This site is backed by 26+ years experience and contains insider tricks for professionals and information for homeowners that can be found nowhere else. Visit my WEBSITE and " LIKE " us on Facebook to keep up on our products and activities.

My normal service range is from Santa Monica to San Diego but I have installed copper gutters and rainwater harvesting systems in California, Nevada, Utah, Hawaii and Rwanda.
I have a small but national customer base through my gutter products website @ where I offer rare items such has handmade weather vanes and hand carved and custom family crests for gates cast in aluminum or bronze. Through my websites you can gain knowledge, order products, beautify your home or help grow your business.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rwanda trip journal, Part 3

5000 litre rainwater harvest tank Kibuye, Rwanda


This was our recreation day. The hygiene team wanted to see the two churches where we installed the rain harvest systems and then we went to the local market where the ladies bought skirts and I got a cute little dress for Avery, my daughter. I know it is nothing my wife would select, but there wasn’t much of a selection and it was only 3000 RF ( Rwandan Francs ) which is about $3.80 .

Then we took a small boat over to Bat Island, where as the name implies, there are millions of large bats. We hiked for five minutes into the interior and when our guide gave the signal we started clapping which woke the bats up and sent them into a panic flight. There were cows there; a herd of about seven. They were the healthiest cows I have seen so far. Then we went to “ Peace “ island where there is a little shack that sells cold cokes and fries. Pete and I brought travel fishing poles and cast a few times to say we have been fishing in Africa.

There are only little 4” long sardine looking fish called sombasas. I guess there is a massive methane deposit under the lake, so it is pretty much a dead lake. I heard that occasionally gas vents and people along the shore have been killed by the fumes, which is comforting as we are staying in rooms maybe two thousand feet from the shore. We met a boat load of teenage girls on Peace Island who are here from San Diego helping a pastor build a clinic.
Sambasa Boats at Amahoro Island
Tonight we will all go to a different hotel where a celebration feast is planned. Our rooms have no power or water today so I am eager for a shower and hope the power is on again soon as all my batteries are almost drained. Now, for a little shuteye before diner…
I woke up totally disorientated at sundown thinking it was sunrise and that I had missed diner. The place we went to had a buffet prepared with the usual fruits, pasta and potatoes but there was the added treat of tender beef in pepper sauce and banana bread for desert. It was outstanding.
Tomorrow we all split up and go to various churches in teams of two as guest pastors. Those who know me will be laughing out loud at that notion, but I guess it is part of the job. I will speak for a few minutes about the clean water project we are doing and Pete will handle the religious stuff. It’s difficult for me to talk out loud about that stuff. It is not a question of believing in God or not, but for me it is a personal and private thing.
For the first time I get the sense of the trip winding down. I mentioned that to the other team and they don’t feel that as they have three days of work left. I need about two hours for some detail work and testing at our two locations.

Tomorrow the plan is to go out with a local pastor to visit some other churches that may be potential locations for other systems to be installed by other teams. I love getting out into the country away from the urban area of Kibuye.


Speaking in the church was no big deal. I just reprised the post I made to the blog. There were some other muzumkoos from Pennsylvania and that took some of the pressure off me and Pete.  The pastor and his people seemed genuinely grateful for the catchment ( I am finally getting used to that term ). Then we went to the pastor’s home and unloaded some of our gift items. I have found that it does no good whatsoever for us to say to these people, “ we are coming to visit, please do not prepare any food as we know it is a big deal and we don’t need that. “ Everywhere we go they have sodas and food, even if that means they ask others from their village to bring items like potatoes and beans for them to prepare. The first pastor’s house was Pastor Valance, and he runs the church where we installed the first system. He seemed embarrassed that he had only room temperature sodas and no flushing toilets.
Then Pete and I took Jasquec and our driver to the Bethany for some cold drinks and wifi. We finished the day by visiting a man’s home named Augustine. I guess he is on staff at Saddleback as a master trainer. This was maybe thirty minutes outside town. It was almost dark when we got there and he had us walk ten minutes to a field where he showed us the location where he wants to build his church.

He had been having services there in a tarp structure but I guess the government doesn’t allow that so his flock of fifty meet on Sundays in his home. He asked us to pray for his church to have the funds to build and so we did there in the dark under strange stars and a crescent moon with the crescent in a place I normally don’t see it. The Big Dipper is upside down here.
I hope to return someday to install a catchment system on his church and hope that he gets it built.
Magical moment in a field.
I cannot say that I will ever be able to return here but I will definitely stay involved with the McBrides and assist in preparing other teams to go out and do the same stuff. Larry mentioned that he and I may return in the near future to prep the ground for other teams. That will not happen unless the church or another generous donor like Karen funds it. I guess there has been no work done while I have been gone and the situation financially will be grim when I return. The main thing has been that my career, which has up until this trip seemed like a meaningless waste of life, now has a meaning like I never could have imagined. This water stuff actually saves lives. The villagers around Augustine’s house in the field where he wants to build a church gathered around and when they were told that we are the folks that help provide the wells, the chlorinators and now the rainwater harvesting, they all cheered and wanted to touch us. This is powerful stuff. I feel that I am meant to be here.
These people astonish me; from Larry, Pete and Joel to the Africans. You can’t help but love the Rwandans and you have to try really hard to have them not love you more. When you are a person that does not have access to running's like I had never seen genuine gratitude before. They were so thankful.

