Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Skipping rope, anybody?

Washing line – of plastic coated wire? Clothes pegs to match? A mirror for your wall at home? A trouser belt? Trousers? Headphones for your mobile?

All these are on offer as Annunciate and I wait on Friday, bags bulging, for the bus to fill up and take us back to Kicukiro. More likely to attract custom are the little packets of chewing gum, biscuits and sweets. Annunciate pays 100 rwf (under 10p) for a tube of mints whose label shows they were made in India. If a bottle of water were offered I would buy it.

On Monday I am on a bus back into town, to the bus station actually, to meet Rachel, my translator and co-trainer on many such expeditions. We are going away for 3 nights staying in guesthouses where usually fruit and vegetables are not on offer, apart from a banana at breakfast sometimes. Our custom has been to pre order a vegetable dish if we are to eat supper there, and to buy fruit to share. I realise I have forgotten to bring a knife.

In the bus station at Nyabugogo, tickets bought but our bus late to come in, we are approached by vendors with a different range of goods. Rings, necklaces and bracelets seem unlikely but R says they sell quite well. Socks and trousers abound again. I am a focus for sellers of newspapers and magazines in French or English; when I ask for the Rwandan English language daily I am offered only a copy from Monday last week.

Then a young man appears with a bucket full of white onions, carrots and shredded cabbage. Can he be offering instant cole slaw? Surely not. He is shredding more cabbage in front of us. Ah, now I get it: what he's selling is the tool.

Here it is, with 2 mangoes bought beside the bus station in Gisenyi for 100rwf. (The plastic bag they rest on is one of several I brought from home because they are banned here in the interests of litter reduction.) The tool shreds cabbage, opens bottles of fizzy drink, and presumably cuts with a saw tooth or a pointed blade. It's what I was lacking. I buy one.

I am the one thing without which Rwanda's drive towards entrepreneurship cannot succeed. I am now a cus-toh-mah!


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