A beautiful calm Saturday morning in Burundi. But things are not as they appear. As we drove the 2.5 hours down through the gorgeous mountainous countryside yesterday from Kibuye to Bujumbura, I kept seeing our beautiful normal Burundi. Lush greens, layers of hills textured like quilts with fields of beans and rice and umugali.
Red dirt on the clothes of the children, stuck to the brick houses and under the feet of the workers traveling the footpaths that crisscross the landscape. Bright blue sky with fluffy stark white clouds. The women carry their baskets of produce on their heads, babies on their backs, dressed in bright igitangi fabric. The men push and ride bicycles heavy-laden with goods to be sold over the next hill in the markets.
But things are not as they appear. We are in the 15 passenger van from Kibuye, medicated with Dramamine. There are only 6 of us and our weekend bags. We also carry the coolers to fill with meat and dairy products which we will purchase in the capital. There are other items with us which testify to the fact that although this appears to be a normal weekend drive to Bujumbura- it is not.
Today the announcement came from Burundi’s President that he will make his bid for a contested third term in office. There are many supporters of his plan as well as many in opposition. The opposition has promised to protest in the streets tomorrow. The government has already demonstrated that they will respond to keep the streets clear. It is difficult to get a true picture of what has happened and what will happen. There are many rumors and speculations, fearfulness, injustice, poverty, anger. The youth with their idealistic enthusiasm and desire for change now. The older generation still carrying the scars and painful memories of the conflicts of years not long gone.
As the sun climbs in the sky and the city begins to hum with activity, we sit off to the side, behind our closed doors and wait. Like many citizens of Bujumbura this morning, our plan is to stay out of the fray, to listen, to watch, to wait. Although very unlikely, those extra items tucked into our luggage could be the only things which accompany us out of the country if things were to destabilize now. Things like our journals, my engagement ring that I don’t wear here, special blankets, pictures, backup computer drives. Some would say these preparations are bordering on the melodramatic. After all, it looks like any other normal day. Our Burundian friends tell us it’s not. We don’t want to talk of an evacuation plan but must prepare one – just in case things are not as they appear.
Today we enjoy these quiet moments with friends, talking and sharing coffee. The children play with Lego creations and kick the soccer ball. Tomorrow we will drive back up the mountainous road, past the hills and vendors and farmers to our Kibuye home by the Kibuye Hope Hospital and begin another week as normal…or we will not. We have peace within, and pray for peace to fill this place. Come Lord Jesus.
This is not meant to be a political post but rather a personal reflection on how the current situation in Burundi is affecting us. It is also an invitation to pray, to add your voice to the many who are already remembering this tiny country.