Sunday, 20 September 2015

I'm BACK !

Little did I know, when I composed my last Blog in February, that I was in no way on the road to recovery! I was in fact on a road that led to further sickness and ultimately to the surgeon's knife.
So now in some ways there is less of me, but in other ways there is more.
I am having to get used to the Burundian compliment that runs along the lines of , ' Mrs Liz, you look good, you look well.' at which point I say, STOP! don't say the next sentence. But they always do.
 ' You look fat!' I know they mean well. But it is so hard to take that as a compliment!

So yes, I am back in Burundi, after an absence of 5 months. I had to leave at the end of March and face major surgery. I was an extremely unhappy, miserable, sulky bunny. You really didn't want to read any Blog I might have written at that time.
One of my biggest achievements during that time was the knitting of small cardigans. Despite much encouragement to branch out and knit a variety of articles, I persisted in knitting the same cardigan over and over again. It gave me a kind of anchor in a life that otherwise felt like I was floating in limbo. To date I have produced 30 cardigans. I am still in possession of 28, as I am struggling with the concept of giving away. I like counting them, arranging them in various colour orders, and so on and so forth. I know. I can be very sad sometimes.
Another achievement was the watching of the whole 10 Seasons of Stargate SG1 and 5 Seasons of Fringe. Probably not really something that can be classed as an achievement, but I managed it. It did mean that there were points during March and April, where I struggled to hold on to reality. I started expecting aliens to appear in front of me at any minute. Worried that I might not actually be me, I might be myself from an alternate universe!

But here I am back in Burundi. Things have changed here in many ways, both personally and nationally. I will stick to commenting on the personal rather than the national!
I left in March a very frustrated and disappointed Year 6 teacher. Absolutely devastated that I wouldn't be able to finish the year with my class. Sadly, the school had to close not many weeks later. So ultimately I only missed two weeks of school. Lots of sad bunnies around at that time.
September finds me in a new role at The King's School. I am now the Head Teacher of the Primary school! How grown up do I have to be now?! Some days I have to pinch myself to check it's still me in my body. Some days I wonder if I have in fact accidentally walked into an alternate universe.

So far the experience has been positive. My office is situated next to Pre-school classroom. Pre-schoolers are little ones who have had their third birthday. They seem far too tiny to be in school. I've had some special times trying to placate bawling ankle-biters. One little man whose only language is chinese, spent a long time earnestly whispering in my ear and sobbing. He clearly believed I understood chinese fluently, as I nodded sagely and I kept telling him 'Mama is coming later.'
I stand in awe of these children who come to a new school and have to learn in a completely new language. I found school utterly confusing when I was 5. I distincly remember on my

Winner's first day in Nursery (Yes, his name is Winner!)
first day at school, the teacher asked , everybody to stand up. I wondered who Everybody was. It certainly wasn't me.

I think my favourite part of starting school has been the privilege of watching a very special young man finally make his way to school. His name is Enoch, but he is known as Mugisha (Blessing). He is the son of two very special teachers at The King's School. He has had to wait for the right time to begin school. As with so many times in life the saying 'every cloud has a silver lining' proves to be true. Due to all the disturbance in Burundi, only 6 children turned up at the Nursery. We have the capacity for 40. So, it is time for Mugisha to come and 'bless' us.  On some levels Burundian culture struggles to cope with those who are deemed 'different'. For many reasons, such children remain at home and shut away from society. Some of the reasons are purely practical. There is no such thing as disabled access in Burundi. The world is a  dangerous place if you find it diffcult to walk.
So it was, on Wednesday that Mugisha made his way up the drive of the Nursery, for his first day at school.I have a feeling that Mugisha is going to bring more to our lives than we can imagine possible.

Debbie the out-going Head, was renown for her ability to identify and name every child in the school. So I felt obliged to begin the process of achieveing the same feat.
One huge step I have made so far. Two children I had named Mini Igor boy and Mini  Igor girl (Igor being their big brother, who I taught two years ago) I now recognise as Charles and Olga. Three boys who look identical, I now know have the names, Duncan, Keffa and Echo. But sadly, I don't know which name goes with which child. I know that there is both a boy and a girl called Praise and a boy and girl Jesse. I can identify Hilary, Harry and Haylene, but only if they all present themselves to me en-block. If they appear indiviually I am stumped. Little Tommy is actually called Davy Yan.  I keep forgetting what Little Kimberley is properly called. I'm trying very hard not to identify anybody by their hair, because I've been tripped up by that mistake too many times before. But I do know that Keyla and Keysha both have braids.

I have also moved house for the fifth time! Technically, I am house sitting this year (and dog sitting).
Back with a house mate from the year before last. Recently we were both out with friends when some beautiful little kittens came up. We both went into kniptions about how lovely they were and how we might entice them into our bags to take them home. One 'friend' exclaimed, ' Oh no ,you two are going to turn into a couple of weird old ladies if you live together aren't you!'  Well how very rude. (But possibly true) Home is so much easier,when you live with someone who also forgets why they came into the room.

Well I think that has to be it for now. Hopefully, I will get round to writing on a more regular basis now I am 'fat'!

