Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Land of Milk and Honey...and Monkeys!

Until you move to a place like Africa, much less Burundi, honestly you have no idea how much you have. The little things go a really really long way.

For example, things that we (I mean you) have in the states, you have plenty of and probably don't think twice about....
Diet Coke
Soda in plastic bottles
Desserts in general
Chocolate chips
Brown sugar
Meat that you can chew
Powered sugar
Iced Mocha's
Hair Salons.
Justice. Think long and hard about this one...Whether you like it or not. We do have some goodness is our law system, imagine if you saw this around DC...


Normal Spiders... (Please the next time you breathe a sigh of annoyance as you squish the little piddly Daddy Long Leg that has placed itself in the corner of your living room. Take a moment, pause and thank the Lord that it isn't an African Rain spider that you are being forced to kill. And "kill", I use that lightly because they're so beastly, without a man (thank you Bob and Jon) to kill them, they remain alive and ugly as they sit on your wall staring down at you with a smug look on their hairy disgusting faces...)

Alright, let's refocus. Burundi is lacking in material goods, you're blessed and then I have discovered an amazing secret. Kenya. Kenya is seriously the "Land of Milk and Honey..." over here.

I cant tell you how many times I have said, "You have brown sugar?" or "Wow this meat is tender," or seriously, "you have a hair salon, I haven't had a haircut in 5 months." (Fear not, I have received a wonderful haircut in Nairobi and am looking fine FINE, fine!)

Some pleasant surprises for me while Visiting Kenya...

English. People speak English here! I cant tell you how many times I said "Madame, merci or oui..." and gotten a blank look...(I do appreciate my forming skill of French though;)

Or there's of course the food. So much western food... I've had iced mocha's, ice cream, pecan pie, turkey, enchiladas, Christmas cookies, and re fried beans...seriously canned re fried beans!
I am shocked by what I can find in Kenya's numerous Western-like stores...brown sugar, powdered sugar, and bread pans just to name a few. And not just any bread pans, bread pans that are only $7 instead of $40 (yes a bread pan in Burundi is $40 American Dollars). Cereal. I have had cereal on more than one occasion for Burundi a box of cornflakes is $24 American Dollars....think about that the next time you pour yourself a bowl of Special K.

The Internet. Man, most of you know how slow my Internet is in Burundi. Cant even get in a skype call. Here the Internet is so fast that I can actually download things and have a skype call without a delay. Amazing.

And Coke Light. I have had more than one Coke Light and even in a plastic bottle. MMMmmm...

Go ahead and have a cold diet coke right now. However when you're drinking that cold diet coke, remember that there are some people out there who are having to quench their thirst after killing a huge African rain spider by drinking a regular coke in a glass bottle...

However while they might be drinking a good old coke slightly warm in a 500 ml glass bottle, they might just be looking out at the moneys that live in their backyard...Kenya!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas in Kenya!

Christmas in Kenya. I know what you're thinking...what does one do for Christmas in Kenya? Well besides cutting down a Christmas shrub with a machete (which by the way was brown and dead in two days) can hand out food to the poorest of the poor...
On the day before Christmas Eve, Emily and I put on our long skirts, jumped on top of a landcruiser and headed down to the valley to a nearby UNHCR IDP camp to visit Kikuyu refugees.

We went there with bags of food, clothes, firewood and clean water. Once there we broke up into groups and handed out the items to the refugee families.

Seriously, seeing those refugees on Christmas like that. Thinking about how little they had, the things that they've been through. The stories they shared and the machete and spear scars that they showed. Humbling. I cant help but think so many people don't know, don't truly know what goes on in the world. Come visit me just for a week and I'll show would change your life. For sure.

Anyway, so Emily and I spent the afternoon down there, completely, completely covered in dust. I have never been in a dustier place. I was caked in mud. I can't even imagine living down their in those UNHCR tents, no food, the dusty days in the dry season, and the cold cold nights of the rift valley... Thank God for your warm houses and Christmas cookies...

Then on Christmas Eve, Bob, Julie, Emily and I packaged up some rice, sugar, lard, salt, spinach, flour and maize...loaded up the 30 bags into the landcruiser and then handed out those bags to some of the poorest kids in the Kijabe area... It was another humbling experience, one that reminds you of what Christmas really is.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Kenya Thus Far...

So I am in Kenya for three weeks and loving every moment of it!

