We recently had the once-in-a-lifetime (probably) chance to spend three solid weeks together with my family--my mom, my brother Eric, and his wife Haidee. Since Eric and Haidee have gotten married, we have spent something less than 48 hours together, and that was before Toby was born. So when Eric emailed and said they were thinking of a visit this summer, I knew this was going to be a special time! They spent the last 2-6 years in Japan teaching English through the Lutheran church, but now are transitioning back to the US for grad school and such. SO they had more or less a summer vacation, 2-3 months worth of time off. And since my mom just retired this May, she had plenty to time to visit, too.
Everyone arrived on a Friday night flight with all their luggage, and we spent a few days in Buja on the front end, celebrating Mom's retirement, shopping, and playing!
Then we headed up to Banga on Sunday morning, the village where we had done our language school. Despite none of our plans working out (we had grand plans to show them the lovely singing at church, which for some reason was cancelled, and also to stay in the nicer guesthouse with generator electricity, which was full), they got the "real deal" experience of what life in Banga is like, complete with walks down the hill to mealtime, and power outages at night.
|Lunch at the Banga Guesthouse!|
|Kibuye Rock conquerors!|
|Tea party with the girls|
|La source du Nile|
|Congo River Basin|
|4th of July potluck!|
Posted by The Drs. McLaughlin at 12:02 PM
Since moving to Burundi, we have come to enjoy the in-country presence of the Miller family, who live in the capital and work with the same medical school as we do. They are extremely gracious hosts, who continue to house us when we visit, but always in a way that we never feel like we are being a burden.
Toby's first birthday is in a couple weeks. He does not sleep through the night. He never has. Not once this past year. It's been better the last few weeks, but prior to that, he averaged waking up 3-6 times per night. Here are some thoughts that may or may not be helpful to someone else in the same circumstance.
- This is hard. Very very hard. We know something about sleep deprivation after years of medical residency. That also is very hard. This is probably harder, because it never stops.
- This has been a little easier for us because Ben also didn't sleep through the night until 15 months old (Actually, it's been harder because of the same reason). What I mean is that a significant part of the stamina battle is the despair that "my child will NEVER again sleep through the night". Corollary: "I will NEVER again sleep through the night." Things were such a struggle with Ben, and yet the large majority of nights where Toby was waking up, Ben was sleeping peacefully. And so will Toby. It. Will. Happen.
- The perfectly natural response of many people to hearing our difficulties is "Wow, that's hard. What do you think the problem is? Have you tried…?" We would prefer them to stop after "Wow, that's hard." And maybe follow with, "Would you like some coffee?" It's very natural, but another significant part of the battle is being plagued by the feeling that this is due to something we are or are not doing. And such innocent questions make us doubt ourselves all over again. And yet we have tried everything. Let him cry. Pick him up. Put him down awake. Put him down asleep. Absence of sleep cues. Presence of sleep cues. Quiet separate environment. Different foods. Sleeping in bed. Swaddling. Unswaddling. White noise. And every slight improvement gave birth to false hope which was followed up until those hopes dissipated into another sleepless night.
Rewind: Before leaving for Tenwek in 2009, the music director at our church in Michigan, Scott, handed me a piano tuning wrench and small rubber wedge (seen above), apparently the essential tools for tuning a piano, and told me that he could see how I might have use of these, in a world with no piano tuners.
Well, of all the mighty things that arrived last month in our container, I was particularly on the lookout for these little tools, and when we decided to host a night of Christmas carols at our house on Christmas Eve, it seemed obvious that now was the time to try them out.
I don't know how to tune a piano. And I don't think that I can do a professional job. Nevertheless, I tuned a piano. And it sounds, not great, but SOOO much better.
Armed with said tools, and a $5 chromatic tuning app I had downloaded in Kenya, I set to work, with only the knowledge that the rubber wedge is used to mute two of the strings to isolate the third. The process took about 4 hours altogether. The really high and really low notes didn't register well on the tuner, but I had never noticed before how hard it is to tell whether those notes sound in tune anyways.
Life in international missions in remote places has several challenges, but sometimes they are just fun.
Well, we have embarrassingly ground to a halt on the Adventures of Eric and Rachel blog. Believe me, we are still having adventures...it's just becoming more and more difficult to chronicle them! Lest we start work at the hospital (Jan 2) before blogging and then become even MORE unlikely to post a blog, let me give you a brief update on our Kibuye adventures.
We moved in on November 1. Our house at that time was little more than concrete footings. But the progress has been remarkable! Here it is in early December. Eric is standing in what will become our bedroom. It's been quite a time (mostly for Eric) planning out our house. I foolishly thought we wouldn't need to have more than minimal input in the process, but Eric has spent a lot of time designing blueprints, planning window sizes, arranging bathroom layouts, etc. The trusses are up now and next week the roof and floor should be placed. Still thinking it will be early spring before the interior is complete enough to move in, but exciting none the less.
