Thursday, February 26, 2015


1.  We don't have power most of the day.  This makes for interesting times when we have to go to the airport in the middle of the night.  We go to bed, setting our iPad alarm to wake us at 1:00 am, for example.  Then I have to put on make-up and comb my hair by the light of our i-pad screen or a tiny flashlight.  Traffic is extremely light, which is good.  Usually we have to stop at 2 police blockades on the way.  So far, we just smile and wave, and they let us through.  The night sky here is glorious.  No light from the city, and we see a totally different set of constellations,  including the Southern Cross.

2.  Water is not a constant either.  When the city water is turned off for whatever reason, we have water in our storage tank which we can use.  The water pressure is crappy with the storage tank water, however.  We cannot drink or brush teeth with the water from the faucets, so we need to have clean water in a bottle at all times.  We have a filtering system that we use to create water for us to drink.  We put all fruits and veggies in a light bleach solution and then rinse them with the filtered water before eating.  Dishes are also rinsed in this bleach solution.

3.  When we pour out milk from one of our boxed milks, it usually comes out accompanied by chunks of varying sizes.  Not very appetizing, but we try to stir it in with the liquid milk to dissolve it.  Yum.  Chunky milk.

4.  The money here absolutely REEKS!  You can smell it in your purse, in your pocket, in your hand.  Now I know what they mean when they call money "filthy lucre!"

5.  Sad news.  Our supply of Costco chocolate chips is gone----and so is the bacon we got for Christmas.  Oh, well.  Only 6 months to go!

6.  Every day we listen to the songs of so many birds!  We love to lie awake just before dawn and listen to the birds sing.  Our windows are open 24/7, so we can hear the various beautiful songs of the birds.

7.  Everywhere you look there are beautiful, tropical flowers.  So many varieties and each one so different from the others.

8.   We also love to listen to it rain.  We like to sit on our porch and listen as the rain approaches.  It gets louder and louder as it gets closer and closer, almost like an oncoming freight train, and then it pours!  This photo was taken at the Church one day while we were there for English lessons.

9.  Sadly, the turkey gobbles no more.  RIP, o, gobbler!  You are missed!

10.  Still no fast food restaurant in Burundi.  No gas station with public restrooms either.  Rats!


     On Tuesday evening, we went to a Town Meeting for all American citizens in Bujumbura.  It was held at the ambassador's house and dealt with the ongoing political unrest and possible problems that could occur.  They advised us to have extra food on hand and to make a Plan B escape plan should the airport be shut down.

     The U.N. is here to try to monitor the elections, attempting to assure fair, open elections.  The government does not want the U. N. here for obvious reasons.  Open and honest elections are not in their best interests.

     Human Rights Watch is investigating the murder of 110 armed men just north of Bujumbura, as are 2 other groups concerned with human rights violations.  The belief is that the government and the police summarily executed these men after they surrendered.
     The journalist who was imprisoned for saying the government was involved with the planning and murder of 3 elderly Catholic nuns here in Bujumbura was recently released on bail amid happy demonstrations supporting him.

     The government has announced that any street  protest, peaceful or not, will be viewed as a threat to security and will be dealt with accordingly.  This in anticipation of the announcement of whether or not the president is going to try to run for a third term, contrary to the Constitution of Burundi.

     No one knows what is going to happen.  ( Shortage of crystal balls.)  Hopefully, the president will step down willingly and let democracy progress.  That is a hard concept in Africa.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

     For an activity for our 12 missionaries on P-day, we arranged to take them all to the park and do some exercise.  First we did some aerobics, then some spot exercises, and last, but not least, some basketball.  We had a great time and wore everyone completely out----including me!

This is our group entering the park for our activity.

There is a gym in the middle of this park, and that is where we had our aerobics class.

Then we moved outside for some more exercises with a trainer we call Terrence Torture.

Completely exhausted, we headed to the basketball court for some good old American basketball.  I think we could have used some good coaching , especially the girls!  (Brooke, what are you doing in your spare time?)  They had a lot of trouble with the concept of dribbling when you are running with the ball!

Another really fun activity that just happened was Burundi's first piano recital!!  At least the first in the Church branches here.  Elder Van Wagoner has started giving piano lessons to several of the branch members.  The Church has about half a dozen of the electric keyboards that he has been using for the lessons.  This is such a blessing for the branches because they will finally have someone to play the music for Sacrament meetings and baptismal services.  What a great gift to leave the branches in Bujumbura!  Anyway, these aspiring pianists just performed their first recital at branch 2.  I was excited to see their progress!!

