Anatomy of a Halloween costume

Posted: October 29, 2007 in Blog

Certain typical celebrations have gone by the way-side while living here in Uganda.

For example, Thanksgiving came and went with little fanfare (though we tried our best). But would Halloween pass by unnoticed?

I think not.

A party was planned for Saturday night and so last week was full of discussion amongst everyone about costume ideas (and not to mention ideas on where to go for costume parts).

I was at a bit of a loss, until late Thursday night when someone suggested I go as a Mountie.

Hey, why not?

But where in heck do you find a Mountie costume in Uganda?

With that question in mind, here is how you find a Mountie costume in Uganda:

Friday, Noon: A reporter at the paper calls his tailor and explains I need a red jacket that buttons up right to the collar, and black dress pants. The tailor assures us he can find that, and tells us to meet him outside a Fish & Chips restaurant at 1 p.m. Saturday where, he promises, he will have what we need.

Saturday, 11 a.m.: Head down to Owino Market (you can see a few pictures of the market here). It is the busiest, craziest, most-chaotic market in Uganda and is a treasure trove of cheap clothing.

Saturday, 11:30 a.m.: Walk into the part of the market where shoes are sold. Here, hundreds of vendors are cramped into narrow corridors selling shoes of all kinds. I am immediately approach by some 20 vendors who demand to know what I am looking for. Knowing that I’ll have a hard time finding black cowboy boots in the market, I enlist their help. I explain what I need, they pull up a stool and demand that I sit, and then they fan out into the labyrinth-esque corridors of the market to find the boots.

Saturday, 11:40 a.m.: The first of the vendors returns, with a pair of low-cut dress shoes. Not remotely close to what I had described. I again describe what I need and show on my leg how high the boots have to come. He twists his face in thought, and then disappears again.

Saturday, 11:42 a.m.: Vendors around me begin cat-calling a woman who had  walked into the market.

Saturday, 11:43 a.m.: The vendors tap me on the shoulder and point at the woman in case I missed her entrance.

Saturday, 11:44 a.m.: Vendors huddle in conversation.

Saturday, 11:45 a.m.: One vendor leans back over to me and, smiling, says “They think you people do not like that kind of woman. You like your women portable.”

Chris: “Portable?”

Vendor: “Yes, you know, small.” *Vendors all explode in laughter*

Saturday, 11:50 a.m.: Several people return with increasingly higher dress shoes, but none are proper boots.

Saturday, 11:52 a.m.: Word begins to spread of a muzungu looking for cowboy boots. I am now surrounded by vendors pushing their boots at me.

Saturday, Noon: The first vendor I had spoken with when I came into the market finally returns with three pairs of proper cowboy boots. Just what I’d been looking for. He informs me he took so long because he could not find the boots in the market, and so had gone to area shops to find them and so will sell them to me for a “small” (read; “large”) commission.

Saturday, Noon-12:20 p.m.: Engage in spirited negotiation over the shockingly-high price, which involves several trips by the vendor back to the store to negotiate with the owner there over an acceptable price.

Saturday, 12:21 p.m.: I walk away with a pair of cowboy boots and far less money left in my pocket than I had anticipated.

Saturday, 12:23 p.m.: Approach a hat vendor. Having counted out how much money I need to get home, I know I do not have enough for most of the ideal hats. So instead I pull the vendor aside, explain my situation and tell him to show me what hats he would consider selling for the amount I have left. We try several on. I find one, and get on my way.

Saturday, 12:30 p.m.: Leave the market, but not before being offered cheap beef at a butcher shop. Looking at the majority of a full cow hanging on a metal hook, covered in flies, I politely decline.

Saturday, 1 p.m.: Arrive at the Fish & Chips restaurant to meet the tailor to get the suit.

Saturday, 2:30 p.m.: The tailor finally shows up.

Saturday, 2:31 p.m.: The tailor informs me he has been unable to find what I had asked for, but, not to worry, he tells me he does have a great grey-checkered suit that I would be interested in. I tell him that won’t do. So we¬† go walking in the nearby markets to find a ‘Plan B’ (a red suit jacket that I could wear with a red t-shirt)

Saturday, 3:15 p.m.: Finally find what I need.

Saturday, 3:30 p.m.: Buy two metres of yellow fabric for yellow lines on black pants and chevrons on red jacket.

Saturday, 3:35 p.m.: Find a woman with a sewing machine in the market who can sew on the fabric. A few minutes are taken to try, in vain, to explain why I needed her to do this.

Saturday, 3:45 p.m.: Find a red t-shirt in a nearby stall, and also buy a belt for costume.

Saturday, 4:30 p.m.:  Pick-up finished pants and jacket.

Saturday, 5 p.m.: Get home and try on costume. Look in mirror and confirm that, yes, it is in fact ridiculous.

Saturday, 7 p.m.: Head off to the party for a great time with friends.

Sunday, 1 a.m.: While chatting with a Texan friend I complain about how much I had to spend on the boots when I’ll likely never wear them again. Texan tries them on. Seeing that they fit perfect and, always in the market for a pair of cowboy boots, he buys them from me on the spot.

Here is the costume, in all its glory, and yes that is a Tin Man and Cowboy also in the picture (I happened to have my hands on a cigar when the picture was taken):

Halloween mountie costume

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Comments
  1. Andrew says:

    Oh. Oh my, Chris. That, I do believe, is the single most endearing costume I’ve seen since…well, no — it’s even better than my Bruce Dickinson.

    I love you.

  2. cmason2 says:

    Bruce Dickinson? I think I just planned next year’s Halloween costume, that is fantastic.

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