economic mismanagement

To Be The First Tourist

by Spencer

Burundi rarely makes the news. It’s a nation about the size of Massachusetts, but with more people and extreme poverty. It’s the twin to Rwanda, same ethnic strife, Hutu vs Tutsi, same Belgian colonial legacy, but Burundi is poorer and more forgotten. In the entire country, we saw but one working traffic light. From the Tanzanian border, the road was dirt. Our hiking trails are in better condition. In Burundi, most children suffer from chronic malnutrition. I have never been in a land so poor.

People were surprised to see us. Outside of the capital, especially closer to Tanzania, people would cheer as we cycled by. It’s like we were famous, like we were world class cyclists, like we were doing something noteworthy and important. And in a sense, maybe, we were. One man told me that I was the first white person he’d seen outside a car. It was just incredible.

At every little town, a crowd would gather. Once, the police asked us to move because the crowd around us blocked the main intersection. They would stare and gawk and sometimes manage a few questions in English. They asked us where we were from. America. America! They asked us why we were in their village, their town, in Burundi. We come as tourists. Tourist? And they would shake their heads, like they knew what the word meant but they’d never seen one before.
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The MV Liemba

by Spencer

We took the MV Liemba from Mpulungu in Zambia to Kigoma in Tanzania. It was insane. When we go on a cruise, we expect sunsets and pretty scenery. This, however, is the MV Liemba: yelling, banging, crying babies, chickens, cholera, muddy hallways, people sleeping on cargo, people sleeping on people.

It was an experience. Especially as a TV crew from the History Channel rented out the boat, kind of, and were very happy to use their power as they pleased. I learned a lot. I’ll write more later.

Africa = Wild West??

by Spencer

Africa = Wild West??

Bicycling through Africa, excluding the big cities, I can easily imagine myself in a classic Western film. The land is dusty, sun omnipresent, buildings stout, industry absent, law more a suggestion and at every turn there’s the palpable sense of both opportunity and danger. The highway is littered with the hulking remains of automobiles stripped to the frame. Subsistence farmers with goat powered carts trot along as a 2011 BMW whizzes by. The highway is sparse, uninterrupted but for potholes and the few occasional cows.
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