Shopping Like a Local: Visiting a Rwandan Market

There is something romantic about grocery shopping in covered markets. The vendors, the chaotic arrangement of vegetables, and the community feel makes shopping an interesting experience. Whenever I travel or live abroad, I am always drawn to local markets. Perhaps because it is just that, local. I also feel a greater connection to my food when seeing it in the open air rather than neatly lined in a sterile-looking grocery store. The produce is fresh and real, unlike so much food found in America.

Every Tuesday and Friday I have the opportunity to walk to a local market in the neighboring town of Rubona, approximately one mile from ASYV. Although all meals are included at the Village, I enjoy cooking some of my own. The walk to the market is pleasant and Rwandans are very friendly. It is customary to greet each passerby with mwiriwe, or good afternoon. Often, children follow closely behind me, giggling and whispering, muzungu, a term given to white visitors.

The walk to Rubona
The walk to Rubona
Typical house in the area
Typical house in the area
Goats are a common source of food
Goats are a common source of food
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Five minutes from the market

The market is an open-air space lined with people selling everything from goats to flour. Upon arrival, I am immediately offered tomatoes, cabbage, and any other produce that is available. I am always amazed by how incredibly inexpensive fresh produce is buy in Rwanda. I can recall paying $2.00 for avocados in Prague and in Florida, but in Rwanda, I pay less than fifty cents for three.

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After perusing the aisles, I settle on a price for the produce. Here is a breakdown of food that I purchased (1 USD = 681 RWF, as of 2014):

Small Bananas          100 RWF
Basket of Tomatoes  100 RWF
Avocados (3)             300 RWF
Green Peppers (3)     100 RWF
Total                         600 RWF ($0.88)

These prices can also change slightly depending on one’s bargaining skills. Compared to grocery shopping in Kigali, I find that the produce is fresher and half the cost. This food lasts a few days and it’s delicious.

What you can buy for $0.88
What you can buy for $0.88

In addition to shopping at the local market, I also go to the grocery stores in Kigali to buy “junk food.” To give you an idea about current 2014 market prices, here are a few examples:

Can of Diet Coke                                     900 RWF
Bottle of Coke or Fanta                            300 RWF
500g of coffee                                         2,100 RWF
1 liter of low-fat milk                               1,000 RWF
500g of pasta                                         1,900 RWF
Bag of tortilla chips                                1,900 RWF
Local gouda cheese wheel                      3,750 RWF
Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bar           1,100 RWF
Large jar of peanut butter                       3,600 RWF

In general, I can find almost any food in Rwanda. It is more expensive to buy certain items (e.g. cheese and sauces), but the local fruits and vegetables more than make up for it.