Wednesday, 19 December 2012

No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.

Last month someone asked me if I had read the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency books. I of course replied in the negative, as my reading habits are somewhat limited to a certain genre of books. 
My idea of a good book, is one that involves at least one Dragon, generally some Elves or Goblins, and a character that is large, like an ogre.  They are set in mythical lands and usually involve the triumph of good over evil, with a bit of struggle in between. Titles generally include words like Saga or Dynasty or Chronicles or Legacy.
So, No 1 LDA didn't really sound like my cup of tea. But, oh how wrong I was. I love them. I'm on the third one now. Suffering badly with Kindle Shop Online Syndrome, I can't resist just pressing the button and buying the next book, as I finish the last page.
The books are great. They are set in Botswana. Which is not quite Burundi, but many things are very similar.

Sometimes at night when I sit with my two housemates, Mary (Kenyan) and Esther (Ugandan) I feel like I have drifted off and begun to live in one of the books. We sit and chat about life, men, marriage, work and the church. Drinking tea and eating bread and I'm there on Zebra Drive!

A recurring theme that  arises in the books is that of the ants in Africa. They eat everything. Mma Ramotswe is often lammenting thet fact that the ants destroy all the evidence she needs.  There is a string of tiny advent stocking hanging in a house not far from here, that remains 'sweetless' . I have heard a number of enquirers informed that this is not for lack of sweets in Burundi, but for the fact, that the only things who will get to eat the sweets will be the ants, not the children!
I had never realised that ants came in so many sizes until I moved here. There is an ant for every occasion, it seems. Tiny ones you can hardly see, up to great big ones that look like they could take a chunk out of your toe!

So it was with fascination that I took the two pictures below, of a squashed chip on the veranda. I was hoping to get a third picture.
But Deo, wouldn't let me keep the chip for another day, he cleaned it up! Even though in my best Kirundi I asked him not to! Well, I mimed sweeping up and said 'Oya, Oya.' Which means 'no, no'. But he just smiled and shook his head. I got the distinct impression that he thinks I'm a little soft in the head.

Day One: I think they are trying to move it!

                           Day 2: They gave up and just ate it.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Moto Madness!

When I arrived in Bujumbura nearly four months ago, one of the first things to assault my senses was the traffic on the roads. As we drove into the city from the airport, my travel weary brain struggled to cope with chaotic progress of the vehicles that occupied the tarmac (mud, sand, stones) It's hard to describe how different the atmosphere is on the roads here, compared to Hinckley (Leicestershire). One of the glaring contrasts, has to be the presence of Moto-taxis. These small motor bikes weave in out of the traffic, on and off the road, pipping their horns wildly at anything that gets in their way.
Not long after I arrived, I got these pictures of a Moto-taxi with passengers. Yes, 3 passengers, plus a suitcase!
I was convinced the lady and baby would fall off and get squashed under our car. But surprisingly, nothing of the sort happened. They just sped off through the traffic, all limbs intact.

 So, where is all this leading? Yesterday, I had my first ride on a Moto-taxi!
I have joked a few times about going on one, but never really seriously meant to do it.  Yesterday however, I really needed to get from A to B. The choice was a bus into town-walk round the market-bus out of town or a Moto.

Why not? I thought. All I've got to do is, get on and sit there. Everyone else does it, why shouldn't I? The Moto-taxi driver did look a tad amused, when flagged down by two muzungu's. Rachel negotiated a price for me. My language skills still not up to the job, sadly. The price was 1500 fbu (about 75p).
So on I jumped. Rachel, squealing something about, wishing she had a camera!! She didn't, fortunately. And off I went.

My suspicions rose a little, when a series of other Moto-taxi drivers manouvered their bikes next to us. Clearly, with the express purpose of 'having a good laugh' at the muzungu on a Moto-taxi!
Why do they find this such a novelty? I wondered. Is this very unsual?

There then followed a real battle inside my head. Mrs Health & Saftey raised her whittering voice. "Look at you sat on the back of a motor bike. Nothing covering your arms, nothing covering your legs and sandals on your feet. Your helmet is wobbling all over the place. You'll crack your skull open if you fall off."
"SHUT UP!" Wreckless Me, shouted back.
" If you fall off, you'll take all the skin off your arms and legs. You'll loose toes."
"Well, I'd better not fall off then, had I."

No sooner had Mrs Health & Safety finished. Than, Mrs Back Seat Driver piped up.  " He's going ever so fast. Watch out for that car it's slowing down. How's he going to stop, if he needs to? Oh dear we're coming up to a junction and he's not slowing down. Watch out for that lorry! "
Wreckless Me, decided it was best to stop trying to peer over his shoulder and do his job for him. Maybe I should just concentrate on relaxing and leaning with the bike, when we swerved in and out of the cars.

