August 15, 2008  (Views of Africa) 

The Regional Conference is over and we leave Gitega at 6:30AM on Friday. My plane is due out of Kigali (about 170 miles away) on Saturday at 4:50PM. No breakfast available this early although I have a water bottle and a few granola bars I brought with me from home. The border was as expected. A long line to stand in to get out of Burundi and not so long on the Rwandn side this time. Several people got car sick on the twisting roads. I’m not alone this time as five from Goma and another four from Kigali are travelling with me. Gaston, the husband of Joyce, my translator a month ago, rides with me. He tells me of some of his story about the genocide and the deaths of his parents. He was able to escape with one or two family members to Uganda. He was 15 years old at the time. He was brought back with other children, by the Army, and a captain placed him in an orphans center in Kigali. He eventually got back to his home and found everything destroyed in his house and then learned that his parents had been killed. An American missionary at the orphanage took an interest in him and got him started back to school. He’s become a HROC trainer and is a respected member of his community and serves as an elected community leader doing some mediations as part of his office. He has a beautiful wife, Joyce Akayesu, and two daughters, Jessica and Bridget. Joyce did very well on National Exams , and is going to start university in January studying economics. This man is such a kind and caring person. I sneezed once, and he started rubbing my back thinking I was in pain.

Others I’ve met on the way have similar stories. One gentleman lost his wife and most of his children in the first day of the genocide. He was able to hide three days in the rafters of the church near where I stay in Kigali. Finally it is decided he must leave to avoid being discovered. He must cross the city to the football stadium where it is thought the the UN forces are protecting people. He makes it across , but even today cannot explain how he got there. His twelve year old son found himself in charge of seven younger children. They were running across a sports field about half a mile from here holding his three year old cousin’s hand. Someone threw a grenade at them and as he picked up the little boy, he was covered in blood and dead. They stopped and covered him with branches and then kept on, somehow finding safety and shelter. Another woman from the center was fleeing in a line of refugees toward a church where they were told they would be protected. As she was walking, her uncle who was working for a UN group recognized her in the crowd and pulled her out and was able to offer protection. The rest going to the church were massacred when they got there.

 A lady who works at the center is Tutsi, her husband is Hutu and in jail. He case keeps getting postponed, he has been in jail for many years, unable to prove his innocence. At the border while waiting in line, there were many people looking for opportunity to sell drinks and food. I had a Fanta and some cookies with Gaston and gave the rest of my Burundi money to some street children. As we got closer to the window to get our papers examined and stamped, a woman with an umbrella came up to us and began singing a beautiful little song that she kept repeating. Her voice was so melodic and joyous, and the song sounded so multifaceted, going in many directions. She would smile and laugh at us and with us, and of course she was expecting to be rewarded. I told her I had nothing left in local currency which was true, but this didn’t seem to bother her. She continued her singing and some of my colleagues rewarded her. I was sure she was a Twa, a pygmy, which my friends seemed to concur with when I asked them. The Twa, a 1% minority in this part of the world are a unique people. Traditionally forest people, hunters, pot makers and and entertainers. The are hired today at weddings to be the equivalent of court jesters. They put their hands in clay to make the beer brewing pots, something no respectable Hutu or Tutsi would consider doing.

The Twa are virtually the Untouchables of Rwanda and Burundi. Jean Paul Saputo, a Rwandan singer/musician who was at the U. of Dayton last year, mentioned that the Twa were the best singers in Africa, and now I know why he said this. We arrived in Kigali at 2:30PM and the Congolese were happy, because they could catch their 3PM bus to Goma and be home by 7:00PM tonight. We were all struggling to stay awake on the bus, and many did not.

