Archive for the 'Great Lakes' Category



21
Apr
10

georges kanuma

My dear friend Georges Kanuma passed away on April 14, 2010, at age 38. These words still seem foreign and incongruous to me. Georges? Passed away? I cannot grasp that yet.

Please read a  few tributes to him here:

http://iglhrc.wordpress.com/2010/04/16/passing-of-burundian-lgbt-activist-georges-kanuma/

http://www.everyonegroup.com/EveryOne/MainPage/Entries/2010/4/19_Burundi__Message_of_condolence_for_Georges_Kanuma.html

I first encountered Georges in 2008 when my boss sent me an email with a link to a Time Magazine piece, “Helping the Hidden Community of HIV”
(http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1833962,00.html).
My boss wrote me something like, “Know this guy? Find him.” And I did.

Georges was the elder of the Burundian LGBT community, its “grandmere”, one of the few in their mid-30’s. It’s a young and dynamic community that I’ve come to know and value working with through Georges. In many ways, he was the activist we could all agree on. The first to really step forward with clear ideas, a will to organize and plain boldness. Others will do and have done a better job of talking about Georges, the gay activist. I’ll just share a few bubbles of what Georges the person was to me.

The first time I visited Georges in a hospital was months ago when he got malaria. I brought him a pizza one night and it’s one of the highlights of my time in Burundi to deliver a pizza to a hospital and share it with Georges. It had seemed like such a clumsy joke that he was in the hospital at all. It was a grand time. When I heard that Georges was in the hospital again for malaria, I kind of grinned and thought back fondly to my last visit. But it seemed more serious this time. He recovered, but the malaria had severely weakened him, I learned. When I checked in a few days later, he was still in the hospital.

Georges died of kidney failure. ‘Failure’ is an apt word. The medication failed Georges. We failed Georges. The medical care system in Burundi failed Georges. Burundi as a whole failed Georges. A gay man in central Africa fighting for human rights, in a country where a law had just passed outlawing homosexual acts. The odds were always against him. When we considered our options to find better care for him, we were not considering which hospital to send him to, we were thinking which country. Kenya, South Africa, Rwanda…

Georges always complained about my driving – 40km down a side street was enough to shock him – four elegant fingers pressed to his chest, pinkie raised slightly, chin tucked in, “Jeff!” A hint of a BBC accent, no less. But I can’t help thinking that maybe if I were there the day he died, it might have been my driving that could have saved him. When it became clear than an air evacuation was not possible, the road option remained for a short while. Maybe it would have been enough.

One of my favorite memories of Georges was when we went shopping for winter clothes at the central market so he could attend a conference Heartland Alliance was organizing in Chicago. He was terrified of the mid-March cold. So one morning he shows up at my house in a white tee and (I swear) swishy lilac track pants. I couldn’t help but stare at their catastrophic awesomeness. “What? These look great!”

It had rained that morning and as we picked our way through the mud and craters, I saw Georges hiking up his precious pants. I joked to him that he didn’t belong in Burundi. “I know!” he says and I couldn’t tell if he was kidding or not.

In the market, Georges made some truly astonishing finds. A pink scarf (more like a boa), green mittens and my favorite, a black beanie with a huge marijuana leaf stitched on. I could already see our president’s face. I could see the email I already expected: “Jeff, why is Georges wearing a hat that promotes drug use?” and I might respond with Georges’ own answer: “But it’s so pretty and green!”

In the end we settled for something less controversial but no less awkward: a Christmas green sweater with a reindeer on it and a navy hat with a bunny stitched on. I also lent him the coat that I wore in Sweden and he managed to find some long underwear (who thought it would be a good idea to sell longjohns in central Africa?? Actually, well done!) He promised not to smoke while wearing my coat. So about a week after he left, I got a surprise phone call one evening, and it was Georges calling to say hello and to tell me that it was so warm today, he was out on the fire escape smoking and he wasn’t wearing my coat. I asked him how that was possible, mid-March and all, and he replied, actually he was freezing but he didn’t want to get my coat dirty. (My coat still returned smelling like an ashtray after an all-nighter, but now I’m sure it was other people smoking.)

