I'm a junior at Dartmouth College, and this fall I'm living in Bujumbura, Burundi on my off-term. I'll be working for an NGO there and hopefully learning lots about the culture, picking up some Kirundi, and making friends! This blog is meant as a record of my experiences and as a vehicle to share this adventure with everyone I love at home. Please feel free to leave comments, questions, or suggestions! Amahoro, friends. Peace be with you.
One thing I wanted to mention before I finish up my blog is the question of French fluency across Francophone Africa/former French and Belgian colonies.
A lot of people suggest that the level of French spoken in Francophone west Africa is “higher” and more “correct” than in Francophone east/central Africa, i.e. the former Belgian Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. I don’t know if this is true, because I’ve never been to a French-speaking African country other than Burundi, but it is an interesting concept to consider. One difference is obviously the fact that west Africa was colonized by the French, whereas central Africa was colonized by the Belgians, thus the type of French spoken is different even before considering any possible disparities in average proficiency.
Anyway, the main reason I’ve heard to justify the statement above is the contrasting scopes of relevant (native) African languages across the different countries. And by that I mean the following:
In East Africa, while there are obviously a great variety of native languages and ethnic groups, one language, Kiswahili, dominates the linguistic landscape with a breadth that no single other African language does. Kiswahili is spoken loosely in Burundi, Rwanda, and parts of Uganda, but it is the principal language in Kenya, Tanzania, eastern Congo, and (maybe?) parts of northern Zambia. This is a pretty broad scope, especially in comparison to the rest of the continent. Furthermore, while Burundi and Rwanda are, in the grand scheme of things, relatively small countries, it is still unusual that a single indigenous (i.e. not colonial) language would dominate such a large geographic region, as Kirundi/Kinyarwanda does.
In west Africa, no such native “lingua franca” exists. As a result, many scholars suggest that the average level of French/English fluency is higher in west African nations, simply because of the crucial role that colonial languages play in communication among Africans themselves. In Burundi, French is only used to facilitate conversation/interaction between muzungus and Burundians. Among ourselves, expats tend to speak English (or German, if they’re all German, French, if they’re all Belgian, etc), and among Burundians (and Rwandans, for that matter), everyone speaks exclusively Kirundi. There is (largely) no need for French unless you are bridging the continental communication divide.
Whereas across most of west Africa, my impression is that there are fewer regional, and more local languages, and that as a result it is much more common for a Ghanaian or Sénégalais (as opposed to a Burundian) to speak English or French on a daily basis, simply because French is necessary for communicating even with his/her own compatriots. For instance, (and clearly this is anecdotal evidence, but nevertheless) in southeastern Ghana alone, you might have native Ewe, Ashanti, Twi, Fante, Dangme, and Ga speakers all living within a ten-mile radius of one another. If that is the case, one needs to know English (or something else) to do something as basic as shop effectively at a market. If average people are geographically obliged to speak a second language daily, then the local proficiency in that language will probably be higher than in a place where people don’t need speak a second language in order to get by.
And dare I make the obvious comparison? Imagine that individuals in each of the 50 US states spoke mutually unintelligible first languages (other than English). The quality of spoken English, the “second language” (for purposes of this scenario) would be pretty high, because every traveler and businessman would use it regularly. Now imagine the current fluency of the average American in a second language. Pretty grim, especially compared to Europeans and Africans (I don’t know as much about South America, Asia, or Australia so I won’t lump them in). For most Africans and Europeans, even those who haven’t had the benefit of much formal education, they often know at least two, sometimes three languages, simply because they must in order to function within the geographic radius in which they live/work/travel/otherwise operate, since it is often greater than the one in which their native language is spoken.
This definitely reminds me how privileged and spoiled we are, as Americans, to be able to converse with virtually any person in the world in our native language, simply because English has come to dominate the global linguistic stage. We have the benefit, as well as the tremendous, and rather dis-equilibrating advantage, of being able to demand that any foreigner whom we encounter, even when in their country, rather than our own, address us and converse with us in English. There is almost nowhere in the world where we cannot adequately express ourselves in our mother tongue and be understood. It is important to recognize for how few other people in the world such a statement is true, and be aware of it, rather than take it for granted, in communications that we undertake and friendships that we cultivate overseas.
