We have a great restaurant just around the corner from the Mission Home. When you walk through the gate of the courtyard, you feel like you have just walked out of the Congo and into some restaurant in Florida or California. – American music, delicious steak and the best Ferrero Roche milkshakes ever! We refer to it as the “hollow deck” experience. (Remember Star Trek and the hollow deck?) The restaurant has been there since before our arrival, but it seems there has been a wind of change about, that we were totally unaware of. Now, every time we are out and about we see something new, that wasn’t there a month or two, or even a week or two ago. I have found myself saying to Brent, “Where are we?! Is this the same city we arrived in seven months ago?” Things seem to be changing so rapidly, that if they continue like this, I may not want to leave. 🙂
Yes… Some of it may be attributed to acclimatizing ourselves to our new home, but it is so much more than that. We landed here on June 30th, on a rough, broken up runway and now it is new, smooth and even has white lines painted on it. The airport, which could not be adequately described, has since been painted, organized (sort of) and has some new posters and signs with pictures of the Eiffel Tower, the Roman Coliseum and the Statue of Liberty!… just like real airports.
There are beautiful, big new gas stations everywhere, replacing the little stands selling jerry cans of gas and diesel. And there are the cars to go with them! Hummers, BMWs and Lexuss (or is it Lexi). It has been months since we have been stopped by the police. Instead of whistling for us to stop, trying to block our way and asking us for money, they smile and wave and wish us a “Good Day”! Yesterday, we stopped when one policeman motioned us to, and I pulled out a bottle of water to offer her. She politely declined and said she merely wanted to wish us salutations from her chef (good wishes from her boss)! Unbelievable! Where are we?!
We have always been able to find enough food to eat well, though the stores here have been in no way like anything we are used to from home. Until now that is! We have a brand new… big… grocery store! It has a great bakery, deli, meat selection and more. I even found some Callebault chocolate chips! (Granted, they did cost about $50 for five and a half pounds, but they have them!) There is even a brand new little food court right beside it with pizza, chicken and ice cream. When we were buying groceries the other day, we heard Tina Turner singing “Tiny Dancer” in the background… Another “hollow deck” experience. And all-of-a-sudden, there are white people everywhere! Nothing like a modern grocery store and food court to pull the white people out of the woodwork. Where have they all been for the past seven months, anyway?! Really! Are we still in the DRC?!
Okay. I know this will be a boring picture to everyone except someone who has lived here. I mean honestly!… There is even a real parking lot!!!
Here are our new missionaries, who all arrived on the same day at the same time! We are so excited to have them all here! Sister Vance brings the Canadian contingent up to 5!! Boy! We are all so glad to have her and her wonderful companion Sister Cook here to help us.
Now for some pictures from Burundi.
Here is our little group of missionaries in Bujumbura. We flew up there on Boxing Day and flew home on New Year’s Day. We had a great time! We even went out for Chinese food for the Zone Conference dinner! While we waited, Brent started asking some gospel questions. Wow! I was so impressed with how much they knew and with the questions they asked! We have now started doing that at all the Zone Conference dinners. They love it and really seem to know their scriptures. The four sisters are in the close-up with Brent at the top of the page and you can get a pretty good idea of their personalities from the looks on their faces.
During Zone Conference, we had a real down pour! How I love a good rain with thunder and lightning! But it was so loud that Brent could not be heard, and had to wait for the rain to end before he could continue. It never takes long, however. That is what is so nice. It never just drizzles. It rains hard and then the clouds clear away and the sun comes out. I love it!
Sister and Elder Neeley work with the members and young missionaries in Bujumbura and Uvira. I don’t know what we would do without them! They are so loved by everyone there, what will we do when they leave? (We really are in dire need of couples here in our mission. Life for senior missionaries here is really not so bad! I think it is mostly the travelling that makes it tough and Brent and I are the only ones that really have to do that. We all have been trying so hard to find couples to come here, to no avail. Really!… It is much like life in any mission… Any takers?)
The Van Wagoners are our Humanitarian couple in Bujumbura and do an amazing job. Neither one speaks French but that doesn’t slow them down a bit. They know half of the dignitaries in town, go dancing every Friday night, exercise every morning in the park with their own personal trainer and eat wonderful fresh fruit and vegetables daily. In short, I think they are healthier than most of us would be at home. And as far as “happy” goes… I think their faces say it all!
Yes, we are still in the same place we landed in seven months ago but things really are different. I even feel differently now. Not really because of any of the things I have mentioned above, though none of that hurts. It is because of much more important changes that have been taking place. I am finally beginning to understand a little and to be able to speak and actually be understood! That is huge to the mental well-being of a ‘talker” like myself. (Though try as we might, I don’t think we will ever fully understand the cultural differences.) And even more importantly, we are sensing a shift in the attitude of the mission for the better. It may be only the slightest of shifts, but it is something! We are beginning to feel like we are making a difference and that,… makes all the difference.
P.S. Due to an inability to access the internet, this post was a little long in coming. I plan on another in a few days. 🙂