First on the agenda, a trip to Mombasa with my favorite family! Driving on the road from Nairobi to Mombasa, almost surreal. Especially when you're zooming in and out between semis crawling at 10 mph and other land cruisers whizzing by, passing when they shouldn't. All the while making sure you don't miss the zebras, giraffes, ostrichs, and packs of camels along the side of the road. All of which I saw (awesome by the way!). The beaches along the Indian Ocean at Mombasa are absolutely beautiful: white sands, clear waters, TONS of sea urchins. A good strong breeze helps to forget how heavy the humidity in the air is...which means my hair was wretched! Curly hair + humidity=frightening...

I enjoyed 5 days at the beach in Mombasa with the Mendonsas! It was a GREAT vacation. Emily and I took a ride on some camels one afternoon down the beach. I'll have to say that I think that camels are definitely one of my new favorite animals. There's something weirdly exciting about sitting on top of a hairy camel tromping down the sandy white beach. And something even more weird about kissing a camel after the ride. Both of which I did and documented with pictures...

On another afternoon Bob, Emily, Will and I went with some others on a "hike" through the shallows of the ocean out to the nearby reef. And I'll admit it, because I know Bob would say it anyway, I was ridiculously scared of the sea urchins and taking many cautious "feminine" (according to Bob) steps through the knee deep water. Hey, those needles on sea urchins are terribly frightening in my opinion! I survived though and have the tale of a hike out to the reef in exchange. That and we did find some really really beautiful purple starfish!
My time in Mombasa ended Saturday though and now I am in Kijabe, Kenya at the Mendonsas home where I will be with them through the holidays for two more weeks. I am excited for the Christmas season, the cookies, music and all that the holidays entail.
A Christmas Tree...oh did we find one! Well It's more of a shrub really. We headed out on our mission, "Get our Christmas Shrub" at 10 PM in the dark of night so that our "hacking" of a nearby tree located in the rift valley would go unnoticed.
So away we went and Bob literally hacked down a scrawny tree with a machete. And hack he did. Finally he cut it, we took it back to the house and decorated it Charlie Brown style.
I am certain that "O Christmas Shrub" will be playing in our house over the holidays...

Friday, November 21, 2008

My First Team. C'est Bon!


I maintain. Two weeks in Africa feels like 2 years. It's amazing how you can be with people non-stop 24 hours a day, and feel like you're known them your whole life! I made some awesome friends on the team and felt very encouraged and blessed by them. I am positive that God sent some people in my life to be great friends...even though they are now on a plane heading back to the states. It's amazing the bonds of friendship that Africa can create. The things you go through to together...words can not even begin to express.

We had an amazing time! Between home visits up in the mountains, the landcruiser forgding its way over footpaths, muddy slopes and what seemed to be sometimes impossible roads, or no roads at all...amazing.

On Monday morning I was on my way to a home visit with Sarah and Carl in the Landcruiser with Emmanuel driving. It had just rained. We'd dropped off the other team members at their locations and were headed to ours. We were driving on a dirt road, which in this case was a muddy road. Bridges? Bridges are made out of logs. In the past we'd always joked about the day the land cruiser broke the log bridge and got stuck. That day finally happened. With Carl Sarah and I. We sat there for a moment as a crowd of men gathered. Emmanuel tried to floor it and get it out. No use. The wheel had cracked a log and was now stuck in its place. So what else is there too do, but hop out, skirts and all for Sarah and I, and push the land cruiser out. Carl, Sarah and I somehow managed to do just that, in our flip flops. We pushed the huge land cruiser out of the rut with about 20 Burundian men just standing by just watching. Sarah I always took a face plant in the mud, our flip flops sliding all over. As for us. We were smiling. Anything that makes a great story later often puts a smile on my face. Muddy or not...

Mount Songa/the hot springs in Rutana and the source of the Nile. A fabulous day. The climb to Mounta Songa was SO beautiful. treking along a mountain in Burundi passing children hurding goats. Pricesless. There was something so beautiful, so wonderful about it. We had an amazing time. However note to self. One bottle of water is not enough. I was through it by the time I was too the top. It was a warm day. But hey I ended upwith a great tan!

