Monday, June 28, 2010

Hope for the Future, in my students

I love reading my students papers. I get to learn more about Burundi culture and their visions. I want to share some of their thoughts with you. It's really encouraging to read knowing that I'm making a difference here, helping them reach their goals for not only their lives but their country too.
Thanks for all of you who have supported me along this journey!!! Keep it up :)

“Those children or adolescents with disabilities were no well considered in their families because they were not well cared (for). Some parents expose their children in the public place to ask (for) money or begging for money.
When I see their actions I feel not well because their parents don’t think of their future life or how do they become autonomous in their life. That is why I’m here in special education in order to change something in my local community and to care (for) those adolescents with disabilities or special needs.” Nestor, Special Education major, Hope Africa University

“I don’t know what I can do for him but I am sure that if placed in special education, Fabrice can become someone very important. He has some talents to be developed. So I (am) still praying for him and one day my dream will be the reality, by the will of God.” Edith, Special Education major, Hope Africa University

Finding Rachel

I woke up this morning feeling like myself. I haven’t felt that in a while.
It’s been almost 5 months since I’ve been here and I’m feeling more like me than ever. Maybe it's because friends have come to visit me and I’ve had real conversations, not just superficial conversation but real things. We have talked about our dreams and hopes. We have talked about our failures. And we have shared prayer requests.
Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m sick and haven’t felt up to doing anything more than what I can do.
It could be the fact that I’ve been cold the last few days. I mean seriously cold. Not sure if it’s the sickness or that I’m getting more acclimated to the heat, but my toes and fingers have been cold the last few nights. I almost thought about putting on my sweatshirt to sleep, almost. This morning though I was cold for sure. I looked at my thermometer that I just purchased at T-2000 (Buja’s equivalent to Wal-mart). I’m not sure if it works right but this morning it said 75 degrees. I didn’t care what it said I was cold. So I went and dug up my sweatshirt, put on my comfy pants and curled up for breakfast, sliced bananas in my honey nut cheerios. Thanks again Jeannie for sending them!!! I had a Seattle morning and it was nice. Too bad it’s not the rainy season because a few sprinkles would have completed the package!

Just an update now the thermometer says 80 degrees and I'm still in my sweatshirt. I think something might be wrong with me ;) I'm just a comfortable temperature.

Tea Party for Three

Yesterday one of my friends preached at a church. As a thank you gift he received a stock of bananas. He offered me some and in a total girly moment I said, “Can I make you banana bread?” He and my other friend looked at me with the puzzled college guy look and said, “did you have to ask?”
I was on my way with a very girly mission. Make banana bread for my two friends. They came up before the bread was done. It is always great when people come into my “home”. If we are close friends normally the question of American culture comes up. Most of the time because I will do something that they think is strange. I will then explain myself and a little American culture. This is very freeing for me because I get to explain my culture and they get to explain their culture. We both end up with a better understanding of who each other are. More talking and less offensive actions is always good.
It was great just sitting around eating and chatting about life. Towards the end things got a funny. We got the camera out to document the silliness. Mom I thought you would enjoy this pic. The other pictures didn’t turn out nicely.

Burundian Meal

Gaudiose decided that it was her mission to teach Brandon and I how to make a Burundian meal. She went and bought all the supplies. She then came over and showed us how it was done. It was too bad that I wasn’t feeling well. I brought a chair into the kitchen and watched as the two of them prepared the meal. Mom they enjoyed the aprons!!! Thanks.

The video is Gaudiose mixing up the Casava Bread, or Ugali.

Sidewalk Chalk

I try to think of fun ways to get my students involved with the learning process. This is challenging because most of my students grew up learning in school by sitting in their desk and repeating what the teacher said or wrote on the board. My goal in teaching them is to pull them out of that mindset and teach them that in special education you have to think outside the box.
The lesson was on classroom set up. I quickly went though the things that should be in a classroom and how to set it up so that there was maximum learning space, less distraction and more teacher movement around the class. Then I drew 6’x6’ boxes on the floor, that’s right on the floor, they were shocked. Don’t worry the floors in the classrooms are cement. I then handed each of them an item that they were responsible for drawing in their classroom. I split them up in teams and gave them 30 min.
As I looked at my students discussing and drawing I saw from the window the president of the university enter the building. I was hoping that he would come into my class and see my students doing something so weird, but he didn’t. Bummer.
After time was up I made them give me a tour of their classrooms. They got to be the hostesses. I hammed it up to make it more fun.
Here are some pictures of them at “work”.