It’s actually a rather mundane memory. And for that same reason, I don’t really have many photos of Georges (and none with me here in Sri Lanka). We weren’t at many official functions or conferences together. We just did normal things and no one occasion needed to be specially documented. That’s how I could tell he was an especially good friend. I just assumed he would be around and there was no urgent need to capture our mutual presence. Now that I think about it, most of the people I have been very close to are people I don’t have many photos of. I don’t know if there’s regret in that observation, but in this case, I wish I did have more images because my memories are dominated by a bed-ridden Georges in his last days as his body failed him.

I was on my way to Sri Lanka so I found out about George’s passing over the phone, at a moment when I had expected to hear he had been evacuated to Nairobi. There is a void in me from that shock that still waits for a bridge between disbelief and reality. It’s impossible to know, with certainty, that the end is coming – that’s what hope does, I think, but the goodbye, that small acknowledgement that an ending (and a beginning) is happening, that is so fundamental to my deracinement and my wandermust, and that is what I might be missing now. It is how I mark changes in my lives (sic), document those unexpected turns and find pause to articulate meaning, to seek peace. There’s a song lyric I just came across this week that sums it up well: “Ending of everything, the ending is everything.”

I still see Georges, a few weeks ago when we went dancing, more than a year ago when we first met for lunch (he had fish baked in tin foil). I still feel his hand when I grasped it the night before he passed, that blue clamminess of someone who’s been in the hospital a while – unmistakable, rubbery, cold. His stare when speech no longer obeyed him. Just a few sensations left. They keep coming back but they’ll dissolve soon enough – what’s next? I’m not sure there is anything after. I missed Georges’ funeral today. Another missed chance to say goodbye. I wonder how the next chance will arrive and what to say then. I wonder if I’ll miss it again. I wonder how to say goodbye to a friend who should have never left.

Thank you, Georges. Sorry, Georges. Let’s go dancing, Georges.

(And thank you, Felicia, for being there at the end.)

14
Mar
10

jeffrey gettleman’s article about conflict in africa

Jeffrey Gettleman, the East Africa bureau chief for the New York Times, wrote this article in the March/April issue of ‘Foreign Policy’ (http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/02/22/africas_forever_wars?page=0,0) about the trajectory of conflict in Africa.

I have so many problems with this article, least of all because it is irresponsible to portray Africa as an endless and lawless battlefield. The article seems to rest on a primary assumption about the connection between soldiers and statesmen that renders it immediately untenable. Gettleman seems to be saying that because today’s soldiers are no longer interested in becoming presidents and ministers, conflict will continue, as long as the rebels do not formulate longer-term military and political objectives. Is it really possible to stretch a link from field-based military objectives (or lack of) to ideas about post-conflict governance? Meaning rebels of our nostalgic yesteryears with more “class” are supposedly better administrators because they were fighting for clear ideas, like independence?  The Zimbabwean independence movement sounded pretty classy, but how did that work out? The Zimbabwe situation may not involve “forever” conflict, but it has been a pretty long history of oppression and suffering.

The examples Gettleman cites to support his claims don’t add up for me. The photo at the top of the article, for all I know, could be of rebels from eastern Chad. In the last five years, they have made at least two attempts in jeeps to cross the width of Chad to sack the capital. Burundi, where I am based, just saw the last rebel group come into the fold after negotiating for ministry slots and a place in this summer’s upcoming elections. What the heck is Gettelman talking about? And what does he mean by “un-war”?? Wouldn’t that be peace? He may be better off defining ‘war’ first before he un-does anything.

I liked that he mentioned the “well-educated” John Garang though. Garang attended Grinnell College for a while before returning to South Sudan. It’s enriching to know my alma mater produces clear-headed charismatic rebel leaders with ideas!

