Sunday, 28 April 2013

Monitor Lizard For Tea!

Where did April go? Who stole April? Are yes, I remember was my stomach!

The theme of the month seems to boil down to 'tummy troubles'. Every time I thought things were better - they weren't. Nothing terrible, just not right.

It all ended with a 3 day toast fast, topped off by a meal of Monitor Lizard. Guess what? Monitor lizard tastes and looks just like 'chicken'. My reminiscences of Terry Wogan fell totally flat. Two of the dinner guests were too young to appreciate his wit and charm. The other was Canadian!
Spot the little lizard foot. (Look away if you are a vegetarian)
When I say it looks like chicken. That is only the individual mouthfuls of meat. The actual pot of stewed lizard looked significantly more disgusting than any chicken I have ever seen. The worst bit was the little lizard feet that poked up out of the gravy. Vegetarians nightmare!
 One of my 'Principles of Eating Meat', is that it does not look remotely like it did when it was alive. The only exception to that rule is Seafood. Although, I do struggle a little with staring into the face of a dead prawn!
Unfortunately, monitor lizard stew was a little too close for comfort. When the provider of the meal announced that we could see the photos of it, before it was dispatched, there was vehement rejection of the offer. Maybe afterwards, she proposed. Maybe. Maybe not! Needless to say, consuming Monitor lizard for tea or any other meal, is going onto the 'Once in a Lifetime' list of experiences to be had by Me.
My stomach strangely didn't rebel too much with the offering. I think the 3 days of toast had taught it a bit of lesson.
However, my stomach did react very strongly when I offered it 2 week old chicken curry. Well it was it's own fault. It's messing around meant I'd lost a week in my thinking. I thought the curry was only one week old. It only smelt a week old! It tasted fine! didn't stay long in the system.

There has actually been more to my life than the rumblings of my errant stomach. I've had the joy of bonding with a new set of Johnson puppies. There we all were, two 5 year olds, a 6 year old and me, cuddling puppies. And who is it that drops one? Me!
 Well, I'd found a flea and was determinedly squishing it between my finger nails! Unfortunately, I failed to notice the 3 week old puppy wobble off the edge of my lap. Donk! What a noise it let out. Was I embarrassed? Yes. Puppy had to be removed from Mrs Liz's dubious care, by a more responsible 5 year old.
The other great thing about my weekly trip to the Johnson's (well apart from the food, frappachinos and family) is that I have been getting a weekly trip on the back of a motorcycle. This week when I got off at home, I could stand up and my legs didn't ache. Because this week I hadn't been holding on tightly with every muscle possible. My fingers were a little cramped from gripping the rear hold-on thingies. I'm still not able to fold my arms and look nonchalant, like most of the Burundian women we pass. But I'm working on that!

I am beginning to notice a very small improvement in my understanding of Kirundi. Whilst at lunch with a colleague, I heard her 4 year old daughter say something to her that I actually recognised. It was something along the lines of, 'Mama, uru musi, hari abazungu benshi mwishuri.'
After a bit of a ponder, I got it sussed. 'Mum there were lots of white people in school today!' Oh joy, I understood something.
 I also sorted another issue I've been having. The word for dog is imbga. No problem, I hear you say. Well, I always want to insert a bit of a 'ber' into my 'bg'. So when I want to say dog, I often find myself saying something that sounds like 'imberga'. So as we sat eating lunch, the children ate theirs on the kitchen floor
(on their,

ikirago (mat)). For just a minute I wondered why my friend was urging her children to eat their 'dogs'.
 Then I remembered that the word, imboga, means vegetable. Imbga v Imboga, a small but important difference!
I'm at that age where I am easily confused. Igihoko - does it mean wild animal or big chicken?! Agahoko - insect or small chicken?! My confusion knows no bounds some days.

Me in the process of making peace with my 'dropped' puppy!

View across the lake to the Mountains of Congo. Still takes my breath away.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Easter Holidays

As my first real 'holiday' here comes to a close. I feel like I am a real tourist. I have a savage case of Burundi Belly, probably as a result of swimming in the lake on Thursday. It's amazing how easily constant trips to the little room put your mind off authorship of a Blog!
 But, I am going to persevere, as I have very little else that is within safe reach for my dicky tummy.

