Sunday, April 15, 2012

Minor Explorations

A few days ago Denise and I meandered a bit around town. We ended up at this restaurant called Mahalo becuse Denise had before met the woman that owned the place, and wanted to say hi. Strange...even though it's a Hawaiian-named restaurant, it was still all African buffet...

Anyways, we met her, Capi, and had a pleasant time talking with her. She's about our age, and is super sweet, and very gracious. Denise mentioned to her that we planned on visiting an area of town neither of us had yet been - Nyamirambo - and Capi looked at us with a smile, and said, "If you give me 10 minutes I can come with you and give you a tour." Pleasantly surprised, we waited.

Nyamirambo is the region where the majority of Muslims live, and is one of the oldest parts of Kigali. The buildings are aged and a bit shack-like, and the roads are layered in the local dust. For the most part, this seems to be a main shopping drag, and is THE place to buy clothing. Every shop seemed to have clothing, and if not, then bananas. The murals on the fronts of the building were of big people in fancy clothing; how refreshing, to not have to look at a bunch fo skinny portrayals of women in fashion.

Walking through Nyamirambo was really fun! Even though the sun was blaringly hot and very much ruthless, it was a fun, exciting experience. It actually looks like the Africa I had in my head - dirty, a bit crazily full of people, loud, and vibrant. The squeeze buses (or Matatu buses) were brimming with people, and often painted in bright colors, with pictures of celebrities glued onto the sides and words like "Game Over" and "Know Jesus" drawn on the backs of the buses. Women covered from head to toe in the Islam-accepted fashion whisked by us. I felt like I had the chance to confirm that, yes, those parts really do exist here.

We walked around, and I took a lot of pictures. We even saw a little boy looking ecstatic to be in a pair of spikey, open-toed high heels. Here, gender barriers are not as clearly defined, in the world of fashion. And this little boy was the archetype of what I feel like is African gender blending.

Capi showed us around and told us about some of the places we were seeing, and ended up taking us down a narrow, dirty alleyway between some shanty houses. She looked at us with a bit of a dangerous smirk and said, "I want to show you Nyamirambo for locals. You'll probably have never seen this part before." And we found ourselves in the backroads of the shanties we always see from a distance. Little kids tossed around an old soccer ball, and people sat around in the doors of their shanties and gawked at the Mzungu who magically appeared in their backyard (well, actually, front yard).

Capi knocked on a door, and a group of Rwandans our age peeped out of the door with big grins and excitedly pulled us into their little place. The walls were a bright turquoise green, and the chairs were pleasantly apholsteried. Otherwise, it was tiny and simple. They looked at me and said, "I bet this is strange to you." surprisingly, no. I have seen much simpler and much starker. This place was sweet! They offered us some Fanta, and we all joked for a while about assorted things - American accents, teaching confused students, and music. I enjoyed the time, and the people were fantastic. Denise said with excitement, "I might finally have some local friends!" I hope so!

It really is so much easier to enjoy being here now that I know I am going home soon.

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