(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.)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Bujumbura to Boise



So I’m still catching up with postings I should have done a while ago. I’m in Rwanda as I type but the below trip was a few weeks ago. Yes, there are a lot of Kiran photos.
Kiran with a new friend; developing a taste for business class
Idaho is a long ways from Burundi. The trip is basically a voyage from the middle of nowhere to the middle of nowhere. That’s about where the similarities end. Bujumbura has an international airport but it’s a fraction of the size of Boise’s airport which has no international status. Idaho is about 8 times larger than Burundi but has only 19 people per square mile, compared to Burundi’s 814. I’m not sure how many Idahoans live in Burundi but I only know of one person other than myself. On the other hand, refugee resettlement and Idaho’s low cost of living has resulted in what is now hundreds of Burundians living in southern and western Idaho.  
dinner with the Charltons in Marsing
So we made our way, 30-something-hours from the tropics of Africa to the dry American West. The trip usually includes seeing family and friends, camping around the 4th of July, mountain biking, hiking, etc. It also usually includes losing my bags upon arrival. 

an air of self confidence
Sure enough, both Priya and I lost our bags. I would end up recovering mine after only a couple of days but Priya’s seemed to be gone forever. Priya’s hundreds of phone calls the airline presented us with a mix of kind, helpful staff and others who provided misinformation and were generally useless. While airlines have improved their partnerships regarding ticketing, flight schedules and mileage programs, baggage handling is clearly lagging. When your travel involves multiple airlines, accountability for lost bags is easily diffused to the point that you can’t really pin the responsibility anywhere. No accountability is always a recipe for disaster.
the circle
 After hours of calling, multiple shopping trips for missing stuff for Priya and Kiran, and over five hundred bucks later, Priya’s bag finally arrived intact. Unfortunately the trip to Idaho was basically over.
Kiran adjusting to life outside of Africa
Camping seemed short this year but enjoyable. Kiran was a hit in her first camping experience. She spent her days inundated with attention all the while still finding time here and there play by herself and ingest some dirt. We even threw a birthday party for her which she momentarily appreciated before deciding that a large group of people staring at you is an uncomfortable experience.
somewhere near Galeena Summit
God's country
The following weekend was our Allen family reunion from my mom’s side of the family. I wasn’t sure what to expect. It’d been so long since I’d seen most of these people. It was good though. People generally looked well and happy. It was nothing fancy, just time with family. My uncle Rich had prepared and distributed a CD full of old photos from my grandparents. It was a tremendous amount of work and it’s an absolute treasure, certainly for someone like me. 
the reunion
After about a week and a half, it was time to take the Kiran show to Indiana.
not really the cheerleader type...but she's cute

Monday, July 23, 2012

Catching Up - World Refugee Day


I’m on a flight from Amsterdam to Nairobi. A baby cries hysterically to my left while ours lies sleeping on my lap. I will always have more sympathy for people with noisy babies. Turns out that the baby boy the lady is holding is almost exactly the same age as our baby. I think some of it you can control; some of it you can’t. I have to say, however, that after all of these long flights over the past year, our little girl has been amazing.
eight countries in twelve months...
 Clearly much has happened since my last posting. My goal is to have more frequent postings until I catch up.

The week after we returned from India, I traveled to Rwanda for a week. Then I spent a week to the field in Burundi to meet with staff, including participating World Refugee Day in one of the camps where we work in the northeastern part of the country. 

Congolese refugees and Burundian drummers
WRD is a worldwide event to bring attention to the plight of refugees and, given that I’ve worked with refugees for several years, I’ve attended a number of these functions. Though it’s not supposed to celebrate life as a refugee, it often comes off as more of a celebration with singing, dances and lots of speeches. I was a last minute addition given that I wasn’t sure if my travel schedule could fit it in. As such I was at the head table but didn’t have to make a speech (I give a lot of speeches in my job, opening and/or closing ceremonies, workshops, festivities, etc. 
presenting a gift
Gasorwe, a Congolese camp, put on a pretty good show. Our organization played a key role in organizing it with UNHCR. It was impressive to see numerous yellow t-shirted staff scurrying about given that only a year and a half ago we weren’t even present in the camp. They acted like they’ve been doing this for years.
Soon after the trip I quickly had to get organized to leave on vacation. I wanted to get as much done as possible given that I’d be away for two and a half weeks. I have some very talented staff so I don’t have to worry too much but frequently there are nasty surprises in this line of work. During my time away I would end up averaging about an hour or two a day going through emails and keeping up with what is going on. It’s not ideal but for me it’s less stressful than doing nothing and getting completely slammed upon my return.
One looming threat is the potential closure of Mtabila refugee camp in Tanzania (see previous blog entry) which would send a flood of Burundians – most of whom have no desire to return – across the border into Burundi. Given that we provide logistical and protection support for the projected return, we need to be on the ready. Happily the flood didn’t happen. Not yet.