WORK. Warning: this post may be boring.

Lots of questions come my way about what I’ll actually be doing once I arrive, so I thought I’d briefly outline what I understand my job responsibilities to be and then I’ll give my best shot at what I expect it to be like. It’ll be interesting to see how closely my expectations line up with the realities once I hit the ground. But for now, here goes:

My job responsibilities will be

  • to give primary care to the folks who work in the embassy and their family members, including two sets of twin baby boys and a newborn! 🙂 (This includes all their annual physicals, the babies’ well baby care, the sick visits, managing chronic illnesses like high blood pressure, etc.–anything you would go to your family doc for. This also includes encouraging everyone to be diligent with their malaria prevention!)
  • to oversee the health clinic, staffed by a Burundian nurse and lab tech who have been there for many years.
  • to coordinate care for emergencies, which of course is the scariest part of all. Can we start a prayer chain now for NO EMERGENCIES for the next two years??
  • to organize medevacs, which probably aren’t as sexy as they sound. This includes not only emergencies, but anything a person would need to obtain elsewhere, like specialist care.
  • to regularly assess the local medical capabilities — the hospitals, the specialists, the emergency care, to know what is available locally.
  •  to engage in health promotion and prevention activities.

I may be overlooking some of the details, like attending country team meetings and being actively engaged in emergency preparedness, but I think that’s the bulk of it.

On the one hand, it sounds like a lot, but on the other hand, the embassy community is pretty small, so I expect it to be manageable. Here are some of my other expectations:

  • I expect to be on call 24/7, which is a lot, but again, it’s not like I’ll be seeing 30 patients a day and then going home and being on call.
  • I expect that if I’m up all night taking care of an urgent matter, I’ll be able to sleep a bit the next day because the patient schedule won’t be jammed packed full.
  • I expect to be able to give really good, thorough care because I will know my patients well, be very accessible to them, and have the time to spend with them.
  • I expect to have plenty of help and support just a phone call away from my Regional Medical Officer in Nairobi and my colleagues in neighboring countries, many of whom I’ve already been in touch with.
  • I expect to have some days when I feel like I can handle everything that comes my way, and other days when I wonder what in the heck I’ve gotten myself into and why am I doing this and what did that infectious disease doc tell me about diarrhea again?
  • I expect it will be a challenge to get time away since there won’t be much other coverage, but I expect that eventually I will figure that out too.
  • I expect to love the patient care aspect of it, and I expect it will take me a while to figure out the rest of the aspects of it, especially the paperwork part. 🙁
  • I expect to work hard and I expect it to be demanding and I expect there will be a steep learning curve, at least at first.
  • I expect to really love it overall, but I expect to encounter some really challenging adjustments. I want to go in optimistic, but not unrealistic, with a good dose of realism to go along with my eternally optimistic rose-colored glasses.
  • I expect to have fun.
  • I expect to work hard and play hard and that should suit me just fine.

Things I don’t expect:

I don’t expect it will look like this, but you have to admit, it’s a fun picture anyway:

ambulance 2

So that’s it in a nutshell. I’ll enjoy going back over this a few weeks after arrival and see how reality stands up against my expectations.

The second part of this post was to be about my hopes and dreams–a little more personal than job responsibilities and expectations–but I’m going to pull the procrastination card one more time and save it for another post. I’m still sorting through all that. I’ll keep you posted, pun intended.

 

Everything you always wanted to know about Burundi…

I thought it only fair to post a bit about Burundi, since it’s not exactly a household word. OK, fact is, even people you’d want on your team in Trivial Pursuit for their geography skills haven’t heard of it, and truth be told, neither had I. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • It’s in Africa. In fact, here’s a map, so you can see for yourself, although I admit it’s hard to find. It’s the tiny country, about the size of Maryland, just south of Rwanda (which everyone’s heard of thanks to Hollywood and Hotel Rwanda).

