the things they carry

on a bicycle (on a shelf at the back behind the driver):

-people (men straddling, ladies side-saddle, either holding on to the seat for balance or carrying something else themselves.)
-goats (alive but strapped down so they can’t kick)
-chickens (also alive and strapped and, like the goats, often held by the passenger)
-100kg rice sacks full of charcoal or potatoes or sugar or cassave flour or you name it (so heavy and laterally balanced it’s a wonder the bicycle doesn’t tip over in a turn)
-red crates of beer or soda (as manay six at a time, though usually just two)
-silver canisters of milk (maybe 3ft tall)
-jerry cans of water or petrol (these are yellow 20 liter jugs that are strapped to the side of the bicycle rather than stacked like the crates)
-bananas (big green bunches of bunches cut from the tree, perhaps 2 or 3 feet long altogether. one bicycle will often carry several of these to or from the market)
-pretty much any fruit or vegetable you can imagine, in large quantities
-corrugated steel roofing panels (rolled into a 15ft-long tube and strapped somehow vertically, such that the whole ensemble – bicycle, driver, and tube – is 16ft tall and brushes low-hanging tree branches)
-furniture (i once saw three handmade armchairs and a coffee table all on one bike)
-any combination of any of the above
note: only men drive bicycles in rwanda

on their heads (with a small donut-shaped ring of banana leaf as a cushion):

-baskets (tall decorative ones, wide functional ones, full of fruit or vegetables usually)
-just one of some of things they carry on bicycles in larger quantities: yellow jerry cans, red soda crates, silver milk canisters, white rice sacks, green banana bunches (though i really have no idea how they balance these lopsided bunches)
-bags (could be big rice sacks, could be shopping bags, could be duffel bags or knapsacks like we would wear on our backs but they balance them on their heads instead)
-farming equipment (notably hoes, the heavy metal end of which rests just behind the skull, the wooden handle sticking a few feet out in front)
-big bundles of sticks for firewood
note: more often than not its women carrying stuff on their heads (except for the really heavy stuff). they walk with a swing of the hips to balance the weight and will stop to have full-out conversations without dropping anything.

on their backs:

-babies (women strap them on with a cloth around the waist and the baby’s little feet stick out at her hips, its head between her shoulder blades. if it’s hot they’ll often carry an umbrella or drape another cloth to protect the child from the sun. they’ll carry babies like this even onto mini-buses where they lean forward so as not to squish them)

banana hats bicycle man potatoes on the head, baby on the back

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~ by aliciawolcott on November 9, 2008.

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