Sights and sounds- I continue to be amazed by the loads managed by bicycle haulers. Break neck speed going downhill, holding onto the backs of trucks to climb th mountains if they are able to catch on. Sometimes they wait at the police roadblocks where the trucks must stop for contraband searches and get hooked on there. The police could care less although some truck drivers have attached thorn branches to the tail gates to prevent the hitchhiking. Some of the bikers have grain sacks, on which are stenciled ‘100 kilos” 225 pounds. The bags are sitting upright over the rear wheel. They have a strong frame and the tires do not seem flattened by the load. One guy had a pig trussed up and lying across the carrier frame. The loading and unloading of that pig was probably something to witness. Last year in downtown Bujumbura I saw a full hog carcass being transported through town on a 90 degree day. I’ve also seen 14 foot 4x4 beams carried across a bike. Seven feet of extended beam on each side of the bicycle. Make for interesting passing. In the markets corn meal is piled in a conical manner in flat baskets for display. Bees swarm all over the corn meal and no one seems under assault from the bees. Lots of used clothing in the markets coming frm USA and Europe. It goes for a very similar price toused clothing at home. I bought a T Shirt with the old East German communist log DDR on it. Bridget told me of her visit to Kibinda the last evening before we left Burundi. I had gone into town and was not aware that some of our group was going there. In 1993 there was a terrible massacre of Tutsi school children in Kibinda. We passed the memorial site on our way to Gitega. The Tutsi children had been put into a small petrol station and the building was set alight and most of the children died. In retaliation, the Tutsi dominated army came in and perpetrated their own massacres. This wave of violence began when under international pressure , a Hutu politician had been elected President and began integrating the army with Hutus. The Tutsi dominated army responded by assassinating the Hutu president. That led to the killing of the children.

Anyway, right across the road from the memorial site had been a Quaker mission. They had been kicked out in the 1980’s because of their protests regarding the violence in the country. They had all gone up to Kigali and after the many massacres, had decided not to return. Well, they have returned, and some of the older missionaries who had trained many of the current Quaker pastors were there for a visit. The Fergusons had come out over 40 years ago as a young couple. Mrs. Ferguson is a nurse. When they were in Kigali and the genocide occurred, they left Kigali and followed the refugees into the Congo and moved into the refugee camps to care for the sick. He went with the Hutus and she went to the other side with the Tutsis. There was enormous pressure from the genocide perpetrators to stop the Hutus who wanted to return to Rwanda. Mr. Ferguson led the first contingents back into the country and was under death threat if he did so. They are two very quiet unassuming people from Kansas. He looks like he just got off a tractor or came in from the milking shed. They have led these incredible lives in the middle of Africa. They are in their 80’s, carry their cell phones , do text messaging, and speak Kinyarwanda and Kirundi fluently. I regret missing the chance to meet them.

When we left on Friday morning it was a big market day everywhere and hundreds of people were out on the roads heading to the nearest market to buy and/or sell produce.. Both sides of the road were crowded. They walk fast with baskets of produce balanced on their heads. Little ones trying to keep up, probably to get a good spot tosell their goods. Lots of tuberous purple plants, tomatoes , pineapples, cows, goats, a bicycle with at least 25 live chickens tied on the handle bars, and a much greater number tied on the back. There were potatoes , passion fruit, granadillas, onions, strawberries, bananas in large stalks balanced on heads. I haven’t mentioned a group of 3 wheel delivery vehicles in the Congo made exclusively for crippled men and a few women as well. They sit in a chair with a hand crank linked by chain to rear wheels. They are able to move along over rough dirt roads transporting quite large loads. They are always accompanied by one or two able bodied kids pushing the vehicle from behind. One of my Congolese friends informed me that they are involved in smuggling and also are very crafty. So bless their hearts, the disabled are fighting back. Kigali, Friday evening August 15 Just walked outside, 7:30 PM , it is fully dark and a full moon and realize that this is my last night in the Africa I’m somewhat familiar with, and very comfortable being in. I’m in the first house I stayed in last year when I arrived. I’m not sure if I’ll come back to this place, if I do return. It may be directly to Bujumbura and directly over to the Congo to Bibogobogo or maybe to Pemba. Who knows.

Last year in Bujumbura where I stayed in the Old Hotel pacific, I mentioned that an old colonial custom had clearly disappeared, that of waxing the cement floors with a thick red wax for which the Afrikaner term was ‘stoepwax’. Only traces of it were seen in the corners of my room and under the bed. I was in the cheapest room, the $15 special. This year I had to stay in the $25 room for one night, the presidential suite, and it was waxed from corner to corner. It also had a bedside fan with a broken frame that I managed to jury rig , so I could keep cool while I had that 24 hour fever. Those were the only differences between the two rooms as far as I could determine. No hot water, but you really don’t need it in Bujumbura. There were mirrors in both rooms, so I relearned to shave with a mirror in front of me. It’s quite easy once you get used to everything going the opposite way you’re telling your appendages to go. Most of my shaving this month has been from memory, cold water, sometimes no water. The deodorant got consumed early on.

