Place: Lake Tanganyika, in the capital city Bujumbura, Burundi (Central Africa)
Where I live now, my morning run passes by a ‘Great Lake’ in even greater mountains. Tanganyika itself borders Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia and the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo). It is the second largest freshwater lake in the world.
Of the places I’ve lived, I love the sense of sound here best. April to July is the rainy season. It can rain solid for days, and morning thunder often wakes you before the alarm. You run to the lake in the morning and before you hit the shoreline, you see it lightening in the Congo. You gain something from the enormous body of water and when the rain falls harder, anyway, you think, faster. The storm grows louder and your heart pounds against the thunder. Lightning streaks across the sky and the lake becomes a gigantic silver plate and it’s like you’re running on glass.
From the heart of Africa, water flows from this lake and the other Great Lakes (Victoria, Malawi, Turkana, Albert, Kivu and Edward) all the way to the Atlantic. The colonialesque names reflect a European discovery. In fact, 12 miles down the eastern shore of Tanganyika, you find La Pierre de Livingstone et Stanley, where in 1871, one man went on mission to discover a well-known lost explorer. “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”
The western shore of Tanganyika meets the Congo forest of the DRC. Working in peace and conflict, you read that bandits in this region, a well-known ‘conflict cluster’ take advantage of the water and run contraband across it. Or rebel militia make attack from one site and utilize the water to evade security.
But actually, it is only peaceful here. Know this. Central Africa is beautiful. Central Africans build peace. Burundi is recovering from a civil war that ended ten years ago, moving forward with Unité, Travaille, and Progrès. From the summit of Bujumbura, you look across the lake to the Congo forest and see crests upon crests of green mountains. In the city proper, there are a hundred birds you’ve never seen before, and 8 of them could fit perched in your palm. Birds you never knew of. Colors you never knew they came in and songs you never heard. Burundi is a tiny African country that you probably never heard of. Life here is small scale but it is built for the senses.