Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A University Graduation

Today I went to the first ever graduation ceremony for INES University in Musanze, a city about an hour east of Gisenyi on the road to Kigali. The first class finished in 2007, but the ceremony and awarding of diplomas had finally been approved now, so the festivities were for the 400-odd students in the classes of 2007, 2008, and 2009. It was long – over five hours, including speeches from various dignitaries, an excellent Rwandan dance performance, and the reading of every student’s name.

The professors' hats were a bit different than I'm used to:

The dance performance included people holding the many symbols of Rwanda: a couple different baskets, a double-bowl, the gourd. The giant book isn't traditionally Rwandan but it was, after all, a university graduation.

At one point these two doves were released from one of the little pointed-top baskets that had been on a woman's head. She'd been dancing with it for at least ten minutes:

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A flat tire

It’s always an adventure. Today we were supposed to swing by a remote health center to drop off a list of children we sponsor whose health insurance we’d paid for before meeting up with other colleagues at a cooperative training in a different, slightly less remote sector. We of course started the day delayed, and we were very late by the time we left the health center. Rather than passing back through Gisenyi to get to the second destination, we attempted to take a remote back road. The roads in this part of the country are hazardous; volcanic rock juts out everywhere and makes for a bumpy ride.

Soon enough we had a flat tire. Although it seemed like we’d just left the town with the health center and the only bike mechanic around, it was a 50 minute walk back. My coworker paid a teenager to push the bike. I wasn’t about to take out my camera in the middle of nowhere and prolong our hike, but some images stick out for me: a hill that was completely cultivated in neat rows until the top, where there was an afro of trees. The crazy drunk lady who followed us for 10 minutes trying to talk to me, telling my coworker to “shut up, Satan” when he intervened. Kids “helping” to push the moto by hanging onto the back of it and running.

Fixing the flat involved: using a piece of volcanic rock to jack up the motorbike; using a metal rod to pry the tire from the tread; inflating the tire with a rubber tube that had no needle or clasp to attach it to the tire with, but somehow worked; finding the leak by sight and sound; patching it by irritating the tire with a saw, spreading some super glue, and slapping on a piece of an old tire; inflating the tire to test the patch; and finally wrestling it back inside the tread. Of course my skin and ridiculous helmet attracted much attention, and I let the assembled crowd of teenage bike repairmen and curious villagers gawk and talk for the whole time, letting on only at the end that I spoke Kinyarwanda when I uttered a complicated goodbye. I had to entertain myself somehow.

I didn’t get any pictures, but here are some more recent pictures of a car tire being patched; the story of that epic adventure will be told by email upon request.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Happy Youth "Week"!

From outside the district office. It was quite a long week….

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Kinyarwanda lesson: pe! and se?

Like English, Kinyarwanda speakers will often put emotion into their exclamations. When they ask questions, the end of the sentence is inflected upwards, as in English.

Normally. But there’s also pe (Pay), which is added to a sentence for emphasis and exclamation. Sometimes you can’t hear the exclamation in the speaker’s inflection; they make their point by using pe. Similarly, se (Say) can be used to signify a question without the upward inflection at the end of the sentence. Both are optional additions to sentences.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


- President Kagame’s 2010 ”Fan club” campaign page is worth taking a look at – in design it  bears a resemblance to Barack Obama’s campaign page.

- Ntabwo ni twa muzungu (sic) has a must-read on the topic of homophobia in Africa. This one from West Africa Wins Always is good as well (as is the blog in general). And here's another article on the topic by an Ethiopian author, writing that homophobia is a diversionary tactic of undemocratic leaders.

- Say what? The Rwandan government seeks to legalize medical marijuana.

- This cassava virus covered in the NYTimes could be really bad. In Rwanda, countless people subsist on cassava (and ubugali) or make their livelihoods selling it to others.

- An AFP article about Rwanda’s environmental issues: the plastic bag ban, and erosion and population density.

- A well-written blog post about food in Rwanda. I do have to say that I quite like Rwandan food, which showcases the freshness of local produce and can be spiced up with urusenda pepper.

- Is Rwanda safe for refugee returns? Because it borders the congo, my district (Rubavu) sees a lot of returnees.