After what seemed like an eternity, of hurtling along a number of very fast roads, the Old Woman began to moan quietly. " My arms are aching, I don't think I can hold on for much longer. I'm 50 years old you know. Maybe I'm too old to be doing things like this."
Wreckless Me, became quite afronted at this point. " For goodness sake, all you've got to do is sit here. If you look at all the other Moto-taxi passengers, they don't appear to be clinging to their bikes, do they?" One lady passenger seemed to make quite a point of smiling sympathetically, whilst sitting with her arms folded in front of her. Doing a good impression of someone resting on their settee at home. It was all I could do not to poke my tongue out at her childishly.

The final leg of our journey took us up one of the bumpiest roads in Bujumbura. This apparently did not require any reducing of speed. It was just a case of weaving in and out of the ruts and bumps. We arrived outside the house, to deliver my final piece of entertainment. Both the house workers, sat on the wall, grinning from ear to ear! I decided to pay 2000fbu (almost a £1) out of sheer relief that I had arrived alive and well.

The strange thing is, that I think I will do it again. But just me next time! Mrs H & S, Mrs B-S-D and Old Woman are not invited.

Sunday, 9 December 2012


What's a Blozzle? It is a Blog, puzzle. I was sitting wondering how I could piece all the different bits and bobs I've got to Blog together, when it occured to me that it was like a jigsaw puzzle. So it has become a Blozzle. And I'll leave it you to put together.

Burundian Drummers at the Market - very loud!
Christmas Shopping in 26 degrees! It's very unusual for me to do any Christmas shopping at all. I can almost hear my youngest son, yelling in agreement. So you can imagine my sense of confusion, when I found myself Christmas shopping at the East African Market. The sun blazing, surrounded by dazzling colours and people of all nationalities. I find the African 'salesman/woman' quite a challenge to deal with. Being a very reluctant shopper, who in England chooses shops by my ability to remain annonymous but not over-crowded. Certainly never knowingly enter a shop where an assistant is likely to come up and say, 'can I help you madam?' My first trip to the market ended with zero purchases, as the pressure was all too much. And my brain shut down. I did however come away with a 'free gift' of pink soap-stone hippo. From a very astute sales woman, who spotted the potential weakness in me and realised that my claim to be returning at the weekend would be so much more likely if I felt obliged to her.
So three visits later, I have 5 pink hippos and an assortment of goods from Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and Zanzibar. One suitcase full and ready to go home for Christmas. I also have two pairs of leather flip flops, that I really didn't want, but got bamboozled by a very persistent Kenyan saleswoman! Should be good for cockroach swatting at least!

Dot - not sure that is how it is spelt, but that is how it is said by most. Dot. It is the pre-wedding dowry party. Happens the night before the wedding day and is the ceremonial agreeing of the dowry between the bride and groom's families. All the staff of King's School (Primary) were asked to go along to serve drinks and be part of the 'brides' party. This meant putting on a traditional costume, an invatanu. The children all find it highly amusing when a muzungu wears African dress. My appearance in my invatanu caused roaring laughter with the children who come for after school lessons to our house. They all assured me it wasn't because I looked ridiculous, it was just very funny!! Hmmm...... perhaps you can read my mind from the photograph?
I don't have a photo of me standing at the front of the bridal party, almost next to the bride! facing around a hundred Burundians. Trying desperately to follow the rhythm and words (Kirundi) of the songs we were singing to escort the bride into the Dot. I strongly suspect that I had my 'rabbit-in-headlights' face on.

Wildlife - I have a butterfly photo to add to my collection. A large grasshopper. A large caterpillar. I would have a live Chamelion. However, Mary my Kenyan housemate saw one in our own garden and decided not to tell me because she thought I might pick it up and bring it in the house. It appears that on the whole, Africans are terrified of chamelions. I have now promised that all I want to do is look and photograph. No touching. No befriending. No pets. So she has promised to tell me if she sees it again! I am also trying to persuade her that chamelions are not in fact deadly creatures, but she is not yet entirely convinced that I am telling the truth.

Sorry no large caterpillar, it wont download!

Family - as I have said before  the hardest part of being in Burundi has been leaving my family behind. It has meant missing out on a number of significant events. The most recent has been, my second son JohnAlex performing at the British Military Tournament at Earls Court. When the children were young a very good friend used to take us to see the Royal Tournament (as it was then) every year. It seems amazing to me that now years later, JohnAlex is there performing in it. So as an extremely proud mum I want to put a photo in of him and say I might not have been there in person, but it doesn't make me any less proud of him and his family. He's the one at the front, with the clubs. Very  kind of them to put him at the front for me. Do you think he said, 'please can I go at the front? My mum's in Africa and she wont be able to see otherwise.' Maybe not!

