Thursday, July 31, 2014


On my way to visit a young friend near the headquarters of AEE Rwanda, I saw some people playing a board game.  It was played with seeds on a board with 32 pits in 4 rows.  Each player seemed to own 2 rows.  There were some seeds in some of the pits.  A player picked up the seeds in one of the pits, and started placing them, one by one, in the other pits, in sequence. I couldn’t stay long enough to figure out the rest.  

Later I found out it is called Igisoro. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

African Tea (with milk and ginger)

This is one of the many things I like about Rwanda - African Tea.  It seems to be made of tea, hot milk and ginger.  At some places, such as this coffee shop in the city centre in Kigali, at a shopping mall overlooking the valley, you can clearly see and taste the tea.  There is also un-mistakenly ginger, but it is not overwhelming.  

At other places, however, there seems to be hardly any tea in the "African Tea".  It looks more like just hot milk with ginger in it.  Even then, it is quite enjoyable. According to my Rwandan friends, it is quite popular all over East Africa. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Food and Sex

In Jared Diamond’s book, The World Until Yesterday, he talked about what we can learn from traditional societies. He was concentrating on the bands and tribes of small scale farmers and hunter-gatherers, mostly from New Guinea, South America, Africa and Australia.  

He has this observation on the Sirionos Indians in Bolivia, 

“the Sirionos’ strongest anxieties are about food, they have sex virtually whenever they want, and sex compensates for food hunger,”


“our strongest anxieties are about sex, we have food virtually whenever we want, and eating compensates for sexual frustration.”

It is a sweeping statement, but many people will probably agree with Diamond.  By “we”, I suppose he is referring to people living in developed countries such as the USA, Europe, … and Hong Kong.  For many in Rwanda, Cambodia, and elsewhere, food hunger is still a major concern.  

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Driving at night in Rwanda

Driving at night in Rwanda is a hair-raising experience.  The highways outside the city do not have street nights.  So they are pitch black.  But people walk on the shoulders at all hours in the dark.  I don’t know how they can see where they are going, but it seems that they manage it somehow. 

So you drive along.  Every minute or so, people suddenly appear out of nowhere, flash by your car some three feet away and disappear into the dark again. You keep praying that they stay on the shoulder, that you don’t hit them.  I don’t want to drive in Rwanda. 

Why are so many people walking on the highway 9 o'clock at night, …, 5 o’clock in the morning?  It does not happen even in China. It does seem like there are more people in Rwanda than in China.  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Water purification

Here is another of African Evangelical Enterprise’s projects.  Traditionally local people in this valley near Rwamagana have been fetching this murky water from this water hole like this man in the foreground.  Obviously the water is not good for human consumption even after boiling. 

AEE helped to dig a big hole in the ground, put in a big tank and filtration material.  

The tank and filter is located right under where the people and jerrycans are standing. The water, after filtration, is much cleaner which is suitable for human consumption, after boiling. 

Judging by the long line of cans waiting to be filled, people have much more faith in the filtered water than the murky water in the open.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tree tomato

I finally figured out what I have been eating for 2 weeks in Rwanda. It is quite popular in the markets and restaurants there, along with passion fruit.  I have included some passion fruits at the top of the photo, for comparison. People often get the two mixed up.  

It has a distinctive and complex flavour, tasting sour but flesh. It can be made into a juice, or served as fruit after a meal.  I have asked many people, but no one has been able to tell me its name in English.  Below is the cross section of the tree tomato.  A passion fruit is included in the upper left for comparison.  

It turns out to be a tree tomato, also known as tamarillo, or tamamoro.  It is high in vitamins and iron. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Passion Bearing Fruit

We return to a passion fruit farm that we “helped” to water last year.  Most of the plants were barely a couple of feet tall a year ago in the summer of 2013. 

Today the farm is a beauty.  The plants are tall and strong, the fruit bountiful.  

The flower is fantastically intriguing.  It looks like something that a child blessed with wild imagination would create.  But perhaps not by a level-headed adult, who might find the design unnecessarily complicated. 

The unripe fruit is green.  It is ripe when it turns dark.  

The proud owners of the farm are full of smiles.  The fruit is very popular in Rwanda, and brings in a lot of money. We are proud to have been allowed to be involved in it. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Returning to Rwamagana Child-led House

We return to a house that we “helped” to build last year (2013).  When  we left then, the house was close to finished, but the kitchen annex was barely 5 mud-brick tall.  

Today it is nicely finished.  

The living room is bare but clean.   

The bedroom is tidy. 

The head of the household is a 22-year-old young lady.  She was 2 at the time of the genocide.  Her parents did not die in the genocide but of AIDS.  She was busy peeling cassava when we arrived.  The fresh and uncooked white flesh is crunchy and slightly sweet.  It is not unlike a starchy uncooked water chestnut. 

The household seems to be doing well.  Partly through raising these hungry pigs, who mistook me as their feeder and tried to push their snouts noisily through the slats. 

It is gratifying to see the house completed, and that the household in flesh is doing well. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

House building at Lake Muhazi

We went to a village near Lake Muhazi, about half an hour away from Rwamagana,  to “help” to build a house. It is a  self-help community project organised by AEE,  in which a team of neighbours help a children-led household build a house.  

