Why I'm not going to Burundi

Kigoma Travel Blog

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1- It's dangerous. Not super-dangerous. Probably even safe by any rational standards. But, the peace is young (a month or so), life is not entirely calm (mass arrests a couple of weeks ago) and though not much, that's enough to give one pause.
2- It won't be as much ffun as I think. The lonely planet make Bujumbura out to be a hotbed of social nactivity and fine-dining. The internet is somewhat some sagguine. Now I think that one could runwild in Buj for a weekend, but it would require an effect and sufficienty motivation. Both of which are hard to conjure up by yourself.
3- Novelty value is overrated. I suppose this relates to the previous point. There's a lot to be said for the cool factor of being the only tourist in Burundi, but without a good time to go along with it. you're going to feel a little hollow.
4- Company. I love travelling alone, but I miss company. I think if I had a partner in crime (as it were) I'd be on a bus to Buj right now. But I don't. And I doubt I have it in me to do it alone without like-minded folks to keep me occupied. Moreover, I have intersting and sparkling company to meet in Malawi, and that's as much of a draw is late nights in dangerous places.

And finally, I'm scared. Not of morters or of rebal attacks or even of simple petites bandites. No, I'm scard to the the complicated journey. The multiple bus rides, the hassle, the border issues and the general unstraightforwardness of getting from A to B. Intellectually, I know I'll manage the troubles and make it, but emotionally I simply can't bring myself to do it. I supppose that time comes in to it to some great degree. The jaunt would have added a week to the timing. Not a problem in and of itself (I have time), but the weighing down of time pressures is a feeling I'm striving to avoid. I like my carefully constructed cushions, so I never have to worry about a missed connection.

Still, rationalisation aside, I going to feel like a little bit of failure for failing to write my "Weekend in Bujumbura" blog post for some time.
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I've commented previously on the lack of tourists in Kigoma, but it would be remiss of me not to add a few words on the almost frightening prominance of Help.

You cannot turn around in this place without seeing a (usually white) SUV, armed with a fat antenna trundling off on some Very Important Mission. It's not that surpising, I suppose, Kigoma is a big refugee centre, positioned as it is at the DRC/Burundi/Tanzania border, but still given the absense of much else in the way of western influence (see Arusha, Moshi, Dar es Salaam for a contrast) it's definit3ely worthy of note.

I'll leave the commentry on aid etc. to greater minds than mine (I highly recommend Theroux and Dark Star Safari), but I will observe that it is hard to know what to make of a town that has all the trappings of high-end, high-cost aid (and for that matter serious high-end tourism as well) but none of the other fringe benefits (stipulating that they exist) and western-style progress.
(The title is my (very poor) attempt top merge market and gratification. Sorry)

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours (maybe a little less) walking to Kiribizi, a little fishing village near Kigoma. I mostly went to inquire about boat prices (cheap to Gombe, private hire and very expensive to Burundi border), but I found myself quite enamoured of the place.

It's a village. There's a lot of freshly (and not so freshly) caught fish for sale. There's a lot of fruit and veg. And (ever so slightly more surprisingly) there's a lot of crappy clothes and other western stuff available. The place wasn't particularly charming, but I think it's going to have to join by list of African experiences. It's hard to ascertain the meaning (if there is one) behind the phrase "the real Africa" if one's a tourist (after all the real Africa is hidden away in the boondocks). However, in so far as one can observe it, Kiribizi seems to be veneer-free. The furious interaction between developed and developing, the heady mix of the alien and the tradutional and the sense of being simultaneopusly both common and unusual - that's the Africa I bond with.

THere's a lot to be said for watching the world go by as an intruder - especially if your one who is neither so remarkable as cause a deviation from a norm nor so common as to define the norm itself.. To be laughed at and dismissed as a simple aside (worth a couple of minutes entertainment, but no more) is maybe not an indication that you are experiencing virgin territory, but a tleast it's a hint that you're seeing something of reality.

(God, this is pretentious, I apologise for the idiotic philosophising (but not so much that I'll take it down).)
Yes, that's right, I'm outta here. After much confusion I have a 2nd class (again, don't people understand that I'm a wealthy westerner with money to burn?) ticket to Kasanga. And, assuming nothing goes wrong (ha, as if), I'll be in Malawi by Sunday.

The tedium involved in getting a ticket was going to lead me to make some sweeping observations about African society and the fact that informal structures dictate economic interaction. However, to be honest, I cannot be certain of the distinction between language and social barriers so I'll refrain from commenting for now. Though, I will point out that were it the case that the lack of well-developed norms for commerce made it difficult to buy something, this could be intepreted as both good and bad (depending on you particular political philosophy), and while I have a bias towards western norms and ease of commerce, I'll swing for a good counter-arguement.
photo by: heiss