Kibenga thunder on cue

This from Derek, who really knows how to give God a straight line!


This Morning's Report from Burundi

Sometime my e-mails from SPG correspondants in Burundi
are just too fun and must be shared.

My former fellow house guest, Derek "Longshot" Lamson
is about to leave the country.
When I left he inherited the phone and the Toyota Sprinter.

He has had all the adventures you would expect.
He has totally racked up points for
"Most Ticketed Muzungu."

He also had the battery give out,
yet continued to drive
for a week without a battery
(this is not a miracle - just a fact of life in a country
where there is always willing help to push start a car.)

When he told me earlier this week that he had been ticketed
for bad insurance docs at a check-point I had to ask
if he had been forced the ask the check-point cops to help him push-start
the car - fortunately the battery had been installed that morning!

Now, his last e-mail before he ships his laptop home and continues
on his travels and this one has yet another car adventure.
For your reading enjoyment:
(slightly edited for public consumption)

Flat tire on the Toyota this morning.
I am not making this up.
I was to take Madame to an early morning and then
go find all of my packing supplies for the laptop, etc.,
and SURE AS S*** it was flat.
So Bukuru and Gillie
and Yoyo to help talk
and we're all how do we do this.
So I'm going, yeah there's a spare,
and Bukuru is, no no no there is no spare.
Oui, but there's a jack and a lugnut wrench.
Eego, but there's no spare. So around we go...

Madame, we have a situation,
and this is how we intend on resolving it.
No, I don't know when.
Yes, Gilbert has good information about tire repair locally.
Oui, we will keep you apprised.
Let us call a taxi now,
and they can take you where you need to go
and they can take Gilbert et moi to the tire store.

OK, gentilhommes, are you sure there's no spare under that vinyl ... ?
What about... ?
Oh and SURE AS ***
it was in a keeper frame thing under the car.
Yep, Bukuru, mon frere, ici!

We change the tire.
We make our way into the city.
I request prayers all around, please: Feli, Wayo, James.
It has been battery, insurance, flat tire, three in a row.
Please pray we make it into town and back in good order. Amen.
"A little prayer," I said.
"There are no little prayers," said Feli.


Speaking Of Chickens

Some of you may remember in the fall that I followed the story of a certain chicken that belonged to my young friend Elie in Buja. including the miraculous birth of a baby chicken. And imminent danger to the chicken.

Well , by the time I got to Buja Elie had sold the mother chicken to Gilbert the houseman, and the chicken had gone up country to the wife of Gilbert to meet it's fate.

The miraculous daughter of the chicken was still in the yard. A fine looking red hen, but there the similarity to any chicken I ever met ceased. I have told you that everything in Burundi is tougher, smarter and frequently more dangerous than the equivalent thing here. The chicken was no exception. She patrolled the yard fairly ceaslessly. She had the movement of a velociraptor ala Jurassic Park. She could take a bug out of the air from two feet away. I have never seen a more hypervigilent creature. The kids told me that she also ate lizards, which I had no trouble believing. Then one day from the terrace I watched her attack, kill and eat a sparrow. It was a truly disturbing sight! Chickens just shouldn't be that ferocious. I did not think to take a picture of the chicken - My picture taking activity always decreases with fear. About halfway through the visit, this chicken also disappeared. We had chicken on the table that week. They told me it was not the same one - I think the thought I would have hurt feelings about eating the family chicken - In this case I don't think it would have bothered me.

Which allows me to tell the story of Madame and Monseur Bunny.


The Garbage on Samedi Street

Yes, Kibenga from the Terrrace of our house was lovely,
but it is really the third world.
This is the garbage pile in the street next to
the gutter where you do not want to look.

The good news is that Bujumbura now has garbage collection.
I don't know what they do with it, but they do collect it -
I saw this once myself.
The bad news is that garbage collection happens once a month or so.
I think they have one truck, and it makes it's way around the city.
So this is a two day pile that will grow into a six week pile in the 95 degree heat.
The piles grow big enough to block traffic,
but the chickens seem to like them!


