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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Muraho from Kigali

So I have been in Rwanda for three months as of today (my how time flies!), and doing a poor job of blogging about it! Mainly because the last few weeks have been a roller coaster ride of trying to decide if I should stay or if I should return to the states. Lots of factors have been at play in this decision (some will remain unmentioned....), but my 90 day visa was running out, I am now homeless, and I am pretty much out of money as I have had some difficulty finding full time work here. Well a quick trip border hopping into Goma (in Democratic Republic of the Congo) solved the visa issues and some generous friends have welcomed me into their home for a couple weeks until I figure out my plans... so now there is just the money/job dilemma to tackle.

Fortunately, things seem to be looking up in that department! I have a few leads on contacts for various organizations that I have reached out to that may be promising. But the most exciting part is that I have had, and hopefully will continue to have, the opportunity to work for an organization called Project Rwanda (PR). Led by National Bike Director Kimberly Coats, PR aims to help improve the economy of Rwanda by helping rural coffee farmers throughout the country run their businesses more efficiently. They do this by supplying them with “coffee bikes” that are designed to transport harvested coffee cherries. In conjunction with the organization is Team Rwanda, the nation’s professional cycling team lead by coach Jock Boyer.

Throughout the year coach holds training camps for the team in Musanze, a region in the north of the country close to the Ugandan border. Jock and Kim wanted me to team up with their cook to develop healthy meals for the team during one of the first training camps of the year. So, last week I took a 2 hour mutatu (public bus) ride up to Musanze and got to work for two long, but very fun days! With a team of 16 very hungry riders, we had a lot of cooking to do!

Each day would start with a trip to the local market, a large open air building similar to the one here in Kigali, and purchase tons of fresh ingredients for the days meals. Back at the house armed with fresh veggies, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs, and whole grains, we spent the day cooking a healthy lunch to feed the team after a morning of riding, only to start all over again for dinner once they were all satisfied.

Four meals and two days later, and an exhausted, sweaty mess, I prepared for my trip back to the city while watching coach run tests on the riders using a stationary bike hooked up to his laptop. According to Jock’s recent Facebook status, the team’s performance level has improved during this camp... for the first time a rider put out 400 watts during his test ride, and another 370 watts. I'm not entirely sure what that means, but I know it is good! And I would like to think that home cooked, healthy, nutrient-dense, whole foods had some help in the matter!!

All in all it was a wonderful experience working with the team. I am just sad that my camera has broken and I was unable to document my time with them, but I am hoping to be invited back for more camps, and I hope to witness more improvements with the riders as we feed them nutritious meals. There is nothing I love more than finding the freshest ingredients and preparing healthy meals that feed the body and the soul. There is certainly something to be said about the power of food and I am beginning to wonder who is being nurtured more, me or the team!

Check out Team Rwanda, Project Rwanda and the work they are doing: http://projectrwanda.org

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