We had to fetch water can carry it uphill from Lake Muhazi to the village, which is roughly 1.5 kilometres from the lake, with an elevation of 100 meters.  Most of us carried one 10 litre yellow plastic jerrycan, some on our heads.  The villagers made a ring with banana leaves to be placed on the head as a cushion.  The 10 kilogram water was easy to carry at the beginning.  But the can felt heavier and heavier as we moved up the hill.  Most of the villagers were actually carrying 20 litre cans.  

The water is mixed with mud to form a kind of mortar, to be used in between the bricks to fix them in place.  The bricks are just mud shaped into a rectangular block and dried under the sun.  We helped to mix the mud, carry the mud, carry the bricks, stack the bricks and put the mud-mortar in between.  When it is dried, the mud bricks are quite hard.  But water can easily weaken it.  Fortunately in this case, Rwanda does not rain too much.  That, of course, causes another problem - water shortage.  The floor plan was quite simple, basically a rectangle divided into 4 rooms: living room, bedroom, kitchen, bathroom.  The total floor area was about 200 square feet.  

It was hard work. But we only had to do it for an hour or so, building may be two layers of bricks around the house.  Such a house takes 3-4 days to build.  We were there for our education, to experience local life in rural Rwanda.  And the villagers were happy to humour us.  

There are many such child-led households because of AIDS and other causes.  Instead of putting the children into orphanages, the government decided it is better to help the children form a household.  This particular one had 3 children, who also worked alongside us.  

It was a good experience.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Our students taught a class on the mechanics behind pulleys, how pulleys can be used to lift weights, and how to construct them. 

They finished with building one with 6 pulleys on the basketball court,  It turned out to be strong enough to be used to lift up a child, or a thin university student. You only need one-sixth of the force.  Everyone wanted to be lifted up on it.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Geography at Center for Champions

I poked my head into a classroom and found that the teacher was not there, probably off somewhere attending a class run by our students.  I started chatting to the CatchUp 3 (equivalent to primary 5 and 6) students and ended up giving them a lesson in geography.  Many of the children are teenagers who have yet to finish primary school.  

I draw a map of the world from memory: Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia, Egypt, Sudan, South Africa, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Spain, Portugal, France, England, Germany, Holland, Denmark, USA, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Columbia, Saudi Arabia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Singapore, Malaysia, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, …

The students were enthusiastic and smart, and we had a lot of fun.  At some point the teacher came back.  She sat in the class and started pronouncing the names of the countries with her students.  Soon she came to the front and started teaching with me.  We had great fun together.  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Center for Champions Rwamagana

We return to the Center for Champions, a catch-up primary school for street children.  Many are in their teens, yet have not finished primary school.  Here they try to complete 6 years worth of primary school in 3 years.  We found the computer room exactly the way we left it last year.  The 4 tables were arranged in a square around the router in the middle.  The network diagram remained on the blackboard.  But it has not been sitting idle.  

They have formed a computer club with 12 members.  These are older students more advanced in computer skills. They are mainly studying vocational diploma courses such as construction, plumbing, etc.  They meet 3 times a week to learn IT from the teachers.  In turn, they help to teach IT to the other students.  This year, we ask some of our senior students to teach the club, and some of the teachers, computer programming with Python.  They are very eager and focused, even though most of them do not have a strong background in IT.   

At the same time, another team set up a wireless local area network, with connection to the Internet.  Broadband is very expensive here, costing hundreds of US dollars for a fixed line.  Three other teams are teaching other students science, using a solar oven, an e-microscope, and many e-books.  We enjoy the experience tremendously.  

Monday, July 14, 2014

Rwandan African Church

This Sunday we attended a Kinyarwanda-speaking church in Kigali.  It is near the top of a mountain across a valley from the city center.  

We have to drive up a very steep dirt road to get there.  At one point, the 4-wheel drive has to gun its engine and build up sufficient momentum before attacking a particularly difficult section.  

At the top, we look down on the tall buildings at the city centre across from the valley. 

The singing was very rhythmic and enjoyable.  The preaching by a pastor from Burundi was energetic as expected.  

At the end, we were pulled out into the aisles to dance with pretty much the whole church.  It was wild and fun.  

The pastor is an Rwandan exile who returned from Uganda right after the civil war in 1994.  The pastor’s wife is also Rwandan but was born in Uganda. She now works for AEE Rwanda.  Her English is excellent; so is her translation.  

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Pig cooperative

One of African Evangelical Enterprise’s major operation is to organise cooperatives.  Each is composed of approximately 20 people, most of whom are women.  The members take turns to come to take care of the pigs.  They also hire two people to keep watch over the pigs around the clock.  AEE does not give them money.  Instead, it helps the people form self-help cooperatives, give them small loans, teaches them to manage their finance, teaches them more efficient methods, ...

Pigs eat almost anything, and they grow quickly, fetching good prices.  The number of pigs here have grown a lot from a year ago.  

While we were visiting this time, 2 big ones were busy making new pigs.  They contribute heavily to the growth and success of the cooperative.  

After the hard work, this big guy had to lay down to deserved rest.  

Many of our students have never seen live pigs before, let alone watching pigs mate.  They were fascinated. They certainly learned a lot about pigs from the experience.  Of course, they also learned a lot about a pig farm as a social enterprise.