(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.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

When it rains, it pours

I’m in Ruyigi at our field office. Just returned from visiting one of the refugee camps. We’ve had tons of rain and the road was quite muddy. The rains are not really supposed to begin until next month and already we’ve had enough that I can say that the rainy season has begun. Last night in Muyinga it showed again that in this neck of the woods, when it rains, it really rains.

There are times where it’s difficult to strike the balance between the reality of the work I do and the attempt to extract stories that may be of interest to someone on the outside. In other words, sometimes what is really going on is of relevance to me as I archive this chapter of my time here in Burundi. But it may have little to no entertainment value and is often rather depressing. I suppose news sources face similar reflections as they sift through the seemingly endless bad news stories. They consequently chose to hone in on selected ones and then venture off into something slightly more positive so as to avoid leaving the viewer utterly depressed.

Such is my current dilemma. The past month or so has been fraught with bad news and not much respite in between. In the past four months our organization has lost five staff, three of them in the last month and two of them at the office. It has been a nightmare for my team, particularly in Bujumbura where all five were based. There are staff that are questioning whether the organization is being plagued by an evil spirit and even speculating about who/where the source might be. In reality, since my arrival in 2010 the numbers of staff deaths (in relation to our organization size) are not inconsistent with the overall trend in the country. Admittedly, however, the current spate of staff loss is rather shocking and is having a significant impact on staff morale.

The most recent incident happened yesterday in front of our office. One of our female staff was arriving at the office on the back of a motorcycle driven by her husband. As they were turning into the office, a large truck plowed into them. While the husband was thrown from the motorcycle, my colleague was apparently crushed beneath the truck. It’s not clear but it appears she was killed instantly. Adding to the horror is the fact that she was pregnant with her third child.

When I arrived at the scene, minutes after the accident, they were lifting her body into one of our vehicles. I was unaware at the time who it was but from the unfortunately not uncommon sight of a crumpled motorcycle, large crowd and a truck stopped in the road with a dent on the front, right fender, it was relatively easy to figure out what had just happened.

Many of our staff who were arriving to work were witnesses to the accident. Many more came rushing out of the compound soon after and subsequently saw their colleague’s body lying on the road. It was not a pretty scene.

Our staff, already stunned by the loss of another colleague last week, are assisting the family with the funeral arrangements. We’ve lost some wonderful people but I’m thankful to have worked with them.

Off to an evening with some of my staff. It's chilly and the stars are out. Looks like the weather is clearing. Let's hope.

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