Monday, October 27, 2008

The post I never wanted to write...

At the end of my last post I said, "I should give Rwanda a chance, eh?".  Well, I did give at least Kigali a chance.  I was amazed with its paved roads and orderly traffic.  I was calmed by her soothing climate and exquisite coffee, and I relished the cool weather and fantastic vistas.  In many ways I was happy to let down my guard and be taken away by this new found love.  I had all I needed to feel safe...

...and then the veracity of underlying poverty reared its ugly head through the thin veneer of so-called development and western comfort and jabbed me in the face!  I stumbled.  More stunned by the attack than the pain and lose of sight.  I grasped for some safety net to catch me, but instead came crashing down to where I never wanted to go.  The place of cynicism, doubt, and mistrust.  Will I ever love again?

*End of dramatization*

Simply, I let my guard down.  I had been walking around downtown Kigali, enjoying the cool climate and good coffee.  I felt safe.  This wasn't the crowded, steamy streets of Bujumbura with its pickpockets and mad traffic.  There was order here, it seemed.  We had pulled up to a gas station to quickly fill up the truck before a nice dinner at the Indian restaurant Khazana.  Brandon and I had gone to change some money, and Paul had stayed with the car to change the oil.  In an act of perfect timing, someone opened the back seat door facing the street and grabbed my backpack and Brandon's computer bag.  Brandon's computer, gone. My camera and Ipod, gone.  No one of course saw anything, the language barrier raised frustrations, and the police report that we labored to file took its good ol' African time.  But none of that really bothered me other than the fact that Africa had finally got me.  I have lived on this continent for so long without being robbed in this way.  Yes, the station was well lit, there was a guard on duty, and Paul was right beside the car, but I still forgot to lock my door.  You ALWAYS lock your door.

Brandon's computer is insured and he will be able to get a replacement soon.  My camera and Ipod served me well for over 2 years.  That morning I had made sure to take out my computer and passport which would have been a nightmare to get replaced if stolen.  So overall I am not  sad or put out about these losses.  I give the glory and credit to God for these feelings of peace.  
He gives and takes away.            

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"I see white people!"

Most of the time I like to plan out my blog posts and make sure that things look good, my grammar isn't too atrocious, and that I have good pictures.  Often I spend a good hour making sure that my post's are, well, cool.  It's sad but I will admit that sometimes I get a little wrapped in this whole blog thing.  So I'm a little insecure.  Let's move on.

I have prefaced this blog entry with the above disclaimer because I am sitting in Bourbon Coffee in downtown Kigali and I just want to share with you a few thoughts that are running through my mind.  So I will try to catch them for you, and we'll see if they make any sense.
I see white people.  Not only are they white people, but they are white people I don't know. Lots of them. Loud American ones.  Not the I know every Muzungu in Buj, but I at least recognize them. I'm a little overwhelmed right now.  

The coffee is really good.  I feel a little guilty as I feel I might be betraying my loyalty to Burundi.

I ordered in English. No pointing to the item on the menu.

I'm sitting in stylish chair. Chic.

The little cookie that came with my coffee was nice.

Nakumat is next door and it has plenty of nice things that I can't get in Burundi, but they are ridiculously expensive.  Do I really need them?

I am reminded of Kenya.  I should give Rwanda a chance, eh? 

Monday, October 20, 2008

On Lake Tanganyika and Cell Phones

Love the lake, love my phone, but they don't mix very well...

On Saturday I made the unfortunate mistake of diving into the lake with my cell phone in my pocket.  

"Oh don't worry, we've all done it.  Just take it apart and dry it out for a day and it should be fine." 

This might have been true if I had merely jumped into the lake and jumped back out.  A quick dip or sprinkling if you will.  But no, this instance just so happened to be a full immersion of a good 15 minutes till I realized with a sinking heart that my cell was in my pocket.  I could have left it in the lake I suppose, acknowledging the power of nature over technology, but I didn't.  I instead will lay it to rest in a box where I will salvage it for parts.

So what will I do now.  Well, I will buy another cell phone, and next time I am lured into the refreshing waters of Lake Tanganyika I will check my pockets.  Lesson learned, for now.

But lets take a moment to reflect on this.  I had a CELL PHONE in AFRICA.  This is not meant to be a condescending statement, but a simple statement of surprise at how Africa has changed in the past 4 years since I have been gone.  Everyone has a cell phone, maybe not credit to make calls, but a phone to receive them for sure.

I guess I'm just glad that I can bring the great American habit of never planning things before hand to Africa. *Sarcasm* 

"Yeah, lets hang out sometime this weekend!  Just call me, ok?!" 

"I missed your text! Sorry! Maybe next weekend?"

"Hey we are going to X place in 10 minutes, you in?!"

"Hey man, where is the party tonight?"

Ah, how communication has changed. 

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Cup o' tea please

Every day at the World Relief office at around 10am I am brought a thermos of piping hot tea.  Nido (Blog to come on this powdered milk product) and sugar are also provided.  My inner Kenyan adds a healthy amount of Nido and sugar so that my tea swirls into a creamy, sugary delight.  My thoughts regress to the days of RVA and chai time after chapel. 

"Now if only I had some chai treats to go with this..." 

