(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, March 22, 2013

Not a Drop to Drink

I’m in Rwanda this week and today is World Water Day. I suppose there’s a bit of irony in that when I turned the faucet on for my shower nothing came out. In Bujumbura it’s not necessarily a rare event. But I have a bit higher expectations when I’m at our house in Kigali. Unlike many parts of the world, it’s not for lack of water in the country. Not only to the reservoirs apparently have water, yesterday we had some pretty impressive rain that made for a slippery, muddy drive home. We do have dry seasons but they’re not that dry nor that long. The problem, like in Burundi, is usually elsewhere.
Bujumbura is struggling a bit more than usual lately for water access. I recently read a couple of articles where public water taps have dried up and people are forced to purchase containers of drinkable water at rather exorbitant prices. As a jaded resident might have guessed, rumors are circulating that rogue staff of the government water agency is in cahoots with the street water vendors. I won’t speculate but it’s altogether possible.
Go figure, no water for my shower and knee deep on the road
Growing up I never used to pay attention to these World Whatever Days. Living and working in sub-Saharan Africa, they are a bigger deal. Part of it is because the causes raised by these annual days of recognition reflect many key issues that are plaguing this part of the world and part of it is because the humanitarian world pounces on them like big business pounces on Western holidays. I should clarify that I’m not comparing World Water Day to Halloween or St. Patrick’s Day. I think that, unlike the corporate abuse of Easter, most of the communications and events produced for these days are quite important and beneficial. Because we no longer work in water and sanitation, we don’t have any events for this particular day.

I did nonetheless attend an event today. Attending and speaking at events is a big part of what I do. I suppose that’s okay but it can be a bit much at times. This event was the closure of an 8-year project we had doing community health and child survival. It has been a pretty cool project and it’s a bit of a shame that it is coming to an end. Another way to look at it though is that we came, did our job and are pulling out leaving the work to be carried out by the government and its citizens. At least that’s the theory.
some of the CCM team and guests

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Noises in the Night

I was awoken last night to the sound of gunfire. It sounded rather close and was able to wake me up in spite of the sound-muffling hum of the fan. I wouldn’t say that it makes me tense since it happens frequently enough but it does keep me from sleeping for a while during an otherwise silent night. It naturally causes my ears to remain on alert trying to pick up further sounds – the continued popping sound of AK-47s, yells, or whatever. At some point my 19-month-old’s flatulence broke a period of silence, seemingly to mimic the rhythm of the shooting.  The innocence and contrast of a toddler’s fart just as I was imagining the violent scene taking place up the hill from us made me smile to myself (though I should say that her gas is not always that innocent). The shooting proceeded off and on over the period of about ten minutes or so.

Waking to gunfire should only happen to people who fall asleep at their job on a shooting range (I’m assuming that’s possible). Sadly it’s a daily part of life for thousands in various troubled parts of the world. I should say that it doesn’t happen here as much as it used to. But with the elections now two years away, it will be interesting to see if there is a corresponding incremental increase in violence.

I get various security reports on a daily basis, some pertaining to the region and some pertaining specifically to Burundi. Rarely does this sporadic gunfire make it on the local reports. Are people being injured or killed and no one is reporting it? Are both sides poor shooters? In their defense, Bujumbura does have very little street lighting so I do imagine some wild and crazy firing into the dark. Whatever the case and as nasty as the information is in the security reports, it does make me wonder if loads of information is missing – whether by design or not. 

This place, as beautiful as it is, does have its sobering side. I do know people that have lived here for years and are generally oblivious to the daily violence. They don’t track security information and they stay within their bubble of international friends and colleagues, attending barbecues and rarely if ever traveling to the interior of the country. It’s certainly possible. As such you end up with a skewed idea of the dangers of living here. Not that it’s terrible here. It's not. But you do need to remain vigilant and realistic. It's also good to be aware that even if the gun is generally not pointed in your direction, a large percentage of the population faces significant threats on a regular basis. 

After the shooting died down my brain shifted to work issues and other nonsense such that the remainder of my sleep was doomed. Oh well. Soon enough it was time to get up and change another diaper.