Burundi and Rwanda were formally colonized by Belgium between 1924 and independence in 1962 (the DRC was a Belgian colonial possession between 1885 and 1960). For better or for worse, at this point, my French is definitely infused with some serious Belgian slang. I think it would be fitting, therefore, to pay that “français familier” a brief tribute.
Burundias/Congolais (Belge/bara barani) expressions that have majorly entered my otherwise “correcte” (oh those linguistic snobs) français:
1) nonante/septante=90/70 (instead of the French “quatre-vingt-dix” and “soixante-dix.” Definitely makes counting easier in Belgium)
2) “En tout cas”: a classic Burundian vocalized pause that is friendly and amusing, followed by “enfin”, a close second. Love it when Francissimo says this one.
3) “C’est (comme) ÇA”: a way to describe pretty much everything, especially frustrations with life and difficult situations. Literally means “It’s like that,” although I would translate it more closely to “That’s life!” Either way, I love being able to decisively conclude a point by just saying, yeah, “C’est comme ça (DUH).”
4) The use of “savoir” au lieu de “pouvoir”: That is to say, “tu saches dire l’heure” instead of “tu peux me dire l’heure” to ask what time it is. Amusing, if you are inclined to appreciate such things (as I, a lame word-nerd, clearly am).
5) vidange = empty (plastic) bottle (Not a word I’ve ever heard in French before. Def a Belgian thing, rather like how Americans say “truck” and “trunk” and Brits say “lorry” and “boot”
6) The use of “au niveau de” to mean “as far as…is concerned,” (ex. “au niveau de la justice, il faut lancer beaucoup des sensibilizations) instead of “quant à” or a myriad of other similar ways to get a similar point acorss.
7) The use of “un peu” the way I use “real quick” or “for a sec” to diminish the significance and duration of an action. Example, instead of saying “Viens voir pendant une minute” (come see for a minute), a Burundian might say, “Viens voir un peu,” i.e. “Come check this out for a sec?”
This doesn’t always apply, but vintage Dennis humor and also made me wistful in a silly way while Dennis, Scho, and I were waiting in BJM for my flight home (they were heading to Nairobi and Kigali, respectively).
Me: “Do either of you guys know where the bathroom is?”
Dennis: “What, do you not have a proper nose?”
There are some things here that I never thought I would get used to living with. And there are other things here that I know when I leave, I will never get used to living without. Paradoxically, for many of them, I feel a little conflicted as to which category they fall into. Here are a few of the little things.
1) The driving. There are no stoplights, no lines on the road. People go in both directions on both sides of the street, motorcycles, bicycles, trucks, and cars weaving between one another with abandon, kicking dust up at pedestrians. Frequently a herd of cows crossing the road will block traffic on a round-about indefinitely. The roads (in the capital) are usually between 40%-60% paved, so bumps are a fact of life. But drivers are good-natured. They honk and wave when they pass you, and many people eat pineapples when they’re bored in traffic, handing out slices to the neighboring cars through their windows. This creates a kind of car-jam camaraderie which I really appreciate. Moto taxis are always offered a slice too, no automotive discrimination here.
2) The smell of marijuana. There isn’t really much actual marijuana here, and I don’t smoke anyway. However, everyone burns their trash here, and burning garbage, I have learned, smells just like marijuana. It’s not a clean, pleasant smell, to be sure, but its sufficiently ubiquitous that it’s sometimes oddly comforting.
3) The simple, soothing pleasure of filling up our ice-trays from the water filter. Ice is a luxury here, and I have come to realize how much I really truly love ice. Furthermore, the daily ritual of filling up our six ice trays has become strangely therapeutic for me.
4) I love the way the mountains give you your direction. No matter where you are, if you can find the mountains and know which way to drive to get back to the city, because if they are behind you, the lake is in front of you. What up Great Rift Valley.
5) I will NOT miss putting Mayo on French fries. I’m sorry. This is a Wallon Belgian thing that I just will NEVER understand. Ewww.
6) Hot beer. Also, completely unacceptable. Burundians always ask if you want beer (and soda) hot or cold. Muzungus invariably choose cold, Burundians invariably choose hot. That is a cultural phenomenon that I will never be able to empathize with.