My holiday started with a visit from an old friend from England. It is the friendship that is old, not the friend. Well, I say that but maybe some would disagree. As this is the year of her 50th birthday, she had decided to undertake the new 'trend' for celebrating her half century, by doing 50 new things in the year. Visiting Burundi was one of the more exotic things on her list. Visiting every Coffee shop in Peterborough, one of the less exotic items! (Residents of Peterborough might disagree with that sentiment)
Rachel (friend) arrived looking every bit like a colonial explorer! Those of us meeting her at the airport, forced into a beige vs khaki debate. Involving deep questions along the lines of, 'What colour is beige then?' and 'What's the difference between beige and cream?' The consensus of opinion concluding that she was in fact wearing a very fetching khaki outfit. Complete with multiple pockets storing all sorts of wonderful things.
Desperate way for Peterborough United to get new supporters!!
Our first holiday activity was to visit the CRIB house to deliver just over 40 football and basket ball shirts to the young people there. The shirts had all been very kindly donated by friends and pupils of Rachel's school in Peterborough. It was as usual, a humbling experience to observe the genuine gratitude for such simple gifts.
Rachel also encountered the CRIB inquisition syndrome, like many explorers before her. 'Why have you got grey hair?' ' Have you got grandchildren?' 'Why not?' How come you are old but have three earrings in each ear?' 'How old are you then?' ' How long are you here for?' 'Are you coming back tomorrow?' 'How long have you known Mrs Liz?' 'How come she has grandchildren and you don't?' ..........................................and so on and so forth!
A high spot for me was to be able to give Elijah, aka David Beckham, a new pair of Man U shorts. Teaching  Elijah over the past two terms has been such a privilege and delight.
If only he supported Arsenal, things would be perfect!!

Other holiday activities included, much walking, visiting a variety of lakeside establishments to try and see hippos.  One such visit was intended to be a 'coffee' stop, before going on to a lunch engagement at 1pm. Thus, we ordered a drink and as we were feeling just a little peckish, without consulting the menu, I ordered, croissants. Now my french is not good. But croissant is not really a proper french word is it? As in, it is part of the English language now, as the name of a small bread-type roll we like to eat as a snack. So I am positive I said quite clearly 'croissant'. Yes, the waiter replies, would that be just croissant? Yes, just croissant. No, fries. No, just croissant. Then came a word that should have set my alarm bells ringing, and it almost did. 'Mukeke'. It's a word I've heard before, and it did ring little bells. For some reason I didn't even question it too much when the waiter returned again to check we didn't want fries with our croissant. After the usual long wait for food our croissants arrived.

Not a croissant in sight, just a lovely Poisson! In fact a Mukeke Poisson! With fries, despite the fact we said 'no' to them on both occasions we were asked if we wanted them! Not sure if it was really a case of croissant mis-interpretation or just the waiter having a good joke at our expense!
We didn't bother to complain, we just got on and ate it.  But it did make the lunch engagement just a little harder work! And to make it all worse there was not a HIPPO in sight either!

On Wednesday, my holiday programme involved a substantial walk to a regular haunt of mine, 'the Johnsons'. I wanted Rachel to meet the family and thought as we were on 'holiday' it would be good to decline the offer of a lift and go by foot. There had been a few raised eye-brows when I had told friends this was my intention. But nothing that caused me to review the plan. Thus we set out. Visited King's School on the way and continued our hike. The sun was shinning overhead, but fortunately there was a slight breeze. I had forgotten to mention that it would be a steady uphill climb all the way. We were approaching about half way when a slightly pathetic voice enquired, 'is it much further?'  I cleverly avoided answering the slightly awkward question by suggesting we stop at the shop we were in sight of. 'Yes, that would be good.'
At this point I discover that Rachel is about to pass out from the heat and is struggling to put one front of the other! Full credit to her though, once she was revived with some water and peanuts, she gamely carried on and made it to our destination. She was however, adamant that we would under no circumstances be walking back! After that she questioned carefully all walking plans.
 Finally, towards the end of the week I discovered one of Rachels 'preferred' holiday activities. We were sitting by the pool at Club du Lac, reading books and sun bathing. I said, 'this is good, but you couldn't do it every day, could you?' There followed a long silence...................' well yes, normally I would spend part of every day by the pool.'  Ah! well that explains a lot. My new career as holiday guide in Burundi off to a pretty bad start. I only managed 2 out of 9 days by the pool! Ooops.
But they were good days. The second was at Bora Bora club. Which is the club that features in the film Africa United.

After getting off to a somewhat slow startwith the hippo hunting, this gathered momentum and in the end we were able to see a number of hippos in and out of the water. My prowess as a photographer suffered as I managed to run out of battery for the first encounter. It's really not nice having to borrow a little digital box in such situations.
Although this has been a holiday, because it is in Burundi it has been a holiday with a difference! Here there is no way it can be just about sunbathing and relaxing. On Friday we visited New Hope Orphanage with again just simple gifts of football kits, colouring books and crayons and football cards. Burnley United now have a few more supporters which can't be bad thing! Again it was so humbling to see the happiness and gratitude of children and teenagers. To quote one of the adults who has known them since they arrived in Burundi, ' some of these children were found playing in the blood of their dead parents.' They have survived horrors that are hard for me to even imagine. Yet, when we arrive they are happy to sing for us and grateful for the small gifts we bring.
I know my first bout of 'Holiday hosting' wasn't 100% successful, but if you want to venture out to Burundi let me know! I'm sure I can improve.