Kigali – November 1, 2011

The rate at which change is happening in Rwanda is astounding. The airport for example now has a couple of small deli-type places to get a bite to eat and Bourbon Coffee Shop. It’s Rwanda’s answer to Starbucks with 2 other locations in downtown Kigali. Rwanda is known for its Arabia beans, with the right elevation, climate and volcanic soil, the western part of the country is ideal for growing coffee.In the past 10 years Techno Serve and the Gates Foundation have come together and are working to help smallholder coffee farmers organize and develop co-ops and build washing stations. As a consolidated group rather than individuals they can do business with big coffee buyers such as Starbucks, marketing it as a specialty boutique coffee. This insures less middlemen, more profit in the farmers pocket. If you’re interested in sampling this delicious coffee here’s a link – http://shop.coffeerwanda.com/.

A new VIP lounge has also opened in the airport, the Pearl Lounge, free for those traveling business or first class, complete with cocktails and WiFi.For those of us in steerage class, for a mere15,000 Rwandan Francs, about $25 USD, we too can be VIPs.

Buildings downtown Kigali

The traffic, while not as bad as I-95, at rush hour can snarl and slow traffic to a creep. . On the way to the airport I was afraid I’d be late because we had to crawl halfway there. They have new traffic lights which neither Katie or myself can figure out how they work.You end up going when the lights are red as well as green and for some unknown reason and it kinda works. The streets are overrun with tons of motos (motorcycle taxis) which are the cheapest and most dangerous way to get around town.They sometimes travel in packs, swarming the road weaving in and out of traffic, horns blaring, coming perilously close to cars and trucks and killing the customer sitting behind them….only centimeters to spare.

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As always, the radius and density of electric lights grows along with new neat and tidy houses replacing the mud huts on the many hillsides that comprise Kigali. There arenew high rises jutting into the ever growing skyline that were in their infancy last time I was here in February – and we parked in a multi story parking garage…a new experience for me in Rwanda.

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