Friday, 4 April 2008

Thanks to My Friends in Burundi: Making Contact after All These Years

One of the things that is nice about finishing a book project is thanking the people who helped you with it. Through one of the those things that start out bad but end up good—on the trip to Burundi to research my book The Violets of Usambara my credit cards were stolen in Holland and I had to miss my scheduled flight from Amsterdam to Nairobi—I meet a Burundais businessmen on my flight from Nairobi to Bujumbura. He and his family were extremely hospitable and his daughter, who worked for an NGO based on Montreal’s South Shore, showed me around the city most graciously. I would never have seen as much, had they not taken me in hand.

For a couple of years after I got back—the trip was in 2001, and the book has taken this long to reach its final state—we corresponded by e-mail. At some point she changed her address, though, and we lost contact. But this week, the NGO helped me get in touch with her. I was happy to learn that things are going well with her family. She and her husband have built a new house, although he no longer has his cattle, which when I was there he had recently brought down from the hills. Not profitable, she said, but I can imagine that, given the way her husband spoke lovingly of the animals, it must have been a hard decision to make.

At any rate, I sent off copies of The Violets of Usambara to them yesterday. They figure, of course, in my note of thanks at the end of the book to people who came to my aid during the writing of it.

As for the business about having my pocket picked in The Hague, I’ve wondered about that many times. You just never know when things are going to turn out much better than you expect. I suppose that’s true in reverse, that sometimes are worse than you think. But maybe it’s best to withhold judgment. “Woe is me” never got a project completed, for sure.

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