Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Shopping in Kahama

The road to Kahama on our Saturday shopping trip, was very different to the one we drive when going to Mwanza every month

Last Saturday a few of us drove to Kahama to look at a supermarket we'd heard about. To anyone out there in a first world country. this may seem like a strange way to spend a Saturday. However, if you live where we do, you'll know that you're always on the lookout for a shop that sells everything most things that you're used to. 

Generally when we shop at general dealers (lol!) in Shinyanga and Mwanza, the items are rather limited. You can buy some meat, poultry and fish; butter, margarine, cooking oils, flours and rice. A selection of tinned foods (we use mushrooms, peas, beans, baked beans, chick peas etc on the Guest House menu) and a selection of jams, syrups and honey. You have a selection of household products, bath essentials and other cleaning materials. However, unlike the supermarkets we have in South Africa, here you cannot walk across to the appliance department; the linen department; the clothing section or the deli and well-displayed meat, poultry and fish.

For the household appliances, linen and clothing, I have to weave my way in and out of small shops and leanto's in the fresh produce markets. Often the stall owners can't understand what I need. Ever tried to someone who hasn't lived/eaten the Western way, what a gravy boat is? Or what a pair of oven gloves looks like? Or a duvet inner? Or that you're looking for a casserole dish (reasonably large) which keeps warm on the serving counter with candles underneath? Mmm? Of course, they're desperate for a sale and try to press something else on you instead.

Also along this road, we were thrilled to see groves of mango trees and indigenous trees and shrubs left intact. A pleasant change from the desert-like surroundings of Shinyanga
Kahama town with one of the many good hotels in the bottom right - hand photo

Our driver turned into a narrow, rutted side road, driving between open market stalls and derelict buildings which housed small shops. Suddenly he stopped in front of a tall building with a mirrored facade and told us this was it. No large car-park or entrance. Just the supermarket. However, as we entered, we were thrilled to see the hundreds of products on the shelves, the bright lights and a sign  announcing a shopping mecca up a flight of stairs.

Whether it was the South African [women's] manner of talking loudly when excited, or that we were the only Mzungus in the supermarket, I'm not sure; but upstairs, we were suddenly surrounded by eager clerks offering baskets and answering our queries of items we were looking for. The kitchen/household area on the top floor was certainly a treat and Amanda and I kept exclaiming that we'd found exactly what we'd been looking for at last. The displays of glasses, coffee mugs, tea sets, dinner services, casseroles, salad servers and cutlery was mind-boggling. There was also a decent selection of stationery, sports goods (even tread-mills, exercise mats, soccer balls etc) and a large baby and toy section.
The view of the ground floor of the supermarket
Another angle of the grocery department
I know, I know! I'm waxing lyrical about a supermarket! But don't you think this is a great improvement on this...

The little shop in between the mattresses on the left and the bananas and shoes on the right, is where I buy my supply of cooking oil  (approximately 50 liters  per month!) in Shinyanga
The shop with a pink bucket (and man with bicycle) visible outside, is where I buy my white cake flour/unga; large buckets of soap powder with names like Toss, Fluff and Safi (the last means clean in Swahili) and paper table napkins. In between I buy boxes of cheap pens for the kitchen and my office and lollipops for the children I come across in the market

The shop in the middle of the picture is a Muslim shop and I can normally get Apricot jam (tinned) here. I also buy sliced brown bread and Chicken Vienna Sauaages from her. However, if I ask for Magado/sour milk, I have to wait while the shop assistant dashes next door and brings me a dozen cartons. Of course, the price is then hiked by Tsh300/1/2 US$. I've since learnt that if I go the the shop next door, I can buy my own Magando. This shop also has Dheegu flour/chickpea flour which Chef Paul uses to make Bhagia/chillie bites 

Back to the supermarket in Kahama: it didn't have any meat other than a few packets of frozen Beef Vienna sausages and whole chickens. I spoke to the store manager and said if he could bring in items like legs of lamb, beef fillets and rolls, flavored yoghurt and a selection of cheeses, then not only would I be buying from him on a regular basis, but the client would also move their shopping to this supermarket instead of using Shinyanga shops and Mwanza one and only supermarket.  He has promised to see what can be done.

After all the excitement and retail therapy, we headed for a Mzungu/expat hotel that we'd  heard about on the outskirts of town. As a band of hungry and tired shoppers we were in dire need of a rest and sustenance.
 On recommendation we headed for Hotel Golden Valley where we relaxed and shared a variety of light meals 
 The recently opened Barrick Goldmine  has created many job opportunities for locals and injected life into the nearby town of Kahama. This is also the mine where Johan, our friend from Kenya, works as financial manager 

As the distance between Mwadui (our mining camp) and Kahama is the same as Mwadui to Mwanza, as soon as the manager brings in the supplies I requested, I'll be making regular trips to the former. Meanwhile it's time to stock up the Guest House larder so I'm off to Mwanza tomorrow morning to do the monthly shopping.

Here's wishing you all a wonderful week.    

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  1. Wow, that looks like a "real" grocery store. Also living far away from shopping I can totally appreciate your find.

  2. I feel ashamed to think of how "we" take these things for granted here in the States! I'm so glad you got to do some serious shopping Jo!!

  3. Oh, what a great find indeed, Jo! That looks like our grocery stores here in Seattle!! Sure does make shopping more fun, doesn't it!! These kinds of stores were one of the things I missed while living in Mexico!! Hope your week is off to a great start!

  4. Looks better than the super markets we have here in Estcourt.

  5. Jo, it does look like a regular grocery store here in the states. I like the one stop shop. LOL, what women does not like to shop? Have a great day.

  6. I really enjoyed this look into your world in Africa. You're a real adventurer to be out there shopping in tiny stalls on any given day. Fascinating pictures, too! Thanks.

  7. Love that supermarket. What a find for you.

  8. Wow Jo! I can just feel your excitement at having hit the big-time supermarket in Kahama. It looks fabulous, clean and well stocked. Truth is, I also like shopping in the small stalls and feel like I am helping the locals in that way. But if you have to do a lot of shopping, I'm sure the big supermarket will be more efficient for you. Have a great weekend.

  9. How nice for you to go out and see shops and a town ! that makes quiet a difference to your daily life !


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