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...