Political-map-of-Africa

Ok, if you can’t find it on that map, try this one:

African map showing burundi

And here’s one of just Burundi, which if you ask me, looks kind of like the arrowheads Randy and his grandmother used to find in Wyoming. I mean, if you use your imagination.

burundi map

  • It’s landlocked, although much of the southwestern border is adjacent to Lake Tanganyika, which by the way, is the second largest freshwater lake and the second deepest lake in the world (after only Lake Baikal in Siberia), and the world’s longest freshwater lake, and is infested with man-eating hippos. I kid you not.

Lake Tanganyika

Longest lake

  • It’s capital is Bujumbura. Now you have to admit that if you were going to move to some exotic place on the other side of the world, you’d want it to have some exotic name like Bujumbura. The only city I can think of with a cooler name is Ouagadougou (the capitol of Burkina Faso) and, as cool as that name is (right, Megan??), I’m glad I’m moving to Bujumbura. It’s a city of about a half a million people, small by African capital standards, and sits at about 2500′ elevation, which helps it to stay a little cooler than its sea-level equatorial neighbors.
  • It’s filled with the Hutu, the Tutsi, and the Twa, who have lived in Burundi for hundreds of years. These are the same Hutus and Tutsis involved in the famous Rwandan genocide, which BTW, happened 20 years ago next month. Burundi had its own genocide, (two, in fact) but much less publicized and much more prolonged than their neighbors in Rwanda. In fact, there is still much civil and political unrest, with reconstruction efforts still trying to take hold.
  • It’s official language is FRENCH! This in itself is a dream come true. (Those who knew me when may remember French was my first major in college.) They also speak Kirundi, their native dialect, and use Swahili in the streets to conduct business. Wouldn’t Brother Alfred be proud if I learned to conduct some business in Swahili?
  • It’s poor. In fact, depending on what criteria you use, or which resource you look up, it’s the second, third or fourth poorest country in the world. (It’s hanging out down there on the list with the DRC, Zimbabwe, Eritrea and Liberia.) Elections are coming up next year, and I’ve been told I’ll be called upon to monitor polling stations and report if any money changes hands. (This should be comfortable for me; I’m from Louisiana, which, it’s been said, has the best politicians money can buy.)
  • It’s small. The country is small. The embassy is small. The ex-pat community is small. But it’s also beautiful. The country is beautiful. The views of the mountains across the lake are beautiful. The embassy is brand new, and a beautiful, state of the art complex. Here’s a shot of it:

Burundi_Bujumbura_EXT1_944_1

  • It’s near some really awesome things. Most of you know climbing Mount Kilimanjaro has topped my bucket list for many years. It’s on the calendar during Adam’s visit in October and I couldn’t be more excited! It’s also very near the elusive mountain gorillas, which we’ll plan to see with my niece Missy when she visits next year. I know I won’t have loads of time away from work, so if I can accomplish those two things, I’ll be thrilled!
  • The people seem awesome. I’ve already been in touch with a number of people in the embassy there, and they all seem warm, welcoming and excited for our arrival. (Let’s just hope it’s not a matter of misery loves company. Ha ha.) No, seriously, we have all the reasons in the world to believe it will be a great post. Here’s a quote from someone who reached out to me: “I can get you linked into bible study home group, missionaries, etc.” God is good.

And that seems like a great quote on which to end this post. I wanted to include two more topics, but they’ll have to wait until next time:

  • my job–I want to record my impressions of what I think it will be like from what I’ve gathered so far, because it’ll be interesting to contrast that with my impressions of what it is actually like once I arrive, and
  • my hopes and dreams–I’ve thought long and hard about this, and I think it will be difficult and challenging to put it into words, but since when have you known me to shrink from a challenge?

So here’s to the next post, which will be a little more personal and introspective, for what it’s worth.

And so it goes

This post is a continuation of the last one, with a little bit of this and a little bit of that…

THE AGENCY

I feel very privileged that I was able to visit a very special place that not many people get to visit, once with my entire orientation class and once alone to meet with the MED people. Unfortunately, I can’t say much about it, but I wanted to share something that really surprised (and delighted) me. On the wall of the grand lobby, in huge letters engraved in stone, is John 8:32–“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” How cool is that?