Angelique (and, yes, those are curlers in her hair!)
 Jeanne d'Arc
 Frida and Rebecca

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

     After discovering the attempted break in, we took off for Uvira.  We knew the people there were anxiously awaiting President Thomas, and we were running 1/2 hour late.  As we arrived and they opened the gates to let us come in, what I saw brought tears to my eyes.  Remember the tent at Uvira that was demolished? Last we saw the chapel site,  it was just an area of red dirt.  This morning, lo and behold,  there was a makeshift tent made from tarps that were all strung together with rope and supported by some of the broken metal poles.  The linoleum, having been washed and smoothed out as much as possible, was spread out on the dirt floor.  Chairs and a podium were all neatly arranged in anticipation of the President's visit.  I knew how much effort went into what they had done, knew the amount of work and devotion that went into the preparations for his visit.  And there were the members, on a Wednesday morning, gathered together in their Sunday best to greet the Mission President and his wife.  Kind of choked me up.

And now a word about the traffic conditions in Bujumbura.  ARGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It can be crazy busy, and there is not a traffic rule or traffic control device that exists here in Bujumbura.   On a 2 lane road you will have 3-4 drivers in a row, not a line, trying to turn left into heavy traffic.  Motos dart between cars and go down the outside of the road or down the oncoming lane of traffic.  It's sheer madness, a large game of "chicken" and Bumper Cars.  The situation on the roads is emphasizing some poor qualities in Gary's driving---he is perfecting the use of impatience and aggression!  Should serve him well when we get home! Not!

Anyway, last week we were backing out of a parking spot on a very busy, narrow street.  Traffic was totally stopped in one direction,  waiting for us to get out of the way.  Gary thought the traffic had stopped coming the other way, but the jarring crunch we experienced as he continued backing out told us otherwise.  We had backed into a bus.  The busses and transport vehicles are notorious for their reckless and insane driving.   Due to the heavy traffic surrounding us, (plus Gary was mad), we kept moving, going on to our next stop, an Internet provider.  When we finished our business there, we came out to find that the driver of the bus had tracked us down and wanted satisfaction.  (Read that as "money.")  We had him get in the truck with us because we were headed to Branch one with the Internet employee.  I was madly dialing Jean Paul to come to our aid, but no luck.  As we pulled in at Branch One, there was Jean Paul.   Thank goodness!  While Gary worked with the Internet guy, I had the privilege of standing in the driveway and watching as Jean Paul, Domine, and the bus driver went at it, verbally.   It was very animated, and in the end,  the driver settled for 20,000 BIF ( That is about $14. ) and Gary threw in a Church pamphlet for good measure.   That was the 3rd of our bumpers to get smashed in, and before I could blog about it, the remaining bumper got smashed in, too!   Two days later, as we were stopped in a line of heavy traffic, a guy in a motorcycle crashed into the back of our truck! UNBELIEVEABLE!
Add to the 4 crushed bumpers assorted dents and dings on the side panels.  We were in the truck for 2 of the major dents---one when a car ran into us and one from a motorcycle that got away as 2 guys were fighting over it.   The other various dents I have no idea where they came from.


Sunday, February 15, 2015


    Tuesday we picked up the mission president and his wife at the airport.  He hit the ground running with interviews as soon as we got to town. The next day the plan was to go to Uvira to visit the Saints there.  Wednesday morning Gary called me to come into the kitchen.  What he showed me was kind of creepy.  Someone had attempted to break into the house.  Our sunroom is really kind of a screened in room where we have a table and some chairs.  The doors to this room are pretty much just screens with a slide up lock at the top.  Someone had pulled the screen down so they could unlock the slide lock.  Then, into the sunroom, they attempted to get into the kitchen,  There is a metal door that we keep locked that leads into the kitchen and a window above the sink.  Someone pulled the screen WAY back on this window and pretty much removed one of the window glass pieces.

      We felt like it had to have been one of our guards, as there is no way someone else could get into the yard, do this and get back out with no one seeing them.  We were supposed to leave for Uvira, and our guard Dieudonne was not scheduled to be there until after we left. So I called Jean Paul who came down immediately.  We left him here to meet Dieudonne and to take his key.  When we got back, we took Fabrice's key as well.

     On Thursday, both guards met Jean Paul at Branch 1 to talk about what had happened. They were on the grass at Branch 1 from 11:00 til 3:30pm.  Neither one would admit to having done the attempted break in.  So, with heavy hearts, we told them that neither one had a job with us any longer.  Fabrice came to get his things this evening carrying a little suitcase.  We told him he could stay the night as was his habit because it is not good to be on the streets after dark.  Friday morning he came to our door with his suitcase in hand and asked if we would pray with him before he left.  After speaking with Fabrice, we told him he could stay.  But then the next day, we spoke with both guards and the Branch president and decided that it is really better if Fabrice only stay til the first of the month.  This has been so hard.  We know how vital it it for both of these young men to have work, how almost desperate they are to have a job.  That's why we can't understand why one or both of them would have attempted to get in the house.  But having lost confidence in them, we cannot continue to employ them as guards.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


     The first missionaries to serve from Bujumbura have just returned!  They both served in Kinshasa, the capital city of the Congo.  One is Jimmy Mabingo, and the other is a young lady named Nadej.  He has now been made 2nd counselor in the Elder's Quorum, and she has just been called as the new Young Women's President.  Out of the frying pan and into the fire!

