Thursday, July 3, 2008

Journey to Kiremba (Kissing the clouds)

Burundi is one of the war-thorn countries in Africa. I bet the only images you have seen from there are those of thin war-weary soldiers carrying guns that are about the same height with them. Or maybe the ones of women and children with clothloads of property running away from villages to seek refuge from... the soldiers...

As the plane was descending to Bujumbura... I "saw" why the region was called the great lakes region. There were waters, lakes, rivers, mingling with green rolling hills... So before touchdown, my mind made itself up to enjoy the place.

I had come to do the Monitoring and Evaluation of projects run by the Digital Solidarity Fund

The Airport in Bujumbura had a country architecture - in the form of hills and valleys.. Once you hit the main road to town, there is this big billboard with BB and BB. Brussels and Bujumbura, Belgium and Burundi... inciting you to fly Brussels Airlines... Yup!

I enjoyed the fresh fruits for the days I spent in Bujumbura city. The fishes that you eat in the restaurants are from the nearest lakes... they have a kind of freshness that is akin to milk... aie aie aie!

Okay, so we are on our way to Kiremba. The journey will take 4 hours up and down the hills. Ah! So Rwanda is not the only country that has a 1000 hills? No. Burundi also does.. So over there, you dont travel from place to place or town to town.... you travel from hill to hill. And every hill has its name..

Boy, those guys can build winding roads. Up, up, up, up, and up. Then down, down, down and down. Green, greener, green and greener! Beautiful!

Then my ears start... the feeling you get in the plane... due to the altitude... And when I look down, its tea farms to the left, banana farms to my right. Green and beautiful!

All this time inching up, up, into the clouds... literally... until we went right into them.

I begged them to let me out. Those things were clouds, real ones, all around... I let them caress my hands. I just stood in the middle of it all. Breathings huge lung-fulls of the pure goodness.

Trust me, I stuck out my tongue... and tasted the freshness... It tasted like...forget it... the only word is heaven!

Lost in the mountains, Kiremba welcomes us. Bernabé, who was leading us was a 60-year old guys. He kept talking about his parents - both of them. We go round the projects talk with people who are accessing the Internet on connections brought in with a satellite .... shared their joys, the challenges and their hopes.

Then we went off to see the school, the church, the hospital and the Orphanage
Bernabé's father shows up, he has walked down from his hill to the orphanage. He was going to lead us round to the farms that help supply food and milk to the more than 100 children in the orphanage. We were going downhill. The man looked good for his age, healthy and smiling. But since it was a bit slippery going down, I offered my hand and he took it.

Then we come to this place where you need to take a wide step. I felt it was better to hold his back and let him step over before I do. Then I noticed his hand was on my back...

Hang on! Who is assisting who here? The old man says he was holding me to make sure I did not fall! Oh my! So it was the 90-year old man that was leading me.. I asked why, because I felt he was the one needing assistance...

No, he said. I was born and bred in Kiremba. These hill paths know my footsteps. And I know every winding path around here.

After the visit, he takes us to his own hill to see his wife. I look at this couple who have been lovers for over 70 years. They live on their own, no heart issues, no eye glasses, no major health issues...

And I tell me.... these guys are still around for many more years to come...

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