We are back. Safe and sound. Overall there were no major mishaps and all of our luggage arrived intact (except for a box of Nesquick that exploded in one duffel and coated everything, in some cases inside and out, with a fine light brown sweet-smelling powder). We did have a bit of a problem with our final leg on Ethiopian airlines but we were able to work it out just in time to board the plane for the final twenty minutes of our travels.
After a brief stop-in at my office, we continued to our house. The family hadn’t seen their home in about two and a half months. The girls were ecstatic. It’s the only home they’ve known. It was never more vivid than when they stepped out of the vehicle. Their exuberance was a pleasure to watch as they greeted staff, retrieved toys that had sat idle for two and a half months, rapidly moving from one to the next. Moving around so much for so long has been tough for them. Kids are resilient but they do crave stability.
My poor wife had her birthday in a toxic travel haze at 30,000 feet who knows where. The day after we arrived we were able to have Priya open a couple of presents – a belated birthday “event”. It wasn’t really a party unfortunately. We ended up celebrating a bit on the weekend, complete with a small cake and candles.
Soon after we arrived we heard a few grenade blasts and apparently there was some gunfire as well but generally it's been calm since we've been back. The city is certainly not devoid of violence but for now things seem fairly stable.
So we return to our routines, catch up on emails and try to get back to "normal". In spite of the delicate situation in the country, it’s good to be back. Many of the expat community have not returned, particularly those with families. During a meeting yesterday it appears that a lot of organizations and embassies are waiting until after the inauguration scheduled for next week. It is the next date that could trigger violence. At some point people need to commit, whether the institutions will maintain accompanied postings –whether or not return. Schools will be starting soon and the limbo cannot continue indefinitely.
We continue to monitor the situation and will make changes if needed. The country stumbles forward, for the most part out of the gaze of the international community. As usual. I have been reading a book by Robert Krueger, the US ambassador to Burundi during the terrible period between 1994 and 1996. I think he aptly describes this lack of interest in the country’s troubles, and thus the backdrop of our situation today and many other similar situations around the world:
“There are many reasons that the world has paid little attention to the fate of Burundi: it is isolated and poor, and neither its culture, it’s economy, nor its politics has ever significantly affected the developed world; and it is perhaps easier to ignore people who are suffering terribly than to know their fate, because to know it might make us subject to caring about them.”