I could add Cabbage and cold showers to my Blozzle. But I have been trying so hard not to moan about such trifling things. I have been into the centre of Bujumbura a number of times lately, where there are so many people living in such extreme poverty. It seems so inappropriate for me to be unhappy about the food that is put on the table for me and the temperature of the water that comes out of the shower. I have in fact had a cold shower 4 days in a row. And peas are now coming a close second to being my least favourite vegetable in the whole wide world. Peas, swimming in a tomatoey, soupy liquid. But every time I'm tempted to feel sorry myself, I wonder how I would feel if there was nothing on offer!

On Thursday last week, I left the house in pouring rain, and heard footsteps behind me. I turned and there was a little boy of 5 or 6 walking barefoot in the rain. He had dirty rags for clothes and was soaked to the skin. He looked up at me and my heart melted.  I stretched out the umbrella and beckoned him to walk with me. We walked along in silence, as he looked too cold to talk and as usual I forgot all the Kirundi words I know. When we got close to the little shop on our road, I asked (mainly through sign language) him if he was hungry. Bit of a pointless question I know, it was pretty obvious what the answer would be. So I went in and bought him a bag of Burundian doughnuts. I know, not the most nutritious if you are starving. But all I could see that no one esle would steal off him. He had waited outside, I'm sure desperately hoping that I was going to come out with something for him. I gave him the bag of doughnuts and walked on to school.
Who am I to moan about cabbage for lunch more than once a week?

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

A Grand Day Out!

Today has been a 'Grand Day'.
Why?  Yesterday I completed my first term of After school Clubs, Burundi style. I think I was only about 2 weeks into the term when I realised I had potentially made a big mistake volunteering to start an English Club for Years 1 and 2. Basically, I had grossly under-estimated the difficulty of communicating with young children who don't speak English very well. I'm not sure how much English the children have learnt, but I have learnt a great deal about volunteering for After school clubs! Actually, yesterday I found  myself feeling really very proud of the English Club as they all worked together producing model cars. They have come along way from the first week, when it took us 10 minutes to sit down in a circle.
Reason 2: Two parcels of drinking chocolate have arrived. They weren't sent at the same time but the theory is, that they hold on to the post in Nairobi until there is enough to bother sending! Not sure if that is true. Anyway my drinking chocolate famine is over! I would just like the world to know that I have the kindest, most generous, gorgeous daughter on the planet. Thank you Libby, you're my favourite daughter.
So that is reason 2.
Reason 3 for it being a Grand Day. A very kind parent at school who owns a Restaurant, the Taj Mahal (Bujumbura) brought in lunch for all the staff. So we had a really good chicken biriyani and salad, instead of maize ugahli, beans and linga linga. Don't worry no food was wasted in the process of having this treat. We had a lunch date cancelled during the morning, so were potentially going to stretch lunch for two across four. But no need.........! I would highly recommend The Taj Mahal in Bujumbura, if you are ever passing this way. A visit has now become part of my 'things to do' list.
Reason 4. My language lessons have now reached the point where I have the capacity to say sentences like; The man has an ugly goat. or. My house is beautiful. or. The cows are short, fat and ugly. It's great. The only draw back is that it takes me five minutes to get all the words in the right order and decide which rules of adding prefixes to follow. But to quote a good friend, 'the world's my lobster !' now.

Reason 5. The weather today has gone a long way to making me feel like it might actually be December. I have had to put a t-shirt on rather than a vest top, it has been so cold. And the skies have been positively Anglican or is it Anglian or is it Angliful. Whatever, it's been just like home. But maybe not quite so cold. Still 23 degrees.
Nothing like classrooms without windows in this weather!!

Finally, the reason for the title, A Grand Day Out..... I recently introduced my American housemate to the joys of Wallace and Grommit. She had become a little bemused with my tendency to say ' Ah cheese Grommit,' when ever we treat ourselves to  a round of Burundi 'cheddar'! It's definitely not cheddar and actually it's not even Burundian, it's Congolese. They roll it across the border to enhance the flavour. But at the end of the day it's cheese and there is only so long you can go without having cheese Grommit! isn't there. So now we both flap our hands about and say ' How about a little bit of cheese Grommit.' (no crackers)

Monday, 26 November 2012

A Load off my Mind.......

So many things to tell but I'm struggling to fit them all together to form a coherent Blog. But here goes.......
Saturday I visited New Hope Orphanage, which sends 20 children to Kings School. New Hope is home for 62 children and 12 Mma's. All are victims of the ongoing violence in Congo. I wasn't sure what to expect from my visit. What I got was yet another mind-blowing experience. Women and children who have fled a war torn, poverty stricken country, to fragile safety of their neighbours. Burundi has so little offer, yet it offers sanctuary and relative security to refugees. The children of New Hope have next to nothing materially, but offered so much to us spiritually and emotionally. As I walked around their home, the poverty was so apparent, yet it seemed to have very little bearing on their attitude to life. Another humbling experience. More to mull over and think about, next time I'm whining about lunch being  rice and peas or ugali and cabbage!