World Cup

There is nothing like watching the world cup, which is being held in Africa, while you are in Africa, surrounded by Africans.
The students have set up a TV in the student’s center and spend all their free time watching the games. The crowds vary from 30-100 people. Anyone on campus knows that a goal has just been made when the eruption of shouts breaks loose.
The best game to watch was the USA vs Ghana game. It was me, a noisy Kenyan, and 2 Ugandans cheering on the USA. The rest of the 100+ people in the room were cheering on the last African team in the World Cup. It was very fun to just be one of the students for a moment. I was cheering just as much as anyone else. I liked that.
At the half I went to my room and brought down a streamer that Jeannie sent to me in a care package. Rainson, the noisy Kenyan, proudly put it around his neck and kept right on cheering.
In the photo the other man is also a Kenyan. His cheering symbol was a green leaf.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Spider Photos

Here are some photos of the spider I was talking about who doesn't sit on a web. I saw him the other day waiting on the sill of the window. He leaped 3 inches towards a fly. Too bad the fly was too fast that time.
I'm a big fan of these spiders!!!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Burundian Sign Language

So a few weeks back I met a girl at the market who is deaf. We had a great time chatting in sign language. It was so nice to freely chat with someone. Even when I chat with people here that know English there is still a language barrier based on their knowledge of English or accent. Chatting with this girl in sign language my memory of the signs is the only barrier there was. We chatted and exchanged phone numbers. We were chatting it up in sign and then when we were going to part she asked if I knew French. I told her no. She said she didn't know English. I knew this was going to be difficult to communicate when we couldn't sign together.
Text messages back and forth have been interesting. I have to get someone who knows French to tell me what she said and then have them write what I want to say in French.
She lives close to the school so she has come over multiple times, she also has gone to church with me two Sundays now. She loves telling me about her experiences. I ask her all sorts of questions about being deaf in Burundi. She has gone through a lot. She always says that the Lord is her strength. I'm impressed by her faith.
Sometimes during the conversation I will see a sign I don't know, asking her for the meaning. Normally when chatting with someone who is deaf they will just spell out the word they are saying. But because she doesn't know English she will spell out a French word. This is fine when Brandon is over because he knows French. But when it is just the two of us she has to explain the meaning using all sorts of signs.
I really enjoy her company. It's fun to have a friend who has Burundian culture (which I don't always understand, though I'm getting better) and Deaf culture (which I understand better). One day after church we were chatting with a group of students and one of my friends came up, he's Burundian. She and he were talking and I was just interpreting for them. She signed something I didn't understand at all. I just said it. He busted up laughing. I guess it was a Burundian joke or something. He then said, "she's funny". I was so confused. But glad that they could enjoy chatting with my help. It's also nice to be on the other side of translation. I am now the translator for these students that have done so much translation for me over the past 5 months.
I'm learning about Burundian culture from her also. Yesterday she came over and taught Brandon and I how to make a Burundian meal. Then we ate it in the Burundian way, with our hands. It was interesting signing with messy hands. She teased me for the way I was eating the food.
I love having a new friend. I hope that the Lord keeps us friends for a long time.

