Week two - Gitega
I am having trouble uploading pictures to the blog.
Unless I can get more bandwidth – pics may have to wait for home.
I went upcountry this week for two days. Buurundi is significantly better, than when I was here three years ago.
No road blocks, no rebels. We can go off road and out into the country safely. Fewer guns, but still more AK’s than in the city proper. The new administration is admired and is soing some smart things. The cows have been banished from the city streets, and city police have fewer guns in evidence.
But the road to GItega is still bad. It is one of the four paved roads outside of the capitol, but paved is still a very subjective concept. The trip is UP UP UP, winding, badly banked – built by workers who have never driven a car and do not really get the concept of how much room is needed for a turn. No civil engineers. Sheer drop offs. The rains continue. Wash outs, mudslides, etc. My previous driver Venant, one of my favorite Burundians has been ill, and has sent his nephew Emery to drive us. Uncle V is probably taking half his pay. Good gig. Em is young, scared of me until I pop the ipod into the truck and put on the fugees.
A tanker truck of petrol has lost it on a turn. Tipped, leaking, bad bad bad. Big slow down. We pass on the edge.
Riding with Niyonzima is interesting. We stop to greet people every few miles. We stop to bestow favors and pick up errands. We check on each of the three THARS offices on the way. He is supervising more construction projects than I can count. He keeps small armies employed a few francs at a time. Widows and orphans get a lot of work out of
this man. We are the Quaker bus to everywhere, people get on and get off. Everyone greets everyone every time. We proceed at a regal, grace-filled pace. It is not quick.
Amid all the small purposes, we have two big purposes.
The first is to get me out to the womens shelter, outside of Giheta that was built with money from Scotts Mills Friends. Laura House – Burundi. It is built, walls and roof. It needs plaster and doors and floors to be finished. I talk with the woman who runs the women’s assistance office for sexual violence for THARS. In Burundi, if you are raped, especially upcountry your family often will not take you back, be you much needed wife, or treasured daughter. The options after that are all bad and most end in death. THARS gets medical attention for these women, and then advocates for them. A representative of THARS goes to the family and talks to them about trauma and recovery. Local leaders are educated and brought in as needed. Thus the whole community is educated. They do this slowly, and persistently until the woman is restored to her family. If we can get this shelter finished they can help four women at a time instead of one. Drop in a bucket, but what a Holy bucket it is. My visit, spurs the work. I took some of YOUR money – you bloggers – cement will be purchased – walls will be plastered. I prayed over the building, and it’s mistress.
They still need doors. I bet that paypal button over on the left still works.
The second task is to inspect the big contrustion site, outside of Gitega – second City. THARS has been given a plot of land by the government, built on it and you keep it, build well, and we will give you more. David’d dream for this place is a center, of healing and teaching for all of central Africa. Training center, retreat house, treatment center, conference center. Last year he brought home enough money to start the first building. 10K us has put up a building with four dorm rooms, a kitchen and a meeting room. Against all odd the city has run a water pipe out to the place without being asked – miracle. This house is almost finished.
I have brought enough to start the foundation on the second building, big meeting hall, dining hall, western standard restroom. The trenches are being dug by three women who do not weight two hundred pounds together. The trenches are two foot deep and one foot wide into the red clay soil. They do this with a hoe. Then they will carry the field stones and fill the trenches as full as possible, then cement will be poured between the stones, then a floor will be poured, one wheelbarrow of cement at a time. We hope to get this foundation/floor laid before Feb, as we are expecting a team of surveyors, architects and engineers from Colorado who will be drawing plans for the full center. Everything existing will be built into the plan. Practical Niyonzima wants these two birds to be in the hand. I take a brief turn at the hoe to the great amusement of the sisters. I spit on the ground that will be under the podium – this is the blessing. I walk the perimeter of the grounds with david and we pray the whole way.
The valley looks like paradise.