Sunday, October 23, 2016

Teza

Hannah and I drove up to a tea plantation in Teza last week with a few friends.



We started out by touring the factory. Tea factories smell great.







After the tour, we hiked through the leafy rows of the plantation, exploring its rolling hills.




Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Participating in History

I remember my first election.

In 2003, California had asked its citizens to vote on whether to recall then-Governor Gray Davis, and if he were recalled, to vote on who would replace him. The unique nature of the race (only 65 signatures were required to become a candidate) led to a crazy slate of celebrities on the ballot including former child star Gary Coleman, author Arianna Huffington, porn magnate Larry Flint, and Angelyne, whose campaign slogan was "We've had Gray, we've had Brown, now it's time for some blond and pink." We ended up electing Arnold Schwarzenegger.


I also remember the 2008 election. I was worried about getting time off from work so that I could vote, but then the recession hit my company and I was laid off the day before the election.

I've done my best to exercise my civic duties while living abroad. In 2012, I voted from Madrid, thanks to California's technologically advanced ballot-by-email system. This year, I've done the same for both the primary and now the general election.



It's not so easy for everyone and I don't lecture expats abroad who don't vote - it's tough to do. But I write this to remind Bryan in the year 2066 that I voted in the historic election of 2016.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Hannah's Garden Kingdom

Hannah, with some help from our gardener, planted a bunch of seeds and now we have a lush garden filled with beets, cucumbers, chili peppers, kale, lettuce, chives, basil, mint, and sage.


Hannah is awesome.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Fishing Children of Makamba

Hannah and I drove with some friends down to a small resort just north of Nyanza-Lac in Makamba, the southernmost province in Burundi. Down the beach from where we were swimming was a group of kids, playing in the waves and with each other. The older ones among them jumped into wooden fishing boats, maybe for fun, maybe for practice, or maybe to begin contributing to the family's income. Some of these young fishermen ventured close to us out of curiosity as the sun set.


Saturday, October 1, 2016

Seen in Buj #3: Karaoke


Ingredients:

1. Special punch
2. A sound system
3. A projector
4. A karaoke program on your computer

Preparation:

1. Plug everything in
2. Dispense punch
3. KARAOKE!

Friday, September 30, 2016

A Wedding in California, a Wedding in Burundi

In the space of two weeks, Hannah and I experienced two very different weddings.  Our friends Molly and Adam got married in beautiful Sonoma, California.


And our housekeeper Lydwine got married to her partner in Bujumbura, Burundi.


Although this was not my first American wedding, it was my first fully Jewish wedding. There were a lot of really beautiful traditions, like the signing of the ketubah, Molly circling around Adam seven times in front of the chuppah, and a beautifully sung Hebrew prayer called the Seven Blessings.




The Burundian wedding, on the other hand, was a first for me, and I wasn't even able to hide in the back! As Lydwine's employers, Hannah and I were given places of honor in the first row. Sodas are a big thing at Burundian weddings and as honored guests, we were served first.  The American wedding was a little more self-service when it came to drinks.



Adam and Molly took professional wedding photos with their families and bridal parties and at Lydwine's wedding there were several videographers filming everything. I guess the international rule for weddings is "pictures, or it didn't happen."




Lydwine's wedding had some really great entertainment. At different parts during the reception, dancers came in to entertain the guests and near the end, one of the family members came up and sang an improvised (and apparently very funny, but inappropriate) song about the wedding night.




Adam and Molly had the horah, which is an awesome dance and should happen at every wedding, regardless of the Jewishness of the couple. They also had a sweet band that Adam and I perform our old college number Jungle Boogie.



I kind of ended up giving speeches at both weddings. At the Burundian wedding, I was called up to say a few words, so I greeted the guests in Kirundi, telling them after I said good afternoon that I had exhausted my complete vocabulary. Then in French, I thanked them could for honoring us by including us in their special day and telling the groom how lucky he was to be marrying such an intelligent, warm-hearted woman.