     We received 2 more mission calls for young men in Bujumbura this week.  That makes 14 who have received calls since we got here, and 13 more have applied are waiting for their calls to arrive.

     Elder Kapata, our first zone leader here in Bujumbura, messaged us to let us know he baptized 18 people on the same day!  Talk about an amazing missionary!  Gotta love that boy!


Here are Dieudonne's little red hens hanging out in our back yard.  He doesn't let them out of the storage room very often, but, when he does, it's kind of fun to look out and see them scratching in the dirt.  They have grown up a lot!

     Saturday we had some unwelcome excitement.  Dieudonne announced that there was a snake in our back yard,  and he came out armed with a broom handle, looking very serious.  He whacked the heck out of the snake, severing its head and breaking the broom handle into several pieces.   It was a venomous snake, perhaps a green mamba.  I really don't like the idea of snakes in the yard because it would be so simple for them to slither in under the door….

Sunday, February 8, 2015

     Our second visiting couple was the Clayton's who were with us from Jan. 22nd to the 26th.   They came to do an audit on each of the 5 branches.  What was more important than the actual audit was the training that Elder Clayton was able to give the clerks and branch presidents.  It appears that everyone involved is becoming more competent in their callings, more aware of their responsibilities.  Loved this training!

     One afternoon we took a ride out to see the Livingston Rock.

Our last visitor for January was Desire Ilunga, the man in charge of all the physical assets (buildings) of the Church in the Lubumbashi Mission.  A couple of days before his arrival, a storm wiped out the pathetic tent "chapel" in Uvira, so one of the first things we did was go to Uvira to see the damage.

The wind blew the tent over, bending all of the metal support poles.

This is the pile of our new linoleum flooring that we just put in.  We had just replaced it not many months ago because the previous linoleum was ripped to pieces in a storm.  Deja vu?

Here is a cute group of little "supervisors" that came out to watch the excitement.

Above is the cleaned-up tent site.  All of the poles are unusable --too bent and twisted.  Looks like we are going to buy new poles and start over again.  We would really just like to move the 2 branches out of this location.  We'll keep our fingers crossed that this will happen!

These are some random shots we took in Uvira that day.
I think this guy deserves the Humanitarian Award of the year because instead of carrying his chickens by their feet, he carries them in a cage on his head!

This is a hardware store in downtown Uvira.

This guy is selling his wares on the main street while a goat looks on.

Notice all of the bright, colorful fabrics for sale.

Here is a lady selling her little dried fishes.  Sardines?

Small business owner

Uvira is between the green mountains and the lake.

Adios, Uvira.  Til next time!

Friday, February 6, 2015

     The last full day of the Mikesell's visit, we took off for Gitega, the home of the Burundi drummers.  We took Emery, a counselor in Branch1, with us to translate in Kirundi.  The ride was a beautiful one and took about 3 hours.  The road wound up through verdant hills,  past small villages.  I hope these photos give you the flavor of the beauty here in Burundi.

These ladies are headed to the local market.

These bicyclists were all hitching a ride up the hill on the back of the truck.

We arrived at the historical site of the sanctuary of the sacred drums.

     This man was our guide who explained the history behind the sacred drums.  He is 92 years old, and since the average life expectancy here is 55, that makes him ancient!

      He tells the story of how many years ago the king of Burundi sought refuge in Gitega when he was being pursued by his enemies. A man there gave him refuge, hiding him from the men who came looking for him to kill him.  When the enemies arrived, the man told them the king had left the village and had gone up the mountain and down into another valley.  Really, he was hidden under skins in a storehouse.  Later, the kings own men arrived, saw that the king was OK and pursued the enemy warriors into the next valley.  As thanks for helping him, the king gave a give of 2 cows to the village.  The cows were revered as a significant, almost divine gift from the king.  The male they named Ruciteme, the female, Murimirwa.

When the cows died, their skins were turned into drums.  The skin of the male cow became the sacred drum called  Ruciteme and the skin of the female became the sacred drum named Murimirwa.  They are preserved here in this drum sanctuary in Gitega.

Here I am with the 2 historical drums.
These drums were the symbol of the kingdom, and the dancers (drummers) performed in a certain way that none else could repeat.  Only the king had the right to see this dance.  One dancer is still alive and he is at the drummer's sanctuary.  And here he is!!  Our guide!

And now, for your viewing pleasure, The Royal Burundi Drummers!  They put on quite a show.  They dance and jump, all the while playing their drums.  There are 17 of them who perform at the same time.

Look where this guy's feet are in relation to his head!  I dare you to try that!!

We spent a great day with the Mikesell's, getting a taste of the Burundian culture and history.  Loved it!