Dancing Pots

By  Amy Dempsey February 3, 2011

My Canadian accent made a street full of Rwandans think I was crazy. It's the fleeting travel encounters that are unforgettable.

“I’m looking for Dancing Pots.”

The woman’s face scrunched into confused wrinkles. She either had no idea what I was saying or no idea what I was looking for.

“It’s a pottery store.” I said. “A place that sells pottery? Dancing pots.”

She shook her head.

“You don’t know it? Okay, thank you. Uh, murakoze.”

I continued down the narrow road in Kigali’s Nyarugengenge district. I was on a mission to find – you guessed it – Dancing Pots. It’s a shop that sells traditional pottery made by the Batwa, Rwanda’s minority ethnic group.

My directions said the shop was near Le Cercle Sportif. But I was standing right in front of the sport complex and saw no sign of it.

I asked a man sweeping the sidewalk, a woman fanning herself on a street corner, and a man balancing a small washing machine on his head. I asked everyone I saw. Some people raised their eyebrows, some smirked, others looked at me like I was crazy.

I tried different enunciations. I tried a poorly constructed French sentence. I tried gestures – hands in the air to demonstrate “dancing” and one hand removing the imaginary cover of an imaginary pot to demonstrate “pots.” It was silly but I was getting desperate.

Finally I found two young teenage boys who spoke English. Sweet relief.

“Dancing Pots?” I asked hopefully.

They laughed.

“It’s a pottery store,” I explained for what felt like the hundredth time.

The boys spoke to each other in Kinyarwanda and repeated what I said over and over. They looked around, giggled, looked at me, giggled, and shrugged.

“Dancing pots?” I repeated. I felt like a parrot. A dumb parrot.

The boys looked at each other and laughed harder. Finally one of them asked, “Party?”

“No, no,” I said. “POT-TER-Y. Like… plates and bowls and…mugs?”

“Pottery! Yes, okay!” said the second boy. “We thought you said party.”

Dancing party. Oh.

It was 2 o’clock on a Monday afternoon and I made a street full of Rwandans think I was looking for a dance party.

The boys led me down the road to Dancing Pots, which turned out to be inside of a residential home. As we walked I passed all the people I had asked for directions.

They grinned at me and I smiled sheepishly.

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