So....I just decided to give you a quick look at what I see and the questions I ask myself about this very unique place.
- This is poverty. Real poverty. Not the "I can't get my Section 8 housing voucher from the city of Las Vegas" poverty. Homes made of mud bricks with dirt floors and no electricity and running water poverty. CRUSHING, INESCAPABLE. Only 4% of Rwanda has electricity. It is a very expensive luxury. I could rant for pages about the difference between Musanze and Anywhere, USA poverty. Yes, in the U.S. people do fall through the cracks, there are homeless people, programs lack funding to provide necessities but we have programs. There are safety nets. Often poverty in the U.S. is brought about through poor choice, choosing to have babies when you're just a baby, having babies out of wedlock, having five babies with three various baby daddies, choosing drugs, dropping out of government funded schools. Yes, these are choices. Poverty in Rwanda is a birthright for too many. They do not have schools they can attend to use education as their springboard out of poverty. Just getting enough food to survive requires an entire family's effort. They do not have the luxury of swiping their Food Stamp card at the local Terribles. My sympathy wanes for the poor in the U.S. Harsh as that statement may seem to some of you, come experience Rwanda and tell me differently.
- The market. How do I put this into words? There is no brightly lit, wide aisled, thousand varieties of every variety of food supermarkets. There is the open air vegetable, staples and the odd assortment of third hand clothing market which I frequent daily. It's actually quite an adventure in chaos and for some odd reason I find it fascinating. I'm learning enough Kinyarwanda to be able to speak to the locals and to haggle for the best prices. I always draw a crowd of young children completely enthralled by the tall, blonde umuzungu. No problem picking me out of the crowd! I am still taking Felix with me to help navigate the dark, concrete stalls where vegetables just pulled from the earth that morning are on display. The women selling the goods are very interesting. We do the Muraho (hello), Amakuro (How are you doing?), Ni Meza (Fine) exchange and then they always ask Witwande (What is your name?), Nitwa Kim (I'm Kim). Trust me it's good to be on a first name basis with the good potato seller, Iesha. They want to connect with you. Maybe the bored checker at the local Walmart Supercenter sliding the hundreds of items across the scanner could learn a thing or two about real customer service from the women of the Musanze Market. Perhaps a genuine warm and hearty Murakoze (Thank You) with a smile once in a while would go a long way.
- Food....well....fresh, sometimes too fresh, i.e., goat slaughtering on a concrete slab in the market. It is difficult to maintain a "balanced" diet. At this point I'm on serious carb loading. Protein equals goats in the market. As you can imagine I have returned to my vegetarianism ways. Dairy is expensive and comes in little paper pouches on the dry shelf of the "supermarket". That is not the slightest bit appealing. Guess I'm not having my bowl of Rice Chex this morning. My only dairy comes from a cheese they make here in this area. It is actually quite good. Avocados....picked straight off the trees in our garden. Unbelieveable. I never knew avocados tasted like this. If I could score a bag of Tostitos I would be in guacamole heaven. At this point, the only answer to Tostitos is the odd cans of random flavored Pringles on the shelves.
Hopefully, this gives you a flavor literally of life in Musanze. There is so much more to write about this little town that has captured my soul. I read this quote the other day, "God travels the world during the day, but lays His head to rest in Rwanda." It couldn't be more true!