The kitchens!

 Our gift to the children, Fanta and Cinnamon buns.

Living Room for twelve.
Just to make the situation completely mind boggling, I went straight from New Hope to one of the classiest Hotels by the lake (Club du Lac) and spent the afternoon, 'by the pool'. (actually playing Boggle at one point!
To complete my round of imcompatable events to fit in your head. The evening was spent  going to the movies!  Eating curry, watching The Princess Bride on a massive screen (wall) from a projector. Perhap the most incredible part of the evening was the fact that it was the first time I have ever seen The Princess Bride. There was a real sense of incredulity that someone of my age could possibly have never seen such an iconic film.............................. hmmmmmmm! I think I was a bit tied up having babies when it was released.
Moving on........ today, my big achievement. Posting a letter home. So why is this a big achievement? It means going on the bus into town. I'm actually getting pretty good at 'going on the bus' now. I hardly break out in a sweat or anything. I can even make my own mind up about where to sit. Having graduated from quivering heap, who had to be guided to the correct seat. And I don't even flinch if I land up almost on the next person's lap with a strangers arm wrapped around my shoulders. Still not sure I will ever be able to travel on the bus by myself. But time will tell. Back to the big achievement, part 2. Going into the Central market. I would so love to catch it on camera, but it would be desperately unwise and unfair for me to get a camera out in there. One of my biggest dreams is that someone will come from home and I can show them this place. It is packed with people, buying, selling, begging, mouching around. Every other person you pass makes some comment about the mzungus. Most people are just suprised to see white people in this place. Part 2 involves buying envelopes. This was done relatively simply, with very little negotiation as the price asked was not unreasonable. Part 3, walk to the Post Office, purchase stamps and post letter. Hardest part of part 3, applying liquid to the back of the stamps without using 'lick'. Basic rule:  Never ever 'lick' anything in Burundi, that has been touched by human hands.
You see the 'lick' problem. Just a few stamps to attach to the letter!
Having bused into town the decision was made to walk back home. Reward - my first view of the Weaver bird, nesting. Underneath the trees there were a number of old nests. So in true Primary school teacher style, Rachel and I both picked one up to take back to show the children in school. This seemed to cause great interest and amusement to all the groups of Burundians that we passed. Two mzungus, carrying birds nests down the road. It was beyond our language skills to understand what most of them were saying. But we clearly brought some joy to quite a number of people!

I am sooooo proud of this photo. Two Weaver birds at their nests. When I grow up, I'm going to be a photographer.
So finally, let me end with this thought. Burundi supplies me with a constant stream of challenges, privileges and awesome experiences to run through my head. But I think this guy has got a real load on his mind.......................!!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Count to Ten!

It's not what you think. No, I've not finally lost the plot and am taking time out to 'count to ten' before I say something very naughty.
Although, I have spent the evening with a house full of Americans!

For the first time in my 50 years of life, I celebrated Thanksgiving. In the middle of Africa, with Burundians,  a Ugandan, a Kenyan and lots of Americans. And I can honestly say it was really very enjoyable. No really, I can.
Not sure about the stuff Americans call gravy, and having fruit salad with my main course. But I did get my first taste of chicken in three months. Do you know what? tasted just like.....chicken! (Chicken = Turkey)
I'm counting to ten because, that is my homework assignment from Wednesday's Kirundi lesson. Learn the numbers 1 to 10. Homework is due in on Friday! It's taken me all day to even manage to remember number 1. Then I remember 1,2,3 but forget the rest. So focus on 7,8,9,10 and can't remember 5 and 6. My brain feels so old. I can't believe how quickly information falls out of it. I've barely finished putting the words in, when I discover they've slipped off the shelf and disappeared into a void.
At one point this evening I sat , holding all my fingers up in front of me, having named them all their Kirundi number name, desperately getting them to try a jog my memory, whilst a friendly American 'tested' my new found knowledge. Or should I say rapidly disappearing knowledge.
I can now count to 10, but have a big struggle remembering number 7 (indwi) .
Trouble is I've got to go to sleep. Goodness knows where the numbers will have gone inside my head by tomorrow morning. That's if they manage to stay in there and not get dribbled out onto my pillow during the night!
Now because it's Thanksgiving what I should be saying is, 'Thank you God for the incredible privilege of living in a new country, encountering new cultures, making new friends and learning a new language (and please stick the Kirundi numbers on the shelf in my brain).'

