The group is coming! I have heard from Jonathan that the 8 people I will lead next week has arrived in Brussels and will arrive in Kigali tomorrow evening. I still can’t believe I’ve been here almost a week. Time certainly flies when you’re having fun. Today was mostly a day or preparation although Mike and I did have a great experience at dinner in a local spot that didn’t speak much english. We got a great meal of Pizza (because what country doesn’t love pizza) and watching the World Cup. It’s still strange to me to be 6 hours ahead of EST. I called my wife before dinner and she didn’t have lunch yet.
After waking up to an amazing view of Lake Kivu we got some delicious breakfast. Fresh fruit, a cheese omelet “real” coffee aka not Instant. We then got to listen to Manu explain the history of coffee in Rwanda. Before the genocide it wasn’t very good and didn’t get much money. This is mostly due to the processing method. It is known as ordinary coffee. The farmers would process it themselves using whatever methods they could. After the genocides individuals from the University of Michigan and Texas came to Rwanda and taught them how to produce “Specialty Coffee” they now have using the fully washed method I explained a few days ago when I was able to go to our washing station on Ruli Mountain. This has been able to impact the whole economy, even the government helped to produce the Bourbon variety of coffee tree to help farmers excel and export coffee. Currently the country buying the most coffee from Rwanda is Switzerland followed closely by the US.
After hearing Manu talk about the history of coffee we made our way back to Kigali where we began to prepare for the group. We have checked into our hotel apartments, bought extra mattresses and then we did some coffee excellence research at the National Agriculture Export development Board (NAEB). We recently received a sample of coffee still in the parchment (a thin layer encompassing the green coffee bean, almost like an egg shell). We had it milled and then sent to be roasted so we can taste it on Wednesday with the group coming into town. I’m continually amazed at the work that goes into bringing us quality coffee. Each time I think the work is over, it isn’t. The last few days have brought that more into focus especially today watching a few guys sort the coffee we will taste on Wednesday.
First they milled it and then started to sort by screen size. This is basically when you have a screen with a certain size hole, the coffee that is too small will fall through and then you know how big the coffee bean is. Next they touched each and every bean making sure they sorted out all of the possible defects associated with coffee. The most common defect in Rwanda is known as the potato defect. This is mostly infected by a spore that is able to get into a cherry when it has a hole dug in it by a bug or insect. It produces a very unsatisfying aroma and flavor, mostly like a potato, hence the name. After watching our coffee be prepared we headed back to the hotel and had a great meal. The people of Rwanda continue to amaze me. On the way back from dinner we met Lucien. He is the security guard working the night shift. When he is not working he is studying mechanical engineering at University in Kigali. I asked him when he sleeps and he said he tries but most of the time he can’t. This also reflects the attitude Manu told us today. That in Rwanda they work hard and they know that is rewarded, he told us this after a man sorting the coffee mentioned he hadn’t eaten since breakfast (it was around 3pm at the time). Weather it is with food, education, or money, they are rewarded for their hard work even if the results only come from God in heaven.
I couldn’t imagine working a 12 hour shift as a guard, maybe sleeping and then going to class. I couldn’t imagine not eating lunch because I was sorting coffee seeds and preparing them for export. I can’t imagine loving more than these people love. Mike and I talked with Lucien and mentioned the different countries we had been to, mostly on vacation. Yet each of us could easily say Rwanda is our favorite. Not because we were talking with a Rwandan but because we have experienced something here that can’t be explained with poetical words or even a picture. Rwanda is a land of thousands of hills and unbiased love. Part of me wants to keep this experience for myself, to continue to meet with people and not have to show a group around. Yet the things I feel and experience are not meant for me alone. they need to be shared and known by the world. My hope with a group coming is that I am able to help them see and experience this formation of community. Coffee is what brings us together but love will ensure we are never separated.