(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.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


“For sleep, riches and health to be truly enjoyed, they must be interrupted.”
-Jean Paul Richter, writer (1763-1825)

I’m catching up on this blog at a snail’s pace. It’s not for a lack of things to write about. On the contrary, it’s usually when things are the busiest that I have the least amount of time to write about it.

As I’m writing this I’m in Kigali at our guesthouse. Odd to be away from my wife and daughter. The light travel schedule I’ve enjoyed lately has allowed me to grow accustomed to being at home. So I get to try for some unfettered sleep. Kiran is a poor sleeper so nights are generally interrupted several times. I wasn’t a great sleeper before having a baby but adding her to the mix certainly does help my rest. She doesn’t seem to be getting any better at it. My poor wife, a former expert sleeper. Hope she’ll regain her sleeping form once Kiran starts sleeping through the night (if she does).
Just finished a run in the neighborhood and up around the Ministry of Defense. The last half of the run was well after sunset. Weird to run in the dark since I’d never do such a thing in Bujumbura.

Mom-in-Law and Pop-in-Law
We don’t get that many visitors and so it was particularly nice to have her parents here for a week. The time went fast and we fit a lot in. There aren’t that many tourist attractions in a place like this. It’s a shame since there is, in fact, considerable potential.
at the lake viewing hippos
Given the hazy, dry season we had to try to convince Cy and Yvonne of the beautiful view that they were not seeing every day. It’s the kind of thing people get tired of hearing but, again, we don’t get many visitors and it really is stunning on a clear day. Alas, we had a good rain the night they left and sure enough, the Congolese mountains appeared the next day in all their glory. Oh well.
they certainly don't look dangerous
We had a nice evening at the lake. A couple of hippos decided to make their appearance though I think there were others lurking under the water. There isn’t that much impressive wild game in Burundi anymore so it’s cool to regularly see hippos on the lake here in town. Apparently during the night they make their way into the parks and so forth to eat before returning to the lake before sunrise. They eat around 68 kilos (about 150 pounds) of food per night. It’s creepy enough to be in town at night that has very few functioning street lights let alone bumping into one of Africa’s deadliest animals.
Blue Bay
Otherwise we spent a lot of time at the beach. It’s one thing that makes Bujumbura stand out over Kigali. It may not be safe enough to run at night and you do here gunfire from time to time but at least it has nice beaches.
hiking around Igenda
We also went to a place in the hills called Ijenda. It’s about 45-minute drive from our house almost all uphill. We’ve been there on a few hikes. The air is nice and cool. We have been hit by rain before but this particular day was actually quite nice. The view is good as well since you’re above the haze over the lake.
Priya took them around town shopping, showing them some of the routines we have. Often times people find that quite interesting, as much as some of the tourism things. I also gave them a tour of our offices including a transit center on the edge of town that we use for hosting Congolese refugees either on their way into the country fleeing violence or on their way out, repatriating to their homeland in times of safety. Even though it’s what I do for a living, I still find the operations quite interesting.

Cheesed Off
I always fly when I go to Rwanda. I could drive but it’s time consuming and when you figure the fuel costs and so forth, it’s not that much cheaper. It’s a short flight. I only have a small carry-on and my laptop. As I was making my way through the process this last time, upon arrival at the last security check the militant uniformed folks started to actively do their thing. Security is no joke in this part of the world so they do take their jobs quite seriously. Generally I don’t mind since I’d like to survive the flight and anything they can do to avoid a firey crash, I’m for it. So long as what they are doing really contributes to that end.
This time however, as the lady was rifling through my belongings, she pulled out a small round of cheese that I’d bought in Kigali. She asked me what it was. Cheese is not a common part of most Rwandan diets so I’ll forgive her for the question. Given that it was unwrapped and said “cheese” on the label, I still thought it to be painfully obvious. Nonetheless I indulged her and told her that it was in fact cheese. She looked at me seriously and said that it wasn’t allowed on the airplane. I smiled at her ludicrous statement and said politely again, “It’s cheese” only I added a couple more “e’s” this time. “It’s not allowed,” she said again. Not angry yet, I asked her why on earth cheese would not be allowed on the airplane. “It’s not allowed,” she said again blandly, this time adding a shaking of the head to emphasize her point. I gave her one more chance to provide me with an explanation since I have purchased and flown through there with cheese almost every month for the last two years. This time she said I could go downstairs and check in the bag. Not helping things, I told her she was crazy and went looking for another person in uniform who may be able to counter this woman’s prejudice against dairy. A security guy across the way looked important and I brought him the matter. Unfortunately he only spoke Kinyarwanda. Without even trying to figure out what I wanted he started to look for someone who could assist in the communication. Naturally he gravitated towards my irrational cheese-hater.
By now I had created a bit of a scene as they exchanged some words leaning over the x-ray conveyor belt, occasionally looking in my direction. Finally the lady grabbed the cheese, aggressively shoved it back in my bag and said, “You take this time but next time, no.” Yes, it was but a small round of cheese but I felt strangely compelled to see this one through.
Content in my victory over injustice, I made my way over to the lounge. As I sat down it occurred to me the possible danger she saw in my seemingly innocuous yellow round. It was likely I underestimated her knowledge of such things and she was in fact suspicious that it was sharp cheddar.

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