Up country in Burundi

Trip Start Apr 12, 2011
Trip End May 01, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hotel Dolce Vita Resort

Flag of Burundi  , Bujumbura Mairie,
Thursday, April 21, 2011

This morning (Thursday) I was in bed by 03:00, and was up again five hours later. I needed some breakfast to get going and went down to the restaurant to order an omelet and coffee, which should have taken 10 or 15 minutes to arrive (and the coffee immediately) but instead took 40. This is a very new hotel, clean and safe with a friendly staff and its quite good value for money. But the restaurant service is very slow. To be fair that is often the case in sub-Saharan Africa. Life is much simpler here, much less hectic and cluttered, so they don't time things consciously or unconsciously the way we do in the "West." So I waited.

Mo´se and Mr. Mundeli arrived right at 09:00 and had to wait for my omelet the same as I did, but they know the system better than I do….

After I gulped down my coffee, we drove north out of Bujumbura, along the border with the Congo and toward the border with Rwanda. Along the way we caught up with news. We had all been here together just 6 weeks ago or so there wasn’t a great deal on which to catch up, but we talked about the church members in the Ivory Coast and various events happening around Africa and the Middle East.

However, I was rather amazed to see serious road crews with earth moving equipment apparently preparing to widen the road, perhaps to four lanes. That would truly be amazing. Almost as amazing, other work crews were actually filling potholes in an effective, long-lasting way. From the Cibitoke provincial line north, virtually all the holes had been filled, and believe me that is a lot of holes. Imagine counting craters on the moon, that’s a close second. What a great thing this will be for the people in this part of Burundi and for East African trade as well.

Just before we arrived at the Rwandan border, we turned east and drove another 10 km, left the blacktop and did a few more km on clay-dirt roads to the little village of Buseruko where people were waiting to counsel for baptism. I’m doing several things at once: helping people prepare for baptism of course, but also allowing Mr. Mundeli the opportunity to participate in the process, so that he can be comfortable and knowledgeable about how to handle such responsibilities on his own. I took the first several sessions with the help of Mo´se as translator and then invited Mr. Mundeli to take the next ones, while remaining available to help and advise as needed. It seemed to work very well. We were able to agree by the end of our counseling sessions to baptize four ladies the next day. That took about four hours.

We stopped at 15:00 so that we could have a bite to eat which the local ladies had prepared: rice, beans, chicken and sauce, and a soda.  This is all a great treat for them, especially the meat, and costs just a dollar or two per person: a lot for them, not much for me. I was happy to be able to provide a decent meal, to me it follows in a very mundane way the miraculous example of the loaves and fishes – not, if possible, sending people away hungry. I ate lightly as usual.

We needed to be on the road by 16:00 to be sure to be back in Bujumbura by sundown. It’s better to avoid traveling by night if possible for a number of safety reasons: the soldiers guarding the road pull out at 18:00 (they actually usually pull out even earlier – it's government work), and of course the nocturnal pothole is even vicious than the diurnal species. We said goodbye to everyone until the next day and drove back down the partially improved road. We actually shaved 15 or 20 minutes off the trip since almost half the distance is close to pothole free.

By the time we arrived back in the capital, I was quite tired, so I said goodbye to Mo´se and Mr. Mundeli and they drove off for the evening while I had, not really a quick bite to eat (see above), but as quick as I could manage in the little roof-top restaurant. Unfortunately as I was enjoying the view of Lake Tanganyika and the Congolese mountains in the dusk, a neighbor decided to burn his trash. The smoke soon headed right up into my perch; not the best sauce for my dinner. The waiter helpfully yelled down at the neighbor in Kirundi and after a few minutes the smoke stopped. Dinner was quite nice after that....
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