Sunday, 27 July 2008

Shopping in the market

July 26th

It’s the monthly Umuganda day today, so I can’t get out and do shopping or anything else till the afternoon. I’ve got Tu Chi coming for lunch and to get copies of my Cyangugu pictures and blogs, and check whether there’s any music she wants on my computer.

Firstly I find the water’s gone off, so I’m reduced to using the jerry cans we store on our balcony. The water’s been in these cans for three months, but fortunately it doesn’t taste too plasticy so I’m OK. But I’ll empty and refill the cans tomorrow!

For part of the morning I do some work – I need to get it all ready for Monday morning and I know I’ll have to be busy on Sunday as well as today. With the hairdresser shut because of umuganda, and no matatas passing, it’s lovely and quiet and ideal for concentrated work. I have music on my laptop and get a lot done.

Then I set to with my cooking. The lentils have softened nicely overnight, so I make a big batch of lentil and tomato soup. Much better this time – I’m almost there in terms of recipe; just a bit of fine tuning with herbs to do. Tom’s made up some mincemeat into a Bolognese sauce, so that and pasta is the main course sorted. When Tu Chi arrives she’s bought fruit – Japanese plums and a papaya. So for pud we have smoothies made from bananas, plums, papayas, with honey and strawberry yoghurt. And grated organic chocolate on top! OK, so I’m showing off to her, but so what! She’s put up with me for three days this week and deserves a treat!

After lunch we sort out the photos; she shows me some pictures on her laptop of her family’s house in Hanoi (a beautiful building in French colonial style), and I show her some of my photos from Colombia.

At this point the electricity goes off, but the water comes back on. The pipes are full of air and you can’t use the taps without them spitting and spluttering.

So we leave the computers digesting huge amounts of swapped pictures and sounds, and decide to go to the market. Tu Chi wants to buy some fabric to take home (Vietnam is apparently famous for its tailoring, so she’s going to take the cloth with her and get it made up back in Hanoi). We spend a good hour mooching round the cloth section of the market; everywhere we go we not only have a queue of children following us but a scrum of cloth traders all trying to move us on to their particular stall, and also a bunch of seamstresses all hoping we’ll use them to make up the fabric. One of them is the woman who made my shirts for me and she’s really disappointed when we don’t use her. I’ve become the expert in what is good quality cloth and what isn’t, and it’s true I can identify the very cheap and stiff material easily enough. Most of the stuff we like and all three lengths we end up buying come from the Ivory Coast in West Africa.

We find a new section of market (I.e. neither of us realised it existed) which sells handicrafts, and among them some beautiful baskets. Tu Chi buys a couple; I make a mental note to get some in the future or at least make sure I remember to show Teresa and co round this little corner. It’s tucked away behind the hairdressers and easy to miss. Gitarama market really is huge on a Saturday, and today there’s a lot less stalls than usual because of umuganda. People won’t have come in from long distances because the half day available for trade won’t make their journeys economic.

I walk Tu Chi home via Karen’s house; we want to check up arrangements for tomorrow. Sunday is the last day for the two deaf women staying with Karen, and we’re having a lunchtime rather than evening muzungu get together to mark the occasion.

Back at the flat Tom’s arrived from Kigali and the power’s back on. We both spend Saturday night working, with minor pauses to eat up left overs from my lunchtime efforts!

And just when you want to work without distractions, something happens to thwart you. I’m rinsing out a soupy pan when there’s a huge splurge of air and water from the tap which blasts bits of soup all over the walls, curtains, clean washing up etc. So I waste half and hour re-doing everything, and end my Saturday night taking down curtains and soaking them in “Vanish” Honestly, I’ve gone from suave cook and entertainer to household skivvy! Serves me right.

Best thing about today – entertaining a friend and actually enjoying cooking.

Worst thing about today – no water. Then no power. Then a “redecorated” kitchen…

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