Let’s take an example closer to Gettleman’s purview. He covered the Nkunda story personally. I thought his articles highlighted Nkunda’s well-structured political vision of governance, the CNDP’s attempts to win over the populace in order to consolidate their control over vast swathes of territory. Isn’t that a clear sign of a political agenda? At the least, it’s a first step to destabilizing a national government that sits on the other coast. Who knows where Nkunda was headed? So is Gettleman really saying that rebel leaders are not politically-motivated or not politically ambitious?

One other Congo-related point – is he equating Mobutu with a functional state? Does Mobutu fall into his category of “classy” leaders who knew how to govern?

The golden era of Congolese statehood that Gettleman alludes to never existed. Mobutu’s ascension was framed by the U.N.’s first peacekeeping mission in the Congo (50+ years!), a secession of an entire province, the murder of a legitimately elected leader and international actors playing out a proxy war with boatloads of foreign currencies.

This article is just not very well reasoned and each case example is underpinned by Gettleman’s own intervention, whether meeting Nkunda or olive oil merchants in Somalia. I take especial issue with his thought that conflict in Africa is moving toward the intractable fighting we see in Somalia. All over Africa, regional alliances are being created that increase cross-border investment in both the politics and the economics of neighboring countries. It is in this context that Burundi was able to achieve a peace accord with support (and pressure) from its east African neighbors. Somalia only has neighbors that aggravate the situation and little political will from within. It appears to be an isolated case, on several levels, rather than a harbinger of Africa’s future.

I think what Gettleman dances around but can’t outright say is that while creating a state is a legitimate goal, there are some really awful governments out there right now that were created by more structured independence movements. State institutions and the structures for good governance are not yet strong enough in the countries he’s named, and war is one of those things that would be somewhat regulated by a functional state. How the U.S. prosecutes its wars in Iraq or in Afghanistan and how it deals with their consequences in being able to demand accountability is an indication of its government’s institutional health.

It is not that this generation of rebels (god, I feel like I’m talking about disaffected ruffian youths of the newest generation of whatever era – very paternalistic) is aimless or moribund or not goal-driven – it’s that they probably recognize that existing state structures are not worth their effort. The decision to not control all the functions of government but only those nodes of power that distribute resources and benefits – that seems like a very calculated political move to me. The groups named may not be rebelling against current governments, but they are rebelling against the establishment with the caveat that in this case, the establishment can’t even provide clean water, reliable electricity or basic medical services. Who would want to take over something like that? The best rebellion in this case would be to stay out of the mess. Government is not considered a “necessary evil” here but an unnecessary good in the pursuit of happiness.

This article reads like another desperate effort of someone who’s been too close up to the violence to make sense in the face of a rationality that is not based on Western traditions or assumptions. Gettleman is the New York Times bureau chief for 12 countries. Are there any 12 countries in any region of the world where one can reliably extrapolate overall trends about political motivations, demographics, resource management, etc etc?

Perhaps Gettleman’s own coverage that is heavy on sensation and anecdotes gives greater impetus to these rebel leaders to grab the spotlight. Maybe his hypermedia coverage narrows his vision and he doesn’t see that political objectives take years, even decades to formulate, modify and achieve. Just because he didn’t understand each groups’ motivations in a couple weeks for what they might want to do with a territory as large as the Congo doesn’t mean clear objectives don’t exist. I don’t mean to berate Gettleman’s efforts to provide informative coverage of Africa, especially in the Great Lakes region where I am based. He is at least doing his part to learn more and to be informative. Having been here for a speck of two years, I can certainly appreciate the challenge of obtaining reliable data and constructing straightforward political narratives. This blog avoids more in-depth discussions for that very reason – the information would not be reliable or theoretically sound (and I’m strongly considering journalism school!). But this article does not really address endless conflict in Africa, it only follows an endless line of irresponsible journalism about “Africa”, not African nations.