Today is the first day that I feel kind of oogy. I have no energy; it's like I have weights strapped to my arms. I hope it is just that the week finally caught up to me. I know I was bitten by mosquitoes last night as they woke me up, but that shouldn't be a big deal. I slept through breakfast. We went deep into the country to survey two churches that are potential locations for future rainwater harvesting projects. They really need the help. Both locations have roof areas of about 2400 square feet.

Using conservative numbers based on forty inches of rain a year the roofs on those churches would yield well over 62,000 gallons of water a year. RAINFALL DATA FROM HERE.  The high altitude of Rwanda provides the country with a pleasant tropical highland climate, with a mean daily temperature range of less than 2° C (4° F ). Temperatures vary considerably from region to region because of the variations in altitude. At Kigali, on the central plateau, the average temperature is 21° C (70° F ). Rainfall is heaviest in the southwest and lightest in the east. A long rainy season lasts from February to May and a short one from November through December. At Gisovu, in the west, near Kibuye, annual rainfall averages 160 cm (63 in); at Gabiro, in the northeast, 78 cm (31 in); and at Butare, in the south, 115 cm (45 in). I will save the rest of the technical data for part 2 but as I stated another place on my blog they will have more rain than their ability to store it.

Now I wait patiently for my cheese burger ( which was very good ). Then Peter and I went to the market to buy our wives some African skirts. There was a man walking around with a machete, which makes both me and our interpreter nervous; too many images of bad people with sharp blades are stuck in our minds.
We did another house visit in the evening. Although we insisted that they not serve us diner there was again a full spread. It is fascinating to get inside the houses of the Rwandan people. The gratitude they have for the simple little gifts we bring is genuine.


Today we wrapped up some misc. loose ends on the two churches where we installed the rainwater harvesting systems. We were expecting to go out scouting for more locations but the pastor was busy and as is often the case in Rwanda the plans we make get changed. Not much going on today. We are hanging again at the Bethany waiting for cheeseburgers.
View from the Centre Bethany
After lunch we visited two houses, I guess they are CPT, which I think stands for cleanwater peace trainer. The first lady had one of the Sawyer filters and in the three months that she has been using it to clean her city supplied water ( which must be boiled or filtered in order to be safe to drink ) her kids have stopped having stomach issues. The second home didn’t have the filter yet, but she was educated in hygiene and she was shown to us as a model of what the education does. She was tops in a field of fifteen homes. To get the honors they have to have a small vegetable garden, a covered latrine and a tippy-tap. Jasque said her kitchen set up was far better than what he had as a child. Imagine perpetual camping with no toilet paper, just grass. The houses around hers were what you’d imagine as sort of a worst case scenario, in terms of trash and general filth. Some of the neighbors kids were over during our visit and the difference between her children ( the one who had received the hygiene training ) and the neighbors was like night and day. Her child was clean, had clean clothes and was not coughing and did not have a runny noes.

WEDNESDAY-The last working day in Kibuye
I went with just three Rwandans to survey three potential locations for future projects. That was interesting. You can’t help but feel like an important person as the gifts of clean water we bring are hugely important to the Rwandans. We went to a  huge outdoor market in the town of Rugenbara ( safe to assume  I got the spelling wrong ) were there must have been 20,000 people. I bought a traditional Rwandan knife for $0.15.  There was a mild blowing child stampede at our last stop. It was surreal.

 I got a last look at one of our project sites and it was 100%, with the lock box for the tank valve, the sawyer filters inside the church and the happy children. Jasque and I took a moto-taxi ( motorcycle ) to the Bethany. That place has become a special place to me, right by the water of Lake Kivu.
We met for diner back here at Saint Maries and Pastor Augustine had nice little gifts for Joel, Pete and I. As I sit trying to document my last few thoughts on this place the Catholic girls are singing a sweet sounding song at the school below…
This has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.
Tomorrow we return to the capital of Kigali for shopping for gifts and a final celebration diner. Friday we will get up at five a.m. and drive two and a half hours to an animal sanctuary were we might get a chance to see some wildlife. There really are no wild creatures here where we are, except for birds. Whatever there was didn’t survive the genocide when people fled to the forests to escape the killers.

