And the winner is…

Not that I want to be accused of being like that elementary school soccer team where everyone who shows up gets a trophy, but we have lots of winners here!

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Felicidades to every one who entered!  As of this writing, just over 24 hours after posting the contest, we’ve had 37 contestants with 47 different guesses and many repeats. Three cities tied for second place with four guesses each: Reykjavik, Budapest, and Buenos Aires, but interestingly, the city with the most guesses-6-was actually correct. Either I have some clever friends or my hints were too good.

Felicidades to everyone who correctly identified an -est.

And felicidades to the following random winners of various side categories:

Miranda King for submitting the first vote! Way to be on top of things, Miranda. (Or to be on FB while at work.)

Ian McQueen for submitting the first -est.

Molly and Ian for the most descriptive -est: Asunción-“the arm-pittiest”.

Lia Stone for the most entries at ten. Quantity over quality, right, Hunter?

Mark Griffith for submitting the most heartfelt and well thought out rationale.

And Christina St. Michel for being the saddest that we’re leaving Africa. I’ll still be here another six months, so maybe we can still see each other!!

And here’s your very last hint:

Bolivia waving flag

However, this hint is not as clear cut as it might seem. The country represented by this flag, like many countries (15 according to the googles), has more than one capital.

Drum roll, please.

Felicidades to Jared King, Andy Jacob, Hannah Eagleton, Becky Baskin, Jon Hood, and Justin Belk who put together all the hints to correctly guess

La Paz

LA PAZ, BOLIVIA!

We’re going to La Paz, y’all! The highest national capital in the world at roughly 11,975 feet above sea level. (Much like the source of the Nile, this -est is disputed, as some people say La Paz isn’t a capital–Sucre is–and gives the honors to Quito at a mere 9,350′.)

Thanks, everyone, for playing. It was fun to see all the guesses and all the -ests. That was definitely the most popular clue.

And here are some reasons I’m excited about our new post:

  1. First and foremost, because it was Randy’s first choice. After being such a good sport (most of the time) during the past two years, I’m so pleased he got his wishes.
  2. And following as a close second, I think the job itself is going to be great. I’ve heard nothing but good from the person there now. I think it will be interesting and challenging, but a little less stressful than Bujumbura. (Ha–almost anything would be less stressful than Buj right now.)
  3. Spanish! Randy promised he’d learn. Donde esta la tortuga, right, Ian? L’addition, por favor.
  4. It looks beautiful! And there’s no malaria!! And it’s not hot!!
  5. We’ll be a little bit closer to home and 1-3 time zones away instead of 7-9.
  6. People might come visit!!
  7. I’ve never been to South America and there are so many things I want to see and do there–Lake Titicaca, Machu Picchu, Cusco and the Galapagos Islands, Quito, Patagonia…and all the local treasures I don’t even know about. And people might come visit. Oh, did I mention that already?
  8. I think it will be interesting politically and diplomatically, but again, a little less “interesting” than Burundi is at the moment!

Only fitting. We’re going from The Buj to The Peace.

And total extra points to anyone who identified the hidden clue in the very last line of the hints post. Be honest; did anyone get it?

Peace out and start planning your visit! ETA should be around August 2016, give or take.

 

Happy Guessing

And may the odds be ever in your favor.

The handshake has arrived.

Our fate, well, at least our destination for the next two years, which has been in the hands of others, has finally been revealed.

But before we celebrate the elaborate GeoReveal (like a gender reveal, only different), let’s have a guessing contest!

Here are the rules:

  1. Anyone may enter. However, if you were privy to the Top Six bid list, (you know who you are) please submit your guesses privately, via email or FB private message, as you would have an unfair advantage.
  2. You may enter as many times as you’d like. (Really, there are very few rules in this contest.)
  3. Enter the name of the city. Remember, the state department, in all its wisdom, refers to these locations as cities, not countries.
  4. You may submit guesses via comments on this blog or on FB comments on this post. Or any other way you can think of to publicly share them. WhatsApp. Hangouts. Skype. Viber. iMessenger. FaceTime. Smoke signals. Skywriting. Shout it from the rooftops. You have to admit–we have way too many choices of ways to communicate.

But whatever you do, you should enter a guess. Just because you should be a good sport and play along. And because the prizes are so cool. Like free room and board when you come to visit. And the pride of knowing you guessed well.

So then.

Here are the hints:

  1. You’ve likely heard of this city. I mean, maybe. If you’re pretty decent at national capitals. I am surprised to be giving this hint, as I was expecting to be saying the opposite. Most of the cities on my list you’d likely never heard of. Generally, if you’ve heard of it, I wouldn’t be going there.
  2. You’re more likely to visit us here than our present location. Unless you’re Britta Erickson or one of our Kigali girls, because they all visited us here. (FYI: you’re all welcome to visit, and Britta, if you come, it’ll be like a tradition!)
  3. It’s not on the same continent as our present location. That is in response to the mandate Randy laid down: NO. MORE. AFRICA.
  4. Its climate is…surprising. It’s full of interesting contrasts; for example the diurnal temperature variation is typically large. Who knew?
  5. As national capitals go, it’s a superlative. That means it’s a ‘something-est’. You know, like biggest or smallest or coldest or hottest or cleanest or dirtiest or some other -est. You get extra points if you guess what -est it is.
  6. Its inhabitants speak a different language than our present location.  I mean, that’s not really a good hint, since they speak Kirundi here and only here.
  7. It’s a post with no USAID presence. Now I know that doesn’t mean much to you non-Foreign Service people, so that’s just a little trick to throw people in the know off the trail.
  8. We’re really excited. It was #1 on our Bid List, which is absolutely amazing to me, because I never never never expected to score this.

