If a Tree Falls in Burundi, It Definitely Makes a Sound

Our house is currently being built.  And one of the amazing features is that it has yet to require a single machine.  Bricks are hand-carried.  Cement is hand-mixed.  There is a guy whose job it is to make mud with his bare feet like grapes in "A Walk in the Clouds" (strange, but that allusion was completely lost on him).

And there have also been trees cleared.  We feel somewhat guilty about this, but work to assuage our conscience by promising to plant more and doing penance by repeatedly reading "The Lorax" to the kids.

I don't know how this process goes down in a land of machines, but here are a few photos of one of the big pines coming down.  Before this first photo, a man climbed 40ft or so and hacked off branches, and then tied a rope around the trunk.  The tree itself is maybe 60 feet tall.

The plan is evident.  Some guys (seen below) will pull the rope he tied around the trunk in the direction they want it to go, while other guys hack at the base.  When it starts to fall, everyone will scream and run.

And it's a good plan.  But a few things to note.  First, that an existing house (where we are currently living) could be crushed if the tree falls in the wrong direction.  Second, a few weeks prior, a similar tree-felling had gone a bit unexpectedly and taken out three other trees on its way down.  So, of course, we all came out to watch.

First, the guys hacking at the base.
 Second, the guys on the other end of the rope, pulling.  The goal is to land it in a 8 ft wide stretch that runs between our garden and the current home building site (for the Cropseys, this time).  Ambitious.
 And after a lot of screams, and an impressive boom, the result was a total ace in the hole.  They landed that giant trunk exactly where they intended.  Amazing.


Tuning a Piano

Ever since the Cropsey's graciously gave us their piano here in Burundi, I've been looking forward to having a real piano in the house again.  However, years of not being tuned, transatlantic boat travel, and a numerous bumps along the way had put the ole' upright in a bit of a dissonant situation.  So I would play it every once in a while, but it wasn't very pretty.

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.