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We headed for home, giving our park guide a lift on the way. We passed a couple of recreational beaches close into Bujumbura, potentially a good spot for families to hold a Sunday Afternoon picnic, but in reality a more seedy den. Recreation here was mainly for men to get drunk and pick up one of the over-made up girls on the highway.
The guide lived in the northern suburbs. In our big gleaming Toyota, we bumped over the potholed roads down a bunch of dull ill-maintained neighbourhoods, with the occasional house showing signs of pride and effort. Perhaps the troubles and usual lack of money and opportunities exhausted people too much here to keep their properties maintained, or perhaps the landlords did not care. But I found that while the exterior of the low houses were often terrible, the interiors were kept clean and tidy. We were invited in by the guide and shown to his main room. The windows were small and the room dark, but there were a couple of chairs and a sofa around a low table covered in bright white lace. A couple of glass cabinets around the room showed off family trophies, mainly pictures, and we were introduced to his wife, many kids, cousins, mothers, fathers and grandparents, who were hanging around the house or passing through.
We were offered a beer, but beyond that the hospitality was not common to me. We briefly passed a few comments in both French and English, but Jerod and I often ended up talking amongst ourselves, not because we were being rude, but just we were left while our friend would talk to his friends outside, or his family in the back kitchen. It was a shame it was such a large beer as it took us time to drink it, and we grew increasingly uncomfortable. The major comment of this guy was why Kelly had not come down to see her godchild recently. It was already growing dusky as we thanked him and moved outside to the vehicle. It was not safe to stay in these suburbs too late. The gleaming white Toyota had attracted kids and others from all over the neighbourhood and they crowded around looking into the vehicle. But it was more with inquisitiveness than intrusiveness, and we were waved at warmly as we pulled away. We had wound along several streets to reach his house, but rather than retrace our steps, we drove straight along our current route – the suburb had grid iron streets, and we finally lurched back onto a major road. Although it was on the far side of where we wanted to be, it was the quickest route out of the township.
The MV Liemba had reached Kigoma when we got home, but it was touch and go whether it would make Bujumbura in time for my trip. When I woke up in the morning, Kelly again had been on the phone. The Liemba was still in Kigoma. Alan should take the next flight out or else be stuck in Bujumbura for another few days. Time was short; I had to get to Kigoma and on to Dar es Salaam, each connection the only possible route for days either side. So, with bags packed we had a hurried breakfast and we headed down to the airport. Kelly’s Tanzanian maid, who she had hired when they themselves were based in Kigoma, was resigning from her post and heading home. We were both on the same flight. She had no passport but a rather ragged form which gave her leave to move across the border. When we reached the airport, it was even emptier than before. We were one of three flights that day. One was going to Cameroon late that afternoon, and there was one to Goma in the evening. I said my goodbyes to Kelly and Jerod; they had been absolutely splendid hosts to me, and we went through the checks; I helped the maid with her forms. We were whisked through and we waited for an hour in the departure gates Two more people were on the flight. Nothing happened; no announcements, no action whatever, and I began to wonder if the flight actually existed. Eventually two white pilots in the smartest uniforms came out and we were escorted to a rather old but serviceable 15-seater. I waved to Kelly and Jerod who stood on the observation deck as normally as if you were anywhere else in the world. Then we lifted off over the lake, down between the two escarpments and I left Burundi. As with many countries, it possessed the rich tapestry of good and bad, beautiful and ugly, but the vein of unrest between the two races reared closer to the surface than the tensions I saw in many other countries. Within six months, the situation had deteriorated; a UN aid worker was killed on the Tanzanian border and all but essential UN staff were moved out. I had a second trip planned in the November of that year and was looking forward to explore this remarkable country more and get to understand its people better, but I never got there. I hope one day it rests easier with its conflicts and more people can experience its incredible charms.