Random Stories from Rwanda

I had a few blog posts in the works that I was not able to load due to lack of internet…but here they are now for your enjoyment! – Laura

My plumbing disaster and Bobby’s amazing negotiation skills for 1 banana

Hey guys!  It’s been a few days and we’re all acclimating a bit to Rwandan lifestyle.  After our muddy bike ride of course our clothes were trashed beyond belief.  Forget any laundry service (they do have one but it’s pretty expensive) here the main method of washing clothes is by hand.  Seriously. Kate and I trekked up to the local super market to buy a few items and one of the things I wanted was laundry detergent – you know since we still have a week left in Africa and I don’t want to smell like the Team Type 1 running team van during Run Across America :-).  Laundry detergent in hand we go back to our room and I proceed to wash our filthy socks in the bathroom sink.  Well, to make a long story short the drain plug got stuck.  We used various methods to get it “un-stuck” including pushing all of our body weight on the plug, using the opposite end of the toilet bowl cleaner to pry it open, the ends of our razor blades, pretty much anything we could get our hands on!  We were out of luck and late for our next outing so we left the sink full of muddy water.  Later that night I had it in my head that I was going to get that damn thing fixed.  Now, normally in the states if you had something like this happen you press “0” on your hotel phone and maintenance comes to fix it.  Well, here it was late and I was certain that no maintenance crew was around so I attempted a bit of “plumbing” to see if I could jostle the sink plug loose.  BIG mistake.  Rwandan plumbing isn’t really enforced with caulking, extra screws or bolts, or whatever is used (another reason this was a big mistake) so when I went to check out (aka shake) the U-drain I disconnected it from the sink!   Of course this caused the drain plug to some partially open and water poured out on the floor.  I tried to screw the pipes back together but due to the absence of aforementioned screws, weights, bolts, etc. I was out of luck.  Then I hear from Kate in her wonderfully dry-humored British accent, “What in the HELL are you doing in there?!?  Do you need help” in which I sheepishly answered, “maybe…”  Kate walked into the bathroom to find me sitting on the floor trying to sop up the spilling water and try to reconnect the pipes.  Thank god she had the brilliant idea of using a trash can to collect any water that would continue to spill out and convinced me to go to bed that the hotel could help us out in the morning.  The next morning, embarrassed as can be, I told our cleaning lady about my accident in which she smiled her huge wonderful smile and told me that she would get the technician to fix it.  I left her a huge tip that day!

After my fatal laundry mistake I switched to using these plastic wash basins to clean my cycling gear

So onto Bobby’s awesome negotiation skills for one tiny banana.

Meet Bobby Heyer:

Bobby drinking a 'spro (Bobby speak for espresso)

Bobby is a brilliant business man and coffee aficionado from Seattle, WA.  On one of the days prior to the Tour start Bobby, Kate, Branden and myself decided to check out the local Kigali market.  We thought we could come across some cool new souvenirs to bring back home but instead we found was a true authentic market full of fruits, meat/fish, eggs, clothes, electronics, medications, your one-stop-shop for the local Rwandan.

Piles of potatoes

A view into the market (we walked all the way into the depths of the market for the banana purchase)

We are pretty much the only group of umuzungus (white people) in the entire market and of course we stuck out like a sore thumb.  Or, to the young entrepreneur, we were easy targets.  A young boy approaches us and tells Bobby that he would like to show him around, “what would you like to buy.”  At first Bobby says he’s ok that he doesn’t need anything but after some persistence from the boy Bobby decides that he would like to buy a banana.

“One thousand” says the boy (1000 Rwandan francs is about $1.50 US).

“ONE THOUSAND FOR ONE BANANA?!?!”  replies Bobby, “No way.”  After some continued haggling Bobby and the boy agree on a price for a banana.  However, we are at the wrong banana stand and have to go all the way into the market to what we assumed was his mother’s banana shop.  Off we went into the market, getting some interesting looks from the Rwandans…we were brave souls I guess.  We arrived at the correct banana stand and the boy reaches for a banana to give Bobby.

“No!  I don’t want that one, you see it’s all bruised.”  Tough customer that Bobby is 🙂  The boy found a spotless banana and Bobby proceeded to pay 400 Rwandan francs (US $0.60).  Ripped off?  Maybe.  Well worth the fun of haggling.  Absolutely.  And while Kate and I are watching this interaction a man passing by decides to cop a feel and give our America/US rear ends a squeeze.  We were shocked but the man just kept walking…wild times in the Rwandan market!

Bobby laughing and haggling for the banana


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