Tuesday, April 29, 2014

     The missionaries in the DRC mission are paid a certain amount per month since they come from such poor circumstances.  Bus fare and a telephone are added to that sum, and then they are housed in missionary apartments that are usually, if not always, several levels above what they have lived in all their lives.  In other words, they have a flush toilet, running water, a shower and 3 meals a day instead of one.  A few come and live behind the Cahoon's in a little house for the 3 months before they are to leave on their missions.

     Today I was looking at papers that had been filled out for a group from Uvira to go to the temple in Johannesburg.  On one of the forms where a signature was required was a fingerprint of a woman instead of a signature.  It blew me away that an adult woman in this day and age was illiterate and could not write her name.  It turns out, 60% of the people here are illiterate and cannot read or write.

     We drove to Uvira, Congo last week to visit with the branch president there.  He is a wonderful man, so faithful and dedicated.  he has kept his little branch not only going but growing for the last 2 years with no budget from the church.  They are now about to split his branch into 2 branches.  The bathroom at this branch is an outhouse with stand-up features  and a bucket of water to wash it down.  I can tell you from experience it tests the thigh muscles!

We had a training meeting for the 3 branch presidencies last night and I don't know how we are going to survive here without them.  So much of what goes on is dependent on David and Jill.  We have so much to learn, to master, to understand, to do.  The scope of this call is bigger than what I expected to be doing.  For all intents and purposes, Gary is the Stake President/Mission President in this area.  We have 5 branches we are trying to help and 10 missionaries.  Gary has to do the interviews and the setting apart for missionaries leaving from here.  (That's another 5 coming up.)  We are in charge of the apartments for the missionaries and all repairs and maintenance.  Also for the branch buildings and their projects.  We pick up missionaries at the airport in the middle of the night and get visas and passports for missionaries and temple groups.  We go pay for electricity and rents for the 2 branch buildings and for the missionary apartments.  We are also responsible to pay the 10 missionaries and 3 prospective missionaries each month.  We are expected to go to presidency meetings for the 3 branches and often have to do some teaching. There is always someone calling or knocking at the door.

There is a new couple

who has arrived in Bujumbura.  They are here to serve as Humanitarian missionaries.  He loves dancing and so, for a going away party for the Cahoon's, we held a dance in both buildings.  Everyone smiled and laughed and had such a good time.  It was just what the members needed.  They did not realize that we had fun times in the church.  We taught them to do the electric slide line dance, the chicken dance, the YWCA dance and a bit of a waltz.  At one of the branches, they had 3 young women perform a traditional native dance.  At the end, everybody sang "God Be With You Till We Meet Again" as the Cahoon's went around the room and greeted and kissed everyone 3 times on the cheeks.
After the dance, we took the elders for an ice-cream at a little market.

Earlier in the day, we taught our 1st English class.  It was fun!  The last thing we worked on was learning a hymn in English to perform for sacrament meeting.  The elders are so cute, and they sing as if to break your heart.  So good!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Our Burundi adventure was just interrupted by another kind of adventure.  Gary started peeing blood.  As soon as we let the PA in Lubumbashi know, she sent us orders for tests to be performed here in Bujumbura.  We went to a small but clean hospital for blood and urine tests. This is a photo of that hospital and its waiting room.

We went there without an appointment and were seen promptly.  Everyone was very kind and the tests were administered in a professional manner.  The next day we returned for the results.  They were good (which was bad) and that ruled out any simple problem like an infection or parasite.  On learning of the test results, the PA then made an appointment with a urologist in Johannesburg, South Africa, started conferring with a doctor in Salt Lake, and booked us plane tickets to Johannesburg.  We left for the big city on Monday, April 14th.  Tuesday we met with the Dr. who was Indian.  We found ourselves in a crowded office with blacks, Indians, Muslims and one other white guy.  The Dr. was great!  He did an ultrasound and told Gary he had a prostate the size of Texas.  It is 4 times the normal size, a duck egg instead of a walnut.  It is pushing on the bladder, and being very vascular, tends to bleed with the friction.  Just to be sure that was the problem, he scheduled a CAT scan and a cytoscopy for the next day.  Gary was admitted at 6:30 the next morning, and we spent the day in a 6 bed ward mostly waiting , but receiving the 2 scheduled tests, one at 10:00am and one at 2:30 pm.  Gary spent the day joking with the nurses and making them laugh.  Some fellow senior missionaries we met in the MTC drove 3 hours from where they are assigned and hung out with us for a few hours at the hospital.  When Gary was released, we went out to dinner with them.  It was fun to be in Johannesburg, but I was very excited to head back to Bujumbura.  I missed all the green and the birds singing in the morning.  Johannesburg is just a big city, but we were grateful for the medical help available there.  Here is the hospital we went to.

