We’re on our way again to Rwanda–the next steps in our ongoing journey with brothers and sisters in E. Africa. On route we pass through Belgium, staying a day to adjust to the time change and catch our flight to Kigali the following day (tomorrow the 15th).
The first thing I do upon disembarking the plane at Brussels airport is to get a cup of coffee. It’s made here like it is in most of Europe–espresso added to water, what we call (probably originally meant as a slur against weak coffee) an Americano. Thick, rich, smooth and served with a concern for quality and certainly not quantity.
Drinking coffee here is actually an activity full of layers of meaning, especially on the way to Rwanda. It was the Belgians that introduced coffee as a major cash crop to Rwandan farmers in the 20th century–part of their colonizing zeal to make the small nation ‘profitable’ for it’s European rulers. At it’s height coffee represented 60 to 85 percent of Rwanda’s export wealth, and it was the collapse of the coffee market in the late 1980’s that set some of the economic stage for the eruption of genocide in 1994.
Today coffee is actually helping to rebuild the nation, and not just economically. Through the work of Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee Co. in the States, genocide widows of all ethnic groups are working side by side to harvest and process coffee, receiving a fair wage in return. Pat Daley will visit one of these coffee villages on Thursday–the place where our Church of the Redeemer coffee originates. So a residue of Belgian colonialism is now working for good as Rwanda learns to thrive in self determination and governance.
Today we spent a little time in the charming medieval city of Bruges, a picturesque town of cobbled streets, Flemish art and architecture and winding canals. Tomorrow another coffee, and a flight to Kigali. We’re on the way, and eager to be in Rwanda once again.