We went for our last walk in kibuye in the morning before packing up to leave. Larry is able to win over most of the people we encounter on the road as he speaks enough of the language to communicate greetings and answer some questions. He said to an old man in kinyanrwandan “ be strong old man “ and some ladies walking next to us said to him in their language  “ you said everything but good morning! ” to which he replied, “ I am sorry. Good morning old man. Be strong. “ Just that fast he made friends with everybody. They respect him. That makes him more effective.
I tried to drink in everything with my eyes one last time as we walked and I felt a little sad that my time there was ending. I don’t know yet if I ever will be able to return but I can say that I fell in love with both the people and the countryside. We got to do things no tourists ever do; go into villages far away from hotels and meet as friends in people’s houses. We were welcomed as honored guests and they served us food and cold sodas even though for them such things come at great expense to them.
On the way back to Kigali we stopped at a beautiful waterfall and some boys came out. Instead of begging they broke into a song. One played some sort of homemade violin and they sang first in English and then in their own tongue. Once again I was charmed and entranced. I couldn’t help but reach for a coin as everybody snapped pictures and the boy made the coin disappear in a flash so that none of his friends even realized I had given him money. They also received toothbrushes from one of the members of the hygiene team.
There was one more stop, at a genocide memorial at the Catholic church where the walls were pushed in by a bulldozer. I think I must save that tale for the end as we were guided this time into the memorial by a father who had lost all nine children in the war. It was a moving, powerful experience and I caught something a little spooky on my camera.
We arrived in Kigali late in the afternoon and Larry arranged a treat at an all-you-can-eat buffet in an upscale place across the street from the place known in pop culture as the Hotel Rwanda. When we first arrived in Rwanda Kigali seemed so exotic. After our ten days in the quiet and small lakeside town of Kibuye the capitol just seemed dirty and hectic. The infrastructure is…lacking. The sewer system is challenged.  Pete and I shared a room and we were both out shortly after the lights went out for our four hours of rest before the last official day in Africa.
We were up at 4:45 a.m. and out the door. The safari truck was waiting and part of our group piled in for a two hour ride to Akagera National Park.  It was a real treat to see exotic game; cape buffalo, several types of antelope, hippos, zebras, monkeys, baboons and giraffe in their natural habitat. If somebody had said to me a year ago that I would be in a photo with a giraffe in Africa I would have said they were crazy. My friends will probably accuse me of using photoshop to drop myself into the picture.
On the way back to Kigali I stayed awake while the rest of the team on our safari slept. I wanted to look at every shack, every terraced hillside and every person with an impossible load balanced on their head one last time.  Our guide on the game drive, as they call them, lost his daughter in the genocide. He didn’t want to talk about it on the way out. He said to us, “ we want to look forward, not back, “ as we drove. But after hanging out all day we invited him to share a lunch with us at the lodge. We told him a little about what we had been doing in Rwanda and he opened up. He said that he had spent five years looking for his daughter, brother and parents after the genocide. Apparently he found the people directly responsible for their deaths. He said they told him, “ you will never find them. We threw them into the river and they are probably buried in Uganda. “
We finally got back to the hotel and cleaned up and did our final packing.
Those who have encouraged me to go are waiting for the answer to the question; did I find God in Rwanda?
I would say that I was never as lost as they thought. My issue has always been with men who put themselves between other men and God like the politicians disguised as preachers and other power hungry fools trying to define something that is undefinable.  The world is still poisoned and full of them. I write of the child molester protectors, the sham television evangelists and the type of people like the so called Christian priests and nuns who not only did nothing to stop the genocide but actually participated in the mass murder. I still believe that all religions bring one closer to God and that it is men who try to interfere it that journey by trying to judge other people.
I saw love of God and a positive power in the people of Rwanda like I have never seen before. I remember that night when we stood in that field that pastor Augustine wants to build a church on; we made a circle and joined hands with a group of children in the middle and we asked that he be successful in the quest to build his church. It gave me goosebumps
Did I feel the power of God?
Like a lightning bolt.
There was a powerful current of spiritual energy that surrounded us. Their conditions and their ability to be warm and loving and happy anyway made all my problems at home inconsequential for a while. We were working with people with scars from weapons used against them on their bodies and people who wore emotional scars from having lost in some cases, their entire families. These things do not make my own struggles less real, but they did demonstrate that the life you have, including the hardships and struggles, is a beautiful thing.
The Cass family can be proud of the fact that they made possible clean water for hundreds of people. I am still dealing with strange feelings. You get this strange feeling of guilt about everything we have. I felt like I was getting too much credit for making the gutter installation part happen. As we walked up to the door of Larry and Caroyn McBridge two nights after I returned for the debriefing and to see they next team off I was explaining to my wife how everything felt too easy and I wanted to get them to stop treating me like some sort of returning hero. We walked in and there was a standing O for me. It was really, really awkward. But of course, it is nice to be appreciated.

Suddenly all those people at peacewater, whom I had met before yet felt distance, seemed familiar to me. We had all shared an experience; we had went to Rwanda and been ruined. Gloriously ruined. And when I walked in for the debriefing it was like I knew everybody.

