Monday, July 5, 2010

Rwandan Fourth of July

Dale Jackson - Murika/Koinonia

It's quite a coincidence that Rwanda celebrates their Liberation Day on the 4th of July, that bittersweet day only 16 years ago when the RPF forces brought an end to the 10,000-person/day slaughter and restore some semblance of peace to a demolished nation. My wife and I squeezed into the PACKED stadium yesterday (not exaggerating, people smashed shoulder to shoulder, sitting on each others' feet, many in each others' laps) for ceremonies with the president, ministers, distinguished guests, and various military exercises, comedy troupes, dancers, and performers. Happy Fourth!

Rwanda has rewarded us with many such cultural experiences that we are all too eager to participate in: new foods such as green banana stew, pili pili HOT pepper sauce (served from an eye dropper), Rwandan meatballs, and fresh Rwandan milk, cheeses, and yogurts. The land is incredibly fertile, easily supporting Africa's highest population density and producing succulent fruits and vegetables that have double or triple the flavor of America's mass produced, highly engineered and modified "food." And so much of it that it is practically free! Two huge, unbelievably sweet and juicy pineapples for $1, anyone? Pounds of passion fruits, avocados, bananas, papayas, for .10 or .20 cents per pound??? One oddity, chicken is very expensive, while organic grass fed filet mignon can be had from the butcher for less than $4/lb.

Besides food, and shopping for it at the wild all-barter-system local markets, we've tracked gorillas (saw a forest elephant on the way), watched open air world cup matches with thousands of locals, rode Kigali's mass transit system (on the back of a motorcycle taxi), floated around one of the world's most beautiful lakes in a tree-trunk canoe, and countless other experiences. One I would have preferred to avoid: giardiasis, a tenacious intestinal infection usually picked up through tap water or unsanitary conditions. After a week of havoc, I ended the abdominal party with a good old blast of Western medicines.

On the work front (in case it sounds like I'm having too much fun, fear not, have still been putting in full days and many evenings), I've been learning to operate in a new working culture and business environment. My team is great, we do well together, but random power outages that shut down our internet and computer network as we try to build a networked software system? The power was out EVERY day last week, leaving us looking for more menial projects to fill our time. Also of note, the Minister of Labor decided to call a national public holiday.....the night before!! So much for urgent fast-paced business at this point, but we are doing just fine and Rwanda presents an exhilarating abundance of business opportunities.....for those who learn to roll with it.

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