Day 6, Markets

Today, Vanessa took us on a tour of some local markets.  The first was quite a shock. As our taxi, filled with three obviously non-Rwandan (i.e. white) people, pulled up, it was surrounded by young men shouting at us.  I had no clue what they were asking us.  The most I could make out was “Remember Me?”  I thought surely he must be talking to the cab driver.  None of us would remember any one of these guys. We wandered around a bit (I managed to get a poor picture of the airport from a distance) and finally wandered into the main part of the market.  The place had everything.  One line of stalls was freshly butchered meat.  Fresh (as in today, probably), but not refrigerated.  There was a slight smell. Across from them were several stalls that contained toiletries. Around the corner were several stalls filled with people willing to sew you anything you wanted, provided they had a pattern or you showed them a picture. Since I’ll do almost anything dcm tells me (he is the reason I own winkyfrown.com), I asked them to make me a pillbox hat.  They didn’t know what I meant, though.  (Should I go back now that I have directions?) open bale of clothingAcross from them was a woman selling already made clothing.  I’m pretty sure this was the clothing that the Salvation Army (and other Charities in the U.S.) can’t sell and, by way of brokers, finds its way to markets here in Africa. (We saw a couple of trucks carrying several bales of this sort of clothing on the way to the market.)  If you’re wondering why African countries no longer have a textile industry, it is because you give your old clothes to the Salvation Army or GoodWill and it ends up here at, among other places, the market I went to. Then we wandered inside the covered area.  They had a few stalls with tourist trinkets, but since this is market wasn’t focused on the tourist trade, there were only a few.  Stalls across from them were selling shoes. And then we came to the stalls with flour.  And more with beans and fruit. It was crazy and and a great way to learn how to say “No” and say it forcefully.  I bought a few things in the tourist area as well as some “Super Pilipili” sauce and pili pili oil. Buying the tourist trinkets was the beginning of understanding the madness that surrounded the car when we first arrived.  The stall lady asked me if should could put the items in the bag that the young man following us like a puppy dog provided.  I acquiesced.  I had just bought us a minor fight. A few minutes later when the other man — the one leading dcm around — helped me find and purchase the pili pili, the two began to exchange words.  I could see no good was going to come of it, so I grabbed the oil and stuffed it into the bag my other stuff was in.  Thankfully, they both let it drop.BEANS! Once everyone was tipped and paid, our two guys made sure that we would remember them.  They gave us their names and numbers (one wore an yellow shirt with the number 12).  I guess repeat customers mean good business.  This was the answer to the mystery surrounding the “remember me?” schtick at the beginning. Next we went to a craft market.  I purchased a couple more items and, this time, I actually did some bartering.  First time in my life I tried to dicker with someone.  I discovered they expected it, I started to walk away and they lowered the price.  Amazing!  I’m sure they still made a handsome profit on the carved giraffes (probably imported from Kenya) and I was no where near the place where they would have stopped.  But I felt a little better about those purchases. Finally we went to what looked like a western-style grocery store.  I didn’t barter at the market so I ended up paying 150 RFR (Rwandan Francs, about a quarter) more than the grocery.  I’m sure I could have bartered them down if I had thought to try.  I ended up buying some ground Rwandan coffee.  I may have to go back to the market if I want whole beans. That ended our crazy afternoon.  Tonight, we’ve been trying to get a ride out to see the country-side this weekend.  I just found out they got the ride.  I should be offline all weekend as I go check out the wildlife.

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