Frank reflects on visiting Azizi Life:
Another beautiful day here in Rwanda! We left the Splendid Hotel in Muhanga district and travelled to the Azizi Life office to meet with Pierre and Patrick, our hosts and translators for the day. We drove about 20 minutes from their office to a rural village deep in the heart of the district. Upon our arrival we were met with a group of 7-8 women dancing, clapping and singing a song of welcome! We were invited into Seraphim’s home where we spent some time introducing ourselves to each other and learning about immediate families and our ages. After our chat the ladies brought out colourful garments to dress their female Canadian visitors in appropriate Rwandan attire. (One of the Canadian men may or may not have also dawned this wardrobe as well.) We then joined our Rwandan sisters on one of their daily tasks to fetch water from the valley below. We all were given an empty 5 litre plastic jug and proceeded to walk the 1-2km trail down the hill to valley bottom. Winding our way through fields of corn, sweet potatoes, mango, banana and avocado trees, we would pass by the occasional brick & mud home, saying hello to the residents working the plot nearby.
We arrived at the well and were greeted by a local family, as the well is constant meeting place as everyone must make this trek daily, often more than once.
After the jugs were filled, they showed us how to cut a certain type of grass that we’d be using later to make banana juice.
10 minutes later we’d gather enough for our needs, and proceeded to hike back up the hill with heavy jugs under the now scorching Rwandan sun. A third of the way up the slope I caught up with 6-7 year old boy, who was also returning home from the well with a full jug of water. Children his age and younger are expected to do this every single day, and is just one of many chores that are tasked with a young age.
We arrived back to the home, dropped off the water and then joined the ladies for a wonderful meal of beans, sweet potatoes, casaba, avocado, rice and the most amazing pineapple known to man.
After lunch we headed out past the mango trees to their farming plot to harvest bananas. First we dug a hole in the soil, then placed dried banana leaves in the hole and set them on fire to warm the earth. We then placed green banana leaves onto the embers, and began the task of placing all the bananas we had just harvested onto the green leaves. Once completed, we folded over the banana leaves then replaced the soil to hold the heat in. This process of warming the earth and placing the bananas in this warm depression causes the fruit to ripen quickly and become very sweet.
We then took bananas (that they had previously prepared for us), peeled them and through them into a 5ft long dug out canoe. Water and grass were added, and then began the process of kneading it all together until the bananas were completely broken down. The grass was then used to filter the juice as it was poured into jugs. What an honour and privilege to eat, work alongside, share with and learn from these strong, independent, caring Rwandan woman.
Sadly it was time to leave. We left the home and went into the back yard area where the dancing and singing once again busted out as these ladies gave us a wonderful Rwandan send off. (I should mention here that the curious group of children that gathered just outside of this area were invited to join in, and they came in dancing and singing and smiling and showing the joy that is so typical of people here. Our hearts were firmly in their grip, captured once again.
The ladies prayed for us, and Kristie said a beautiful prayer for them on behalf of our group. After we hugged and said our good-byes, we headed to the bus to begin the journey back to Kigali. School had just let out and our bus was chased by a large group of young Rwandan children, waving and smiling as they ran.
We came as strangers, we left as friends.