Saturday, January 30, 2016

Kigali Airport

As I was leaving Rwanda for Ethiopia, an incident at the Kigali airport left me with a deep impression and even more respect for the Rwandan people.

We had to go through security check when we entered the airport.  I had to place my  suitcase and my backpack on the track that led into the scanner, take my laptop computer out of my backpack and place it in a tray, empty my pockets and put everything in a tray, …   It was a bit of a hassle but I had done it a hundred times before and I managed it without too much trouble.  

We then went through passport control.  No problem.  

We had arrived at the airport more than 2 hours ahead of the time of departure.  Then we found out that the plane was delayed for more than an hour.  So we had more than 3 hours to kill.  But we had time so we were not worried.  I went to the lounge to see what was available.  It was already midnight and there wasn’t much left.  So I had a coffee and read some newspapers.  

When it was about time to board the plane we had to pass through another security checkpoint to get to the boarding gate.  I had to take my laptop out of my backpack again.  Except that my computer was not in my backpack!  Where could it be?  Had I lost it?  Did someone steal it?  What a disaster!

My colleague tried to help me recall what happened.  I remembered that the last time I saw it was when I took it out out my backpack at the first security check point at the entrance to the airport.  I did not remember putting it back.  So I might have left it there.  Would it still be there?  Could I get out there again?  It was already way past midnight, would someone still be there?  

We rushed back to passport control.  An officer was still there.  I explained my situation. He told me to leave my passport with him and to get to the first security check point to see whether I could find my computer.  I rushed down the stairs.   I was glad at that point that the airport was not big.  

As I approached the check point, I could see a computer sitting on a small desk next to the scanner, and two officers, one female and one male, were standing around.  I explained that the computer was most probably mine.  They asked me to prove it.  I suddenly realised that I had no ID on my body.  The male officer asked me what was in my computer and what would appear on the screen if they open it.  I started to describe the mail program, the Safari browser, …  I gave them my name and assured them that my name would be everywhere in the computer.   I was probably not very coherent at that point.  I don’t think I was panicking but I was certainly excited.  The man spotted my boarding pass in my shirt pocket and pulled it out.   Then we opened the computer and of course everything was as I described.  They gave me back my computer and I breathed a big sigh of relief. 

It was only then when I noticed that the security officers were smiling and friendly throughout the while time.  The immigration officer was also helpful.  Everyone was behaving honourably and respectfully, while dong their jobs.  

I couldn’t help thinking that my computer had been sitting there for 3 hours, with few people around.  If it happened in some other country, I probably would not be able to see my computer again. 

Ever since I came to Rwanda for the first time in 2013, I have always had great respect for the people here.  This episode just enhanced that respect, tremendously.   Thank you so much, my friends.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Mother with seven children

In May 2015, our partner in Rwanda - African Evangelical Enterprise - introduce us to a single mother with seven young children.  Her husband had just left her with the children.  

Her brother built her a mud house, but she had practically nothing.  With seven children to look after, and no education, she could not work.  With no husband, her future looked grim indeed. 

We installed a solar electrical system for her house, upon request from AEE.  

And some of us put together some money for her and her children.  

Half a year later, we came back and found the electrical system working.  And she was beaming.  

With the money we gave her, she bought a young cow, 2 goats, and 2 chicken.  Her cow eyed us with curiosity.  The cow is already producing a lot of urine and dung - useful as fertilizer.  Soon the cow will start to produce milk for her children.  

The mud house is still a mud house.  She still has seven children to feed, and no husband.  But she is evidently much more hopeful.  It is amazing how much a cow can do for you. 

We are also very happy for her.  

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Solar Electricity in Rwanda

In May 2015, we installed a solar electrical system in each of 45 households, where they had no electrical power.  Each consists of a set of 2 solar panels, a car battery, 3 sets of LED lights, a phone charger, a controller and the wiring to connect them all together.  

In January 2016, a colleague and I went back to check on the systems, fix some of the problems and to scout sites for projects in May 2016.  

One of home owners, a young women, had made some money buying and selling beans. She bought a new house.  She dismantled the system installed in her home, moved the equipment to her new house, and installed the system in her new house, all by herself.  The system works perfectly.  We checked the wiring and found that she had done it better than many of our students.  

This is really amazing.  And gratifying.  Not only are the systems useful for the people here, they have learned the skills to maintain the systems themselves.  This is part of the reason we are so happy to work in Rwanda, and keep coming back.  

This coming summer, we are determined to improve the design and install more systems so that more people can benefit from the electricity.  We are also planning some exciting new projects.  

We salute out Rwandan friends.  

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Cow Dung Industry of India

I have always known that cows do not fully digest their food, which is mainly grass.  Their dung, often in the shape of a thin disc, is often called cow pie, or cow chip.  A cow pie, when dried, can be burned as fuel. 

In India, cows are everywhere.  But you will not see cow dung just lying on the ground like in so many other countries, such as China.  

Because they are scooped up, shaped, dried, and then piled up to be sold.  

I heard that they are now being sold online.  And they are not cheap.  

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Children of India

India is one of the fastest growing countries, as evidenced by its abundant children.  Some of them are evidently happy. 

Some are evidently well taken of. 

Some live on farms with animals as pets. 

Some walk to school. 

Some ride on motorcycles to school. 

Some ride motorcycles on religious festivals. 

Some drink water from public faucets of uncertain quality.

Some beg for food on the street, with cows as companions. 

The children in India grow up in vastly different circumstances. In India, 220 million people do not get the 2,100 calories needed each day - the minimum required for each person to avoid being hungry.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Working women of India

India does not just have a lot of men, of course.  It also has a lot of women.  However, we rarely see idle Indian women.  They are almost always working.  Such as: sweeping the floor.

Pulling up weeds. 

Driving donkeys.

Carrying dry twigs, for kindling, perhaps?

Driving motorcycles.

Milking cows. 

Washing clothes. 

Working on construction sites. 

Carrying a million things on their heads. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Colourful Indian men

India has a very old civilisation.  It is well know for its gurus, wise men, and other colourful characters.  During our eight days in India, my wife and I had seen quite a few interesting characters.  Some of them are obviously religious, such as these Hindu priests who performed the fire ceremony on the ghats in Varanasi. 

Many bath along the Ganges.  It is certainly for religious reasons.  Otherwise no one in their right minds would dip into that water. 

There were loads of colourfully dressed (or undressed) men, everywhere we went.  

One in particular looked a bit like a Taoist priest.  

Some of them appeared to the beggars.  If they hold out their hands and other people give them food or money, they are beggars, correct?  I apologise if my observation offends anyone.  

There was this young man who rowed the 10 of us up and down the Ganges for an hour.  We were impressed by his strength and skills.  

Many were leisurely reading newspapers and drinking tea - or coffee.  

Why are wise men always men?  We did actually encounter many interesting women.  More about that later. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Land of animals

I have never seen such a variety of animals in the cities, in such close proximity to people.  There are elephants carry people, and working on the streets fighting their way through cars. 

Camels carrying people, and pulling carts. 

Deers begging for food at Sarnath, where the Buddha preached. 

Horses and their proud owner.

The ubiquitous monkeys. 

Scavenging pigs, which look more like wild boars than the pink, obese variety that we are more familiar with.

Bored snakes being charmed. 

Squawking seagulls trying to grab morsels thrown by tourists. 

Chickens waiting to be slaughtered. 

And much more.