A few weeks into being here, I have started my job and been lucky enough to get out of Kigali to Akagera National Park and to Lake Kivu; a truly beautiful country full to the brim with exotic birds, good roads and rules that everyone seems (more on this later) to obey and which certainly make it palatable for a muzungu (loosely meaning white person) like me to enjoy. Corruption seems to be pretty low and the mosquitos even honour the flimsy net I have been issued with to cocoon myself in at night. How exotic.
So it is with disappointment that I am met with advice from many others on the matter of how to navigate my way around Rwandan life without being “ripped off.” I find this kind of conversation anywhere between tedious and downright objectionable depending on my mood.
Why on earth wouldn’t people selling things try and get the best price for them? I believe this is what is known as ‘market economy’. It is as old as the hills and we are all subject to it in one way or another… was it not Sony who recently raised the price of a Whitney Houston album on iTunes less than 24 hours after her death? Now That’s What I Call Market Economy!!
It is unfortunate that as a VSO volunteer (paid a local wage) we are likely to be charged similar prices to highly paid muzungu but life is like that I guess. And who says we are not still rich in others eyes? Yes, it is important to barter; nay, it is expected. But don’t expect or demand the same price as locals. Yes this is opportunism but who said you and I are not up to the same game?
Are we volunteers not here seeking opportunities of our own? If you think you are doing this for purely altruistic reasons, then think again. . There is no such thing. You will be looking for an opportunity in one way or another; just like me. I want to learn, I want to gain skills I can apply in a new and exciting job one day. I want to travel and see more of this beautiful country. I want to count the birds I see and perhaps some others activities I am not going to write about here!
I know that my being here will enrich my life all the greater and more opportunities will become available to me. Can the same be said for those I meet at the market?