Day-trip to Giti
Trip Start Sep 06, 2012
14Trip End Oct 09, 2012
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Where I stayed
At the gate we were told that we could not take cell phones inside. I surrendered my Blackberry and Mr. Mundeli his phone, which were both placed (sort of) in a standard letter-size envelope. In exchange we were given a tiny square of paper with the handwritten letters MV on it. This was no doubt a security rule to prevent anyone from taking a cell photo of the embassy in preparation for a terror attack (Burundi has troops under UN colors in Somalia not too far away and there have been threats). That was well and good except that the guard let me carry in my camera bag containing high-res still and video cameras. What we have here is a failure to communicate….
We walked through the empty parking area to the house and through the door. The couches were already full of waiting women, but the reception desk was unattended. We waited a few minutes, hearing a rather loud conversation going on in Kirundi in an office. Another foreigner entered and began waiting with us. After ten minutes I walked to the office and into the doorway and smiled. The receptionist was cut off in mid-sentence, jumped up and came out to the desk. I explained my need for a visa, hoping the hoops wouldn’t be too high or small. No problem, just $90, one photo, and please fill out this form. When could I pick it up? Tomorrow at 10:00 am.
I handed her a clean, unmarked,100 dollar bill, such as are required here. She looked at it closely. “Please give me another one” she said, “a newer one.” It was a 2003, which has until now been the cutoff for bills they like to accept. “It needs to be 2006 or newer” she told me. The rules have changed; it was only a matter of time. “You can go change this one” she offered helpfully. I told her I didn’t have time to do that at the moment but that I would bring a newer bill tomorrow when I came to pick up my passport. That was acceptable.
We finally turned off onto dirt and wound our way up the tortured road to Giti, which is located on a mountain top. The rain became heavier, which can be a problem on clay-dirt roads, but in the event we didn't have any particular problems. All the same, partway along, Innocent, feeling protective of his car, protested that if he’d known the road was be like this and this long, he wouldn’t have accepted the job. This was actually the opening gambit in a not-so-Innocent attempt to renegotiate his agreed-upon fare; but that was for later.
I also examined the interior of the church hall. Termites built a path inside the paint to reach some of the wooden supports in the walls, that needs immediate attention, and I offered a small amount to allow them to repaint inside and out so they will have an immaculate building for festival. I took photos and asked lots of questions.
Etienne showed me the blackboard he uses to offer reading classes to local villagers. These occur twice a week in the Church hall. He said he has about 10 students at any given time. He's been doing so for years and this activity helps the church fulfill an outreach responsibility to the local community.
Before leaving we talked to the mason currently working on the toilettes to make sure he could handle the new jobs to be done, which he indicated would not be a problem. Then we said goodbye to the Mr. Mrs. Sibobugingo, (he had to go back to his teaching job – the lunch break was almost over), and drove to Etienne’s house a few miles away. It had been quite a while since I had visited their home, and we had the time this trip. He tried to call his wife and let her know we were coming, but her phone was off. So as we arrived at his house, she also arrived from the fields, embarrassed to be found in her work clothes, but visibly pleased we had come.
I asked about house in which they have lived 30 years or so. How much maintenance was there? He explained that twice a year the interior walls have to be redone with a mixture of ash, cow dung and tapioca flower (the latter keeps it from flaking), the outside is harder and only has to be redone every five years, with a mix of stone, mud, and a chemical epoxy mix that can be inexpensively purchased. It’s a very hard mix that resists the elements well. The corrugated tin roof will need some attention soon; periodic hail damages it over time and eventually makes some holes.
I asked if I could take their photo and he his wife agreed. This couple sets a very fine example of Christianity, a loving marriage, hard work and service to the local congregation. They are true pillars.
Then it was time to say goodbye and head back down the mountain. The road construction slowed things even more going back, so it took more than 2 hours to reach Kigali. On the way Mr. Muneli called the Burume family in eastern Congo and I was able to say hello, ask about their welfare and pass along greetings. I also talked to Dr. Kamanzi the head of the dental department at the Centre Hospitalier de Kigali and plan to stop by to visit her in her office tomorrow, among other errands to run around the capital. Finally back at Chez Lando, at 5:00 pm, I said goodbye to Mr. Mundeli; who has a funeral to attend to tomorrow, so that he can be free to join me in Burundi, traveling down Thursday.
I was hungry ready for dinner, since we hadn’t had the time or a place to eat lunch; another beef brochette. We’ll see how well I sleep tonight.