Saturday, 27 April 2013

Experiment: how long does it take to find a Wallabies jersey in Uganda? A trip to Owino market to find out!

Would you buy and wear this in Uganda? Or anywhere?? Please be honest.

If my time in Uganda has taught me anything, it's that when you're least expecting to see something there it will be right in front of your eyes; when you go searching for it you won't find even a trace of it. 

Take, for instance, my hunt for a Wallabies jersey, a little slice of Down Under in the Pearl of Africa. To be honest, I'm not a great rugby fan although will take it over rugby league and when one is away from home one can often start to feel more strongly about supporting one's team. And where else am I ever going to be able to snap up a top for $3.72 AUD? According to some research I've done, back home they retail for $129 (please correct me if you've seen them cheaper). But the many times I've come across a Wallabies jersey roadside, despite marveling at it I've passed it up.

So last Saturday, with my friend Silver Kayondo, I decided to go to Owino markets and do an experiment to see how long it would take me to find a Wallabies jersey. I left empty-handed (well as far as the jersey was concerned).

I'd been certain that I'd find at least one amongst the hundreds of sporting labels on display. Going for gold, in other words. But even though I had Silver with me to help with the search I had no such luck.

Quite fitting that my first boda driver of the day was showcasing the logo for Australian Safari, described as the "TOUGHEST endurance motorsport event in the Asia Pacific Region".

I was so confident that a Wallabies jersey would show up at what is one of Africa's largest outdoor markets, even if it had burnt down recently, that I'd even taken bets on how long it would take for the zealous vendors to unearth me one. Stella Otim estimated half an hour, while Diary of a Mzungu predicted just five minutes. 

My shopping expedition on the day, ironically began and ended with Australian labels, in the first case this Australian Safari  t-shirt above which the boda taking me from Kisimenti to Entebbe Road was wearing. He'd purchased it "DT" (boda speak for downtown), apparently. This had to be an omen. I knew I was going to go home from Owino (via bike, of course) wearing an Australian rugby jersey.

I set out for my trip to Owino on another lovely, sunny day in Kampala.

When Silver and I arrived at Owino at 1342 I explained to a seller exactly what I was looking for by showing him a photo of a Wallabies jersey on my iPhone.

"I'm going to go and look. But if I don't find it I'm going to go with you and search," he promised before dashing off out the back.

We sat down and waited near the hat section. But I was up within seconds, staring in awe at the range of the caps hanging above me. There was every single brand under the sun.

Many Australian cities - Melbourne, Perth (two different types of hats) and, getting more closer to home for the author of Bodaboda Baby, the Gold Coast.

Blue and white check Gold Coast cap.

Melbourne, sitting next to An American Revolution, third from the left on the second row.

If we go a bit closer it's...Perth. Third from the left on the second row, two down from the LA Lakers.

Perth again. Will we see a rise in tourists to WA after this?

I spotted Uncle Tobys, the Aussie breakfast cereal brand, Betta ElectricalCoopers Brewery and low and behold, the ACT Brumbies. This is just to name a few. It was mind boggling. I couldn't keep my head down. 

There's even Uncle Tobys breakfast cereal, third from the left in red, next to Lebanon.

Green and white Coopers Brewery.

"You look like a giraffe," Silver told me at one stage. That night my neck was sore. 

Above Nissan it's...Brumbies.

While we were waiting I decided to buy a South Sydney Rabbitoh's cap for 15,000k - because it wasn't only Russell Crowe's team but more importantly one of Mum's favourites and I could give it to her for her birthday (or, ahem, Mother's Day. Quick, better get to the Post Office!)

And finally, next to the 50th Malibu Open 2004 it's the Rabbitohs.

Silver, after much bargaining, got a 'man bag', down from 65,000k (they know about to charge, some of these Owino sellers) to 25,000. When I asked him his thoughts, later, on the day he replied he felt he was being seen from a "mzungu prism (just because I was with you) and hence the exhorbitant price! I thought that was quite below the belt." And to think that Bodaboda Baby thought she was going to get a bargain because she was at Owino with a Ugandan!!

Just purchased. Silver shows off the 'man bag'.

By now it was about 14.00 and there was news on the Australian rugby front. First the bad, broken to me gently: there was no Wallabies jersey to be found.

Then the good: did I want a BIRDMAN XXXX GOLD Australian beach cricket shirt with the? It was similar to the one I'd seen this bloke, below, wearing roadside on a trip to Shanti Uganda.

The first time I spotted a beach cricket shirt in Uganda was when I was on a matatu trip from Kampala to Luweero and we stopped for a quick break. The owner of the shirt kindly obliged when I asked for a photo.

I said, politely, thanks very much but no. Even though I could buy the Gold Coast cap and wear it with the shirt, I had my heart set on a Wallabies jersey and I was sure that one would "turn up somewhere".

He said okay, but did I want to come out the back to check myself and see what else there was?

I agreed and when we got there I was certainly spoilt for choice. There was even this vest from the Beijing 2008 Olympics torch relay, next to a Molson Canadian jumper, up for grabs. Crikey.

Very topical for yours truly, being half-Maple Leaf herself).

But sadly, no Australian rugby kit.

Feeling slightly dejected, Silver and I decided to call it a day and head to the nearby Mr. Tasty. In retrospect, I am actually glad I didn't find the Wallabies jersey there and then, as I've come to realise that I like the thrill of the chase and half the fun with trying to find anything in Uganda is looking and seeing what else you come across in the process.

Also I hadn't been to Mr. Tasty and was quite curious about it, and still am, especially as it's slogan is "the food that makes you go hmmmmm", as a friend Sarah later pointed out. Another friend, Hilary, pointed out do you wonder "hmmmm" as in "hmmm, how long have these chapatis been sitting here for? In hindsight, it may be a good thing that the author of this blog chose only a Coke Zero, although Silver had a kebab which he said was great. I've since found a blog which describes Mr. Tasty as "close enough to KFC". According to Sarah, who has studied this photo hard, it's a "dead chicken..or something a cat! Hmmmm." Hilary meanwhile identified it as a "kind of funny shape...a squirrel McNugget?"

Mr. Tasty, the food that makes you go hmmmmm. And some more.

On the way home two more unpredictable encounters took place. This first was that we met this lovely woman, below, who appeared to be on her way to a Jubilee party, but running months late, in a stereo shop DT. She kindly obliged when I asked if I could please take her snap. Was she going on Ugandan time or mzungu time, I wonder? Just kidding. Independence? What Independence?? Just kidding. My friend Jennie, she who painted the Union Jack on her toes before she hosted what was Kampala's best Jubilee party last year (pic below) was very disappointed that I'd met this woman nearly eight months later, otherwise she could have joined us for our festivities then.

Love the dress. Only eight months late.

Still late, but do love the bag.

The wonderful Union Jack toe nails, belonging to the lovely Mrs P.

The second surprising encounter - actually now that I'm writing this I think it was fate - is that as I was hailing a boda for my ride back I met this driver below who was wearing this blue hat which had Sydney written on it. I proudly posed next to him sporting my just purchased secondhand Sydney Rabbitohs hat. Unfortunately you can't see the "Sydney" in the photo, but I swear to God/cross my fingers etc that I'm not making this up.

Two Sydney caps come together.

So my experiment to see how long it takes to find a Wallabies jersey continues, but it has begun and concluded (so far) with Australian merchandise.

Too true!

As this exhibition which was part of last year's inaugural Kampala Contemporary Art Festival pointed out, you "never know what will happen next" in Uganda. I wonder what will happen next on my search for my Wallabies jersey?

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