There is about one textbook in the whole world for learning Kirundi. Maybe there's more, but only one I've ever seen. It was written by Betty Ellen Cox, a missionary who actually used to live at Kibuye years ago (her house is still here). I remember flipping through the manuscript and dismissing it as "irrelevant" (before I arrived at Kibuye). The lessons featured vocabulary that I was not at all interested in learning, and, I was convinced, would never need to be able to say. Why would I want to know the phrase for "the woman is hoeing" (Umugore ararima)? Or the word for a jigger (imvunja)? I mean, what is that, even?
Ah, the folly of my pride and ignorance. What I apparently didn't understand was that Betty WAS giving the most appropriate vocabulary for our daily lives at Kibuye. Every last person around here hoes. And carries hoes on their heads. And builds our houses with hoes. Jiggers? Well. Let's just say they have been the secret scourge of the McCropder team here in the past 2-3 months. I mean, we're not talking ebola or HIV or even African sleeping sickness or Lyme disease, but jiggers are pretty gross and painful. They are little tiny black insects that burrow into your feet and lay little egg sacks inside. I know, gross. Don't keep reading if you're not interested. A few people got them while we were in Banga, but since the start of the dry season around May, every last one of us has become "infested."
It goes something like this. We examine our feet and find what looks like a blackhead zit or a small blister with a black center. They usually show up next to the toenails but sometimes on the heels. I'm not sure what would happen if we didn't ever remove them. Don't want to find out. If the jigger is discovered in a kid's foot, the next step involves wailing and gnashing of teeth, bribery and cajoling. You can remove a jigger with tweezers or toenail clippers and a lot of squeezing, like popping a giant zit. The next step (again for the kids) involved finding colorful bandaids, suckers, or other treats. Then resolving to wear shoes and socks for the rest of your life. Until the next one shows up… In the end, I am super grateful that we don't have more dangerous wildlife around us. No poisonous snakes (or even regular ones that we've seen), no scorpions or tarantulas or stray/rabid dogs. Jiggers might be a bit irritating, but certainly not dangerous. Even so, here's to hoping the rainy season brings a reprieve from our little black "friends."