Gloriously ruined is the term for having your world view shattered. It is what happens when you are able to help somebody in a meaningful way and you ask nothing in return. It is how you feel when you go into a Walmart and what had been junky stuff before now seems like abundance and amazing quality.

A special thanks again to my wife and all those who made this trip possible.
Next up; The How to Install Rainwater Harvesting Systems in the Third World guide, er...manual. Whatever.

I am finally getting used to my new title; rainwater catchment specialist. I think when I have an office again someday the sign on the door will say something like, " structural drainage engineer . "

 Part one and two of this series on Rwanda can be found here.
Gazillions of photos are linked to in a slide show below;

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Rwanda trip Journal, part 2

Part 2: Working on Clean Water in Kibuye, Rwanda on behalf of No Thirsty Child. and
 Great thanks to my wife Lisa, Mr. and Mrs. Larry McBride and Bill and Karen Cass and Candi and Bill Chavez for making this possible and also to my teammates Joel Lautenschleger and Peter Hoffman.
a new email from Rwanda:" Dearest Larry
I am very glad to inform you that today :Pentecost day we had the tank fulL of rain water everbody at Free Methodist church was shouting of joy I trust that It was the same at Assembly of God church.
May God bless you dearest Larry and all the Team Pastor LĂ©onidas " 6-13-2011

A huge collection of photographs from the trip is HERE.

We scouted our two locations. I guess I am in charge of the installation at this point. Joel is the team leader but I am the technical expert, at gutters lol, so I am making the bulk of the decisions on how the gutter installation is going to go but there is no friction or competition at all. Joel is team leader and managed the project funds and Peter took care of the logistics such has paying for our drivers, rooms and whatnot. We all worked together on the installation and training. The ever present children, sometimes begging and usually pointing and waving at us when we went anywhere and shouting the word for white person. Larry cracks me up, he points back and shouts “ black child “.
We in our world can see the pictures, but you have to come here to see the life they have. It is inconceivable to us. You cannot imagine the conditions some of these people live in, yet most

everywhere we go we are greeted with their lovely smile and “ armakuru? “ to which we reply “ ne meza “, which means we are fine. Americans could learn a lesson from these people, but we won’t. Or at least, the ones who have never been here will not.
Peacewater is Larry and Carolyns baby 100%. He is probably the closest thing to a saint I have known.
The remains of the stadium.
I could write for hours, but I am toast. The Kibuye stadium is being torn down; the walls are gone and only a portion of the stands remain. It is best that the horrible place be replaced as it is; with a hospital. A thousand or so feet from the stadium where some 10,000 were executed over the course of two days is yet another Catholic church where yet another congregation was butchered.  There are gutted structures of churches that we see pretty frequently. I don’t care to imagine the horrors that those walls witnessed. In Rwanda the Tutsis were about 10% of the population but here in Kibuye they were about 20%. The beautiful lake that my room overlooks still has ( according to Larry ) the bones of unknown thousands that were killed and tossed into the water.
Today we started the gutter installation on our first location. It went well enough. We went to the lumber yard and got our wood. The men here make about 2000 francs per day if they are lucky, or about $3.00 u.s.
They are in a mixture of rags, dirty clothes and failing coveralls with flip flops or leather dress shoes. Some have rubber rain-type boots and I can only imagine what their feet must feel like after wearing them all day. The electrical panel is open, sawdust is a foot thick on the ground in places and the machines are at least as old as I am. I guess that tarp covered workshop is home to four different businesses. They make attractive furniture that will be  exported to the Congo twenty five miles across the lake. I negotiated a price for eighty feet of hardwood 1” x 6” and eight pieces of rafter material, cut to our specs, planed smooth and delivered for the equal of $37.00 U.S. dollars.
A curious group watched us work all day. We had to break to get one of our “ ladders “ welded. It was hard dirty work. The pastor showed up and despite what we were expecting he was grateful for what we were doing, however we were doing it. At first he had said, “ I have a metal roof, I want metal gutters and two tanks, and gutters on both sides of the building. Larry, the consummate negotiator and diplomat fixed that and we asked the pastor enough questions that he felt like we were respecting his church and opinions, then he left.
We finished the day at the Bethany Hotel sipping coffee and chatting with our various families via skype and now I am in the dining room awaiting the dreaded Sombasa diner. Sombasa are little sardine sized fish that you eat whole with the head tail guts and all. The sunset was spectacular and once again electrical storms light the sky over the Congo. ( ps, the sombasa were great. They are deep fried and tasted like sweet French fries )

I sit in a restaurant in downtown kibuye with the workers that are helping that are helping us install the rain harvest system on the first church. The food is served buffet style and there was some excitement when we pulled up as our driver knocked over a motorcycle trying to park. The owner ran up to the window and I had a brief moment of terror, not knowing if I was about witness a battle or what. This is my first time away from the team and on my own. I got sent with the crew to get them lunch and buy some more water.  Our friend Jados looks over my shoulder as I type watching every word. This is such a strange experience. Aside from one Chinese person I am the only non-African around. Jados is on staff at Saddleback as the in-country staff person, but I guess he only gets paid when there is a clean water team in Rwanda, so he is very happy to see us.
The first location completed with the foundation for the rain tank, the fascia board and rain gutters installed. First Assembly Of God Church, Kibuye, Rwanda
It was a long day.
We got the first system pretty much done. We went into town to purchase another ladder today. The ladders we have to use are the most ridiculous thing you could imagine. The picture of the ladder to the left is part of the good ladder of the two we had. :)

When you purchase a ladder in Kibuye that means going to the local welder and having one made. They close their eyes when the arc lights and the transformer is a open spool of wire. To get the right voltage the wrap, or unwrap a few strands of wire.