CONSUMABLES

So apparently if the State Department moves you to a location where it is deemed that you are either unable to obtain normal, regular things to eat, drink, clean and live with, or obtaining such things would set you back one and half pay checks (e.g., a box of Cheerios for $40–seriously), you are authorized what is known as a “consumables” shipment. All that really means is that you can ship an additional amount of weight that can be filled with things that are consumed, or used up. (Shampoo would qualify, as would toilet paper, but tires would not as they are worn out, not used up.) Sounds wonderful, right? Well, maybe. Or maybe not if you’re not much of a shopper or a planner like me. (Randy, on the other hand, is having a blast. He’s been going to Costco daily and orders from Amazon Prime all day and all night long.) It can be very stressful to think about A. all the things you might need in the next twenty-four months, and B. how much of those things you will need, and C. whether or not you really need them or could maybe do without. I mean, if you decide later you want some Cheetos or Oreos, it’s not like you can run out to the 24 Hour Kroger or King Soopers and grab some. And I mention those two products, because they are the poster children for things you crave when you can’t get them. I mean, I don’t even eat Oreos in America, but just wait until I can’t have any. And then there’s amounts! If you estimate that you use a tablespoon of shampoo a day, but then you take measuring spoons into the shower to verify that quantity (yes, I did that), you could be WAY OFF on your two-year calculations if, in fact, you use a teaspoon. Really. Do the math. I could be leaving BOTTLES of shampoo in Africa.

I’m mostly leaving the shopping to Randy, but in an effort to appear useful, I purchased the items below from a nearby Costco because they were on sale. Keep in mind, I don’t have a car. It was a sight to see me walking home carrying these goodies.

IMG_3349

Aside from a few toiletries and the above purchases, I think I’m going to fill up the rest of the 2500 allotted pounds with the main essentials you’d never want to be without: Herdez salsa, chips and toilet paper. That oughta keep me in good shape for a couple of years.

TMTALK

So I was all stressed out because I didn’t have my TMONE and there didn’t seem to be any real reason why they couldn’t just get that done, which I really needed done so I could get my TMTHREE from post so we could start getting ready to go and I could submit my TMTWO online so they would issue my TMFOUR so we could go.

Wait. You don’t know what a TMONE, TMTWO, TMTHREE AND TMFOUR are? Yea, well, neither did I. And all I know now is that 1. they don’t go in order (TMTHREE comes before TMTWO) and 2. they all have different names (TMTWO is AKA My Itinerary), and 3. you have to have all that in place before you can ship anything or get a plane ticket issued. But all of that seems to be in place (finally. It took me two weeks to figure out how to do the online TMTWO.) and it looks like we’re actually going to launch this adventure. Have I mentioned that there are some forms and paperwork involved in this bureaucracy?

SO WE’RE MOVING

I know. I know. That’s what this has been all about all along, but for awhile it seemed a long way off. But folks, IT’S HAPPENING! Today we booked tickets (which we changed four different times trying to accommodate Quandary). Unfortunately, we ended up deciding that the best connections forced us to spend a night in Brussels. Poor us. But who knew Brussels Airlines flies DIRECT to Bujumbura?!?!?! (Some of you may remember that Brussels became my new favorite city after visiting it a few years ago–what’s there not to like in a city whose most famous offerings include french fries, beer, mussels, chocolate and waffles? These are a few of my favorite things.) I will certainly enjoy that last little taste of western civilization on our way to this new adventure!

AND LASTLY, SOME BLOG NEWS

I have to give all the credit and many thanks to my incredible blog host, Jared King. He is absolutely amazing, talented, and most importantly, patient with my many requests and pleas for help. Among his many contributions are:

  • You can now sign up to get email notifications for new posts. As you can see, I don’t post often, so it’s not like it’ll be filling up your inbox. And this is especially good if you don’t check FB or are not on it. There’s a place you can subscribe on the right hand side or at the bottom. Thanks, Jared!
  • The map at the bottom of the blog is an interactive map that shows what countries I’ve visited. You can see the entire continent of Africa is empty. I’ll be working on coloring in a few more countries there in the next few years. Especially with all the “hook ups” I have now with my classmates! 🙂
  • The timer counts down to our arrival in Bujumbura, Burundi, our new home! Hooray!