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Veranda Safari

It's Saturday. I have spent the day on the veranda!
Life has turned so far round for me, that these days I find the weekends the hardest part of my week. Gone is that yearning I used to have for the 'weekend' to arrive. Now I find myself looking forward to Monday morning!
The hardest part of moving from England to Burundi has not in fact been the food, or the unwanted wildlife or the isolation of being unable to speak the language. It has been leaving my family behind.
This Saturday has been especially difficult as yesterday I missed my son's (JohnAlex) Passing Out Parade. After 26 gruelling weeks of training he is now a Navy PTI (Physical Training Instructor). Being a proud mum 100's of miles away is a bit hard.
So back to Saturday. A day that was threatening to eat me up with misery and self-pity. I have been 'blessed' with some great distractions on the veranda. I am a woman of routine. One of my 'routines' is to come out onto the veranda every morning to have breakfast. Obviously on week days, I leave the veranda and go to school. But Saturdays if there is nothing else to do, I seem to stay here all day!
First thing I find this morning, is some grasshopper carnage.
These appendages were actually spread further, but for better visual effect on the camera I had to move them. It brought to mind an incident from the day before. Elijah, no not the biblical one who was taken into heaven. Elijah from Year 6, Kings School, brought in this lovely grasshopper for me to see. I think because he has become accustomed to my strange desire to photograph all things creeping and crawling. I grab my camera and 'shoot'. "You're not holding it too tightly, are you." I ask Elijah. He looks a little sheepish. "We don't want it to die." Elijah's sheep impression becomes even more pronouced. I look a little closer at the grass hopper. There is something not quite right about it. Elijah then confesses, that he and an accomplice have in fact already pulled off it's back legs! I thought I might burst into tears. I think Elijah thought I was going burst into tears. He was starting to bleat. I marched Elijah off, grasshopper in hand to confront the accomplice and deliver an I-don't-care-what-you-usually-do-in-Burundi-that-is not-acceptable speech. Maybe I was wrong to, but it seems to me to be universally cruel, to pull legs off living creatures. Now electrocuting cockroaches, that's a different matter entirely, of course!!
Back to Saturday. So I'm faced with more legless grasshoppers, when I turn and discover a fully limbed, living grasshopper on the door to the veranda. Click. Next discovery, a 5inch Praying Mantis on the other door. Click. Click. ....Click ......Oh joy for digital cameras!
Finally, a glance at the ceiling reveals a large dragonfly, sheltering from the rain.
On a slightly more ominous note, the ceiling also revealed a tiny but very dangerous insect. A Nairobi fly. These little black and red flies are full of acid. Many of the African children have quite serious scars, where they have swiped one off their skin, only to squash it and have the acid burn them. Stepping on them with bare feet, is not recommended either.
Back to Saturday. The rest of my day has been punctuated by little safaris from the veranda around the garden and back again. The day has trickled by, and I've seen more new sights and continued to experience the awe of God's creation. I've faced my giant, Homesickness, but I think I won. Thank you God, for a Praying Mantis!

 Photos all taken on my garden safaris. Full album on FB as it takes ages to download on here (sorry to non-FB users)

Friday, 16 November 2012

Culinary delights!

I know I go on about food a lot, but it is amazing how important it becomes when you undertake a 'change' in life such as I have.
Oh how true the saying is, ' pride comes before a fall.' Here am I congratulating myself on how well I have managed to adapt to the cuisine in Burundi (apart from tomatoes). When today I met my match. Today's lunch was by far my lowest edible point of my time here. Today we had a favourite dish of the Kenyan and Ugandan residents of the house. Oooops!
 It was maize ughali with sukuma wiki with very chewy beef in gravy. Sukuma wiki is extremely green and unlike linga linga, very flavoursome. Unfortunately the flavour is exactly what you would expect something so GREEN to taste of - greeeeeeeen! Nasty! Now linga linga is also green but relatively tasteless. So I have been coping with the odd helping of linga linga. But sukuma wiki is off the richter scale of nasty green tasting vegetable. I couldn't even finish it.
It was all a bit unfortunate, as the table was  radically split over opinions regarding the green stuff. Uganda & Kenya loved it, Britain and USA hated it.

Dark green stuff, sukuma wiki. Light green stuff avocado pear. Burundian avocado pears are really good. I had thought I didn't like them, until I ate them here. Maize ughali, is like the heaviest lump of Asda Smart Price powered mashed potato, but with all flavour extracted. It tastes like it looks.
Yes, the Africans do find find my mush-it-all-up philosophy of eating a little strange. It's often the only way I can cope with either the lack of flavour or the nastiness of the flavour.
Top of my Culinary Delights list, for my return to England for Christmas is......... A Fish Finger Sandwich! With white bread, butter and vinegar. Hmmmmm.
Just wondering if there are any parcels of drinking chocolate sachets on the way? I've been without hot chocolate for nearly 10 days now.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Learning the Lingo!

