First impressions

The travelers made it to Burundi. Kari Costanza reports:

Kari's balcony view.

Kari's balcony view. (Jon Warren/World Vision)

I woke up in Burundi this morning. (That was supposed to be yesterday’s lead!) After a crazy morning and afternoon yesterday—sitting on the curb at Nairobi’s International Airport for about six hours, then learning at 2 p.m. that the plane to Burundi would fly just a half hour later (no one ever told us—we had to ask), and then using the teaspoon of charm I had left to convince a policeman that we should cut in front of the hundreds of luggage-bound, frustrated people waiting to get into the airport in order to make our flight—we finally left for Burundi four hours later, about 6 p.m. Schedules were a little off yesterday due to the strike.

We arrived in Burundi in darkness so I didn’t get to see the verdant forests I’ve read of and was planning to blog about. I loved the airport, though. It has tall turrets, shaped like a royal hut I saw in Rwanda a couple of years ago. Everything moved quickly through the airport and people were friendly and welcoming.

We are staying at the Dorado Hotel in Burundi. Since we arrived at night, I couldn’t tell much about the city. It has the wide boulevards I’ve seen in other places where the Belgians and French have been, such as Lubumbashi and Phnom Penh, but everything was pretty dark, just a few shops open, casting rectangles of light along the street. So this morning, I was excited to open my window to see what it looks like, sounds like, smells like, and feels like to be in Burundi.

My room has a balcony—bigger, I think, than the one Shakespeare’s Juliet perched on for her nighttime chats with Romeo. I could easily host a card game on my balcony if I had a small table, chairs, and a deck of cards. The window is covered by a massive gold curtain that when shut, gives the room a golden glow. Although I wanted to go out on the balcony first thing, I waited until I’d showered and dressed to open the curtain. Then I stepped outside, hairbrush in hand, to watch life happening below.

The hotel is across from a small church, a dry cleaner, and a carpet cleaner. Everything has sort of a reddish hue—the dirt, the buildings, and the bricks. It’s nice—not too warm—the kind of soft dampness that will probably give way to a hot and sweaty afternoon. I saw mostly men walking along the street, maybe heading to work since it is about 7:30 a.m. Motorbikes and cars pass by, but not many, so the traffic noises—sounds of diesel engines and honking horns—seem light for a country’s largest city.

I noticed people staring up at me on my balcony with odd looks on their faces and started to get a little nervous. Was I intruding on their peaceful morning? Was I being culturally insensitive?  Then I realized they were probably looking at my hair. My hair, after a shower, looks like a giant wasp’s nest. It takes time, effort, and many hairbrush strokes to contain it. Reluctantly, I decided to go back inside the hotel room to finish brushing it into a less-freakish style. When I went back out on the balcony, hair straightened, I got far fewer looks as I soaked up the morning.

World Vision's compound in Bujumbura. No guns, please. (Jon Warren/WV)

World Vision's compound in Bujumbura. No guns, please. (Jon Warren/WV)

In a few minutes we’ll meet the staff at World Vision and talk through the story we’re going to report for the magazine—why World Vision is starting child sponsorship in Burundi, and why it’s happening now. I can’t wait to meet them. World Vision staff always inspire me. They are good human beings who work in very hard places. It will be great to start the story after such a long trip here. I have a good feeling about this place. I think an amazing story waits beyond the balcony.

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2 Comments

Filed under Burundi/Rwanda, On Assignment

2 responses to “First impressions

  1. Heidi

    I feel like I was standing on the balcony too! I can’t wait to hear more about what you learn about this new program in Burundi.

  2. kari

    Heidi–you will enjoy the next blog. It shows the need in Gasorwe–and the hope that World Vision is bringing.

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