At Adam and Molly's wedding, I served as the MC, introducing the different speeches and dances but not saying too much. However, right before the first dance, Molly had a small wardrobe malfunction. I stalled for time by telling a long joke about a donkey, a goat and a horse, walking down a road in wine country. We all know how that joke ends... wait you don't? I didn't either.



In the end, I was happy to partake in my favorite part of weddings: family and friends gathered together to celebrate love.



Saturday, September 24, 2016

Seen in Buj #2: Sorghum Beer

I'm always down to try new things.


On a related note, not a big fan of sorghum beer.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Weekend in Cyangugu

Last weekend Hannah and I drove up to Rwanda. It only took three hours to get there from Bujumbura and we got to see a lot of great Burundian countryside on the way.


We arrived in Cyangugu at sunset. Cyangugu is a small town on the Rwandan side of the border facing Bukavu, Congo. Both towns are nestled on the southern edge of Lake Kivu and let me tell you,  I don't think I've ever seen such a beautiful lake.



We stayed at the Emeraud Kivu Resort and ate dinner on a deck overlooking the lake as the light faded and the fishing boat lanterns began to light up across the water.



On Saturday, we took a day trip to Nyungwe Forest for a fun wildlife hike and lunch at the renowned Nyungwe Forest Lodge.

On Sunday, we rented a boat and took a tour of the southern part of the lake. We circumnavigated some islands and made landfall on one to explore. The only people to share the natural beauty of Lake Kivu with us were intermittent Congolese and Rwandan fishermen.





We returned to Bujumbura in time for a late lunch.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Hannah and the Hippos

On Hannah's birthday I woke up early to buy her flowers and make her a fresh breakfast. After breakfast, we drove to Rusizi National Park, which is only about 25 minutes outside of Bujumbura. We rented a boat and a guide to take us around the Rusizi river delta.





We saw a bunch of hippo families from pretty close up. Those animals are so big, and to see them in the wild, doing their own thing rather than in a zoo was really a treat.



There were also so many beautiful birds, whole flocks of them exploding out of the foliage as our boat passed.




We made our way down to where the river flows into Lake Tanganyika and the border between the brown river water and the blue lake water is very stark.


We chatted with a fisherman who had a giant fish in his canoe.



Near the end of the tour, we boated by the outskirts of the village of Gatumba, and little naked children waved at us from the shore.


Saturday, June 11, 2016

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes!

June 2016 has really packed in the excitement.

The top line update is that HANNAH IS COMING TO LIVE IN BURUNDI!


Although we've bought her ticket for her to arrive in three weeks, I'm still cautiously optimistic rather than just optimistic, because we had already gotten to this stage in Hannah's move last December when everything went to pieces and the second evacuation happened.

You'd think that would be exciting news enough, but we've also been given our next Foreign Service assignment: Barcelona, Spain starting in October 2017.


Oh yes, you will be visiting us, if at a minimum because of this difference:

Burundi Travel WarningSpain Travel Warning
The U.S. Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against all travel to Burundi.

Hannah and I are very excited to spend the next year here in Burundi and I am especially enthusiastic about showing her everything there is to see about this beautiful country. Returning to Spain will be cool too, but we'll have plenty of time for that batch of excitement next year.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Fourth of July! (Give or Take a Month)

U.S. Embassy Bujumbura celebrated the 240th birthday of the United States of America a little early this year, and it was a ton of fun!


After a big tent was thrown up in front of the embassy, the decoration committee and I decked it out in red, white and blue!






The guests entered the party on a red carpet and were received by the senior officials of the embassy as they arrived.


The opening ceremonies involved a presentation of the American flag by the marine color guard, renditions of the U.S. and Burundian national anthems (our local staff choir performed the Burundian anthem!) and speeches by the Ambassador and the Foreign Minister of Burundi.




The guests mingled, snacked on hors d'oeuvres, quaffed wine, beer and sodas, and danced  to the tunes of a live band.





Happy birthday, oh country of mine.