7) Mixing tea and coffee. Apparently this is exclusively a breakfast beverage of choice in Burundi. Even Rwandans find it weird. I dunno, I guess MJ would say “It’s your thing, do what you wanna do,” amirite?
8) I will miss the sun setting over Lake Tanganyika and the Congo mountain-backdrop very much. And watching the Uvira lights flicker across the lake at night. Those are a few of my favorite, favorite things.
1:09am, Friday, December 9, 2011
It was hard going through my phone today and deleting all my contacts before I have to hand it back over to Thierno tomorrow. Seeing the names – Lotte, Ryan, Anisha, Jamal, Jurij, Egide, Dee-Dee (tall, from Alabama, works at the Embassy), Andrew (marine), Christine (my Burundian friend from Geny’s), it was an exercise in impermanence, a “how long will you last until you burst into tears safari njema jama yango it’s been real” kind of thing. Every cycle brings in fresh ones. There was Serena, and Lara, and Masha, the female marine. There were others and there will be others, and I will be forgotten as I will be remembered. But I will miss these friends like hell.
Walking out onto the porch just now was hard too. The undergrowth of the rainy season has blocked the coastline, so I couldn’t even pay my respects to the flickering Uvira lights. I love looking at that coastline at night. I love the printed painted woman on my curtain. I love the dull, perfunctory slapping of palm fronds and the chilling rustle of breeze that gurgles the mosquitoed air at this time of night. I love how it storms, the lilac gray and the tadka gray bleeding into a contrapposte of one another in unpredictable streaks across the sky.
There is no thunder, but every now and then the heavens alight with a furious electric purple glow. The brightness of the lightning is unearthly, illuminating the translucent masses of the clouds from behind, blinding the viewer every time it blasts through the faults in the clouds.
The clouds move, the shapes change. The enigmatic puzzle of puffy heavenly hydraulics guards its purple silence. The flashes of violet-white electricity grumble occasionally from behind the clouds, shaking their heads like giants or gods. The breeze eats at me. The silence hollows out the cavities of my ears and tries to tell me that the comforting dullness of the palms’ clapping is enough. It is not enough. The bleeding lapis and curry powder checkerboard of the clouds and the dawn and the dreary shadow of the mountains is looming, interrogating; and my wistfulness has not the grace nor the answer, so I am silent.
Composed December 10, 2011 on a Kenyan Airways flight from somewhere to somewhere else that’s not quite the same
Goma’s acid reign
No silver bullet will change
While bullets rain gold.
It’s the rainy season, amirite? Sure it’s cold here in Amsterdam, but I was still shocked to see the man beside me on the subway take off his overcoat/scarf, fold them, and place them on his lap. That’s such a winter thing to do, take off your outdoor bundles indoors like that! #notinkansas Also heard an instrumental version of “Joy to the World” playing as I ate my apple turnover, grilled tomatoes, and waffle at the only cozily open restaurant visible in the 7am full-moon darkness of Amsterdam. Christmas carols? Tis the season? Holly? Bells? Winter? Culture shock.
For the morning. Maybe wandering the spindly-fingered ice canals will keep my mind off the horrible sinking feeling that is slowing siphoning the feeling away from each of my sensory organs. More likely it’ll just aggravate my cold. Time will tell.
In other news, no amoebas (I know some of you were seriously concerned, which I appreciate). I’m pretty sure over time I just became allergic to my malaria medication, so I stopped taking it about ten days ago. Mosquitoes fear me anyway, so hakuna shida, no problem.
- Brief phone call with Gran from Nairobi -
Gran: “Do you think you’ll ever go back to Africa?”
Me: “…!?!…yeah, of course!”
Frankly speaking, I was just shocked at the question. Not that it was unreasonable, just that it was one I would never have posed myself. It’s like, “Will I ever go back to Paris?” …Won’t I though!?! Won’t we always have Paris?
The more you’ve lived in a region and seen, the hungrier you are to see the millions of things you come to learn you have not yet seen. Will I return to Buj, Kigali, finally get properly to Bukavu, Goma, Kampala, Mombasa, Nairobi? Of course!!!! How could I not?
My Rwandan friend Lord (who’s worked in the travel industry for 16 years) once told me that once you’ve been to Africa, you will always find a way to come back. Point final.
