Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Shopping for Baby-Kigali style

Some of you have asked me what baby items are available in Kigali. I have been doing a bit of research on this for you and here is what I have found.

I priced out items at Nakumatt. This probably isn't the cheapest place to get baby supplies but it is going to be your most convienent place to get them. Nakumatt is sort of the closest thing we have to Walmart here in Rwanda. Don't get too excited. It is located right downtown in the Union Trade Center or UTC. You can't miss it. It's right at the top of the fountain round about. This is also were you will most likely go to exchange money.

A bit about that since some of you have asked. It is very easy to exchange money here. We use our visa or mastercard debit card at the Access Bank at UTC and basically debit if from our account. You can get Rwandan Francs this way. You can also request US dollars and then take them across the hall to the forex for a better rate. You will get about 597 RWF for each USD at the Forex. The exchange is not as good at the bank but it is less hassle. Keep in mind that they are going to withdrawal Euros so there will be additional charges on your account for that. You can use your debit card at some ATMs in town. We have not had luck with this and have friends who have been ripped off. Wouldn't really recommend it.

I would recommend bringing a few US one hundrend dollar bills with you. Make sure that they are crisp and 2006 or newer. Most places will only take RWF. Your hotel may take USD but I doubt debit or credit. Check with them when you book. A tour company (if you do a safari or something) would take USD as well. A few hundred will get you by until you can get to the bank and withdrawal more.

Now baby supplies-
Keep in mind that Emma is 4 so I have no experience with any of these products. I'm just looking at the shelf and seeing what is there. All my girlfriends here with babies use cloth diapers so I can't really speak to the quality of the diapers on the shelf. When we went to China to get Emma, we were told that the quality of the chinese diapers was terrible. So, what most families do to save luggage space is bring enough diapers for about 2 days and then plenty for the long flight home. We just used the local ones while at the hotel and around town. So glad we did. You might want to consider this plan too since the flight is very long and there is nothing worse than a blow out at 30,000 feet!

Here are the prices of some basic baby supplies:
Pampers Diapers 64 count 8-19kg=about $18.00US
Huggies Baby Wipes (I don't remember how many but not a very big package)=about $3.30US
Nestle Banana Infant Cereal 400g for 7months and up=about $6US
Formula 0-6months 800g=about $38.00
Formula 6 months and up 900g=about $45
Formula 6-12 months 400g=about $12
Baby food 12 months and up 250g (basic jar of baby food)=about $4.50

A few things that I brought to China that I'm sure would be useful here as well:
*Cheerios! Every kid loves cheerios. Emma was really sick when we got here and would only eat chinese noodles and cheerios. I put them in zip locks and then inside an art tube. The cheerios didn't get smashed and we used the tube later to bring home awesome art work.
*disposable bibs
*disposable placemats
*a baby carrier (ergo, etc)
*bottles with the drop in liners-this made it so much easier while traveling. I only had to clean the nipples in the hotel and on the flight home.
*bottle brush for cleaning the bottle nipples
*small rubbermaid bowl-something maybe shoebox sized. You will need to boil water in your hotel room. I used this in the sink with the boiled water to wash bottle nipples, spoons, bowls, etc. I also brought a travel size bottle of dish soap. you can use it for washing out clothes in the hotel as well. on the way home you can use the box to pack any fragile souveniors you bought!
*disposable spoons and bowls
*stacking cups are the best baby toy.

Also keep in mind that your baby is used to cloth diapers. You will want to bring gentle soaps and lotions.

I would also recommend some basic baby meds like infant tylenol, ear drops, teething tablets, infant liquid enema, etc. Emma was very constipated when we picked her up. We were so grateful that someone recommended enemas. I never would have thought of it! You can get most of these things here but it is not easy to find what you are looking for. Save yourself some stress and throw them in the suitcase. They are light and you will be happy you have them if you need them.

I mentioned La Sierra in most post about restaurants. It is also a fabulous little grocery shop. They have a pretty good supply of baby items there.
La Sierra is located near the Gorilla Roundabout downtown.

UTC is our "mall" you could say. It has Access Bank, Nakumatt, Bourbon Coffee, and several other shops. MTN, the main cell phone service, is located here as well. You can get a local sim card for your time here. Nakumatt is open 24hours if you have an emergency.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

How to spend a Saturday Morning in Kigali!

Our favorite way to spend a Saturday morning in Kigali is to take a little drive over to African Bagel Company. ABC is a co-op started by Robin and Rich a wonderful couple from Boston. It has been such a joy getting to know them...and their donuts! Each Saturday (except the last Saturday of the month) ABC serves hot delicious donuts. I'm talking the BEST donuts you have ever had. Way better than Krispy Creams.

