On the second day of our recent trip to the north of Rwanda, we visited a border crossing with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), this one located between the otherwise contiguous cities of Gisenyi (Rwanda) and Goma (DRC).
We watched a line of people, almost all carrying large parcels of food, waiting to enter eastern Congo.
We watched another line of people, now almost empty-handed, coming back into Rwanda.
Afterwards, we headed about 10 miles east to visit a small hydro-electric plant. The unpaved road to the plant was too rough for the bus, so we had a walk through the neighboring village.
We ended our trip at the Pfunda Tea Company factory. Two thousand people work on the Pfunda Tea Estate, and the company also runs a cooperative for area tea farmers. All the tea is raised without pesticides, and, in February 2011, Pfunda Tea Company became the first company in Rwanda to obtain Rainforest Alliance certification.
One hundred and fifty people work 8 hours shifts in the tea factory, day and night. They will produce over 4.4 million lbs. (or 2 million kgs.) of black tea this year. The climate, altitude, and soil of the area is excellent for growing high-quality tea.
The design of the factory and its surrounding grounds — even its signage — struck me as remarkably consistent, orderly, and pleasant. Lots of straight, clean lines in red paint and low hedges.
Waste water from the tea processing is diverted to a garden pool and treated with “Effective Microorganisms,” a product that cleans water and eliminates bad odors with a combination of microorganisms that were collected and cultivated naturally.
As we travel, I am always looking for recurrent elements in the landscapes and urban surroundings through which we pass, as well as in the architecture and craft. I am trying to grasp what Rwanda really looks like, what it cares about, how it experiences its environment (and how I experience its environment) and how I can interpret at least some of that in a garden design.