Monday, 1 May 2017

Hippo Hunting

It’s 3:40 am. I ‘m sitting bed with a coffee and my lap top (and a few uninvited, unwelcome mosquitoes) It’s not unusual for me to be awake at this time, I’m not a proficient sleeper. But it is somewhat unusual for me to resort to coffee and typing.
The dog is howling and yapping in the ‘garage’, in the near and far distance a variety of other  mutts are howling and barking, for whatever reason they deem best. 
But we at on the corner of Burugane and Nwarante are up and about because a HIPPO just strolled by!
It’s been happening for a while. Every so often our worker will tell us about the hippo who wanders through Kinindo at night. We nod kindly, and think   ‘ Yeah, in your dreams.’  Alli (housemate) had asked that he wake her next time it goes by.
Tonight, the knock on the window came. The hippo is outside. Alli leaps up, knocks on my door (I’m awake so I leap up)  And out we shoot! Onto the road, clad only in night clothes; two ‘post-50’ women, bare foot, in the middle of the night, dashing around hippo spotting.
Sorry no Hippo, picture. But me visiting pig purchased by Hinckley Baptist Church, to replace the previous one that had been fried by a lightning strike!
It was amazing, there just yards away, a full grown hippo, sauntering down the road, munching the plants and plodding on, turns and casually acknowledges our presence. Unimpressed, it returned to its munching and then wandered on. Alli’s camera is flashing away. (Sadly, nothing but darkness shows on any of the pictures)  I’m remembering all those ‘facts’ about how fast a hippo can run. Fortunately, this hippo, either hasn’t watched the documentary or is a not-up-for-running hippo.
 I also briefly wonder whether we are watching a Norman No Mates of the Bujumbura hippo population or Percy Plenty Pals!  What if there is another one quietly padding up behind us? I have a quick check, but it looks like this is Norman’s time to be out in town.
So, I can’t just jump out of bed at 3:30am, watch a hippo pass by, then crawl back into bed and go to sleep. If anything qualifies as a ‘Blogging plot’ this surely does.
Unrelated again. Teaching English at Saturday Wezesha Kids Project.

We are into Day 7 of no power at home. I was thinking I’d check when I last Blogged. But it’s not possible. Oh yes, even though I’m post-50, I do know about Hot Spots on the phone. However, knowing is not enough. My phone or my service provider has decided not to play. It doesn’t want to go the final step and allow me to connect. But enough of boring ‘technical moans’.
I’m now approaching the end of my fifth year in Burundi and still enjoying new experiences.
Last week, I had the dubious pleasure of extracting a Mango fly larva from the back of my housemate! It all started with the very mundane,  ‘can you have a look at this on my back?’  With my move to Bujumbura came my introduction to the world of Boils. Maybe it’s the climate or the dust, or ………………..  But for some reason boils are a routine.
Didn't think you'd want to see the boil! But here's another of my very rare Nursy moments. Broken arm falling out of a tree, during lunch break.
So I look at the not-so-attractive red lump on the back of my house-mate. It could be a boil, not really sure. Let’s say it is. Over the next few days the let’s-call-it-a-boil grows, develops a large infected area around itself. But shows no real signs of coming to a ‘head’ ( the proper behaviour for any self respecting boil) A second opinion declares the let’s-call-it-a-boil to be in fact a Staf infection (??) treatment advised, covering it with a tar-like substance, to draw out the yukky stuff. Two days later, whilst changing the dressing, it appears that let’s-call-it-a-staf-infection-now has sprouted a sort of head. This calls for a tentative squeeze of the area. Further squeezing produces a small (I haven’t got my glasses on, so can’t see properly) something that looks remarkably like it might once have been alive. After, sending the photo to a friend via What’s App, we are informed it is in fact a Mango fly larva. Oh yuk! Yuk! Yuk! So that’s why the boil felt like it was wiggling under her skin!
Easter Holiday. Rowing on Lake Gihoa