When you love a place and you leave it, a piece of your heart fragments off and stays behind, dancing in the vaporous vortex of the jet steam. And never, never will that heart be whole again until you return to find where its splinters have landed, to reclaim what you lost among the jealous palms and the ubugari creamy sand, nestled in the patchwork of any one, in a thousand hills.
Bellyse asked: Whoa I thank you for sharing this! Not a lot of people mention the fact that Miss Burundi candidates are Tutsi girls. Mais bon I’ve seen a lot of critics on FB saying the girl didn’t deserve that 1st place. Why is that because I really don’t understand.
(In response to one of my followers:)
First of all, my friend Yvette explained to me that while the girls are theoretically from Rutana and Muyinga and Bubanza and Kirundo, they’re all actually from Bujumbura. Their parents are from those provinces. You’d have to look pretty long and hard to find Tutsi girls in rural areas, because basically all of them are wealthy enough to live in the capital. So to find the girls that look like what they want for the pageant, the rules allow for girls to “be from” a province even if their parents are simply from there and they live elsewhere. In Yvette’s words, “do you really think they actually go recruit in the countryside? No. Those girls are all, ALL from Bujumbura.”
As far as who won, the girl that won was actually my favorite simply because they said at the very beginning that she is a mother. A Burundian woman has, on average, 6.5 children in her lifetime. Therefore, I thought it was representative that Miss Burundi be a young mother. I was also just extremely impressed that she could be that beautiful and poised while taking care of a young child, working to support her family, and also competing in pageants. I don’t know if there’s a financial prize for being Miss Burundi (as there is for Miss America), but she certainly deserved it, which is one of the main reasons I liked her. She was also extremely beautiful.
That being said, all the girls were pale-skinned, narrow-figured, tall, and slender with prominent European features and bone structure. The were all graceful and poised. I don’t know much about how beauty pageants are judged, but the girl who won (#11 from Muyinga, if I recall correctly) was my favorite from the beginning. My friends’ favorite, however, was #8 (I forget where she was “from”…maybe Rutana or Kayanza?), and she was without question the stand-out beauty among all the contestants. She was arrestingly, stunningly gorgeous.
However, the contest is run in French and Kirundi. This girl (#8) who evidently lives in Uganda (and has for some time…!?), answered all her questions in English. Like really? REALLY though? I’m confident that her refusal to respond in either of Burundi’s national languages was pretty decisively disqualifying. I mean, can you imagine if a finalist for Miss America lived in Montréal and answered her questions in French? Exactly.
On Saturday night, I went to this Miss Burundi 2012 Pageant at the Club du Lac with Hemal, Brian, Béttina, and Brian’s dad, who runs Alchem, a pharmaceutical company here in Buj (the family is in Indian, and has lived in Bujumbura for 36 years). The event was extremely troubling, largely because the girls were kind of paraded around like pieces of meat, not to mention the fact that all 11 of the candidates were Tutsi.
It’s like, really, are we going to blatantly reinforce the normative conception of European, colorist beauty and the ideology of racial superiority that has fostered such tremendous suffering throughout this region of the world? Really? And of course the whole audience was (me included, obviously, I’m not innocent here) kind of muzungu/Tutsi upper-crust (who can afford a 60,000-90,000 franbu ticket), getting their(our) backs patted for looking like the girls on stage. It was really nauseating.
But then again, as Yvette pointed out, first of all, who created these standards? White colonialists. If everyone with money and power looks a certain way and everyone who is oppressed and poor looks another way, obviously value judgments are going to become associated with physical features. This racism didn’t just spontaneously appear, it came from specific people and their historical legacies.
Furthermore, it’s not as though the West has eclipsed these patterns, they’ve just shifted and become less institutionalized. Sure, we let all women compete in American beauty pageants. Hutus are theoretically allowed to compete in Burundi’s pageant. But do short, plump girls ever win? How often do short-haired girls win pageants? Has there ever been a lesbian Miss America? Has there ever been one who is under 5’6”? Exactly.