- I showed this NY Times article about the Rwandan health system to my counterpart, and he said it’s pretty accurate, although he had no idea where Mayange is. A few additions: those who get sent to other countries for surgeries tend to be soldiers or high-ranking politicians. Rwanda has indeed made great strides against maternal mortality by transforming a culture of unassisted home births into a culture of giving birth at hospitals and health centers. The system is indeed far from perfect; even on the expanded middle-class insurance called Rama his family nearly went bankrupt paying for his brother’s medicine, but because they are educated they were able to appeal to the local health official who then waved the fees.

- Both Foreign Policy and the CS Monitor published recent articles comparing Rwanda to Burundi. They’re well worth reading, especially the FP article. If you google, you’ll see that Rwanda’s been in the Huffington Post (opinion wars), CS Monitor, and NYTimes quite a bit recently.

- As always, be sure to stay tuned to Texas in Africa and Congo Siasa’s posts on Rwanda – a lot has happened of late and both provide excellent analysis.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Rwandan feast: Isambaza and Ubugali

It’s my favorite Rwandan meal: ubugali, which is cassava “bread” (really more like gelatinous sticky stuff) and isambaza, delicious little Kivu fish that you eat whole. Tonight in between World Cup matches (Go USA! It's gonna be a fun one here with ) I helped prepare it for dinner.

To make isambaza and isosi, you first fry the isambaza in oil – it only takes about 5 minutes. Next, pour off most of the oil and throw in onions and green pepper to sauté. Stir vigorously and add peeled, diced tomatoes. Cook over high heat, stirring continuously, and then add tomato paste and water. Then add the fried fish.

To make ubugali, Bring some water to a boil. Reserve some boiling water. Pour in the cassava flour (I have no idea what the ratio should be; Rwandans can just eyeball it) and pour the rest of the water on top. Stir vigourously.

So vigorously that you must remove the pot from the stove (you can stick the isambaza and isosi back on the fire so they’ll be served hot). Prop the pot between your feet and stir with all your strength until it gels and the lumps are mostly gone.

Then scoop the ubugali onto a serving plate and shape it into a round mound.

The serving dishes pictured here are typical; most people own some sort of decorative set that goes from large to small, all with lids to keep the heat in and the bugs out.

Ubugali is eaten with the hands, and middle class Rwandans are thankfully meticulous about washing their hands (using a bucket, pitcher and soap) before eating any sort of finger food. Here’s how it’s done: Pinch off some ubugali and roll it around in your fingers to shape it. Then scoop up some food and sauce as if it’s a spoon, assisting with your thumb.

A goat cooperative, continued

In the past few weeks, I’ve experienced an extended period of mild frustration. It seems like I do a lot of sitting around in the office, which makes me feel unproductive in the present but is definitely part of a crucial process of observation and establishing relationships. I’ve also been frustrated by the number of times promising plans get canceled (a related issue, as it leaves me with nothing to do) and by constantly having no idea what’s going on, why it’s happening (or isn’t happening), and what’s going to happen. Still, I’ve been looking for the positives.

Today was a great example of this: although I largely sat in the office with nothing to do, there was an hour of pure success. It started with my suggestion a few days ago that my colleague W. with his degree in agriculture and animal husbandry visit the ailing goat cooperative, one of B.’s projects. For the past few days I’ve been gently pushing the subject, suggesting times when both are free to visit. A few obstacles had to be overcome, for example whose budget would pay for the moto fuel and when the cooperative members were available. But today it finally happened.

W. gave a speech to the assembled cooperative members about how goats can eat everything, particularly table scraps and leaves and stalks of various crops. I asked a few leading questions like “After I finish eating corn, can I give the inside to the goats to eat?” W. also discovered that water is scarce in the community and suggested they feed the goats several parts of plants that retain water.

Although only time will tell if this was effective, I’m optimistic and we'll do followup. I’m claiming a victory here: I served as the catalyst, getting W. and B. to collaborate. The next step is for B. to realize when he needs to ask for W.’s expertise in the future without my prodding. 

When I took out my camera to get “before” pictures of the goats in our weight-gain program, I was mobbed by village children screaming “jyewe” (me) and “Inanjye” (and mine). Here are a few adorable shots that also show the severity of malnutrition among the village’s children.

And the village itself, a place where great natural beauty contrasts with the malnutrition and poverty. The villagers are decked out in their Sunday best for their meeting with us.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Goat guts, or today in gross food I choked down

This was lunch at a rural restaurant. It’s one hunk of goat meat and then piece of goat stomach tidily wrapped in intestines, boiled in water. It cost 200 francs - $.35. We also had “mélange” (from “mix” in French):  a plate piled with rice, fries, beans, carrots, local miniature eggplant, or whatever the restaurant happens to have on hand.

