This boulangerie is in the capital city of Bujumbura, Burundi–our future place of residence next year. This is why we are learning to speak and understand French.
We have just returned from five days in Burundi. We had planned to go in October to make final arrangements for our arrival in Feb of 2014 but it proved wiser to go at this time before our classes begin again and others we needed to meet with were available in Burundi. Though Burundi is in the same time zone as France it was nearly a 24 hour trip door to door there and back with planes, cars, buses and a train on the way back. Both ways we had the experience of going through the Nairobi airport which had a big fire just three weeks ago. The temporary tents have been set up on the tarmac close to the main terminal, complete with brick floors and portable toilets. We did have to go through security about four times before getting on the plane even though we were checked all the way through going both ways. For such a large, busy airport they seemed to be handling it all in stride (typical for Africa, whatever happens you make do and continue living). This is what it looked like inside the tent.
There were many facets to our time in Burundi including; meeting with the Rector to work out the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), meeting with Department heads and hospital personnel, seeing what types of living arrangements are available, checking out the prices/home goods/appliances, observing classes and learning as much as possible to prepare for our move there. From our arrival after midnight until our departure five days later, we were warmly greeted, welcomed, housed, feed and ushered around Bujumbura. We stayed in a guest house that is on the campus, quite convenient for meeting people from the University, visiting the hospital across the street and having a place to relax and talk with others on the front porch.
At the University we found English is encouraged and students can speak some English, especially if they are from Kenya, Uganda or Tanzania. But around town French is preferred, if you can’t speak Kirundi (Burundi’s native language). On Sunday we attended the church close to the campus which had a French/English service followed by a Kirundi service. Guess which one we went to?
We were struck again with some of the similarities and differences between Burundi and Malawi, where we were living last year. Bujumbura is a larger city then Lilongwe, more condensed and more congested, with seemingly fewer ex-pats. Last spring the central market in Bujumbura burned down. A new one is being built but it is not finished yet. Many people are selling their goods and produce on every street corner near the closed, burned market which may make the streets look more congested than if the market were open.
Burundi also boarders a lake, like Malawi, but Bujumbura is right on the Lake Tanganyika and Lilongwe is two hours inland from Lake Malawi. The Lake is protected by a building restriction that prevents any building on the shoreline closer than 150 meters from the water. So there is a beautiful beach around Bujumbura to walk on and water to sail on.
Randy saw people swimming but we had heard there are occasionally hippos and crocs in the water especially near the river outlet. We will have to check this out because the water was certainly inviting! We were able to enjoy lunch Sunday afternoon with part of the McCropder team (our sister team in Burundi, just newly arrived) looking at this view.
All our experiences throughout these five days in Burundi gave us a better idea of what life in Burundi might look like for us. Talking with faculty at the HAU and observing some classes gave us a better idea of how we can serve and assist this growing University. Meeting with a few other missionaries who have already been living there gave us encouragement that there are a wide range of people to meet, know and work together with for God’s kingdom and glory.
We returned to France encouraged, excited and hopeful for the future. We left four suitcases in Bujumbura awaiting our return–a sign to all those there that we intend to return to work and serve. Upon returning Randy was able to finalize our recruiting website, looking for the others God is calling to partner with us in Burundi for His kingdom. You can find it at: http://whmathau.com Take a look, it gives a great description of the impact of the University on the future of Burundi.