Friday, October 31, 2014

THE RAINY SEASON HAS BEGUN!  Not every minute of every day is rainy, but when it rains, it pours!  Roads become big pothole lakes, and new ruts and divots are created.  All the better to make your teeth rattle!  I think, when I get home, I will never have the desire to go 4-wheeling again.  We do it every day here!

Now I can see the wisdom of the huge gutters.  They need to be able to handle the rains that come as deluges in the rainy season.  This is a gutter that  is running fast with the rains of a short storm.
     Branch president Jean Renee and his wife Jeanne d'Arc had a baby about a month ago.  This is obviously a cause for celebration, so in Bujumbura, when the baby is about a month old, the parents usually host a get-together to honor the new baby and to announce his/her name to everyone.  We were excited to get an invitation to this baby celebration.

     The party was held in the common courtyard in front of the family's home.

     The proud mama and papa and grandma sat on the nice sofa and Jean Renee (papa) offered a short speech in which he announced the baby's name---------Eliza Susannah.  (She has a third name that is more Kirundi or African sounding.  Ntiza?)   I mentioned once before about how they do their names.  The system they use makes genealogy so confusing I think I would shoot myself if I had to do genealogy here!   The parents choose a first name for the child, then comes the father's last name, and then comes a last name that the parents select which can be whatever they want.  Then that child's child will be named with a first name of the parents choosing, the last name of the dad, and a totally new last name.  For example, John Brown Smith's child could be George Smith Evans whose child could be Tom Evans Roberts and so on.  Husbands and wives and their children all have different last names.

This is Jeanne d'Arc, the new mom, and her new little baby.  

After the short talk, we were all served a delicious meal of potatoes, salad, beef. and peas.

 I got to hold the baby!  That was really fun, and made me miss my cute little grandkids at home.
Then they turned on the music for some dancing.  The music was great!  And so we had to dance!

     This was the most fun we have  had at a "party" here!   We, of course, enjoyed the traditional Fanta, but had a yummy meal, good music and dancing added to the experience.    I think Burundians value their social ties and relationships.  They are a very social people, spending most of their day outside with friends and neighbors and family.   They do their wash outside, cook their meals outside, go to the local market outside.  The weather is conducive to enjoying the out- of- doors anyway,  and the homes are too small to spend much time inside, so they spend their days and their evenings outside their homes,  interacting with others in their community instead of spending time inside, alone.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

     Last Saturday we had to take our favorite elder, Elder Kapata, to the airport and tell him good-bye.  He has been the zone leader for the last 7 months that we have been serving in Bujumbura.  In fact, he flew with us from Lubumbashi to Bujumbura when we first arrived.  We have worked closely with him, and we are really going to miss him.  He speaks English, plays the piano, and has a beautiful singing voice.  Also a really cute giggle for a young man over 6 feet tall!

Elder Kapata

When a car breaks down here in Bujumbura, they leave it sitting in the middle of the road where it 
broke down and attempt to repair it in place.  If the vehicle must stay in the road overnight, there are young men who sleep on the ground next to it or underneath it to it to protect it from would-be thieves.
It sometimes takes several days just to change a tire.
Even the great big semis will sit in the middle of the road while they are repaired.  We saw a large truck that was having its rear axle replaced sitting in the road for about 3 days.  You just go around it!

Here is another vehicle that has been swallowed be a gutter.  It is a 17 passenger van that is used for transport around Bujumbura.  There really is not room for 17, but that is how many they cram into  it.  The cost for a ride in one of these vans is about 33 cents.  Or at least that is what we have heard.  We have not experienced it first-hand!  (And probably won't!)  I don't know if we could stand the aroma of 17 hot and sweaty Burundians smooshed together  in a vehicle without air-conditioning.

And now, for good measure, some HIPPOS!  They are always a welcome sight.  We took these photos from the car on the road that runs along the lake.

I still get excited when we see these huge animals, it still makes my day1

Thursday, October 23, 2014

     Gary and I needed to travel to Uvira to check out a new apartment for the Uvira elders.  The one they are living in is disgusting, so we asked Jean Paul to see what he could find for the elders.  He made arrangements for us to meet Friday with the owner of a two level home in Uvira.  First of all we needed to cross the border into the Congo, and for the first time there was a man who had a little "temperature gun" who was checking everyone going into the Congo to see if they had a temperature.  This is the first time since we have been here that anyone actually checked for possible Ebola cases at the border.

     Not only did they check for people with fevers, but they had posted a sign at the border crossing with words to live by.  I pass these on as good advice in helping you avoid Ebola:


     You're welcome.  And don't you forget it!