So there you have it. Let the guessing begin. Free room and board when you come to visit!! Please please please enter your guesses so I can share our news soon. You know I don’t keep secrets well!

Peace out, y’all.

Musical Continents

First, disclaimers:

Disclaimer #1: OK, so I stole the title from our very witty finance guru; it was the phrase he used when he dispersed our travel authorizations for yet another Ordered Departure. It does aptly describe the game we feel we are playing.

Disclaimer #2: Much of this news has already made it to FB and emails. so if we’re in touch that way, this may all be old news. Sorry for the repeat.

Disclaimer #3: The overarching theme of this post is sadness. (At least after you get past the turkeys.) If you’re not up for being bummed, you might want to skip reading any further. Sorry, but from the beginning the point of this blog was to capture the moment, and right now the moment is sad. There’s just no way around it.

So if you follow this story, you’ll know from my last post in September that we were awaiting the final decision about our exiled family members returning. We were hopeful then doubtful then hopeful then just plain exhausted from the waiting. But finally, at the final hour, the Ordered Departure was lifted and our families were allowed to return.

This long awaited moment was a sight for sore eyes, to be sure!

Randy in Buj

 

Randy returned on the Friday before Thanksgiving, sporting three frozen turkeys in his luggage, just in time for the holidays! We had a great Thanksgiving together, celebrating two wonderful meals on Thanksgiving with colleagues and Marines,

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fried a turkey just for the two of us over the weekend (first time ever–it was delicious and we ate the whole thing–just turkey, no sides, no lie),

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and joined a wonderful group of missionaries from all over the world on Sunday.

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We were thankful beyond words–to be together and to be celebrating this uniquely American holiday so richly.

(One other little Thanksgiving note before I move on to the sad part: someone had asked us to fry a Burundian turkey for one of the feasts. I brought it home and put it in the sink. When Randy opened up the package, he gasped and exclaimed: “It’s a marathon runner turkey!” I said, “huh?” He replied, “There’s not an ounce of fat on it!” Ha ha ha ha ha. Those Butterballs never tasted so good.)

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(Didas, one of our favorite guards, was fascinated.)

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Then last Friday, December 11th, just three short weeks after Randy’s return, we were woken at 5:45 in the morning by a phone call from the Health Unit nurse reporting that she didn’t think she’d make it into work. There had been heavy gunfire since about 4:00 am. This was not an unusual occurrence, but something in her voice sounded different. We tried to go back to sleep, but by that time, even we could hear it. (I usually don’t hear anything in my little soundproof bedroom with my noise blocking curtains, fan, A/C, generator, and sound machine.)

A few minutes later we got the “shelter in place until further notice” text, and thus began one of the longest and loudest days of my life. Gunfire, explosions, rapid-fire artillery continued for almost 18 hours. Some of it sounded so close I thought it was in front of my house. We found out later that police (or military–not clear which) had set up less than a block away, shooting across the ravine into the neighborhood to the south, which has long been a hot spot. No wonder it sounded close; IT WAS!

According to news reports, two military camps and one military school were attacked by the insurgents. It was the worse day of violence since the protests started on April 26th. This is not a good sign this late in the game. Especially since it appeared to have been a coordinated attack. Not. A. Good. Sign.

As a result, Embassy Bujumbura is now on Ordered Departure 2.0. Musical continents. Randy left yesterday, due to land in Denver as I write this.

(Here he is in the airport, drinking his last Primus ever. And I think he’s OK with that.)

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The last of the children fly out tomorrow, and those of us left behind begin another season alone. Once again, no one can predict the future, except that it just doesn’t look good.

As sad as all this has been for us, and as difficult as the weekend was, returning to work on Monday was devastating. The Burundians we work with are gutted. They are sad, they are tired, they are frightened, but most horribly of all, they feel hopeless. Many are people of deep faith, but the reality on the ground is difficult to reconcile. Our hearts break anew for them and for this beautiful country.

As for us, we will make it through. Even though Randy was only here for three weeks, I am so thankful for that time together, for multiple reasons. First, of course, it was good to be together. But it was also good for Randy to be able to put closure on his life in Bujumbura. He left with one suitcase in April, planning to return in three weeks. He left yesterday, knowing he will not return. But most significant of all, this short time here, experiencing the violence firsthand, and seeing the devastation in his former co-workers on Monday, really softened his heart for Burundi in indescribably important ways. This is big, y’all.

And the timing is not terrible for us. In just three short weeks, I’ll head to Denver as chief post-op nurse for Randy’s total hip replacement surgery, scheduled for January 11th. Hopefully he’ll be in good shape by the time I return to Buj at the end of the month. Then I’ll pass back through Denver a month later to check on him after our annual conference in San Diego. By the time I return to Buj in March, I’ll know more about timing and onward assignments and how the next few months will play out. Unless things change drastically here, and they could, I will likely finish out my tour here alone, but at least it won’t be the waiting game it was the first time around. This time we know he won’t be back. And that’s OK. It could be way worse.

And so the adventure continues. The future? Bleak. Unpredictable for Burundi. But what a time to be here and to be able to stand side by side with these beautiful people. I wouldn’t trade this opportunity for anything, as difficult as it has been.

Please pray for Burundi, for peace.

And stay tuned. Next up, very shortly: HANDSHAKES!