Sunday, February 26, 2006
Welcome to Bujumbura
Ok fans, sorry for the delay but getting on the internet is not easy here. For one thing, electricity is scarce here. It goes down once a day at least, generally when I don't have access to a computer. Internet is also dead slow here.
The flight in was long and with a detour via Nairobi (Kenya). I was supposed to sleep at the hotel in the airport, but upon arrival, no-one had heard about such a place. At such a moment, it is imperative to leave your western attitude behind and remain cool. After an hour and a half I had located the 'hotel' at terminal four. It was there all-right, it was just that no-one at the airport knew about it. Hotel was also a much too flattering term for this place. The rooms where shoe boxes and made from the same material, so I didn’t get too much sleep, also thanks to the gang of extremely loud Chinese that were staying in the same place.
Anyway, I arrived in Bujumbura, capital of Burundi. I must say I expected the place to be in shambles, since the country has seen roughly a decade of fighting and ethnic cleansing. However, I was pleasantly surprised because it is a beautiful city in a beautiful country. The climate is great, not too hot and not too humid. People are friendly. Lake Tanganyika is beautiful, warm and a great place to swim if you can set your mind over the fact that it has a substantial crocodile population in it. The ideal destination for tourists you might say.
Ideal, if you don’t mind rebel forces creeping into the city from time to time trough the small rivers that run from the surrounding hills into the lake. Government forces are trying to halt them, so there are a lot of heavily armed men in the city. White UN jeeps are also a very predominant species here.
Although the people are much friendlier than the inhabitants of Kinshasa, and much less aggressive, you can feel there is a certain tension in the air. The two main population groups, Hutu and Tutsi are living and working together again, but it’s a sensitive situation all together. For foreign NGO’s, human resources management is not evident. If you promote a Hutu, the Tutsi will complain and vice-versa.
But all together, I have to admit I fell in love with this little central African state. The situation may still be fragile, but it is possible to work here and there is plenty to do. Although for me this mainly means talking to people, participating in reunions and studying the possibilities. It was a busy week; I will spare you the details. The weekend was a lot of fun however. I already mentioned my swim in Lake Tanganyika, on the edge of which I established a castle, together with the 5-year old daughter of my colleague. It’s made out of sand, so I won’t guarantee it’s as durable as one expects of someone involved in structural development (inside joke, totally not funny). I also took a lot of photos, so you can expect some spectacular images once I return.
I hope I can give you more updates later, if and when I get access to the internet.