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Jeff Hartman and his wife Brooke are World Next Door fellows and have been in Rwanda for the past month. This is Jeff’s most recent blog post from a rural coffee plantation in the far western hills of Rwanda where they spent 7 days.
This is one of many unique adventures they have had while in Rwanda. You can read all about their trip in the upcoming June issue of World Next Door Magazine.
Up the mountain and through the villages to Supervisor’s house we go….
OK, it doesn’t have the same ring as the famous Christmas song, but this trip was an adventure I’ll remember for a long time.
Several days ago Brooke and I had the privilege of interviewing a few employees at a coffee plantation in Cyimbili, including the lead supervisor nicknamed “Supervisor.” He shared with us how his life has been changed since he began working in Cyimbilli and how he was able to buy a house for him and his wife for $900.
He was very proud of his house. When asked where it was, he pointed and said “just up over there.”
He invited us to his home, we accepted, and we ended the conversation with him asking us a few questions and sharing some very personal struggles he and his wife have been dealing with. Ironically, Brooke and I have been experiencing similar struggles, and while we didn’t have answers, we empathized and offered words of encouragement.
In his typical stoic way, he nodded and confirmed when we were going to visit him and his wife in his home “just up over there.”
Brooke and I had to wait a couple of days because of rain, but we got a break in the weather and set out with the manager of the plantation, the assistant agronomist, the accountant of the health center, and “Supervisor”.
Based on Supervisor’s description, we figured it wouldn’t be too far so we didn’t prepare much food or water. It was a very nice, casual walk through the plantation until we approached a mountain that we estimated to be a 1500-foot ascent STRAIGHT UP!
The conversation quickly diminished. Brooke and I stopped to “take photos” as a way of catching our breath.
The top rewarded us with 360-degree views of Lake Kivu and the 1000 hills of Rwanda. But we also noticed the clouds were darkening to the East of us. The Rwandans didn’t think twice. That’s just life during the rainy season. But Brooke and I were thinking about waterproof bags and lightening striking high places.
We continued on through the village, got onto the main road, and it started to sprinkle. Even the Rwandans picked up the pace so we knew it could start pouring any minute. Brooke and I put our cameras away, picked up our cadence, and figured it couldn’t be much further since Supervisor did this journey every day. Right?
After about an hour of walking we veered off the main road into another village and started heading down a pretty steep trail. This descent offered relief but quickly we turned and took an unmarked “short-cut” up a steep hill to yet another village.
This third village was named Kigoma. Fortunately, it was Supervisor’s village. We had finally arrived.
Kigoma was a community planned by the government in an effort to decrease village sprawl and provide more people with electricity, water, and other “modern” conveniences. Supervisor’s house was one of approximately 15 brick houses in the village. It was very basic with a few wooden chairs, a coffee table and a couple rooms.
He welcomed us with Coca-Cola and Fanta (which they do for special occasions only). We met his beautiful wife and he invited neighbors as well. With 20 people crammed in a little room, we exchanged questions and laughs for about 45 minutes.
Our time ended with Supervisor thanking us publically for coming because most muzungus, or foreigners, stay down at the plantation and don’t interact with the village people. He also thanked us for our kind words of encouragement the other day and said they will be forever grateful.
As we were there, word got out about the Muzungus. When we started the journey back, people of all ages came out to see us since many had never seen a white person before. Many thanked us for coming and we felt very privileged to be there.
As we walked, we still couldn’t believe Supervisor and many other people would walk 2-3 hours up and down mountains every day for work.
On our way home we were exhausted but we realized Supervisor was walking with us and would end up escorting us back to the plantation. In other words, he did that walk twice in one day without hesitation!
For Supervisor “just up over there” was just that, no big deal.
About the Author: Jeff Hartman is a year-long fellow with WND. Jeff has degrees in physical therapy and public health and has worked in numerous countries around the world. Jeff has an eye for photography and is willing to do almost anything to get “the shot.”