EVERYBODY LOVES to love Nyabugogo, as though their entire lives depended upon the very existence of this city suburb.
And do you want to know why? Well, from time immemorial, urban legend in Kigali has held it that Nyabugogo is the ultimate one-stop point for bus travelers. It is said that Nyabugogo has got buses plying virtually every route you could ever think of, that indeed, the only bus you won’t find in Nyabugogo is the one to Heaven!
Do you now see why it is ever teeming with crowds? Because apart from bus travelers, there are also utility bills to be paid, and for some reason, Nyabugogo is most people’s natural choice when it comes to paying for their StarTimes and EWSA and other such bills.
Housewives and maids also like to frequent the Nyabugogo market, usually armed with shopping baskets, and this is because it is here that they are bound to find the freshest serere and pavlo.
The problem with the serere and pavlo in Kabagali, where I would have shopped, is that the traders charge double, sometimes even triple, the amount after spending just 200 Rwf and a few minutes on the journey to and from Nyabugogo.
As far as shopping goes, Nyabugogo is favored by anybody looking for a bargain –call it value for money.
In this day and age when class and style are no longer the preserve of the rich, Nyabugogo comes in handy, like a large, one-stop design house, covering all sections of people’s wardrobes.
People shopping for clothes here are looking for that killer design that was worn by a white man/woman somewhere in New York or Stockholm, and that they discarded for the benefit of me and you, and people like us.
But opting for this “downtown boutique” comes with its own share of inherent problems for shoppers. The first is the ever present temptation to try and imagine what the original owner of that finely tailored pair of faded jeans must have looked like: Was he an old pensioner? Tall and lanky? Pot bellied? Born-again? An atheist? Did they possibly have a contagious skin infection?
Then the killer: Did the owner of that Trench coat die in a bloody car crash before his clothes were dipped in the washing machine and renewed for second hand use?
But one of the most spectacular scenarios presents itself when a mzungu or a group of them hit the second hand clothes trail. The pattern of comments and observations from the always bemused traders and shoppers is usually predictable:
“What have they come here to do?” “You mean ‘they’ also buy second hand things?” “I thought that these things are imported from their own countries?” I could go on and on.
The other problem is one that needs us to coin a new phrase to capture its true essence:
“Passive boozing.” Yes, in the same way that there is “passive smoking.” Passive boozing here refers to the situation where most of the male dealers you encounter at the Nyabugogo clothes market assault your nostrils with strong alcohol breath resulting from their close attachment to Super Gin.