The second site is going to be more difficult, just because of the kids mobbing us. They are mostly the abandoned children of the local prostitutes. Filthy, and often in rags they gather to watch us work. Yet always, that easy smile and joyful greeting for us. There is a lot of alcoholism here. Many stores sell beer and hard stuff. The poor drunks drink homemade banana beer. I am now showered and waiting for diner in the common eating room. There is not much to do in the room beside sleep.

Today we started work at our second location. It is going to be easier, although it is in the direct sun all day. We called it a half day as we are all exhausted. We will go this afternoon into the countryside to visit the site where Immacule hid in the bathroom for three months with eight other women as the genocide raged around them. I am really looking forward to getting out away from the city of 30,000 where we are staying and into the remote areas.
My body clock is finally adjusting to the time difference, which is about nine hours. I have been skipping the morning walks that Larry, Pete and Joel take every morning as I am the one doing the bulk of the installation as I am the only one with previous experience, but I guess they saw otters in Lake Kivu which is about a half mile from where we are staying. The sunsets over the lake are spectacular every night without fail. The Catholic girls’ school below us finishes their day with a song every night a nine o’clock and it is a sweet sound that makes you instantly feel relaxed. I am kind of surprised that there are Catholic churches anymore to be honest. Jasque, our interpreter was raised in that faith but after the war, as Rwandans call the genocide, he will not attend a Catholic church anymore. He says they cannot be Christians as some of the priests were participating in the murders. To me, that some of the worst areas of mass killings were inside the Catholic churches defies understanding. It is easy from a distance to say that all Catholics suck but the Sister that runs the hotel where we are staying is a sweet and caring woman. They are not charging us to do our laundry as they know we are volunteers working in the community. Lunch is now being served.

We finished the day as usual, at the hotel Bethany where there is wireless internet and we drink coffee with hot milk. It is such a bizarre thing to get the wife and kids on skype on a video call here, half way around the world. Another oddity about Rwanda is that you can be deep in the country and there is cell service. There seems to be nowhere you can go that you cannot get a call. They don’t drop, they don’t garble. I guess that there never were land lines so they just erected cell towers everywhere. After we went to Immacules house we stopped by some of the wells that are leaking or not working. These wells were put in by another NGO and the problem is educating the locals to not let the children abuse the wells, to keep their cows away so they don’t poop where it can run into the well head and contaminate the water supply.  The NGO is called Living Water and they too are doing important work. Now there just needs to be some maintaining and repairing of the wells. There seems to be quite a lot of them. One problem I can see with groups coming in to give stuff to the people is that they have no investment, no ownership ( as Larry says ). We are hoping to change that with what we are doing by insisting that the churches we are working on provide volunteers to assist with the installation of the gutters and rainwater harvest storage tanks. That way, if the gutters get damaged, they might have some knowledge about how to fix them. By investing in at least the labor they may be more inclined to keep the children from damaging the tanks.Larry wanted the churches to pay for the foundations for the tanks which cost about $180.00 U.S. for the cut stone and concrete, but when you are at a church where people tithe with lemons and bananas, or a few pennies there is simply nothing they can do besides provide the sweat equity which is more than they are doing with the wells, where a drilling truck comes in, the crew lays a foundation the drilling happens, the well is dedicated and its “ see you later. “
I had a nice chat at the Bethany Hotel with a man from Burundi who is a nutritional specialist who has been working here since the genocide. His job is to go into the refugee camps and deal with the rampant malnutrition and getting the former Rwandans to repatriate. I guess many of the perpetrators of the genocide fled and they are in limbo in camps along the borders surrounding this country. They may face trial and prison time if they return, but the penalty might be as little as ten years, even for those who may have killed hundreds. The main goal is reconciliation. My friend from Burundi ( I couldn’t  pronounce and will not even attempt to spell his name ) says that something like the genocide could happen again if there is not continuing efforts at healing. He says that in perhaps fifty years the memory will have faded enough that it would finally be over.