Got that terrible 'self-righteous' glow that only the English get when we start to learn a new language! I have just completed my first official 'lesson' in Kirundi. 1 and half hours of repeat-after -me. A very popular Kirundi sound 'mwa' as in moi (French) I seem to be struggling with that. I'm sure very many of you are thinking up very witty suggestions regarding kissing and practice! But I'm not going there!
 Ever since I have moved to Burundi I have been constantly aware of my language deprivation. It's nothing new to point out how very limited  my language skills are, because I am English.
 At school I dabbled in German and French. It would be a gross misrepresentation to use the word 'learnt' about my language studies. Although in the past weeks I have discovered that my understanding of french does actually extend beyond the phrase , 'ferme la bouche'.

 But like many English speakers I have so rarely been faced with the need to know another language,  I have never really bothered to pay any attention to my dwindling language skills.
I have developed an increasing admiration of my students, many of whom speak at least two languages and often 3 or 4. Some speak French to Dad, Kirundi to Mum and English in school. I have children who speak Swedish, Flemish or Swahili at home, but then come into school and speak, read and write English!!
 Home languages: Gujarati, Arabic, Swedish ( the one in the black jumper)Kirundi (far right)
and a couple of English speakers! 

One of the most inspiring motivations I have come across has been the fact that Burundians do not expect the 'mzungu' (white people) to bother to learn their language. They are incredibly appreciative when people do. Well, that's what my teacher said, when I told him that mostly when I try to use any Kirundi all the Burundians fall about laughing!! He said they are not laughing at you, they are just so pleased to hear you trying. I believe him, he's a very nice man.

Just one problem with my teacher, his name is Deo. Why is that a problem? Well, our cook is also called Deo. Why is that a problem? Well, it's taken me three weeks to stop bursting into song everytime some one says the cook's name. I find my self singing... 'Deo, Deeeo, daylight come and me wan go home.............................etc, etc'. I don't sing etc, etc, I generally drift off into some random memory of the rest of song, something along the lines of six foot, seven foot and bananas.
 I know, not desperately mature of me. Now I've got two Deo's in my life, it's really very difficult not to go as far as Googling the words of the song, to check what the rest of them really are!

So I'll close with one of my newly learnt Kirundi phrases, (spelt phonetically) umugoroba mweza. It means, good evening.
 When I say 'learnt', I mean it's written in my book. Can't actually remember it once I close the book! Darn it!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

It's Over !

It lasted less than a week. It wasn't sweet. It was intense and stressful. And the relationship is over. Bathroom Buddy, blew it big time!
Not only did BB leave the bathroom. BB decided to appear in the bedroom whilst I was Skyping, sitting bare foot no more than 50cm away. I have to apologise to anyone who felt any admiration for my cockroach benevolence, because I lost it. I jumped on the chair, and screamed like a big girl. It was horrible. Then to add insult to injury, BB had the audacity to disappear under my bed!! That was so out of order.
My house mate appeared, having heard all the shouting and squealing, brandishing a broom. But BB was nowhere to be seen. It must have returned to the bathroom she declared. I was not so sure, I had been watching carefully. BB was definitely last seen heading off under my bed and had not returned.

However, investigation in the bathroom, revealed BB innocently sitting on the side of the bath.
Hmmmm. I had said there would be no grace extended to rule breakers.
I returned to my Skype conversation. But this time within the safe confines of the mosquito net. Lo and behold 10 minutes later, BB appears from under the bed, heading towards the bathroom.
Very suspicious if you ask me.
Skype conversation ended, I enter the bathroom. No BB on the edge the bath. At this point having been on Skype for 65mins I am needless to say somewhat desperate to avail myself of the bathroom facilities. Something to my left catches my eye. There on the floor is BB floundering on it's back. Dead?

  I approach. Squeal. Very nearly wet myself. NOT dead!! Moving frantically trying to get right side up. (BB not me) I jump back. Something catches my eye. Up on the wall another BB crawling above my head!! Mega squeal. So, so, so close to a bladder mishap.
BB has a doppelganger.
My one and only act of bravery and desperation, I take measures to avoid the impending accidental release of body waste. Watching both BB's very carefully.
It's timefor the electric tennis racket. BB1 appears relatively safe on it's back. But BB2 needs dealing with. Stressful 5 mins, as it becomes apparent that tennis racket is not powerful enough to kill BB2 ( who may I say, never achieved Buddy status actually) Finally, BB2 is subdued, smelling slightly bad, not dead, but lying in the plug hole, incapacitated. BB2 is placed in a plastic container, just in case.
So what to do with BB1. Closer investigation (and squealing) reveals BB1 is very much alive, but unable to turn over, until prodded. Second plastic container needed. BB1 reluctantly enters the container, with the help of a 50th birthday card. Knew they'd come in useful for something. For any insect lovers, I'd like to point out that BB2, sustained no injuries caused by myself.
So that's it, no more Bathroom Buddies. It's over. Finished. I was decieved. Never again will I trust a cockroach. It's official, I hate cockroaches and I will scream like a girl when I see one.
(And you can stop thinking about how many more of them are living under the bath, because tomorrow I'm getting some tape and sealing up the hole!)

