Walk of the wazungu - angels watchinig over me

Yesterday Derek and I had a quiet day so we did one of our favorite activities, we call it the walk of the Wazungu. We set out by foot from the house and just pick a direction and explore – we do not let our children come with us – they have a tendency to ‘handle us.’

Our neighborhood is called Kibenga. It is very middle class. All the houses are behind walls, but there is always lots of activities on the streets. People gather to share the news; Many people set up small shops in their walls, and sell cokes, or bread or sundries. There is the occasional beer hall, and of course there are children everywhere. It is quite safe for us, and I have a good sense of direction so we do not get lost. We greet people, and are generally a tourist attraction to the kids. It is fun.

Yesterday we made it up to the big road. Left and you head towards downtown. Right and south along the shores of Tanganyika and if you go a day’s drive the country of Tanzania. Our neighborhood is the southernmost one in Bujumbura proper. Just a few hundred yards south, is a small river, and if you cross the bridge over it, you are in ‘Bujumbura Rural’. During the war and as recently as last year all of BR was rebel controlled. I had crossed this river once in 03 but with a full entourage in the big NGO landcruiser on business to the south, we did not slow down in BR.

But things are different now, and there were gendarme on the road so D and I decided to march south a bit. I explained the whole situation to him and extracted a promise that if it felt dicey we would retreat, and off we went. Just over the bridge is a slum/shanty town called Kanyosha. We wanted to see what life was like there. Pretty grim, the same small enterprise we see everywhere, but at a smaller and more impoverished level. Fires and thick diesel fumes. People too poor to buy charcoal cooking over burning garbage. Children, but children without much in the way of clothing.

It was immediately apparent that people like us do not walk in Kanyosha; the populous was curious, surprised, and the level of animosity, and criminal opportunity rose. We walked purposely and greeted folks and proceeded. The next thing I noticed was that we had picked up an unofficial police escort. One young copper with an AK, walking apace with us, pretending to ignore us, but sticking to us like glue. We conferred and decided to cross the road and turn north. A few hundred yards up, D decided that we should buy a coke, as we were pretty parched and hot. He left me on the road and climbed the bank to a house that advertised drinks and sundries. The man there denied any knowledge of drinks for sale. I was watching Derek with amusement, as it was clear he was failing in his mission, but was doggedly pursuing by asking for each and every flavor “coke?” ”No” ”Orange?” “No?” “Citro?” “OYA”.

While being amused I suddenly realized that I was surrounded by about a half- dozen cops. Smiles and bonjour madams all around. D checks the scene and scrambles down the bank. There is a captain and he has some English. He is very curious about what were are doing there, why we don’t have a car, where we are staying in Burundi and what is our country of origin. I am pretty sure that he thought we were very lost, or had a broken car. We explained our walk and allowed as how it was probably time to be walking back to Kibenga. The police captain agreed. We shook all their hands and took off for the bridge.

Then my phone rang. It was David Niyonzima at the THARS office. This is what we said – exactly.

“Peggy, are you standing by a bridge surrounded by police?”

"Well, no actually the police are now a few yards away."

“I just had a concern.”


“Will you be heading home now?”

I am looking around for the spy who obviously recognized us and tipped off the boss. No obvious suspects. Likely someone in a car or one of the cops.

Back at the office later, this is the story Niyonzima is giving and he is sticking to it.

“I had a vision of you in my head, and you were standing by a bridge surrounded by police so I thought I ought to check on you.”

Friends like this – who needs the CIA!

Still grateful, but a little spooked.


I believe him.
I have absolutely no doubt that there are cosmic radio broadcasts that some human beings pick up more clearly than others, and that this may be the mechanism that God uses to reach them. The midwife who delivered our first child was one of them. There are lots of others, too, and God bless them.

I don't have such a sensitive antenna, though, and it makes me naturally skeptical of those who say they do, though I try to hang on to my skepticism loosely. (I'm reminded of the Carl Sandburg story about the farmer who told his pastor he'd seen in a dream clouds forming the letters PC and asked whether it meant "Preach Christ." "Maybe." the pastor said, "but maybe it means 'plant corn.'")

I also think that some of us -- you, for example, Pastor Peggy -- live so vibrantly that you give off strong signals that are more easily picked up.

I am grateful to live in a world and to know friends for whom this is true.
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