(from Eric)

We arrive in Bujumbura late Sunday night, crawling to our hotel beds with an intense relief coupled with a wonder at how we have been underestimating the amazing phenomenon of laying down and stretching out your legs to their full length.

Four in the morning.  I'm awake for no reason other than that it is dinner time in the US.  Laying on the bed in the pitch black, I hear the call of a Robin Chat that has no business to be making noise at this hour.  I'm smiling because I had forgotten about the birds.

Six in the morning.  I still haven't fallen back asleep and Rachel and the kids couldn't be woken up by all the Robin Chats in the world, so I decide to sneak outside.  The hotel is on the edge of Lake Tanganyika, and maybe I'll go sit on the beach.

As I walk by the pool, a flock of terns soars overhead, and then a solitary African Kite.  I pass by what I have always thought of as a mango tree, though I've never seen it bear any fruit.  I walk out to the beach and notice that the incredible rise of the lake level (over 2 meters!) that we had been experiencing when we left in June has finally started to recede.

African Kite (from an online image)

The sky is gray in the early morning and so is the water.  The surface on a lake this big is never totally calm, but it's pretty close this morning.  Dotted around in the distance are fisherman who have spent the night on the water, fishing mostly for tiny ndagala that you eat whole after they have been dried or fried.  The boats are spread out in every direction, usually in pairs.  I know that soon, they will head into shore.  One of the pair will have an outboard motor and will tow its partner in.

Lake Tanganyika fishermen out on the water (from an earlier visit)

Behind me, a pair of security guards are next to a sleeping dog and chatting indistinctly in Kirundi.  The words are too low for me to try and understand, but the familiar cadence falls on my ears from the first time in over six months.

Closer in, about a hundred feet offshore and another hundred to my left, I see a dark silhouette above the water's surface and realize with a start that this is what I was hoping to find.  A hippo is silently making its way down the shoreline in my direction.  He ducks underwater but surfaces again thirty feet closer.  I'm sitting on a small rock wall that encloses a little cabana where hotel guests can share a drink.  When the hippo is directly in front of me, an incredibly long ribbon of dark lake birds rises from the water and flies over it in a huge V that has devolved into a zigzag.  

The only picture I actually took this morning

I suddenly realize the hippo has turned and is heading quite quickly towards me.  He's still a ways out, but remembering the nearby sign which correctly describes the hippo as "l'animal le plus dangereux en Afrique", I decide to swing around and watch from the other side of the rock wall.  As I lean forward on the wall from my new vantage point, I feel a quite sharp pain in my right palm.  I look down to confirm what I had suspected, that I had accidentally put my hand down on a intozi, or pincher ant.  I wince and shake out my hand.  The hippo stops 25 feet from the shoreline, changes direction, and continues down lakeshore toward the Congo border.

I realize that the restaurant is probably open, and decide to go and find a cup of coffee.


So many things that I have slowly come to know well.  So many that remain mysterious.  Calm.  Routine. Surprise.  Wonder.  Beauty.  Majesty.  Pain.  Wild?  Yes, but it's such a familiar wild.

It's good to be back in Burundi.

1 comment:

Rebekah said...

I enjoyed this account of your morning!