June 27, 2006
It’s about 5:30 a.m, still dark here in
I can hear someone moving about just outside my window in the courtyard of Mamman Lyse’s compound. It is probably Gaspar, the cook, preparing food for breakfast. From time to time he sings – so softly, and so beautifully. Mamman Lyse is Aline’s aunt. During the worst of the war, at age 8, Aline left her village and was sent to the city to be raised by her aunt because it was safer. At present, this little compound is inhabited by Mamman Lyse, her four children, Lyse, Solo, Doe Doe, Francis, and Nadine (Aline’s 15 year old sister), Aline when she coes to visit, Gaspar, the cook, Feddie the babysitter, and Chao, the other BEP volunteer from Kenya. Chao graduated from
Mamman Lyse’s husband was killed by political foes about five years ago. She’s a smart, strong single mom raising these children on her own. She coaches basketball and track and does other things, but it is still unclear to me what those things are! She has one or two rental properties that help her support the clan here. Jobs in
You might think Mama Lyse is wealthy because she has a cook and a babysitter, both who live with her on this compound. In fact, this is true compared to most of the “middle class” folks who live in
Dinner is served by Gaspar and Feddie who live for free on the compound and receive some money -- $15 a month -- which they often send “upcountry” where their villages are. Dinner usually consists of cassava leaves, ugali, another dish made with the cassava root, lingalinga, a dish of greens, fried bananas (igitoke), fish from
This morning – June 27 – Beth and I are going to register at the
Yesterday Beth and I attended one of Aline’s English classes. About 7 or 8 nuns – teachers, librarians, nurses. What a lovely group of young women. There was quite a range of skill levels, so we wonder how she is able to reach them all. They come, and they are very eager to learn. Mostly they want to learn the bible.
In a few days Aline will be resuming her classes with young people—she had trouble finding a location, but thinks she’s worked it out. Beth and I will be attending her classes while we are here, and will be teaching as well. We’re still trying to figure out how to fit into the whole gig. After class yesterday we heard this amazing singing and dancing in another classroom across the way. We followed the sound and found these young adults doing the most amazing traditional dancing and singing. We spoke with them and found out they are preparing for a competition that is happening this weekend in the stadium. We will be going, for sure! We are also planning on going upcountry to Kiganda, Aline’s village, this weekend--despite the warnings against leaving the capital. With the current ceasefire agreement, I think we’ll be OK. July 1 is Independence Day here and the entire city is required to attend – the workers and military march, and the unemployed throngs get to watch. You can go to jail or get fined or something if you don’t go. So, in order to stay out of jail, I guess I’ll be going.
So far, Beth and I are having a GREAT time. It’s a little daunting sometimes, and people definitely gape at us, calling us umzungu (white person!). We just reply with Bite (bee-tay) which is Kirundi for “whut up?” Beth’s husband suggested that Beth and I try to blend in, but hey, it ain’t easy. I think I’m going to get up and take a cold shower. I can hear the sound of Gaspar and Feddie in the courtyard, and can smell food cooking. By the way, it’s incredibly quiet in
Next day: Spent a few hours in
There are apparently no traffic rules, and everyone drives 60 miles an hour minimum IN TOWN, dodging the thousands of bicycles, cows, goats, wandering children, and pedestrians that seem to be all over the road. I am always amazed when I survive a car trip, especially when we take a taxi, which we do often. I try to concentrate on the scenery, and hang out of the window trying to take photographs. It’s a challenging photography scene. The military does NOT want to be photographed, and everyone else wants money if you take their photo. Of course, if you give one person a dollar for taking his or her photo, you are instantly surrounded by a crowd of eager subjects with their palms out.
There are many UN vehicles around -- we’ve seen peacekeepers from
Tonight we had a great spontaneous gathering of local young people at Mamman Lyse’s house. They talked about their hopes and dreams, the corruption of the Burundian government, stereotypes about
Nevertheless, life is good in
Next day: It’s really hot. Last night is was so hot that I couldn’t sleep. They don’t have AC, of course, and no fans. I thought of buying them a fan, but more often than not there’s no electricity, so what’s the point?
Just finished an art lesson with Francis, the oldest son. He’s a good artist! Last night he came up to me with a photograph in his hand of his mother and father on their wedding day. He wanted me to draw it. He then did the same. Very poignant.
I’m off to the airline office to confirm our reservation. Ethiopian Airlines is pretty notorious for bumping people from their flights, especially if you don’t confirm your reservation. We leave for upcountry on Sunday and stary through Tuesday to visit a couple of villages and work with the women of the Duhinde Ikibiri project. We are hiring a driver and renting a vehicle (I hope he remembers gas and that it doesn’t break down). A couple of days ago our taxi ran out of gas, blocking traffic for a long way. Our driver ran somewhere to get gas in a little can and left us standing there. Then, a bunch of angry people start talking about lifting the car (where I could not tell you), and then a huge truck full of the military drives up and about twenty soldiers with AK47s hop out. Aline, jumps right into the morass and advocates for the taxi driver. He miraculously returns, gasses up, and off we go.
At first I was pretty overwhelmed at the poverty – it feels a little (completely) hopeless at first. The problems feel insurmountable Then again, I think that if you can make a small difference, it’s better than doing anything at all. We are going to visit the source of the Nile and the
We’re going to treat ourselves to goat shish kabobs (brushette) today! It feels good to be here.