Rwanda Day 5
Yesterday’s breakfast included mushroom soup. Unorthodox, but tasty. So I try it again today. My roommate calls it yucky tummy. Accurate.
We spend the morning shopping at the WE-ACTx Ineza sewing cooperative. A dozen women sit at black Singer sewing machines, stitching together yoga mat bags, purses, pillows and ties. They clap when we walk in.
We decimate their show room, and tell ourselves we are pumping money into the Rwandan economy. This is true. And I have the unique opportunity to meet the women who are literally crafting their way to self-sufficiency. One of the teens gets measured to have a shirt made for him. Another woman orders a custom pillow. We will pick them up on Monday.
Next stop is the market. We are told to try to find our driver, Mark, when we are ready to purchase, as he will help us to make a better deal. I cannot find him and do my best with some jewelry. The first vendor I encountered, but do not buy from, tells me we had a deal. I tell her we did not and keep walking.
My roommate and I wander into the “hardware department.” She laughs that it is the same as at home – she can’t find anything. Deeper in we find the food stalls and I am shooting photographs like it is my job – which once upon a time, I thought it would be. Mounds of potatoes. Baskets of peas. Red beans drying in the sun. Dried fish. Cooking oil for sale in re-purposed plastic water bottles. Along the perimeter are shops with names like “God is Great” – a fish and meat counter. The vendors do not want their photographs taken. One wants money in order for me to take a photo of rocks of curry. I walk away and then he tells me its ok. He wants to see the picture. Many vendors want to see the picture. We are surrounded. I tell my roommate its time to go and she agrees.
We find the fabric vendors and each end up with 4 meters of fabric. I am not certain if I will make a dance skirt out of it, hang it on the wall, or wrap it around myself like many of the women here. Perhaps I will cut off a piece to wear on my head. I had hoped to buy a stiff scrap and learn how to tie it like Eryka Badhu, but no one will sell me one. They only sell complete outfits. I am certain of this, as Mark took me to several stalls and inquired. Fabrics are not made in Rwanda. Ours are imported from Congo. My vendor allows me to photograph her. She doesn’t like my first effort, so we take a second. We laugh and she asks if I want an outfit made. I don’t. And we have to go besides. She says, “Next time.” “Yes,” I say. “Next time.”
I am acutely aware that my trip mates are shopping for partners and children. They have “shopping obligations.” I do not. My divorce feels incredibly real. I spent a few moments crying with my roommate before we went out on our shopping trip. I know that it is no mistake that she was put in my life at this time. And I am grateful for her.
After lunch we return to Nyconga to paint a room for the WE-ACTx jewelry co-operative. William, the artist we met a few days ago, guides us. He mixes paint. Lavender. Pepto Bismol pink. Pale yellow. Crème de Mint. We don’t have stirring sticks or rollers. We re-use the same masking tape over and over again. I kick of my orange peep-toe wedges and work barefoot. I am the edger. The work goes quickly. It is, as my roommate and I say, “Africa good.” We do the best we can with what we have. It is enough. It is good enough. And it is.