Thursday, May 29, 2014

Here are some pictures of the cobble stone road in progress:

     Gary had a shower with a baby gecko last night.  It scared him to death when he realized the dark spot on the side of the tub was a living creature!  Where are your glasses when you need them!  The poor little gecko hung on for dear life to the edge of the drain until Gary finished his shower.  (No photos of this event, thank-you.)

The people we have met here are unsophisticated, almost childlike.  They are very open to others, laughing easily and loving to greet everyone with a smile, a handshake and a "Comment ca va?"  Often a person entering a room at church will take the time to personally greet every person in the room.  Their shirt collars may be tattered and worn, but their shirts are clean, and they stand before our Father in Heaven on baptism or confirmation day with sincere faith and a desire to do good.  We can learn a lot from these people.
     We have met a young man, a member of the Church, from Canada, who is here working for UNICEF.   His job is to help foster dialogue, activities, radio ads, and groups that will promote peace in the community.  He is working with 2 American organizations to accomplish his goal.  One of these organizations has to do with sports.  I guess you keep the young men involved in good activities and they are not as apt to run amok.  The fear is that with elections coming in 2015 and unemployment ridiculously high, there may be a tendency among the angry young men to align themselves with the party in power and to take up arms in its defense in the hopes of bettering their position by siding with the man in power.  The rumor is that the current president, who will finish his constitutionally allowed 2 terms in 2015 does not want to step down and may try to change the constitution to allow himself the right to stay and be elected for a 3rd term.  People who belong to a different political party than the president have been discriminated against, have been denied employment or even fired from their jobs, due to their party affiliation.  Some say leaders of opposing parties have been jailed or have simply disappeared.  There are also rumors of the government arming thousands of young men.  For reporting and questioning the truth of this rumor, the U.N. representative was deported from Burundi 2 weeks ago.

     Ever since we arrived here, the streets in our area have been ridiculous.  As bad as many 4 wheel drive roads in Canyonlands.  We understood the plan was to eventually cobblestone the streets, and we saw some leveling going on, some deep gutters being constructed, and big piles of paver stones being dumped in a row down the bumpy access road to our house.

One day as we were driving around, we even saw where the pavers were being hewn out of stone with hand tools.  They are about 5" square.  Then, a few days ago, we saw groups of men (about 8 in a group) standing around piles of pavers that had been dumped and throwing these pavers, one by one, into a dump truck.  

Finally the day we had been waiting for arrived.  Large piles of and were deposited on our street.

A workman approached us to tell us that they would be cobblestoning our street starting the next day (Yay!) , and that we would not be able to drive down our street for the next 2 weeks.  (Say what?)

Of all weeks!  The mission president and his wife are due to arrive here on Thursday and had been planning to stay with us, but the news about the street closure I'm afraid caused him to change his mind.  (We made reservations for him at a nice hotel.)  We have had to find a place about a mile away where we leave the truck for the night.  In the morning Gary goes and brings it back and parks it at the end of the street.  Then we walk thru the construction , me in my sandals, through deep sand that they spread over the top of the pavers.  If we are not home by dark, I get to make the walk down the street and Gary gets to park the truck a mile away and then either walk or take a taxi to the top of the street.  The mission president doesn't know what fun he's missing!  So far, the 3 nights when we have come home after dark, and I have had to walk a block to the house, I have found one of our "gate keepers" waiting for me out in the dark street.  He is a welcome sight!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

     Life, in general, is challenging on several different levels.  We start our day usually with with breakfast in the screened-in dining area, from whence we can watch and listen to the morning birds.  There is one bird we have yet to actually see, but you cannot miss his distinctive call.  He sounds like he is playing an Anasazi flute, but in a major key.  We figure he must have a long neck to produce such tones.

I walk around with insect bites in various degrees of healing that dot my legs, feet, and arms.  I inevitably scratch them til they lead and scab.  Quite fetching.

The kitchen stove and oven run on propane, must be lit with a match, and the oven has no temperature indicator.  A missionary couple who came to visit brought us an oven thermometer so we'll see if that improves my culinary ability!

Our water is filtered through a system that sits on the counter next to the sink.We rinse dishes and  produce in a light bleach solution.  We keep a bottle of filtered water at our bathroom sink for brushing teeth.  When our water is off, we have a reserve tank in the yard that gives us a dribble when we turn on the faucets, but at least there's a dribble and we can flush toilets!