13
Mar
10

international women’s day – continued but abridged

I had been expecting the festivities to rumble on into the night for International Women’s Day, but Aristide, our Project Coordinator, explained to me that the women absolutely had to get home by seven or eight p.m. He said it was to avoid trouble. My first thought: okay, it’s a bit unruly here, maybe not safe for women on the streets after dark with so much beer already consumed. But Aristide, with the help of the female staff, explained differently: The problem is that if they didn’t get back by then, there’ll be trouble at home.

‘8 mars’ is synonymous with female emancipation…for a day. The thinking is, women get their day and men will put up with it to an extent. So men will tolerate the “desordre” of ‘8 mars’ for a while. They’ll let the cries for equality and female empowerment ring out as long as they stay on the street. They’ll permit the dancing and parading as a necessary antagonism, so long as the women come back home and remember to cook dinner. So women who stay out a little too long, who drink a little too much on 8 mars are pushing it – they’re taking the whole liberation idea a bit too far. If they “se vengent” against men that way and if they try to repay the men for the other 364 days of inequality, then there would be hell to pay the night of ‘8 mars’. Better for the women to return home early and show their obedience to existing power structures – on this, both sides generally agree – “saving face” takes on a very literal meaning. So while ‘8 mars’ is a daylong party for women, it’s also a node for the paradoxical nature of women’s rights in the Congo, both its celebration and its negation.

I’m especially curious about the bellicose tone of these conversations. Of course, many discussions about gender roles and the sexes take on some edge of competitiveness, but I consistently sense that it takes on the dimension of a combat here. Women are either up or down, have to be shown their place or beaten back. Men have to show their dominance, must always be superior and they really are in control anyway but they talk as if their place is forever in doubt in this familiar contest. This is strange. Women remain overwhelmingly the principal victims in conflicts all over the world. In the Congo, it’s spawned a new vocabulary of inhumanity. Has the international community so inundated eastern Congo (and the world generally) with rhetoric about women’s empowerment that there is a defensive backlash from men? Probably, but that wouldn’t be a problem if real solutions to promote women’s livelihoods accompanied the flashy posters. More on this point another time, I think.

The next day, I gathered the staff to talk about the previous day’s events and what it meant to them. Inevitably, we talked about notions of respect and equality, women’s progress in obtaining rights such as inheritance in the DRC and the evolution of a women’s role in a family or a couple. It’s so interesting – I feel like we make a lot of progress. The men are at times disenchanted, at times threatened, at times just flummoxed. I was really impressed by how even-handed the women’s arguments were – not at all in line with the fervor of the day before and not based on some UNIFEM slogan. It sometimes makes me think there isn’t really a dialogue going on, not yet. The men, maybe out of politeness to me, clearly had things they wanted to say but always found some quirky way of framing their real thoughts to make us all laugh. Right before I returned to Bujumbura, one of them said, “Yes, of course we respect women, but sometimes they are just so proud (orgueilleuses)!”

11
Mar
10

international women’s day

march 8, 2010. uvira, south kivu, drc

“Huit mars”. International Women’s Day. It’s a festive occasion – huge parade, endless speeches, mid-morning drinking, especially on the Congo side, which is where I am to march with my Congolese colleagues. Everyone wants a good seat.

Uvira, South Kivu Province of eastern DRC, about 15 kilometers over the Burundi/DRC border at Kavimvira. A U.N.-backed holiday celebrating women (in the Congo!) could only mean one thing: giant block party. This day affirms my quaint belief that any backwater hub in the Congo could out-party and no doubt outdrink any Big Ten campus. Don’t believe me? Then you must see what happens when any vehicle, spilling over with too many passengers, rolls by blaring a local tune. From above, I’m sure you could see the ripple of dancing and chaos and screaming children that would follow the music source.


