I am happy to report that we are safe and sound in Tanzania. I am tempted to recount the story of our day with details of how we sped to the border under the cover of darkness, then ran through a hail-storm of gun-fire in order to make it to safety. But our evacuation experience was a bit less stressful than all that.
This morning Jason lesiurely drove us to the Tanzanian border, which took about 3 hours. The drive was lovely. After reading the news reports of over 100,000 refugess fleeing Burundi, I was expecting to stand in a line at the border for hours, maybe days. There was no line. I walked right up, paid our visa fees, waited for about 15 minutes. Then Jason drove us across the street where there was a line of taxis. We transferred our luggage and drove about an hour to a missionary guesthouse in Kigoma, on the shore of Lake Tanganyika. I imagined we would be walking for hours with our luggage surrounded by a sea of refugees, but that simply did not happen. The guesthouse we are staying at for the next 3 days could not be more beautiful, with monkeys, zebras and our kids spent all afternoon swimming.
We were given three options for leaving Burundi. Yesterday we received an e-mail that the US government was chartering a plane to fly US citizens from Bujumbura to Kigali. However, they said they would take people on a first come first serve basis, with no gaurantees, and that we would be asked to reimburse the US governement $620 per person ... for a 30 minute flight ... and would be on our own after we got to Kigali. Thanks US governement! Our second option was to drive to Rwanda. We were told that many US and Canadian citizens were taking this option. We chose option #3, Tanzania. It was the closest border, we had not heard of any unrest or blocked roads on the route to Tanzania. The downsides: the visa fee and once you reach Kigoma, you still have to take a flight (or a 48 hour train ride) to reach the closest major airport in Dar Es Salaam.
Our hearts are still heavy thinking about what the future of Burundi will hold, as well as the futures of our Burundian friends who remain, and our missioanry friends, some of whom have also left the country and some of whom are staying to continue to serve in the hospital where they are much needed.