Well, Burundians want a tall, thin, European-featured girl as Miss Burundi, not strictly out of racism, but largely because they want someone who can stand with all the winners from other countries on the world stage (and compete in the Miss Universe Pageant). To some degree, normative definitions of beauty, infused with racism and prejudice as they may be, are global, not Burundian problems.
I won’t go into more detail because I don’t have time and the whole event kind of just upset me. At least I had a really good conversation comparing Belgian and British colonial rule with Brian’s dad, whom I was seated next to. Our analysis basically fleshed out the following: Belgians, with a population (at that time) of 4-5 million, couldn’t possibly colonize a territory so big as the Kongo/Ruanda-Urundi mandate that they were accorded from the Germans in 1924. (This territory is the size of all western Europe.)
The Modern DRC has about 80 million people and is still very sparsely populated. This is partially because King Leopold’s ivory and rubber extraction regime killed an estimated 40-50% of the Congolese population, or 8-10 million people, i.e. a Holocaust-sized decimation of a single country’s citizens, between 1885 and 1908. (In 1908, the Belgian government took over responsibility for governing the colony from King Leopold II himself, and it transitioned from the Congo Free State to the Belgian Congo).
So since the Belgians couldn’t effectively administer the colony themselves, they created an upper-class, the Tutsis, to rule it for them. Anyone within those three territories owning 10 cows or more in 1930 was issued a “Tutsi” identity card, and they became the ruling class.
Whereas in British East Africa (Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, for instance), there was no binary ethnic system available (such as Hutu/Tutsi) to exploit for efficient implementation of laws, since there are so many thousands of splintered ethnic groups across that area. (Not to mention how caste systems, which the British famously outlawed the administrative use of in India, were not the Brits’ style.)
So instead, by offering a myriad of financial incentives and promises of political/social influence, the Brits’ imported a ruling class to administer their African colonies…from their other colonies. This is why Indians and Pakistanis, even to this day, run basically all technology, science, mining, commercial, and business interests across East Africa. (I can think of about 99999999 million examples from Bujumbura alone, and that’s just spillover since Burundi wasn’t even a British colony!) [Note: there is considerable East Asian, particularly Chinese, investment in this area today. However, almost everything here is still owned by Indians.]
The advantage of this style of colonial management is that while it creates a wealth differential, and possibly oppression/resentment between the local population and the colonist muzungus, it doesn’t foment hatred between people from the same country, à la brilliant Belgians.
So then I asked Brian’s dad, “Well how did it work in India, then, if the British discarded the caste system and, since India was one of the earliest domains of the British Empire, they didn’t have people from other colonies to send there yet?”
His response was simple: they used religion. The small minority of Indian Christians (2% of the population) were catapulted to the top of colonial society, favored by the British because they shared the same religion: making them “civilized” and “not savage,” and thus capable of managing (except for the most senior mountbattens) the enormous colony. In a similar way, however, the emphasis on religion also brought faith to the fore as the convenient replacement for caste differentials to determine social status and rivalries within Indian society.
Hindus accounted for about 80% of India’s population and Muslims for about 14% (does this break-down sound EERILY familiar to anyone else?!?!!!), the rest being Christians, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists. The violence following the Partition of India, which was based on religious demographics, resulted in the deaths of almost 1 million people. Which is not to draw any decisive relationship between the two colonial circumstances, but rather to note the numerical similarities and to remark that in both cases, the divisions emphasized and exploited by colonial authorities were the same ones along which blood was shed after the colonies’ independence. En tout cas, the Pageant was kind of interesting, I suppose.
So once we were up there, Peter wanted to keep going further and deeper across the mountain to see as many mines as possible. We kept ascending, did some extraordinary acrobatics, climbing between camouflaged holes among the rocks. The terrain changed from sandy/rocky to vegetated(?) as we went further back across the mountain, and the paths were overgrown and made of a thick mud that smelled of rust, due to the mineral run-off in the soil. We trekked for almost an hour, seeing dozens of mines. Most of them at this point were vertical, going straight down into the mountain (I couldn’t see too far down cause they were dark and on the slippery mud, I didn’t want to get too close). Beside them were huge piles of chalky, mica-laced tin dust, about 35-40% of which, Peter estimated, was coltan. These were the piles that miners load up into bags and carry down down down to the river below to be sifted.