BB1                             BB2
or maybe
BB2                             BB1
One was a doppelganger after all. It's hard to tell, which one is which.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

I'm a Burundian.

It's Official. I have achieved the status of Burundian. How? Let me tell you. Only those of you reading who know me well, will truly understand the significance and humour of this tale. But hopefully even those who don't can get some idea of the situation.
I have had to take a day to think this through because I want to communicate the humour without any element of ridicule or disrespect, for the people involved.
It was Thursday and I was again enjoying respite from Cabbage for lunch, having been invited to my fellow Year 6 teacher's house for lunch. I love to go there because she lives in a different area of Bujumbura and is a genuine 100% Burundian. She has two children age 4 and 2 who remind me so much of my grandchildren. It's great to sit and play with them, they gabble away to me in a jumble of Kirundi and English.
So we have finished a good lunch of spaghetti, french beans, carrots, matoke and beef. My friend's husband goes and stretches out on the settee and watches football on TV.( some things know no cultural boundaries!) I sit at the table, on reflection obviously looking a little weary.
'Do you take a nap in the afternoon?' asks my friend.
'Yes, sometimes.'
Afternoon naps, are a big thing in Burundian culture. Life tends to grind to halt between 2pm and 3pm, while everyone finds a place to doze.
My friend disappears down the corridor, leaving me sat at the table. I'm not too sure what to do now. Has she gone to have a nap? I move to sit on an armchair. Maybe I'll just relax a bit here.
Friend appears. 'Come,' she says. Beckoning me down the corridor. I'm a little puzzled. Well actually, I'm swinging from puzzled to almost horrified, at the thought of what might be about to happen. Maybe she is going to tell me to lie down somewhere to have a nap. Which would be a bit outside my comfort zone, big time. I don't really 'do' having a nap in someone else's house.
'Come,' she says again. I am probably moving somewhat reluctanly. We stand in what is clearly her and her husbands bedroom. I am overwhelmed with confusion and horror at what I'm meant to do. My face obviously betrays me.
'You don't know what to do now, do you?' she chuckles kindly to me. 'Come.We lie down, we have a nap.'
And that is just what we did. My English hypersensitive reservations and inhibitions were gently swept aside, by the friendly, practical no nonsense, Burundian culture. We needed a nap. There was only one bed (considerably more comfortable than my own bed, I must say). We are friends. We have a nap!
Just to give those of you who know me well an even bigger laugh. You can imagine my horror, when my friend informed me, that I couldn't lie down in my dress. It would get creased. Just take it off and put on this wrap.Like this she says.  I have to admit to whimpering a bit that point. Something along the lines of, I don't really do changing in front of people. But again, the pure, sense of the situation won over.
It stunned me, how conditioned I am to see something 'bad' or 'weird' in such a situation. How ridiculous, my 'horror' was and how inappropriate. Here was an extremely kind, gentle woman openning her home to me and I was responding as if she was doing something strange and wrong.
In Burundi, men hold hands with men, women hold hands with women, if you want to hug someone you do. If you need to sit close on the bus, you do.
In Burundi there is no such thing as personal space. There is no need for it. It's not practical. My very solid 'bubble' that I have developed over the past 50 years has never experienced such a consistent battering.
How amusing that God chose Burundi for me?
As I left my friend's house, she said to me, 'you are a Burundian now!'
 And do you know what, I'm really proud of the fact.

Finally, let me introduce you to my new 'Bathroom Buddy'. (Yes, all is not absolutely primitive here, I have an ensuite bathroom!)
For those of you who have been following my progress since the beginning you will know that this is quite a significant step forward for me.
We met (me and Bathroom Buddy) last Wednesday. It was about 9pm, and I dashed into the bathroom, as you do and seated myself down. And there it was. Having committed myself to my course of action, I was forced to face the intruder. As I sat and contemplated what to do next. I decided it was time for me to learn to deal with things myself. No screaming, no breaking out in a sweat. Stay calm. It's an insect. It looks large (about 4cm long), but is considerably smaller than you.  So I thought, when I'm finished here, I will go and make some hot chocolate (by the way, you can't get hot chocolate in Burundi, so if you want to send me some. c/o The King's School BP 1560, Bujumbura, Burundi. it would be gladly, recieved) Back to the subject in hand. I made the hot chocolate, got the electric tennis racket we have for bug zapping and went back to face my foe. I have to say, at this point, Bathroom Buddy, had not actually achieved Buddy status in my head. Elimination was my intended action. Full of new found courage, I boldly stepped into the bathroom, only to discover, it was gone!! Where?! Into the bedroom?! Into my bed?! I was rapidly achieving trembling heap status.
A search releaved no sign of the intruder. However, I did notice the large gap in the tiles under the bath and wondered perhaps......... cockroaches like dark, damp places........perhaps it has gone there.
I shut the bathroom door tightly and went to bed (a thoroughly searched bed, I might add)
Thursday night, I gingerly open the bathroom door and there it was! This was this point I began to think, maybe we can be Buddies.
So I set out some rules for using the bathroom.
1, Absolutely no flying. On no account should Bathroom Buddy take-off and cruise around the room.
2, No buddies of Buddy to be brought into the room.
3, Bathroom Buddy should return under bath as quickly as possible when I arrive to use the bathroom.
4, The edge of the bath will be the safest place for BB to stay. Come out, have a look around, go back under, job done.

