Saturday, 2 February 2013

On a more serious note.

Blogging from Bujumbura, feels like it should be a serious business this week.

Inside a kiosk or stall, looking for wedding dresses, back in October.
It was hard to capture the situation on camera.
This stall was deep into the market, down a series of narrow alleys.
On Sunday the Central Market of the city, country, region was burnt down. It is so hard to even begin to put into words what that means for this country, for a number of reasons. My time here feels so short when I begin to try and understand what it means.
I have visited the market quite often in my 5 months. To me it was the most incredible place. The first time I visited, I felt such incredible sense of achievement that I had managed to survive the encounter without bursting into tears or curling up into a ball and refusing to budge!
The place is packed with people, all jostling each other as they move through the 'stalls'. The stalls (kiosks) are like nothing I have ever encountered before. They like large boxes, with shelves high up beyond the reach of a person standing. Every stall is rammed full of goods. What you see at the front is just a fraction of the goods on sale. The stalls are packed tightly together with just enough space for a person to pass between them. There are main thoroughfares where two or three people can pass. Then there is a labyrinth of tiny alleys. The whole thing is covered over by a massive roof, possibly about 30ft high, maybe more. The range goods on sale is phenonmenal. Everything, and I mean everything. Well maybe not everything. On a recent hunt for a Caffieterre, one could not be found in the market. But neither could it be found anywhere in the whole of Bujumbura!
The view of the smoke rising from the fire, at least 3 hours after it started.
For a person with a history of panic attacks and fear of crowds, it was strangely exhilerating to be able to walk in the place and sort of enjoy the experience. But that is what is was to me. A challenge to face and overcome. Everytime I went there it boosted my confidence. I was so looking forward to taking 'visitors' there, and saying look at this! But now it is no more. I've described it in the present tense, just because I still can't quite believe it's not there anymore.
That was what it meant to me. It seems so utterly trivial, when I start to think of what the place really meant. For hundreds of people it was their livelihood. Many lost, not only all their stock, but all their cash, which they kept in safes, locked away in their stall. For others it was their means of survival. One of the things I found heart wrenching each time I went there, was the severly disabled people, who sat or laid, begging for food or money. In England such people would be cared for in specially adapted homes and institutions. Here they survive, lying on cardboard mats, being stepped on and over by hundreds of people, waiting for a very small minority to give cash or food. No market, means no place to beg, which means no cash, no food. There is no other place where so many people pass by in a day. What more is there to say?
There has to be such much more, that I as a new comer, still don't understand or percieve. I have only scratched the surface of the layers of hardship that are going to be felt in the aftermath of this fire.

The smoke travelled across the city and blocked out the sun for much of the day.

This is not one of my photos, but one I found on the web. For me it captured the essence of the day.

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