(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.)

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Reality and TV

The other evening we were watching Homeland. We don't watch much TV but there area few shows we've downloaded and it's a nice break once in a while. But Homeland is a bit stressful to watch, particularly since I have all the killing and drama I need in this neck of the world. But it’s so well done and we’re too far in. Need to keep going. Anyway, at one point a guy is sneaking his way into a dark, occupied house. His gun is at the ready. It’s tense. All of the sudden there’s gunfire. I look at Priya since for a second since I wasn’t sure where it was coming from. We quickly realized it was coming from outside rather than from the show. 

It was yet another reminder of why I generally steer clear of violent shows. The bloodshed just doesn’t have any appeal for me. Nearly every day in Bujumbura a body is found tortured and killed. Often more than one. Hard to say how long this is going to go on but there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Negotiations aren’t happening and there is no question that we’re in for a long, bumpy road.

Our work goes on. In fact we’re looking to expand our rapid response capabilities. We have experts here to help us put it into place. In addition to the political crisis, the country faces terrible landslides and flooding. It is the hungriest country in the world and malnutrition is going through the roof. We’re looking to hone in on some of these humanitarian developments and fill some needed gaps. 

don't try this at home
Flooding has been bad in parts of Bujumbura. One morning I was driving through the flooded area in the photo below. It was a bit worse than in the picture at the time and it was probably not the smartest thing to do. Water was above my wheel wells and I kept waiting for the engine to give out as I crept across (about 100m or so). After I got about 2/3 of the way through, I was thinking my chance were pretty good. On the other side of the median a large bus was powering through in the other direction. He was creating a rather large wake and sure enough, the wave hit me and completely submerged my Land Cruiser in the chocolate milk-colored water (fortunately my windows were closed). Still the motor kept running and I came out the other side. As I have said in other precarious situations on this continent, long live Toyota.

flooding on my way home from work
Funding for the country is in short supply. In addition to the fact that the world has never seen more crises than we are experiencing today, many of them are impacting the West much more directly and generating far higher numbers. As such, less funding is available for our crisis. In addition, government donors who have been supporting the country have suspended the funding – cutting a 50% hole in the budget. The 250 thousand people that have fled the country due to the crisis are having a further impact in that they are not here buying things nor paying taxes. It’s going to get uglier. 

We’re trying to keep funding coming in, however. I’m headed to Washington DC and NY in a couple of weeks for meetings. It’s important to keep this situation on people’s radar. I’ve been in regular contact with different embassies and UN agencies. It seems like a drop in the bucket at times but it really is possible to alleviate some of the suffering – suffering that is inflicted on people to no fault of their own.  

A couple of the actors from Homeland have been good supporters of our organization and the work we're doing with refugees. If I have a chance to meet them I intend to let them know how stressful their show is, particularly for those of us who live in a pretty intense environment. Too good to bail on it though. 

“It has been said that a pretty face is a passport. But it's not; it's a visa, and it runs out fast.”
 -Julie Burchill, writer and journalist (b. 1959)

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