Thursday, 19 February 2015

I Don't Want to carry Rhubarb!

I was so very sad. I'd just died and I felt an over-whelming sense of grief about it.

But then came the news that everyone had to move out of the building we were in. We all had to get out and go to the camp site. It was vital that we all went.

But I had just died!

No, we all had to go. Everyone. Each one had a different job to do. My job was to be a carrier. I had to take a bag, pick and carry rhubarb.

But I had just died!

I didn't want to carry anything. I wanted to be able to just run. To be free.

No! I had to carry rhubarb.

I started running. I didn't take a bag. I didn't stop to pick rhubarb. I was running. Running through the fields. I was dead. I was free. But they came after me. With the bag. Shouting at me. Telling me, that I had to carry rhubarb.

I fell face down.

I woke! Sobbing. With the words, “But I don't want to carry rhubarb!” ringing through my cloudy, befuddled mind.

Such are the dreams induced by IV quinine! “ I don't want to carry rhubarb!” is No 2 on my 'Most Memorable Phrases from November 2014' list. No 1 on the list, is the phrase, “ This one is full of Malaria.”

It all started weeks ago. At October Half-term, a long wet trek through the jungle, looking for baboons, left me with a significant asthma crisis. In the weeks that followed, I also discovered that my energy had packed it's bags and moved on, to who knows where. I began to experience the joy of dizzy spells. The need to rest, after walking up stairs. Making a list of all the things I needed to do downstairs before venturing on the trip. Using the 'student toilet' because it is on the same floor as the classroom. And so on and so forth. Anything that saved energy and helped me keep going.

My mantra became, 'it's just asthma, get on with it.'

No I didn't need to go the Doctor........why?.......because.......well, just because!

Slowly, slowly things got worse. But I am a firm believer in that saying my mother taught me. 'If something is being annoying, just ignore it and it will go away eventually.' On reflection, I think maybe she was trying to help me deal with my brothers, not sickness.

Eventually, the Doctor decision was removed from my stubborn grasp. I was escorted off to see the Pnuemologist. Who decided a course of steroids was needed. (Wednesday)

Friday (two days later) 5:25pm found me at the end of two days of Parent Interviews. Just about every body had gone home. I had my laptop, nebulizer and books in my ruck-sac. I am on steroids, I must be getting better. (I reason) It's ok, I can walk home. 55Mins later I stagger through the front door. The walk usually takes 10 to 15mins. How wrong was I? I couldn't walk home!

Monday, back to the Pneumologist. He's not in. So off to the hospital. Blood tests and chest x ray. Verdict. Severe anaemia. Solution. Blood transfusion. Sharp intake of breath. A blood transfusion in Africa. One slightly offended Doctor, who informs us that Black blood is the same as white blood! Oh yes, we agree, it's not that, it's just ….... do you screen it? Further offence taken. Of course. After a phone call for reassurance from a Burundian husband. The transfusion was set to go ahead.

Two weeks later, that phrase was issued 'this one is full of Malaria'. Yes, the blood is screened, but No, not for malaria!
 Everything needed to be done in a hurry, so I found myself in Jabe Hospital. My room happened to be located 20m from Jabe church. Jabe church we discovered has prayer meetings from 6am to 7am every morning. Evening prayer meetings from 6pm to 8pm. A Sunday service from 9am - 1pm. Oh, and by the way a few impromptu Prayer meetings from 1am to 3am!!  Guess what else we discovered, God is DEAF! Even at 2 am in the morning He needs to be shouted at. It is not possible to talk to God quietly, if you want Him to hear, you have to shout loudly, sing loudly, pray loudly!
Sadly, one of the biggest side effects of IV quinine is a thumping headache and ringing in the ears. Oh so funny to look back on. But not so hilarious at the time.

So that accounted for November and December!
The Christmas holiday saw a great new addition to my life. I am now mobile. The walk to and from school kept leaving me shattered, so I decided that it was time to invest in a Moto.
The plan was to just use it for the very simple route to and from school. This involved only a few junctions and very quiet roads. That I could manage (I hoped).
 However, once I discovered the joy of being mobile again, I realised that I could actually attempt some far more ambitious trips.
My strategy has been to flash a big smile at all the cars, buses, taxis, motos that appear to know far better than I do, which side of the road I should be on and whose right of way it is.
I am becoming increasingly skilled at 'pothole avoidance'. It no longer phases me when other drivers pull alongside me and shout 'Hey Muzungu!'.

This year was the first time I have spent Christmas outside England. It was an interesting experience. I hated being so far from family, but enjoyed seeing a different side of life.
 I think it's best just to put some photos in,
Christmas morning at CRIB, opening presents

Christmas dinner with some Street Children

Christmas Eve party

So it's been a long time in the pipeline, this Blog. A new laptop, poor power and internet have contributed to the delay. A serious absence of energy and brain power have also dragged things down.
But such as it is, here it is.

The final photo is a Red Bishop that visited  our compound on Saturday. It hadit in it's head that it had found a 'date' in the kitchen window.

The contrast in the photo says so much about Burundi.