(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.)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Political Stuff Isn’t All Bad

So my streak of weekly postings didn't last. Not to say that there hasn't been anything going on.

Overall the security situation in the country remains fairly good. Still hearing gun shots occasionally, some even during the day, but overall it's not bad. In my daily security reports I do see some things that are a bit worrisome but nothing that would point to a larger scale concern. So we carry on with the day to day.

Over the past couple of weeks my job has taken more of a political turn. My position has a lot of aspects to it from bureaucracy (paperwork and signing things), to problem solving (logistics, finance, programs), to human resources (talking through staffing issues), to coordination (other organizations, donors, etc.), to politics. This last one is not always my favorite and one that needs to be handled with a bit of care.

One event was a meeting with a high level government official who has a significant amount of influence over what we do. Without entering into specifics (sorry, might be in the book), I can say that it was productive and we were able to clarify things from both sides. Hard to say how clear he really is on what we are doing but the more he knows, the better. There are a lot of promising things going on in this country.

Then a meeting with the US Ambassador last Thursday. No big surprises but there are some particular concerns about the current and potential inflation rate. In a small, land-locked country with no real shipping access except by truck, rises in oil prices have an impact on the price of almost everything. It's also been noticed that there is a direct correlation between price rises and criminality. Since peoples' ability to pay doesn't increase as fast as prices, desperation sets in. To make matters worse, marketers tend to crank it up a notch when consumption drops. All this pushes individuals to want (need) things they can't afford. Recipe for trouble. More to come.

Nelson, thanks for a lot of things, including the party

That evening was South African Freedom Day celebration hosted by the SA Embassy, the first of a couple of suit and tie affairs. The annual holiday is a celebration of the first non-racial democratic elections in 1994. The location was the Ambassador's residence which is a sweet piece of property with a panorama view of the city of Bujumbura and Lake Tanganyika. The one problem with the view is the unfortunate construction of a big apartment building right in the middle of the panorama. I'd be more than a little angry by the whole thing but zoning laws seemed to be something that wealthy countries can afford to have.

After a nice evening with the South Africans, ambassadors, government ministers, etc., the next night was a similar event with similar faces but hosted by the Dutch. The occasion was Queen's Day, a celebration in honor of the Queen of the Netherlands. Rumor has it it's in honor of her birthday which is…uh…January 31st. Makes sense. Maybe I'll celebrate my birthday in November just for kicks.

Actually, the date is more closely associated with her ascension to the throne. The fact that it falls at a more agreeable time of the year to host barbeques makes it a better time to celebrate your "birthday" – worth considering if you're celebrating in Amsterdam.

Celebrating her birthday whenever the heck she wants
Even if the Dutch are a little flexible with their calendars, they know how to host a party. The food was SO good. Herring, cheese, some sort of yummy deep fried something or other, chocolate truffles, etc. Not exactly health food but all I have to say is, "Long live the queen."

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