While in Kigali recently, my friend Jeanette and I shopped around a market place called Kimironko market. But first, it was difficult to get there. I could have used one of the few Kinyrwanda phrases I have logged in my brain and it would have reduced the amount of wandering we did around the chaotic bus stop with the hot sun beating down on us. “Isoko ri ri he?”: Where is the market? Oh well. Next time I’ll parrot my logged away phrases. So we’re going in circles around this bus station until we finally find the market. It looks to be pretty small at first but squinting into the dark crevasses between tall panels of wood covered in merchandise, it is clear there is more than meets the eye. We delve into the narrow columns of stores and peer up at the colorful Katenge fabrics draped across panels that reach up towards the dark ceiling. Sometimes the smell of meat wafts in from the butcher’s across the way but the further into the market you get, the smell subsides and more of a damp, earthy smell lingers. It is surprisingly calm and although vendors are anxious to sell us their beautiful fabrics, bags or earrings, they’re not too pushy.
The vendors, although needing to make a sale, are patient and kind, and show us fabrics with a gentle smile and a few broken up words in English and sometimes Swahili since Jeanette speaks Swahili. I bought some nice things including a bag from a sweet, short woman with a protruding pregnant belly who sewed in a lining and extra pocket for me right on the spot. We ended up taking our time looking at hand painted cow bone earrings at a woman’s stall (I think her name was Goleti) who’s English was impeccable. Rwandan’s are known for their hospitality and welcoming demeanor and so far I have found this to be very true. Kimironko market was a wonderfully African experience. I plan on returning to Goleti’s stall to buy more handcrafts.