Saturday, June 28, 2014

     Another interesting white person we have met is an Italian man named Gianfranco.  He has his doctorate of law and has spent the last 30 years serving in various aide and relief organizations.  We met him when we decided to check out a little Italian restaurant in a new hotel not far from us.  When we walked in, no one was in the restaurant.  Then a lady greeted us and said she would call the chef to come to cook.  Turned out the "chef" was Gianfranco, who is also the hotel owner.  His passion is Italian cuisine.  Here in Bujumbura, he is now working to combat societal problems of drug addiction, alcoholism, domestic violence by writing "comic books" to warn the youth of the city about the dangers of those activities.  And he is a terrific chef!  We have had the best meals at his restaurant.  Sometimes we just let him cook whatever he chooses for us for dinner.  And I like speaking French with him, as he is very easy to understand.

This is a picture of Gianfranco's hotel  and sign on the wall advertising his restaurant:

     It seems to me that we are the most boring white people in Bujumbura.  Everyone has an interesting story, is involved with interesting causes.  We met a woman from Canada at the beauty salon who has lived here for 13 years, working for a foundation that fights child trafficking.  Her husband is an attorney and she is a counselor.  Their youngest son lives with them, has attended local schools and is fluent in French, English and Kirundi.

     Speaking of beauty salons, I thought I'd include some shots of local salons.  (Ashley, you will want to put in your resume at one of these, I'm sure!)

They seem to use the words "salon" and "saloon" interchangeably.  Somebody got bad info in the translation department!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

     Our next group getting ready to go to the temple is an interesting one.  One man who is going has a wife and 2 children, but he is going alone, as his wife is Muslim.  There are several mosques here in Bujumbura and you see Muslim women throughout the city.  In fact, the branch president of Branch 1 used to be a Muslim before he converted to the church.  He had several wives and gave up all but one when he converted.  What a change that must have been.  Another member going to the temple is a young mother with 4 children.  Her husband was killed during the civil war here in Burundi.  She is taking her children with her and will be sealed to her husband, the children will be sealed to them both. The last family going is the branch president of Branch 2, Jean Rene, and his wife and small child.

     3 short stories of faith:

     When we were last in Uvira, we were approached by 2 young men from Bukavu, a town about 4 hours away from Uvira.  They are members of the church who heard we were going to be in Uvira that day and came 4 hours to talk to us.  In Bukavu, there is no formal church organization, no branch, no branch president, but there is a group of members.  These young men came 4 hours to meet with us in order to tell us they want to serve  a mission for the church and to see if we could help them achieve that goal.  How many young people at home with no help or guidance from a church official, would make a 4 hour journey on the chance that someone might be able to help them serve a mission?  Luckily we were able to arrange for their membership records to be transferred to the Uvira branch so that the branch president, President Mabishwa, will be able to help them fill out papers, interview them and be responsible for them.  Main point:  they inspire me with their strong desire to serve a mission.

     Another short story of faith:  We work a lot with a young man (30 years old) with a great smile and an infectious laugh.  He owns his own small construction company and does lots of projects for the various branches here.  He is one of the few endowed members in Bujumbura.  Recently we asked him if he would be willing to help teach a temple preparation class.  His response was, "Yes, of course.  I want to serve the Lord for the rest of my life!"  He also pays for guards for Branch 1 out of his own pocket just because he wants to help.  No one asked him or suggested he do it.  He does it because he saw the need, and he wants to help the Church, considering doing so part of his "sacrifice" for God.

     Last short story of faith:  There is a young man who comes quite a distance, paying his own way to get there and back, every Saturday morning to mop and clean the chapel at Branch 1.  He does this as part of his "sacrifice" for the Lord.

This a a picture of Gary with Jean Paul, the young man with the construction company in story 2.

     Now 2 stories of dishonesty:

          We were asked to put together emergency food kits for all of the missionaries.  We purchased 8 large buckets with lids to hold the food supplies, and then on Tuesday, we bought the bulk of the supplies, putting everything in our garage (which has no door, but is inside our gated property.)  On Friday we went out to put all the items in the buckets and discovered we were missing 3 large packages of spaghetti, 4 tins of sardines in tomato sauce (yuck!)  and 2 bars of soap.  It was irritating and disappointing to realize that one of the 3 "candidate missionaries"  who live in a little house in our back yard,  had, in all probability,  stolen the food from the garage.  Was it too big a temptation to have the food there in buckets?  These 3 young men are living here as they wait to go on missions because their families are so poor they cannot take care of them.  But, if you are preparing to go on a mission, should you be stealing?

