Another Delicious Cortado

Saturday, February 16 – Kigali, Rwanda

We overnighted in Musanze, a city in the north of Rwanda, famous as the staging point of the world renowned highland gorilla treks. We awoke early to make sure we could enjoy another delicious cortado (macchiato type coffee) at nearby Crema Coffee.  During our first visit last night we had a good chat with our barista Tonny, who told us that he loved his job and that working for Crema the past five months had really made a positive impact on his life. This boutique coffee shop is of interest to us because it was started by Prince Kamari and his friend Aidan Miller.  Prince was a member of the first graduating class from Wellspring Academy and we wanted to meet and congratulate him on his entrepreneurship and for being an excellent example to those who follow him. Unfortunately, that was not to be but we still enjoyed an excellent brew with our friends Bill and Dyan Cornies.

Today was Rwandan history and culture day with a twist. Our destination? The Gorilla Guardians Cultural Centre on the edge of Volcanoes National Park. As the bus steadily wound it’s way up and up the narrow road we were struck anew by how lush the vegetation is that covers any piece of land where there is dirt. The fields, cleared of the volcanic stones used to build fences, are filled with wheat, sorghum, bananas, potatoes, beans, and other vegetables that flourish in the rich volcanic soils. The air was cool and misty so the volcanoes were hidden in the clouds. At 8,000 feet we arrived at the parking lot and walked about 75 meters along a lovely narrow path reminiscent of Ireland, towards the entrance, accompanied by the cheerful chirping of birds. Suddenly, there was a sharp, loud cry, along with the beating of drums, and all illusions of Ireland disappeared! The people at the front of our group were nearly startled out of their skin at the commotion but soon realized this was our welcome!

Our guide told us the story of how the core group of people working at Gorilla Guardians used to poach animals in the park in order to feed their families. One fellow even worked for Dian Fossey during the day but made such meagre wages that he went back into the forest at night to catch animals because he couldn’t afford to buy meat in the market. Through the efforts of a young Rwandan conservationist, these hunters were convinced that if they worked to preserve the gorillas they could actually benefit. By sharing the history of their way of life with tourists who come to view the gorillas, it generates income so that both they and the park animals can live sustainably side by side. In addition, part of every tourist pass fee goes to support the surrounding community and so further encourages conservation.

At the Centre we were treated to a series of participatory demonstrations, from blacksmithing to milling sorghum, customs of the kingdom to a mock wedding ceremony.

We ended our time together seated around a fire in discussion with an older local gentleman named Thomas.   He said he likes coming to the Centre because it reminds him of his childhood ways that aren’t practiced any more and that he must bring his grandchildren here to learn the stories so they do not forget that his grandfather used to live this way.  In 100 years, life has changed so much. He related that the park used to reach km further down the hillside and he worries about the pressure on the land and wonders will it be consumed with housing and the farms disappear? How will his grandchildren’s lives be different than his? As we listened we were reminded that even though we live worlds apart, in different cultures and surroundings, our concerns for our societies’  and grandchildren’s future are the same. Our experience with this brother in the Lord underscores a unity that transcends ancestry, tribe, and nation. What a fitting way to reflect on our morning devotion:

      After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from

      every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne

      and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,

      and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the

      throne, and to the Lamb!”