Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Mwaro, part one

Today Claude invited our friends to join us on a day trip to Mwaro, a province close to his heart.  We (since we are together in this, right) own some land in Mwaro.  And every visit we make time to journey to this lush green countryside to marvel at the quiet, simple beauty.  The drive from Bujumbura is about 2 hours - taking winding roads through the hills and then driving more slowly over the red dirt road punctuated with crevasses and small ravines.  It is a very scenic drive, but one that takes patience and a well-padded seat!  But you move from the city to the country, from the shore of Lake Tanganyika to the remote interior of Burundi.
I first came to Mwaro in 2001.  This is when Claude proposed to me... every night for 5 weeks. When he brought me to Mwaro, this home was still under construction.  The building stood, but doors and windows were on order and yet to be installed.  Claude took me from room to room (there are just two) to show me the home he designed and built for us.  Yes, he wanted me to live here with him.  The home has a huge fireplace in the common room, a simple kitchen with a view of the valley below, and a porch.  But I could not then (or now) imagine taking up such a remote residence... though the view is stunning.
This is the view from our Little House on the (Burundian) Prairie.  The valley is green with tea bushes.  Mwaro is where 99% of Burundi's tea is grown... and the fields pepper the landscape with such a striking and verdant shade of green.  It is my favorite view in all of Burundi - looking out over the fertile valley.  You can see, in the distance, people harvesting the tea.  You can see goats and cows meandering the roads and fields.  The air is cool and clean, and you can hear your heart beat and the birds sing overhead.  Mwaro is, to me, the essence of Burundian living.  This is how Burundians have lived for generations - off the goodness of the land and uncomplicated by modern progress (and troubles).  It is good to note that this is the one region where Hutu, Tutsi and Batwa have always lived together in peace.  That is part of the deep goodness of Mwaro.  I do see what draws Claude here, time and time again.
Just about 1/2 mile down the road is the office of the governor.  This year there is a new governor to meet, and I was delighted to see that it was (for the first time) a woman.  She welcomed us into her office and to her province.  She shared her warm smile and stories of the challenges and accomplishments of Mwaro in the past season.  Claude was eager to know how our land could be put to use to benefit the wider community (since we won't be living there any time soon...).  I love how Claude always considers how we can bless others, not only ourselves.  To this day, it still makes my heart jump when I see how wide his heart is, how generous he wants to be with all we have, how he naturally considers the needs of others.  I could not help but smile when he inquired about how we could help Mwaro.

A wonderful surprise was that the governor accepted our invitation for lunch!  She cleared her calendar and shared an unhurried meal with us at the restaurant down the street.  She was so gracious with us.  I felt like Mwaro is in good hands with this woman watching over the province, wanting to enrich the lives of her residents.  She dreams of a university (next to our land), an internet cafe, a culinary school (seriously), and vocational schools.  She celebrated the completion of 3 bridges in the province ( thanks to some additional funding from the US Ambassador).  She wants to see progress... and so do we. (to be continued...)

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