We have less than 24 hours until we are on a plane headed back eventually to US soil and back into my loving wife’s arms. While I do have very sad feelings about this today was a day of rejoicing on the things we have experienced and can’t forget. The morning started before my alarm. Which has been interesting, it’s like my body wants to get started before the rest of me each day. Taking my breakfast by the lake I was entirely amazed and what has transpired for more than 2 weeks. Soon I was joined by Eric. Eric is a citizen of 3 countries. Born in Uganda, with family from Rwanda he came over after the genocides before living in the US for the last 6 years and became a citizen. He worked in some capacity with the Rwandan Government so I began to ask him about the transition of a violent Rwanda to the peaceful, joyful one we see today.
Once the war was over Eric came to Rwanda and was able to see the transition within government first hand. From the very beginning of the non-genocide regime, unity was desired. They knew they needed to be one country from the top to the bottom.
This was a relaxing day. Manu reserved us a boat to go to coffee island but we had a minor detour to another washing station first. We went to Ingoboka, which is where we tasted coffee from at the beginning of the trip. We walked around and saw some parchment drying. Some of it nearing the end of it’s drying was significantly lighter in weight than the coffee near by that still had some drying to do. We walked around the coffee plantation and I could visibly see the difference in expected quality in the trees producing on this lake. Being at a lower elevation they matured quicker and had less time to develop flavors. This means that the harvest starts earlier and they had more green cherries for their second harvest coming in a few months.
After exploring the washing station we headed nearby with our boat to coffee island. Manu told us that they story behind this island is that people were living there in very bad conditions leaving their children with little security and a very dangerous working commute. So the government helped to move the people from the island and planted more coffee trees while helping to relocate them to safer territory. The policies to help the people seem so simple here. In the US we make things so complicated, so much red tape and people to jump through that many have not seen congress do much lately. Yet in Rwanda they see an issue and solve it the best way they can even helping the people relocate homes in order to be safe and give them more economic improvement.
We played a lot of games when we got back to our resort. Card games have a way of bringing a group together. Once the games were over, well, suspended. We spent some time in reflection over this last week. It’s been emotional, so many things have happened and it’s been my experience that when a significant trip like this occurs a person needs to begin to process what has happened to avoid hardship when reintegrating to “normal” life in the US. The time spent reflecting on the genocide memorial, cupping lab, Ruli, Mbilima, Liberation celebration, Akagera, Church, Forgiveness school, Vocational School, Traditional Village, Kivu, it was a ton of things to do. I wish I had words, maybe on the plane ride home I’ll be able to write a poem or somehow put into words what this trip has meant. A significant question I asked the group at the end of our discussion is “ now that you know what you know, now that you’ve experienced what you have, what are you going to do about it?” My answer comes down to 2 main things. One is that the people work here so incredibly hard and we can have a tremendous impact on their lives by simply creating great experiences for our customers. So the frustrations that might come with being a barista don’t seem so significant when you have seen the children and farmers I am affecting by making sure those frustrations don’t get the best of me. Next is telling this story. I told the group that now they are our ambassadors and they are Rwanda’s ambassadors. It is up to us to go back to the states and explain that the stereotypes aren’t true. Rwanda is a place of peace,forgiveness and love. Rwanda has taken my heart and reshaped it into more of a complete being.
When I return home I will better be able to write a reflection on the whole trip but for now, let me assure you that this is a place that must be experienced. It must be known to the world. My joy will be to share that with you.