Monday, 12 December 2011

The one where we decided where in the world we're going to live...!

Nearest and dearest,

Here we are - back where we started - Mayfield Guesthouse, Nairobi, killing time before our flight home on Thursday 15th December.

If I'm honest, I could write a blog that rabbits on about all the amazing experiences we've had and the subsequent revelations, the awesome people that we've met, both Africans and foreigners abroad...but frankly I'd love to chat about it over coffee or dinner (hopefully you're buying as we're unemployed and the savings run out at the end of December!).  So this final blog is again a sprinkling of photos and text and if you look very carefully you'll be able to find out where we're going to live as of 2012...!

After Rwanda we travelled towards Mbale (East Uganda) to visit a project called Jenga, we made a few stops...

First, Tim found a lake (Lake Buyoni) with an ecolodge on an island in the middle of the lake.  So off we went to Tim's idea of heaven - a sustainable place to stay in the middle of nowhere...

Dug out canoe - we have to paddle ourselves for an hour to our accommodation!
Ah, so this is how everyone travels...good to know...
Our 'geodome' - with spiders and all...
Geodome + view = beauty (with long drop loos...)
View from our room
Our shower
Golden Crested Cranes posing for us

Bird chilling on our balcony
Children that followed us around the island
Local chess!
After staying in some very questionable accommodation (no water, no electricity, a nightclub downstairs) in Kabale we got a bus to Kampala (Ugandan capital).  There we filled up on city life with hot running water, electricity and the internet....we also got a phone call about a job in Burundi with a job description written out for us...we said we would think and pray about it....

Meanwhile, we passed through Jinja (source of the Nile) and got to Mbale and stayed with Tiff who works for Jenga (  We talked lots about living as a missionary abroad and shared stories of life... 

One day, Tim went to play local football and I went to see Jenga's Saturday Bible Club with Tiff.  As I seem to be the camera-person, we only have photos of the Bible Club!

Tiff getting the kids fired up at Bible Club!
Kids Bible Club

In order to spend time away from distractions of people and stuff, we went to the middle of nowhere (Sipi Falls) and spent time thinking about the decision to move to Burundi....night 1, we were pretty sure we were going to Burundi, night 2 we were pretty sure we were coming back to England...
Our room at Sipi Falls....
...with an incredible view!
Walking behind the falls
I can't quite stress how wet Tim was as he'd forgotton his waterproof...doh!
View from the guesthouse restaurant!
From there we took a crammed mini bus, an overfilled volvo estate, a motorbike each (with all luggage in tow), another 2 crammed mini buses and we had safely crossed the border into Kenya and finally arrived in Kitale, at Pastor Timothy's.

He invited us to stay and speak at his youth off we went to that...

Somewhere in Kenya, near the Ugandan border (we were never quite sure where we were with Pastor Timothy) Tim awaiting Sunday church at the Youth Conference...
Others also waiting
One of the 14 choirs - each of whom sang 3 songs - it went on for 3 hours straight.
One of the women inspired that women could stand at the front and speak!
Pastor Timothy and 6 of his 10 kids!
Worship leaders - Edwin and Timmy!
Tim entertaining the kiddos at the orphanage/our home

We accidentally locked our room.  Luckily Pastor Timothy doesn't have a ceiling
so Tim could climb up, pass up chairs so he could get down the other side!
With now only 2 weeks before going home, more muddy that we'd ever been, with more washing than we'd ever needed and in desperate need of the internet to let people know about our decision of the job in Burundi, we headed to a beach resort near Mombasa (which is an island FYI)...but of course, woe betide us to actually do luxury to the max - no, we got a 16 hour overnight bus (pumping with disco tunes from the late 90s), a tuk tuk to the ferry, ferried across to the mainland and got a mini bus to the resort.  So we rocked up at 7.20am, about 8 hours too early for check in, hot and sweaty having just come down a coupla thousand feet in altitude.

Welcome to our paradise...

