Since our temporary rented house has only a dorm-sized refrigerator we must make frequent trips to the grocery store. Also since we still don’t have a car it is fortunate for us to be within a short walk (just under a mile, but down a hill) from one of the best grocery stores in Bujumbura, called Mutoyi. Different from most profit-making grocery stores, Mutoyi is a ministry of one of the Catholic works in Burundi. They sell many of their own products, like cheese, milk, bread, vegetables, eggs, chicken, pottery and some furniture. All produced from their workshops and farms. It is well run, the staff is pleasant and the prices are fair. So shopping at Mutoyi is a pleasant experience which supports a local business. Join me on my trek to Mutoyi.
Though we live in a mostly residential area there are a number of businesses along the route. Leaving my house (pictured here) the first place I pass is a small store just a half-block away which usually has three young men sitting on a bench playing checkers. One is the guard who has a AK-47 across his lap and the other two run the shop, but this day they were closed so I could not greet them. Now that they have seen me numerous times (the old, white-haired lady) they greet me with “Bonjour” or “Amahoro” (Kirundi greeting meaning “peace”). Around the first corner is the place to buy phone minutes, cigarettes and a few other items.
Around the next corner is the shoe-repair shop. The cobbler must be taking a break this morning. He is located just next to the earth pits filled with wood and covered with straw where someone is making charcoal.
Today someone has brought their cattle to graze along the road. While not unusual to see cattle, I don’t often see them off the main street in the neighborhood.
Next is the shipping container turned rice store where you can buy a twenty-five kilo sack of rice. They sell different kinds of rice, local, Tanzanian, Kenyan, as well as oil and sometimes sugar.
It is just next to the high school–Lycée Saint Esprit–for which the whole street is named. On school days there are many students in their uniforms of dazzling-white shirts and cobalt blue skirts or pants streaming in and out.
There is the local furniture-making shop. Every neighborhood has several of these. The workers here also wave and greet me now that they seem to know I live around here.
As the street descends down the hill often I can see Lake Tanganyika behind the local mosque and the clouds over the Congolese mountains on the other side. Today the sky is so blue the contrast is not apparent from this distance.
Continuing on I pass one of several places on this street where I could get a haircut but today they are closed.
Since there is no school today someone has brought some big-horned cattle into the elementary school yard to cut the grass.
At the end of the street is the local motorcycle wash. Today is Saturday, a popular day for washing bikes and tuk-tuks.
I cross the busy main street, walk another fifty yards and I arrive at my destination, Mutoyi.
Inside there is a large counter. On one end you order vegetables by telling the clerk how many kilos of carrots, tomatoes, onions or potatoes you want. At the other counter you can order meat, cheese, dry goods, coffee and juice. They give you a hand written slip of paper with the items you’ve ordered by code which you take to the cashier’s window and pay for. You bring back your receipt to the clerk, they check off the items and hand you your purchases. I’ve come early before it’s crowded and they have run out of vegetables.
On the way out you can stop at the bread counter for a loaf of bread or even an ice cream.
Now for the trek back up the hill to my house with a backpack of vegetables and a bag or two on my shoulders. I have not learned to carry things on my head.
As much as I’ve enjoyed these treks to Mutoyi they will come to an end shortly as we move to another location. For one month we will rent the guest house on the campus of the University before leaving for a conference and visit to the U.S. in June. When we return we will be renting in a different neighborhood. Also, we hope to finalize the purchase of a vehicle shortly, so we will be shopping at Mutoyi by car. What I have learned from this experience is how important it is for me to walk in my neighborhood with some regularity so that I can be familiar with it and vice-versa. I found this to be true in Malawi also. So I am looking forward to doing the same in our new neighborhood as well, even though we will be on an even steeper hill.