To Mugina and Cibitoke for a special night
Trip Start Mar 14, 2013
20Trip End Apr 05, 2013
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Once at Cibitoke, we stopped briefly at the Banana House Hotel (no comment) so I could meet the manager and have a quick look at the room. It would be fine for a night. Then we drove on toward Mugina, again passing through rain. Arriving and the turn off, we started on dirt (mud) road. Prosper wasn’t use to the little Toyota we were in, which apparently didn’t have as much clearance as he was used to. He bottomed out hard on several large rocks, which made me wince. If we punctured the oil pan or did any other major damage, I would miss the opportunity to stay at the Banana House hotel….
We slipped and slid our way to the location of the Church buildings, the major hall is still under construction, and found that Nathan Mokeshimana was not there. So we drove around to his house where I greeted him and his wife in the mud in front of their house. Everything was slippery mud. To walk around to the trunk of the car and give Nathan the booklets and Passover tray and small glasses I had brought for them, caked my shoes with mud, which I tried to scrape off before getting back in the car. After a few minutes, Nathan reemerged from his house in his nice clothes, and we drove to the church’s compound again. I put on my tie as we went. The heat and humidity really make one perspire here and I can ruin a nice shirt in a day if I don’t take some precautions.
When all was ready we invited baptized members inside, and after a few minutes to let everyone calm down and mentally prepare, we celebrated the New Testament Passover. Due to the storm about a little over half the members made it for the service. I will explain what to do for those who missed this evening. I made some opening comments, and then as we had agreed in advance, Nathan read Bible passages relating to the meaning of the day and the symbols. From time to time I would make some comments, which Nathan would translate, and I asked the blessings on the symbols before their distribution.
It is touching and sobering to take the Passover in such simple conditions. We sat in a two-room, mud-brick building with a dirt floor and a tin roof. Those attending sat on long roughly-hewn wooden benches. The women sat in the rear room because it was larger and there were more of them, and because there wasn’t enough space for people to move around much for the foot-washing service. There were only four basins to be shared by 36 people, and we shared about 6 towels between us. Not everyone around here even has a bath or hand towel; they may just use broadcloth pagnes for such needs. Since many had walked far in the rain in sandals or old broken shoes, many of the feet to be washed really needed it. The used water that was thrown outside after each use was often quite muddy. I handed my little flashlight to Mrs. Mokeshimana in the women’s room so she could help them see to wash each other’s feet; there is only one light bulb in the building and it’s in the front room.
We continued with the bread and wine part of the service and then began the scripture reading. As Nathan was reading, the electricity was cut and the room went pitch black. The flashlight came in handy again; Nathan continued reading by its light until the power came back a few minutes later. At the end we sang a hymn and then most people departed for home, though those who had come from the farthest away had to stay over. It was too far to walk in the dark.
I asked Nathan to meet me at the hotel in the morning for coffee, so we could debrief after the service and then Proposer and I drove back through rain once again to the Banana House. It was late for dinner, and I really just needed to sleep, so I asked if I could have a sprite before heading to bed. The answer was confusing. “There is no Sprite here”, the response seemed to be, but we have Coke and lemon Fanta. If you want Sprite you will have to walk across the road.” I responded that a lemon Fanta would be fine, and we sat down at a table. After a rapid exchange in Kirundi, Prosper translated that they needed some money to buy the Fanta across the road. Apparently I missed something, but now you know as much as I do about what was going on. I handed over 2000 francs ($1.30) for the Fanta and a big bottle of water for Prosper and we waited a few minutes while they were brought. I said goodnight and went to my room to set the mosquito net while I sipped Fanta and at a few pieces of the beef jerky I often pack for such occasions.
Making mosquito nets work properly take a little know-how. I learned this the hard way at age 19 when I worked on the Ambassador College project in Thailand. We lived 6 months in the Golden Triangle, on the border with Laos and near the border with Burma. We had volunteered to work with Laotian refugees from the vestiges of the Vietnam conflict, teaching them English or French and elements of Western culture to prepare them for emigration to the US, Canada, Australia and France. On the edge of primordial jungle, we slept on simple bamboo and foam cots under mosquito nets. The first few nights there, in spite of using my net, I woke up with bites all over. Finally I asked a more experienced hand, what I was doing wrong. I was told to make sure the net was tucked carefully under the mattress all the way around, and that there were no holes at all, even a small one would be found and a sort of flashing highway on-ramp indicated in the mosquito realm. The other important thing before going to bed was to take a flashlight and go all the way around the perimeter top seam of the net on the inside, to look for fifth columnists. I don’t know how, in those minuscule brains (I guess they have brains), they knew to hide there, but they did and do. And if we missed even one, she’d have a feast on our face all night long.
So having done the mosquito net ceremonial, I turned in for the night. I woke a few times but was able to go back to sleep and was happy in the morning not to have any mosquito bites, though they were present in the room and especially in the bath room where the water is found.
I also noticed the gentle hint that people should not sit around the plantings in front of the Banana House Hotel’s compound. Broken glass should do the trick. The manager found me at this point and asked me: “café fort ?” (“strong coffee?”). To which I replied “oui, fort.” I was curious how strong it might be. As this exchange was occurring I noticed in the dining room, that they had locked the television in a steel cage to prevent theft, which is very common in hotels and restaurants in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Marjolaine.” Yes, it was my wife of 28 years, whose voice was so changed by the phone connection that I didn’t recognize her. I remembered then that calls from home do sometimes show up on caller ID as from the local country. Marjolaine hadn’t recognize my voice either. We talked for a few minutes but it was more frustrating than anything else, we couldn’t hear well or understand each other. I said I would call her back when I got to Bujumbura and we could talk more clearly. We said goodbye and hung up.
Five minutes later Marjolaine called back; her voice was clearer now. “What is your mother’s name?” she asked. I told her my mother’s first name. “And her middle name?” I told her. With that proof she was finally sure that I was me. She wanted to be sure that everything was OK and that my phone hadn’t been taken from me by someone pretending to be me; the voice modification was troubling. We both relaxed and laughed, and chatted a few more minutes, the line was for some reason clearer now and we could converse almost normally. As we hung up again, I was proud of my lovely, courageous wife. She is concerned for me, wants to watch my back, and wouldn’t give up until she was sure everything was normal. Yet another proof, though none are needed, that I definitely married the right woman! She quietly puts up with a lot of stress and worry so that I can serve in these far-flung areas.
The coffee was ready in a big thermos at little before 8:00. I went and tapped on Prosper’s door, and told him there was coffee. I waited a few minutes for him and just before he appeared Nathan arrived. I asked about Moïse and his family. He things were going as well as could be hoped. I poured rich black coffee that got stronger the farther down the thermos we got, by our second cup there was a lot of thickening sediment. I concluded that this had been prepared Middle-Eastern, and there would be a thick magma of finely ground coffee. I stopped at two cups, which was enough anyway.
Prosper had some calls to make, so Nathan and I were able to hold a short “ministerial conference” about the service last light and how things are going in the congregations he serves. Some events have been encouraging, some challenging or are harbingers of possible difficulty in the future. He asked me to cover a few topics in sermons, to deepen the understanding of the members on certain key topics. I made mental notes and wrote them down later.
After an hour, he needed to leave for the funeral of Moïse’s father, so we said goodbye until tomorrow and Prosper and I headed back to Bujumbura and the hotel, which took about 90 minutes.
I arranged for Prosper to come back tomorrow to take me back to Mugina for the day. For the rest of today I will work on some sermons and other office work and rest some more too in preparation for the rest of this trip. I have another heavy travel day coming up starting Saturday night, so I want to get caught up as much as possible.