For my PICA internship, I am spending this summer working at Inzozi Nziza (Sweet Dreams), an ice cream shop in Butare, Rwanda. This may sound like a strange choice, but as an international relations major with a focus in international development, I knew I wanted to spend my summer working in the field. I began talking to friends who have spent time in Africa, someone mentioned to me this small ice cream shop in Butare, the second largest city in Rwanda. Inzozi Nziza is unique because it is an operation owned and operated by Rwandan women, and since my PICA interest is women as a tool for economic development, this seemed like the perfect opportunity for me. Inzozi Nziza was opened with the help of Blue Marble, an ice cream shop in Brooklyn. Since I come from Brooklyn, I immediately felt a connection to this project. I also got the opportunity to meet the women who had traveled to Butare to help open the shop and hear first hand about what an amazing project this really was.
So that’s a little bit of background on how I ended up being fortunate enough to work with these wonderful women in Rwanda and eat amazing and fresh ice cream all summer. I’ve only been here for about 48 hours so far, but I really believe Rwanda is beautiful. Butare is at about the same elevation as Denver, so the temperature during the day reaches about 80*F with a cool breeze and at night it drops all the way to the 50s. The only thing I didn’t expect was how difficult the language barrier would be. My first day here, the women at the shop made a big lunch for everyone who worked there. I got to have a traditional Rwandan meal and meet all of the women I would be working with. Unfortunately though, communication was difficult. All of the women speak enough English to take orders at the shop (and I will be teaching English twice a week) and I know some French, but the majority of time everyone speaks Kinyarwanda. Although there are certain women who can translate for me and the women understand more than they can speak, after only being here two days, I have a huge desire to learn Kinyarwanda, so I already spent a lot of today studying from a book a friend gave me and having the women at work help me. Although I may have only learned my greetings, thank you, and other small phrases, by the time the women for the second shift came in, they were very impressed (or at least amused) by my efforts. Italian doesn’t seem to be helping me at all.
So more specifically about my role at Inzozi Nziza, I recently have been working on the new coffee project. Rwanda is known as the land of milk and honey. The ice cream is made from milk we get from a few miles away, and we use equally fresh and local fruit. Adding coffee to our shop is a natural extension of using fresh Rwandan products. For the past two weeks Wiggles, a barista trainer from Brooklyn, has been setting up a system to roast Rwandan coffee on site and brew it in single cups. He’s leaving tomorrow so has taught me everything I need to know about running it this summer. I’ve learned so much about coffee – the history, regional differences, qualities, how to roast and brew it, and I’m still working on my tasting skills. We’ve also come up for recipes for excellent drinks using the ice cream, rich milk, and local honey. From someone who would never drink whole milk at home and only use fake sugar in coffee, I now love the flavor of this thick milk and plan on drinking coffee milk shakes everyday. I just finished writing out all the steps to roasting coffee, and tomorrow Wiggles and I will begin to train the women at work, and now it’s under the mosquito net and off to bed!