     We inspected the house with the 2 levels in Uvira, and decided it would be a good move for the 4 elders.   They can live upstairs and a senior couple could live on the main level.   Apart from the customary touch ups and clean ups there was just one little problem with the house.  It doesn't have a kitchen.  So the owner promised he would put a kitchen in, and we are supposed to take possession the first of December.  Here are a couple of photos of the new digs:

     We finally bid a fond farewell to Remy, the young man who has been living behind us since we arrived.  At the airport, we ran into a problem with his ticket (Kinshasa had forgotten to pay for it), so he couldn't make his flight the day he was supposed to leave.  He had to leave the next day.  Elder Kapata, who was with us at the airport, told Remy that this was the 1st "test" of his mission, the first problem that he would have to deal with.  People here don't expect things to go smoothly or as planned, and if you are serving a mission, it becomes a challenge of faith to overcome the various disappointments and difficulties.  They learn to take problems and setbacks in stride because it is a normal part of everyday life for them.   Back home we tend to get more bent out of shape because we just EXPECT things to go as planned.  Maybe their life of hardship makes them more resilient than our life of plenty makes us.  Or maybe we have higher expectations of life in general!

                               Remy as he is about to leave for his mission in Benin

Sunday, October 19, 2014

  Saturday morning we attended the baptisms of a woman named Kathi and her daughter Ange.  Elder Kapata (the zone leader we have worked with for the past 7 months) had asked us to come to one of the missionary discussions with Kathi and Ange, so we had the opportunity to take part in the discussion with them.  That was a blessing, and I have Elder Kapata to thank for that blessing.
The next day Kathi asked us to come to her house for a celebration of her baptism.  She held the celebration outside in her shared, dirt courtyard.  There were about 15 of us sitting on plastic chairs in a circle.  We received the traditional Fanta, but then Kathi started bringing out plates heaping with rice and with one piece of tough beef.  The rice had an onion sauce on it that was really tasty.  
Gary with his plate of food.
     At one point, I complimented Kathi on her onion sauce, and she rushed to get me more.  She appeared with the pot of sauce, grabbed my fork to spoon some out on my rice, and then kept my fork and made her way around the circle, spooning more sauce onto everyone else's rice using my fork.  It was kind of funny and a bit awkward.  That left me with no fork, so Gary and I shared his fork to eat our meal.  I hope I didn't infect everybody with some dread gambu , as my fork ended up being the serving utensil for us all!
The elders enjoying the gathering to celebrate the baptisms.

     We were sitting outside, the evening air was pleasant.  Dusk came, and the nightly flight of the bats was passing overhead.  It hit me again how good it is to be here and gratitude again filled my heart.  I think these last couple of days were given to me as a store against the days of frustration and difficulty.

Friday, October 17, 2014

     Saturday, Juvenal, member of a branch presidency, asked if we would drive him to his sister's house so he could give her a blessing.  Apparently she has been sick for several weeks and lives some distance from Bujumbura.  We agreed, and so that afternoon, off we went with Remy in tow to help give the blessing.  We drove south along the lake for about 30 minutes, stopping along the way to see the big rock where Stanley and Livingstone (Dr. Livingstone, I presume?) met.  Livingstone was a Scottish explorer/missionary in Africa.  The last 4 years of his life he was ill.   A New York newspaper sent Stanley to find him., since there was some question of his whereabouts.    They met in a little village called Ujiji on the shores of Lake Tanganyika.  Stanley greeted Livingstone with the now famous phrase, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume ?"  This was a tongue in cheek attempt at humor, as Livingstone was the only white person for hundreds of miles.
Livingstone-Stanley rock in the village of Ujiji. 

Looking down the river towards the lake

Livingstone ultimately died of malaria and dysentery at the age of 60.
 We turned east, away from the lake and drove through a little village where there was a group of young men playing drums under a tree.  They do love their drums here in Burundi!

We continued on until we were told to park the truck, and then we got out and walked.

The walk was sort of uphill, winding through little houses in a neighborhood alive with children.

This was a beautiful area with a great view of the lake, very green, with red dirt like Hawaii's, many  crude houses and huts and lots of friendly  people.

We came to Junvenal's sister's house which was made of red mud inside and out.  Her house is the one on the right.

When we entered the main room, we saw a woman lying on a woven mat on the red dirt floor.  After greeting the family, Gary instructed Remy on how to anoint her head with the consecrated oil, and then Juvenal gave her a blessing to heal the sick.

On our walk back to the truck, we saw small herds of goats, green hillsides, lots of children,  and we took in the beauty of where we were.  I was struck with how blessed I am to be here, to be living in Africa, to be  a part of these people's lives.

     A member of one of the branches (elders quorum president) came to us asking for us to give him money from the Church.  As far as we could tell, he had had some bad things happen to him which have caused financial problems, but nothing he has experienced would qualify him for welfare at this time.   Sad story but true.  Anyway, he wanted us to come and see his rice milling machine.  He wants the Church to give him 9,000,000 BIF (about $6000) so he can invest in his rice milling business by purchasing large quantities of rice to mill. Business capital  is not an appropriate use of welfare money, but wanting to show our concern and support, we agreed to come see his machine.

The ride to the little town where the mill is located was a beautiful drive.  It was so green.  We passed fields of rice and groves of palm oil trees.

This is his milling machine. 

These are some of the employees who work at the rice mill.
Some local cows wandering down the road in from of the mill.
This young lady wanted her picture taken.

It was a pleasant ride and so interesting to see Brother Simon's rice mill.  
You sometimes wish you could help everyone who needs help.  The hard thing is knowing you can't.