Happiness in bliss
Pre dinner rose, soft cheese, crackers and gin rummi!
Blissful poolside dinner
After this dinner we wrote an email in response to the job offer...and...we declined.  It was an amazing offer that ticked so many boxes but our heart is for living in a more deprived area of Oxford - a place where we would love to be a light in the community, showing love to people from all walks of life. The Bible teaches us about looking after the widows and the fatherless...this includes single mums and their children - we long to show them love.  Africa has shown us how much need there is all over the world, and for us, right now, we want to start with our next door neighbours.  We want our lives to look different when we get home - we want our daily jobs to financially support us, to enable us to focus on the community around us.

We can't wait to share more of this with you if you'd like to hear it - we're not entirely sure what it looks like as a reality yet but we are fired up for life back at home.  We thank Mr God muchly for all of the experiences out here that has shaped and moulded our hearts to have a heart for others.  Bring it on!

So we're back on Friday morning - we'll be living at my parents home and on our old phone numbers.  We'd love to hear from you!

Big love to all who have followed this blog and who have in a sense, journeyed with us.  

If this is your first time at reading our blog, we still love you too.


Tic Toc xxx 

Thursday, 17 November 2011

The one where we were in Rwanda!

Dear all,

Such a quick blog after the last I hear you say - but thought that a few snappy snaps of Rwanda might be enjoyed!

The view from our room in Kigali
We've been here a week and of course, the most significant location in Kigali is the Genocide Memorial Centre.  So beautifully laid out with gardens representing themes that they've wanted to remember before, during and after the civil war and genocide.  The interior was very informative and done in a way that was hard hitting but sensitive, thought provoking and emotional.  Whilst in Rwanda, I've also been reading the account of the Canadian General who headed up the UN here during that time, called 'Shake Hands with the Devil'.  Its been an important part of history to learn about and something that is hard to read when you look out of the window seeing such peace.  Imagining such atrocities is heart wrenching. We also visited the hotel that Hotel Rwanda was based on - again, surreal seeing it in peace.

We've spent most of our time in Kigali - we have enjoyed seeing the city with all its rolling hills - its quite a large city which has meant that we've taken lots of taxi-motos - these are motorbikes that cheaply take you anywhere in the city! Slightly terrifying with many close shaves, high speed chases (when my bike was trying to catch up with Tim's) and interesting weaving tactics through traffic.  We've lived to tell the tale, so parentals, don't worry :)

Kigali version of The AA
We also got out of the city for the weekend to go 'upcountry'.  Here's the connection of how we got there...stick with Ben and Katy (who we were with in Tanzania) met a lady called Meg (who has lived in Rwanda most of her life and was born in Burundi) at a conference in Nairobi, where they told her we'd be coming through Rwanda. Meg also happens to be the aunt of Simon Guillebaud (who set up GLO where we were working in Burundi) and Simon's father David (Meg's brother) also happened to be there...phew!

Anyway, we went up an hour north of Kigali to Byuma and went to visit her dream of a project.  She's setting up an ecolodge on a wetlands near where she lives.  She wants to help the wetlands as a portion of the money would be going to the conservation of it, it will encourage employment for the local community and just to show visitors how beautiful the Rwandan country side is too! It was a real treat to see her vision.

Rugezi wetland
More of Rwandan beauty

Fascination from the kids. Just wait until there's an ecolodge there!
That'll be truly interesting!

More amazement as David shows them pictures of themselves on the iPad!

Showing us his 'skiiiillllls'

Meg is in the middle of the back row and David is on the left.
Our trip in a local canoe around the wetlands.
Young boys basket fishing for catfish to sell

One of the birds we saw - apologies to Meg who really tried hard at teaching us the names!

Pelican plus another bird...

Pelicans putting on a show!

Pelicans flying 

Tim wanted to know if you could stand on the voila, we were shown!

On our last day here we had the pleasure of having a very British cup of tea with cup and saucer and all with Mimi - Olivia's aunt who is setting up an opportunity to teach deaf people to sew (surprisingly not that dissimilar to what we were doing in Tanzania!). Even though she's from the US, she pulled out all the stops with Tetley teabags and banana bread.  We loved our morning with her learning about what her vision the sewing and just blessing us muchly with her words of wisdom of being brought up a missionary kid in the Congo!

