Burundians are a little obsessed by Primus
Primus (pronounced 'Pre Moose') beer is the dominant beer brand - or indeed any brand - in Burundi, and wherever you go in the country, it's impossible to evade the reach of its advertising and ubiquitous depots.
Primus is a lager style beer with a 5% alcohol content that is well suited to the tropical climate. It's brewed in four countries in the Great Lakes region (Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi) and is distinguished by the fact that it's one of the increasingly few major beer brands in Africa that ISNT owner by SAB Miller!
In Burundi, the laws of physics don't apply!
(work in progress)
In Burundi , the bicycle is king, and in this respect, it feels much more like Asia than Africa. Thus, an obvious – but nonetheless absorbing - pastime on a road trip through the Burundian countryside is to spot the biggest/heaviest/most improbable bicycle load.
Ours was not an exhaustive study, but for what it’s worth, here’s our favoured candidate. He was carrying seven bags of rice, each of which we conservatively estimated to weigh at least 25kg (about 60 pounds in old money) and probably more ... that’s 175kg of dead weight on a bike being propelled by a bloke who probably weighed no more than 50kg. Quite apart from the weight, there’s also the stability to be considered, as the bags stacked behind the saddle would have protruded at least half a metre (a couple of feet) above his head and were listing distinctly to starboard.
My guess is that even if this guy is unlikely to be well educated, his mastery of practical physics is beyond question!
the ancient drums
Drums play a big part in the music of most African countries, but in Burundi they have an almost spiritual meaning. The old kings used to travel with their drummers everywhere, and being a royal drummer was a position to be passed on from father to son. and what drums they have! they are huge, and playing them is hard, athletic words. There are some music groups playing even on an international level now, like the tamourinaires du Burundi. But if you are staying at one of the lakeside hotels or restaurants especially on a weekend, you might have a chance to hear the deep rumble of a drumming group nearby to celecrate a wedding or some other special occasion. It´s a quite archaic, yet very vivid sound, the ancient heartbeat of this country. Strangely, it was extremely difficult to find a cd of one of the drumming groups in Bujumbura - all shops seemed to limit themselves to pirated copies of Western mainstream music.Related to:
Paying for surgery/medical care vs not paying...
We went on a missions trip to Burundi with a host church to go to - we were totally wonderfully looked after, kept safe with transport and escort, fed with excellent local food and dishes, met wonderful people - we were very busy and had long days visiting various churches and groups (eg orphan and widowed or single mother support groups) and people in positions that requested our support ie the Pastor of the President!
We also were going with the knowledge of intense hardship that people are still enduring in the recovery process from the terrible massacres that ensued across Burundi and Rwanda following the assassination of the then Burundi president. Many people were still locked in jails 15 years later without trial - many people were jailed as a present response to situations with a serious lack of legal personnel available in Burundi - we visited a prison that had 8000 prisoners for 3,200 beds - many with their babies and young chidlren in tow!! can you imagine....but in the last 6 months the Burundi government has allowed the release of many prisoners that have not had trial so that has been a major positive
We also were going with the knowledge that hospitals in Burundi have a practice of locking in their patients who have been unable to pay their hospital bills...no money no surgery but there are cases of those who have paid a deposit and/or their treatment has cost more than expected or just been unable to pay the rest of the account. They are locked in and actually supervised by a person paid to make sure they dont run away! They are not fed by the hospital during the time.
I was told this was common practice amongst many African countries but now decreasing in number but this still goes on in Burundi - let alone the problem of a professional shortfall of doctors and nurses...the hospital we visited had doctors from China and nurses sent and paid for by Egypt...consultants back here in London that were keen to look for patients that needed surgery to sponsor couldnt get the reports they needed because the Burundi doctors then went on strike...
Before going to Burundi we as individuals raised money to take as a group to release as many patients as possible from a list of patients we had been provided with...we knew their ages, gender, how long they had been incarcerated in hospital and how much was owed that kept them there - of 17 on our list we released 11 - as we found a few had already been released by another organisation that day or before
- and we were filmed and broadcast by the local TV station!- we ensured the patient recieved a certificate of release and that we saw the certificate. The most incredible part was that we released a man who had 5 children and had been stuck away from them for 14 months!! So during this time they not only had to endure not having the male breadwinner of the family back but they had to support him when they lived 5 hours by bus away from Bujumburra!! His bill was £2300 and if we hadnt paid who knows how much longer he would have had to wait!!
So for anyone who wants to donate to help please do!! What a difference can be made to even one family if you can donate the bill owed by someone stuck in a hospital!! I have appropriate contacts if you wish to do this - also if you want to send clothes or books directly to Burundi then I can give you the appropriate addresses to do so.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
- Religious Travel
- Historical Travel
Burundi Highlands tea "Naturally the best"
We learnt that Burundi is famed for excellent tea and coffee - the tea and coffee that we drank on a daily basis for breakfast was delicious - most noticeably the coffee!!
The tea regarded as the best is called Nile-Source from the Office de The Du Burundi company - also the makers of what is regarded as the best coffee. The name 'Nile-Source' is because the debated source of the Nile is also considered to be in the Burundi Highlands of Burundi - we had hoped to visit there but that will have to wait until next time!
Our hosts gave us gifts of Nile-Source tea bags and ground coffee which was indeed an excellent gift to bring back and remember our special time in Burundi.....so there was ongoing joy of delicious tea and coffee drinking for quite a while afterwards
....so I would recommend if not given to you as a gift certainly make the most of the opportunity to buy some to take home.
And when driving around Bujumburra we did see a number of ads prominently on shop fronts advertising the famed coffee from OTB so it will be easy enough to find.
INstructions on the box!:
To make Good TEA
In cup: Put one teabag, Add fresh boiling water, leave to infuse for at least 2-3 minutes before serving.
In pot: Put 2 teabags in a pot for 3-4 cups, Add fresh boiling water, Leave to infuse for at least 3-5 minutes before serving.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
- Women's Travel
- Food and Dining
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