11 December 2008

Some notes

It’s been just about a year since we found out we were moving to Burundi. We found out right before Christmas.

What a year it’s been. While I’m not a huge fan of year-end retrospectives, I think I have a few things worth mentioning.

We lived at four different addresses this year. Five if you count that while we lived in a hotel for three months they had us in two different rooms (the first one flooded). Remember, we started the year in California? Then lived in the Virginia and D.C. area for 8 months or so before arriving in Bujumbura.

We moved to freakin’ Africa. That’s pretty cool. Bujumbura is just about the exact opposite of Walnut Creek, San Francisco, San Diego, Washington, D.C., or any place else you can think of in the United States.

It still blows my mind to think about actually being here. It’s frustrating that I can’t have everyone come visit and see for themselves what it’s like. It’s so hard to put into words sometimes. Plus you get immune or desensitized to certain things and at some point they don’t seem noteworthy any more. Par example, Mike points out proudly now that not only can I tell the difference between gunshots and a car backfiring, I don’t panic when I hear the sounds. As long as it didn’t hit you or your house, you go about your business. It’s a talent I never really thought about having to acquire before coming here.

Bits of things I’ve been meaning to blog about for awhile:

I love the Burundian two-handed wave. Our gardener gives it to us every morning and I’ve caught myself waving two-handedly back at him. Burundians are quiet and reserved, yet can be quite cheerful, especially when the Primus is flowing.

It cracks me up that one of the few American movies our cook has seen is Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. How random is that? Bicycles are coveted here.

We know a guy named Jesus. He works with Mike. That’s Jesus, pronounced the English way, not the Spanish way. It’s not his real name but it’s what everyone in town knows him by. (I only just learned his real name last week.) He’s one of the company drivers and it never ceases to amuse us to say “Jesus is my copilot.” He’s in one of the running clubs here, so it’s also amusing to say “We run with Jesus.”

Have I mentioned that there are driving schools here and I’ve seen cars labeled “Student Driver” on the road, but if they even have traffic laws here they’re never enforced?

There’s a boucherie next to my office, some of the best meat in the city and some imported cheeses and European chocolates. But every afternoon it smells like meat outside. At first I thought that was better than some of the other smells that could be around (the men’s bathroom is around the corner from my office door and men’s rooms here don’t always have doors), but now the daily meat smell makes me a little queasy. I briefly consider vegetarianism every afternoon. It’s not necessarily the smell of spoiled meat. It’s just the smell of meat.

That leads me to my last note of the day: Men’s rooms here don’t always have doors. Sometimes they aren’t even rooms, just urinals stuck to a wall in a hallway. I don’t have to worry about using them obviously. But it’s a little jarring to be at a restaurant looking for the ladies’ room and walk by a urinal stuck to a wall, or worse, walk by someone actually using it.

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