Here are our buckets of emergency food.  They are now in the house.

     Second story of dishonesty:  The Congo and Burundi have an agreement that citizens from both countries can travel back and forth and receive visas free of charge.  So imagine our surprise when we went to get a visa for one of our Congolese missionaries and were told that missionaries are "rich" so from now on it will cost each one $210 for a 3 months visa.  We were denied access to the High Commissioner at Immigration when we went to question this policy.  This morning, with help from a friend who was able to get us in to see the High Commissioner, we found out that there is no change in the law or policy.  It was simply someone trying to milk us for as much money as possible,  which would have gone right in his pocket.  CREEPS.

Hold the phone!  News alert!  The 3 candidate missionaries who live behind our house are cleaning a pigeon for dinner.  Don't know if they caught it or bought it, but I do know there's not much meat on a pigeon!  (I know this to be true because I ate one in Egypt!)

Another cooking calamity.  Last night I set a fire in my oven!  I was attempting to bake a loaf of bread. Sister Cahoon always put 2 pieces of corrugated in the broiler pan and placed the item to be cooked on top of the corrugated.  She did that because the oven has a tendency to burn things on the bottom.  The bread had been in the oven about 1/2 hour when I decided, as a precaution, to put the broiler pan with corrugated in the oven.  I put it under the oven shelf, down on the heat, obviously too close to the flames.  A few minutes later we were sitting in the living room when Gary said, " What's burning?"  It didn't smell like bread, so I rushed into the kitchen to find smoke billowing out of my oven.  We opened the oven and sure enough the cardboard was on fire.  Gary tried to pull out the broiler pan, but the heat had caused the pan to expand and it was stuck in the oven.  I ended up holding on to the oven while Gary tugged on the pan and he finally got it to come out.  He ran outside with the burning cardboard.  My hero!  And the bread turned out good in spite of it all!

A true wildlife experience.  This morning I was sitting on my sofa looking at my iPad  when all of a sudden a gecko climbed on my shoulder.  I don't know who was more alarmed, him or me, when I jumped several feet in the air.  We both scurried off in different directions.  This gecko needs to learn  to respect my personal space!  I don't know if I will ever get used to wildlife in the living room!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

     Thursday, June 12th was a good day for us.  They opened our road after 19 days of us parking our truck a mile from home.  AND Gary and I both had haircuts at a local salon!  Thank goodness we didn't have to attack each other's hair with the scissors Ashley sent!  To celebrate these momentous events, we had the Van Wagoner's and Jonathan, the young Canadian who works for UNICEF, over for a bite to eat and to watch a movie.  We watched Secretariat because it's a good movie and because the Belmont Stakes, the 3rd race in the triple crown, was run the Saturday before.  Life is good!

     We bought these masks in front of our little grocery store.  They are now hanging in our house over our desk.

     Getting married is difficult in Burundi.  A great many young people cannot get married because they cannot afford to pay the "bride price" known as the "dote."  The prospective groom is expected to pay money for his intended, and the price is set by the bride's parents.  It used to be that the dote was paid in cows or goats or chickens, but now it is paid with money.   Most make very little money on a monthly basis, so it becomes a real hardship for the groom to pay this fee.  We have a cute, educated young man in Branch 1 who is engaged, but his fiancĂ©'s parents are demanding 6,000,000 BIFS for her hand.  That is about $4000 and includes money for a large party where both families invite many guests.  He doesn't know how he is ever going to come up with this money.  The wedding has now been postpones until August.  This is part of the local traditions that really needs to go!

     Bananas are big here in Bujumbura!  Our favorite people, the Elders, love them, so we made a gift of some bananas to them.  They were excited to get them.

Here in Bujumbura we have 8 missionaries who live in 2 different apartments.  We are responsible for these eight,  plus two in Uvira.  They are all from the Congo where the Church has been around for many years compared to here in Burundi.

While we're on the subject, and not to be outdone, here are Gary and myself with our own bunches of bananas.

Friday, June 13, 2014

     Sunday in Relief Society the lesson was on the characteristics and qualities of God.  The discussion took a lively turn when they started wondering/speculating about what color is God---is he black or is he white?  They also wondered where all the different colors of people came from.  How did we end up having so many different races when it all started with Adam and Eve?  It was also inconceivable to some of the ladies that God does not have blood, just flesh and bone.  So, they asked, what does he eat? How does he live if he doesn't eat?  Important points about the nature of God were made as well, but their discussion was intriguing.

