Sometimes you just have to write…

Waiting in Kirundo

Kirundo, Burundi, August 13

I’m sitting in the van right now, waiting to leave for Bujumbura. We seem to spend a lot of time here waiting, but I realized yesterday how it works: it’s simply based on social status. If the other people involved are of lower social status than you are, they can wait. If they’re higher status than you, you’d better be on time, but expect to wait for them, possibly for hours.

Yesterday afternoon there was an official closing ceremony for our project. A representative from the Ministry of Education was scheduled to speak, but was coming all the way up from Bujumbura, so he wouldn’t be there until after about noon. Of course, that meant that it would about one o’clock, which is what we expected.

All of the teachers we trained came, of course, because they were going to receive a certificate showing that they’d finished the programme. Most of them arrived more or less on time. Stephanie had also arranged for some traditional drummers and dancers to perform in between the expected speeches. The drummers arrived right on time and waited with us, though the dancers, wisely, arrived later. Click here to see a short clip of one of the dancers.

I asked Stephanie at some point – I would guess about three o’clock – what was going on: had the man from the ministry arrived? Stephanie said yes, he was with the Provincial Director for Education, but that they were also waiting. This surprised me, as the man from the ministry was the most important man coming. He’s the one everyone else waits for.

It turned out that some journalists were coming from Bujumbura as well. So, somehow, journalists rate even higher than ministry officials.

Anyway, those poor drummers, after practicing for a while outside in the sun, had to wait. When the journalists and V.I.P.’s were finally all installed, the speeches could finally begin. The drummers waited through several speeches – and these were NOT short speeches – and finally got to play again. During their performance, some of the teachers started handing out sodas and beers, so the drummers didn’t even get our full attention. And, of course, no one offered them a drink, despite all of the energy they were putting into the drumming. Click here for a video of the drumming. (Actually, the video is of them rehearsing beforehand, but it’s a lot clearer than anything I filmed while they performed inside.)

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This entry was posted on August 13, 2009 by in Burundi and tagged , , , .
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