More Burundi Pics

When I left Burundi in November 2003, David and Felicity were in the process of finishing the house on Samedi Street. David is a man who loves trees. This is a fact known by everyone who knows him. At that time he gave me the priviledge of choosing and planting two trees in the yard. I planted one for my father Orville Senger another man who loves trees and one for myself.

I received reports every so often that the trees were alive.

When I got to the house this time, I was warned that I might be unhappy whith what I found. The "Tree of Orville" as it is known, was two stories high and giving nice shade, even after a couple of scoundrels I know removed a branch to improved Satellite TV reception.

The "Tree of Peggy" as it is known was less than two feet tall. It has three slender trunks and was infested with an african sort of whitefly. It was sad. It needed to be replaced but no one in the household had the
courage to dig it up. They thought it was bad luck or something to kill a tree planted by a traveling preacher.

Everyone watched as I insopected the two trees and declared "Everything is as it has always been."

David asked me if I would make a disposition about my tree during my stay.

I had a little talk with the tree. I am pretty sure that it was hit by a soccar ball at least twice during its early life. At least that is what it said. I bathed it in soap to inhibit the fly and told it that it had six weeks to grow under my protection. I cultivated and watered it. It did not grow. So a couple of days before I left I got the family hoe and ripped it from the ground and threw it in the ditch outside the gate. No evil befell the house. Everyone was relieved.

RIP Tree of Peggy

Dropkick Murphys

Fine Lads from Boston.

At the risk of my Quaker creds, this song, and even this video, totally speak to my condition.

If you don't get it I can't explain it to you. Don't look if you can't look at a little fisticuffs with detachment.

My people are Scotch Irish.

Clan Morrison - founded by a pillaging viking who decided to stake a claim in Scotland.

Then the English sent some of my people to Ireland.

We were the opressors for sure.

In seventh Grade my grandmother made me an orange plaid dress and tam to wear on St Patrick's day -In Chicago - yes I got hit. Yes I hit back. And then I ran really fast.

These days my only war is the Lamb's War. But it is a real fight some days and my warrior ancestors speak to me more often than ever. They like this song.

You don't have to.

Sure an it's St Paddy's Day!

Let's throw a few hundred gallons of Green Food Dye in the River!!!!


Holy Psalmist! is that you Paul?

Breaking News from the SPG web watch desk!

Is it possible that our Friend Blogger Paul at Showers of Blessings
the rebuking David Plotz of who is Blogging the Bible?

Way to go, Paul!
To bad it doesn;t say QUAKER Paul Landskroener.

SPG eagarly awaits confirmation of this story.


Comedian HERO

Craig Ferguson, Late Night Comedian goes on my HERO list for speaking with candor, concern, and humor about Alcoholism and the harm of laughing at other peoples troubles.
What a Mensch!it's 12 minutes long and the end is worth it.


The House on Samedi Street

So, for starters a few pictures of domestic life in Bujumbura

"Our House" belongs to David Niyonzima and his wife Felicity Ntikurako. They finished building it in the fall of 2003, so I saw it in the final stages of construction when I was there last time. The family, including four children a housekeeper and a gateman all live on the ground level. David says that he is a "man of the earth" and does not like to sleep away from the ground. He built the upstairs specifically to be able to accomodate occasional Quaker visitors, although I understand that the boys have lived up there part of the time. You can see the second floor terrace with a view of the mountains
of Burundi, the Congo and Lake Tanganyika. The breezes upstairs are heavenly. The guest quarters include a large living room, two bedrooms each with its own bath (one with HOT Water - guess who got that one!) and a small kitchen.
The upstairs has its own entrance,
the car parked in below the terrace is the little Toyota Sprinter wagon that belongs to THARS and was mine during my stay. In the second picture to is the main entrance to the house.


ok - Let's start some Burundi pics

The project of processing my trip still feels pretty overwhelming,
but I know if I start it will roll.

