I AM IN RWANDA NOW!!!
Here are a few pics. I’ll share more in a week or two when I’ve got good Wi-Fi again and a lot more details once I’m home when I’ll have time and Wi-Fi.
The land of ‘milles collines’ or a thousand hills. You can just make out Kigali (capital of Rwanda) and Huye (in the Southern Province)…I’m heading north on Saturday to see volcanoes, gorillas and more.
Azizi Life Experience – this is the best way to experience village life in Rwanda.
During 2007/08, Food for the Hungry partnered w/ Rwandan government to help train and promote small businesses within the rural communities of southern Rwanda. This cultural experience is a result, you sign up to visit a village about an hour outside Kigali for a day and learn to make crafts or banana juice. I opted for the latter.
I arrived at my host Alice’s home (or compound is a better description) – a traditional one floor dwelling built of “earth blocks” made from local mud, packed dirt floors, and a few rooms off the “courtyard” inc. a couple stalls for cows, pit latrine, and area for cooking – where fires are made and pots stored. It was simple, but lovely (well, maybe not the latrine). Outside one window were coffee trees and when I walked around the back found a beautiful view of a green canopy draped across hills.
Around midday we walked to where Alice’s family (her mother and younger sister now) own a section of a hill where they grow produce inc. bananas. This plot was reached by a somewhat difficult 30-minute hike through vegetation on a thin slippery trail under intense sun. They used to live by the land, but the government moved them to an area less suspect of mudslides (a big problem in many rural areas of this country). I helped harvest bananas (essentially hacked at a banana tree) and then we went back to Alice’s home for lunch. We filled our plates and sat on wooden benches around a low table covered with bowls of beans, avocado, and cassava.
October 23 was my first full day in Rwanda, and I spent most of it on a walking tour of the crowded and lively Nyamirambo neighborhood (oldest area in town). I’d heard about the tour, run by a self-help group called the Nyamirambo Women’s Centre, from some folks who spent time here and am so glad I did it! It was an interesting time to be there, because the small market has closed and another larger clothing oriented market has been temporarily relocated there. Businesses are being required to rebuild to conform to a unifying look, and so there is a lot of change right now (this is the story pretty much around the country). Best parts of the tour, meeting the ladies who sew and stitch (I’m bringing home so many bags!!), getting a peek at everyday life here, and meeting the children (school break) – my guide new many and so I got a lot of hugs. Lunch was delicious – one of the best meals I’ve had since arriving – was made by Amintha, who used to cook for an Indian family, and was it good! Traditional vegetarian meal (meat is a luxury for most Rwandan families) – Dodo (cassava leaf dish), Beans, Green Bananas (cooked), Sweet Potatoes (cooked), and Cassava (never had it this way before – eaten like a potato/big piece of bread).
I’m eating an avocado a day here. They are big, fresh, and delicious! On the not as healthy, but also so good side I’m eating my fair share of pomme frites and drinking Coca Cola (helps settle the stomach and provides sometimes needed calories).
Learning a lot about the country’s history and culture. One day in Huye I went with my coffee tour guide Pascal to the King’s Palace Museum, where I learned about the kings of Rwanda who ruled from the 15th – 20th centuries.
Scenes from coffee country. We visited a coopearative of farmers – the original place of specialty coffee production promotion in Rwanda, coffee washing stations,, visited a farm, and participated in a cupping.
I played guinea pig for Huye Mountain Coffee’s future coffee bike/hiking tour. So much fun!!! We didn’t do the bike part (next time), but I hiked to the top of the mountain (rd-trip about an hour) and sat in the “king’s chair” – carved into the rock (naturally?) it is where the king would sit and plan his battle strategy. I just enjoyed it for the view.