If Bathroom Buddy can adhere to the above rules, we will live in relative peace and harmony. Should BB choose to break any one of the rules, BB will risk immeadiate, extermination by electrocution. (Squashing would be far too messy and traumatic for me and I don't own any flip flops) These rules of course apply only to BB, and cannot be reversed to apply to myself. I remain free to walk, fly and move around the bathroom as I wish. No risk of extermination!
I might also add, that if I see any duck tape whilst out shopping, I might well resort to confining BB to the under bath area. I'm not entirely convinced that BB actually understands the rules, so may not adhere to them very closely!
Our friendship is not deep enough for me to extend any grace or second chances.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Cold Showers and Cabbage!

One week into my new home and the theme of life seemed to have become centred around cold showers and cabbage. New routines have meant I am no longer 'in charge' of the hot water switch. For the first few days I felt I showed a valiant tolerance towards the fact that there never seemed to be any hot water when I showered. My poor language skills mean I have to rely on others to communicate my needs to the house workers. Unfortunately, house mate delgated with said job, 'forgot'! Arrrrggg! On the food front very little has changed as regards control. I never knew what was coming for meals in the old house. In the new house I have equally little say. However, I am beginning to realise that was is coming for lunch is not going to be a big surprise most days. It will be Beans, rice and cabbage.
 In England I don't eat cabbage. But under my self imposed 'Rules for Living in Burundi' I am not allowed to say, ' Idon't eat.....' ( Well with one exception - I don't eat whole tomatoes or tomato soup- that would just be above and beyond all reason) Thus I have diligently eaten cabbage for 5 days in a row!!
Tuesday saw my resolve wearing extremely thin. 5:30 am cold shower, lunch the usual. Thus, I announced that Wednesday would need to be differnet. I could do one or the other but not both.
Imagine my joy when I had a warm (not hot) shower. Then to make the day absolutely complete, I went out for lunch and had meat balls with chips!
Perhaps even better was the company. Lunch with 10 children and 4 adults. Relaxing in a family home. Two dogs, one puppy!
Angel, Chris and Enoch (left)Andy (right)
Watching  Barbie on the laptop due to an unscheduled power cut!
The view from the balcony, over Bujumbura, across Lake Tanganika and into the Congo mountains!
Who cares about cold showers and cabbage when I have the priviledge of spending time with amazing people, looking at such incredible views?

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Bats and Butterflies!

It's the end of half-term, I'm looking forward to getting back to school! Yes that is really true (all you Uk teachers who are choking). Before you say, anything about being lucky, there are plenty of openings for teachers here if you want to take the plunge!

Some of my half-term high spots. A visit to the bat trees. Bujumbura has a huge colony of large fruit bats, that fly over the city at dusk. They spend the day roosting in a set of trees in the city. It was a bit of a challenge getting photographs, as there are a lot of street boys in the area. It is not really good making it known that you are carrying a camera. It's mainly just a case of being careful and watchful. But I think you'll agree it was worth it. It's such a shameyou can't hear the sound that engulfed the trees.

This week has been the first time I have spent any time out in the sun. I have walked for miles around the city and suburbs. It is full of amazing contrasts. One minute you can be walking along a muddy, rutted track, with goats feeding at the edges, the next you are on a brand new tarmac dual carriage way. I often find myself with a surreal feeling, it's November and I'm walking along watching dragon flies and butterflies swarm around me, getting sun burnt!
Another high spot was a visit to Bujumbura's one and only Ice cream parlour. I had a Chocolate Mountain, it was great. I've also had two vanilla milkshakes at the Cyber Cafe we were using this week, whilst the internet was being sorted in the new house.

I have discovered that every room in the new house has it's own resident gecko. It's sometimes odd to sit and see the sudden movement on the wall of a gecko creeping around. It keeps the flies down, but they are not very particular about where they poo!

Finally, to add to the joy of breakfasting on the veranda, I discovered a 'new' insect to me. I was busy decribing it to a friend. Saying, 'it had this triangular head, a longish body, and these front legs that kind of swept the ground in front it, it looked a bit like a tiny Praying Mantis. What do you think it was?'
Friend answers, 'A Praying mantis!!!'

Wow, I eat breakfast with a bunch of tiny Praying Mantis'sss!