Posts Tagged ‘Burundi


rules of the road – burundi (hahaha…), pt. 2

Friday, February 27, 2009

“Dear Emmanuel,

Léon was not trying to run you over.

Really sorry.



rules of the road – burundi (hahahahaha), pt. 1

February 25, 2009

Léon is my Logistician. Before I came to Burundi, I would have had no clue what that title would entail, but now I have a decent idea. An example: not long ago, I received a text message from Léon at around 6 p.m. that read, “Please don’t forget the reception at the Ambassador’s at 6:30 p.m.” And you know what? I had forgotten. But what really gets me is that I had never mentioned the reception (for the now-State-side and much-missed Caren – hello, Caren!) to Léon. But because he seems to know just about everyone in town, he knew that 1. There was a reception; 2. I had been invited; and 3. I had forgotten I had been invited. This is very clearly a complicated operation and only someone with a mind for logistics could anticipate all those steps. Without Léon, I would probably be doing something dumb like jumping through windows at a police station. More likely, I would probably be quietly weeping in the bathtub right now, wondering how to get out of it.

Léon does have one weak spot: he doesn’t know how to drive. This is actually an astounding deficiency for a Logistician – he can do everything but he can’t go anywhere. What is even more surprising is that Léon has a Burundian driver’s license. Right. He can’t drive but he’s allowed to. Welcome to Burundi!

(Photo by my House Chief, Léonidas)


So, today, I am giving Léon his first driving lesson. After a quick demonstration and an explanation of all the relevant buttons and levers, I let him take the wheel. We creep back and forth in the driveway, moving in an adequately straight line. Léon does fairly well except he’s a bit nervous about turning the steering wheel, in that he doesn’t. In fact, he’s terrified. Death-gripping the wheel would be fine if the car is perfectly aligned to go straight, but it’s not. One of our passes leaves the car leaning to the left. For every action, there is a note of apology.

“Dear Emmanuel (my gardener),

I am sorry.


You know that moment when you hope a car would slow down, stop, turn away? When the inevitable impact just seems so improbable? If you’ve ever (unintentionally) hit anything with a car at slow speeds, you might know what I’m talking about. And at the last moment, I think about flailing my arms, trying to say stop, brake, freine! I even imagine stomping on the passenger-side brake that car instructors usually have. But I do none of those things. I think, well, surely Léon sees what I’m seeing. Surely he isn’t going to plow into those pretty leaves.

Emmanuel, I am so sorry.



mount teza

February 15, 2009

Burundi doesn’t have many touristic activities:

“Have you seen the hippos yet?”
“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.




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


Brandon: “This is where we’re going.”




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


Not-Mt. Teza.




november 27, 2008

Thanksgiving turned into kind of a big deal this year. I guess all the Congo adventures make me appreciate my home a little more (and hungry). As my escapades increase in intensity, so, too, do my domestic activities. I cooked the whole day with my house chief, Léonidas, who also pulled in Emmanuel, my gardener.

The U.N. didn’t import turkeys for its staff this year so there were very few bird-based dinners. I don’t know the first thing about preparing turkeys anyway so I had about 20 people over and made Thai food.

Hummus is not Thai food, but it’s pretty damn good:


I wanted to keep the pineapples to serve other things in. The hordes of fruit flies convinced me I was being an idiot.



housing crisis

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A little while ago, I got my garden going (pumpkin leaves are really interesting, by the by). A collective decision was made to add a roof for the seedlings, so we built one. Here it is before the roof and after a week with.


Here it is after I came home today:



Now I’ve dug out a third plot for herbs. We built a roof for that one, too, out of bamboo. With the rainy season picking up, the roof probably has a two-week lifespan. That might be considered average here.


no motorcycles

Monday, September 22, 2008

I got my driver’s license! It’s such a beautiful piece of paper.
I don’t know why, but people laugh at my picture a lot.

Unfortunately, I forgot to ask for permission to drive motorcycles. Someday, I will try to expound on the differences between riding a motorcycle in Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC.


the magnificent bug

Tuesday, September 2, 2008.

This is the car I drive now. If I’m going to stick out, I might as well do it in style.

Oh my goodness!

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