After a 3 hour jaunt across the country--we finally made it to where the hot springs were located. The men went over to their hot pool and hopped right in. The women, let's say its never simple for the women. After treking barefoot across a small river and arriving to our "hot pool" which was about 4 feet wide, 1 foot deep and with a naked woman in it; decided we were better off in the men's pool. So we hiked our way barefoot to where the men were. (Note: walking barefoot across rocks, a river, and cattle poo is not fun. I do not have tough feet!) However once we finally managed to join the guys in the hot springs, random mysterious water bugs were biting everyone. Within three minutes of getting in, I was out, trying to escape being bitten but an unknown creature. Yes I am saying creature. Some of my teammates were not so lucky. Still, a good story is always fun and we had a great time! (Us girls changed out of our suits hiding behind a shawl and a bush. We are a resourceful crew!).

I had a great time wearing Burundian skirts, called Kitange's. I wore my two skirts well and was more a Burundi Kazie (Burundian Woman), then ever!

All and all, it was a great first team. I learned alot about my role and made some great friends! I'll post some more pictures. However we all know it takes me a lifetime to upload on here. So if you want to see ever more pictures, check out my facebook!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

To Stare or Not to Stare...

Here are some things to look for if you ever head up country in Burundi.

In the mountains of Burundi traveling by bike is extremely common, but pretty rough considering Burundi is mostly mountainous. So what should you did if you find yourself on your bike and need to get up that mountain...grab onto a truck...everybody's doing it.
And then when you're in the village, make sure you're looking real good because everyone and their mother (literally) will stop by and stare at you. Take note of the people in the window and door in the picture below, yes they were looking (staring, guaking however you want to put it), at me. The world literally stops when a "Muzngu" (white person) is anywhere in view. The world just haults; freezes. Everyone drops what they are doing to stare, shout "Muzngu," or in this case gaze for 2 hours straight into a house that is not their own in hopes that you might look their way.

What is typical of a Muzungu sighting? Let me tell you. Everyone pauses midsentence and stares without shame. If you're in a conversation dont finish it, if you driving a car let your eyes shift off of the road and cause you to hit a pothole head on. If you're on your bike, stop looking where you are going, but dont look away too long or you might just hit a goat if you dare to stare for too long. If people aren't justing staring, they are gathering and gauking. There are no rules here.

The look on people's faces? Priceless. My friend Karri likes to describe it as this...

Imagine a man walking by stark naked, not just naked put playing with one of those paddle balls as he is strolling along casually-no underware or a care in the world. Yes, you would be standing there in complete shock, jaw dropped, eyes following whether you want to look or not...this is exactly the reaction to that of a muzungu passing by or in this case, sitting in a house in a village. Everyone stares without shame.

Alright, on a serious note. What exactly what was I doing in a village which caused so many bystangers to take a look, other than my presense? I was in Gitega where I attended a care group meeting of our Child Survival Program (CSP). A Promoter exployed by the CSP program has meetings or care group once every other week with volunteers (10-15 mothers) of a local community who have been chosen to attend the Child Suvival's meetings which focus on messages about Diarrea, Maleria prevention, nutrition, and immunizations. After these meetings, the mothers then go and share with other mother's in their communities. These messages educate the mothers in these 4 different areas which in turn will hopefully help to prevent deaths of children under the age of 5 and promote better health and hygene. I had the privelage to sit in on a message about breast feeing and taking care of children aged 0-6 months.

I have to say that this was a moment of culture shock for me. Just realizing all of the informaton I have about health just by growing up in America. I know that diarrea is not caused by breast feeding. I was shocked to learn that a lot of mothers stop feeding their chilren breast milk when they have diarrea because they think it was caused by the milk. I was also shocked to learn that most of the mothers did not know that drinking alcohol while pregnant isnt good for the baby. It was also interesting to hear the mothers ask about family planning and how they could prolong breast feeding in order to prevent their periods so they could wait longer to have children. I couldnt help but wonder why I had this information and these mothers were just now hearing it. Where would they be without these health lessons? And the women getting these messages are only certain ones in certain regions. I was sitting there wondering why I was privy to such information and not even a mother when a lot of mothers around the world are struggling to help their children to survive diarrea. Yet a lot of them dont know truely what is in actuality causing the diarrea. World Relief's child survual program is amazing and it making life changes all throughout Gitega province. I was honored to be able to observe and take part in it.