Here are a couple of pics to illustrate that last UPI column about the bus

(Sensitive and vegetarian Friends may wish to look away)

This is me eating goat on a stick. picture taken by a member of the bus group.

This is how you buy goat on a stick through the window of the bus.

This is what the goat looks like before they BBQ it. It just hangs out there in the hot sun all day. Flys and all. They leave the tail on as truth in advertising - you know what critter you are getting. YOu can tak a half goat home to the fam it you like. I was grateful that no one on my bus needed to stock up that day.

I was hungry, and I was thankful to God and the goat for the nourishment, and to my fellows on the bus for taking care of me.

You can be grateful that I didn't take pic of the toilets!

FFC Rolling Thunder

Oh, Baby!
FFC member Tim Molloy, presently serving on Ministry and Oversight has purchased today a brand spanking new 2007 Kawasaki Vulcan 900!

That makes 3 out of 6 members of M and O that Ride! The other members are featherwights and we can bungee them on the backs of ours. We need patches for our Jackets! We are ready to rumble with elders or overseers anywhere in the northwest!
Welcome to the Pack, Tim!


Bono - Hero of the Faith - AGAIN!

Listen to this all the way to the end. Get read to stand up and cheer.


Last Week's UPI Column

Well, Friends. I am back in the Land of E Pluribus Unum, as the Wizard would say.
Looks like I didn't post my final UPI column from Africa. Probably had something to do with getting on a plane on Tuesday. Here it is.

I will be posting photos and lots more Africa writing during the month of March.
My, but this connection is Fast! Well, actually everything seems fast at the moment.
Still pretty Jet Lagged and Culture Shocky - sure it will pass.

Enjoy - from the road to the Congo...

The Community of the Bus

So there I was ...

On the people's bus going into the Congo; that's the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The World Health Organization recently named Bukavu, DRC, as the worst place in the world to be a woman. I was heading to the city of Goma, just north of there — working on the presumption that this dire classification would not apply to me.

I was traveling solo; not by choice, but by need. I had made arrangements for a skilled, fluent, trustworthy friend to accompany me on this journey. On the evening before departure one of his loved ones fell seriously ill and it was clear that I could not take him with me. I decided to proceed despite several handicaps.

A major handicap was the lack of language. On my journey I would be in lands speaking Kirundi, Kinya-rwanda, Kiswahili and the standard educated backup of French. I have at least a half-dozen words in each of those languages. Truly, not enough.

I had four border crossings to make, two each way. I had counsel on what to expect, but I am not knowledgeable enough to know when to pay up and when to have a nice African temper tantrum in response to the demands of petty despots and bureaucrats.

In Africa, border crossings, like everything else, are very real. You do them on foot. Your public bus drops you on one side, and then you and all your luggage walk to the small building with the long line where you stand in the hot sun and wait for the exit visa stamp. Then you pass by the men with guns guarding the actual border and show them your fine new stamp. Then you walk the ground that constitutes the no man's land until you get to the men with guns at the other gate, who look at you suspiciously and then condescend to let you stand in the long hot line where you hope to get the entrance visa to the next country. I do not know what happens if one country lets you leave and the other decides not to let you enter.

The no man's land between Burundi and Rwanda is especially spacious; there is a nice long walk and a river. I do not know who repairs the bridge. But there are poor children on that bridge begging. I do not think that they have stamps of any kind. I do not know which country claims them.

Traveling like this gets a person down to the basics. You carry enough water, and you rely on the kindness of strangers — a lot.

Fortunately I have found that African strangers are almost always very kind. I had a conversation many times that went something like this.

"Madame; blah, blah French blah?"
"I am so sorry, I have no French."
"Blah, blah Kirundi (Kinya-rwanda, Kiswahili) blah?"
"Oya, sorry, I really have no Kirundi, either.
I have only English."
"Only English?"
"You go where?"
"Congo?" (incredulous) Whistle

Then often they took me by the hand, literally, and kept an eye on me.
Nice folks; pity for the stupid and helpless.