And for lunch we met with a fellow student of Ben and Katy's from All Nations (a missions training college) called Manassah.  He shared with us his endeavours of trying to introduce the concept of youth-work into Rwandan churches.  He also shared with us his whole family's amazing story of survival during the genocide when prayer was what saved them every time the next threat was upon them. Such an amazing testimony of God's faithfulness in amongst atrocity. 

So from here we move to Uganda - again some projects, some learning and maybe some fun (but, shhhh, don't tell anyone we're actually chillaxing sometimes!)


Tic Toc xxx

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The one where Tim thought lightning was gunfire

Dear All

Time has come around to write another blog – yes, we are the end of yet another chapter of our travels…

Burundi – well life here is slightly more unpredictable than anywhere else we have been in Africa!  We have about 6hrs of power a day or night (if we’re lucky) and we don’t have running water during the daylight hours and in usual African style, the internet works when the provider wants it to…found out yesterday that our internet works by fibre-optic cable from Dar Es Salaam – no wonder there are faults in the line! Having said that, our living conditions are great – we have been living with a new friend called Olivia, her house-mate Connor, a cook who makes all our meals for us and a day guard who does the washing – it’ll do… ;)

And this is a relatively light load on a bicycle!

Country life

Elegance country style

More loaded bikes

This guy has a bed strapped to the back of his bike!
Our decision to come to Burundi was not really planned before we started our African adventures, but it has evolved into the place that we should be right now! As most stories go, a friend (Simon Guillebaud) of a friend (Rob Peasgood) put us in contact with a contact of his (Olivia Perry Smith) about this organisation called Great Lakes Outreach ( The organisation itself is a supporter of about 5 smaller organisations involved in making Burundi a more stable and less corrupt place! All the projects are Christian and promote the use of Christian values in the work place and the education of what the Bible says about what these Christian values are. Many pastors here are un-educated and often just make things up that they preach at the front of church. A popular preaching is of the 'prosperity gospel' i.e. believe in God and you will be rich. If you are poor, you're not a good enough Christian. Such a lie, but the corruption here is far and wide so pastors make a lot of money that way by having their congregation give them money. So the organisation that we are working with is a theological college. And of course, as God would have it, they needed 2 people just like us, just as we arrived.

Daily drive to work along Lake Tanganyika 

The tall building in the church and where Tim teaches, the smaller one on the right is where I teach.
They were going to have to employ an IT guy to teach Word and Powerpoint and the English course for 1st Years was starting at the same time and they really appreciated having a native English speaker. So after years of Tim constantly saying that he isn’t in IT, Tim succumbed to being an IT teacher as did I teaching English. It’s funny how God makes us do things that we weren't planning on doing!  Both courses only run for 4 weeks and it more or less fitted in with our visa…when I say more or less, I mean that the Burundian government have a weird way of sorting out the male and female passports differently and so my visa says I could stay til the 12th Nov and Tim’s til the 9th Nov even though we arrived on the same day. This sucks because it meant that we would have to leave 1 day before our courses finish…booo…and that we need to skedaddle well quick out of the country on the 9th and hope that they don’t say we’re cutting it too fine!

Tim's class working hard on their powerpoint presentations

My class working equally as hard on a game!
A Christian version of Snakes and Ladders,
called Prophets and Pythons (a la Alli Blair)!