Because the slope on the initial climb was so steep and treacherous (i.e. I would periodically grab a rock for a handhold and it would crumble down the mountain), I had left my big camera at the bottom with Yvette. This is unfortunate, because I didn’t get any close-up pictures of the mines, but then again I probably would’ve died if I’d had that monstrous apparatus dangling from my neck as I climbed. Furthermore, at about this time it began pouring - and I mean pouring - rain. Our miner guides, who work rain or shine, assumed we would keep looking at the mines, but I had no raincoat and no proper shoes, not to mention the fact that we were stuck on the obscure corner of a random mine-riddled Rwandan mountain isolated from pretty much everything.
The guides spoke very little French and no English, and Peter spoke only English, so I used the best Kiswahili-French patois that I could muster to say “we need to get off this mountain NOW.” (Keep in mind, there was absolutely no chance that we would be able to a) get all the way back to where we’d started and b) get down the vertical sandy incline even if we did get back, since it would be a regularly sand-valanche in the pouring rain.) And then it started thundering. Goooood. I think my exact phrase was something along the lines of “Sisi itaji enda na hao, lakini apana hapa. SASA” (Literally: “We necessary go with those people, but not here. NOW” yeah ok clearly my Swahili isn’t all that good but it got the point across…)
Ndiyo, çawa, on peut descendre, they said (in Kinyarwanda, that is just my approximation of what they must have said). So they took us down an alternate route along the back of the mountain, and (someone) called David and Yvette to come pick us up with the car over there. The mud was a thick dark daal tadka yellow (and about the same consistency), so I used the “place your feet perpendicular to the slope as you descend” DOC technique to avoid face-splitting in my el-cheapo canvas trainers. When the car came into view, I think I just ran down the rest of the way, and luckily did not slip. We ate some meat-filled pastries that David had brought, and Yvette wrapped my soaked self in a couple scarves. Gaseke Mine, what a hoot and a half.
After dropping the miners off back at the entrance, loading the car with all the impossibly heavy mineral bags, and waiting about an hour for the rain to stop (those tree-trunk bridges are scary enough when they’re dry) we all drove back to Ruhengeri for some hot crepes and African Tea before splitting up. As turkeys were coming out of ovens all over America, Yvette and I finally arrived at Alida’s house in Gisenyi.
(Context: I needed my parents to wire me a little money to pay my phone bill, because Scho was a little behind on the payroll for this month. They responded asking for the address of a Western Union office in Buj. This is my response.)
Um…so there aren’t really addresses here…maybe you can try for one on Avenue Uprona? Or if you can find/give me the address of one I will probably be able to find it…it’s just that if you ask someone the address of any building, everyone will, almost undoubtedly know where it is. But to describe it to you in such a way that you can get there without their help? Almost impossible. They give you “small shopping center”-esque directions (my friend’s grandmother once infamously described a place off Route 27 in central New Jersey using that epithet) at best and no one, neither Burundians nor expats, knows the actual name of more than 4.5 roads in this country. And these, for the most part, aren’t even the real names:
Uvira Road. (Def not actually called that, so it only counts for a half.) Leads straight west from town to the DRC border. Goes along the north coast of the lake, passing three beach cabanas: Saga Plage, then Bora Bora, and finally le Club du Lac Tanganyika. Within five minutes you’re in Gatumba and fifteen more you’re at la frontière.
The Airport Road. (Also only counts for a half because I don’t think that’s the proper name even though it’s the only one used.) This is the road that leads from Bujumbura northwest to the airport. Our office is on this road, then the airport on the left, then you enter Mutimbuzi, then Bubanza Province. I think this is the road you use to get to Rwanda or Bukavu, although I’ve never driven to either.
Avenue de Large. (This is one of three actual street names that anyone knows.) Goes from town south towards Kinindo (my neighborhood) and eventually to Makamba Province, right along the lake. Once you leave the city it’s referred to as Makamba road. UNHCR headquarters is a few kilometers past the turn for my house. At the northern end of this road is the Buja Zoo, or Musée Vivant, from which the crocodiles recently escaped. Next to that is Yvette’s church and the President’s private soccer field.
