Today was one of most amazing experiences. The children make this such an amazing place to be in tandem with the beauty of this country.
So today was the first day we were able to meet with our client, Christine MUREBWAYIRE, the President of Coproviba, a banana wine cooperative in the Ngoma District of Rwanda. We met her at her office and enjoyed chit chat and got into the nitty gritty of our project. Thank the lord for Magali because Christine and her colleagues were much more comfortable speaking French, so Magali was able to coordinate the conversation between us and Christine and her colleagues. The day would have been rough without her. We were able to get a lot of information and to start working on a plan for what we would do to help Coproviba. We ended the office visit by giving gifts to those there, which were mostly GW trinkets and a Washington, DC baseball cap for her youngest employee. Christine has a glowing personality and we really want to be able to help her propel the success of her business.
We hopped in our Toyota Land Rover and started the 3 hour trek to the cooperative. The first two hours of the drive were fairly uneventful, but the last hour we were on an unpaved and very bumpy road (now knowing why we had to take a Land Rover) and were able to interact with the children who lined the streets as we drove by. Dane was so smart in bringing candy for such an occasion and we said hi and tossed candy to the children parade style as they screamed, “Mazungu (white person)!” At one point Josh threw an inflated rubber ball into the street and the children went wild to get it!
Before going to the cooperative we met one of the farmers and Duncan (our awesome driver) was able to translate the process of growing the bananas to us as the farmer spoke only Kinyarwandan. Christine was so excited to show us where the cooperative got its start and the process and it was my first time ever seeing a banana tree! There were children playing nearby and we interacted with them for a short while, giving them another ball to play with. One child chased our vehicle for quite some time before he was tuckered out.
We reached Coproviba and after a little conversation in Christine’s office there we took a tour of the facility. Everything seemed fairly efficient by use of machines until the bottling phase. There were six employees involved in bottling and labeling and it was all done by hand from the filling of the bottles, to the gluing of the labels. This is where we saw we could help Christine. We may look into trying to outsource her bottling and labeling process so that she can meet international standards and also increase her capacity to keep up with the current and increasing demand.
After the tour we got to taste the product. Now, prior to this trip to Coproviba, Josh had us convinced that many people he spoke to in Africa, specifically in Uganda believed Banana beer and wine to taste like socks. To the contrary, Christine pulled out a bottle aged for over one year and said she only shares this bottle with close friends. It was delicious. It was very sweet, but marketable absolutely. We were honored for her to treat us as such great friends and we very much appreciated the delicious wine. We ended up leaving with a case of it to take and share with our classmates who so far have agreed that it is delicious (way better than Sina Gerard’s, which is more recognized in Africa).
After our awesome visit to the cooperative we headed on foot down to the village where our driver was waiting for us. We walked by a school and the kids who saw us in the window went wild when we walked by, screaming out the window saying the few things the children in Rwanda will usually say to you, “Hello.” “How are you?” “What is your name?” “I am fine.” Children were climbing up the windows to stick their heads out to say something to us and wave. It was an amazing feeling. At one point a large group of children ran out their classrooms and posed for a picture for us.
As we headed to the market in the village we walked into what looked like an open field with a dilapidated building and Christine exclaimed, “Hold on. I want to get beer.” A gentleman pulled out a few plastic chairs into the grass, pushing aside some roosters hanging around there, and low and behold, we were at a bar. Christine orders us the big 40 ouncers of the popular beer in Rwanda: Primus, or Guma Guma in slang. Magali grabbed our snacks out of the truck, which included Pringles, and they were really a hit with the locals!
As we enjoyed our Guma Guma with Christine and her workers, we saw the children in the school running out to the open field next to where we were for recess. As we sat in conversation, Josh stared over the fence at the game they were playing. He came back to the group and inquired to Duncan about this game, Duncan explained it to him saying it is a game you play as children, so of course, Josh wanted in. I had to go over there to get this on film of course.
We approached the children playing and Duncan asked in Kinyarwandan if Josh could play. The children were excited to have him, but they felt he should be on the girls’ team. The game is similar to duck duck goose where one person is chosen by passing of a stick and then they are chased around in a circle. Dane cleverly coined it, ‘Duck, Duck, Pavano.” It is just a version where there are two teams on two sides of a field against each other and there is a lot more running. Josh booked it and immediately the children started screaming! They were so excited to see him playing in there game and were cheering so loud. It was hilarious and amazing all at the same time to be a part of this game. I walked over to the girls’ side to see how it went and Duncan suddenly threw me in the game and before I knew it I was “arunnin’!” I felt that I was going really fast, and for the record, I think I was faster than Josh. I got the same reaction from the children as they screamed and cheered while I took my turn and it was such an exhilarating feeling.
After all the fun and games it was time to head back to Kigali. We interacted with a few more of the children, giving out some more candy, and Josh even gave his sunglasses to a teenager there. As we rode through the village our trip there concluded with several excited “Mazungu!” shouts, high fives to the teenagers and candy to the children. It was such a great day, both productive in terms of our project and fulfilling in terms of the experience at the village and with the children. It was truly a humbling experience. Today is going to be a tough day to top on this trip!