Here are photos of the 2 new branch presidencies and their wives in Uvira:

One thing that has struck me since I got here is the health problems I have seen just on the streets.  Never have I seen so many people with withered legs, unable to walk.  Perhaps polio?  Never have I seen so many people with missing limbs  The war?  And never have I seen such a sight as a little boy with a terrible disfiguring condition who is spending his childhood begging on Mission Street.  No school, no playing with friends.  His skin is horribly misshapen head to toe.  His eyes are swollen to slits and are blood red.  What could this be?  Is there no help possible for this child?  I stopped one day and was trying to talk to him, but he speaks neither French or English.  I gave him a bit of money and a sticker for his hand, but what I would like to do is to have him looked at by a doctor.  We also saw a woman walking(?) down the street whose spine was so bent over backwards that her legs proceeded her and someone had to support her upper torso from behind as she made her way down the street.  I am so blown away my heart aches for these people who have not had the medical care that we take for granted at home.  It's so humbling and troubling.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

     Next morning, we took 2 of our "candidate missionaries" to do their monthly shopping at a local market some distance from our house.  It was definitely a "cultural" experience.  I'm sure we were the only white people for blocks if not miles.  We were constantly greeted by cries of   "muzunga!" (white person!)  We watched them do their shopping for the food staples they like to eat----beans, rice, palm oil, vegetable oil, manioc flour (for fu-fu and the bread they cook on the coals of their fires.)  The market was congested and oh so busy.  Our noses were assaulted by the sickly sweet/sour smell of rotting garbage, the pungent smell of dead fish and the odor of raw meat available for purchase that was hanging from hooks or sitting on the dirty wooden counter.  We didn't buy anything, but it was fun to experience the market.

Photos of how to haul things around in Bujumbura:


One of our "candidate missionaries" who lives behind us had a front tooth broken off at the gum line about 3 years ago.  We thought it would be great to have that fixed, so we got it approved by the mission president, and today Desire had the rest of the tooth and root removed.  First step towards a new smile!  Pictures will follow.

Wednesday we took Elder Kalala to the same hospital where Gary had tests done here in Bujumbura.  He has been complaining of pain for a couple of weeks now, and after treating him with meds for a couple of different possible diagnoses, we took him to see a Dr.  They ran blood and urine tests, did a physical exam, did an "echo", and put him on different meds.  Saturday we return.  
Note:  I am still not accustomed to asking these young men, "Is your testicle swollen?  Is your scrotum swollen?  What color is your diarrhea?"

Thursday, June 5, 2014

     Monday, the McMullin's last day in Bujumbura, we decided to go on a boat ride up the Ruzizi River.  That morning we went to Lake Tanganyika where we boarded a small pontoon boat and headed out in the lake.  What a great day for a boat ride!  It felt so good to be in a boat again, feeling the wind blow through our hair.  I do believe that is the first time ever Gary has been on a boat, sporting a shirt and tie!

We got to the Ruzizi River and headed upstream.  Not too far up, we spotted them-----hippos!
They kept their eyes on us as if daring us to approach.  Our guide advised we not get too lose, as hippos can and will attack if they feel threatened.  There was one hippo who sort of gave a mini-charge accompanied by a good snort.  It was all good!  

That morning we saw plenty of hippos and birds, but the elusive crocodile escaped us.  Maybe that's just as well, as this is the river where Gustave the crocodile has had his share of villagers!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

     In Uvira pharmacies seem to be the most commonly seen kind of store, sometimes appearing 4 abreast. I lost track of the number of pharmacies we passed, traveling down the main drag.

They just sell meds at these pharmacies, usually no prescription required and no pharmacist working there.

     On Sunday morning, June 1st, jPresident McMullin divided the Uvira branch, giving us 2 branches in Uvira now.  Just before the meeting started, the mission president asked Gary to speak for about 5 minutes on why we come to sacrament meeting every week.  As exciting as it is, the dividing of branches is not why we come.  We come to take the sacrament and to renew the covenants we made at baptism.  Gary did a good job.

     Uvira, Congo is the most third world city we have visited so far.  There is one semi-paved road that runs down the middle of the town, paralleling the lake.  Concrete has fallen off both sides and large holes have developed in the middle!  Goats are wandering everywhere you look, the markets on either side of the road are bustling with people and color, and I swear there are more motorbikes per capita than anywhere else in the world!  As you bounce and lurch down the street, you meet masses of motorcycles, foot traffic, vendors of all sorts and trucks and carts of all sizes and descriptions.

