Burundi… really?

by wonderfullyrich on May 12, 2009

A friend I haven’t seen much says “You are leaving DC huh?”

“Yep, I’m headed for Burundi,” I say

“Bur-un-di huh? Where is that?” they say.

“Don’t feel bad, I didn’t know about it more then a years ago myself. It’s a heart shaped country in the African Great Lakes region of Eastern Africa. Heart shaped meaning it looks like the human heart muscle with an aorta sticking out,” I describe.

“African Great Lakes region?” they ask.

“Like near Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, are and near Lake Victoria,” I say.

“Oh… so what are you going to do there?” they ask.

“Visit my brother, Andrew, who has been there for nearly a year working for AGLI or the African Great Lakes Initiative. It’s a quaker organization that’s peace building in the region. Angela, my girlfriend will be coming down from Rwanda to visit the organization Andrew works as part of her research for her Masters in Practical Anthropology. I might head back up north into Rwanda to see Kigali and who she’s been working with,” I say

“Really, sounds like a great adventure!” they say as they head off

A scene that repeated itself many times in the last month, if not exactly, in essence. It’s a scene that, like my Antarctica speech, has become well practiced and slightly bored in it’s recitation. Of course the irony is that both are exciting, very different, and in some case hard not to want to talk about. Especially as I finally arrived and more or less am done with thinking about things left in DC I finally doing more then abstractly thinking about the existence my brother lived for almost a year, and where people in one of the poorest countries in the world scratch a living.

The bright side is that being so close to the bottom in produced wealth, they are more easily able to double there standard of living quickly and are indeed doing so. For example, the property where Andrew is living and working is part of a property owned by the church (named Rohero for the region) and is currently in the process of building a new worship center. They have further plans to demolish the building Andrew is in, as well as some adjacent building and replace them all with a 3 story building. This all is paid for mostly by parishioners (so far as I understand). All told it’ll cost around $150,000 USD, so capacity does exist.

I’m excited, as I’m in a place where I’m comfortable, but yet out of my element. I get the chance to learn (and hopefully remember) and hopefully help out in small ways. I have lots of computers to fix, and hope that I can eventually return to help teach how to fix computers to others, but that might be a while. Not knowing French, Swahili, or Kurundi makes working in this country a bit hard for me, but for the first 48 hours, I’m feeling good about things here.

I’ve already put a few pictures up, taken a timelapse of my first “rainset,”and was woken up by kids in the Rohero children’s choir screwing around on drums. I also have a I have a video up of the HROC here in Burundi where andrew is also living. It’s a good start.

P.S. This post was supposed to be up 3 days ago, but am having internet difficulties which is par for the course for Burundi apparently.

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