Additionally, the neighborhood just northwest of Kinindo (longitude-wise between Avenue de Large and Lake Tanganyika, latitude-wise between us and la ville) is called Kabondo. This is where the Belgian School (where all expat kids go) is. It’s otherwise undeveloped though, with a lot of nascent construction projects, and looks kind of like Community 25, Tema. I learned to drive a stick shift with Scho on the beautiful beachy dirt roads of Kabondo that hug the lake.
Rue Rumongé. (Not sure where this one got its name, but I know it is both the only name anyone has ever heard of in history for the road and also not the proper name. Rumongé is probably a town in the southeasterly direction? This runs parallel to Avenue de Large but about 300m east.
Once you pass Kinindo, Rumongé veers east, no longer parallel to AdL. I live near the Egyptian Embassy in between the two roads. Scho and the Ethiopian Restaurant [live] slightly north of me on the other (eastern) side of Rue Rumongé. If you follow this road out of town, you hit Musaga, where the women’s shelter that prints amazing curtains and bathrooms and other fabrics is. Musaga is also the central bus depot for all matatus travelling “up-country,” i.e. out of the capital.
Avenue Uprona. This is the real name of downtown Bujumbura’s main drag. Begins at the bottom (not sure which compass direction, maybe southwest?) with Novotel, which is an indistinguishable concrete block. On the right side (going up) you have Face à face, where you change your dollars and euros for franbus. Next is Havana Bar/Club, where basically every expat in the nation of Burundi (not to mention quite a few Burundians as well) spends every weekend night from 9pm to 1am. Across the street is Aroma Café.
Going up Uprona on that side (the left) is Botanika, the organicky B+ vaguely European restaurant run by a Burundian Harvard Grad. Just past that is Baobab, a good-quality Burundian restaurant where you can get a huge traditional buffet lunch for about $2. Across the street is Oasis, Buj’s only theoretically Greek restaurant. Next to Oasis is Toxic, Buj’s best club, where people head after Havana. Toxic is only fun between 2:30am and 5:30am. Seriously. Otherwise don’t bother. Farther up is T2000 (known as tay-deux-mille), the Chinese bad-quality-cheap-versions-of-everything-you-could-ever-want store.
Farther up is the French Embassy and then the road is blocked off because, about a half kilometer past that, is President Nkrunziza’s sprawling compound/mansion. Uprona continues on the other side of his house, leading out of the city to the northeast, but the two halves of the thoroughfare are not connected. Vivek’s Indian Restaurant, Tandoor, is on the other half of Avenue Uprona.
Le Boulevard 28 novembre. This big four lane road is divided in two halves by a thin line of palm trees. “Vingt-huit nove-om” serves as a de facto beltway for Buja’s downtown, even though the “mairie” i.e. the city-proper, technically extends far beyond it, particularly to the south (where I live). Vingt-huit nove-om begins with la Cathédrale de Bujumbura, the biggest church in the country (I’ve never been, since a: it’s Catholic…ok this is not the real reason but rather b: services are held entirely and exclusively in Kirundi).
As you go up, you hit Bon Prix grocery store, a few blocks behind which is le Jardin Publique, which Priya lovingly calls “jay-pee.” Across from Bon Prix is Gatoke, the neighborhood where Béttina, Jurij, and Adeline live. Further up, vingt-huit begins to curl west, climbing a bit into the foothills of Buj Rural’s mountains. This neighborhood is called Kiriri, and is by far the wealthiest/safest/most expensive in Buj, mostly because its elevated view gives you a stunning view of the whole city, lake, and Congo mountains beyond. The American Ambassador lives on vingt-huit in Kiriri, as does our country director, just a few doors down. All the US Marines have their houses there too. The Burundian President’s mansion is also technically in Kiriri, at the intersection of Uprona and vingt-huit.
Now you know all the (named) roads in Bujumbura, so you have no excuse not to visit me! But seriously, I’ll probably just post this to my blog since I have gotten so carried away haha. Anyway, en tout cas, now you see my problem. I can think of two or three Western Unions in town, but none are on the aforementioned roads.
I know there’s one WU for sure in town near Kenya Airways and the Baguette Magique, which Google Maps suggests is on a road called “Le Boulevard Lumumba Patrice.” If you can find one on that road, I bet I’ll be able to locate it. Thank you so much, and sorry for the geography ramble.