my trip to burundi
Well, much to my suprise (as in, I didn't know this until I was sitting on the plane), my 10:15am flight to Kigali went via Bujumbura, the capitol of Burundi, Rwanda's neighbor to the south. While this added about two hours to what is normally a very short trip to Rwanda, it was worth it to see the sparkling blue waters of Lake Tanganyika, and to add another country to my list.
Daddy and I have an informal contest to see who can visit the most countries. He may argue with me about this one, but seeing as we spent an hour sitting on the tarmac, during which time a Burundian employee of the airlines who was cleaning the plane asked me for $5, I think it counts (I breathed Burundian air!).
The tarmac at the Bujumbura airport is pretty boring. But check out the wacky observatory-style architecture of the terminal: It's like they're looking out for aliens or something.
We don't hear as much about it in the states, but, like its neighbor to the north, Burundi has experienced serious ethnic-based violence (only in Burundi, it's the Tutsi who slaughtered the Hutus in 1972, not the other way around as it was in Rwanda in 1994). At the airport, there was the usual assortment of UN aircraft that you find in these sorts of places. Plus a big plane belonging to the South African Air Force. I'm not sure what that's about.Bujumbura's setting is absolutely gorgeous; there's a huge flat plain ringed by mountains beside the lake. The city rises from the edge of the lake onto the slopes of some of the mountains.
So that was my Burundi experience. It's entirely possible that I'll visit someday, but that will probably have to wait for the time in life when I am making a real salary, as Bujumbura is supposed to be insanely expensive.
The flight to Kigali was short and sweet. You've got to love a place that's this efficient: thirty minutes after stepping out onto the tarmac at the Kigali airport, breezing through immigration, and a ride with a very polite taxi driver named Moise (Moses), I was installed in my room at the Happiness Hotel, after having greeted the people who run this place and who remember an alarming amount of personal information about their repeat guests. Since my last stay, just over a year ago, they have gotten wireless internet (at a cost of about $1.50 for 24 hours of access, which way outclasses the prices at the Intercontinental Hotel. Which, by the way, is no longer the Intercontinental. Apparently Holiday Inn's parent company pulled out of Rwanda, so the Intercon and the Kivu Sun are now Serena Hotels.). The building across the street that has been under construction since 1998 now has a coat of paint on one side, but not the others. And since I haven't yet left my room, I don't know what else here has changed, but Kigali is on the up and up, so there are sure to be plenty of new buildings and businesses up the hill in the city center.
More thoughts on Kigali later. For reasons that are somewhat unclear, Blogger has automatically switched me over to French. Awesome. If anyone knows how to make it go back to English, I'd appreciate your help.