Or Did Things Improve after the Disastrous Week One?
Or Will the McQueens Survive East Africa, the Sanitized Version?
Or What’s It Really Like, the Non-Blog Version?
You can chose the title you think best applies, (although admittedly, you can’t call this the non-blog version), but here’s the latest:
I’m happy to report Week Two was a solid improvement over Week One. I re-read my blog entry about that first week, and agree, it was the sanitized, prettied-up, blog-version. I left out a bunch of stuff (like getting on the wrong side of my boss–never a good way to start) because I just couldn’t bear to detail it any more. But things are beginning to fall into a bit of order (some things, but not the top of my desk), and I’m beginning to get my feet on the ground. Here are some Week Two Observations and a little about How Reality Stacks up to Expectations.
WEEK TWO OBSERVATIONS
- Bujumbura is beautiful. The lake really is breathtakingly beautiful. And the city is mainly built on a hillside rising up from the lake. And it’s very green and lush, with all sorts of things growing–both flower and fruit. And the sunsets can be lovely.
- The sunsets are…well…consistently consistent. And after the sunset, which occurs right on time at 6 PM, 365 days a year, it’s dark. Really dark. And there are no street lights. Light fixtures, but no lights, for whatever reason. We aren’t allowed to be out walking about after dark, which is just as well, because that would be scary.
- Africans can carry anything on the back of a bicycle or on top of their heads. It’s not just in the National Geographic magazines; it’s for real. I pledge to you, faithful blog followers, that I will augment this post with some better pictures, because they are definitely there for the taking, but for now, here’s a few I’ve managed to snap.
I was fine with the ones I snapped from the side or the back, but when I tried to get this one from in front, I definitely got an earful. The motor pool driver started laughing, so I asked him what the cyclist was yelling. He said “Mzungu (their word for white people), if you’re going to take my picture, you need to give me some money.” Fair enough. I would gladly pay some of the ladies to pose with their incredible loads on their heads. Randy says he’ll go out with a camera for the next few days and try to capture some of the more amazing loads for the next blog post.
- Driving is not even funny. It’s scary enough being a passenger with really good motor pool drivers; I can’t even imagine driving myself. There are no rules. None. There are no lanes on roads. In this city of half a million people, there is not one stop light and no one even slows down around the two or three stops signs I’ve noticed scattered about the city. Roundabouts are life-threatening endeavors as are potholes. And scattered in amongst the cars, vans and busses are dozens of walkers (many carrying loads on their heads), bicyclists, motorcyclists, tuk tuks (three wheeled taxis), and even people herding goats or a very large cow with huge horns (Texas ain’t got nothin’ on Bujumbura) right down the main boulevard in town. (I was so disappointed I didn’t get my camera out in time for that one.) The place is teeming with activity during the morning commute, and it’s lively and colorful!
- There are a lot of Mzungus here. And NGO workers. And missionaries. And foreigners doing good things to help. It’s hard to get my mind around all that is going on here. I’m hoping in the days, weeks, and months to come, I can figure out this scene, where I fit in, and what I can do to add value outside of my job and the 45-50 hours I spend inside the embassy each week.
- Adjusting and getting settled is hard work. Almost two weeks without internet at home and Randy still without a phone has not been easy. Being without ‘our stuff’ and not being able to grocery shop well yet makes eating at home difficult. And that’s a great segue into my next topic:
HOW REALITY STACKS UP TO EXPECTATIONS
- The restaurant choices are INCREDIBLE. Before arriving, my expectation was that there would be no good restaurants and very few choices to eat out at all. I’m happy to report I was wrong, wrong, wrong. We’ve eaten out just about every night since we finished the delicious food provided by our wonderful sponsors and other embassy folks, and I’ve had as good a meal here as anywhere. I can’t begin to tell you what a difference that makes. I mean, I could do with some more beer choices, but at least the food is plentiful and varied.
- The hippos aren’t as close up and personal as I thought. Purportedly there is a family that lives near the Hippo Hole, but other than a quick glimpse once from far away, I haven’t had any close encounters. I guess I still have some time for that. 🙂
- The weather is better than I’d hoped for but the bugs are worse. It’s not as hot as I expected (now mind you, we live in an air-conditioned house, I ride to work in an air-conditioned car and work in an air-conditioned embassy, so what do I know?). But the bugs are worse. All kinds of bugs, but the worse are the ants that get into anything left out, even for a few minutes, no matter where it is, including the top of the stove. Good thing we have lots of zip lock baggies of all sizes. And at least they don’t carry diseases or even bite. But they’re a nuisance.
Next post I’ll resurrect my job expectations and see how they measure up to reality. But for now, I’ll just stick with being glad I’m able to report that things are improving there and I expect them to continue to get better as I get a little more settled each day. So I’ll sign off for now promising better pictures next time and wondering if I could learn to balance things like that on my head…???