I managed to do a respectable job on the boiled goat guts, perhaps redeeming myself for Sunday night, when I only managed a few nibbles of cow leg – a hunk of cartilage and bone, as it turns out, that my Rwandan dinner companions seemed to think was a delicacy. You all know I’ll eat almost anything, but “food” that has no flavor, an unpleasant texture, and little in the way of nutrition isn’t for me.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Some things that make me happy

- Discussing how difficult Kinyarwanda noun classes are…entirely in French.
- Hearing people point me out and say aracizi, “she knows the language,” when I walk down the street, before I’ve said anything to them – I’ve got a reputation!
- Greeting people, enjoying their shock and delight when I speak not French but Kinyarwanda, and hearing them say as I walk away that I’m umunyarwanda kazi, Rwandan.
- Kids on my street running up to me and hugging me, even if some still call me muzungu. Kids all over town calling me Agatesi and not muzungu, as far away as the bus station and down by the lake.
- Watching over-sexualized American music videos with Rwandan adults who have no idea whatsoever the context of these videos – the S&M imagery of Rihanna’s Disturbia was to them “ghosts.”
- “Cooking dinner” last night with two colleagues. Which meant that we grilled some corn (think: half-popped, grilled non-sweet corn, it’s pretty good!) and sat there eating it while watching our host’s umukozi cook.
- Getting fed dinner every time I watch the world cup with my colleague who has a satellite. And in general, the bonding that’s occurring over the World Cup.
- I have grown to love Rwandan tea, which is actually hot milk with plenty of sugar and a hint of tea or Nescafe. Similarly, I really do enjoy a cold Fanta Citron – it’s like a refreshing carbonated lemonade.
- Serena’s real actual delicious coffee in a huge pot, served with steamed milk, for $2.25 – just over half my daily budget and totally worth it. Plus the wireless there is really fast. And I can take a hot shower. And the view of Kivu and Congo with the sound of the waves really is serene.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day of the African Child

 Today I went to Nyamyumba, the sector of Rubavu district that overlooks lake Kivu, to observe the sector’s belated celebration of Day of the African Child. (They said they were celebrating on a Sunday so the children would be free to participate, but I’m pretty sure they just couldn’t get organized in time for Wednesday.) Several classes from each of the sector's primary and secondary schools assembled for the festivities.

Although the day was quite long, I enjoyed watching the children’s performances, particularly the dancing. Pictured below is the sector's executive secretary, giving a speech. Behind the crowd you can see lake Kivu and clouds settling over the Congolese mountains. Also note the kids who climbed the trees for a better view, wearing only foam sandals or with bare feet. (Click to enlarge.)

The celebration was not without irony: following multiple speeches against child abuse of various kinds, as the crowd of children crept forward to better see the acrobatics, karate, and drama performances, several headmasters used sticks to beat the children back.

At the end of the festivities, I was pulled up to dance the traditional Rwandan intori dance. Afterwards the sector’s executive secretary told me that I dance very well!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Rwandan joke

A man is afraid of chickens. He goes to the doctor, and the doctor asks him, “Why are you afraid of these things? It is so small, it cannot eat you.” The man leaves the doctor and he sees a chicken and he is afraid. He returns to the doctor and says “But doctor, did you tell the chicken it cannot eat me?”

A recipe: Crepes with Mango Topping

This morning I made crepes with mango chutney topping – a gourmet breakfast in Rwanda!

For the mango topping, I took inspiration from a recipe in the Peace Corps Madagascar cookbook and several online chutney recipes. I like things spicy, so I added some hot-pepper vinegar that I’d used to pickle urusenda (the local pepper).

The crepe recipe comes from the PC Rwanda cookbook; I made a half recipe and it was a huge breakfast for 1. So I’d guess the recipes below will feed 3-4.  Serve with yogurt or a cream sauce, if you have it.

Quick Chutney-style Mango Topping
1 lb mangoes, peeled and cubed
1/4 cup honey
additional sugar to taste
juice from 1 lemon
1 Tbs minced onion
1 Tbs peeled mince ginger
1/4 tsp cumin
pinch cloves
pinch ground corriander (optional)
dash of hot-pepper vinegar or red chili flakes (optional)
raisins or dried cherries (optional)

In a saucepan, combine all of the ingredients except the mangoes and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the mangoes and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Add raisins, heat through. Serve over crepes, waffles, chapati, etc.