STAY TUNED FOR MY NEXT POSTING WHICH WILL BE ENTITLED:

ALL ABOUT BURUNDI AND OUR NEW HOME, BUJUMBURA

I hope to include information about the country, the people, the city, our new home, my job and our hopes and dreams for the next two years. In the meantime, you can let your imagination run away with you as you imagine me doing my work in a setting like this:

 

ambulance 2

 

Or maybe this:

FD ambulance

 

OK. I’m kidding. Stay tuned for the real deal.

A Belated Recap

Unfortunately, I have once again failed to record things in a timely manner (remember this is first and foremost a record for myself), so I have a lot to recap. I’ll organize it via headings so you can skip those that seem of little interest. 🙂

FLAG DAY

I approached Flag Day with mixed emotions. Part (most) of me was quite relieved that I was avoiding that gut-wrenching suspense of waiting to find out the fate of the next two years of my life, and part of me was just a wee bit jealous of the anticipation and excitement of my classmates. Despite it not being a cliff-hanger for me, it was still very exciting to watch all of my new BFFs receive their flags. Those of you who know how much I like ‘the hook up’ (free places to stay), can imagine my excitement that I now have friends all over the world–over fifty different locations, including twenty on the same continent as me–inviting me to visit! And as promised, I feigned great surprise when they called my name; the orientation director awarded me an Oscar for my performance.

Here are a couple of us sporting our new flags with our orientation director.

IMG_3281

So appreciative of my niece Missy and her family’s support. Here I am with her husband, George, a Foreign Service Officer, while she and the kids were my cheering squad at Flag Day. (And yes, I’m holding the Flag Bingo card upside down. It was a kind of exciting day with lots of commotion.) But I am pointing to the Burundian flag. 🙂

photo (2)

ORIENTATION SURVIVAL AND SWEARING IN X 3

It’s done. We made it. The members of the 132nd Specialists Orientation class have completed orientation and were sworn in last Friday. Now, for me, that was my third time to take this ceremonial oath of office. I’m not sure if they were worried the first two didn’t take, or if they just wanted to really drill it in, or if they just like ceremonial happenings. But I did it proudly, so help me God.

As ceremonies go, this one was short and sweet with a couple of brief speeches by some higher ups. At this point, we class members appreciated the emphasis on brief. Then they called each of our names and our new locations, which was a lot of fun to hear once again. I have to admit, all the ceremonial-ness was quite exciting and it made us feel really special. That and the fact that over the course of the three weeks of orientation, when we were addressed by dozens of different speakers, we heard the words “best and brightest”, “best of the best” and “cream of the crop” in every speech and presentation. Excuse me while I go remind myself of my true ordinariness. One can get carried away and forget these things…

Here I am looking all official. Or dorky. Either way.

IMG_3298

THE VISIT

While I was swearing, I mean, swearing in, these fabulous people were flying in a plane to visit. Despite the misleading activity captured below, we had a wonderful time.

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And it was so fun to see love in all its glorious splendor!

(For those who don’t know, that’s my dear friends Lia and Grant, who were celebrating their very recent engagement with a trip to our nation’s capital.) There were loads of wonderful pictures taken, but alas! Not by me. Lia’s the photographer, so she absconded with most of the good ones.

I did manage to snap this beauty at Wheaton Metro Station. The station’s escalators are 230 feet long, the longest escalators in the Western Hemisphere. Grant timed it: it took 2 minutes and 50 seconds to ascend.

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And this beauty

IMG_3313

which my brother, Barry, was able to identify immediately when I texted it to him. (I was so impressed.) The man knows his DC sites: The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the largest Catholic church in the Western Hemisphere.

I guess we were going for Western Hemisphere superlatives.

I have a few more topics to recap, but I’m all blogged out for now, so the rest will have to wait for another post. Now how’s that for a tantalizing finish to keep you coming back for more?!?!