On May 13, I woke up in the beautiful L'Auberge Del Mar after a wonderful date night with Hannah in the beach side town where I would go surfing in high school. I had turned off my phone for the night, and when I turned it back on the next morning I had a message waiting for me from my boss:
"Hi Bryan, you are no doubt aware of what happened today in Buj..."
What? I blindly groped around for my glasses, hopped out of bed and pulled up the news. While on a trip out of the country, the president of Burundi had been overthrown in an apparent coup d'etat. Rumors abounded. The president's plane had been turned back trying to get back into the country, people were dancing in the streets, the police had all deserted their posts.
And for maybe the first time, the events of some place very far away impacted my life in a very significant way. A flurry of emails followed my boss' as I tried to figure out what this would mean for my arrival in Burundi, which was only seven days away. I quickly realized that plans can never firmly be drawn in this business. The day following the coup saw gun battles in the streets of Bujumbura and all commercial airlines diverted their flights to Burundi. This was enough to trigger a partial evacuation of the U.S. embassy, sending family members, non-essential staff and private American citizens out of the country by charter flight on Sunday.
I ended up arriving in Burundi on one of the first flights back into the country the following Friday. The coup had failed, the president was the same, but my life sure wasn't.