Gary is on meds now, and hopefully that will be the end of the prostate saga!
We flew back to Burundi on Saturday---Yay!!  We're back!!

One thing I have loved discovering here is just how much the church does for the community at large.  I mentioned that the Church donated a large number of wheel chairs for those who needed them, and I spoke briefly about the latrines they are providing for 6 schools.  But also in the last 2 years they have donated an operating room to a local hospital, taught hygiene to local schools and built a water system that catches water from a spring and pipes it to local villages.  Right now the new humanitarian couple is working on plans or the next projects.  They have between 2 and 3 million dollars to spend in this area.  Isn't that great!  Below is a sign which labels the water catchment program.  L'Eglise de Jesus Christ des Saints des Derniers Jours is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints:

Monday, April 14, 2014

While we were waiting for the dress to be completed,  I took some photos of the people passing by.  Notice the boy with the eggs on his head, the woman with the baby on her back, and most especially, the man with the live chickens being held upside down.  He came to the car to see if we wanted to buy one of his chickens.

Want a fresh chicken, lady?  I can put it right there in your car.
Today (Saturday) we went to find fabric for me to have a formal Burundi dress made.  We found a pretty fabric in a shop down on Mission Street. We paid for the fabric, about $33, and then had it made while we waited.  There is a group of seamstresses out in front of the fabric store using treadle machines who can whip up one of these dresses in about 45 minutes.  They are one-size-fits

-all dresses.  The only measurement they take is from your waist to the ground.  And you must pay them for sewing up your dress.  A whopping $3.20!  It was a fun experience!
     Lake Tanganyika is the world's 2nd deepest and 2nd largest ( by volume) lake, second only to a lake in Siberia.  It is 420 miles long and 4,820 feet deep at its deepest.  Due to the lack of circulation at its deepest, the water there is oxygen deprived.  There is a large male croc who lives in the northernmost area of the lake who is a notorious man-eater.  (that is in Burundi, near Bujumbura!)   He is rumored to have eaten as many as 300 people from the banks of the Ruzizi River and the northern shores of Lake Tanganyika.  He measures between 20 and 25 feet in length and probably weighs in at over a ton.  Gustave is approximately 60 years old and sports 3 bullet scars on his body and a deeply wounded right shoulder blade.  The last confirmed sighting was in February of 2008 by a team from National Geographic.  Swimming anyone?  There is also a movie called Primeval based on Gustave.

     Last  Thursday, President Monga from the Mission Presidency, was scheduled to do a training meeting with the branches here.  That morning we went to greet him at this hotel, thinking perhaps we could bring some refreshments for his meeting that afternoon at 2:00pm.  By the time we left our little welcome meeting, we had been asked to do some of the leadership training at his training session.  I was asked to speak on the Relief Society, its purpose, its responsibilities, the way it should function.  Gary was asked to speak about time, the importance of starting meetings on time, the importance of planning the use of your time,etc.  I was in a panic, having about an hour to come up with something to say in French.  Not my finest hour, I must admit!  After the meeting, we drove the Monga's out to the lake where we met the Cahoon's for dinner.  President Monga and his wife are a great couple, both fluent in English and French.  He is an insightful man with a delightful sense of humor.  The next morning we heard that Pres. Monga was just called to be the first black Mission President in Africa.  So exciting!  The Church is growing quickly here.  It is fun to be here to witness some of the growth.  It kind of makes me feel like a pioneer!

     I love the variety of things we get to get our fingers into!  This week we started a painting project at the ward which involved painting the offices of the two new branch presidents.  We bought paint, hired a painter, bought new desks and chairs, washed the curtains, cleaned the floors, set up the computer and two desks for the ward clerks.  This is a photo of them rehanging the newly washed curtains.  The entire building needs to be painted and cleaned, so this is just a start.  But it feels good!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

It is difficult to get good photos of the women with babies on their backs and baskets on their heads because we are usually traveling too fast in the truck for the camera to work.   Secondly, you feel quite foolish pulling out a camera to take someone's picture when they are staring right at you.  TOURIST!
Here are a couple I do have:

I got to go with Sister Cahoon to a local market to shop for African dresses for her.  Here are some pictures taken at the market:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The people here are warm and friendly, quick to smile and wave.  They are a beautiful people.  I especially like their smiles, which light up their whole face.  Their smiles are wonderfully described by Tracy Kidder in the book Strength In What Remains when she says of a young Burundi man's face, "It was a night sky full of lights, a picture of eager, trusting friendliness."