Eating fried chicken in Gitega- Last night was the first meal with any birds on the menu. We had pan fried chicken q2uarters, no breast however that I could detect. No breading either. One eats these beasts with the upper appendages. Finger tips are allowed but the whole finger must be simultaneously utilized as well as the palm of the hand It is within the bounds of good etiquette if you allow cooking oil and schmaltz to run down to your wrist. Do not bite meat gentilly off the bird. Better to put the whole piece in your mouth and clamp down and draw a bare bone out from between your teeth. A negative pressure sucking action is permitted.

Tonight in Kigali, Tilapia fish was on the house menu. Francine set the courses and John of God did the cooking , and admirably I admit. I saw John of Good going to the market this afternoon as I was coming up from there. He knew I was coming as I’d asked some of the Kigali people who had travelled with me and lived near by if they would drop off my bag as I had to go on to the Ethiopian Airways office to confirm my ticket for tomorrow’s flight. I’m confirmed. Anyway back to the Tilapia. It is the meanest looking fish (beheaded) that I’ve ever seen. They are however, excellent eating even from a nearly blackened carcass that has been fried in oil. They are farm raised and somewhat akin to bass, and they have the longest dorsal and ventral spines protruding out of their midlines that I can remember seeing in a freshwater fish. I peeled the skin off my portion and ate the white filet meat which detached easily from the bone. During the all the workshops I taught, lunches and dinners were served buffet style and my colleagues literally made mountains with the food that was available in good quantity. With the price of food soaring here as everywhere, their families are faced with the option of two meals a day as opposed to three. The quality and taste of the food showed no variance between the four centers where I ate. It became a struggle to eat with no variety and no spicing to the point that I began to lose my appetite in the last weeks.

Along with the occasional stomach problems, it seems I’ve lost 20 pounds in the six weeks, with almost no exercise, no sweets and no between meal snacks. Friday August 15 evening. All is well , I’m in a comfortable place, relaxed. I’ll sleep well tonight with no early wake up. I may look for some cloth tomorrow. The moto taxi driver said the price to the airport would be 800 fRw about $1.30. as opposed to $12.00 by regular taxi. Tomorrow night I’ll be sleeping in Ethiopia, maybe even watching the Olympics from that great distance running nation. Meals here have been very bland. I think they will heat up in Ethiopia.

Saturday August 16 Departure day.Up at 6:30 and casually get ready for the day. Bright, sunny, roosters crowing. Francine left early for a wedding in Ruhengeri. She was carrying a bridal bouquet and white gloves that the broide forgot to take with her. My shirst that I washed last night are almost dry overnight. Just have to remember to pack them. I have to decide how to spend my moringing. John of Gopd will make some lunch and I’ll need to walk out of here about 2:30PM . The airport is in town about 15 minutes from here. Ellen Seagren who is staying here will go to the market with me to do some shopping. Turns out that her mom is living in Kettering , the same suburb of Dayton where I stay. Ellen is a coordinator of the Cognitive Learning department at the U. of Minnesota in Minneapolis. She spends her vacations in exotic places. She is a Quaker and this year is here learning from the local quakers.

We got some good prices on a Kitenge cloth $10 and a Kanga $8 and bought a pound of Rwandan coffee in the duty free shop at the airport. David Bucura came to the house at 2:00PM and gave me a ride to the airport, sparing me a last adventure on a moto taxi in Rwanda. In the waiting lounge at the airport, a group of Chinese probably engineers from some sort of construction projects are all ogeling music videos that are playing on the one TV. Mostly semi clad ladies on the videos and the Chinese wondering about the capitalist world. However if these guys are North Koreans , they may really be wondering. They have a bit of the, ‘ just off the turnip truck ‘ demeanor. Very warm in the terminal. The Ethiopean plane arrived from Bujumbura on time. I bought a bottle of Scotch to start on with Alistair in Addis. A lot of beautiful people and NGO types in here along with the Chinese. Also a small number of affluent Africans.