It’s no longer 3 something am! It’s now the weekend. We have today purchased a new android phone, whose sole purpose in life will be to provide a ‘hot spot’ for our internet connection.  No more relying on the power being on to be able to get on-line. Next power cut that comes along, we are still part of the technologically advanced world.
I have now checked and seen that my last Blog, was in fact 6 months ago!  Oooops!
So now I have the task of dragging through my aging memory to think of things that have happened that were both Blog-worthy and politically neutral enough to share.
Perhaps the event that has most shaped my thinking over the past months is one that is not quite within the parameters of that which I usually want to share. It’s not funny or quirky, it’s doesn’t make me smile and I can’t think of a way to putting it into writing that will make it any of those things. It is serious, sad and for me was utterly heart wrenching.
One of the teachers at school, who I have increasingly become close to, crept into my office, back in November to say that she was pregnant. Great news, you might think. Actually, my heart lurched and feeling of dread spread through me. Why? because the previous three pregnancies had ended in miscarriages. We agreed to tell no one, but to commit to earnest prayer. Slowly the days went by. She passed the 8 week mark. No miscarriage. 12 weeks. No miscarriage. 15 weeks. Things were looking good. She began to look pregnant. 20 weeks, she’d made it past all previous miscarriage points.
 It felt like it was ok to begin letting people know. My own daughter-in-law had also announced during this time, that my 8th grandchild was due two days after Antoinette’s baby. Baby talk was becoming comfortable amongst the staff. We were planning for maternity leave. I was moaning about missing the birth of my last three grandchildren, because I was in Burundi, and now missing the arrival of the Burundi baby, because I’d be in England.
Then on the evening of Wednesday 29th March, came a text message that would change the course of events. Antoinette had noticed blood and gone to the hospital. A scan could find no heart beat. It seemed that the baby had died. She had been sent home from hospital to ‘wait and see’. I went along with a friend and colleague to be with her at home. The next few hours are ones that will be seared into my memory for the rest of my life.  The utterly raw, bitter emotions were over whelming. We prayed. We pleaded with God, for that tiny life to be, if not to be, then to be restored. We called on all that we knew of God. He is a God of miracles, blessing, life. We prayed, praised, hoped. We left Antoinette that night falling into an exhausted sleep.
The next morning when she went to the hospital for another scan our worse fears and dreads were confirmed. The baby was dead. Five months into this most precious of pregnancies, just at the point where we had dared to hope, all would be well, it was over.
As her Boss and friend I decided I should go to the hospital and ‘stand with her’ through the delivery of this cherished baby. What followed were hours of excruciating pain, physically and mentally. Fervent prayers. Around 8:30pm on Thursday 30th March, a tiny little boy was delivered; a vision that will be with me for a very long time. That tiny little body held so much potential for so much joy and healing; yet he lay there lifeless.
In the days that followed it was so hard to gather together all the questions and emotions. I have been a Christian for around 40 years, but still it was almost impossible to see the ‘sense’ in what had happened. So many events in my life have taught me to know that I don’t understand God’s ways. Many times I have had to humbly accept that ‘God’s ways are not my ways’. But this time seemed to push me to limits beyond myself. I was angry. I shook my fist at God. I stomped of, I turned my back on Him.
I knew all the platitudes to answer the questions, but they didn’t seem good enough this time. This time God had gone too far. He had breached the limits of sense and moved into nonsense, as far as I was concerned. I was falling into an abyss, where nothing made sense any more.
It was only when I heard Antoinette bravely declare, ‘He’s a good God’ that I was forced to drag myself back from my drop into oblivion. If she could in all the confusion and grief, still declare God to be good. Then so could I.
My faith is built upon knowing that there is somewhere a Good God. This is not all random, senseless, pain and joy. It is purposeful, meaningful, created life. There is over it all a God who understands and cares. Who has a plan and purpose. I don’t say that lightly. It still causes huge turmoil in me, that I can’t see the sense in so much that happens in my life and in the world. But I can only see two choices- it is either all random, meaningless happenings or it is created, purposeful life. The first needs no ‘God’, the second requires such a being, but not just a ‘being’, it requires a loving creator a Good God.
So we are now into Term 3 . Today (May 1st ) is Labour Day, a holiday. I’m looking out of the window, it’s gently drizzling. The sky is grey, the mountains are hidden. I’m looking out on a mango tree, papaya trees and a Coeur de Boef tree. Lenga lenga  and beans growing in the vegetable patch. It still amazes me that I live in ‘Africa’ . Sometimes I so wish I could meet myself of 20 years ago and tell her what is coming! 
Final unrelated!! Christmas holiday in Tanzania.Breakfast with Zebras.
Last week I walked into the Thursday Debate club and discovered about a dozen Year 1’s and 2’s sitting with glazed expressions listening to the older children debate. I made a quick decision to remove them to another classroom and start an impromptu Mini-Debaters Club. Great fun, when one of the ‘Honourable Speakers’ stood and addressed the ‘”Horrible Chairperson” !  The motion was, ‘Children should not be made to do homework.’  The Honourable Speaker went on to declare, that this was in fact true, because, ‘if you do too much writing when you get home it makes your arm hurt, then it makes you sleepy and then you start to feel ill.’  The next Honourable Speaker stood and proudly addressed the Horrible Chairperson, with the very persuasive argument, ‘I haven’t got any points.’
Oooops!  A little work needed there methinks.

Well I think that’s about it for now. Time to get on with some serious work, or maybe a cup of tea first, followed by some Turtle making, then some work.