Friday, February 16, 2007

Crowd Control Rwandan Style

This project I am working on is big, nay huge, on research. All information and data received are interrogated, questioned, queried, set against other research, triangulated .... you name it! But of course, to get a great outcome, so we should!!

So, entirely in the interests of research, and having a meeting-free afternoon, I decided to go and participant observe a local market, the Nyabugogo market, about 5-10 km from the hotel. I took a particular interest in the clothing market....Very interesting indeed. You wish to know what happens to the clothes you give to Oxfam or others? Here they appear in huge, huge bundles, all scrunched up together. Imagine your laundry basket and multiply it by 100 (though they seemed to be clean, at least!). Some people were seen picking through this stuff, but there seemed to be not very great interest. But of course this is much cheaper than the traditional African fabrics, which I could not resist during my research ... though the prices I paid were probably considerably higher than the prices for Rwandans.

Earlier in the day, near the UN offices I suddenly had some Tshirts thrust in my face. Much to the vendor's surprise I took an interest (having been looking for that running T-shirt - it takes forever to dry washed clothes here). The price offered was 3000 RWF (about 6 US dollars), but then my Rwandan colleague came along, wrinkled his delightful nose and said that 1,000 was more than enough.... Eventually we agreed on 2,000. It was probably second-hand, from Germany ('Pizza-man - Und essen macht Spass'), but for running it's fine. A great improvement on the new Tshirts I had been offered for 18,000 RWF. Had I waited a little longer for my trip to the market I could have saved even more.

Anyway. Near the market there was a bit of a promotion/performance sponsored by the local mobile phone company. When I passed it, a number of guys were doing an endurance test on how long they could remain in a semi-crouching position. The roadside and verandas on a nearby shopping centre were packed. The roadside unpacked itself very quickly, though, when a couple of policemen, one no taller than 1.5 m, started moving people off the road - and especially when they started applying their batons liberally. Wow! At that time I had moved out of the way, but gee.

Also spotted the first malnourished child there, with a hugely extended belly. That's Rwanda.

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