Freedom -Driving in Buja

Looking over my blog I realize that I haven't updated you on many things that have happened lately.
As soon as Stephanie left I was informed that I was not to travel outside the walls alone. This was a difficult instruction to swallow. I might be living in Africa and follow cultural norms pretty well but I'm still an American girl who likes her freedom and rights.
The driver that I now must take instead of the bus is a great man in his 40s. He reminds me a lot of my dad. He's a sweet man who I just feel comfortable being around. We try to talk but it's hard because he knows as much English as I know Kirundi, which isn't much.
The first time he took me out he asked me if I drove in America. Then he asked why I didn't drive here in Buja. I told him I was scared. I asked him to teach me. I was super excited.
The next time he took me out I looked at him and asked who was driving, "me or you?" He passed me the keys. There were two passengers. One American, my friend, and then a Burundian. He chatted with the Burundian and I chatted with the American. :)
I hadn't driven in 5 months and now I was driving a manual transmission, mini van down the crowded streets of Buja. At first my heart was beating like crazy. My friend told me that it was because of all the people walking and biking on the road. He told me to calm down, it helped.
There were only a few times that the driver grimaced or told me to speed up.
We were waiting in a line of traffic behind a big truck that was unloading in the middle of the street. The driver looked at me and told me to turn right. There was no road, I was confused. You want me to drive up on the sidewalk and pass this truck on the right? There are all sorts of people on that side walk. I thought. He was crazy but I gunned it and hopped the wheels of the van onto the sidewalk. I weaved through the people making their was down the side walk. It was only about 30 feet that I was on the side walk but it seemed a lot longer. We made it back down onto the road. I was glad.
When I pulled into the school the driver looked at me and told me that next time I drive he will just take a nap in the passenger's seat. I was happy for that mark of approval.
I was scared to tell the person that told me not to go out alone. But the driver let her know.
That was a few weeks ago. Yesterday she handed me the key to the van to give to the driver today. I joked with her that I was going to take the van for a drive. She said, "do you feel comfortable driving?" I said yes. She then said that it's fine if I want to drive around. WHAT! I thought she was joking. I asked for clarification. She wasn't. She said that if I wanted to take the van out I could. I looked at my friend from America, who was sitting in my living room and said, "Did you hear that, let's go!"
I was so excited to not only have my freedom back but to have wheels to take me where I want to go when I want to go there!!!
Thank you Lord!!!
I was reading an email from a pastor friend of mine today. He asked me how I was doing with the "trapped" feeling. He said that he had been praying for my situation. Thank you Lord that you heard Pastor Dan's prayers. I was happy to tell him that I now had my "freedom" back. :)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I've decided that everything about America is lazy. Or maybe everything here is harder. I have been thinking about this for the past weeks but the spider I saw today takes the cake.
Getting to town you must walk to a bus line in the hot sun. Wait for a bus, because there aren't set times. Once you flag down a bus that isn't full you get on and squish between 4 other sweaty people.
Shopping must be done on a need to eat basis. The college size fridge I have is nice but when the power goes out the poor fridge doesn't stay cold and the meat inside heats up.
There are no Fred Meyer's. Just forget about one stop shopping. There is one shop that almost has everything but prices are through the roof.
Walking around you have to avoid the hot sun, wind blowing at your skirt, dust tornadoes in your face and tripping over rocks or in pot holes.
Just to name a few.
I received a box of Cheerio's the other day!!! Thanks Jeannie. I was so excited. The next morning I was late and thought, cheerio's are fast. I forgot to remember that even a bowl of cereal is difficult here. I had to make the milk. The water I used was warm and the amount of milk I added wasn't right. So my breakfast too more time than I expected and didn't taste that great.
The next day I had put water in the fridge to cool it. Later to find out that the milk powder doesn't dissolve in cold water very well. It again took a lot longer.
The spiders here in Burundi aren't like the lazy spiders in America who spin a web and wait for a fly to get trapped. Flies get trapped in my apartment and congregate on the window screen. The spiders hang out on the screen. It's amazing to watch these hunting spiders. They run over to the fly and grab it. Then they hang on until the meal is finished. No messing for webs and tying up their victims. I was walking up the stairs to my apartment today and saw a spider on the step holding tight to his breakfast. So cool. It just reminds me that even spiders have it difficult in Burundi.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Stinky Fridge Solution

So when I got back from Kibuye my fridge was off. I'm not sure why, the power was on and it was plugged in. Anyway it was off. I'm sure it had been off all week because when I opened the door I was greeted by the most terrible smell of death. At second glance I noticed little yellow colored things crawling out of the freezer compartment (it's a small college style fridge). The hamburger meat that I had purchased a few days before I left now was moving. After thoroughly cleaning the fridge 3 times the smell persisted. I asked around on Facebook and I got many suggestions that I couldn't try but I did try coffee grounds. It was great. The bad smell was taken over by the coffee smell. After three days I figured it was safe. I removed the bowl of coffee grounds. The next day the smell was back; not as strong though.
I had given up on trying to make my nose happy. I went on with life. It has been two days since the "solution" and there isn't the bad smell anymore. Two days ago an onion went into my fridge. That has overpowered the smell beyond belief. I'm sure by the time the onion smell disappears the bad smell will also be gone.
I guess for a fridge you fight stink with stink when there is no baking soda to be found.

