Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Nyamirambo Road (Summer Re-run)

When I found out the neighbourhood our apartment was in, I got out my guidebook to try and figure out where it was and more importantly where it was relative to the hospital. We are in a neighbourhood called Nyamirambo. Try pronouncing that a few times quickly. On the map there was a long road which leads to the hospital and to central Kigali. The distance looked about 5 km.

Here is what Bradt's guidebook on Rwanda says about our neighbourhood.

"...lively busy district of small streets and colourful little local shops. The atmosphere has a touch of London's Soho about it."

The centrepiece of this road is the Nyamirambo Road. We have now walked this road back and forth between the hospital several times including twice on one day. A map of course cannot convey what a road actually looks like.

The Nyaraminbo Road is a two lane road which carries all the traffic between our neighbourhood and central Kigali. It is hopping with cars, minibus “taxis”, trucks and the ubiquitous motorcycle taxis. On each side of the road are small shops. About every 10 feet there is either a hair “saloon” or a small bar. The are also multiple cell phone shops, tiny grocery stores, clothing stores and who knows what else. There are narrow sidewalks on most but not all of the road. You have to be careful because there is a 1 metre wide ditch alongside some of the sidewalks. There are also 30 cm deep trenches on the western side of the street to allow rain to drain downhill in the rainy season and if you aren't careful you can step into one of those as I have twice already.

The roads going off to the side are dirt roads which we have not explored much but those that we have walked on have their own small shops and bars. These dirt roads are irregular and rutted from the recent rainy season.

Kigali seems to wake up at 0530 and we usually leave to walk to the hospital at 0630. The street is bustling even more at the time with people walking to work and kids walking to school wearing their school uniforms. Quite often to pass people or to yield to people coming in the opposite direction, we have to step off the sidewalk onto the street which means taking your life into your hands as motorcycles, minibuses and cars are whizzing by, often as close to the curb as they can.

For the last two days we have walked home around 1700 which seems to be when school gets out which means that the kids have a very long day. Today I got "swarmed" by a group of school children who all wanted to hold my hand and failing that my arm. In other countries I would start wondering about my wallet. Many of the young children like to high five us or will ask us "how are you doing" in English.

There is a market nearby called (of course) the Nyamirambo Market. While certainly not the Otovalo market, it has a wide selection of local fruits and vegetables and is overall quite clean. You can get clothing made for you there although Mary and my first try didn't work out that well.

Buying beer in a grocery store is a major endeavour. A 750 ml bottle of beer goes for about 600 Rwandan francs ($1). If however you wish to take it out of the store you have to pay a 500 Rwf deposit. That makes 1100 Rwf for your beer. Still less than $2. The first time we did this however the lady sternly warned us over and over about this and only reluctantly let us buy the beer. Now .... the next time your want a beer, you bring the empty back to the store and you can buy another one for 600 Rwf. And so on and so on. The problem is, that the beer you bring back has to be the same as the beer you want to buy so if you buy something you don't like, you are forever doomed to drink the same beer over and over. Plus if you did like we did and let the people who cleaned our house take the empties, you are back where you started. This sounds a little impractical, however there is absolutely no broken glass on the street, and people don't drink in the streets. Plus there is are at least two bars every 50 metres and it costs the same to drink a beer in a bar as it does to buy it in a store (without the deposit).

Sorry I haven't been posting many pictures. Our internet connection is quite slow and I have not figured out yet how to shrink the pictures down to a more uploadable size.

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