We don't have a change of sheets, so we hope and pray we have water and power when it's time to wash them!  We have been known, at the end of the day, to remake the bed with the dirty sheets, as we have not had either power or water (or both) during the day.

Every day ideally all the floors should be mopped and all furniture should be dusted.  Dust, dirt and bugs just accumulate daily.  Needless to say, daily cleaning does not always get done!

Some days I get nothing done that's on my list to do.  You never know what direction your day will go---always the unexpected or complicated.  For example, we have not had any meat, any fruit, or any veggies in the house for 4 days, and I kind of thought it might be a good idea to go buy some food.  But, each day other things have taken priority, and the cupboard is still bare.  When things are stressful AND you haven't eaten much, that adds to the tension and short fuses.  (If you know what I mean!)  Then something wonderful will happen, people return from the temple full of joy, a project gets completed, you witness baptisms, and you see the bigger picture again, and it's all worth it.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

There are several ways to get around in Bujumbura.  First of all, you can walk.  Secondly, there are swarms of bicycles and motorcycles ready and willing to take you where you need to go.  You just pick whichever bike (or driver) appeals to you, agree on a price, and off you go.

There are also mini vans that they cram 17 people into, if that suits your fancy.
This enterprising pair decided to hitch a ride on the back of a big red truck while it was driving down the street.

Hippo alert!!  We were driving along the road that borders the lake, and there, in the reeds, was a hippo!  We flipped a u-turn and went back for the photo.  We still are on the search for a full body shot, but this is what we've got so far!

Today we took the 2nd Uvira group to the airport to go to the temple in Johannesburg.  We had 4 little kids in the backseat, and as we were driving, Gary asked them if they could sing "Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam."  There was some discussion in the backseat and then a chorus of sweet little voices started to sing (in French), "I Love To See the Temple, I'm Going There Someday…."  It was quite powerful, as we were on the way to the temple as they sang.

At the airport each person had to sign a paper.  One husband grabbed his wife's hand, scribbled madly on her index fingertip with a ballpoint pen, and then pressed her finger on the document.  

That night we received a frantic phone call from our little temple group.  They were in South Africa and no one was there to meet them.  We made some phone calls, but couldn't reach anyone at 8:30pm.  Our internet (power) was gone, so we couldn't email anyone for help either.  So we called the other missionary couple and had them send an emergency message to someone who might be able to help.  We felt kind of helpless and worried for these people on their first flight ever, alone in a country where people don't speak French or Kirundi, but all we could do was trust all would be well, turn off our lantern and go to bed.  

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Here's this morning's "This 'n That."    Totally random and unrelated wanderings of my mind.

     When we first moved into the 2nd house, we were serenaded by a rooster , busy crowing up a storm every morning.  He lived next door to us, and we enjoyed his "song" as part of our morning routine.  This went on for about 3 weeks.  But, now, for the past 2 weeks, there has been no rooster crowing at the crack if dawn, leading us to believe either he has packed up and gone to the country for a needed vacation, or they ate him.

     We have to deal with the missionaries various health issues.  (Hey, fam, why didn't I take any medical classes?)  Right now we have a missionary with malaria, one who just had a tooth pulled yesterday, various stomach ailments, one with hemorrhoids, and a couple with different aches and pains--and diarrhea.

     The water here, when you have it, is naturally soft.  Thumbs up!  I have never had soft water before, and I like it!

     I think Africa would be totally over run with bugs if there were no people living here and trying to fight them back.  We have the little sugar ants in the kitchen that we are always battling.  And then one day we had huge ants in our bathroom that were seemingly coming up out of the drain.  I kept trying to wash them down the drain with our shower nozzle, but they kept coming back out of the drain, swimming hard against the current of water, such as it was.  They were strong swimmers!  Gary finally got some insect poison to spray on them, and we won this battle.  Two days ago, we noticed 4 large green grasshopper-like insects lying dead on our front porch.  An army of ants was trying to haul them all away.  Then last night, after dark, we were in the living room, and we heard hundreds of them beating against the windows trying to get in.  It sounded like rain hitting the windows.  When one of them actually made it into the living room and landed on my lap, that was the last straw.  We turned out the lights and headed to the bedroom!

