After a quick breakfast we started to understand in a very real way all the hills that make up this country. After getting out of the city of Kigali on our way to Musanze we went up and down, left and right, luckily I don’t get motion sick very much. Even outside of the busy metropolis people line the paved streets walking, taking motorcycle taxis and even bicycle taxis always carrying something. Women have learned perfect posture and how to balance anything on their head. Some with water, others branches for fire wood, and anything else you might think of that needs to go from one place to another. Another thing that struck me about today is the necessity of nothing wasted. As we drove we passed many farmers planting and harvesting food from the edges of the pavement in the grass. We saw pipes with water pouring out from the side of a mountain being filled with yellow jugs by children in school uniforms and women in beautifully colored long dresses. No land is wasted, no moments are wasted.
The entire ride we started planning and talking through every small detail of the group I’ll be leading next week. About half way to Musanze there was a great food stop that to many would seem like a random truck stop on the side of the road. It had a combination of breathtaking views and amazing food. We ate grilled potatoes and corn drinking some coke’s and enjoying the fresh air. The weather here is perfect. Thinking that I would be close to the equator I imagined incredibly high temperatures. Yet one of the reasons Rwanda has such good coffee is because of it’s tempered climate. Talking with Manu he told us the lowest it gets all year is 25 Celsius and the most would be around 35 Celsius. This not only makes for amazing weather while we are here but also a great climate for coffee to grow and mature developing exquisite flavors never freezing in the cold or burning in the hot.
After our snack we went to go see Pastor Charles who is one of the leaders of the Anglican Shyria Diocese. We saw the Cathedral and were given a quick tour around town. Including a potential location for a Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee Cafe. I quickly got visions of training the barista’s and getting to spend more time with these smiling joyful people. Soon after that we received a tour of Muhabura Integrated Polytechnic College. It’s a vocational school that focusses on job skills like hospitality. We saw a room in which they were practicing folding sheets and making hotel beds properly. There was also carpentry and other mechanical and engineering skills as well. We soon met Richard who was working on a gorgeous door whom the principal, Vital, described as a great carpenter. Each part of the campus is used with a purpose, nothing is wasted.
As we walked around we discussed how coffee and barista skills could improve the quality of life for the Rwandan people I began to choke up. Something we take for granted like me knowing how to operate this computer I’m typing on or the ability to create a latte can completely change their life. Today helped me to realize why Jonathan started this company with the idea that so many resources would be directed back to the Rwandan people.
Joy doesn’t describe their temperament well enough, love can’t grasp their attitude towards others, and seeing this hope one can only become slightly aware of the tug on your heart strings it feels like. We said good bye to the people at the vocational school and Pastor Charles in order to go see the children Jonathan calls his sons and daughter. They are for all intents and purposes his kids though not by blood. First we met Evey at Sunrise High School. He was a spark plug of a young man with excitement in his eyes as he ran to greet us. The language barrier never hindered us from connecting. Not because we always understood the words we were using but because we knew the intent. We soon began to play soccer in a rock filled front yard of the school with the acedemic master, Evey, Manu, Jonathan Jr (Jonathan’s oldest son), and Mike. Playing together brought us together.
We then went and toured the hotel I will be taking the group next week for 2 nights and had lunch. Meeting us there were Sophie and young Manu. Jonathan’s other 2 kids along with a friend named Peter. At lunch we talked about life in Rwanda as they taught us some Rwandan words. After lunch a soccer ball came back out community was formed. Not all of us were good, most especially me, I’m very bad. Yet it was the smiles that allowed me to see into their lives. Like Sophie, she was wearing a winter beanie and loved to show her teeth when she smiled. Young Manu we discovered can do flips and wants to do good by the people that believe in him. I was also able to learn a little karate from Manu who I still can’t tell if he’s serious when he tells us he has a black belt.
Before we left, hugged and said good bye, we were lead in prayer by Young Manu. He spoke in his native language and I have no idea the words he used but my spirit rejoiced. I felt peace, love, hope, community. A connection that doesn’t need words. We haven’t even seen our washing station or met a farmer. We haven’t picked a coffee cherry or cupped any coffee for quality assurance. Yet the people have stolen a piece of my heart that I never want back. I have been able to experience the country of Rwanda and the people. Knowing that agriculture is 90% of their economy according to Manu makes me believe the work being done in the coffee industry is of the utmost importance. If we can take the specialty coffee given to us, Mike can roast it to it’s best potential and I along with other LOTH employees can engage our customers and other people interested in coffee with quality of coffee and story, the people here will never be the same. And like them, I will never be the same.
Tomorrow we head up to Ruli and see our coffee washing station, meet the staff their and other farmers. Basically the coffee nerd in me is doing a happy dance and might never stop.