The women dress in colorful long dresses, often with matching head scarves.  More times than not, they will have a baby wrapped around them on their back and a basket full of something on their head.  They dress very modestly here, much more so than we do at home.

Their society works a little different than ours.  Here is a Ubuntu legend that gives you some idea of what I'm talking about:  
      An anthropologist proposed a game to a group of African tribe children.  He put a basket of fruit near a tree and told them whoever got there first won the sweet fruits.  When he told them to run, they all took each others hands and ran together, then sat together enjoying their treats.  When he asked them why they had run like that, as one could have had all the fruits for himself, they said, "Ubuntu, how can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad?"  Ubunto in the Xhosa culture means, "I am because we are."
Here in Burundi, the needs of the family are paramount.  Thus, if any one member of the family does well, he is obligated to share his good fortune with those in his family who are not doing well.  If you have more, you must give it to those with less.  This is great for those with less, but not very motivating for someone who is thinking about striving to do better.  Maybe that is why there are so many beggars on the streets here.  If you have more, then surely you will give some to them.  It is hard to have so many people begging you face to face for money.  What do you do?  How do you react?  Do you give to the disfigured child but not to the old woman?  To the man with no legs but not to the mother with a child in her arms?

April 7th was the Day of Remembrance that commemorates the beginning of the genocide in Rwanda. Twenty years ago the Hutus started massacring the Tutsis and killed almost one million of them in the space of 100 days.  In Rwanda, yesterday President Kagami lit the torch of sorrow which will burn for the 100 days of remembrance.  Here in Burundi yesterday was a holiday as well.  They commemorate the loss of their president who was killed in an airplane with the president of Rwanda the day the slaughter began.  Many were killed here as well.   But I do not think Burundi has put the dark days of their civil war behind them as well as has Rwanda.

Feelings about the killings are still evident in Burundi.  Two years ago the Church donated wheel chairs to be given out to people who needed them.  A woman with a small child who was paralyzed with polio went to the branch president here to request a wheelchair.  The branch president told his clerk not to give her a wheelchair because "she is a Hutu.  She can't have one."  That former clerk is now the new branch president, and today he enlisted our help to go to see if we could get a wheelchair for this woman's child who is now 6.  We were unsuccessful at our first attempt, but we will keep trying.  I think the new branch president has felt bad ever since the woman was first denied and wants to make it right.

Monday, April 7, 2014

We have a Tale of Two Missionaries going on here.  First the good story.  Our young man who is headed to England on his mission has received the go ahead to fly to Nairobi to get help procuring his visa.  We were just not able to hake it happen.  So good news for him.  The other missionary is a different story.  We have discovered that he has lied so many times it's hard to keep track, including lying to Elder Cahoon, to the mission president, and to the president of the MTC.  He is currently in the mission home in Ghana and scheduled to go through the temple today.  The decision from the mission president and the district leader is that his temple recommend be torn up and he be immediately sent back to us in Bujumbura.  He is an orphan from the genocide and has spent his life I suppose lying and manipulating just to make it through.  But he needs to do some rethinking about his honesty, some repenting and changing if he truly wants to be a full time missionary.  He can re-apply if he desires in 6 months.
There is a cultural problem here which may be due to poverty or it may be just the way things have been done here for ever and ever.  The problem is that dishonesty, like stealing or lying, is pretty widespread.  Our Branch Two building has had so much stolen it's crazy.  Of course the computer was stolen, but so were the curtains in the chapel, the slats of glass that go in the window louvers. all the garbage cans in the ward, the clocks, the Relief Society dishes,  and the plastic chairs we sit on in the classrooms.  These things were not taken all at once but rather in multiple break-ins.  Or they just gradually disappear.  There is never toilet paper in the bathrooms at the ward because it will just get taken.  Sideview windows on cars here need to be etched with the vehicles license number to discourage theft.  And the coup de gras, the large metal sign with the Church's name on it was pried off the brick wall.