I’m with my new colleagues that we recently hired for a project against human trafficking. We are nine marching behind our Heartland Alliance banner.

That is the why. This is the wow:

After a two-hour delay under a crushing sun, we get moving, just as the sky ahead darkens. I’m suddenly relieved to find us near the head of the procession. When we get near the endpoint, there are crowds lining both sides and somewhere a rabid announcer (in huge plastic sunglasses and purple velvet top hat, no doubt) is screaming out the name of each organization and congratulating them. When we get near the spectator stand with local dignitaries reviewing the march, I hear Heartland Alliance’s name being blared out. “Ouais ouais, felicitations, Heartland Alliance! Ouais ouais!” Then I hear “Ouais, felicitations, Jefferson Mok! OUAAAAAIIIS!!!”

What? Sweet.

“Ha ha ha, tu es connu ici!”

Evidently. It’s a small community and all, and I do stick out quite a bit. But it never ceases to surprise me when I am stopped on the road, in shops, at the borderpost, at one of Uvira’s three nightspots or in the middle of a city-wide parade by hearing my name called out to me from a wall of strange faces. I love it.

Just as soon as we finish our part of the parade, the sky splits open and thick drops come plopping down. We run for it. Actually, everyone else runs for it, and I get distracted by this woman’s elegant headpiece.

Then I run for it, only I have no idea where everyone else has gone (ever travel with me before? Sound familiar?) Luckily, my team sends back one of the guards to find me and we all pile into a little bar tucked behind another little bar, which is most of what Uvira is.

We sit down, order some drinks – I have to restate the no-beer-during-workhours policy but I lose the no-bottle-caps-on-the-floor battle. We order meat on sticks and are treated to some Congolese classic tunes, which apparently everyone knows exactly how to dance to, because that’s what half the bar is doing. There is a guy dancing, Capri-cut Dickies denim, olive t-shirt. Very nice movements, short, round but lanky, too.  All of a sudden, he stops boppin’ and runs over to the grill to berate the hapless worker stationed there. I’m not really following the action. Then the dancer picks up the tongs and starts flipping around hunks of meat. Uh oh. Oh my god, he’s the cook! Except, he’s also the resident dancer! But, of course, he’s not stopping either task for the other.

There are many moments when I can see a disaster gathering with the speed of a drunken pig. This is one of them. Maybe I’ve had practice, but I see these moments very clearly now and yet I know I have no possibility of getting out of the way. As I’m typing this, my stomach is a lead-brick on coke. It’s rumbling and tumbling, with intent. Did I not see this coming when I speared the first of four or five pinkish meats that also managed to be incinerated black on the outside, while happily watching the dancing cook. There was a piece that was so unchewable, I had to pause and prepare myself mentally to not choke. Like a pissed off hippo, It did not go down easy.

It’s been about 15 minutes since I’ve managed to pull myself into a sitting position to type this. This is not the first time that I’ve been struck down by mega-sunstroke and a stomachache in Uvira. Somehow, in the span of 20 km, Uvira manages to be about four times hotter than Bujumbura. It’s really just the other side of the lake, but we’re a world away here.

07
Aug
09

gorillas

May 2, 2009

I’m standing at the bottom of a slope in Kahuzi-Biega National Park west of Bukavu in the DRC, dirt splattered all over my pants and for the second time in two months I am  witnessing my car flopping around in the mud. I think back to Nyungwe Forest in April when Martina and I drove to Rwanda to see chimps and just to get away from Burundi. We picked up Sarah from Scotland at the Park Ranger station (some foreshadowing perhaps – I had a ticket to Scotland for the following month). On the downhill drive into the park, we had no problems despite it being rainy season. The park’s tourist numbers confirm that April is the least popular month to visit but I highly recommend it if you want to see new landscapes and gorgeous cloud patterns every five minutes.

