An interesting sandwich, all right, but I’m not talking about the culinary kind. I’m referring to a really difficult week sandwiched in between two incredible weekends. (I’m not sure what that says about the reason we came here–> work, but the weekends were really awesome!) 🙂
Ever the optimist, I’ll recount our first wonderful weekend first:
After sleeping in our first morning, (a luxurious, deep sleep that I’ll probably not enjoy often), we awoke to embrace our new lives, our new city, our new colleagues, and hopefully, our new friends. Being without a vehicle and forbidden to use any form of public transportation, we got on our radios and said “Taxicab, taxicab, this is Moses” and in less than ten minutes, a motor pool driver arrives to take us wherever we need to go. Being without a car sucks, but the motor pool (free to us for the first sixty days) and the motor pool drivers are awesome. We headed out to a party (thrown in our honor to welcome us, complete with a goat roast, but also I think just a great excuse for a party!) We met a number of fellow embassy workers, a number of missionaries, and random visitors, and enjoyed some great food.
Sunday morning we decided to venture out to church. Now if we were hoping for a real African experience, we got one here. It was lively, colorful, spirit-filled, worshipful, hot, and if upon our return we are dancing in the aisles, Fellowship Denverites, please forgive us. 🙂
Later that afternoon, a fellow embassy worker (and fellow recent Denverite) called and offered to pick us up for the embassy softball game, and drinks and hippo viewing at the Hippo Hole, followed by dinner at a nearby restaurant.
There might not be much to do in Bujumbura, but we were surely kept busy that first weekend, and it was great to make so many acquaintances even before my first day at work! We were so grateful for the warm welcome and how so many people reached out right away.
And then there was a week at work.
Why did I think I was so special that I was going to avoid jet-lag and first week catastrophes?
The first day was back to back in-processing meetings, badging, security briefings, and ambassador meeting. I was exhausted at the end, but happy to be getting started 479 days after I submitted my application. It’s been a long time coming.
And then things started tumbling downhill rapidly,
There were phone mishaps (who tapes an INCORRECT phone number to a phone??? and why does it take three pages to explain how to make a phone call???), and keys locked in the office (rescued by the Marines, who then forgot to tell me of the rescue, which sent me looking for them for two hours and thinking I had lost not only my keys but my mind), and the complete and utter inability to write a “cable” (the electronic communication which starts the medevac process) only to find out I was loaded into the system incorrectly and that’s why I couldn’t do it, and of course, missed Week One radio check in. Oops.
By the end of the first week, I was beyond exhausted, and beyond frustrated, but ready for what our second weekend had on offer: VISITORS!!!
(Who has visitors their first week in the middle of nowhere, East Africa?? We do!!)
My dear, precious friends, Brooke Cantrell, Katie Nichol, and Liz Staples loaded on a bus (we’re talking an African bus here, folks) and road it for six hours, over bumpy roads, with African children stretched across their laps, all the way from Kigali, Rwanda, just to see what cool, hip things we had going on here in Bujumbura. And after sleeping in our air conditioning on very comfortable beds, and being driven around in nice, new suburbans and four-runners by motor pool drivers all weekend, and shopping in our duty-free commissary and eating out in the poshest restaurants East Africa has to offer, and meeting the ambassador at an Easter Egg Hunt, they concluded that we’re experiencing the sanitized version of East Africa. And guess what?!?! I’ll take it! 🙂
And that’s The Congo in the background, across the lake. The Congo, people. For real.
And so although the girls didn’t get to see any hippos, I think the chimp experience made up for it, maybe just a little. And they flipped a coin, and lucky for them, decided to fly back instead of returning the way they came, which gave us precious extra time together, so we could enjoy a peaceful Sunday morning, reading several accounts of the resurrection and enjoying Easter candy, straight from America.
By the time I put them on the plane, I was again exhausted, but very, very happy, and thankful for wonderful friends who’ll go to such great lengths to welcome us into our new home!
And there I’ll leave you hanging, wondering if I’ll have a better second week, and if I’ll even survive this crazy job, and the wild adventure.
Next up: pictures of the house, internet frustrations, the second work week, hippo photos, and how reality is standing up to those pre-recorded expectations. Until then, au revoir!