I made a lovely new friend yesterday. Her name was Avril and she's a baby chimp. I heard about her last year, but never managed to get to see her. But finally yesterday on a very rare, cold and wet Saturday in Bujumbura, we made a strange decision to visit a beach resort, despite the awful conditions. Due to to cold, the resort was almost empty and we were allowed to eat our lunch in a room normally reserved for post-massage relaxation. No! I didn't have massage. But I did get a cuddle with Avril and took part in a real live Chimp's Tea Party. She blitzed round the room, grabbing all the tea cups and draining the dregs. Then she discovered Alli's coke bottle. She grabbed the bottle and darted outside. Her expression saying quite clearly that she knew was doing wrong, but there was no way we were going to stop her.
Our meeting was quite short, but I'm hoping to get to see her again very soon.
She might make a positive addition to 6L!
Last weekend saw another first for me. A trip to Gitega, the second 'city' of Burundi. City is not quite an accurate label really. Bujumbura barely merits the label city and Gitega is a fraction of it's size. Gitega is situated in the centre of Burundi. It was the seat of the Burundian Kings. We stopped off on the way, at the coldest, wettest place Burundi has to offer. Bugarama. It suits it's name! We did however get to meet up with an inspirational young man, Freddie. As a child, Freddie fell into a fire and suffered horrific burns. His face melted into his chest and part of one hand was burnt a way. He then spent the rest of his childhood begging in the Central Market. Until he met Alli one day and she set the ball in motion to get him surgery and help. Through his many lonely years recovering from numerous operations he taught himself to speak English and French. He has struggled through and redeemed all the years he lost at school. Now he is studying to gain a qualification as a Medical technician. Whenever I have met him, it has been a humbling experience to hear him express his gratitude towards us for taking the time to meet with him. He has four years to go to finish his studies, but he is determined to achieve his goal. The only wage earner in his family is his elderly father. His job is a bicycle taxi. Which involves taxiing people down the mountain and then walking back up. Needless to say it's not a highly paid line of work. I've never heard Freddie moan or go on about how hard his life is. I have only ever heard him, express gratitude for all the help he receives. It was only after much questioning that he admitted that he has been having to go without food, because the money he was given to help with his studies, is just enough to cover tuition fees and books. He doesn't have anything left to buy food. He sat shivering and apologising for causing problems.
From Bugarama we continued through the mountains towards Gitega. It was a strange experience to have landmarks pointed out to me that involved massacres. A school, where the headmaster locked the children inside and then set fire to the building. Such beautiful landscapes holding horrific ghosts. Places where the rebels used to hang out. As we left Bujumbura, Deo had pointed out a place on the road where his brother was killed. ' He was killed there and they dumped his body in the river.' The road was called Death Road.
Gitega itself gave the general impression of happy, relaxed sort of town. Alli and I wandered around. Chatted to all sorts of people. We went on a tour of nostalgia for Alli as she lived in Gitega for five years. Every time we stopped we found ourselves surrounded by people who wanted to know everything possible about us. I practised a little Kirundi, but mostly I had English practised upon me.
On the way home we pursued the great Burundian activity of 'Up country' shopping. As you drive through all the little towns and villages each one has it's own selection of goods to sell on the roadside. One particular town was selected for us to stop and shop. As muzungus we had to stay in the car, because we have a very bad effect on the prices charged. Deo and our other Burundian passenger Sandrine disappeared off up the road to start their negotiations. Alli and I sat in the car. Within seconds the car was surrounded by fascinated onlookers. Alli immediately struck up a conversation with a very lively young lady. I sat and began to ponder how much this must be like the experience of animals in the zoo. I pulled a face at one young man with his nose stuck to the glass just two inches from my face. He mimicked the face and stared on. After what seemed an eternity, Deo and Sandrine returned to the car with their purchases. A dozen cabbages, 4 great stems of bananas, avocados, mangoes and a live chicken in a green plastic bag!
Shopping is not one of my favoured pursuits, so Burundi's chaotic version of Asda really doesn't appeal to me at all. A final stop in Bugarama to buy Cape gooseberries left my head reeling. Dozens of bags of gooseberries were thrust through all open windows and the car literally mobbed with sellers. I couldn't understand how anyone knew who was selling what to whom!
Well, I am now way past Sunday Snooze time. I have been and watched what we thought was going to be Episode 3 of Series 4 Downton Abbey. But after a few minutes watching it became clear it could not possibly be the next episode, as there were huge gaps in the story line. I cannot begin to tell you the consternation, indignation, frustration and sheer awfulness of the situation. When you have no normal television and look forward to a once weekly dose of something like Downton, to have it wrecked by a missing episode is more than one can take on a Sunday night. The one male watching with us, tried to say that we'd get over in no time. Oh, I think not. There are some things that are not so easily set aside.
To close, I thought you might like some 'quotes' from 6L. My first go under the title, ' Only in a Christian School'. These are answers to questions in a History lesson. We had been looking at Victorian Workhouses and I set the question......'
If you were a poor Victorian, which would you do you... go and live in the Workhouse or starve?
If I lived in the poor Victorian I would starve because I would not want to miss my family and if I die I would go up to heaven with the rest of my family and I will live a better life in heaven and I would praise my father in heaven called Jesus.
I’d rather stay outside with my mother have a little bit of food and praise the Lord, to get ready to go to heaven.
My next could be 'Not in a Christian school.' The following answer was made by a very lovely, daughter of Pastor. It is part of Reading Comprehension activity.
Q: Do you think there is going to be a "sighting" later in the story?
A: I don't think there is going to be a "sighting" because it was just a balloon. I think they are going to dress up as aliens and just try to get them to take pictures and put it in the local newspaper. On the other hand they might just creep the crap out of them and make them tell the whole village.
(My marking..... Good answer, but not very ladylike!!)