Another shock for me: Diapers. One does not think about how important diapers are for babies until you are in a small hut with 22 children under the age of 2 and not one of them is wearing a diaper. Babies just go...wherever and whenever they please. Whether they are standing on the ground right in from of you or in their mothers lap. I couldnt help but wonder how such a small thing was not even possible for these poor families, there wasnt even cloth for diapers. I couldnt help but take for granted what we (in the states) have. I have never thought about "what if my children did not have diapers." Diapers are a huge problem and in reality would be a solution to some of the hygene problems that these families are facing. The lack of diapers aids to the problem of diarrea and other stomach problems. As human refuse is everywhere and on not only the children's clothes, but on the mothers as well, this can cause of a lot of the health problems...and all due to lack of cloth for diapers and clean water to wash clothes and those diapers that they dont have in. Just a thought.

Mothers who are reading this blog, take a moment and appreciate the diapers that you have for your child...

Here are some pictures of the women from the care group I sat in on.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Up Country

I went up country for the first time last week. I spent a day in Nyanza-Lac and a night in Gitega. The drive down the coast along Lake Tanginyka was beautiful! Nyanza-Lac is located in the Southern part of Burundi, down by the Tanzanian Border. This is the area where a lot of the Refugees are located that are returning from Tanzania. (In 1972 there was a conflict which caused many Burundians to flee the country. Most fled into Tanzania where many refugee camps were then set up. These Burundians have been in the camps since 1972 and are referred too as the 1972 Burundians). The Tanzanian Government has decided that all of the Burundian Refugees need to return home. So they are returning in large numbers heading back to their Provinces. Nyanza-Lac is the area where WR's Rehabilitation program is located. This program helps to relocate and establish the refugees that are returning to their land.

As we were driving along the road I saw many Blue UNHCR trucks with refugees piled in the back returning to their homes. It was definately something I have seen in movies or documentaries about Africa. I felt very "American" as I saw the trucks and sat there wide-eyed. It was even more personal to me, knowing that these were the refugees from the same camps along the Tanzanian Border as the Burundian Refugee family that I worked with for the past year in Washington DC. Definately brought some of their life into perspective.

After spending a day in Nyanza-Lac we drove to Gitega. Gitega is in the center of the country, completely mountainous and absolutely beautiful. Up Country Burundi is gorgeous, mountainous and green. I arrived in Gitega after dusk. The cool night air reminded me of fall back home. The air was so crisp, so cool. I went to WR's child survival program. It is located in a cove of Pine trees. PINE TREES! Apparently the building was built by an American Missionary family back in the day and they planted the trees. I just stood there, taking it all in, breathing the air. It definately had a feeling of Wisconsin, where I grew up. It was wonderful to get out of Bujumbura and see other parts of the country. I have heard about the countryside and been told that I would love it. And I did. There's something special about waking up and eating eggs made from palm oil and really really thick bread....mmmm....and just incase you are curious Palm oil is made out of these barry like things which come from Palm oil trees...

On the way back from Gitega we stopped at a market in the Mountains... Pictured below are sweet potatoes.

I am headed up to Gitega next week as well. Hopefully I will have an opportunity to take some more pictures!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sunset over the Congo

Attached are some pictures that I took at Sunset of Lake Tanginyka, and over looking the Congo...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Little Things...

Well, not much change in my surroundings here. Still settling in, and attempting not to think about home too much, otherwise I’ll be homesick. I miss urban ministry so much, I cant help but think about where I’ll be and what I’ll do in two years when I return to the states. It’s hard being in a foreign country, and one that is the poorest and ravaged by war for so many years. My friend Meg has been encouraging me to take note of things I like every day, therefore I am focusing on the good things instead of the so many hard things…

How do I spend my time? At work during the day and watching Prison Break at night. To my disappointment I reached season 3 last night only to discover that there is no point in watching season 3 because someone dies off (although this person does return in season 4—which is currently on TV.) The con—it’ll be a year at least before I can get season 4 of Prison Break to remedy this horrible season 3. So now what do I do to waste my nights…I guess practice my French…boring. There is something about trying to find a good book (which I don’t have or attempting to watch a movie and then the power goes out). The things we take for granted, electricity is a good thing!

A couple of things I have discovered recently:

Beef Brochettes are amazing, I need to escape my food in the house every once and a while to get some meat. A Restaurant down by the lake has some great beef on a stick, this is good. I can’t tell you how much a person craves protein when there isn’t any readily available.

A sweet treat: I have discovered that the one coffee shop in town sells 2 big sweet crapes for only $3. This is good to know, a new place to go when I’m craving something sweet.

