassy made it a handy place to stop for lunch and a treat after doing business with the consulates.

Wednesday we were searching for a new restaurant/coffee shop/gift shop, Farm to Table. We were so busy admiring the huge, new, thatched roofed restaurant we missed the sign indicating it as our destination. We did see Endiro Coffee, the landmark we were told to look for, and my Google Maps said “Stop”, as we oohed and aahed over the massive structure. Turning around, we returned to enter the brick walled compound, parked, and began to explore. I found the shop with vanilla beans, but they were in expensive gift packages boasting glass tube encased beans with a fancy, thin, cardboard box. I needed less expensive, rustic beans.

My sources had said the elusive beans may be available at Nakasero Market. I had hoped to avoid going to the big, public, open air market. For me, the Kampala markets are intimidating. They are busy, crowded, and aggressive. Thousands of people pushing and elbowing their ways through vendors, who are hollering for us to stop and buy their wares, as I try to navigate over slippery, uneven ground while dodging the humanity is as overwhelming as it is exhilarating. Nakasero is a division near the city center boasting an abundance of shops, and an old fashioned produce, meat, and spice market. A sea of tattered red, green, and white umbrellas, two rickety wooden pole barns with rusted iron sheet roofs, and an assortment of tarps thrown down on the hard packed red earth and covered with an array of the most beautiful produce I've ever seen make it an enticing oasis from the sea of concrete and asphalt.

Following a short discussion, Isaac drove us into the “Bowels of the City” as I have lovingly nick named this area of narrow streets, overflowing shops, and crowded sidewalks. Maneuvering our 4X4 through the tight streets, Isaac procured us a parking space a few blocks from the market. We “appreciated” a local security guard with a few thousand shilling (75 cents) to keep our vehicle safe, and following Isaac’s directions for safety (no purses, no wallets, he held the money, and we had to have our IDs on us) we cautiously stepped into the melee. We dodged the afternoon taxis three deep on the two lane street, boda bodas (100cc motorcycles) recklessly swarming between the cars and taxis, and hawkers trying to sell us maps, flags, wash clothes, TP, and a myriad of other such stuff. Isaac lead us up the hill toward our destination.

Brian doesn’t like to fight the traffic in this is a part of town, nor try to keep us organized, so I rarely get to visit, but my curiosity is always piqued. Isaac confidently led us past the Hindu Temple, open front hardware shops, lighting stores, and sidewalk hawkers. A few twists and turns, and three street crossings later we arrived at the entrance of the market. The afternoon crowd had thinned allowing us to move freely among the tarps, umbrellas, and stalls. With Isaac asking directions, we were successful in our quest for vanilla. As he stood guard we even scored elusive huge bunches of celery and broccoli. Rare red potatoes and cherry tomatoes rounded out our shopping bounty before we retraced our steps to the vehicle and the end of a day of errands turned adventures! Oh, yes, we even scored some ice cream!

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