We got the second rainwater harvest system installed. I felt confident enough in our Rwandan assistant that I stepped into the church ( EDIT; to be honest, I had a moment and found myself cursing at the absurdity of the ladders, having no tool bags, poor communication, so I needed a break ) for a half an hour to work on this and let them finish the installation.
We took a motorcycle taxi through downtown Kibuye ( #27 on the list of things I never imagined I would do ) and went to the Congo market. The scene probably hasn't changed much in two thousand years except now the oarsmen are required to wear life vests. Bananas and plantains are brought to the shore of Lake Kivu where they are traded for avocados and other misc. locally grown produce. I saw children with bundled firewood that were carried in balanced on their heads to be traded. On the other side of the road hundreds of pigs, goats, cattle and chickens were gathered waiting for the end of the day where they are herded onto the boats and taken back to the Congo.

The second team that is in Rwanda right now is focused exclusively on hygiene and they met us today here in Kibuye. It was nice to see them again after a week apart and we all had diner of barbecued goat, fries, pasta and passion fruit at our hotel. They want to visit the sites where we have done our work and then we will all recreate and go visit two islands. I asked the driver to stop at the site of the former Kibuye soccer stadium where about 10,000 people were massacred. The politicians and police told them to gather there so they could be protected. Then the soldiers began throwing grenades and machine gunning them. Those not killed that way were finished with machetes. It took about three days to finish the job. I guess the killers would keep regular hours; in the morning they would gather, set up road blocks and do their business. Come five o'clock or so they would clock out and go home. If they encountered potential victims after hours they would let them go. " We'll get you cockroaches tomorrow. "
Our friend Jados was a student at the catholic school right next to the stadium and stayed home during the one hundred days of carnage. Our interpreter Jasque escaped with his older sister; they were hunted like animals the whole time; moving and foraging for food at night and hiding in the forests during the day.

Tomorrow will be our last full day in Kibuye. I guess I will go out with just our interpreter deep in-country to scout churches. Woot!
Next Up: Free Time, House Visits and Hygiene Training Observations

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Rwanda trip journal, part 1

 The gist is we are using donations to fund rainwater harvesting on churches in Rwanda and part of my role is to help put together a training manual that others can use and hopefully other teams doing similar work will find this useful. These first parts contains the story. A future post will have the technical information on how to install rainwater systems in the third world. Rainwater harvesting combined with Sawyer filters brings clean drinkable water.
My role is the “ rain water catchment specialist “, which is a fancy way of saying I am a gutter guy. I have been doing this for almost 26 years and have done just about everything a person could possibly do with that. I had often wished my life had been spent doing something else as gutters are not that glamorous. But you know what? It could be that all along this was my purpose and that all those years of hard work were not as meaningless as they sometimes felt.
I never imagined I would be here, or that something as mundane as rain gutters could benefit people in such a fundamental way as providing them drinking water. The catchment ( gutters ) combined with the other technology like the filtration means that some will not have to go to the ditch as I see them do now and fill their jugs. The team members Pete and Joel are awesome. There is no friction whatsoever. Larry is here guiding the way and his job is complicated. Makes mine look like child’s play. Perhaps that’s why he refers to us as his children.
This is a wonderful experience and if you ever get a chance to come here, do it.
More to come when I can.

LAX May 26th
En route to Kigali Rwanda aboard a 757. First to Washington D.C., then to Brussels and then an overnight flight to Kigali Rwanda. We will spend Saturday in Kigali getting our supplies and funds converted. Then we take a 3 hour drive to the city of Kibuye where we will work.

On board are the other members of my team Joel and Pete and another team of four. I am nervous about the twenty hours of flight and my ability to let go of life back home. I miss the wife and kids already. I am hoping that my own, and the teams goals are achieved.

Washington D.C. May 26th
Pete and I almost missed the flight. First they said we had 45 minutes so we grabbed some food, but on international flights I guess they depart when the bulk of the passengers are on board and we made it to the gate about two minutes before they closed the door.
We are now over the Atlantic. This flight seems like it has been going on four six hours but it has only been two. The wife was concerned that I might have some reaction to the sudden detox, and I was too, but not much. I am a creature of habit and I had let some habits get the better of me. I am taking some vitamins and herbs to help with depression. Yes. It’s been four years now since the great recession started and I feel exhausted from the stress. It is a weird place to be; wife, kids, house; but hardly any income. Ah well. The bond between my wife and kids has actually gotten stronger. I kept looking at her expecting her to have had enough and up and bail, but she is actually proving daily that I made a good choice in a wife. Part of what I am doing is trying to force a change in myself and my ways of thinking. She and those two precious kids of mine deserve it.
It was so strange to leave D.C. in the afternoon, see it get dark for two hours out the window and then have the dawn sky rise. It doesn’t feel like we have been up all night, but I at least have not slept for more than one hour. I believe we are somewhere over England now. I can only see a red dawn and a thick layer of clouds. I had requested a window seat but on both planes so far we have all had aisle seats. That was a good lesson for a long flight and here is the first example of the trip of Larry McBrides experience; it is way better to have an aisle seat. You have better leg room and it is easy to get up and walk around. I just listened to some dramatic music for five minutes on the airplane headphones and was hooked until the singing started; I can’t understand whatever it is. The same thing with the cabin announcements from the pilot. Everything is said in English, French and Dutch.
So far I have a bit of a tummy ache and I feel three stages past tired, but I still can’t get any rest as just when I begin to nod off somebody in our aisle of five seats needs to get up. The plane has two seats on each side and a row of five in the middle. We are sitting next to a father and son who appear to be from Africa as they are the best dressed on the plane. Pete explained it best; all that they have is their clothes. Most do not have cars or property so they dress very formally and keep themselves very nice. The dad has a three piece suit on. You just don’t see that a lot.

