when patience runs out

patience |ˈpāSHəns|noun

the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset

The greatest lesson I have EVER learned in Uganda is the practice of patience. Don't be fooled that I have magically become the most zen-like human and can tolerate any small annoyance or major travesty with a kind word, smile, and understanding.

I have learned when to focus every fiber of my being into not being angry and yelling. And sometimes I still fail. Horribly.

Just last week, while trying to purchase more fabric for our designs, I went to 6 different locations and requested the type of fabric. Every. Single. Place. informed me that they had that fabric, but it was not for sale in bulk to AAD due to the fact that they use it to make their own shirts and other clothing pieces. Half of them offered to produce shirts for me. I calmly explained why that wouldn't work and asked if they had any idea where in Uganda I could purchase fabric in bulk. Each place would send me to a new location, but also mention that they mostly receive their fabric from Kenya or Tanzania and maybe I should go there to retrieve it. 

Kitenge (african fabric)

Kitenge (african fabric)

After the sixth location I asked my boda to please transport me to Kiyembe (chee-em-bay), the fabric market. My goal was to at least obtain some African fabric (Kitenge). Thankfully, I had been smart enough to ask Claire (our fashion designer/friend) what the proper prices would be for Kitenge. 

So, just so anyone reading this can understand what eventually happened (where I no longer had any patience), Kitenge costs about 6,000 ugandan shillings per meter. If you buy a half a roll (6 meters) or a full roll (12 meters) the price drops significantly. 6 meters= around 25,000 ugandan shillings  and 12 meters should be 45,000- 50,000 ugandan shillings. *

*In Uganda it is common to pay slightly higher prices, thus you must barter with shop owners. There is a common idea that if you have money you are expected to share with the people around you. While this ensures individuals in need are getting additional help it is slightly annoying in practice. Ex-pats are always charged a higher rate and unless you know the proper prices you end up paying at least double for everything. This becomes frustrating if you are residing in Uganda and are aware of how much more money you are spending on every item. Also, I am not good at bartering. It is a game I have not learned how to play.

Okay, now you all know the prices. Now. Let me paint the scene for you.

Kiyembe is located in the middle of town. The middle of town is congested with cars, people, bodas, taxis, and really anything you could possibly imagine. The bodaman I enlisted to help me on my errands (David) slowly weaved through the crowds of objects and people and turns into the fabric market. I requested that David wait for me and he thankfully said yes. 

The minute my feet hit the potholed ground I was being grabbed by a Ugandan man and asked what I needed. The best you can do in that situation (if and only if you actually don't know where exactly you should be going) is to let the kind man lead you to his shop, which will most likely have what you need. I informed this man that I needed Kitenge. We then rushed through Kiyembe to a shop wedged in between other shops. He begins yanking fabrics from the wall and asking me to pick. I asked for the price and this man had the audacity to say 12,000 ugandan shillings a meter. 

My patience was already beginning to disappear after my frustration of going to 6 different locations and not finding what I needed. At that point I just laughed. I then stated "Stop giving me Mzungu prices. You know you overcharge". He then promised me a good price and whisked me to another shop. At this shop he claimed that it was still going to be 8,000 Ugandan Shillings.  At this shop there were 3 Ugandan women that were also attempting to sell me Kitenge. I asked them how much they would charge and they both looked at each other and then agreed that it should be 8,000 ugandan shillings , but that they would give me a good price. 

So, here I am. Knowing that I am being cheated. Knowing that this day is basically a bust in terms of finding the material I need. And knowing, personally that I should have taken a break 3 businesses ago, because my patience has magically evaporated in thin air and I was about to do something that may seem rude and over the top. Wonder what I did?

I shouted. I have a feeling the shop owners thought I was having a mental breakdown. It started out not terribly embarrassing. It started with, "You promised me good price. You lied". Sadly, it ended with, "IT IS NOT MY FAULT THAT I'M MZUNGU! I LIVE HERE! I STAY IN UGANDA AND YOU WILL NEVER HAVE GOOD BUSINESS IF YOU DON'T START GIVING GOOD PRICES. STOP CHEATING. YOU HAVE LOST BUSINESS!"

While I am yelling, the ugandan man is trying to calm me by saying "Madame, I will give you fair price. 7,000 Ugandan Shillings". This did not have the intended affect, because my response was (thankfully I had stopped yelling and was more or less calmly explaining) , "I know the prices is 6,000. I have Ugandan friends and I asked them the prices before I come." 

The look on his face was pretty priceless. I was still embarrassed that I had lost my cool and yelled in a tiny shop, where every.single. shop owner in like a 10 minute radius probably heard me. But, I did get some sick pleasure on seeing him realize that he had been found out and that I was not a naive, fresh off the plane, person that has not figured out prices yet. 

Sadly, that day was a bust in terms of retrieving materials. It was a very good life lesson on being aware of your patience running out and taking a break when necessary. If I would have paid attention to my growing anxiety and frustration I would have asked David to please take me home (or at least to a cafe) where I could calm down and make a new plan. Instead I refused to admit that I was frustrated, that my patience was wearing thin, that I was hungry, I was hot, and that my plan was not well thought out. 

So, I am learning patience. Hopefully I will master it one day.