Teaching English has been challenging. I feel that I'm so ill equipped to take on the English language as a teaching subject - its so bloomin’ difficult! And as with all things, its not all about the content, its the people. And they are just wonderful. Tim has found teaching harder than he thought – realizing that he needs to plan what he’s going to say rather than just a rough idea. I’ve tried to encourage Tim that its normal to need to plan things a little more thoroughly in the early lesson days, and that its ok that some people will look bored! Overall, it has been fantastic - we've learnt, they've learnt and we feel really good that we've been in the right place at the right time using the right skills :)

In my first class we talked about what our worries were - some of the answers were health, future, children etc, but one person said 'war'. Then we discussed how we can take action on our worries, like drinking clean water and driving safely to protect their children etc, then with the war one, my student said 'hide'. It just made it all so real for me. In general Bujumbura is safe, and the problems that have been here that were spilled over from the Rwandan conflict are almost no more, but of course there are always rumblings. And scars from before. One of my other students was telling me about what she did - she is a volunteer in the trauma recovery service as she had received counselling from the group last year and now she wanted to volunteer. This same day, Tim said that he saw the flash of gunfire in the air. We later realised that it was the daily lightning storms…!

Red sky at night (not gunfire!)

We’re glad that we’ve been here. This was a vision of ours - to learn first-hand about these things. These daily trials that are so different from our worries at home. But we feel that the challenge for us is that if/when we return home, how will these experiences shape the way we live at home. There's no point in seeing these things, sharing in experiences and then just going home as if nothing has happened or as if nothing is happening here. So whether that's just making different choices about where we live, the projects/jobs we get involved with, i don't know...hopefully time and prayer before we return home in December will help us shape those ideas.

To celebrate our first week of work, we went to a beach on Lake Tanganyika for Friday and Saturday (we work Monday – Thursday 6-9pm) But as Burundi is the most expensive country we have visited in East Africa, we stayed in a tent. Rather large one, but a tent nonetheless which meant that at 7am on Saturday morning we awoke to ‘ahhhh we’re dying in the hottest tent in the world!’ Tim’s first thing to do was to travel the 50 metres down to the Lake – bliss. Weird to think that hippos and crocs live in there…but actually its ok because they don’t like where we were swimming…not sure why… The 2 days were blissful – I read loads and Tim was pretty sure he’d solved the world energy crisis by creating perpetual motion (I won’t bore you with why it turns out it won’t work – I’m sure you’ll be able to see the prototype that he will no doubt attempt to make when we get home). Am slowly working on my tan as my September visit home made people question that I’d been in Africa – I plan to be beautifully bronzed by Christmas. ;)

The biggest beer in the world.
Our tent!

Church later that weekend

During our time here, Olivia has shared with us a couple of highlights of Bujumbura and highlights of being a missionary. Settlers of Catan, Dominoes, Downton Abbey and amazing banana chocolate bread made with dried milk and weird African margarine have been our home treats…and outside of the home, we saw the famous Burundian drummers and the ‘Living Museum’ or hands-on zoo…

Just before an impending rainstorm


Not fussed about the 10 ton weight on their heads!


Crazy amounts of drumming!
Timmy having a go!
La musee vivant!

Having a moment with Tina

Tina having a moment with me!
Tina checking Tim's pockets for treasures!
Tina checking out Olivia's toes

As I took my bottle of water out, she found hers, asked for a refill and had a drink...

Then she went to find the lid to her bottle, screwed it on and saved the water for later.

Green house snake

Olivia having a go - I opted for being photographer!

Scary type of viper.  I think they bite.

Olivia holding the tail of a massive croc!

A vervet monkey checking Tim for lice in his arm hair.

And now checking for nits...
Settlers by candlelight with a torch from the light fitting!
In conclusion we have LOVED Burundi.  The friendly people, the beautiful landscape and the good friends we have made.  We will be sure to return and can recommend this beautiful country to anyone who wants an adventure.  We haven't seen as much as we would have liked but we are really happy with the work we have done here, so what a good excuse to return!

From here we are heading to Kigali, Rwanda on Wednesday. We plan to spend some time learning about the conflict and hopefully seeing some projects that we can learn about, sadly we won’t have enough time to get stuck in. After there, we will travel through Uganda, again hopefully visiting a project or 2 which is in the right direction for going to Kenya. We're speaking at a conference with Pastor Timothy (see previous blog for details of this great man!) on the first weekend of December. From there we plan to have a bit of down time in Mombasa before flying home on the 14th! So really time is flying! Please do pray for all of the above - God only knows what's really going to happen in the next month or so!

Love to all,

Tic Toc xxx