On the plane we’re allowed to sit anywhere even though the plane is almost full from people boarding in Kigali. I took a seat in the last row and figured I’d get food first if there was any. For once I guessed correctly. A French couple from the Paris area sit next to me. They’ve been in Kigali for two weeks on some kind of teaching project. Ninety minutes into the flight it is dark and getting bumpy. There was a full moon visible for awhile, but now we have turned away from it. I’ll probably get to Alistair’s by 10:00PM . Got through immigration ($20) and customs in half an hour. Plane was early and though Alistair had come to the airport, when he saw the plane was early he thought I had already left so he went home. My taxi driver spent a long time looking for the place which he should well have known so I didn’t get in till about 10:30, and then he asked an additional tip for his incompetence.. It was so good to see Alistair. Anytime in a strange city it can be unsettling to be relying on strangers for getting from place to place. We sat up til 1:00 am catching up on 15 years of absence. Current stories, reminiscences; we both are still recognizable to each other. He tells me a lot about surviving in Zimbabwe. They plan to stay there regardless. Priscilla was born and raised there and has no intention of leaving.

One of the many stories includes how petrol is stolen out of trucks as they are rolling slowly down steep hills. Thieves run up beside the truck, break the lock on the fuel tank and siphon on the run. A number of them have fallen under the wheels and gotten killed or maimed. We get up around 8:30am and have a pleasant breakfast. Alistair is an excellent cook and great host. We watch some of the Olympics. Absolutely flawless filming, commercial free on the satellite system out of South Africa. Watched table tennis and volleyball. Track all afternoon and particularly poignant to be in Ethiopia when Ethiopia won 1st and 2nd in the 10,000 meters, Kenesia Bekele. I expected to hear celebrations in the streets , but we are in a foreigners compound somewhat isolated from the real population. We drove into town in Ali’s Peugeot for a look around and then had lunch at a German restaurant with its own micro brewery. Some of the best beer I’ve ever tasted. Shared a margharita pizza and macchiado coffee. The bill was $12.00.

Monday August 18Alistair left for work just as I woke up. He gave me the name of Solomon , a good taxi driver .. Mimi the housekeeper called Solomon and he picks me up at 9:30. I ask to go to the Hilton to see about confirming my ticket and to get some local currency to visit the Mercado (the market) Africa’s biggest to look for some jewelry. When I tell Solomon I’m looking for silver jewelry he suggests another place he knows. Also he doesn’t like to go to the Mercado, because he’s never sure what will still be left on the taxi if he parks it there. He idea is good. It’s a great shop with great prices and even those are slightly negotiable. I got some antique crosses that I will sell to finance some of the school fees for Mannaseh’s family. Some nice beads and necklaces that Dominique will no doubt enjoy. The dealer is happy to be paid in foreign currency and gives me a rate better than the hotel would have offered. There are too many people at the Ethiopian office for me ever to get served so I ask Solomon to get me tomorrow to try again. I took him for coffee on the way home.

Tomorrow we will go to buy some bags of coffee as well. For lunch I warmed up some of the lamb that remained form last night. I thought about jogging but chose to watch others run in the Olympics.. There was also South Africa vs. New Zealand rugby playing. The best in the world. Even watched some India vs. Sri Lanka cricket. Alistair described the lamb as a 500km lamb, ie. It may have been herded 500 km before slaughter making it somewhat tough.
  • Therefore he did a 48 hour marination before cooking Alistair’s Little Lamb Receipe 
  • Use meat from lower leg. 
  • Cut into bite sized pieces Marinate 48 hours in a marinade consisting of: Fish sauce Soy Worchester Vinegar (wine) Olive Oil Black Pepper , all proportions up to the chef. 
  • Cook in a crock pot slowly for four hours. 
  • In the last hour add green peas or beans. I think you could add curry if you like and serve the pot on rice with condiments on the side to add to the mix, such as chopped raw onions, oranges, coconut, tomatoes, raisins, etc.


August 21, 2008
August 15, 2008
August 14, 2008
August 13, 2008
August 10, 2008
August 9, 2008
August 8, 2008
August 7, 2008
August 4, 2008
August 3, 2008
August 2, 2008
July 30, 2008
July 29, 2008
July 28, 2008
July 27, 2008
July 26, 2008
July 23, 2008
July 22, 2008
July 21, 2008
July 18, 2008
July 16, 2008
July 14, 2008
July 11, 2008
July 10, 2008
June 19, 2008