Friday, October 24, 2014

Living Abroad - Rwanda

"A Thousand Hills to Heaven: Love, Hope and a Restaurant in Rwanda" by Josh Ruxin

Josh Ruxin is a multi-degreed, fairly wealthy, New Yorker who had put his public health experience all over the world, but more often recently in a consulting capacity. But he wanted to get his hands dirty and get out in the field again. He talks at a party with a wealthy tech guy who wants to know why he isn't in Rwanda. Rwanda seemed to be a great place to come in and help to revitalize after the devastating genocide in the 1990s. So he and his new fiancee (who also had a public health background) get themselves on a plane and go to Rwanda.

Josh works with (sort of? I think? Sometimes I didn't know who was exactly working for and with whom) an already established medical clinic in Kigali, Rwanda's capital. The clinic was already there but it was in a horribly poor area where people were starving but the clinic was run down and wasn't really where someone went for help.

It takes a lot of time, but along with a TON of help, the clinic becomes a shining beacon in the little community. They also feed the starving residents, and then help teach farmers different farming techniques so there's always food. Sometimes there's even enough of the crops leftover to sell for profit. Getting all of this going makes for very long days for Josh and so now wife, Alyssa looks for a way to help in the community.

She volunteers at an orphanage that helps to try to send promising kids to college, which would make a huge difference, not only in their own families, but also in the community. One of the main problems is that there aren't any jobs for the kids and teenagers to work and put money back for tuition. Through a huge and roundabout way, Alyssa opens a restaurant called Heaven. It was a great place for the kids from the orphanage to learn a skill, put money back for tuition and help support their families.

These next 2 stories didn't really fit into the review anywhere but I thought they were worth telling:

Pierantonio, a next door neighbor, told Josh what he witnessed during the massacres. He could see soldiers breaking into their neighbors and good friends home, where they were murdered, and the wife and daughters raped and murdered. He held the title Italian Consul to Kigali, which though it was mostly a symbolic honor, now meant that he had to try to get all 200 Italian ex-pats in Rwanda out. He stuffed his pockets with money that he had withdrawn before the uprising began, knowing that if something happened money would grease a lot of wheels. He (and his son) crept into houses and churches and rescued many many people, often just seconds away from being shot and macheted to death. He and his family were on the last flight out of the country. As soon as he got his family safely into Kenya, he returned to Rwanda to save more people.

I finished reading this book on September 11th. Josh was in Paris at the time and was one the very first flight out of Paris back to America on the 14th. He said the pilot gathered all of the passengers around him and talked about how they would "have to take action as a group if anyone was acting suspicious".  What a horrifying flight to be on, it must have been agonizing.

What I learned about Rwanda
-There's a weirdly large amount of ex-pats from Arkansas living in Rwanda
-The average life expectancy in Rwanda is just under 60
-They are one of the least corrupt governments in Africa

So that's a really long review. But the only thing that I didn't like was that sometimes the stories seemed kind of disjointed or seemed like they could have been organized a little differently to make things a little more clear. 3.5 out of 5 stars!



  1. I'm intrigued by the fact that this is set in Rwanda! And I wonder why there is "restaurant" in the title when people are clearly starving.

    1. It's kind of a weird thing. The husband works in this terribly poor community where they have to bring people back from the brink of starvation just to get them functional and then his wife opens this really nice sounding restaurant!


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