Tea has been such a integral part of my African experience.  Britain did a great job of bringing this "culture" of tea drinking to Africa. I don't think I remember a single day in Zimbabwe when we didn't have a cup of tea and biscuits at around 4 o'clock!  Kenya never stood a chance, with influences coming from both Britain and India!  The latter we have to thank for masala chai!  In fact, most of the tea that Burundi exports goes to the docks of Mombasa where it is auctioned off weekly.

According to a recent Reuters article Burundi's tea exports have brought in over $11.6 million from January 2008 to September 2008! This is a huge increase from last year.  Tea is Burundi's second largest foreign hard currency earner after coffee and employs 300,000 small holder farmers.  The government would like to increase production and quality over the next year.  

My prayer is that the revenue from these exports will be used in ways that benefit the people of Burundi.  I am not much of an economist, but I think that having a economy that is based in just coffee and tea is not the safest.  Yes, I took two classes in economics, but we never talked about anything practical.  That would have been too easy, right? (note: tones of bitterness from college)
I wonder where my old chai mug went?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A thought on Prayer...

So here is a little observation that I have made in the past month that I have been in Burundi.

Burundians pray very long

Now, I have done absolutely no research on this or even asked why this is.  I simply have my observational skills to draw from, and my observation is all I really want to share.  

In addition to length and longevity, often these Burundian prayers seem also to be linguistically fluid.  I don't speak Kirundi, but it seems that these prayers are just jam packed with every word the prayer might know!  Word after word comes flowing forth in an undulating diction that falls somewhere between a song and a chant.  To my Kirundi-lacking ear, it is mesmerizing. 

"If my people pray..."

These Burundian prayers seem to fall in sharp contrast to the prayers I have observed that we Westerners pray.  We seem to pray shorter, more precise, and less fluid prayers.  Praises and requests are formulated in our minds before uttered in voice.  Aside from those who are indeed eloquent with words, often it seems our prayers can sometimes be less polished.

So there. Voila! My observation.  I would be interested in knowing the reasons for these differences, but honestly I don't think it really matters.  I don't think the Lord is concerned with longevity or preciseness of word.  He looks at the heart.  A sincere heart that desires to be in His presence and worship Him.  I think He delights both in our fragments of supplication or our well crafted psalms of praise! 

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Burundi is considered the "heart of Africa".  I am assuming this name has been given to Burundi due to the fact that its borders seem to trace the outline of an actual human heart.

As warm and fuzzy as that makes me feel, that I am living in the "heart"of Africa, I can't help but think, "Dang.  Thats a REALLY small heart for such a BIG continent". 

But if we continue in this allegorical way of thinking, I think its also rather ironic that this little heart-shaped country should also be world renowned for its drum troupes. A heart is only useful if it has beat. 

Since my arrival in Burundi a month ago, I was informed of the Royal Drummers of Burundi.  I am guessing they would be the elite percussion troupe, but around the city of Bujumbura I have seen various troupes practicing with much vigor and abandonment.  I was assured that I would see many performances before I left the country.  They were right.

I was invited to a dinner that was preceded by a drumming performance, and apparently the performances all tend to follow the same pattern.  The drummers entered with the large wood and hide drums balanced on their heads as they sang a vibrant song.  The baritone voices complimenting the deep throbbing of the drums.  The drum beats were so thunderous that I felt they might derail and reconfigure the rhythm of my own heart.  The drummers laid their drums down in a wide semi-circle with the main solo drum in the middle of the opening.  A series of dances, songs, and drum solos were played out to a continuous and  almost trance like drum beat.  I was hypnotized. 

A fellow missionary leaned over and translated a few of the words that they were singing...

"Glory be to God" 

"The Lord is strong and mighty"

We were worshiping the King of Kings!  Here was a tradition that was in the past meant to praise men and their achievements now restoring praise to the One who deserves ALL praise!  I could not help but praise the Lord for his gift of rhythm and song.  My anticipation for heaven was intensified and rejuvenated.  

"How beautiful is your creation oh Lord, and how even more beautiful when Your creation praises You, the Creator!"  

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Would you like a Fanta?

If I ever get the chance to meet the CEO or the marketing manager of The Coca-Cola Company

 I will probably say, “Wow, well done.”


In Burundi, when one visits another it has now become customary for the host to offer the visitor a “Fanta”. A “Fanta” simply refers to a carbonated bottled beverage of some type.  Your selection is usually between a Coke, Fanta Orange, or Fanta Citron.  All these products are created and delivered all over Burundi by the Coca-Cola Company in the capital Bujumbura. 

It blows my mind that the Coca Cola Company has managed to ingrain itself such into Burundian culture that it is now considered rude if you do not have Coca Cola products on hand to offer a guest at all times. A tall cold glass of good ‘ol H2O just doesn’t cut anymore.  Gimme a Coke! And please, if its warm, all the better!

I asked what was a customary guest beverage before the Coca Cola Company and the onset of Christianity.  A blank stare of confusion broke into a shy smile, "beer, I think" was the answer. 


(In other Burundian beverage news, I found out that the East African beer Primus is regionally owned by the Belgian beer giant, InBev.  The same company the bought out Budweiser earlier this year for some astronomical amount of money. They’re everywhere!)