August 15, 2008
(Views of Africa)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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:
Black Pepper , all proportions up to the chef.
- Cook in a crock pot slowly for four hours.
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 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 10, 2008
June 19, 2008