(I've changed the name from "Rants" given that I can't really rant about many things that frustrate me here, at least not without getting into some sort of trouble. As such, you'll have to wait for the book.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Makamba to Gitega to Bujumbura to Kigali...

I think this will be a relatively short posting. I'm tired and probably not in the best mood to be anything close to interesting.

I'm in a hotel in Rwanda. The room smells like pee. Not the first time I've stayed in a hotel room that smelled of some sort of bodily function but I confess it's been a while. During my poorer years in Europe and the US as well as some budget travel here in Africa, I've had much, much worse than this but I didn't really expect it here. In my limited time in Kigali I've been exposed to mostly clean facilities. Oh well. At least I have a mozzie net and the BBC to keep me company.

Last week I traveled to Makamba (southern part of Burundi) to visit staff and give a presentation to newly elected government officials from the region. It was a good trip overall (minus a shootout not far away resulting in 2 dead and 2 captured by the army). I would have liked to have stayed longer but I needed to attend an opening ceremony of a gender-based violence (GBV) center in Gitega, a town in the center of the country. So the next morning we headed about 2 hours north. The ceremony was a couple of hours late (sigh) but it was fortunately not in Kirundi (French) so I could happily understand. Just afterward our convoy of twenty-some SUVs rolled to another part of town to another related event - the opening ceremony of the 16 Days of Activism for GBV at the local stadium. This was a large event attended also by the First Vice President. I took a couple of photos but they're not on this computer so you'll have to use your imagination.

It was a nice afternoon and I was happy to have attended. Unfortunately at this event only one speech was in French so during the Kirundi I either discreetly did some work or gazed about observing the interesting scene before me. One awkward bit was a little theater performance by a drama team to attempt to show the ugliness of abusive behavior. I'm not sure how effective it was. It started out with a woman in traditional dress doing her chores as her husband returned home. He asked her for some money so that he could go out for a drink. Without looking up she said that if she gave him some money it would be to go buy some food. Not appreciating her response, he reached over and smacked her (acting). She fell to the ground and the crowd roared with laughter. With raised eyebrows I looked at my GBV Coordinator colleague sitting next to me and she seemed a bit horrified. Theater is an amazingly powerful tool in sub-Saharan Africa. Need to use it wisely.

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