Sunday, February 22, 2009

Kimironko Market...

Kimironko Market is the central market where you can buy fresh vegetables, fruits, fish and many household goods. It is an open space with the roof on it. It is a Rwanda version of Jungbu Market in Seoul. One of our Saturday routines is going to the Kimironko Market. We buy all grocery items there to live for a week. I have been there twice and each time it is a thrill. Let me tell you why.

[<= This is the shopping helper, No. 85.]

When you pull your car into the crowded market place, a bunch of young guys rush to you, shouting at you in Kinyarwanda. Without knowing what they are saying, it would be scary. But they are saying that they will watch your car and they will help you with your shopping. Of course I was informed in advance so I acted like a pro. I picked one for watching the car and another for helping with our shopping. I picked number 85 for the shopping helper and number 96 for the car watcher last week. What is interesting is once you pick the guys, all others withdraw like an ebb tide. It must be their rule.

Frankly, I am not sure what the guy who is supposed to watch the car is doing, but it is a local custom to help them earn some money. After all, I paid him about 35 cents and he is very happy. I suppose he is protecting the car from any damage. Or, if you do not hire a guy, your car is more likely to be exposed to some damage. Get it?

The shopping helper is helpful, though. He carries the bags, helps find the items you are looking for, interpretes the price and help negotiate the price. Do I really need the help? No... we can get by without the helper, but it is a way of helping them earn some money. How do we get by? I can carry the bags. It is not an enormously huge place so it is not impossible to find the items you are looking for once you get used to the place. We use the calculator to show the price they want and we want to pay, and negotiate. Yes or no is a simple expression. Universal. There could be situations that require some creativity, but it is possible to figure it out. Example? Sure.

Yesterday, we were looking for eggs. The helper (No. 58) did not understand what we were saying. So I immitated the chicken sound and made a little circle with fingers. Then he said "Amazi." That is how we communicate. At the end, we paid him 500 Rwandan Francs, about 90 cents. He is very happy and asking me to hire him again.

Before you pulled out, a parking attendant showed up and asked for money. RWF100, about 18 cents. He issues a receipt. I say, "Murakoze, cyane." (Thank you very much.) Pulling out of the market place is another challenge because there are motorcycles and people all around you. Without help or audacity to be bold, it is pretty difficult. The parking attendant was nice enough to help me out. As I drove out of the market... slowly... slowly... Kristin and I exhaled a sigh of relief and said. "We made it again!" How much did we spend? Approximately $38. Not bad, huh?

You can buy similar stuff in the city, but they are not as fresh and obviously a lot more expensive. Also, we feel like helping the farmers more directly rather than a rich guy who owns the market in the city. Sounds strange to hear me saying a supermarket owner a rich guy? Well... it is all relative.

Kristin washed all items with chlorine before she put them into a small refrigerator. She feels now rich with a refrigerator-full of food. We are ready for another week. Praise the Lord! - Jeffrey

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