After you’ve added the mangoes, start on the crepe batter.

4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/3 cups milk (or that much water and 4 spoons Nido Milk Powder)
2 tablespoons butter, melted (or margarine)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Whisk together eggs, milk, melted butter, flour, sugar, and salt until it's smooth. Heat a medium-sized nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spoon about 1/4 cup of crepe batter into the hot pan, tilting the pan so that bottom surface is evenly coated. Cook over medium heat, 2 minutes on a side.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Celtics crash and burn

Wishing I could have used "the Celtics are on fire" as the corny title of this post. I was really disappointed that the Celtics lost, but it was still nice to see them featured randomly on the backs of the matches I just bought.

"I use a condom": Popstar PSAs

These three billboards feature some of Rwanda’s biggest popstars, Liza demonstrating that no, you aren’t too large for a condom.

Nkoresha agakingirizo (Nho-ray-shah Ah-gah-chin-jeer-ee-zoh) means “I use a condom.” The print at the bottom says “It is my right to protect myself.”

That’s right, agakingirizo. Some might complain that it takes too long to put one on, but at six syllables, one might argue it takes too long to say.

I’ve had a lesson in viruses and protection this week: my boss’s infected computer nuked my flash drive. I didn’t lose any files (except a few blog posts I’ve rewriten) but the flash drive is not even recognized to attempt a reformat on PC or Mac. It’s an inconvenience for work and a big bummer because I was planning to fill that 8gb with movies and TV when I meet up with other PCVs in a few weeks.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sounds of the World Cup

When I walk through Gisenyi on my way back from lunch or after work, during World Cup matches, the air is filled with the incessant buzz of the vuvuzela, familiar to anyone who has watched even a part of a game.

Here, the sound of the vuvuzela advertises the locations of hole-in-the-wall TV/movie viewing shops and homes with TVs, where it is the background to the Congolese channel that comes in clearer here than the Rwandan channel. The vuvuzela emanates from the ubiquitous radios tuned to Kinyarwanda and Swahili-language broadcasts. The vuvuzela sounds clearest from the bars, hotels and the occasional homes that have satellites, where depending on preference and reception it is accompanied by French announcers on the Cote d’Ivoirian channel, or African English on the Tanzanian broadcast, or British commentary on the pay satellite channel (in the nicer bars), or the channel from Mauritius where, commercials tell me, they have Pizza Hut and frozen “easy packs” of chicken and broadband USB cell modems.

But always, the buzz of the vuvuzela is everywhere.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

It appears I've made a friend

Today, while riding a moto with another (licensed) colleague, the police pulled us over again. My new friend just wanted to chat. I told my unlicensed coworker that he better get a license before I end up with a fiancé.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sinshaka umugabo - I don't want a husband!

I am asked here on a regular basis if I’m looking for a husband, “Urashaka umugabo?” My interrogators may be men (or the boy who just sold me Tigo credit for the last time, I’ll go elsewhere) but also women who ask either with a male relative in mind or out of curiosity.

“Sinshaka umugabo,” I tell them: I don’t want a husband. I might say I’m working now and I will look in two years after Peace Corps, or that Peace Corps won’t allow me to get married and have kids (the good ol’ blame-it-on-Peace-Corps excuse can be applied to many things).

Today I was introduced to a man at the sector office, who said “Umugabo urashaka?” Frustrated that this had come up yet again in a professional setting, I told him “No, oya, Sinshaka umugabo,” only to be told by my coworker that he was just telling me his name: Mugaboshaka. "Man who is needed." Oops.

Tastes of home: experimenting in the kitchen

Last night I wanted to make an adaptation of jalepeno poppers with urusenda, the spicy pepper here. To make the cheese stuffing, I needed milk. This led to perhaps my favorite discovery so far in Gisenyi.

I went into one of the many stores that advertises Amata meza, “good milk,” and asked if they had amata konje, cold milk. She showed me the jug in the fridge, so I produced my empty half-liter water bottle and she filled it up for 200 francs ($0.30). It looked very thick and I was afraid I’d gotten the infamous “chunky milk,” but when I tasted it at home it was delightful, drinkable, tasty yogurt! It’s called ikivuguto, as opposed to ishyushyu, regular milk.