Now I try and sleep again. We are one hour from our second stop in Brussels , looks like maybe over Ireland based on the map on the seat in front of me.

45 minutes from Kigali
That was the best airplane food I have ever had. The American airline companies should take a lesson from Brussels air. There was a delicious pasta salad with some sort of turkey sandwich that tasted amazing. The food on United was flavorless microwaved glop. I would love to be able to spend a day sightseeing. The buildings and farms all look so quaint.

I lucked into a window seat on the flight to Kigali and I have spent the time awake with my nose to the window. I could not see any of the towns that show on the plane map, but I could see the Nile river, and huge flows of volcanic rock poking out from sand dunes. What appears to be single lane roads lead for hundreds of miles away from the water. I couldn’t help but think of the conflicts in Libya and Yemen as we flew over. In the minds eye I imagined tracer rounds shooting up at us, or perhaps a guided missile but that world is far below and they are oblivious to us.

I can feel my work issues fading. I don’t think I will have any room in my brain for the troubles that have been bogging me down at home. The people I am traveling with are awesome. There is not a hint of discomfort I feel with any of them. Now the sun is setting and it is getting dark. Not a single light can be seen on the ground.
We are now 33 minutes from meeting Larry at the airport.
First night in Rwanda

We were greeted at the airport by Larry. He seemed glad to have some company. I could only see the few miles that led from the airport. There are police in yellow vests and radios everywhere and about every quarter mile there is a soldier with an AK-47. It is all very surreal. The soldiers look spiffy in their black berets, but there is a hardness, a humorlessness to them. I hope to get a picture with one. You get the sense that if the country suddenly went insane again there is not much you could do besides hide. There are many little salons and shops and bars. If one had to party there is ample opportunity. The hotel where we are staying is sort of a church too. Not really clear on that.

There are beautiful new buildings being built within a stones throw of shacks with no power, as far as I can see. The main form of theft deterrence is shards of glass set into the mortar on top of all the brick walls.

Most places have walls, as if the memory of the roving bands of blood thirsty militias are not so distant. There are cell phones everywhere. Walking at night was strange. Joel was carrying about 14k in U.S. dollars and the other team about the same. I guess crime isn’t much of an issue. The black case Joel was carrying had our project funds.

Tomorrow we wake up and go for a walk as the city is shut down until noon for community service. I guess people have a choice on that one weekend a month; you either clean up something, help build something or you stay out of site. Joel was supposed to come here last year but that trip was cancelled because there was an election going on and the main opposition dude was found sans head, and there was concern that the madness would return. I guess there are free elections, as long as you vote for the guy they want you too. The people here express faith and love for their president. I wish it were like that where I live. I have little doubt that if somebody tried to assassinate the president hell would be unleashed again. We had a nice diner a few hundred feet from where we are staying.

There was beef, fish, rice and potatoes. I guess many Rwandans only eat meat on religious holidays, perhaps 2-3 times per month. Obesity is a non-issue, all the men are stick thin and there are large boned tough looking girls but they don’t have the luxury of gluttony. The place we ate had a full bar and wireless internet. It was spotless and the decorations were a casual African cool.

Beat. Shower and sleepy time. I am happy there is security glass on the walls where we are staying.

Kibuye, Day One
We started today with the best coffee I have ever had and then walked up to the “ Hotel Rwanda “ which is actually named something else.

It was a beautiful place with a full bar and huge swimming pool. There are no signs of the war. As we were loading the bags cars rounded the corner with lights flashing and men with guns. They must have been doing fifty down the street and we all scrambled to get the doors shut on the vehicles as the driver said, because who it was was the president of Rwanda. I guess they drive like maniacs to make a smaller target. Then we went to the market in Kigali to exchange money and get water and anything else that had been forgotten, i.e. I forgot shampoo and Pete forgot toothpaste. When we pulled up to the car a mother nursing a baby came up and, it was an instinctual reaction, I handed her my bag of trail mix and some change. Biggest mistake thus far of the trip; within seconds a half dozen mothers with nursing babies surrounded the car, pointing to their children and then to their own stomachs. Then a boy about five came up and shook his stump of an arm at us and said he was very hungry. So, the ladies had to sit and try to ignore the mothers as they stood inches from the car, staring and pointing to their babies while Larry and company exchanged about 14k in American hundred dollar bills into Rwandan francs. The market had all you could need and even had a machete section.

