entomology, herpetology, gastroenterology

(by Heather)

While they might not have learned the words “entomology, herpetology, or gastroenterology,” all of the team’s children have certainly increased their knowledge within each of these fields during their first 12 weeks in Burundi.  Since their official science curriculum is still on the shipping container (which is evidently in Tanzania now), I thought back to the last memorable science course in Africa, and decided to focus on the scientific phenomena in our daily lives. 

Some of the children’s exposure to scientific principles comes from books, but not the majority.
Here Jessica is explaining part of the human digestive system.  The digestive process is a subject of genuine interest around here, both in terms of intake and output.  Below is a picture of a new intake experience as Micah figured out how to eat a chicken neck.  We all have learned to identify the meat we are served, including chicken, beef, goat, and rabbit.  Liver kabobs were a challenge to identify (and to choke down, for a number of us).

One gastroenterology question which remains to be answered is about the long-term effects of frequent consumption of green soup.  After eating green soup for seventy-one consecutive dinners, I’m hoping for significant long-term health benefits.  

The other specific areas of study within the field of gastroenterology are not appropriate subject matter for discussion or photographs, as they involve various manifestations of the normal digestive process gone awry.

The entomology (and beyond) segment of the science curriculum here can be summarized with a few sample pictures (all of which I took in and around our apartment … it’s a wonder that I have not yet been startled and dropped the camera).

The kids’ favorite aspect of science is likely the herpetology.  Maggie even brings up frequent prayer requests for her gecko named Chameleon.

Poetically tying together the themes of the “curriculum,” we even observe the intersection of entomology, herpetology, and gastroenterology:


Burundi Church Music: A Sample

We have made a couple references to the music at the church next door.  A few weeks ago, I turned on the recorder on my phone during a song.  It's rough, but it captures the experience pretty well, to the extent that I've enjoyed listening to it since then.  

So I thought I would share it.  I can't get the online music player to work (techies, help!), but you can click here to listen to the mp3.  Feel free to download it as well.


It takes a village...

By Jason
John and I recently took a trip to Kibuye Hospital to help oversee the arrival of a container with medical supplies.  We are amazed and grateful that a great variety of eye equipment, medical textbooks, and various other pieces of medical equipment made it from many corners of the US to central Africa largely unscathed (except for a minor plague of termites).

More amazing than the success of the trans-Atlantic journey, however, was the ability of the Burundians to extract large, extremely heavy pieces of equipment from the container, get the container off the truck, and move it perfectly into place with a jack, sticks, and their hands and ingenuity.

The truck got stuck twice while backing in, but the
truck driver did some fancy footwork to get unstuck.
Unloading a crate with an eye laser in it - the crate
weighed over 1,000 lbs.
The container was emptied and then pushed sideways off the
truck onto some soft dirt
Jacking up the container to get it onto freshly cut logs
Sliding the container on truck rims with sticks
Final resting place
That same day we checked in on the sites where our houses will be.  There are some large tree stumps that needed to be removed to prepare the site.  Again, with nothing but their hands, hoes, and sticks, they removed this stump from its hole, all while singing, so as to push in unison.  Enjoy the video below…


Our Monastic Life

(from Eric)

Long ago, when our language school sojourn here was so far into the future that it all seemed quite hypothetical, we would talk about "some monastery in Burundi where we would study Kirundi for a few months."  The idea came from the late bishop Elie Buconyori who said that he would find "a Catholic monastery" for us to stay in.

Well, it's not a monastery.  It's a Catholic guesthouse run by an order of nuns, a cadre of whom lives here and runs the establishment.  It's not paradise, but as always, there are blessings that we do well to number, note, and celebrate.  However, the longer I'm here, the more "monastic" our lives seem.

