Doug Hiebert’s an old friend from Canada who spent five years out here a while back, and he emailed me last week saying that he was bringing a bunch of musicians out to do concerts all over Burundi, and wondering if I’d like to tag-team with him as the preacher. I jumped at the opportunity, and found myself on the Aigle du Nord bus joining them at Buhiga after their first two gigs.
Public transport is a rarity for me these days, but I always enjoy it, so long as I have timed my bladder-emptying right, because they won’t stop for any loo break for the whole three-hour journey. As we pulled out of the station, it looked like there were a few spare seats so we wouldn’t be too squished, but then a taxi screeched in front of us, blocking our path, and out jumped a family of six just in time with their pre-paid tickets. So now my row, instead of being three people on four suits, was five on four, and the two new additions emitted a pungent heavy aroma which took a while to get used to. What’s more, the young girl on her Dad’s and my knee soon made signs that she was going to puke, which she duly did, repeatedly, into the flimsy black plastic bag that was offered to her. The man in front didn’t move an inch as she retched into the bag nestled on his shoulder, which I found quite remarkable! Further along, we came across a dead body on the road but our driver just kept on going.
The guy sat next to me had overheard my conversation on the phone to Onesphore asking where I should get off, and he’d duly rung his wife to meet me at my drop-off point and take me to Panorama Hotel – an incredible gesture, compounded a few hours later when he returned from his business on a borrowed motorbike to pick me up from the hotel and take me to the venue. I’d planned to walk there, but it was a few miles away in the baking sun so he saved me a sweaty journey. He was the manager of the local nightclub, so maybe my message conflicted with his profession, but he and his wife listened to the concert and the preach and then slipped away at the end, hopefully having been positively impacted.
The format for our several days together was: drive to the new town, set up the stage, the band sing, I put in earplugs and still get a headache (not coz the band’s bad, but because it’s soooo unbelievably loud), I preach, people respond, the band sing again, pack up, back to hotel, move on the next day. It was a lot of fun. The biggest laugh came when a Burundian young man leant into the bus to practice his broken English:
“What is your name?”
“Greg,” said Greg.
“Did you say Gwendolyn?”
How we laughed. Maybe you had to be there…!
In the name of brevity, I’ll stop there. Happy times. There was the usual mix of banter, breakdowns, sickness, mosquitoes (I killed thirty in one room one night and then gave up), nice and not-so-nice food, nice and not-so-nice sleeping arrangements, fluid time schedules (and bowel movements!), many lives changed (it’s not about the numbers but into the hundreds responded), and more. It’s always fun but equally it’s nice to get back to a gorgeous wife, noisy children, hot shower, good food and decent bed.