Somewhat disturbing, seeing a stack of the long curved blades. I may actually buy one as they were only $3.00.

Then we went to the genocide museum.

It was a respectful and somber place. That day happened to be the national day of mourning so there were many fresh displays of flowers and, a crowd carried in a small box of just recovered bones to be interned with the other 275,000 or so human beings placed on a space no bigger ours and our neighbors house and yards combined.

I guess they are still finding bodies all over. The family was about fifty or so members dressed in beautiful African best; traditional robes and elaborate head pieces on some of the ladies. Apparently they go to the perpetrators and offer them money to reveal where their relatives were killed. Sometimes the bodies can be recovered.

The pictures at the museum were much more hardcore than anything you’d ever find on the internet. Children with machete hacks in their skull that somehow survived by being left for dead and pulled from the piles of their mothers and fathers by the rare heroes of the carnage, piles of horrifically chopped bodies, some with outstretched hands with deep slices in their palms that were obviously defensive wounds and the unbelievable remains of decaying bodies that were left for months to rot, heaped in piles inside churches.

I have now seen true hell on Earth and the remains of unimaginable carnage with my own eyes. I think I have seen one person that looked over forty. That entire generation almost, is gone. I thought the pictures of the faces, the clothes of the victims and the room of remains was bad, but what really kicked me in the groin was when I went to see The Wall Of Names; of the 275,000 bodies there, I saw a list of maybe a thousand or so names. The rest of the wall was blank.

The death toll had to be much higher, because many latrines and pit toilets were filled with bodies, or had live people thrown in them, and then rocks tossed in until they stopped screaming, and it is unlikely that they could have recovered them all. Some families were chained together and buried alive. It makes me sad to think of all the people, the good people like our interpreter and good friend Jasque who is a Rwandan presidential scholar, or C.W.I's ( stands for clean water initiative ) in country person named Jados who were murdered for a stupid and pointless reason.
The initial method that the scum French used to determine who was Hutu and who was Tutsi was simple; if you had over ten cows you were considered a Tutsi and your name was put on a list. I really have no words to describe my feelings for the Catholics and the other so called pastors who participated in the slaughter. The French will forever be tainted in my mind.

The second memorial we stopped at was a former catholic church site where an unknown number of people were entombed. About a thousand Tutsi and moderate Hutus were inside the church when the pastor demanded that all the Hutus leave. Some of the Hutus were married to Tutsis or were friends and neighbors and they refused to budge so the pastor hired a man with a bulldozer, who didn’t want to knock down the walls until the pastor assured him that a replacement would be built, and then he knocked the walls down in on the thousand victims and ran his tractor over the rubble until they were all dead.
The man had no problem with the killing, he just didn’t want to ruin his church. The school building still stands with the long empty rows of seats. I looked through the glass and imagined the echoes of the children.

The drive to Kibuye was not like I imagined as all along the way there were people. I don’t think we went more than two minutes without seeing a person and the majority carried the old diesel fuel cans that many use to carry water. There was a man with a wooden bicycle, many women with high loads balanced on their heads and lots of children.

I have a private room with a view of the lake but no internet. We will be here for almost two weeks so I am fully unpacked and appreciating the privacy. Now my eyes blur and fatigue overwhelms me. The only toys I have seen are metal rings which the boys push along with a stick. I see boys four or five years old working in the fields, carrying water and forced to beg, yet they greet us with big waves and warm smiles. It is hard to believe what evil these beautiful people committed; the crime just doesn’t match the happy faces we see everywhere.
Tomorrow we scout our locations and go to church.


Ya, wow. It is hard to describe today.

The church service was a powerful experience. To see people living in such poverty, yet filled with such joy. They first look at us with wonder, like, who are these people and why are they here. We walked in like rock stars and when we were introduced there was a respectful round of applause. Then it came time for us to speak and Larry whipped them into a fever within about one minute.

Joel got up to speak and it was not quite the same effect. Pete and I just waved from the podium when it was our turn. The sound of the singing was…beautiful. They danced and clapped like nothing you can even imagine. The pastor beat a metal drum. The olfactory senses were assaulted as it was a packed house with no electricity and few windows. I would not want to be in there come summer time.
One of the old women sitting close to us ( center left, below and left of the guy

with the cabbage in the white shirt ) had a large scar on the side of her head from a machete wound. We had a translator ( who will visit us when he returns to California ) who tried to keep us informed about what the songs were saying; “ don’t give up, no matter how hard life is you must keep trying…”. Afterwords we visited the pastor at his home. No power. No plumbing.

I can see that Peacewater has some huge challenges. So far there are no churches that are able to buy into their own rainwater catchment systems. When you are person who attends a mud church with log rafter beams and pays tithing with husks of corn or a few lemons and your children have scabbies and live in rags it is easier to understand why they wouldn’t be able to contribute financially. Some of these churches have no roofs.

NEXT: The work week in Africa.