  1.  The Nuns.  We'll start with the obvious.  There are about six nuns who live here, walking up and down the red dirt road in their white habits which stay remarkably clean.  They often take Toby during mealtimes for a bit to give us a respite (in absence of high chairs).  He spits up a lot, and doesn't discriminate between parents and Burundian nuns, but they are a generous sort, who love taking him around to the other guests, who are largely NGO conference attendees.  Here's Toby with "umugenzi wiwe mukuru" (his best friend) Mama Léa.
  2. The Regimented Life.  There isn't a church bell, though before every mass in the church next door, a guy will bang on a defunct metal electricity pole with a stone for about 60 seconds.  Nevertheless, meals are firmly at 7:30, 1:00, and 7:00.  Breakfast has a certain regimen:  coffee, tea, bread, and the wild card of eggs, cheese, or deli meat.  Dinner always starts with "the green soup", followed with a starch and a vegetable.  Lunch is where the surprises could happen.  But not usually.
  3. Vespers.  Given our communal meals and family adjustments, we decided on arrival here to hold our own mini Vespers prior to dinner.  So, three times a week, we gather 20 minutes before dinner for a couple songs, a scripture reading, prayer, and a kid's catechism recitation, prior to our group pilgrimage in the dark to dinner.  (Usually vespers itself is in the dark, as the power is usually off then.)
  4. Spartan furnishings.  It's a bit of a stretch to refer to our places here as "cells" in the monastic sense, but only a bit.  In our living room, we have four wall hangings.  Two are small photos of african wildlife.  The third is a wood carving that says "Heureux celui qui se tient en silence devant Dieu." (Happy is he who keeps silent before God.)  The last is a B&W photo of the Italian sister who founded the order of nuns to whom this establishment belongs.  Concrete floors, concrete walls, plain paint.  It's nice.
  5. Candles for lighting, and buckets of water for "ceremonial ablutions".  Enough said about that.
  6. In a pre-Vatican II sense, we understand very little of the language of the church liturgy when we're there (which is Kirundi, not Latin, but sometimes it's all Greek to us.)
  7. Jason cut himself a tonsure.  (Just kidding)
  8. Communal living.  If you know our story, you know that we are not exactly strangers to close community.  Nevertheless, this experience sets a new precedent for the closeness of our day-to-day activities.
I remember, in college, reading an anthology of Celtic Christian writings, many of them monastic.  The book is likely on the big container, parked somewhere in Oman at the moment (I think).  So, as a paraphrase, I recall a brief writing from somewhere in modern-day Scotland.  A now nameless friar who wrote something like:

To have a little cell beside the sea.
To serve the poor.
To have my daily work.
To go and worship our God with my brothers.
How pleasant it is.


Understanding the Word

by Rachel

One thing that I particularly enjoy about learning a new language is the ability to read/understand the Bible in a different translation.  To read the entirety of the Bible actually requires quite a high level of language acquisition (which I have not achieved), but small passages are within my grasp in both French and Kirundi.  I’ve found that the slight difference in translation...not a word for word translation but a real meaning for real meaning...actually can sometime shed new light on a familiar passage, much like reading the Message vs the NIV for example.

Because we only have three months to begin our Kirundi language study, I have resorted to some “memorized monologues.”  I would like to be able to pray with patients, at least a little, and so have been working on the Aaronic blessing from Numbers (May the Lord bless you and keep you...) and also the Lord’s Prayer.  My language partner helped me translate the Lord’s Prayer and one phrase in particular struck me:  “Uduhe ivyo kurya dukwiranye uyu musi.”  This correlates to the English line of “Give us this day our daily bread.”  But actually, the word read is nowhere in the Kirundi version.  This makes sense, since many Burundians don’t eat bread.  Instead, the phrase literally means, “give us this to eat which is sufficient for us today.”  I like that difference.  It’s not very different, but the subtle change helps me remember that what I’m asking God for isn’t bread.  I’m not asking for a feast.  I’m asking Him to provide enough.  Enough to sustain me, enough to make it through another day.

The differences show up in French as well, in the Bible as well as in praise songs.  Proverbs refer to the name of God as a strong tower.  But in Paul Baloche’s Ton Nom he translates “Your name is a strong and mighty tower” as “Ton nom, comme un tour au quatre vents.”  This literally means Your name, like a tower of the four winds.  Our teacher explained it is a tower that is assaulted on all sides by the winds, but stands firm and strong.

Eric went over Philippians 2 with his language partner and got some other interesting insights.  Paul describes Jesus in verse 7 as “making himself nothing, taking the form of a servant.”  The French version actually uses the verb, se depouiller (not one I am familiar with) which means, to skin, strip, deprive, dispossess, or denude...himself.  Literally, Jesus skinned himself.  Deprived himself.  Stripped himself of his royalty to be sent to earth and be a servant.  The meanings are technically the same between languages, but the nuance for me helps to shed new light on an important idea.

There’s something truly important about reading the Bible in your own “heart language” for the best understanding.  And there are passages that I love that just don’t seem right if I read them in a different translation.  But it’s great to think that God’s word is living and active and ever so applicable to all peoples of the world, and I love getting to see a small glimpse of that through my ever ongoing language studies.