Cooking for 1

I didn't realize how hard it would be cooking for one person. It would be easier if I could just make a big meal and then put the left overs in the fridge and eat them later. Unfortunately if I never know when the power if going to go off. Nor do I know how long it will stay off. So I make small amounts of food and whatever left overs I have get eaten the next day. Today I had some beans that I needed to use up. Now that I've eaten it I wouldn't suggest it, beans and scrambled eggs. I put the beans in a pan and cracked an egg on top. I stirred it all up until the egg was cooked. It looked...well. It didn't taste bad per say but it's not a meal I will try again.
This evening I teach a class until 5 and then have worship practice until 6:30. We will see what this evening meal ends up looking like.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Crazy Classes

So I was sitting in my chair working on preparing my classes and eating my breakfast when one of my students from last semester came to the door. She informed me that she was in my class and that it started 30min ago. WHAT!!! I checked the timetable yesterday afternoon. It changed so quickly, for the third time!
I went and taught. Luckily the students were the same ones I had so I could fake it with them quite well because I knew their knowledge base.
Then at the end of class they asked me if they could change the time of the classes. They are taking two classes from me and one from another teacher. The other teacher needed to change around the schedule. So after a grooling four days of class times changing I now know my schedule. Hopefully it won't change again!
I don't teach again till Tuesday so I'm thinking about going back up to Kibuye...Sounds like fun to me!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Photos from Kibuye

Burnt Beans

Not doing well. I now know what they mean when they say that the other person completes them. Stephanie and I lived together for 4 months in a new city with new climate and culture. We spent time together learning how to live in Africa. She’s been gone for 2 weeks now and I feel like I’ve fallen apart. I noticed it when I returned from Kibuye. I had forgotten to take the meat over to Bob and Laurie’s, I was greeted by maggots and a real bad smell coming from the fridge. The fridge was still plugged in but for some reason it wasn’t on. Next I burned the plastic handle of a spoon in a frying pan. I then forgot how the time table worked and missed the first day of my class. Now I have just burned a pot of beans, how is that even possible?
Stephanie Harris I miss you so much and not just because of the things you do to help this crazy girl.

My week at Kibuye

So the much desired cold weather was all too real, I forgot my jacket down in Buja, the land of heat. I brought my pink wrap with me so that was my source of warmth. The last time I traveled to Kibuye I went with the medical students. It was the loudest and most fun I’d had since college. Nothing like riding on a crammed bus for 3 hours with college students that are super excited to do something practical with their training. This time was very different. The bus wasn’t crowded and the novelty of working at the hospital had worn a little. I was tired from the crazy two weeks and laid my head back and rested. Lots of the students did the same. I stayed in the Ogden house with four Oklahomans who are here for the month of June. I split my time 1/3 at the Ogden house preparing syllabuses and lesson plans, 1/3 at the student dorm hanging out, and 1/3 at the hospital, again hanging out with the students.
The house was quiet with everyone at the hospital in the mornings. This helped me focus on my task. When I got bored of working I would walk up to the hospital with my camera and take pictures of the students working. They were so eager to tell me about the patients. They wanted me to be involved in what they were doing. I really liked that. They encouraged me to enter the operating room. I was reluctant but the last time I came up they tried and I didn’t cave. Now I was curious. For each operation there are four people that work on the patient. The main surgeon, the assistant (sometimes a student), the man who passes the instruments (this was most of the time a student) and the man who runs around making sure the patient stays alive, blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen levels, and keeps them asleep the whole time. Every time I entered the operating room there were at least 5 people hovering around the patient watching the surgeon’s every move. With all the people in the room it made watching a surgery a social event, and I love social events! I got to see many C-sections, a few thyroid surgeries, and some other random things. The first surgery I surprisingly lasted 15 min. The ones to follow I stayed much longer. Once I got over the blood thing I was fine. When I wasn’t in the OR I was traveling around the hospital looking for a photo opportunity. I found myself many times in maternity with a baby in my arms.  That was my favorite part.
There were some hard parts about being at the hospital. The smell is just a constant reminder that people are sick. A few babies didn’t make it past birth. I was so strong for the first one but by the end of the week I lost it. One baby died and I couldn’t keep my composure. It was the end of the day and so two students walked back with me. One began to sing I Surrender All. I didn’t like the words at first but they finally penetrated my sad heart. After he finished he told me that when things happen he always sings that song to remind himself that he’s not in charge.
When a normal day was over the students would travel back to the dorms. I would either go back to the Ogden’s house or follow the students to the dorm. I tried to get over to the dorms at least once an evening because I enjoyed talking and getting to know them. I got to know a few of them well because they would always come out of their rooms when I came in. I like having friends. But when the week was over it was harder to leave them.
We ended my week with a great game of spoons. There were 18 of us in the Ogden’s living room. Only one injury, a finger nail to the hand. Don’t worry, I bandaged him up, I think he’s going to make it. 