A new Like: Coffee. Who knew, I know like coffee. I have forced myself to like coffee. I had discovered that in being here for two years I needed something to look forward to everyday, this has become coffee, with milk and sugar of course, I can’t do it plain… It’s slowly growing on me…

Sounds: The Rainy season. I love the way huge thunderstorms rollup over the mountains across the city and toward the Congo. It is awesome to sit out on my open porch and watch as the wind soars down toward the coast, shaking the house and thundering clapping so loudly that it makes me jump.

And how did I spend my weekend? Last night before I was disturbed with disappointment of Prison break season 3, I watching that when heard my first bout of gunfire in the night…C’est Afrique.

This morning, woken by Duncan with a text to go to Rusizi to go and see hippos. So I climbed out of bed at the crack of dawn to drive to this place down by the lake to see tons of hippos. I forgot my big lens for my camera, which was a bummer. Still it was good to see some hippos that are not in a zoo.

FYI hippos are huge in Africa!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Revelation in Rwanda

I went to Rwanda last week and it was glorious. So glorious! It was refreshing and exactly what I needed. The country was so beautiful!

It all started at the airport and what a nice airport it was...
When I got off the plane in Rwanda I went into culture shock. Rwanda is so different than Burundi, so different. I could feel it in the air around me. There was something so lovely-so refreshing. I had noticed that Burundi was different than any of the other countries I have been too in the past, by stepping off of that plane in Rwanda confirmed it. Burundi is extremely poor and it is noticeable. After all Burundi is ranked in the poorest 5 countries in the world.
Rwanda, is known as the land of a thousand is so true...

How do I begin to describe it, other than it was absolutely amazing, so beautiful. And for me coming from Burundi, where there isnt much western influence, stepping into Rwanda was like stepping into Europe. After Myal picked me up from the airport we went to Bourban, which is really a Western Coffee shop. I must have repeated the entire time how shocked and delighted I was as I sipped my iced mocha that tasted like something from Starbucks. After dinner Myal then took me to Naukomat which is a store that has many western items. I was jealous…jealous of Rwanda, its infrastructure, smooth city roads, organized traffic, stop lights, beauty and iced mochas. I’ll admit, my mind said—why Burundi—at least once--more than once...

It was shocking to me how much expeierncing Rwanda reaffirmed how poor Burundi is,
how difficult Burundi is. There is such a contrast between them. (Although I have been told that the Burundian countryside is even more beautiful than Rwanda's. I hope so.) When I am in Burundi I can only feel the effects of the darkness in this world. The effect of poverty, the effect of corruption... There is so much that Burundi is trying to overcome so fresh out of conflict and civil war.
I can't help but wonder, what part do I have to play in what is happeneing in Burundi. In what God wants to do in Burundi. I know that God brought me to Burundi for a very specific reason and his reason was very intentional. I am curious to see what that is because it hasn’t been easy by far.

Burundi itself and its poverty and its corruption isn’t the hardest thing for me. It’s the people around me, not the Burundians, but the other Westerners. As I have told so many of my friends back home, it has been really hard to make friends and to feel like I belong, especially when people intentionally exclude me from things. Middle School, it reminds me of middle school.
All in all, God knows my needs. It was so wonderful to hang out with the team from MBC. They were great and it was so refreshing to actually have somebody say, "Jillian how are you doing?" It was fun to be with them and very encouraging. The picture below is me after we spent the morning helping to build the foundation of a church with lava rock...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Uma Suma

Uma Suma.

In Kirundi Uma Suma means Thief. I was told by one of the other volunteers at WR to yell Uma Suma if someone bothered me or stole from me or attacked me etc…

Today Isaac and I were walking back from Lunch. I wanted to take Uprona ( A longer route, but a little safer), he wanted to take the short way, which meant past the market. I told him as long as we didn’t go down the street with the gangs on it, alright. Once we walked down a ways he wanted to cut across so we didn’t have to go through the market. We turned, and I said I didn’t think it was a good idea, it was the street with the gangs on it. This was the same street I was grabbed on on day 2. Not to mention, I had my purse on me, and there was money in there for my work Visa.

