Mega oooops! May appears to have disappeared along with two weeks of June. It took with it any vestige of decent Internet connection we had in Bujumbura. Since Easter the Internet here has been supremely frustrating. It has taken 10 minutes for me to get logged on as far as beginning to start writing this Blog. Already the red error message has flashed up three times, telling me the connection has been lost!!
This situation has at least provided me with a launch pad for the subject of this epistle. It is the acquisition of new skills whilst living in Burundi.
Life Skill Number 1: Multi-tasking whilst working on the Internet. To avoid tears of frustration and hair loss. I have had to develop a system whereby I have a range of activities happening whilst waiting for pages to load on the net. My computer has a small icon in the bottom right corner of the screen. It is two computer display screens ( one sits behind the other, slightly off-set). This icon has become an important part of my life. It's job is to show the 'situation' regarding the computer's connection to the World Wide Web. If the icon displays a globe it's good news, we are connected. If the globe disappears it's bad news. Then we are just connected 'Locally'. Local connection is a waste of space. It's not connection at all. It's pants, rubbish, useless and often brings tears to my eyes.
So the skill is, watching for the globe. When it appears, rapidly clicking refresh on all the pages trying to load and then hoping it stays long enough to complete the action. Alongside this, it is wise to have a game of Solitaire running. Plus an activity that does not require Internet access at all. I have to say though that icon watching is infinitely more preferable than, the other skill I have been developing lately. That of reading by candle light! Having power and intermittent connection will do me, when the option is often no power at all.
Life Skill Number 2 : Avoiding Splash-back when flushing the toilet. Most days the water goes off around mid-morning to return late afternoon. This situation requires the novel activity of flushing the toilet using a jug or bucket. My first few attempts ended in the slightly uncomfortable and unpleasant experience known as 'Soggy feet'. I spent some time trying to work out exactly which water had landed on my feet. My conclusions led me to the resolution that I would have to master the art of avoiding the said 'Splash-back'. So now I have it sussed. Stand with your feet placed as far away as your arm reach allows. Aim to send the water from the jug into the toilet in a smooth, steady action. Do not throw at too great a speed. Try to position the entry of the jug water to hit the front part of the toilet bowl. The really strategic thing is the positioning of the feet. It is imperative that they are placed as far from the toilet as is humanly possible.
Thus, I have not had to ponder again just what liquid is decorating my footwear, for some time now.
Life Skill Number 3 : Wall walking and plank balancing. Kinindo ( the residential quarter I live in) has been undergoing a programme of ' road renovation' for the past 10 months or so. This has involved an elaborate system of digging ditches, dumping rocks and sand, removing rocks and sand, filling holes, making holes, creating drainage ditches, destroying ditches, re-making ditches, removing sand and rocks, dumping sand and rocks. (yes I know I said that one!) But that's what it has been like. It is totally beyond rational, logical explanation, the system that has been applied to the process. Gradually, brand new cobble-stone roads are appearing. The affect of all this on me, has been the requirement to find ways around the road works, in order to find my way to school. Most of the roads first have a drainage ditch constructed along the edge. The walls of these ditches provide very useful walk ways when the road is covered with a mountain of rubble or a huge machine flattening or digging.
When I was young, I like most children had this magnetic desire to clamber on every wall possible and do a dare devil impression. I can still hear my mother's words ringing out, ' If you fall and hurt yourself, don't come crying to me.' 'Now look you've gone too high, what are you going to do now? I told not to go on there, but did you listen to me. No. ' ' Why can't you just walk along the pavement like everybody else?' and so on, and so forth. Now here I am, nearly 50 years later, in a 'wall walkers' paradise. Only one slight glitch. My body is no longer in 'wall walker' mode. My balance isn't quite what it was. The 5 kg of rucksac on my back, gives me a bit of jip. So as I totter along the walls, accompanied by sniggers from any Burundians viewing my antics, I try to imagine myself 6 years old again. Ready to scale any obstruction and dare to cross the thinnest of bridges. So far I have conquered every challenge put in my path. I am however, looking forward to a two month break back in safety obsessed Britain. Where I will have clearly marked pedestrian access past all obstacles I encounter on the road!
Life Skill Number 4: Avoiding throwing up when encountering Cockroaches in my coffee. Twice now I have experienced the somewhat disconcerting feeling of, 'there's a lump in my coffee'. The first time it was small and slightly squishy, behind my teeth. I managed to take it out of my mouth with my fingers. A brief glance at the contents of the fingers, revealed a large black ant. The black ant was deposited in the coffee mug and I managed to continue my conversation, without revealing the fact that internally I was screaming. 'Yuk, Yuk Yuk, arrrgggghhh, errrgggg, pththtpththtpththt.'
The second event was slightly more dramatic. I'd left a cup of black coffee on my desk at school. From which I was taking the occasional swig. All was going well, when I took a large swig, only to find my mouth almost filled with a large lump. This time no delicate removal with the fingers. I SPAT the lump back into my mug. It landed with a soggy plop on the side of the mug. It was enormous ( about 2 cm long). I did manage to contain my aarrrrggghhhh, eerrrhhhhh, ppthtptthhpptthppthth's mostly in my head. But then I spotted a student watching me avidly. So I showed him. The whole class the duly viewed the offender in my mug and sympathised with their own versions of aarrrrgggghh, eeeerrrhhh, ppttht's. The really terrible thing was, that when I returned to the mug later, just to check, in a sort of sadistic torture yourself way. The offender was regaining consciousness and struggling up the side of the mug. For that atrocity he found himself having a swimming lesson in the toilet bowl. Ha!
Life Skill Number 5: Remembering where you are when the lights go out! I'm sure you all think this is very straight forward, if you live in a country where power cuts are a rarity. I have now learnt the importance of making sure that as the sudden darkness engulfs you, the last thought you have is 'where am I?' Failure to actively locate oneself can result in some quite scary disorientation. I have been known to stand for a good 30 seconds, trying to remember precisely where I was, when the lights went out! A step in the wrong direction, or a swing of the arm, can be quite costly. If I am in my own home now and am plunged into blackness , I am proud of the fact that I can usually, within seconds, make my way to my bedroom, locate my wind-up torch and be back in the light, without any mishaps. If I am not in my own home, I have to say, my strategy is to stand/ sit still and wait for someone else to risk life and limb finding a light source.
Well I think that's about it. My second year in Burundi is drawing to a close. In two weeks time I will be flying back to England, itching to meet my new grandson, who was born last week. I'm gradually getting the hang of living in Central, East Africa and very much aware of the fact that I like it much more than living in not-so-sunny England. But I wouldn't give up my two months home, for anything. So long as, I don't actually swallow any cockroaches in my coffee, fall down a drainage ditch, slip on spillage from a toilet flushing or poke out an eye whilst groping in the dark, I think I'll be happy to stay in Burundi for the foreseeable future. Oh....... and so long as I don't spontaneously combust one day, when I'm getting hot and bothered waiting for the little globe to re-appear!
PS: After two frustrating failed attempts to attach photos to this Blog, I am admitting defeat and publishing pictureless. Sorry.
PPS: Well I will publish ......... when the stupid red message that says, 'An error occurred while trying to save or publish your post. Please try again. Dismiss' Naffs off, my screen!
PPPS: What is really annoying, is that the little globe is there! So somebody is lieing to me! If it's the little globe I shall be very disappointed indeed.
PPPPS: And I can't even press Dismiss. Because that does absolutely nothing useful at all. And I've tried again, lots of times and that doesn't work either.
PPPPPS : At least the globe has disappeared. But now it's back, so why doesn't the red message naff off as well? Aaaaaaaaaaaarrrggghhh!