(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, September 25, 2016

Our Time in Burundi Draws to a Close

As previously said, I’m in Nairobi. And I’m not here on a visit. I have a new job. I wish I could say WE live here now but alas the family is yet to arrive. After six years in Burundi it is finally time to move on. At face value it should be an easy decision to leave a chronically troubled, economically tanking, hungry and sometimes violent country. Unfortunately it’s more complicated than that. Over the past six years needless to say we’ve grown rather attached to the place. 

our first month in Burundi, easy to see the attraction
We moved to Burundi in 2010, soon after the previous controversial elections. If you were to graph the growth and stability of the country you’d have a gradual improvement from then until 2014. You’d then see it begin to dip late in the year and then begin to plummet in 2015 – a decline that continues to today.

by April 2011, Kiran was well on the way
With this as a backdrop, we set up a home in Burundi. It was almost love at first sight. The people. The tropical-without-the-intense-heat climate. The beauty. Easy to get around. Yes, there are things that Westerners have to do without but after our time in Tanzania, particularly in Kibondo back in the day, we were not in need of luxury. The violence was never too bad until last year. Even then we rarely felt that our family was in any kind of danger.
...and then we were three
 The friendships have been important. Over the past few years we have met some really wonderful and interesting people. Great Burundian friends and colleagues. Expat friends that have moved on. Expat friends and colleagues that we are leaving now. It has been a rich experience.

Kinaya arrived in 2013 - and then we were four
Professionally I’ve been very blessed. I have had a fantastic team that are both talented and wonderful to work with. The organization tripled in size, peaking out at about 430 staff. We did some great work in support of a population that has suffered off and on for decades. It really gave you the feeling that you were having an impact on the country.

Singapore in 2014
My departure has nothing to do with the declining situation in the country. If fact we had initially committed to 4-5 years and it ended up being quite a bit longer. I prolonged my time there to navigate last year’s crisis. Now, with things having stabilized a bit, at least compared to how it was, and a new program management team in place, it’s time to make my exit. 
the Seychelles in 2015
On a personal level it’s not quite as evident that it’s time to depart. We are plugged into a good community and the girls are in a good school. We have a diligent and loving nanny. And so forth. To be honest, there will never be a good time to go when one considers all aspects of one’s life. But we have discussed it, prayed about it, discussed it some more and it’s become clear that it’s time. On to Kenya.

opening farewell gifts during my last weekend

Saturday, September 24, 2016


It’s been a while since I’ve had time to sit down and write – about anything. Closest I’ve come has been jotting down meeting notes.
I was looking back to see what the last blog post was and I was stunned to see that it was to discuss events so long ago and a world away. So much has happened since then.
After returning to Burundi, I was in Burundi for a couple weeks before heading off to Zimbabwe for meetings. I realized this afternoon that the blog entry that I wrote while I was there never was posted. So here it is:

8 September
I’m in Harare, Zimbabwe, as I type this. I’m here for meetings this week. I’m my first time here and, in spite of its troubles, I must say that I think it’s pretty nice. I’d heard good things about the country/people/climate and it didn’t let me down. Obviously the country has struggled over the past few years. It’s suffering economic collapse, a cash crisis, poor production (land reform), stagnated foreign investment and of course political turmoil. You would think that the place would look like hell but it doesn’t. You can tell by looking around Harare that at its high point things were probably quite good. It feels like a proper city that has let itself go, sort of like Marlin Brando in his later years. It’s a shame, actually, and most Zimbabweans will tell you that it didn’t have to be this way. It could have been the shining start of Africa.

my hotel, pretty sweet place actually
Most are aware of the general reasons behind why things are the way they are. If not, I urge you to look it up.  It’s a fascinating and rather sad tale of abusive colonization, economic progress, wacky retribution by the cliché African Big Man leader. The now aged president, after steering the country into an economic abyss, is nearing the end of his days. 

Lately there have been demonstrations. The govt. has a habit of cracking down hard on such things. We were told that the protests were banned for a couple of weeks covering the time that I was in the country. But then the Supreme Court overturned the decision stating that banning demonstrations is illegal. So the path ahead will invariably be rocky as president-for-life reaches the end of the “life” part and there is no clear way forward. The question is what will happen afterwards since the power vacuum will likely be an opportunity for the piranhas to fight over who’s next. 

As I said, it’s sad. Many African leaders just don’t have the integrity to walk away when their time is done. It’s all the more damaging given that those very Big Men have made messes that will require decades to clean up, even if their successors have integrity.
cool view of Kilimanjaro while heading through Nairobi