We celebrated Thanksgiving with our team (on a Saturday). Some of you may recall the infamous "large turkey in a small French oven" oven fire of 2012. Well, I am happy to say that my oven is quite a bit bigger, and Burundian turkeys are quite a bit smaller, so that I was able to cook 2 of them side by side in my oven this year and there wasn't even any smoke. We pulled out all the stops and there were American delicacies a-plenty (including jello and green bean casserole). There was much to be thankful for this year.
Maggie and Elise in their "Indian princess" costumes:
Toby will be 9mo on Jan 1. He is crawling, pulling up, and cruising, although still not sleeping through the night. Sigh. Guess you can't have everything! He is a sweetie, though, when he's not complaining about the lack of attention a third born gets. He has been eating lots of solid foods and so I was particularly glad when the pack and play and high chair showed up on the container (aka the Big Red Box, which arrived with Christmas cheer less than a week to spare). He's cute to feed on my lap but it was getting to be a bit challenging...
And then, Christmas. The kids got their traditional Christmas jammies from Eric's mom, Mimi. All 8 (!) of the grandkids have a matching pair.
We also had our Christmas tree (shipped on an early container) and some ornaments and stockings, so our house looked Christmas-y even before the container arrived on Dec 18. But it did come bearing Christmas gifts (purchased up to 2-3 years earlier), more ornaments, and a general good time of rediscovering things long since packed away. All that to say, we had a fun time celebrating with our immediate family and teammates, although as always, we missed our families dearly.
2014 will bring the beginning of clinical work at Kibuye. Pray for us in this last big transition. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Posted by The Drs. McLaughlin at 6:00 AM
Posted by The Drs. McLaughlin at 10:00 AM
- Showering. Here in Banga, if there is power (+/- running water), I will take a bucket sponge bath every other morning. The reason for the power is that I prefer to use one kettle full of boiling water. Both the shampoo and the kettle are from a Chinese store here in the capital, and it takes a special adapter to plug it into the wall here. The soap is Burundian.
- Brushing teeth. Tooth care is culturally interesting, and I have come to believe that no one prioritizes it like Americans. We have a Colgate "herbal" flavored toothpaste we got in Kenya. The toothbrush is American. I have a stockpile of American floss that a friend brought out. Good luck finding reasonably-priced dental floss anywhere else, including Europe.
- Deodorant. Another very cultural thing. Unthinkable in many parts of the world. In Kenya, I once found a roll-on stick made by Umbro, the soccer-shorts people, but it didn't last long. In France, I tried a spray, but the scent left something to be desired (per Rachel). I thought I would go back to stockpiling American stuff, but found a French store with a good option just before leaving, and that's what I have here in Burundi.
- Shaving. Though shaving cream is hard to come by in Burundi, normally this is not a hard one. I have cream and razors from France, as well as a set of 220V clippers from France.
- Meds. My allergies flare up in setting of blooming green foliage, which is most of the time here in the equatorial highlands of Africa. When I got to Kenya, I asked the pharmacy to order some nasal steroids, so I have a stash from Kenya. A visiting eye doc got me some allergy eye drops, and I'm not sure where they are from, but a lot of there stuff is manufactured in India.
Posted by The Drs. McLaughlin at 9:37 AM
Yes, we like books.
Yes, we moved to rural Africa (again).
So, what does one do in that setting?
Well, really there are several options. One can fill a container with books that you got free at a rockin' venue in Baltimore, called the Baltimore Book Thing. You can also load your Kindle with every free book (published before 1923) that you've ever wanted to read. Lastly, you can raid the personal library of every anglophone family you encounter.
And we have done all those things.
Yet, there are a few holes. We like to read some more obscure books, hard to find at cast-off library sales. And then there are new books.
And then the eBook world met up with the public library world. All you need is a library card, and you can download library books from the comfort of your own home. Even if your home is in Burundi.
And part of the beauty of this is that Kindle books are amazingly small, usually less than 500kb, making them downloadable even with really slow connections. Suddenly new books by favorite authors are available to us. The latest Newbery winners are available to us. In short, we have shifted from "what is around to read?" to "what would we like to read?" Whoa.
Maggie is loving her preschool (with Micah and Abi) and was recently featured in a play about David Livingstone healing a chief's daughter of appendicitis. She was the tribal chief and was (in my humble opinion) awesome. Deadpan delivery, didn't forget any lines, classic. "If she dies, you will die." I see a future.
And just for fun, our kiddos loved a friend's slip and slide this weekend in Buja. It was so hot and sticky, an afternoon in the water was perfect! Even Toby stuck his feet in.
Posted by The Drs. McLaughlin at 2:00 PM