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Every Wednesday a small trading centre called Mugusu, just outside of Fort Portal, plays host to one of the biggest open air markets in Uganda. Last Wednesday, Lauren and I took the opportunity to check it out.

Mugusu market is hard to describe to someone that hasn’t seen it. Basically imagine the craziest flea market/county fair jammed into a tiny space without any of the rides, buildings, or cotton candy.

When we arrived hundreds of people were roaming among the endless sea of vendors and stalls. There is a meat section where you can literally buy pieces of goat that still have the hair on them. There is a used bike section, a matoke section, and a “food court” of sorts where people take a break from shopping to enjoy a cold drink. But, Mugusu is most famous for its second-hand clothing selection. Endless piles of unsorted clothes sit on tarps throughout the market. Shoppers get down on their hands and knees and swim through the piles in search of that great deal. Lauren and I joined in and walked away with two shirts and a jacket. (I’m particularly proud of the jacket—a good-as-new Land’s End windbreaker that would easily go for $50 in the states, but that I got for 7,000 shillings…about $3.50).

Walking around Mugusu, it becomes clear that this weekly tradition is a much-anticipated gathering for residents of the area. Everywhere small groups of friends were engaged in discussion, probably chatting about the antics of their children, the fate of the crop, and perhaps some politics. There was something special in the low-tech expression of community and commerce…something that is all-too-rare at home. It made me think that maybe I’ll start a weekly “open air garage sale and gathering” tradition somewhere in the Midwest. Heck, maybe I’ll call it Mugusu Market.

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