Here is Gary as he puts in a washing machine where never a washer has been.  And a picture of the shower he put up for Remy.  And a photo of the delicious(?) banana bread I tried to bake in an oven with no temperature control settings.(?)

The only problem with the washer is that when it spins , it bucks, and jumps across the floor until it unplugs itself or you throw yourself on top of it to stop it.  We make mad dashes to the laundry area every time we wash.
Traffic here in Bujumbura is terrible!  In a city of nearly one million people, there is not one traffic light!  Hence, everyone just presses forward trying to get where they need to go.  Two or there "lanes" will be trying to turn left thru oncoming traffic, while other cars are trying to go straight through.  You get lots of traffic jams and lots of accidents.  And in the mix of traffic there are pedestrians taking their life in their hands to cross the street and numerous motorcycles and bicycles that just squeeze through wherever they can.

The main roads are nicely paved but side streets that feed onto the main roads are deeply rutted, pocked, dirt roads that are worse than any of ours in the mountains.  There are also some streets that are cobblestoned.  People here don't need trucks---they simply stack or pile their load on the back of their bicycle.  Or put it on top of their head!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

This week we attended a meeting where two brand new branch presidents were trying to figure out how they would share a building.  It's all so new, as they attempt to organize and discover how to use their new callings to make their branches work.  It was exciting to watch them discuss and decide  the best way to run the 2 branches.  Like this had never happened anywhere before.  Just deciding on the times for the 2 branches to start took 2 hours.  The concept of sharing a building was difficult to grasp.
Once again, the Relief Society sisters were pointedly asked to participate in the decision-making, emphasizing the important role they have to play.  Again, contrary to the cultural norm here.

Then last night we took 2 new missionaries to the airport to leave on their mission to the Ivory Coast.  They had never been out of the country, had never been through an airport or flown on a plane. They kind of had that deer-in-the-headlights look on their faces.   We had to explain what was going to happen, how seats had numbers on the plane, how luggage had to be checked, how to read the flight monitors to find their flight, etc.  They were going to fly from here to Nairobi, to Ghana to the mission home and then on to the Ivory Coast.  What an amazing experience for them!  It's like we are seeing everything through new eyes.

 We spend a lot of time going to embassies to get visas and passports.  I have decided no one in any bureaucracy has any idea what is going on!  We spend hours waiting for information and then it turns out that information is wrong.  They seem to try to make it hard to accomplish what you are trying to do.  We were supposed to pick up yellow fever papers for two missionaries yesterday.  The inoculations were done, the shots were paid for, the papers themselves were sitting on the desk.  But we had to sit for 2 hours waiting for the "boss" to come and stamp the papers to make them official.  Some days it seems not a lot gets accomplished!

                                                              The conquering hero!
During the setting apart of the 2 new branch presidents, one of the things the president of the mission stressed was how important it was to listen to the women in the ward or branch.  (This was my favorite part!)  He asked the question of the congregation, "Whose opinion is most important for the branch president to listen to----his counselors or the Relief Society president?"  The answer was "the Relief Society president."  He explained that the branch present is a man and so already knows what a man's opinion is.  The Relief Society president represents half the branch and knows things that he and his
 counselors will never know!  Gotta love the mission president, right ladies?

In his setting apart of the presidents, he also stressed how they are responsible for the YW just as much as they are  for the YM.  In Africa, culturally they are a sexist society and do not value women.  The Church's emphasis on family and on treating women equally is new.  And a very healthy change it is!

A few nights ago, I went to enter the bathroom and came face to face with either a very large mouse or a very small rat.  The poor creature was terrified to see me and ran for cover into a hole under our bathtub.  Gary promptly blocked the entry to the hole with a drawer from a bedside table.  You could hear him scratching or biting at the drawer all night.  Creepy!  We tried to get him out the next day but were unsuccessful.  Two days later Gary spotted another one of these guys in our dining room.  He made a beeline for the kitchen, and we barricaded ourselves in our bedroom for the night.  Next morning, Gary, wielding his trusty broom, went to war against the mouse.  Determined to find the rodent, he entered the kitchen and started moving the frig and then the oven.  The mouse ran out from under the oven and Mouse Hockey began!  Gary was chasing him around the kitchen, swatting at him repeatedly in an effort to whisk him out the door.  It took several swipes but then Score!!  Gary 1, Mouse 0.  Mouse is out!  Another triumph, my dear!