It's not just about the donuts though. ABC has become the Saturday morning hang out for expats. It is the place to meet new friends and learn about the amazing work that people are doing here in Rwanda. It is our little piece of home I guess you could say.

In the past couple of weeks there have been some adoptive families coming to check it out. I think it is a must do during your visit. It is a perfect place to hang out especially with kids. They can run around in the yard, watch them make the donuts and sometimes there are even rabbits to hold. Emma's favorite part of the week is donut time.

They are open from 9am-2pm on Saturdays. Again, they are closed on the last Saturday of the month. They also serve hot pizzas for lunch. There are other things that you could also pick up to have in your hotel room: bagels, bagel chips and hummus, chips and salsa, chocolate chip cookies, natural peanut butter, etc.

Seriously, your kids and you will love this Kigali experience!

So Yummy! So Yummy! There's a party in my Tummy! So Yummy! So Yummy!

Emma loves "helping" the ladies make the donuts.
They are so sweet to let her hang out with them.

* Tell a Taxi that you would like to go to near the Kicukiro market.
* After the Kicukiro Market the District Office will be on your left.
* Take the 2nd Left. You will see a sign on the corner for ABC
* Once you make the turn, you can't miss it. There will be lots of cars parked on the road. Also looke for the red door above marked ABC!

Hope to see you there!!


We have been having a difficult time figuring out how to do our homestudy from here. Because Rwanda is in transition into a Hague country, there really isn't anyone who can do it yet. There seem to be 2 ways this could go. 1. the Ministry of Gender can drive across town and do our homestudy and USCIS will accept it for US Immigration purposes. 2. we will have to fly a SW in from Europe or the States at the cost of at least $3000.

I just got off the phone with the USCIS Hague office. They said that yes they will accept a homestudy completed by the Ministry as long as it is signed off by an approved agency. Yahoo!

However, she said that in the eyes of USCIS Rwanda is not yet a Hague country. So, she said that we should wait until they actually reopen to do the homestudy because if the date of the homestudy is when they were Non-Hague they won't accept it. Looks like we will need to wait until we return to Rwanda in August to do the homestudy.

At least we know for sure that they will take it. Now, I just have to beg the Ministry to do it!

Please be praying that this will work out.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Answer to Prayer!!

As I'm sure most of you reading this know, a month after we moved to Rwanda the Ministry stopped accepting dossiers. This was because they signed the Hague Agreement and needed to make changes to their system to meet all the requirements of that agreement. It was very discouraging at the time. Things typically move slowly here in Africa and we anticipated that they would not reopen for a couple of years. Over the last few months we have tried to stay current with what is going on at the Ministry and have even researched adoption programs of neighboring countries.

One of the huge changes for us with the process is that we will now need to go through an agency instead of being able to adopt independantly. I started researching the handful of agencies in the States who have Rwanda programs and became encouraged. We were planning to gather documents for our dossier when we are in the States this summer thinking that Rwanda may reopen in 9-12 months. We thought we could get a jump on a few things. Then, I started to get more and more positive information about the program. I finally called Children of All Nations (CAN) adoption agency. I was telling them our plan to work on things this summer and the wonderful woman I spoke with told me that the Ministry told them they plan to reopen in June or July. Now this is Africa so let's just be real and say August or September. Either much sooner than we thought! CAN is the only agency I found that is actually accepting applicants right now. They said that we could apply now, start working on our dossier and have it done and ready to submit when Rwanda reopens. Hopefully, we will be at the front of the line this time!

So, we completed the application Thursday night and were accepted on Friday. We are officially Paper Pregnant once again! I find it hard to believe that we are actually, finally starting another paperchase after all this time.

The big thing that we need to figure out is our homestudy. When expats have adopted in the past, the Ministry has sent a social worker to the house to do a homestudy. We are praying that this will still be the case. It will save us, I'm guessing, $2-3000 if we can have a Ministry SW come to the house instead of flying in a SW from Europe. I am planning to go to the Ministry this week sometime to find out what we need to do. Please be praying that we can do this all through the Ministry.

And...I promise that I have not forgotten about the shopping post. I have been gathering info about baby products and pricing. I will have everything for you soon!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Helpful Tips for Traveling Families!!

I am so excited that referrals are finally starting to appear and even more excited that familes are traveling. I met a wonderful family at church this morning who just adopted a beautiful baby boy. I'm pretty sure that I gave this little guy massages in the past. He looked very familiar. And, their little girl was from the same provience in China as Emma. What a small world we live in!

I was thinking that it would be a good time to give some of you some tips on things to do in Kigali with kids while you are here. Meeting them this morning, motived me to get busy. So, all of you who are about to travel or who are going crazy and need something to keep your mind occupied while waiting for an email or phone call...this is for you!


