Everything you always wanted to know about Burundi…

I thought it only fair to post a bit about Burundi, since it’s not exactly a household word. OK, fact is, even people you’d want on your team in Trivial Pursuit for their geography skills haven’t heard of it, and truth be told, neither had I. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • It’s in Africa. In fact, here’s a map, so you can see for yourself, although I admit it’s hard to find. It’s the tiny country, about the size of Maryland, just south of Rwanda (which everyone’s heard of thanks to Hollywood and Hotel Rwanda).

Political-map-of-Africa

Ok, if you can’t find it on that map, try this one:

African map showing burundi

And here’s one of just Burundi, which if you ask me, looks kind of like the arrowheads Randy and his grandmother used to find in Wyoming. I mean, if you use your imagination.

burundi map

  • It’s landlocked, although much of the southwestern border is adjacent to Lake Tanganyika, which by the way, is the second largest freshwater lake and the second deepest lake in the world (after only Lake Baikal in Siberia), and the world’s longest freshwater lake, and is infested with man-eating hippos. I kid you not.

Lake Tanganyika

Longest lake

  • It’s capital is Bujumbura. Now you have to admit that if you were going to move to some exotic place on the other side of the world, you’d want it to have some exotic name like Bujumbura. The only city I can think of with a cooler name is Ouagadougou (the capitol of Burkina Faso) and, as cool as that name is (right, Megan??), I’m glad I’m moving to Bujumbura. It’s a city of about a half a million people, small by African capital standards, and sits at about 2500′ elevation, which helps it to stay a little cooler than its sea-level equatorial neighbors.
  • It’s filled with the Hutu, the Tutsi, and the Twa, who have lived in Burundi for hundreds of years. These are the same Hutus and Tutsis involved in the famous Rwandan genocide, which BTW, happened 20 years ago next month. Burundi had its own genocide, (two, in fact) but much less publicized and much more prolonged than their neighbors in Rwanda. In fact, there is still much civil and political unrest, with reconstruction efforts still trying to take hold.
  • It’s official language is FRENCH! This in itself is a dream come true. (Those who knew me when may remember French was my first major in college.) They also speak Kirundi, their native dialect, and use Swahili in the streets to conduct business. Wouldn’t Brother Alfred be proud if I learned to conduct some business in Swahili?
  • It’s poor. In fact, depending on what criteria you use, or which resource you look up, it’s the second, third or fourth poorest country in the world. (It’s hanging out down there on the list with the DRC, Zimbabwe, Eritrea and Liberia.) Elections are coming up next year, and I’ve been told I’ll be called upon to monitor polling stations and report if any money changes hands. (This should be comfortable for me; I’m from Louisiana, which, it’s been said, has the best politicians money can buy.)
  • It’s small. The country is small. The embassy is small. The ex-pat community is small. But it’s also beautiful. The country is beautiful. The views of the mountains across the lake are beautiful. The embassy is brand new, and a beautiful, state of the art complex. Here’s a shot of it:

Burundi_Bujumbura_EXT1_944_1

  • It’s near some really awesome things. Most of you know climbing Mount Kilimanjaro has topped my bucket list for many years. It’s on the calendar during Adam’s visit in October and I couldn’t be more excited! It’s also very near the elusive mountain gorillas, which we’ll plan to see with my niece Missy when she visits next year. I know I won’t have loads of time away from work, so if I can accomplish those two things, I’ll be thrilled!
  • The people seem awesome. I’ve already been in touch with a number of people in the embassy there, and they all seem warm, welcoming and excited for our arrival. (Let’s just hope it’s not a matter of misery loves company. Ha ha.) No, seriously, we have all the reasons in the world to believe it will be a great post. Here’s a quote from someone who reached out to me: “I can get you linked into bible study home group, missionaries, etc.” God is good.

And that seems like a great quote on which to end this post. I wanted to include two more topics, but they’ll have to wait until next time:

  • my job–I want to record my impressions of what I think it will be like from what I’ve gathered so far, because it’ll be interesting to contrast that with my impressions of what it is actually like once I arrive, and
  • my hopes and dreams–I’ve thought long and hard about this, and I think it will be difficult and challenging to put it into words, but since when have you known me to shrink from a challenge?

So here’s to the next post, which will be a little more personal and introspective, for what it’s worth.

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