Anna Maria Menendez could hardly contain herself. As a Social Anthropologist, this is the moment in her life she had been waiting for. She had put off her life for so many others until now.
In college, she had taken a light load so she could spend more time practicing in order to be more competitive. She had taken the minimum hours and still maintain her status of eligibility each year.
She had not made the cut for the Olympics as a high school senior. She was injured during her senior year at Kansas. Even though they had won the national championship, she had not been in good enough form to qualify for the Olympics. It was a crushing blow after working for it for eight years. It was going to take another year or so to actually get her degree in Social Anthropology.
Then her parents got sick and she had to take care of them for several years. She had to run the farm and take care of them. After they died, she share cropped the land and was able to get enough income to finish school. Once she got her master's and doctorate, she was able to get a job. She was assistant curator at the Kaufman Center but it still was not completely what she wanted. She lived close enough to the city to commute and still close enough to the farm to run part of that.
She had to make sure the fences were good, the cattle were being fed and not getting out. During harvest season, she would drive the grain truck as the wheat combine was being filled. She didn't have to be responsible for everything, but she had to be close enough to make sure everything was running okay.
Monday was always a blessing. That meant so much less farm work during the week. Anna had finished her five miles of jogging down the country roads almost before the sun was up. She strapped her back pack on the back of her matt black 1982 GB750 Honda Café Racer. She could have driven the 4WD Toyota Extended Cab Truck. It was still summer and the 750 still had so much sentimental value to it.
It was the last thing she and her dad had worked on together that they had finished. She put the helmet on. It wasn't required to wear one in Kansas, but it was part of the Café Racer. They had removed the gas tank, seat and back fender. They had made a custom unit that was all one piece. They had taken the instrument panels off of the handle bars and made a digital unit that was recessed into the tank. They had mounted three rear view cameras on the back of the tank/seat unit to monitor right; left and straight back views so they didn't need mirrors. The Google glasses could read the mirrors and instrument clusters if she wanted; or she could read the screen mounted in the gas tank.
The back pack that was strapped on the seat behind her had her high-heeled boots, long button front dress and what little make-up she used. Riding into Kansas City, she was wearing high-topped lumber-jack style boots that laced up to just below her knees. Her grey wool socks were folded down over the tops of the boots. Her cut-off bib overalls were hemmed just below her crotch and fit like a glove. Her long sleeve turtle neck t-shirt collar was pulled up over her nose; almost to her eyes. Her Dolce Cabana Dark glasses covered her eyes and the full face bell helmet would have concealed the fact that she was a beautiful woman except for the long red French braid that hung down to her waist.
When she made her turns the long braid seemed to be working like a turn signal; pointing down in the direction she was going. The helmet almost concealed who she was. People she was passing always did a double take at the magnificent tanned and toned legs between the top of the boots and bottom of the bib overalls.
Her busy life gave her half a life. Her success in track and school, followed by her hectic schedule taking care of the farm and her parents put her in an awkward social position. Her degree as a Social Anthropologist meant she was supposed to be an expert at so many things, but it was like being a divorced marriage counselor. Her love life had been virtually non-existent.
Almost out of panic; social pressure, or resignation she had finally married. She had spent quite a bit of time with one of her older professors; working on different papers and things. Over a few years, she had finally given in to his persistent persuasions. He was a good 20 years older than she when they married. It didn't seem to matter too much at the time; now she was forty and he was sixty. Time for having children was just about gone. On the other hand, she had been given the chance of a lifetime and if she had young children at home now, she wouldn't have been able to follow up on this work.
Her husband was due for a one-semester sabbatical, and she would be able to get away from work for that much time. She had been looking up many things on the internet for a number of years.
She had seen stories of the Tanganyika. During World War II, there had been a lot of fighting in North Africa. She had read the accounts of Erwin Rommel, Mark Clark and George Patton chasing each other across North Africa. She had talked to relatives of a flight of nurses who had been flown into Libya to help.
The flight had disappeared. It was believed to have been on its way out of Libya. It had taken off at night. Rather than head north to Italy, they had decided to fly to Madagascar. Over the years, Anna had been to take summer vacations to tour some of the areas along the route.
She had heard stories of Japanese soldiers hiding in the Philippine jungle for over forty years; not knowing the war was over. Could it be possible that anybody from this flight had actually survived? There were rumors. There had been accounts from pygmies, from aborigines and a number of tribes with their own languages that were known as "the un-contacted tribes." They had avoided civilization by choice and had often killed people who tried to help. White people who had lived for centuries with certain viruses and germs had made themselves immune to them. These segregated tribes could easily be decimated by the common cold or flu.
Trying to contact them was a tenuous experience for everybody involved. The translations were primitive and many word translations were uncertain. That is why Anna could not verify the stories she had heard.
She was now speculating on a particular area that was in a straight line between Libya and Madagascar; Rwanda, Burundi, and the huge body of water along them called Tanganyika. It was at the foot of a huge mountain range called the Albertine Rift. Anna felt the plan could have gone down from either lack of fuel, or not being able to get over the mountains.
Anna felt they could fly into Spain; hopscotch their way to Saudi Arabia; Madagascar and then on into Burundi. Somewhere they would get some guides and cars or a boat to go along the shore of Lake Tanganyika. They might get a helicopter to fly along the side of the Rift to see what they might have missed on the last trip.
The flight into Bujumbura had been hectic. They had changed so many time zones after they left Kansas City, they didn't know if they got there before or after they left.
In the beginning, her husband Adam had not been that enthusiastic about this project. He was a social anthropologist too, and her premises seemed ridiculous. Now, after spending parts of several summers over here, he started to become intrigued with the possibilities. He also saw opportunities for him to advance his own prestige at the college by publishing the results if they found more.
He was curious about the chemistry between his wife and this savage guide she kept hiring. He also suspected that Marcel knew more about what she was looking for than he let on. He felt that perhaps Marcel was milking these trips for more money; that he could have helped Anna more than he had. It was a subtle thing. It was the way his eyes moved when she said certain things. It was how he didn't respond to answers when he could have said: "I don't know." When certain questions or issues were brought up.
Adam had been watching the guide more than his wife; searching for subtle body language and eye movement. After all, his work had trained him for things like this. His wife was more interested in the Archaeological aspect of social anthropology. Adam was a human lie detector. He had studied closely the different speech patterns; physical interactions of different cultures; things like that.
He hadn't thought there was much to Anna's search possibilities until he had studied Marcel's behavior. Now he thought that there might be more to it.
When they got there, the climate was not nearly as hot as they had anticipated. Although it is on the equator, it is so high, that the altitude balances out the temperature.
Bujumbura has a tropical savanna climate with distinct wet and dry seasons. Its wet season is from October through April, while the dry season covers the remaining five months
Anna had spent lots of time on the internet, and from previous trips she had also known that Bujumbura grew from a small village after it became a military post in German East Africa in 1889. After World War I it was made the administrative center of the Belgian League of Nations mandate of Ruanda-Urundi. The name was changed from Usumbura to Bujumbura when Burundi became independent in 1962.
Since independence, Bujumbura has been the scene of frequent fighting between the country's two main ethnic groups, with Hutu militias opposing the Tutsi-dominated Burundi army.
.... There is more of this story ...