To Market, To Market, To Buy a Fat Hen…

A few weeks ago, tugyende muri isoko, I went to market with Mama and my brother. I had been asked on numerous occasions to prepare a meal for my family and since we had been running around the country on weekends or just purely exhausted, I had never had the chance. On a slow day at work, I decided to take an hour and experience the market of Musambira. A dirt road leading to the “centre” of town packed with vendors of all colours and creations. The government is building proper stalls for a market like it has in most towns but, in Musambira, the market is still full of people laying out their wares on sheets on the floor. We had come to market to buy chickens. My brothers were convinced that until I saw where my food came from, I shouldn’t be allowed to eat it. How they laughed when I told them that chickens in Canada come in neat packages that I buy at the supermarket. I need to experience the entire process.

So, Step 1: Buy Chickens. Mama pushed her way into a crowd gathered behind the construction site of the new marketplace and started poking and prodding chickens that all sit bound together to prevent them from walking away. Vendors hold up the poor birdies by their legs and people examine their wings and argue that they’re too small. Mama was looking for a rooster but unfortunately, 8am was too late to get one. We ended up buying 2 little hens that looked too pretty to eat. The chickens (quite alive and clucking madly) were both put inside a big green plastic  grocery bag (with a picture of the Eiffel Tower on it) and were subsequently submerged with the various vegetables we bought after them. First, some onions, then carrots, green pepeers, celery leaves and garlic. The poor chickens were covered in the ingredients needed for some excellent chicken soup!As I ran off to work, I was a little perplexed as to how I was going to cook the next day but not too worried.

Half way during the workday, just when the sun was shining at its best and brightest. I decided that I wanted avocados and lemons to make guacamole for my meal. I saunter off- two colleagues in tow. We meet the host mothers of two other colleagues during our climb to the market. Despite assurances that we could find the avocados on our own, we find Mama them both right back beside us negotiating prices for us, feeling the avocados, making faces, consulting each other in a little huddle and yelling at the vendor. Finally, after about 10 mins of this, they come back sorrowfully telling me that the price was 60 francs instead of the usual 50 francs, looking really offended that people would choose to charge us too much. 60 francs being the equivalent of approximately 10cents, I don’t mind too much and buy 6 big gushy ones. Sadly, after looking around the entire produce section of the market, there weren’t any lemons to be found so off I run to work again.

On my way down the hill, out of the corner of my eye, I notice a fabric that I like (we’re having a hard time finding turquoise material). I casually walk up, feel it and ask the vendor nonchalantly how much. 12,000 francs he replies! Can you imagine? I start laughing and ask him what the real price is. He says 10,000 final and despite prodding and yelling, no change in price. So I walk off, determined to get the damn thing.

Now, since I didn’t have much work to do that day, Wahab came to get me from the office. So, Rouslana and I drag him rather begrudglingly to the market. On our way, we describe the fabric we want and tell him to go get it. We watch him disappear into the crowd of people, with Rouslana sneaking around to make sure he buy the right one. I stay at the entrance of the market guarding a bicycle and greeting all the people I know (who happened to pass by) and telling them, in broken Kinyarwanda, that I was waiting for my brother to come back with the fabric. He comes back sorrowfully and says the vendor is insistent on not less than 5000 francs. Although I know thats too expensive for fabric, its a really nice one so I agree and he runs off to get it and carries it back. I’m pretty excited to hang it up or make a pretty skirt out of it, haven’t decided as of yet, mostly because the story is as amusing as the fabric is pretty.

*****

The next day it was time to cook. The kitchen at our house is a room where we sit down on little benches or water jugs on the floor. The poor chickens were pecking away happily when Abdallah got them and killed them. I couldn’t watch of course. He came into the kitchen and put them in a big pot of boiling water and feathered them. I cut vegetables. Kitchen floors here are great because you can throw all the garbage and water on them. Water especially doesn’t need to be cleaned up as it dries quite nicely. However, cooking on coal (I’m lucky most families cook with branches), is a slow process. I made a meal of yellow chicken, aloo dum, vegetable curry, guacamole and Ry’s favourite green rice, all of which took in total about 5 hours. Long live electricity and propane! I wasn’t sure the family would like the food but thankfully they did and it was promptly devoured with not a bit to spare. Mama has become adventurous with the spices I bought and had left over and uses ground chili, ginger and turmeric now and again with our meals. Also, I get mashed avocados with my rice now. Better eat up now! They’re rather expensive in Canada!

***********

I have ridiculous amounts of stories to tell but not enough time to write them all here. Seeing as I only have a week left in the village and will be back home on August 12th, I will write  more about my Rwandan experience from the notes I have kept when I am back in Canada. I hope, that you won’t be too disappointed dear readers. There is an article I am burning to write about the current elections here but it is safer to publish after I have left the country. In the meantime, I encourage you to go read about the elections that will take place here on August 9th and read the reports by Human Rights Watch and Journalists for Human Rights about Press and political liberty here. I have learned quite a bit and am dying to share but will wait a little longer. One more post before I am back hopefully!

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