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May 8th, 2010 | Africa

Images of Burundi…

I did not get to see too much of Burundi, but I have a few images to remind me of my short stay there…

The Hotel Amahoro, great place to stay, close to the centre of the city and a short walk down to the shores of the Lake....

Jimmy, one of the shift managers at the hotel, went out of his way to help me… If you’re ever in Bujumbura, and need a comfortable and well priced place to hang your helmet, this is it… If you ever need someone to sort out any hassles you might encounter whilst you are there, Jimmy is your man!

I am a registered patient at the Bujumbura Hospital...

Naturally, I will not forget my visit to the Bujumbura hospital in a hurry…!! The doctor did not leave her desk, but examined me from a distance… Perhaps she thought I was contaminated with an illness which she wanted no part of… Many of the Burundian doctors do not want to deal with a European… They are very afraid of making a mistake, and the potential ramifications thereof… I found the same thing in Tanzania… Doctors who were available when I arrived, suddenly had very urgent matters to attend to elsewhere… The Burundian doctor refused to give me any anti-biotics and prescribed a course of Vitamin C tablets, which I had loads of already…. The stethoscope hanging around her neck was for effect only… I remember being sent away for a malaria test, and after paying the equivalent of about R10.00, I was given a needle in a little vacuum packed bag and told to go and have “my blood taken”… I walked down a narrow corridor, almost paralyzed with fear, my “Achilles Heel” dangling between my thumb and forefinger of my right hand… All the windows of the offices on either side of me were barred, so there was no way out there…

I had no idea where the entrance was, otherwise I would have bolted right there and then… I recall Jimmy giving me a worried look and telling me that “I didn’t look well”… That was mainly due to the fact that the thought of a Burundian nurse shoving a needle into my arm did NOT make me “feel well” at all… Jimmy’s arm on my elbow guided me into a tiny room under a flight of stairs, where a young man nonchalantly plucked the needle from my hand, tore open the packet, reached forward and took my middle finger in his hand, squeezed the tip, and before I could jerk it away, he pricked it and watched in satisfaction as the blood oozed out…

“You bleed well !” he said… I did not tell him that for a brief second I almost discovered whether he would bleed well too… Luckily for him, my normally razor-sharp, ninja-like reactions had been temporarily blunted by my fear of the needle… I was given a form with the number “8” scrawled across the top, and told to phone in an hour for the results… Jimmy later did this for me, and I was relieved to discover that Malaria had not paid a return visit to my system…

The pharmacy just outside the hospital was well stocked and the medication inexpensive… All in all, it had been a somewhat drawn out, but interesting experience with the Burundian medical profession…

Breakfast at the Amohoro Hotel... A miserly affair...

The only complaint I would lodge about the Hotel Amahoro (which means “Peace”), is their meagre breakfast, but then, it is typical of what we have come to expect from the French…!! The fact that I only had a small packet of biscuits for supper the night before, and could have eaten a horse for breakfast, had nothing whatsoever to do with my estimation…

A chunk of bread, a small bowl of fruit, and an omelette, that was thin enough to slip through a crack in the wall… I had to supplement my breakfast with a packet of chocolate biscuits. See the packet lurking behind my cup of coffee…

I had enjoyed the friendly atmosphere here, despite feeling none too well during my stay… I think I’ll call on Bujumbura, and the Hotel Amahoro, again one day…

Big Fella attracts attention at a filling station in Kyanza, Burundi...

Wherever we went in Burundi, we seemed to attract attention…. Not too many bikers visit this part of the world, and it was easily the biggest bike anybody there had seen in a long time… Check the eyes of the guy leaning on my Top Box… He was smitten!!! I just got a call from Bujumbura…. He still looks that way….!!! His mother wants to know what I said and did to him…

Flags wave in the wind...

Electioneering was on everybody’s mind while I was there… Over 40 different parties contesting for seats in Parliament… Nobody seems to agree on anything !!! Red, white and green are the only colours in evidence however, and every party uses these colours in a different way… Downright bewildering…!! Houses, cars, buses, trucks…you name it…everything was decorated in these three colours… It made for a festive scene…

What I could not understand, was that children had been dressed in “party” T-shirts, and were made to stand along the roads leading into and out of villages, waving balloons and shouting slogans… I thought this was a bit much… Why involve kids that are way under the age of voting, or caring…? They should be out kicking a ball or something… There will be plenty of time for politics when they are old enough to understand, and their votes might make a difference…

Road-side rock sellers...

Burundi is a poor country and it’s inhabitants will do anything to try and get an income… All along the road in the highlands leading to the border, young boys carry rocks and stones up from the river beds in the valleys below, and pile these rocks in their various sizes to sell to passing motorists…

I could have got two large piles for about $10.00, but the Big Fella wasn’t having any of it…

Many of the houses are built using these rocks, and they set patterns into the walls to decorate their respective dwellings… They use the smaller stones to line their driveways…

The Akanyaru River....

The Akanyaru River was in full spate… It forms the border between Rwanda and Burundi, and was the scene of some of the worst atrocities during the genocide of 1994… Hundreds of refugees who were trying to flee into Burundi, were trapped here and massacred, their bodies thrown into the river, clogging it for miles… There is a small field of flowers on the river bank at the border, which commemorates this place, with a sign that says,

“You are the loss that will never be replaced…”

A sobering moment for me…one of those that gets the eyes misting over…

5 comments to Images of Burundi…

  • Mark Behr

    Welcome Back – glad you are okay. Burundi looks like a land that has much sadness in it. Look forward to hearing more.

  • Brandt

    Glad you are ok. Got worried there for a moment. 🙂

  • Swazi Charl

    You had us all worried! Glad you’re back up. Keep us posted on the hacker. There really are some idiots out there.

  • Yay! You are back!!! Also got a bit worried by your silence. Glad all is still well and hope you recover fully soon! And I really hope that you and Carl can sort the hacker problem out in the easiest way possible (can’t bear thinking of your site being offline for any period of time!). Travel safely!

  • Lyse Champagne

    Would you give me permission to use your photograph of the Akanyaru River on my website (with proper credit, of course). I’ve written a short story entitled “On the Bank of the Akanyaru River” which will be published in a collection of short stories to be published in the spring.

    Thanks so much

    Lyse Champagne
    Ottawa, Ccanada

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