2009 05 May Goat Trip 007

I’ve been upcountry – in central Burundi – for the last couple days meeting with three groups of 60 people who will be taking part in a goat project for a grant I wrote a while back.  Like any good change of scenery, this has been a chance to reflect, in this case on the year that I have been here in Burundi.

The first thing that struck me is how gratifying it was to see some of my work becoming real, as actual flesh-and-blood people were sitting around preparing a project that, as was clear from their enthusiasm, actually meant something to them.  And I was struck again by my co-workers, including the facilitators that we work with all across Burundi, but especially by Adrien and the staff of HROC and FWA, who are some of the most wonderful, dedicated, caring, and capable people I know.  I wish I could do more to help them, I wish for example, that I could figure out how to raise the funds to cover their salaries, in addition to the money for specific projects.

Ah, but a year is hard to sum up.   So instead, here are some assorted highlights:

- Taking part in a two-week training in Kigali with 7 Burundians, 8 Rwandans, and 7 Congolese, on trauma healing, reconciliation, and Nigerian soap opera-appreciation.

- Transcending culinary frontiers: learning how to make ugali (a doughy paste of cassava or other flour mixed with water), and then exploring its possibilities.  For example: ugali and peanut butter -  I consider this African American fusion to be breaking new culinary ground; others might esteem it as having busted clear through and coming out the wrong end.  Or, perhaps more respectably (after learning that the less-than-inspiring cheese available here comes from Congo, primarily areas controlled by Laurent Nkunda, and therefore possibly supports a militia involved in terrorizing citizens), I decided to try my hand at making my own cheese.  This has spawned (or rather, curdled into) mostly mozzarella, being easy to make.  On one ambitious occasion though, I made my own Burundian version of Monterey Jack, aged 2 months.  Alright, I can’t say that it tasted like any Monterey Jack I’ve ever had, but it was definitely the most delicious cheese I’ve had in the past year.

2009 March 104

- Traipsing about the rural southeastern part of Uganda helping to distribute scholarships to orphans and teaching at Bududa Vocational Institute with Lisandro.

- Meeting and spending time with many delightful friends, from the workcampers, to Gabe (three months my roommate and to be much longer a friend), to Anna, Ian and Sarah of AFSC, to a recent visit from my brother and HROC-Rwanda volunteer Angela.  That leaves off, of course, countless Burundians, whose stories and lives are more than inspiring, and both nearly-unbelievable and not-to-be-forgotten.  I have shared with these fellow travelers but a tiny part of our lives, and yet in this short span there has been great loss, with two friends that are no longer with us, and also great joy, as we travel together the journey that is, unswervingly, unfalteringly, the narrow path of our brief, sunlight lives.

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