Sunday, May 31, 2009

Three posts in one due to poor internet access

Many of your know I have supported Heifer International for over 20 years and I was very excited to meet Charles Stewart at a hotel on Friday. He is the past Chairman of the Board of Heifer International. We talked about the projects in Rwanda and he introduced me to another Charles, the Heifer Rwanda Director who invited us to tour some of the project in June. The government gave many rural families cows but did not train them on the proper care and use of the animals and those projects were not very successful. The Rwandan Department of Agriculture has asked Heifer to take over those projects and teach their sustainability methods. As with many things, EDUCATION is the key! They are teaching people to be more than subsistence farmers and a few projects have 15-20 people working at the dairy farm coops. They are selling milk, cheese, and yogurt so they can to buy more cows, continue to employ local people and expand.
Several of these local Dairy Cooperatives are part of the East Africa Dairy Development Project that was initially funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. There are so many linkages between non-profits, the government and foundations in Rwanda and they are all working to improve the economy and standard of living for all.

Food and Entertainment
I have been experimenting with different foods and on Friday night I ate at a local hot spot called CARWASH. They specialize in Kenyan BBQ and I had slow roasted goat. It will not be high on my list of things to have again. Overall, meat tastes very different here due to the animals diet. So far I have liked chicken and Tilapia dishes but not much else. I have found a wonderful lunch buffet at HAPPY RWANDA that is filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, beans rice and sometimes pasta. They always have Tilapia and a meat dish as well. You can’t beat the price at about $7.50 for all you can eat.
On Saturday night we ate at a restaurant call HEAVEN. It is a beautiful place overlooking the city and they have movie night on Saturdays. We watched Iron Man on a big screen (there are no movie theatres in Rwanda) and after dinner ate popcorn. I had dinner there with the Cultural Attaché at the American Embassy and although Rwanda does not have any movie theatres, they will have a film festival in June where they will take documentaries out to the villages and show them on equipment with generators they will carry from place to place. It will culminate with a showing of the films in Kigali at several outdoor venues. If anyone is interested in starting a business, entertainment would be a good one in Kigali.
I had my first hamburger that night and it will also not be on my repeat list. It was about $15.00 and I cannot describe the taste. One thing is universal; all food is expensive whether in grocery stores or restaurants.

Church in Rwanda
I have attended a few different churches and in two of them I was the only white person in a sea of Black. The services were one hour and 45 minutes to two hours long with two in Kinyarwandain and one in French. I have not found one in English yet but all had uncomfortable wooded benches. When I asked my new Rwandan friends about the length of the service, they laughed and said this was short in Rwandan standards because they usually last 3-4 hours every Sunday and the wooden benches are your penance!
There is much signing, clapping, arm waving and finger pointing by the priest; it is a much more emotional experience than Mass in CA. I returned to the original Eglise of Norte Dame today for Pentecost and although I did not understand any of the words, the Spirit was there. I noticed my response to the drumming was on several different levels. Drumming is part of the church service but also everyday life. I think Marc was onto something when he had us drum until our beat was one.
As I walked back to the apartment I thought about the experience and decided I found my new congregation. If I can feel welcomed as I did today without understanding anything, I believe that is where I belong.
We have a busy week ahead with a meeting with the Educational Minister and three school visits to develop best practices for the Akilah Institute. I will also meet with the Orphans of Rwanda Director, and I may be able to do some work with them while I am here and spend time with children.

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