Saturday, 13 April 2013

Easter Holidays

As my first real 'holiday' here comes to a close. I feel like I am a real tourist. I have a savage case of Burundi Belly, probably as a result of swimming in the lake on Thursday. It's amazing how easily constant trips to the little room put your mind off authorship of a Blog!
 But, I am going to persevere, as I have very little else that is within safe reach for my dicky tummy.

My holiday started with a visit from an old friend from England. It is the friendship that is old, not the friend. Well, I say that but maybe some would disagree. As this is the year of her 50th birthday, she had decided to undertake the new 'trend' for celebrating her half century, by doing 50 new things in the year. Visiting Burundi was one of the more exotic things on her list. Visiting every Coffee shop in Peterborough, one of the less exotic items! (Residents of Peterborough might disagree with that sentiment)
Rachel (friend) arrived looking every bit like a colonial explorer! Those of us meeting her at the airport, forced into a beige vs khaki debate. Involving deep questions along the lines of, 'What colour is beige then?' and 'What's the difference between beige and cream?' The consensus of opinion concluding that she was in fact wearing a very fetching khaki outfit. Complete with multiple pockets storing all sorts of wonderful things.
Desperate way for Peterborough United to get new supporters!!
Our first holiday activity was to visit the CRIB house to deliver just over 40 football and basket ball shirts to the young people there. The shirts had all been very kindly donated by friends and pupils of Rachel's school in Peterborough. It was as usual, a humbling experience to observe the genuine gratitude for such simple gifts.
Rachel also encountered the CRIB inquisition syndrome, like many explorers before her. 'Why have you got grey hair?' ' Have you got grandchildren?' 'Why not?' How come you are old but have three earrings in each ear?' 'How old are you then?' ' How long are you here for?' 'Are you coming back tomorrow?' 'How long have you known Mrs Liz?' 'How come she has grandchildren and you don't?' ..........................................and so on and so forth!
A high spot for me was to be able to give Elijah, aka David Beckham, a new pair of Man U shorts. Teaching  Elijah over the past two terms has been such a privilege and delight.
If only he supported Arsenal, things would be perfect!!

Other holiday activities included, much walking, visiting a variety of lakeside establishments to try and see hippos.  One such visit was intended to be a 'coffee' stop, before going on to a lunch engagement at 1pm. Thus, we ordered a drink and as we were feeling just a little peckish, without consulting the menu, I ordered, croissants. Now my french is not good. But croissant is not really a proper french word is it? As in, it is part of the English language now, as the name of a small bread-type roll we like to eat as a snack. So I am positive I said quite clearly 'croissant'. Yes, the waiter replies, would that be just croissant? Yes, just croissant. No, fries. No, just croissant. Then came a word that should have set my alarm bells ringing, and it almost did. 'Mukeke'. It's a word I've heard before, and it did ring little bells. For some reason I didn't even question it too much when the waiter returned again to check we didn't want fries with our croissant. After the usual long wait for food our croissants arrived.

Not a croissant in sight, just a lovely Poisson! In fact a Mukeke Poisson! With fries, despite the fact we said 'no' to them on both occasions we were asked if we wanted them! Not sure if it was really a case of croissant mis-interpretation or just the waiter having a good joke at our expense!
We didn't bother to complain, we just got on and ate it.  But it did make the lunch engagement just a little harder work! And to make it all worse there was not a HIPPO in sight either!

On Wednesday, my holiday programme involved a substantial walk to a regular haunt of mine, 'the Johnsons'. I wanted Rachel to meet the family and thought as we were on 'holiday' it would be good to decline the offer of a lift and go by foot. There had been a few raised eye-brows when I had told friends this was my intention. But nothing that caused me to review the plan. Thus we set out. Visited King's School on the way and continued our hike. The sun was shinning overhead, but fortunately there was a slight breeze. I had forgotten to mention that it would be a steady uphill climb all the way. We were approaching about half way when a slightly pathetic voice enquired, 'is it much further?'  I cleverly avoided answering the slightly awkward question by suggesting we stop at the shop we were in sight of. 'Yes, that would be good.'
At this point I discover that Rachel is about to pass out from the heat and is struggling to put one front of the other! Full credit to her though, once she was revived with some water and peanuts, she gamely carried on and made it to our destination. She was however, adamant that we would under no circumstances be walking back! After that she questioned carefully all walking plans.
 Finally, towards the end of the week I discovered one of Rachels 'preferred' holiday activities. We were sitting by the pool at Club du Lac, reading books and sun bathing. I said, 'this is good, but you couldn't do it every day, could you?' There followed a long silence...................' well yes, normally I would spend part of every day by the pool.'  Ah! well that explains a lot. My new career as holiday guide in Burundi off to a pretty bad start. I only managed 2 out of 9 days by the pool! Ooops.
But they were good days. The second was at Bora Bora club. Which is the club that features in the film Africa United.

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After getting off to a somewhat slow startwith the hippo hunting, this gathered momentum and in the end we were able to see a number of hippos in and out of the water. My prowess as a photographer suffered as I managed to run out of battery for the first encounter. It's really not nice having to borrow a little digital box in such situations.
Although this has been a holiday, because it is in Burundi it has been a holiday with a difference! Here there is no way it can be just about sunbathing and relaxing. On Friday we visited New Hope Orphanage with again just simple gifts of football kits, colouring books and crayons and football cards. Burnley United now have a few more supporters which can't be bad thing! Again it was so humbling to see the happiness and gratitude of children and teenagers. To quote one of the adults who has known them since they arrived in Burundi, ' some of these children were found playing in the blood of their dead parents.' They have survived horrors that are hard for me to even imagine. Yet, when we arrive they are happy to sing for us and grateful for the small gifts we bring.
I know my first bout of 'Holiday hosting' wasn't 100% successful, but if you want to venture out to Burundi let me know! I'm sure I can improve.