May recap/Handicap Internation

I have decided that I will not be able to back log all that happened but I will have to give you an update/recap of the time I didn’t share.
I took the initiative to figure out where services for those with disabilities are in Burundi. My first clue was a guy with a Handicap International shirt at the coffee shop. I asked him the location and a synopsis. I looked online and couldn’t find contact information so I marched myself down to the office. The guard at the gate wasn’t sure who I was or what I wanted. Finally he brought me a pen and paper. He took my information into the office. Soon someone came out who spoke English. They said I should come back. I came back the second time at the appointed time. After the same song and dance the director came out. She apologized for not being able to meet with me, apparently she wasn’t informed of the meeting I was so posed to have with her. I came back for the third time, as dad always says, “third time’s a charm”. As I walked onto the property I couldn’t help but think, “Everything here is difficult. It takes at least three tries to do anything.” The meeting went well. I learned about HI’s philosophy and what works for them here. She gave me contact info for some people. One of them she called right then. He wanted me to come and visit his center that day. I was busy but was available the next day.
Gilbert lead me to his office, past the fence with barbed wire (I’m getting used to that, I almost don’t notice anymore, almost). We entered an office with two desks. A man who was blind was sitting next to a guide. I was introduced. It was great to see someone with a disability being treated like a human, with value.
Gilbert told me about the 16 centers that there are around Burundi. Most of them are for physical support of prosthetics and such. He then led me to the center. I was so surprised how big the property was. Long buildings surrounded a grass field, flower garden, and vegetable garden. The first room we went in was the physical therapy unit, that’s right they have physical therapy. It was great to see those with disabilities being talked to and honored. Mothers and care givers come with the children and receive training on how to stretch muscles and care. What a great service to the community. There was a woman with a baby not more than 6 months old who had Down Syndrome. Early intervention is so important with this population. It’s great to see.
As the tour continued I was introduced to students, some needed help shaking my hand, making eye contact, and speaking clearly. It was just another opportunity for the workers to instruct. I was so impressed. Some children were learning outside tasks and others were in classrooms learning reading, writing and math.
This center has a restaurant, a duka(a little shop), soap making business, they sell rabbits, corn, eggs, chickens, and make jewelry. This center is every special education teacher’s dream.
When all was finished I was escorted by one of the students to the bus. It was a long way. They felt comfortable sending him. That was the cherry on top for me.
The next day I had a meeting with the Bishop. He wanted to know how things were going. He began to tell me about this center he found and that the director was out of the country so I would be able to go and see it in July. He said the name…it was the same place I went to the day before. I then got to tell him all about it. He was impressed. We began talking about his vision for a training facility that serves the needs of the community but also can train special education majors from HAU.
I left his office encouraged but thinking about my future… and the time commitment something like this will take.
Before I met with HI and the Bishop I had a meeting with a student from HAU. He wanted to meet with me. “There are people with disabilities and some of them don’t have families or parents. What are you going to do about it?” was his main question. I, being a good teacher, turned the question back to him, “what would you do?” I sat listening to him share his dream of opening up a place for those with disabilities and having a place for those who are orphans to stay. He’s a business major and so he wanted to know what my thoughts were as a special education prof. His whole conversation was running though my brain while I visited the center and talked to the Bishop.
I see the vision of students from Hope running this school/training facility that is being talked about. This is totally possible.

I also finished classes well and preached at church on Sunday on finding strength in the Lord during the hard times.
Then I left for Kibuye.