     Hey, Geoffrey!  Here is a photo of a welder doing his thing over at branch one.  Thought you'd appreciate seeing how it is done in Bujumbura!
Notice the protective eyewear (children's sun glasses) and the transformer in the foreground.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

             The group who just returned fro the temple was so, so happy.  President Mabishwa said it was truly the most marvelous experience of his life.  We who live so close to the temple I think often take the opportunity to go and do sacred ordinances for granted.  Their joy is a reminder to me of how important the temple is, what a blessing the ordinances are in our lives.

     On our drive to Uvira we got stuck in a herd of cows and also in a funeral procession that was making its way down the road to the burial site.  Here are some photos of our bovine friends and the funeral procession.

This is the funeral procession (above).  Somehow the funeral got in between the cows.  Weird.  I think the funeral was for a child because the casket was a small one.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

     Friday, at the last possible minute, we got the visas for the 2nd temple group from Uvira.  We were told to be at the embassy  at 12:00 to pick them up.  We arrived 20 minutes early and then sat for an hour and twenty before the woman came into the waiting area to tell us we could have all of the visas but one.  She would not approve a visa for a young girl who was coming with her birth father and his wife.  (The girl's mother had died, and her dad had remarried.)  We had brought a marriage certificate and a letter from the second wife stating that she had been the girl's mother ever since she had married the girl's father,  but the consular officer said that due to concerns about child trafficking, she could not allow the girl to go.  When I went up to the window to get the passports with visas, the young girl's was not there.  When I asked about getting her passport back, they told me to wait.  When they gave it to me, there was a South African visa in it just like the others!  I think we'll have a second group coming here on Sunday.  I'm still a bit worried about getting through immigration.

     Saturday we went from saying goodbye to the 1st Uvira temple group as they left for home  to another baptismal event at Branch 2.  Five more people were baptized today.  Wherever we go, people ask questions about the church.  A young woman clerk in a photo shop spoke to us and is now reading the Book of Mormon.  A woman in the military at the airport has requested some information, as did a woman in the South African airport.  We went to a glass shop to replace the glass that had broken in a frame.  It was for a photo of the first presidency, and when Gary told the crowd around him that that was a photo of a living prophet on the earth today and two of his apostles, they were anxious to hear more.  People here are seeking the truth, looking for Christ's Church.

     This is a photo of Gary at the glass shop and then a photo of me with the two pictures we gave to each of the branch presidents to put in their offices.  We bought the pictures in Johannesburg and the frames here in Bujumbura.


     In Burundi, buildings are built of concrete, and, believe me, there is no cement truck that pulls up and starts pouring cement.  Here they make it in small batches and then they throw cement-filled buckets UP to each other in an efficient relay line, all the way up to whatever floor they are working on.  How about that workout, Jared?

     Tuesday we met up with Dr. Jesse Hunsaker and his wife Diane.  They are servo  missionaries who are here setting up an  ophthalmology clinic.  They have partnered with a local eye doctor and are going to build a clinic with the much needed equipment in east Burundi to treat the people there.  Up to now, there has been no eye care available to this population.  The Hunsakers spent most of the day running around with us.  Then we enjoyed a beautiful, breeze-filled evening and dinner at Lake Tanganyika.

     We also met a woman who has established a foundation called Adopt a Widow.  Here in Africa, traditionally when a man dies, all he and his wife have owned together becomes property of his family. The poor widow is left with nothing and no way to support herself.  Even the children belong to the dead man's family.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

     Sunday afternoon (Mothers Day),  the 10 people from Uvira arrived.  The day before they arrived, we had made arrangements for them to stay at a hotel in Bujumbura, rooms and meals selected.  When we arrived, the man we had talked to the day before was not there.  Consequently, we had the misfortune of having to deal with the hotel owner, who was a fat toad of a man.  He reminded me of the inn keeper Thenardier in Les Miz.  He was squeezing us for every dime he could get and was rude to our branch president as well.  I've never heard a hotel owner insult his guest before, but he did.  We won't be back here with any more groups.

