While listening to the final chapters of an audiobook on my iPad (to avoid the library removing it from my device),  I let the amazing Rwandan landscape slide by as we drove the 100 or so kilometers to Lake Kivu on the border with the DRC. Some people call Rwanda the Switzerland of Africa, with Switzerland a symbol that stands for mountainous beauty.  In contrast to most other African countries I know, the towns and villages we passed through looked pristine, well cared for and organized. One of my colleagues who has lived here for 8 years, and made this country his own, told me the orderliness and cared-for look is not just an appearance.

We arrived around 6 PM on Tuesday evening at our Serena Lake Kivu hotel. After we placed our baggage in our rooms we assembled for our opening session, an early start to gain some extra time on day one of the retreat.

We have now passed the halfway point of the retreat and starting to converge towards the intended results: a detailed work plan for Year 1 that can be used to fulfill our first 90 day deliverable, to create a budget for year 1 and present shortly to the ministry leadership and counterparts to make sure it is fully aligned with their priorities.

It has been a fun assignment as I am getting to know a new set of colleagues and also partner organizations I had never heard of or only by name: Jembi Health Systems from South Africa, Banyan Global from DC, Tulane University and the (Rwandan) School of Public Health.

I am also in my element because I get to observe people and their interactions with others. This is giving me some raw data to help inform interventions that I may propose to help them work as effectively as is possible given the mix of personalities, cultures, styles and levels of experience and expertise. Creating a new team out of this  is no easy task.

The hotel looks out over Lake Kivu. In the far distance is the DRC. In the middle of the foggy lake is a tall structure that captures the methane gas that escapes through the water from pockets deep down formed by the volcanoes that are ubiquitous here.  If you manage to think away the signs of civilization (people, structures) you can imagine what this place looked like when the earth created itself: a red hot bubbly mass of fireballs, gasses, minerals, flowing here and there, leaving the Rwandans the most deep dark and most fertile layers of soil. It is such a contrast with the sun-baked soil in the countries in the Sahel where, when you drop a seed on the ground, it will wither and die quickly; here it produces something green in no time.

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January 2015
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