Today’s coffee break is taking place at Shokola Café in Kacyiru Sector, Gasabo District. For a long time, I have been a regular fixture here. Found in the building that houses my beloved Kigali Public Library, this joint’s location is simply convenient.
Upon arrival, I place my order and pick a random book from the shelf. Yes, there are bookshelves in this artistically designed café. Putting books in coffee shops is a trend that is attracting both coffee enthusiasts and avid readers, myself included.
The book I am reading is The Road to a New Countryside by Wang Tai, Zhao Jingyu and Li Haitao. After a lifetime of reading books, this is probably the first time I come across a product of three authors.
I almost put the book down after the first few pages. However, the more I turn the pages, the more hooked I get. Before I know it, I am traveling from one Chinese village to another. Along the way, I encounter farmers planting, nurturing and harvesting a wide range of crops — wheat, soybeans, rice, maize and shrubs I barely recognize.
This part of China is different from the cities I have seen in documentaries. Usually, when someone mentioned China, my mind processes the image of metropolitan areas with vast industrial bases, massive infrastructural projects and bustling markets.
The places I am visiting today, through the power of Literature, are completely different. First of all, the sky is blue and the hills are green. Secondary, the tranquility and peace of mind experienced here is seldom felt elsewhere in the vast territory.
"Do you need anything else sir?" This question, posed by my barista, interrupts my rural China expedition. Unbeknownst to him, I had traveled to East Asia without leaving my chair.
Before I order something else, I peep through the transparent walls of the building and see the Kigali Golf Course, Vision City and the backdrop of hills surrounding the capital of Rwanda.