We were walking along and we noticed that were being followed. Isaac caught it and moved me to the opposite side of him, trying to keep the guys away. Suddenly one of them turned in front of him, bumped into him and picked his wallet. I turned around to find Isaac fighting with the two guys, holding one of them back, grabbing after each other. Isaac was calling out in French and grabbing after the guys. I was so confused when I turned around, seeing Isaac with his arm around those guys yelling.

At first I thought he was trying to break up a fight. Finally I realized he had been robbed. I started yelling “Uma Suma” as I had been told to do. Everyone stopped and just watched as Isaac fought for his money, and I called out Uma Suma, trying to get someone to help. Finally the thief threw Isaac’s wallet down by a car. He grabbed it and we continued on our way. It was surprising really. It all happened so quickly. I am not a fan of that street. Ah Burundi...

Sunday, September 14, 2008


It isn’t unusual to hear random things about security on a daily basis. Whether an assassination plot or a shooting. I was sitting at a dowry for one of my co-workers when I heard about a shooting that had taken place in the city center the day before. Apparently the government has banned all moto taxis this week due to the fact that they are trafficking too many guns into the city that are used in assassinations. This didn’t go over too well with the moto drivers. There was a demonstration downtown where there was a mob rushing down Uprona St. There were some shots fired…who did the shooting? I don’t know, police or moto drivers? I don’t know. Was any one killed? That isn’t certain either. What is certain is that the government banned motos for a week to lessen the guns that were being trafficked for assassinations. Ah Burundi…
Meanwhile I attended my first dowry on Saturday night. A dowry is the event before a wedding where the man has to pay the woman’s father a dowry in order to been given her for marriage. This dowry is being given to compensate the loss of work from the daughter, since the family is losing one worker to another family. This includes a lot of going back in forth and a payment in cows and gifts. It was fun and interesting. Next month the wedding will follow.

I am feeling a little overwhelmed and in wonder of exactly what God has intended for me here. I know without a doubt that God has called me to Burundi. But I can’t help thinking, why has God asked me to leave behind the great ministry and relationships in that ministry to move to Burundi? I was working alongside an amazing Burundian family in DC. I love them so much, we were so close. And here, how will I become close to a family like mine back in DC when there are so many cultural factors at play. Jone and Jackline love me, but in the beginning they didn’t have a choice but to open their home to me, I was helping them adjust. I am nearly brought to tears when I call them every Sunday and the kids get on the phone and say, “Jillian, Jillian? I miss you, ndakakundah, I love you” as they are excited it’s me. This morning was a killer as Ngabire, the 7 yr old girl got on the phone and in clear English said, “Jillian I have picture of you on the wall. You are with babies in Burundi. Who are these babies?” (I had emailed a picture of me with some kids here in Burundi to the Parkers for them to take over to the Busoneras, my Burundian family.) I think she was a little jealous that I was loving on some Burundian kids other than her;) No one could ever replace the Busonera kids in my heart.

This week was a rough. It was a little overwhelming trying to keep my head above water through a ton of people scheduling different meetings for me and rescheduling meetings that didn’t happen. All the while I am trying to grasp my role, understand my quickly approaching responsibilities and all of WR programs, and attempting to understand the culture. Put on a thick layer of “I don’t speak French or Kirundi”, buying a car in Africa, and skype freezing in the first 3 minutes of every phone call and you would be thinking in circles too! Actually it feels like my thoughts are hitting a cement wall... And at the end of the day, who wants to hear about the turmoil-some thoughts swirling in my head when I can't put a sentence together in English much less French. My pen has been burning the pages in my journal.

God knows my needs . Even though I don’t always realize it (or acknowledge it), I know he knows them. During my quiet time today I was really frustrated and trying to write out my thoughts. I asked God to “help me to feel his love.” I didn’t know what that looked like tangibly, but I asked it…and God answered. Tonight I received a call from my good friends in Kenya. We talked for a while, and talked through some of my thoughts. When we got off the phone, I couldn’t help but feel anything but loved. God had answered my prayer to feel his love. And he used the Mendonsa’s to show me that.

Burundi may not be easy…but I know this is where he’s brought me. Bob and Julie brought up a great verse that really made me think. They shared Hosea 2:14 with me. “Therefore I will allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.” I may not have expected Burundi to be a desert or a place where I would feel so alone with so much happening and going on, but it is. What Bob and Julie said really resonated to me. Even though being in deserts is never fun, if he brought me here, he brought me here for a reason. He is speaking to me, or trying to speak to me. But I need to be so close to him and in the word every day to hear him… I can’t hear him if I’m not listening for his voice. And sometimes he takes us into the desert--or in this case, Bujumbura Burundi, so that he has us all to himself. As of right now, God definitely has my attention!