I boiled some of the yogurt and added lemon juice to separate the curd. Following the Peace Corps cookbook’s instructions, I strained this through a cloth and let it sit with a weight on it for a bit. It turned into soft cheese – somewhere between ricotta and paneer. I stuffed it into the urusenda, breaded them, battered some onions, and made a fried appetizer feast!

Yogurt – oh the possibilities! I can make curries, top lentil soup with it, or put it on the granola I made Saturday morning:

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A giant spider

Saw this huge critter in the bathroom when I was doing dishes (gross when I put it like that – but the bathroom is where the running water is). Poured a basin of dish water on him and succeeded in making him scamper into the hallway, where a shoe covered with paper did the trick.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The World Cup Begins!

World cup fever is alive and well in Rwanda. I watched the opening matches Friday at my coworker’s  house – he has a satellite, which guarantees multiple channels of varying quality to choose from. Except when the power goes out, which of course happened during the first half of the USA-England match tonight. The score was 1-0 England. We quickly tuned to a radio broadcast and immediately heard the cry, “GOAAAAAL.” But it was in Swahili, and none of us spoke Swahili, so we couldn’t discern who had scored. (My coworkers were all cheering for England.) Finally we got ahold of someone by cell phone who told us that USA had tied the game!

For the second half, we moved to a bar with a generator. Around the 60th minute, when the US had a few good chances in a row, I got a little excited and the guy next to me started cheering, “Obama! Obama!” I asked him, in Kinyarwanda, if Obama was playing football.

It started to rain. In the 87th minute, as the rain grew heavier, the satellite feed went out. I had to call and text another volunteer to find out the final result.

It sounds pretty unreliable, but the fact that I can watch at both a bar with a generator and in a private home on a $550 satellite definitely makes me privileged in Rwanda. Many are stuck huddling around radios, perhaps struggling to understand Kiswahili. Many more don’t have any way to watch or listen to “Africa’s World Cup.”


I attended a wedding ceremony this afternoon. My boss was the best man, and I was somewhat the token muzungu for photos.

I didn’t go to the “introduction,” which is the traditional Rwandan ceremony. The wedding in the church was a variation on the familiar ceremony: the bride and groom walked together down the aisle and sat, flanked by their best man and maid of honor (they call them the honorary father of the groom and mother of the bride). There were a few prayers and songs before the couple exchanged vows.

Yes, that’s a Hooters t-shirt in the foreground.

The couple exchanged rings and then knelt and were surrounded by the seven or so ministers for a blessing (yes, they’re Pentacostal). Then they signed their wedding contract in front of the congregation, and finally a basket was placed at the front of the room for donations. Each step of the wedding was photographed and videotaped by everyone in the audience rich enough to have a camera.

Some of the guests piled into cars and proceeded down to the lake for photographs. Two SUVs were decked out with ribbons, and all the cars in the procession had their flashers on and drove through town blowing their horns. Some of the cars zig-zagged wildly across the road, and each time we reached a roundabout or traffic triangle we circled it several times, kicking up dust. When we reached the lake, the wedding party and guests posed for a series of photos.

Most Pentacostal women don’t wear earings or braid their hair, so head wraps and accessories are particularly important.

I was asked to be in several photos – I heard the phrase “take one with me and the muzungu” a few times. At first I felt a little exploited but then I remembered I was photographing things I found strange to share on the internet, so I guess the exploitation goes both ways. For example, multiple members of the wedding party had on name tags declaring their roles: “Time keeper,” “MC,” “Head of Protocole,” “Service,” “Stock,” “Table de Honeur.”

We then went to the reception. At the head of the hall was the wedding party, surrounded by Christmas lights and flanked by the bride’s family on the left and the groom’s family on the right. After a toast by family members (made with Sprite and Fanta Citron), the bride and groom came forward. Champagne (or what looked like it) was uncorked and sprayed on them before they shared a glass. They lit sparklers on top of the cake and were sprayed with whipped cream, which was then cleaned off of them by the best man and maid of honor.