NyungweForest1

NyungweForest2

Anyway, of course, we didn’t have any issues getting to the park – we just slid downhill on the tire tracks other vehicles had carved into the yellow mud. Coming back uphill was a predictable catastrophe that no one really bothered to think about. The trip had seemed like such a brilliant idea until that point. Then things got cagey. I had run out of candy.

NyungweStuck

This was how the exit route looked.

NyungweStuck2

We tried putting logs into the tracks, we tried piling leaves under the car. I took out my machete to hack and to dig. We tried a lot of pretty silly things but with only the three of us and the Park Ranger, we didn’t move a yard. Finally, we convinced the Ranger to call his buddies and also to send for help from a nearby village. We waited for about 20 “Rwandan minutes,” which we were shocked to discover was only 15 ‘European minutes’. And then help arrived. Boy, did it arrive. Or I should say: boys. Lots and lots of barefoot giggly boys. We got to see chimps in their natural environement, a rainforest. The boys got to see foreigners in their natural environement, helplessly flailing in the mud. Fair enough. Everyone got to go home happy.

More Rangers arrived. Martina marshalled the whole group by shouting encouragements in a language no one really understood (Italian?) until she was laughing too hard to help push. Half the team pushed the car from behind, the other half pulled it by the grill on the front. The team rocked the car back and forth over each bump until it slowly gained enough momentum and traction to get going. But once it did pick up speed, I didn’t want to stop again so Sarah, Martina and our guide piled into the moving vehicle and I didn’t let up on the gas pedal until we were back on pavement. The car looked like hell. Probably the branches I crashed through did also. And then there was the rescue team:

NyungweTeam

All this flashes through my mind as I watch my Land Cruiser get a gentle nudge back up the hill so we can leave it on the drier part of the trail and hike toward the gorillas, the eastern lowland silverback gorillas. I love saying that. We’re a total of six hikers, one guide, and at least six Congolese soldier-turned-rangers. I hear some of the soldiers served under the Congolese Tutsi General Laurent Nkunda and had been integrated into the Congolese forces. That’s good, I guess, as all reports suggest they are really effective soldiers. In all, there are actually only three civilians – our guide, Carlos, Martina and me. The other four hikers sheepishly identify themselves as “Information Specialists” for the U.S. further north in Goma. I glance sidways at one in a black cap, impenetrable shades, a black tactical vest and menacing (black) boots. “Information? Oh, are you a writer?” Martina asks.

It’s a really refreshing hike. It’s still early in the morning and the Congolese landscape is awesome. The air’s clean, it’s not too hot – the climate isn’t really the problem for this country. We hike for about an hour when all of a sudden, a guerilla!

Gorillas4

Last known photo of the hikers before they see gorillas.

Gorillas5

The guerilla helpfully estimates that we are about several more minutes hike from the gorillas. He also tells us that we should always keep seven to ten meters between ourselves and the male or we might offend him. We learn the guerilla’s teammates have been radioing back and forth on the gorillas’ locations so he has seen them. All we have to do is turn right along the trail and hike a bit further. We take literally five steps after the turn when all of a sudden, gorillas!

Gorilla1

Gorillas2

At first, I don’t understand what is happening. I expected more hiking. I also expected more distance than two meters. When we got our pep talk, we must have already been inside seven meters of the gorillas. What I see is a semicircle trained on a small scene, almost like a stage. I’m confused because on the edges of this scene, just inches from a large female and her kids, are two or three rangers hacking away with sharp machetes, stripping the trees of branches and leaves. Then I realize they are clearing the space for us so we could see the gorillas better. Pretty quickly, we ask about the distance and the disturbance we are causing but Carlos explains that the rangers and gorillas are familiar with each other and if the gorillas were irritated by us, they would let us know. Everyone, gorillas and humans, also know that the law here is Chimanuka, the kingly male off to the left. He is essentially tolerating us because if he really wanted to, he could flatten all of us in a heartbeat. We are the ones that have to be totally respectful. At the moment, I am totally respectful of his eating every leaf around him. That’s about as far as our relationship gets. We don’t share a beer or anything, but he does end up tolerating us for more than an hour as we follow him deeper and deeper into the jungle.

