Thursday, September 20, 2007

Great article in NYT

Take a look at this New York Times article, To Burundi and Beyond for Coffee's Holy Grail about the budding specialty coffee markets, roasting companies, and projects going on all over - including Africa.
Mentions Bikes to Rwanda as Stumptown Coffee project! Exciting stuff.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Ride for Rwanda - Saturday in D.C.

Counter Culture Coffee together with friends from Murky Coffee, Revolution Cycles, Big Bear Cafe & Baked and Wired are all getting together to celebrate the new training space and raise some awareness and a little cash for Bike to Rwanda.

Event begins with a ride - Check in at 3:30pm, Ride at 4pm
Party to follow 7-10pm
1836 Columbia Road NW, Suite 202 - D.C.

Sounds like a blast. Thanks to everyone behind this. Can't wait to hear how it goes!

Three cheers for Counter Culture and all their support!!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Kiyosike Intashya

The Bike Shop -
After three visits up to the washing station I was able to work on negotiations for the remaining particulars to get the bike shop business up and running. We were figuring out the best and most effective accountability for the coop with regard to ownership of the parts, tools and the business as a whole. We will be splitting the cost of the interior build out. This will be fairly minimal, shelving and a cabinet for storage, a work bench and the outdoor work area awnings.
I finished up the sign for the shop. They chose the name, it is directly translated from Kinyerwanda to the "Swallow Kiosk". The swallow is synonymous with swiftness, efficiency and productivity. I think an apt name for sure. SPREAD contacts Jay Ritchey and Douglas will help to facilitate the remaining paticulars in my absence. The shop is much needed. Farmers without proper tools (most of them) are damaging the bikes trying to make repairs. This is the shop, just next to the dry storage 100yds from the washing station.

Monday, September 10, 2007

2nd Annual Wooden Bike Classic

Two very full days of bike racing in all forms. Friday was the Kigali to Butare road race. As expected, the Rwandan National team finished at the lead. Was so great to see the level of hope and inspiration that they bring to Rwandans. Kids chanting the names of the riders, and yelling "Team Rwanda"!!
Saturday featured four races - the Coffee Bike, Single Speed, the Mountain Bike, and the finale - the Wooden Bike Race. It was a hectic day, intense sun, and much excitement. The Wooden Bike Race was by far the most entertaining. Nearly all the racers ran with their bikes, carried them or whatever portion of them that was left after wrecks and breakage. It was an energetic mayhem; everyone seemed to be having a blast. I think for sure next year I'd like to be on one of them rather than just at the sidelines. I am thinking a lot about some race organizing for the states. I think it could be really amazing, RACE FOR RWANDA!!

I am understanding much better the rate at which business happens here. This is the first day in four that I have been able to connect and post here. It is good to slow down, but also frustrating.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Gacaca, genocide courts, Wednesdays in Butare

From the morning until afternoon, all business is suspended on Wednesdays in Butare for the local genocide courts. Gacaca, pronounced "gachacha", is a tradition inspired system of local community justice. The word, in Kinyerwanda translates to "justice on the grass. Its aim is to:
  • aid in the reconciliation of all Rwandans and promote the building of unity
  • speed up the legal preceedings by using all available courts
  • reconstruct what happened during the genocide, enabling survivors to be part of the justice process.
The slowing of the commerce during this time was impressive. I was eating lunch inside the restaurant so as not to advertise their being open during these hours. I am looking for more information on the progress of these courts, a system of regular reporting. We shall see what I can find.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Saw nearly 3/4 of Rwanda from the car in 2 days

Took up the offer from SPREAD to join Jeff from Zoka Coffee. He was visiting the washing stations where he purchased from at the auction, Saturday. Was a great way for me to see so much of Rwanda, might not have had the opportunity otherwise.
We started in Butare headed toward the western province, through the National Forest. Aside from the National Guard soldiers at check points, no one to be seen. It was incredible, landscape drama at its best. From what I am told most of the indigenous animal life in Rwanda is confined to the National Parks. This is to ensure their preservation in an overly populated country.

Coming out of the forest we approached nearly 100km of tea plantations as well as rice and sugar cane crop. We then made our way to the eastern shore of Kivu Lake. We stayed the night in Kibuye at the Hotel Golf. It was incredible there. I was very aware of the difference between the hotel and the surrounding village.

Monday morning we traveled to the Eastern Province. The stark difference in landscape was fascinating. I am interested to see the success of the co-op we visited as it starts in on its second year. With the future potential of several thousand members, they could be prime candidates for the bike program. Especially with the landscape. I think the bikes would be put to good use there. I plan to keep tabs on their progress. Back to Butare, homebase.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

First night. The Rwanda Golden Cup...

This Cup of Excellence trial run competition was really impressive, seems that Rwanda has much to look forward to and a lot to be proud of. The awards ceremony was unforgettable. Although I have little to compare with – I have never witnessed the level of both national and individual pride. Fed with the pursuit of economic growth measured only in the highest levels of coffee quality.
The sentiment, the attendance, and being at the Hotel de Milles Collines in the large meeting room, I am experiencing being a minority not only racially but in this world of coffee.
I momentarily looked out the window to see what looked like at least 300 African crows called Kites. Large raven like birds of prey with white blazed chests swirling above the hotel, it was dusk. There is a haze in the sky here that reminds me of the desert.
The dance performances both during and after the ceremony had me saying to myself, wow, I really am in Africa. The dancers' faces, the costumes with manes and ankle bells, beads, spears, full cheetah pelts wrapped around their waists. The drums, flutes, singing - was intense and memorable.

Heading to Butare this afternoon. Looking forward to being at the cooperatives first of the week.