Tuesday, Jock and I took off for Kigali for a full day of meetings and business. Not my "normal" way to go to work, suit, heels, makeup, and jumping in my air conditioned vehicle to head to the Strip. Instead, I'm decked out in hiking boots, jeans and a motorcyle jacket and helmet. I did manage to still get on the makeup even though no one here wears makeup and Jock has put a time limit for this "Muzungu" to truly embrace Africa. Hey, a girl's got to be a girl!
Luckily the rain was intermittant. The road between Ruhengeri and Kigali is 100k of steep winding climbs and wicked pot hole descents. You never know when a person or a goat will step out into your line of travel. The pot holes are actually doubling as swimming pools for the locals. Jock again filmed portions of the ride which looks like we're part of a Bourne action flick. My loved ones will NEVER view this video. I felt remarkably safe, however, it was high alert the entire one and half hours into Kigali. My 5'8", long legged body looked like a praying mantis on the back of that BMW.
Kigali is a city with throngs of people everywhere. It's beautiful in its own Third World way. Our first stop, SPREAD. Did I mention Rwanda has the highest concentration of NGO's in Africa? It is an alphabet soup of acronyms. I believe SPREAD is an organization which is part of or receives money from USAID which are both NGO's where nothing happens ASAP. Welcome to aid in Rwanda.
At SPREAD, Jock and I met with Pierre Celestin Habyaramana, a pineapple farmer in Butare who purchased 20 bikes for his cooperative.
After the sale we headed to Bourbon MTN. Bourban Cafe is the go to meeting place in Kigali. There's Bourbon MTN, Bourbon UTC. We love our acronyms! We ran into an American who is currently head of the RDB (Rwandan Development Board) and Paul Kagame's right hand man. He was brought into Rwanda to assist the President in bringing Rwanda into the foreign investment game. I cannot reveal his name because unfortunately there are several major events about to come down which will move this country in one direction or another. It is a major turning point politically. Was I just selling food two weeks ago in Las Vegas?
A few business meetings later, I was introduced to Suzanne, a Brit, and dear friend of Jock's. She is an interior designer who read Bishop to Rwanda, about Bishop John and his place in the history of the Genocide, and decided she would move to Rwanda. I believe there is a pattern developing here, 40 something women, no children, at this point blondes, read an article or book and pick up and move to Rwanda. Are we missing something in our lives that would cause us to go to such extremes? Is it the hair dye?
Next stop, Bourbon UTC to meet with Nicole from Bizarre Places. The Andrew Zimmerman show Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel is expanding to include Bizarre Places and they have chosen Rwanda and will be featuring Team Rwanda and Project Rwanda in an upcoming episode. They will be filming May 24th in Ruhengeri.
My last stop of the day Jock and I parted ways and I headed over to meet Matt Mitro and Ben Stone from Indego Africa http://www.indegoafrica.org/. They are the founders of this incredibly efficient, results producing organization that helps woman sell their handicrafts in the international market place. They have expanded their program to include computer and business training. They are the epitome of the effectiveness of a Hand Up Program. Rwanda does not need anymore Hand Out Programs, or anymore acronyms for that matter.
We talked about their work, their passion for the women of Rwanda. Ben has taken some amazing photos and has found his second calling as a photographer. Both of these men were large firm attorneys and friends from college. They had a moment very early on where they questioned the status quo of life. Thankfully for these Rwandan women they did! As we talked over beers and quesadillas and sliders I realized that I could be sitting at any American restaurant doing the same thing, until Ben pointed out the rat running along side the area to the kitchen. Well, it could have been a Taco Bell in NYC.
My ride home that evening...let's just say I've truly embraced the No Fear mantra. In Africa, when you control your fear you experience the most amazing things. I've never seen darkness that black or stars that radiant or been so in tune with where I was, on the back of a motorcycle racing down the winding mountain roads thinking about my day.....
Am I really here, doing this, with these people?