Monday, September 8, 2008

A weekend in Burundi...

So much has happened just over the weekend.

The scariest…

Friday night I was driving to a steam room with Seth and Myal. I was sitting in the back seat of the car. I wouldn’t exactly say that Bujumbura is the safest place to go at night time. So we were slowing making our way through downtown. We were rounded a corner pretty slowly. Suddenly I heard a loud thud hit the back of the car, my head snapped to the rear. It sounded like a huge rock or a gunshot or something. I made a comment to Seth and barely had I spoken when there was another bang and the rear window shattered. I ducked over in the seat, instinctly; I don’t even know what it was. Seth just sped up. We still don’t know what it was or who did it. I think it was the guys in the cars next to us. I had been watching them and they were eyeing the car. Who knows? But that was my first experience with violence…

Gladly I can say that I haven’t heard any gunshots in the night yet. Seth and Trina say it’s been a couple of weeks since they’ve heard gunfire in the night. It is quite normal to hear gunfire, however I still have yet to experience that.

The strangest and most surprising…

I tried frog legs. Yes, frog legs. I didn’t eat the whole thing, I really just tried a couple of bites of my friend Brandon’s it had been his idea. So I tried it. I have no idea how is it that I could eat Frog legs, yet seafood makes me sick. Maybe its because Frog legs tastes like chicken, and since there’s not much chicken around here…what’s a girl to do?

A pleasant and beautiful surprise…

Lake Tanganyika. It is beautiful. Today I went down to the beach with Brandon to experience my first time swimming in the Lake. There were some waves so there weren’t any Hippos or alligators, (Thank God). It was so much fun just chillin in the water as the waves crashed over, and when we weren’t swimming, you just sit under these, grass/bamboo little pavilion things, laying in the sand, with the lake and the Congo on the other side.

The details…

I drove yesterday. Trina gave me a driving lesson. Driving in Burundi is completely different than the US. It’s like a frightening game of dodge. You’re dodging cars, coming at you in your lane, cars trying to cut you off, Motos all over the street, bicyclers, pedestrians, and huge pot holes, narrow roads and no rules. No rules at all. It’s fend for yourself and hope you don’t hit anything. No street lights, no stop signs really. But I did survive my first drive around; this included a lot of honking, flashing and swerving. And the car was a stick. I think I deserve a metal.

Things I am missing…

My teens, one of them emailed me this week, it made me want to run home to be there for him. My Burundian Refugee family in DC. However I did call them yesterday and talked to them with my couple of words in Kirundi. Iced Mochas. (I hear I can get one in Rwanda;) Only one country away…) Other single people. There are a lot of married missionaries, but not many single people. Diet Coke. Being able to go out and buy a book when I need to read something new. Having someone that understands me and knows me to talk too at the end of the day…

C’est Fini. There will be more amazing things to add soon of happenings of my life in Burundi…

Monday, September 1, 2008

To the village...which one I'm not sure....

So Burundi is a lot more expensive than I thought it would be. It is actually quite expensive here. Shocking really. I also think that its going to take me a lot longer to make friends than usual. Seth and Trina are awesome, but the others I have met are very indifferent and not very talkative with newcomers. I feel that maybe they dont want to meet new people because so many people are coming and going. However, I am here for 2 years. So that is kind of hard.

It is hot, very hot. I think that the dry season is the hottest, its hot and dry, very dusty. The rainy season will begin soon, and then everything from what I understand will be lush and green.

I went to a village on Friday with Seth and hung out with some kids. It was great, Seth showed me around. It was wonderful, just being with the kids, practicing French, Kirundi, and Jilli-anch. (which is my own version of French). It was a great day. I've posted some pictures below.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My First Couple of Days in Burundi!

So much has happened since I last wrote. I spent three weeks at MTI, a training center in Palmer Lake CO. I had a great time and met awesome people that are headed all over the world. I made some wonderful connections with some great people. It was so nice to be with people that understand everything I am going through especially right before I left the country. It was great, there were even some families that are headed to Kenya that I hope to see. Not only that but I feel that I made some deep life-long connections with relationships that were clearly orchestrated by God!

