Saturday, October 20, 2007

Not So Dangerous After All

Last time I looked at Burundi, it seemed pretty dangerous.

It was 2005, and I was trying to figure out if I could catch the Lake Tanganyika ferry from Burundi to Zambia. From there, it was easy enough to get to Namibia, where I was renting an apartment for the next month. I was trying to avoid the long way around, which involved an overnight bus from Kampala to Nairobi, then an overland trip to Dar es Salaam, then a long train or bus journey to Zambia. I'd done it in reverse in 2001. It takes forever—the thrill wears off after the first 30 or so hours—and I was trying to avoid repeating it. Plus, a ferry across Lake Tanganyika sounded fun.

The journey from Kampala to Rwanda is simple enough. But going through Burundi seemed like a bad idea. The country was internally at war, though muggings were more likely than fighting. I decided that now was not the time to go to Burundi. I ended up flying one-way to Windhoek, then taking the bus back from Cape Town three months later.

So when Craig told me he was off to Burundi on Sunday, I was worried.

I realize this is ridiculous. One point I always make is how threats are exaggerated and there is more likelihood of violence at home than in other countries. The biggest threat, I say, when traveling in Africa, is road accidents. And when people say to me, "You're really going to (country x)? Are you crazy," I always defend my choices and point out that sensationalist attitudes are rooted in lack of awareness.

So in the case of me worrying about Craig going to Burundi, I'd decided to keep my mouth shut. Or more or less shut. He's a big boy. He's been all over the world. He's reported from war zones. He's braved the Cairo Carrefour during back-to-school season. A little mugging wouldn't scare him.

Then I decided to educate myself instead of worrying, since not worrying aloud only translating into worrying to Yasir by e-mail. Yeah, right, worry about a little crime to a guy who has had to hit the deck while nearby soldiers were disemboweled by grenades. That'll look real Lara Croft of you.

Turns out Burundi has been at peace for 14 months. And Craig is more likely to get malaria than a mugging. Backpackers are already going overland and talking about it on the Lonely Planet message board.

Furthermore, it turns out that if he wants to, Craig can visit the spot where Stanley found Livingstone, though in fact Livingstone was not exactly missing.

And now, I'm no longer worried.

Now I'm just jealous. I want to go to Burundi too.


Anonymous said...

I think Yasir is exaggerating my war correspondent experience, but it's nice to be worried over.

Someone I met at a party last night said the mosquitoes are intense in Bujumbura, so you're right about the malaria threat. I bought a mosquito net today to add to the prophylactic arsenal along with my anti-malarial drugs.

And I guess I should go to the spot where Stanley found Livingstone and put a photo on my blog... just to rub it in.

Marie Javins said...

Better take someone with you. It does you no good at all to address thin air as "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"

Just don't give me the finger in that photo...

Yasir Khan said...

For the record, I love Lara Croft. Would go to Burundi with her in the blink of an eye. She'd keep me safe.

Marie Javins said...

The bad news is that it turns out that it's a myth that Stanley and Livingstone met at the Burundi rock! But they did visit there together.

The good news is that Craig can't torment me with a photo of himself at the spot where Stanley found Livingstone.