     Monday morning I woke up with butterflies in my stomach knowing I had to drive one of the trucks to the airport in order to get 10 people and luggage to the airport.  I was praying for light traffic this morning, but, to my horror, traffic was backed up the worst we have seen it since we got here.  We started out on our normal route, found it blocked, did a u-turn, and went another way.  It, too, was blocked with traffic, and after 10 minutes of basically sitting, we did another u-turn and headed back the way we came.  We went down a different street, merged with the crazy traffic and finally made it to the hotel.  Then we took off for the airport.  I was following Gary, with teeth clenched.  We came to a roundabout and I followed him down one of the roads that came off the roundabout.  We were going down a narrow road with throngs of other people when Gary suddenly realized he had taken the wrong street off the roundabout.  To my horror, he pulled a u-turn in the middle of traffic, and I attempted to follow.  I didn't get my turn sharp enough so I needed to back up and finish the turn.  At that moment I couldn't find reverse and then the truck died.  Hordes of bicyclists and motorbikes were racing around me.  I had traffic stopped going both directions and was starting to sweat.  Finally, cursing Gary under my breath, I located reverse and completed my turn.


     At the airport, I stayed with the group while Gary remained outside.  It was a long, laborious process to get the 10 members' bags checked, the carry-ons emptied of any liquids, forms filled out, and to get the through the security gate.  It took about an hour and a half.  The one cute lady was worked about vomiting on the flight and wondered if the meal on the plane would be fou-fou.  (I think she was kidding?)  Anyway, they are off to the temple for an experience of a lifetime.  Here is a picture of them in front of the airport in Bujumbura.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

On Mothers Day, we loaded 7 missionaries in the truck and headed to Branch 2 for them to perform  "I Know That My Redeemer Lives"  in English.  It's kind of a special day because we are going to play a DVD of a session of April Conference.  Here they are performing:

Then we turned on Conference.  The pictures of the temple, of the temple grounds, the sound of the Mo Tab Choir singing, and the sight of thousands of people back home (people who look like me) made me tear up a bit.
This is a photo of our podium in the chapel and the chapel itself.

We learned this morning that thieves had come back again in the night (that is 3 times this week) and had started ripping out plumbing pipes on the exterior of the church.  They were interrupted by the young men who we had staying there overnight to prevent more thefts, but still damage was done.  The bathrooms are now unusable.  Got to get them fixed!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

     Thursday morning we met up with Mbuyi, the man who is in charge of visas and travel arrangements for the Church in this area.  He flew in from Kinshassa last night.  We picked him up at his hotel and went to the South African Embassy to see about getting our visas for the people who are traveling to Johannesburg to the temple on Monday.  We have been hassling with this embassy for about 6 weeks, always being told no or come back or call back or hop on one foot while rubbing your stomach!  They are impossible, but somehow, Mbuyi was able to get them to hand them over.  We need this guy around all the time!  With visas in hand, we drove to Uvira, DRC to deliver them to the 3 families anxiously waiting word on their temple plans.

     Next day we spent the entire day and part of the night with Mbuyi as he checked out hotels in Bujumbura so as to select which ones he will use for Church visitors when they come to the area.  Now we are up on hotels here, who is going to come and stay?  On the way to see one hotel, we passed 3 hippos standing out of the water, grazing.  We were on the opposite side of the road in traffic so we couldn't stop for photos.  I will get photos of the hippos one of these days!

     The same day that we were checking out hotels, Mbuyi also held a leadership meeting for the leaders in our 3 branches.  Then as we were racing around the city we had our first little fender bender. A lady was stopped going the opposite direction in an intersection.  We were passing in front of her vehicle when she lurched forward and nailed us.  We pulled over to assess the damage to both vehicles.  Funny thing--a policeman was standing at this intersection,  and he never even budged to see about the accident.  We got a dent on our passenger side back quarter panel.  Hopefully the  only one we'll get!

     This is a picture of me picking green beans for dinner.  We do have quite a nice garden, with  linga linga (sort of a local spinach), green beans, tomatoes, potatoes.    Pineapplse, mangoes, papayas,  and

bands are yummy as well.  The avocados are humungus.

     Today we went to a baptism of 5 people.  It was great to be there.  It reminded me of the day I was baptized so many years ago now.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Pictures of the Ubuntu hotel and restaurant:

Happy 44th to us!

After the English class, we started towards the DHL store to pick up a church shipment, but Gary detoured and bought me some flowers for our anniversary .