My flight to Burundi was a little long. I was sick most of the way…sick on a plane with a tiny bathroom. Horrible, seriously. Have you ever puked in an airplane bathroom, not much room in there. But I made friends with this awesome young guy from India who totally helped me and even sat with me in the Brussels airport…

And now, I’m in Burundi!

It is my official 4th full day. The first day I spent resting as I was still getting over being sick and jetlagged. And thereafter, slowly getting to know Burundi!

Pleasant surprises:
* Warm showers
* Enoch (Seth and Trina’s cook) makes awesome Banana Bread!
* Brushing my teeth with the tap water (apparently Bujumbura has some of the cleanest water in Africa, you can also drink the water from the tap, who knew?)
* Coke in a glass bottle is just as wonderful on a hot day as I remembered.
* Huge Thunderstorms; Apparently during the rainy season, storms are HUGE. The dry season is about to finish and soon the storms will roll in. We had one Tuesday night. Trina and I sat out on the porch and watched it, it was great! The thunder and wind were so strong it nearly shook the house. I loved it!
* The path down by the lake: Awesome. There is this path down by Lake Tanginyika (I think the second deepest and longest in the world...). There are hippos down there but I didn’t see any--not that day anyway;)
* The Market: Trina and I went to the market and bought some material, we’re going to get some skirts and bags made!

The Street Kids: Yesterday Trina and I were walking down the street with her friend when a street kid grabbed me as he walked by. It was a little ballsy if you ask me… If I hadn’t stood in a stupor I might have slapped him.

But all is good here in Burundi. I am really enjoying my first week here!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

C'est Fini!

I have left DC. I cant believe that that door is closed. The past two weeks have been such a whirlwind, I havent even had time to process everything.

2 weeks ago I went to Oshkosh WI, where I grew up. Honestly, going home is always hard, but I have to say--going to Oshkosh was such a blessing! I was so blessed by the people that I grew up with. I felt so loved. Its amazing to me that I can be gone for 2 years (and many more years since high school) and I can return and people still love me as they do. Not only was it a really fulfilling, but I felt that God really blessed my obedience in returning home. I shared what I'll be doing in Burundi at my churches 3 services and also had a sharing night. It was absolutely amazing. So many people were interested in hearing more about Burundi, what God's doing there and what I'll be doing. I was truly encouraged by the response I received from people in Oshkosh. I realized that I am truly blessed and that there are lot of people who are close to my heart that want to walk this path with me to Burundi.

I am amazed by how God provides. It is amazing to me how quickly things can change. Even in the past couple of months my friendships have been changing. Some of my closest friends have left the DC area themselves, or have just pulled away as my transition has begin. It's crazy to think that the people that you thought were going to be there for you weren't, but yet God is in control and he already knew, and he raises up others. I have been truly blessed by my supporters. Their friendships, prayers and simply the sacrifices they have made have been heartwarming. I am thankful for all of the new friendships and people God has brought into my life in the past couple of months, or even brought BACK into my life. I am truly blessed by the friends that are walking through this challenging and exciting time in my life.

I have said goodbye to my Burundian family. I spent 4 hours with them on Sunday (1 hour with them on Saturday, 4 hours with them on Friday...I love them;) ....surprisingly there were no tears. Honestly I thought I would cry, and well....not a tear was shed at all during my last 4 days in DC. I think that there was just too much going on, and I just couldn't process it all. My Burundian family had lunch waiting when I showed up on Sunday and the kids knew it was my last day. The little girl kept on asking me to sit by her. And saying things like, "I miss Jillian, Jillian go Burundi. Jillian no go. Me cry with Jillian." It was heart wrenching! I can only pray that God would create such relationships with others Burundians for me in country.

And now I am in training in Colorado. I head straight from here to Burundi. I think that it was good timing after all for me to head here right before I go overseas. I have been so busy, stressed and overwhelmed with closing up my life in DC, that I havent even a second to process much less feel the emotion of moving. I still havent felt any emotion. I am wondering when it will all hit the fan. However I am still blessed, while there are only 3 single girls at this training and ALL the rest are married couples and families...slightly overwhelming. However, I am enjoying getting to know all of these families that are committing their lives to missions and am encouraged. I think I will make some great friendships here. There are some families that will be serving in Kenya. I hope to sometime have the opportunity to visit them....

Two weeks left here in the mountains of Colorado and then onto Burundi!