I finally got to visit a part of the coffee industry related to my company that was not our office. I got to go visit a coffee washing station that we lease in Bicumbi. It was only about 45 minutes away from the office but was definitely in what would be considered the village.
We drove out to the area where the washing station is and my boss went into a meeting with the cooperative while I waited in the car and read for about an hour, well tried to read. I am not sure why I was not invited to join the meeting. It would have been in kinyarwanda but it still would have been interesting to observe.
On the drive out to the station we had a conversation about being stared at and how muzungus are spectacles to many Rwandans, especially outside of the city and other towns. I told him honestly that it did not bother me for the most part. The staring and being called muzungu was something hard to cope with in the beginning but by now I am used to it. It does get to me occasionally but is generally not a problem. In his opinion it is something that Rwandans need to stop doing. He viewed it as a problem and associated it strongly with people in deeper poverty who are generally much less educated.
My views on this were honest and how I felt realistically. At least that is what I thought. I guess I have been in the city too much. While my boss was in his meeting and I waited in the car like I said above and although I was parked underneath a tree in the shade it was still rather hot considering it was midday in Rwanda so I had the front windows rolled down. I started my book and was quickly distracted by the gathering crowd. Four or so children, a teenaged girl and two adult women were soon watching me read. They did not say anything to me for a while but just watched me read. The staring was so heavy that I could not concentrate on my book. The children were constantly inching closer to the car and would lean into my window. I cannot tell you how distracting this was. It made me realize that it does bother me to have people just staring at me for an hour. I felt like I was a zoo exhibit. Every once in a while one of them would say “Good Morning” to me. If I did not answer they would repeat it at least five times. If I did answer they would explode in laughter. At the height of people staring at me there were nine children, two teens and four adult women.
Finally my boss finished meeting with the cooperative and we drove on to the washing station. Honestly, I expected a lot more from the visit. There was some coffee drying and three or four women were sorting. A couple other women were bringing buckets of very low grade coffee up to the drying tables. Other than that, not much was happening. I saw a tank of fermenting coffee but as you can probably imagine, watching coffee ferment is kind of like watching paint dry. They were not doing any washing or pulping during our visit so it was pretty unexciting. I got some good pictures though and at least I have been to a washing station now.