These 2 photos show a huge truck that was coming down the street towards us and a man on a bicycle in front of us who was taking his bread to market.  All shapes and sizes share the road.

The river is the perfect place for washing clothes, washing yourself, washing your truck, washing your motorbike.  Or getting water to drink.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

     Around dusk on Saturday, we made it to our hotel in Uvira.  It was right on the lake.  Dinner was good at this hotel.  There was no hot water in the room---in fact, no water at all came out of the faucet labeled "HOT".  We had one towel between us, and showers were done by standing over a drain in the floor and using a hand-held sprayer to rinse off.  Toilet paper was deep pink and very coarse.  Power and water turned off about midnight.  We saw boats out on the lake very late at night, each one with a bright light.  The bright light is used to attract fish.

At dawn, the lake is a busy place---so many little fishing boats, fishermen casting and pulling in their nets, women on the beach washing clothes and then putting them in a basket on their heads to walk home.

     Thursday, May 29th we picked up the mission president at the airport and went straight to the Kigobe apartments for missionary interviews.  While President McMullin was interviewing, Gary and I ran to a nearby pharmacy for meds for a missionary who may have worms.  After spending a whopping $1.50 for 3 days of 2 different medications, we bought beignets for everyone and headed back to the apartment.  After all the interviews,  we went downtown to Cafe Silhouette where we had made arrangements for dinner for the 16 of us.  (10 young elders and 6 old farts)  It was good, and I think the boys enjoyed it.  (Going there was their idea.  It's kind of a hip, European spot with cute waitresses!)

     Next day was zone conference.  We bought 90 bananas and water for 16 as refreshments for the midday break.  Conference started at 9:00am and ended at 3:30pm.  The elders had requested we teach them a hymn in English that they could sing for the president, as this is his final trip to Bujumbura before he is released and goes home.  The hymn they chose was "More Holiness Give Me," and they sang it beautifully, bringing tears to my eyes.  After zone conference, we adults went to Hotel Lake Tanganyika for dinner.  We were joined by a "senatrice" (female senator) and Alphonse, the Chief of the Cabinet.  We talked about what they felt were Bujumbura's biggest needs.  The "senatrice" felt that clean water was the biggest issue.

     Next morning, we joined the Mc Mullins for breakfast at their hotel, and then we loaded 10 people in 2 trucks and headed for Uvira, DRC.  While the mission president spent his day conducting interviews, we amused ourselves in various ways.  We took a short walk to a nearby school.  On the way, Elder Van entertained a group of children by teaching them "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes." It was fun to watch the kids respond--they were quick studies!

Gary, Van Wagoner, and a couple of others went on a ride out to see some property that the Uvira branch would love to lease for a garden project.  Gary hot hassled by a "policeman" and ended up paying him a $5.00 bribe so he would let them go.  Meanwhile back at the branch, I passed out stickers to the kids and was about mobbed.  Carol started drawing their portraits.  She is really talented, and the kids were all mesmerized, watching her draw their pictures.  There was no end of willing models.

     I had my one and only moment where I was worried about personal safety.  We went to Mission Street, which is kind of a rough street downtown Bujumbura.   It's a great place to find electronics of all sorts.  It was the middle of the day with lots of people on the street.  We parked diagonal on the street which put us about 4 feet from the stoop of a building there, and Gary left me sitting in the truck while he went in search of a "splitter" for the mixer in Branch 2.  While I was waiting, a young man appeared and stood on the stoop directly in front of the truck.  He pulled out a gun and was totally fascinated with it, examining its every nook and cranny continuously.  I don't know if it was real or not, but it made me uncomfortable to have him so close.  He put it to the head of another young man who walked in front of him and that young man looked uncomfortable, avoided eye contact and sped up his pace to get by.  There were no smiles or playfulness on anyone's part.  I sat there for probably a half hour wondering what he was going to do.  Finally he left, Gary returned with his "splitter", and we "split."

Sunday, June 1, 2014

     Tuesday there was an English class at branch 2 that the Van's had set up.  They had Emery, a member who speaks several languages, come to work with those who spoke only Kirundi.  It was a fun time!  The women in the Kirundi-only group did not know how to write their names.  Today they tried writing their names for the first time ever.  They were so excited that they then asked if they could write their names on the chalkboard.  There were 15 people who came, and after we ended the class and had a closing prayer, they continued to sit for another 30 minutes hoping for more.  They are excited to learn!  Here are photos of the women who wrote their names on the chalkboard and of the entire class.