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.