Most weekends, when I was little, my family and I would travel into the city of Boston. It was usually winter time, right around the holiday, and together we would go to Backbay to fit in all of our Christmas shopping. We would trek from Newbury Street, to Copley Square, to the Prudential Center, and of course make the stop at our favorite hair dresser so we could all get our biannual haircut- looking prim and proper just in time for the holiday. While getting a haircut was often a nuisance as a kid, my sisters and I all looked forward to it because it meant playing Pacman while waiting our turn.
Most weekends, today, I make a trip to the market in Kimironko. Kimironko is one of the city’s districts, approximately a 45 minute walk from my house. After an entertaining walk through Kigali’s bustling streets- moto taxis flagging me down, yellow-jacket MTN phone agents asking me if I need airtime every corner I turn or bright yellow tent I pass, children energetically shouting “muzungu” or good morning at any time of day (any bit of English is an opportunity to make a new friend in Kigali)- I arrive at the city bus depot.
And, I play Pacman.
Hair tied back.
Cash tucked in my secrete exercise pants pocket.
As if one of those yellow munching, floating Pacman heads, I squeeze and dodge my way past buses, matatus, cars, carts full of the most tempting fresh fruit, families decked out in the most colorful Kitenge, and I bee line straight to the market entrance, an opening in what would appear to be an abandoned, open-air warehouse.
I look straight ahead, on a mission, with my eye on the prize: 5,000 franc worth of fresh fruits and vegetables for the week.
Each vendor I meet is like the moment in Pacman when the yellow munching, floating head bites down on a piece of fruit- the sound of victory “cha ching” going off in the background.
I bargain, smile, try to speak the smallest bit of kinyrwandan, and confidently keep on moving if the price is just way out of range. When time’s up, I leave feeling satisfied, a bit overwhelmed, but definitely entertained and happy about my week’s early wins: carrots, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, onions, peppers, cauliflower, bananas, mango, and avocado for my work week.
This new weekly ritual is still a bit unfamiliar- a new and exciting adventure to look forward to on my Sundays. However, despite the foreignness of it, I feel assured and confident as I reflect on the happy moments as a kid with my sisters proving who could fill the role of yellow, muching,floating Pacman best. It’s the smallest of wins in a new context, culture, city, weekly ritual, daily activity that strengthens my outlook on the days ahead in my new home.