Greetings, long-lost friends! I apologize, because (as my mother has kindly pointed out to me) I have not keeping up on my blog. Things have been quite busy lately. In the past month, I have traveled to Burundi, Rwanda, and Kenya. We have also received 4 new interns at our office. This has not left much time for reflection and cross-Atlantic communication, but today I’m turning over a new banana leaf, as it were (you’re welcome, mom).
First Burundi. I traveled with two of our interns to Bujumbura, the capital of tiny Burundi. A direct bus travels from Dar es Salaam to Bujumbura, passing through Ngara. We hopped on thinking that we would arrive in 4 or 5 hours as we had been told at the bus station. However, it took closer to 9 hours. However, the winding roads passed through beautiful hills, making the trip more enjoyable. Once we arrived we managed to find a convenience store still open for a meager yet sufficient dinner of bread, water, and Laughing Cow cheese.
Although we did participate in one drum circle and visit a “museum,” (which had a few different animals including a chimpanzee who lets you fill his water bottle only to start spraying you with water), we spent most of the next two days relaxing at the beach of Lake Tanganyika, the 2nd largest body of freshwater in the world. You wouldn’t know it wasn’t the ocean if someone didn’t tell you – it’s huge. I also hope there is not bilharzia in the water as there is in Lake Victoria, because we did swim in it.
Our second day at the beach happened to be Easter Sunday, and the locals all came to the beach in their finest to snap photographs of eachother. It was interesting that the beach was segregated (unofficially) into the foreign, hotel-going tourists and the local section. Of course, we got tired of the tourist section quickly and migrated down to the local beachfront, where we found an oasis built on stilts that sat over the water. The staircase was a bit sketchy, but once atop, we were rewarded with a more integrated setting and a nice “sea” breeze. I got quite burned on that second day as well by foolishly lying on my stomach in the sun with my bathing suit on and no sunscreen, so the next day’s bus trip was a bit uncomfortable on the ol back.
I have now visited the 3 largest freshwater lakes in the world (Superior, Tanganyika, and Victoria) so apparently I’m on a roll. I’ve also visited the world’s largest salt-water lake or smallest ocean depending on how you look at it – the Great Salt Lake. Therefore, I’ve considered making this lake touring a new hobby – similar to my hobby of living at high elevations – by continuing to visit the world’s largest freshwater lakes in descending order, although I’m not sure how far this world ranking is extended.
French is the official language in Burundi, but Kiswahili is also spoken (along with Kirundi), so we used a mix of languages to get by. Not long ago, Burundi was a war-torn country, and Ngara hosted thousands of Burundian refugees. It was during that time that WC began – as a means of increasing income for Burundian refugees and incorporating them into the local community. Now, Burundi is peaceful, but there does seem to be tension under the surface, and people on the street warned us not to walk around after dark.
Advice for would-be travelers: the 3 day visa fee has increased to $40. Also, don’t forget your yellow fever card!