Then they cut the cake – sadly only the wedding party and families got cake! They did serve soda and little boxes with a hard boiled egg, potato, and piece of meat. A group of woman did the traditional Rwandan dance while others sang. Finally, the couple was presented with gifts – quite a few of them! The four cakes that were left were to be eaten at the bride’s house, much to my chagrin.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Some things are universal

Flirting with a police officer apparently gets you out of trouble in a traffic stop in Rwanda, just like everywhere colleague who was driving a moto without a permit owes me one.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Child play day

Today I participated in a day of “child play” for malnourished children under five in the Nyakiliba sector of Rubavu district. After a breathtakingly beautiful moto ride, I joined three men from my office and four “community facilitators” from the sector in a crumbling former storehouse. Nearly 200 children and their parents (occasionally an older sibling) were gathered on benches made from planks of wood on piles of bricks. When I arrived, the children were seated in orderly rows and not a single one jumped up to shout “Muzungu” – I don’t know whether they were well behaved or lacked energy due to malnutrition.

We handed out lollipops to occupy the children while we lectured the parents on a balanced diet for their kids. My colleague B. talked quite knowledgeably about balancing “grow foods” (proteins) with “go foods” (carbohydrates) with “glow foods” (fruits and vegetables; vitamin sources). I of course was asked to speak about malnutrition in Kinyarwanda with about 5 minutes’ notice; luckily I happened to have with me a sheet of nutrition-related vocabulary given to us during training. I managed to communicate that parents should use soy flour, a cheap source of protein, and I discussed ways to make “good water” (amazi meza) to prevent diarrhea caused by “bad water” (amazi mabi).  Then we took the kids who were old enough outside and brought out some foot(soccer)balls. Here things got a bit hectic; older kids from the village mostly hogged the balls. We came inside and handed out biscuits, bouncy balls, and cheap plastic dolls (again, a little disorganized; I worry that the distribution wasn’t equitable). Finally they brought out balloons and I had to intervene to explain to my Rwandan colleagues that we had to blow them up before giving them to children under five!

This was the first of four days of child play for this group this year, and it is one of the places where I can see myself adding value and building capacity in my office. I’m incredibly lucky to have a group of well-educated and hard-working colleagues. I’ve been wondering where my knowledge and skills fit in – for example, I don’t know more about rearing goats or growing corn than W., who has a degree in agriculture and animal husbandry. Here is a case where I push my colleagues to think not too far out of the box and maximize their time with the parents. It’s an important educational opportunity, especially because for many the cause of malnutrition is ignorance rather than poverty. I’ve suggested that in the future we prepare demonstrations – hand washing, cooking with soy flour, purifying water, etc. B. and I will also choose a sample of families to interview about their gardening habits and available land, with the intention of holding a garden training for the parents at a future date.

Also: I’d love suggestions for more appropriate ways to do group play with 200 children ages 0-5. We are working with limited time and space, a small amount of money, and with children who aren’t used to “playing” as such, meaning anything requiring too much of an explanation will be lost on them.

Cheap Chinese goods suck

Lately I’ve been frustrated by how cheap everything from China is. The made-in-China busted toilet seat and shower head in my bathroom (don’t get me wrong – I love indoor plumbing. The prongs that snapped off the plugs on my Chinese-made radio (fell on the floor, fixed with an adapter, paperclip, and tape) and my Chinese-made power strip (stuck in the outlet). The clothespins that fall apart when they’re released too quickly. The handles that fall off pots and pans and lids. The Chinese-made dish towels that leave plenty of water and streaks of lint on my dishes, so much my attempt to be civilized by buying dish towels.

I will give them this: my Chinese-made pillow is incomparably better than my Rwanda foam pillow.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

There's a bee in my honey

From my boss’s honey farm! (I fished it out before I ate any, of course.)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A goat cooperative

Today I visited a cooperative that raises milk-producing goats. I wanted to visit these guys because I thought maybe they’d need help marketing goat dairy products due to the cultural taboo against them. It turns out, their problem is much worse: the cooperative of about 430 people bought 6 females and 1 male of an expensive variety that produces good dairy products – but they can’t afford to feed the goats, so they aren’t producing any milk. There were 3 babies there, including one born 2 days ago and just as cute as you’d imagine. The mothers were sickly and a fourth baby had recently died. This area was extremely rural and the people were so poor that they could barely feed themselves, let alone the goats. It was a bit of a hopeless moment for me: What do I know about goat nutrition? Nothing. How can I help these people get the money to feed their goats, now, before they lose any more of their investment? I can’t in any sustainable way. How can I help my organization foresee and prevent such problems in our work with other cooperatives?

Pictured is a typical rural goat pen I saw yesterday; I wasn’t comfortable using my camera today.

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