It looks as if Newport photographer Katelin Dutton, the intrepid young lady whose emails I have been recycling in my blog, is heading back to the US from Kampala, the capitol city of Uganda, in East Africa. I’ve appreciated her many insights and stories into the way people live in poor and war-torn country. I hope that she will continue to share her stories in our schools and among her local friends as she ends this part of her life’s adventure. Here is her latest and likely last story from Kampala – have you ever wondered where all your donated used clothing goes? Check out her website at http://katelindutton.com/home.html
“I hope this finds you well. As I’m writing this in the rain, I can hear “Santa Claus is coming to town” wafting through the air with the ice cream man. It’s one of my last days in Uganda and I can’t help feeling sentimental. As Paul Theroux wrote, “when you leave a place, you never leave 100% of it behind.” Hearing the many stories of the BeadforLife women; seeing the enchanting animals and landscape of Murchison; delivering food to the children of M-Lisada; watching the shea nut gatherers yodeling “Oooo YOYOYOYO;” surviving the rushing Nile; learning to speak Langi; dancing in the BeadforLife circle; eating posho and matooke; getting my first Amoeba; being humbled by the simplicity of life…And if only I could bring the Membership team of BeadforLife! I’ve never laughed so much as I have in the office of these cackling women. It’s been a good life for me here in Uganda.
Something happened here that I never thought would happen: I fell in love with Africa. My family and I went to Murchison Falls National Park when they visited Uganda and it was then that I knew that the Disney film got it right. It really is the “Circle of Life.” The egrets helping the buffalos; the termites helping the ants; the dung beetle and the antelope. The strangest and most beautiful mammals in all of the world congregate in this dreamy pearl of Africa. The bright yellow grass with warthog families running through, giraffes moving together in herds; it makes me happy to know that a place like this exists in the world. As I stepped out the vehicle and unto the land, I felt the urge to want to walk through it to be with the animals - wondering what my place was within this environment, a land where the first humans existed. If I’ve ever felt apart of something much bigger than myself, it was there at that moment within Murchison.
Last weekend, I went to the largest market in all of Uganda. Another “Alice in Wonderland” moment. Owino market is about the size of two New York City blocks. It’s the used item purgatory where shoes, clothing, fabrics, household items and electronics are sold. From the outside, it’s difficult to tell what’s happening. It looks like a continuous tarped structure with no windows or entrances. It reminds me of the forts I used to build as a kid, the ones where you’d have to climb under the sheet to get inside. As Rachel from BeadforLife, Hannah and I walked down the street in the blazing heat of morning we reached an “entrance” through the shoe section. The tented market had vendors on the right and left. Whole walls, display fixtures and floors were covered in every kind of shoe imaginable. A whole area filled with sneakers. Several vendors specializing in leather shoes. So many shoes that you would never want to buy shoes ever again! What seemed like it would never end, finally broke out into an opening. The halls are so narrow through the market that people are squeezing through, which gives you little chance to see what’s being sold. We reached an opening which lead to three new isles. Rachel asked, ”Do you want leggings?” Rachel was a frequent customer to the “leggings guy.” As we stood looking through the sizes and colors, people continued to squeeze behind us. Men carrying huge bags of rice yelled to look out. I saw a golden pair of leggings, “how much?” I asked. “5,000” he said. ($2) The man selling scarves next to him hissed “sweet sixteen” at me.
We continued through the labyrinth in search of cute dresses. As we walked down one of the isles Hannah found an emerald green jumpsuit, it was a bit ragged looking. Rachel, asked how much it costs, and he replied, “100,000” ($40) Hannah, burst into anger, (which is her default expression) while Rachel calmly asked what was the best he could do. “60,000” ($25) Hannah exclaimed, “I could get a new one at Target for the same price!” And that was the way with the rest of the items we found. Hannah found it easier to find items in her size, as she’s a larger size and I found it impossible to find anything petit. But again, and again, the prices were outrageous for items that would have been found at the Salvation Army, and that’s exactly where the clothing comes from. The clothes, which are sold in Owino, are shipped in from used clothing stores in the U.S. and Europe and are delivered in huge trucks each morning. The vendors buy up the clothing very quickly and resell the items in their stall. After an exhausting and unsuccessful market experience we headed back to Bugolobi.
You might be wondering why I’m leaving Uganda a few days earlier than planned? After receiving an alarming emergency email from the U.S. Embassy that the Ebola virus has reached Kampala I've decided to dodge any chance of it! I head back on Thursday to finish editing the BeadforLife videos in the U.S.
Thank you again for your ongoing support through this life changing experience! I look forward to sharing more with you along the way. Wish me a safe journey! Blessings, Katelin”