Reflecting on Change

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s kind of weird, the time with our coffee and community partners is basically over and yet we don’t leave for two days. Currently I am sitting at our hotel that backs up to Lake Kivu. I was thinking myself why would we even go to the lake let alone stay there for a day and a half. It didn’t take me long to see why however. One of the newest partnerships taking shape within the company is with a vocational school in Musanze. Rwanda has seen what many Americans are beginning to, that paying a bunch of money for schooling that doesn’t get you a job doesn’t help. Yet if we can teach the skills of the workforce they will be able to obtain a job that will provide and not spend time learning things they either won’t use or lose money in the process. One of the first things we see a need for are desks at the school we helped to build/visited yesterday. What better place to build these desks than a school that is teaching carpentry. There have also been other discussions of a coffee track teaching them agronomy, processing, roasting, and barista skills (that I definitely volunteer to teach).

As we toured it seemed like we were getting to know more of the issues facing Rwanda. Yes they are still working towards total liberation from genocide ideology, but 20 years later and many strides taken people are asking tough questions like where does education play a role in our future? How can I make sure that Rwanda is seen as a place of peace? I get the sense that every citizen feels an obligation for foreigners to have a good experience here. Some might have the idea that we bring with us access to money and can spend some on hand crafts and other things but I get the sense that people here feel as if they have a personal responsibility to make sure Americans return to their country and advocate for their others to come and see. That’s what we do as a company, we have experienced this great joy and now invite others to come, see, and know the story they are a part of is not only real but essential to the human condition.

We soon got to the hospitality school where they were preparing a snack for us. The call it chapapi and it was like a potato pancake with onions, salt, and butter. They were the talk of the day. This was what hospitality is all about. If we were giving out grades I don’t think we had a single person that would give them less than 100%. It was savory, a little sweet and melted as we chewed. As we were leaving a group of Australians came in for a snack as well. They were from Sydney and were there teaching and exploring Rwanda. When we stepped outside we noticed sprouts of green onion right next to the sidewalk. The student cooking casually walked out, plucked a few from the ground and walked back in to make more of the food. It just added to my theory that nothing is wasted here.

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We changed gears about after learning our next excursion was a bit more expensive than originally intended and wanted to get a better look at the nearby volcano’s made famous mostly for their gorilla expeditions. When we got there a few people from a near by “traditional village” came out to great us an invited us to experience what life was like in Rwanda many years ago. We wanted to continue to experience the culture so we walked on in. Soon there was more dancing, more singing, and even a few members of our group were made King and Queen.

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On the way back to Musanze before making our final destination at Kivu we made another market stop. I’ve discovered this group likes to shop and I like to explore a little bit so it’s worked out nicely. There’s something different about knickknacks and crafts in Rwanda. Not only are they pretty darn cool but they are also able to help boost the economy and tourism as an industry here. We also get to hear amazing stories like that of a vendor who takes women from prostitution or other life threatening area’s of life and teaches them skills as he sells their items.

I can’t stop being amazed at this place, I know am I at this lake to reflect, but to also renew my spirit before heading back home after being gone about 2.5 weeks. I don’t know how transitioning back to american life will be, it could be rough for a bit. But I imagine my life will have new purpose. It will have a renewed sense of love for the coffee I make and people I serve. It can sometimes be easy to be frustrated and stressed with a situation I find myself in, but while I’ve been here minor instances of long to-do lists seem to be that, minor. The hard working people of Rwanda have given me a new heart, again. I hope to take this knowledge and experience and invite them to come and see. Maybe not in the country, but I would argue some things can only be learned here and not in the US. I would also invite them to come and see the difference in my life and taste and see their coffee is good. Coffee can go away, it can be destroyed by disease or fire but the bonds of brotherhood formed here are not going away.

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