First of all, I’d like to start off with a rant: I am completely disappointed with the Geography and History taught in high schools with respect to Africa!
Now, some of you might think this is an isolated case, but I’ll state my point to prove universal application.
I spent most of my high school years in Nairobi (also spent some time in Lusaka and Johannesburg), but all the schools I went to followed a British GCSE/GCE curriculum. Therefore, no doubt I was learning the same things as students in England. I have met several people from North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Oceania (therefore 6 out of 7 continents) who have known very little about Africa, and so forgive me if I take those people to represent their respective continents.
Most people who studied about Africa in high school will no doubt have mostly been taught about the dark side of Africa; Apartheid in South Africa; Civil war in Rwanda, Zaire (the DRC) and Burundi; Persecution of ethnic minorities in Uganda; Land reform conflicts in Zimbabwe; to name a few. Ask these people about any of the positive developments in Africa, and I’ll be stunned if you can find one person with a regular education who can name more than 5.
Similarly, in the schools that I went to, hardly anything positive was said about African history or the geography of its treasures. I say all this because it has only been during my time here that I’ve really appreciated just how little I know about my continent. And so when I hear or read about advice for people travelling to Africa (most of the advice is not even country specific), it comes as no surprise that many people arrive with the fear of almost everything.
But the purpose of this blog post is not to rant, but rather to celebrate one of Burundi’s hidden treasures. Yes, you may only know this country for its 13-year civil war, but the treasures of the Lake Tanganyika are reserved for the curious. Today I went to Blue Bay, an exquisite beach located about 1hr south of Buja along the coast of Lake Tanganyika. I guarantee you that if you were blindfolded and flown here, you would think you were on some exotic beach location over-looking an ocean, and not in a country ravaged by civil war. But this is just a lake; yes, the clear-blue-waters may deceive you; yes, the clean-cream-sands may deceive you; yes, the green-palm-trees and fresh breeze may deceive you. But this is just a lake – a lake with treasures that would rival any of the world’s oceans. And there was I thinking nothing could top my visit to Bora Bora beach on my first weekend here.
And so folks, cast away your history and geography books and really try to find out the truth about matters before forming opinions. This weekend, I’ll go to a hot spring source in the south, I’ll try to capture the awakening of the city during sunrise, I’ll see what else I can pack into a short weekend, and I know there will still be heaps that I won’t know about this country before I leave next week.