One thing you have going for you is the African cultural value of instant group identity. When you get on a bus, you enroll in the group of that bus. It is now OUR bus, and you are one of US. Our pale, retarded, little sister, but ours.

They tried to educate me about thieves, as if I had no concept for larceny. They helped me find food to eat. This can be challenging. Travelers often go hungry. But the bus drivers know the standard stopping places where roadside vendors sell fast food. This is usually a roasted cob of corn so tough that Illinois stockyard cows would send it back to the kitchen. The other choice is goat on a stick. On one of my buses, a kind old father educated me like a child. "This is what Rwandan money looks like. Goat should cost this much. Here are two bills, go buy two goat sticks, one for you and one for me, and I will watch from here. It's OK — you can do it." Well, actually, that was communicated with a couple of words of several languages and hand gestures — worked fine. Turns out that goat on a stick is delicious, and hurt me not at all. The Baba also informed me that this roadside was famous for the sleeping potion in the coke trick, where a planted thief on the bus cleans you out as you sleep. Make sure you see them open your coke, sweetie.
Thanks, Baba.

Also, like a small child, you need help finding the toilet. I tried to go from breakfast to dinner without, but some days I just couldn't make that 12-hour wait. Toilets in Africa run the gamut from the fancy hotel equipment with the lovely French bidet to what the locals euphemistically call the "precision" toilet.

Now you who have traveled may think you know about this phenomenon, but unless you have been to an up-country African precision toilet, you have not lived.
The idea is a variation on the standard hole in the floor
— try your best aim - affair.

At one of the borders, I was informed by my bus team members that this was a good place to go; you pay 100 francs to that man over there and he will escort you up the hill to a very nice facility run by his family for several generations now.
I had hope.
I paid my fare.
I followed the man up the goat trail to an adobe outhouse.
I was still hopeful.
Because I didn't know any better.

I entered the facility as the man stood guard for me immediately outside the door. He thoughtfully kept a hand on the latch. I felt safe because I could see him clearly through the many finger-wide gaps in the door. I was grateful for the gaps, as they admitted the only light, allowing a good view of the target. The floor of the outhouse was constructed of many sticks the size of broomsticks. The pit below was a refreshing two meters down. Many of the floors sticks appeared sound. The broken ones were well spaced. The essential gap in the floor was about a palm's width. Because the word "precision" is a serious euphemism, the sticks on either side were very slippery for a foot or so, and they turned nicely with this lubrication. Somehow I did what I came to do. I used one of my nice Kirundi words and thanked the attendant.
He was also grateful as he now had a story to tell his wife when she asked how his day went.
My busmates congratulated me on my courage.

After several long days of this kind of travel you think that you cannot be shocked.
I considered myself to be seasoned beyond reason.
Then life threw me a real shocker.

On the last bus ride, we stopped at a roadside stand that was new to me. My busmates informed me that this was a good place to use the toilet. I assessed my need and decided to be courageous.

Behind the goat and coke stand was a very pretty yellow sign that said toilets. Hmm, a sign, did I dare hope? Naw.

There was a man at the door, but he was wearing a white lab coat. Hmm.

I opened the wooden door into a room with a sink, two standard porcelain urinals and two stalls labeled "gents" and "femmes." I pulled the door marked "femmes." And as I did, a very cheery, obviously canned, Japanese voice, said in perfect English, "Hello! Welcome!" I tried the door several times, each time I welcomed by the invisible Japanese girl. The toilet was the automatic flushing variety, and there was a sign stating that it was a gift to the people of Rwanda from the people of Japan.

How thoughtful!

However,I was a little disconcerted by the ghost voice of the Japanese girl. I kept looking around to see if she was holding the door for me, but I could not find her.

I looked at the shiny receptacle. I knew if I missed, everybody, including the Japanese girl would know it was me, because obviously everyone else had been very precise. Somehow I relaxed enough to do what I had come to do, but I jumped out of my skin a little when I exited and the invisible Japanese girl bid me good day.

I bought a coke and some goat to calm my nerves.
My busmates congratulated me on my courage.