Gorilla_Back

Gorillas6

Gorillas3

I’ve only uploaded a couple photos of the gorillas because this is ultimately not something I could show you well. Anyone can see images of gorillas anywhere, but there is so much more to it. It’s humbling and majestic and frightening and exciting and even a little sad, all at the same time. I would just muck it up; the experience deserves better than my telling of it. It would be hard to retell the stories we exchange while hiking or describe the flowers we smell. The enormity of Chimanuka’s frame, his fists that are the size of my torso, his commanding grunts. The little ones, interacting with us, dangling from branches, swinging by in the surrounding trees. Putting all of it onto a blog is really not why I went.

What I do support is tourism in the Congo. If you get the chance to visit, I recommend tours led by Carlos from the Co-Co Lodge, located in Bukavu. He has been there for a long time, so he knows the terrain and he knows the people. You can contact him at lodgecoco@kivu-online.com

You might mention Jeff and Martina from Bujumbura said hello, but I can’t be responsible for what happens next. Carlos was the one who had to get my car out of the mud.

25
Mar
09

seeing things

Some recent random shots.

I woke up at 5:58 a.m. and took this in the garden at 6:00. By 6:02, it was gone.

6amgarden

Dancin’.

dance3

dance2

dance1

The ‘Burundian Gentleman’ is defined by his visionary coupling of polyester leopard-skin hat and French cuffs.

leopardhat

The next three were taken in Ruzizi Park, where there are hippos and crocs and where you can see the mythical police-creature dozing in his natural habitat.

ruzizi_sign

ruzizi_weavers

ruzizi_habitat

The next one was taken in front of my house. It’s noteworthy because this is the third or fourth time the steamroller has appeared to re-grade the road. Each time, the crews don’t follow up with the other steps to finish paving, so of course, the rain sweeps away previous efforts. Good planning and stuff. Thanks, European Development Fund. (Follow-up: the canals have all been dismantled/smashed because they were too poorly built the first time and need to be reconstructed.)

roadwork

26
Feb
09

mount teza

February 15, 2009

Burundi doesn’t have many touristic activities:

“Have you seen the hippos yet?”
“Yeah.”
“Oh.”
(silence)
“Let’s go eat Indian food.”
“I ate there last night but ok.” 

Sometimes we have to really seek out our own fun. One option is to go for a hike, except all the nearby areas are still in rebel-held territories, even if they’ve promised to put down their guns. We did some intrepid organizing and notified the guerillas that we would be hiking around, so please don’t shoot us.

We decide to climb Mount Teza, which I had thought was the tallest mountain in Burundi. Turns out it’s the second tallest. And we actually don’t end up hiking Teza, we hike the peak next to it. The mountain next to the second highest peak in Burundi.

It’s a truly glorious day, and we haven’t had many recently. But today is perfect – big chunky clouds and glowing tea plantations lining the valleys. I’m not hoping to see many animals – the war was brutal on them, too – but we did sight a few fascinating birds and some giant earthworms, which were described as “muscular” (I later picked one up – ‘muscular’ is the correct word). And while not animals, we also saw a few broken clay pots, probably indicating old rebel campsites. Pretty neat stuff.

teza1

teza2

teza_worm

Walter helpfully points out the spot where your correspondent will slip and plunge an unhappy foot into that clean clean spring water.

teza_lunch

Brandon: “This is where we’re going.”

teza31

(Wyatt!)

teza_mushroom

Amy – wily henchman, photographer (did you or I take those shots up top?), navigator and soon to be taco-conspirator.

teza4

Not-Mt. Teza.

teza_tea




Click below to receive an email notification when I post a new entry.

Join 36 other followers

December 2019
M T W T F S S
« Dec    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  

Pages