Saturday, June 20, 2009

Settling In

I’m living in a nice neighborhood with cobblestone streets northeast of the center of Bujumbura. It’s a bit far from the center of town ($3 by taxi, or $.25 by matatu), but it’s fairly close to the office. The apartment is on the second floor. From the living room, you can see Lake Tanganyika, which is blue like the Caribbean.

I have a roommate that I have yet to meet. A colleague at my organization, she’s out in the field during the week, and returns to Bujumbura on the weekends. I should meet her for the first time today, and am looking forward to it!

I’ve started to settle into the apartment. There isn’t a television or radio (I stopped by the Chinese store to find the only radio they sold featured a built-in “disco light,” and decided against), so it’s quiet in the apartment. There is, however, considerable noise and music from the people downstairs, who seem to be having a perpetual dance party. Across the street is a bustling little outdoor bar where Burundians drink beer late into the night.

Otherwise, the apartment is comfortable and well-appointed. My bed is large (a welcomed reprieve from my twin at grad school) and I have my own bathroom, with hot water and a toilet that is inexplicably covered with ants. Speaking of ants, they are everywhere. It seems that they’re so ravenous that they’ll go after anything. They’re not confined to the kitchen. They’re in the bathroom sink. They’re on the shower curtain. They’re on my bedside table. They’re on the walls. I have to clean all of my dishes and put food away immediately after cooking, because if not, the food is literally overrun with them. I’ve purchased some ant spray and am in the process of spraying every corner of the apartment. I’m sure my mother would disapprove.

As for food, I went to a small market today to begin to stock the kitchen. I’d like to save money by cooking for myself instead of going out. Even so, my boss tells me she eats out most nights, and still only had $300 in expenses every month. When I lived in rural Rwanda, I ate in my house most of the time and still managed to spend much more than that. We’ll see if this holds true! So far, it does seem like most things, with the exception of wine and cereal (such as the $21 Honey Smacks) are fairly inexpensive here. I’m okay with not eating cereal this summer—I’m going to stick to the local yogurt and honey.

Now, I have cabbage, mangoes, papaya, pineapple, avocado, tomatoes, mini-garlic, mini-onions, and mini-bananas in my kitchen. The market selection puts Rwanda to shame! They also had beets, radishes, curly endive, grapefruit, broccoli rabe, coconuts, and strawberries! Ah, the possibilities.


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