There are so many fabulous restaurants in Kigali. The big thing to remember with kids in Africa is that you could easily end up waiting an hour or more for your food. Be prepared with little ones to have something to keep them occupied. An ipad, itouch, or iphone works great! Or, sometimes we bring coloring books, story books, small card games, etc. It depends on how old your kids are. You can't be too prepared. We have waited 2 hours for lunch before! Not fun when it runs over nap time.

If you are planning on dinner, remember that most restaurants here close between lunch and dinner. Most of them don't reopen until 6pm. Ask at your hotel if they know the times or if they can call for you if you plan to go out earlier than that. We like to get to a place right when it opens to save on the wait time. Most restaurants have outdoor dinning as well so remember to bring a light sweater or a scarf you bought that day at the craft market. It doesn't hurt to put a bit of bug spray on your ankles either. I usually wear long pants at night to dinner because of the cold and bugs.

I am putting the neighborhood in Kigali that the restaurant is located too so that you can easily communicate where you are going to a taxi driver.

Here are a few of our favorites that are near downtown:

Africa Bite in Kimihurura-If you want to try the local cuisine, go to Africa Bite for lunch. It has a great buffet for a great price. We love taking Emma here because you don't have to wait! They also have an open yard for her to play in when she starts to get restless. She loves the food so I'm sure your kids will, too.
Mambo Club in Kimihurura-This place is every kids dream! You pay 1,000RWF to enter the club. This gives you access to a playground for the kids, beach volleyball, and a basketball court. They also have a kiddie pool and a full size pool for 1,000RWF for kids and 2,000RWF for adults. The buffet is Rwandan food and usually a western dish as well. On Sunday's they have a great brunch buffet. The price is also very reasonable.

Flamingo in Kimihurura-great food. great price. Spring rolls and sweat and sour pork are super.
Zen in Nyarutarama-This is our favorite. It is a bit on the pricey side but it has an incredible atmosphere. Maybe a great place for a final date before you get your little wonder. Matt loves the sushi and I love the duck rolls! It's a bit more on the Thai side of asian I would say. It is also out of downtown a bit so about a 15 min taxi ride to get there. Closed on Mondays.

Zaafran in Kiyovu-This place is fantastic! And-they deliver! So, if you are in your hotel right now and you really don't feel like going out for dinner, call them up! Make sure to tell them if you like mild, medium or hot! I recommend the garlic and cheese nan along with Murg-e-Malai (cashew chicken) and Subzi Taka Tin (vegetables with flaffel.) The coconut fish is great, too. We haven't taken Emma here but they are pretty quick with your order so most kids would probably do fine.

American (I say that loosely!)
Heaven in Kiyovu-This is fantastic food! You will not be disappointed although it is on the pricey side. It's about 7,000RWF for a meal at night but so worth it! Again, this would be a great night out before you have your little one. They actually do a dinner buffet and a movie w/popcorn on most Saturday nights. It's a great date night! There is a small art gallery attached as well as locally made crafts for sale.
Republika in Kiyovu-If you are in the mood for steak, this is the place to find it! Great food as well as a fantastic shop downstairs. The brochettes and garlic potatoes are great, too!
Cafe' Bourbon downtown in the UTC-If you are wishing that there was a Starbucks around the corner from your hotel, this is the closest thing we have. It has a very western feel. In fact, we call it Mzungu Central because it is usually full of westerners. Emma's favorite things are the Very Berry Smoothy and the chicken fingers. If you have kids who are craving something familiar, you might want to pop in here for lunch. And, get yourself a yummy iced coffee or carmel mochiato Mommy!
La Sierra downtown near Gorilla Roundabout-great price. They have a buffet for lunch and a take away deli type bar where you can grab egg rolls, samosas, burritos, pancakes, waffles, etc. Great grilled cheese, too. Best potatoe and tortilla chips in town! Very kid friendly food and it is close to all the major hotels downtown. You could easily grab someting and take it back to the hotel if you wanted some time in while the baby is napping.

Middle Eastern
Shokola in Kiyovu-amazing atmosphere! You realy feel like you are in the middle east. The food is not all middle eastern though. There is a pretty large menu with some mexican dishes as well. There is an open area where the kids like to play while waiting.

O Sole Luna in Kacyiru-Great Pizza! If you have been to Italy, this pizza will remind you of your time there. It is a bit out of the downtown area so it will take you about 10-15 minutes by cab. Worth it though if you want pizza. They have take away if you call ahead.

Those are all places we have been to and I can personally say are great. Now there are many other fabuous places to eat in Kigali. Some that friends would recommend are:

Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant in Remera
New Cactus in Kiyovu-french food and pizzas. I think you can do take away pizza here if you call ahead.
Chez Robert in Kiyovu right by Mille Collines-mix of continental dishes

So, hopefully that will keep you busy and full during your time in Kigali.

Next time...Shopping!!