What a sweetheart!  Next we tried to pick up the shipment, but it wasn't there (even though we had already paid the customs on it).  To celebrate our day, we went to dinner at a beautiful place that overlooks the lake.  The grounds are lush green and they have 2 crowned cranes that wander around, even visiting us in the restaurant.
     The other day I sat down on the sofa and heard a noise to my left.  I looked down and there on the sofa by my side, was a 10-12 inch gecko!  We love the little guys because they are our bug patrol, but I didn't really want him in my lap, so I surrendered the couch to him and I moved to a chair.  

     Yesterday, the 7th, was our anniversary.  We started the day with breakfast with the humanitarian group who had a visitor in town.  Then we had to hurry up to branch 2.  They had been burglarized for the second night in a row.  All of the chairs were taken, the sound system in the chapel was gone, and a large metal grate in front of the front door was gone.  The thieves keep targeting this same poor branch, so we have decided to put 2 young men in the church over night to act as a deterrent.  We ran to a market and purchased a mattress for the young men.  We are going to build a small structure to house permanent guards in as soon as possible.  After handling this situation, we made our daily run to the South African Embassy to attempt to get the visas for a group heading to the Johannesburg temple.  Once again we had no luck.  We are running out of time, as they are due to fly out on Monday.  We bought supplies for the missionary apartments and then went to teach the elders an English class.  This is always fun.  At the end of the class we worked on a hymn they are going to sing on Sunday for 2 of the branches.  

Here is Gary leading the elders and loving it!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

     Driving through town you often pass Red Cross and UN land cruisers.  Every Sunday at Church, our vehicle (Toyota 4 wheel drive truck) is the only car in the parking lot.  No one owns a car.  In branch one, a "wealthier" branch, there may be 4 cars plus the missionary couple's truck in the parking lot.  An interesting note.  Remember when I said there are no traffic signals in the city?  I was talking to one of the members about that, and he informed me that Bujumbura once put in a couple of traffic lights to see how they would work, but unfortunately, they were stolen.  (?!)

     As you drive along the streets you notice there are basically 2 ways to mow the grass alongside the road----some men using scythes or a herd of goats.  Everything , including digging deep gutters, is done by hand, by hard physical labor by people with shovels and picks.

     We met a 60 year old member of the Church today who told us a bit about his family history.  His grandfather was captured in Tanzania by an Arab slaver and taken in chains across country to be sold.  He and his wife were able to escape in the Congo before being sold and ended up settling in Burundi.  That is not that long ago, which blows my mind.

     Driving down the road by the lake today we noticed a small group of people looking out at the lake.  I looked out and there near the shore was a hippo!  Once again I notice I'm not living in Utah!
More photos of our new digs:

The Cahoon's have left for home, sadly.  Now we are living in the house where they used to live.  It, too, was filthy and full of stacks of random papers.  We are in the process of deciding which of those papers are truly vital and which can be tossed in the round filing receptacle.  While cleaning our bathroom for the first time here, imagine my surprise while cleaning the sink to suddenly step in a hole and go tumbling down.  Turns out, the hole is actually a strangely placed shower stall in the floor by the sink.  Happily the only casualty of my fall was a ripped nail, as I tried to catch myself.

This house has quite a nice yard,  complete with an avocado tree, among others.  We picked some the other day and are enjoying fresh avocados.  The house also has a breakfast room that I especially enjoy.  It is screened in and looks out at the yard.  We have been battling daddy long-leg webs and an army of little kitchen ants.  It's hard to keep up with the daddy long-leg's spider webs, and the little ants are so annoying.  The other day while eating lunch, I looked down at my plate and there was a group of them running around my plate trying to share my sandwich.  I quickly washed them down the sink and returned to eating my lunch.

     Living here is quite interesting, to say the least.  No phone books, no mail service, no T.V., no garbage disposal, no dryer, no air conditioning, no BACON.  For the past week we have not had water till 10: at night and the power is constantly going down.  Sometimes it returns quite quickly, sometimes it is down for hours.

     The other day, one of the branches (wards) ran out of electricity.  To get the power back on, you go to the power store and stand in line to buy however much power you would like.  (It's a pre-pay system. )  Gary and I went to the power store to purchase power for the branch, but it turned out there was a problem with the account number.  We went to another office to try to resolve the problem and while we were there at the power company, the power went out and they were unable to help us fix our problem.  The irony of it all.