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"Seven weeks to look, see, learn, and share some skills in Conflict Resolution…
For over a year this journey has gradually been coming together. But the seeds were sown over 40 years ago when serving in Tanzania with the Peace Corps."  

July 24, 2007 - Bujumbura


When I got off the bus on Sunday afternoon, it was hot and sunny and a kind lady came right up to me to ask if I were George. It was Florence , my host. She graduated from the Friends Seminary here in 2005 and her English is excellent as that school is taught in English by American Quakers. She took me by taxi to the Hotel Pacific, an old colonial structure out of Graham Greene. Ten foot high ceilings with plaster crumbling, but a cold running shower and no worries of water shortages with Lake Tanganyika only a mile away. I took the luxury of 2 showers yesterday. The first night I thought there were bedbugs but I think it was just a reaction to the material of the sheets, although there was a world class cockroach in the sink when I turned on the light in the middle of the night. Night two I slept without problem. I walk over to the Friends' church to teach in the sanctuary, a tin-roofed building with thick bamboo or thick grass walls. Lots of street noise from construction and cars, and a cafe right next door. I teach everything in French in this class and the time goes much faster than when we translated everything. The students are all professionals working in the church in various capacities as directors of women's associations, trauma and concilliation programs, coordinators , etc. Wonderful people, all. I haven't been shot down or criticized by anyone. Not like the old days in Zimbabwe or Tanzania. I thought I would take some flak for US policy in the middle east , but not so far. If one comes with the Quakers, people know you're not in the Bush camp.

The levels of formality may vary to the extremes. There are protocols of greeting and asking how someone is before asking the question you really want to pose. Yet this AM I came out on the veranda at about 6:45 Am yesterday to ask if breakfast is served yet. The manager was there on the on the veranda surveying his domain just out of the shower wearing only a pair of boxers and flip flops, not the least embarrassed by our meeting. He explained that breakfast would be ready about 7:15. He went his way, I went mine. Had a very nice breakfast, the Pacific Omelette with a bun and cafe au lait made with powdered milk. Very good flavor the Burundian coffee. Florence met me at 8:00 to take me to the classroom/church.

This AM I decided to go for a run as a walk yesterday indicated that people do jog in this neighborhood. I forgot my running shorts in Kigali, but after my encounter with the hotel manager, I figured a pair of boxers would be acceptable at 6:30am. Not a problem. Even passed a few guys on the run. I think they were soccer players , because they were running down the road wearing spikes.

First day of class went well. They are patient with me and are very caring. I think they have practiced less mediation than the other groups, perhaps because of the circumstance of war. There are more armed soldiers on the streets than any place I've ever been located. Gas stations are protected and most public buildings. Tonight on my way over to the church to eat, there were twenty heavily armed soldiers next to the hotel. Probably some vip in the area.

Traffic is chaotic. There appear to be no rules as there are no traffic lights or street signs. Just watch out whenever you cross a street. I went to the market today in a crush of people and got pickpocketed. Fortunately only a tradgey for the culprit as he/she got my camera case , but the camera was in the other pocket.

As I mentione, the Hotel Pacific is Graham Greenish, I met an old Brit there tonight who has been coming to East Africa for 25 years just to hang out. He came up from Kigoma by bus, which is an adventure just to contemplate. It took him until Aug. 20 to get a reservation on the train back to Dar Es Salaam. He's looking for a boat back to Kigoma now or else it will be return by bus.

So long, someone is patiently waiting for this computer.
George

 

 

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I'm safely in Bujumbura after a beautiful bus ride down from Butare today. I did a two day trip in order to see Butare, the site of the national univesity of Rwanda. Stayed at a very nice catholic guest house la procure de Butare. Just wandered around and relaxed. Then this magnificent ride and I had the front seat next to the driver and could take pictures that I never had the opportunity to take before. The conflict was settled here several weeks ago, and there are still a lot of soldiers along the roads maintaining a fragile peace. Some UNO troops as well.

When you come out of the mountains , Bujumbura lies on a flat plain and touches the north edge of Lake Tanganyika. You can see it from 15 miles away. It is hot like going down into the Zambezi valley used to be. The town has a lot of old colonial buildings from the early twentieth century and a number of modern ones too. The president's palace is up in the mountains but can be seen from the town.

I'm in the midst of nice people, the quaker volunteers. There are five , four college students and a professor from Frederickton, New Brunswick. He and I did a walk through town this late afternoon. As there is no room for me in their building, I'm in a hotel for a few days. I'll have my meals with them.