Lots of people ask me what a typical day is like in Burundi. People find it hard to imagine what I really do! Well, the answer is that there is no typical day. Every day is beautifully varied because life is so unpredictable out here. But below is how today went, which gives a flavour of what life looks like for that strange specimen called Simon Guillebaud!
Grace called out in the early hours, so I scurried to take her to the loo before the others were stirred from their slumber. I seem to wake up by 4am out there, for whatever reason, so I actually got out of bed at 5am to do my daily Bible-reading on my laptop – which is a good thing because there was a power cut and so I couldn’t have read it otherwise in the dark. Then at 530am I crept out of the house through the freshly WD40ed silent-swinging doors, again keen not to prematurely waken the rest of the clan. I couldn’t do anything about the two competing mosque’s blaring out their jarring call to prayer, which is very tedious to put up with for us each morning but there’s nothing we can do about it.
I jogged up the hill to the pool, and observed the sun slowly rise over the mountains in gloriously fast-changing shades of pink. I did a mile in the pool, before jogging back home, i.e. 3miles of gentle jogging in all because my knees are still dodgy. But I’m definitely getting fitter with the distant aim of doing an ironman next year.
The kids needed taking to school at 720am. Zac had woken up saying: “I’m going to be brave and make it to the end of the week.” It’s always a bit of a dash, and because it’s still early days for them, there were some more tears as I dropped them off. Electricity was back by the time I returned, but only for lights – all plug sockets were dead. So I rang my electrician mate to come and fix it, and Lizzie went to pick him up whilst I went to the office. 147 emails awaited me since last night. I scanned through them quickly, because I’d shared a need and wanted to see if anyone had responded. The answer to that was that a number of people had, but we needed $20k, which was a big ask. $50 here, £15 there (all very gratefully received, believe me – every sum is so needed, valued and well used), and then bam! One guy in Spain makes a massive pledge which covers the whole need. It’s only 812am and my day’s already made. ‘John’, precious colleague and faithful servant of the living God, will now be able to buy the house he was being evicted from, saving his wife and five littl’uns in the process in their desperate time of need. I love my job! I get to be a part of seeing people’s dreams come true – what could possibly be better?!
The rest of the morning was spent dealing with all those emails. On the news there were a number of reports of the old rebel group formally declaring war on the government again – not a surprise to hear, but not very encouraging… Then it was back to lunch to hear how the kids had fared. We had got them to put a pebble in their pockets to reach in and touch if/when they felt sad/frightened to reassure them that God is there as the rock in their lives. We had also done the ‘kissing hand’ (from the story of a raccoon going to school for the first time, and his mum gives him a kiss that is always there for him – sounds cheesy but it’s good stuff, honest!). Zac said: “I only needed to touch the pebble once, and never needed the kissing hand!”
After a quick lie-down in the heat of the day, I jumped back on my motorbike. I only bought it last week. It’s a cheap Chinese rip-off of a Yamaha, and when I turn the ignition it actually greets me with this obnoxiously-loud sino-english ‘Welcome to Ifan motorcycles’, can you believe it?! I must get somebody to tamper with whichever wire to stop that unhelpful din. My commute to the office is all of 300yards to KCC, the conference centre we built, which is doing very well indeed and is a big encouragement. There were fifteen bodyguards there, many stood milling around the entrance, which meant that the First Lady was having one of her thrice-weekly workouts in our gym. I met some of the guests to see if I could help them in terms of connecting them with the best people so that they could maximize their effectiveness in and for Burundi. Goretti, KCC boss, came to me with the sad news that she’d had to fire one of the waiters for stealing in the restaurant. He’d been with us three years, so goodness knows how much he’d stolen…
I then went to see a visitor at a posh new hotel whose interest was getting population control onto the government’s agenda, as the statistics are terrifying about the future of this nation if people don’t dramatically reduce the birthrate. He’d had cornflakes for breakfast, and at one stage the flakes started moving… because a cockroach was in them! He complained to the waitress, so she duly went off with the offending cockroach and bowl back to the buffet area and brought him another fresh bowl of cornflakes… from the same cereal box!!! I also spent some time at yet another hotel with Emmanuel, one of our key partners and a national leader, to catch up on things as we haven’t seen each other for nearly a year.
Then it was back to our house to see the kids, get them bathed, read bed-time stories, pray with them, see them off to sleep. They were totally exhausted from the day’s constant sapping humidity. Three times today I pinned Josiah down to stick eye-gloop into his scrunched eye-balls (actually he’s getting better) to deal with his eye-infection, and several times I splashed water into my own eyes as I’d struggled to resist scratching them because of all the dust – my eyes give me the most hassle and are a daily issue for me. Lizzie and I were cream-crackered as well, but we had guests over for supper – a new friend and his wife, to get to know them better and hear more about their superbly innovative approach to importing high-yield cows from Tanzania that then end up being the vehicle for church-planting (see a few blogs posts earlier). It’s something I’m very interested in getting involved in, as it ticks all the right boxes of holistic mission – caring for the environment, income-generating, self-sustaining, preaching through actions first until people has seen the truth lived out, locally-run, etc. It was a very encouraging time together, but people don’t stay out late here, so they left by 9pm and we soon hit the sack.
There you go. No day’s the same, but there’s one to give you some kind of taste of life out here. Goodnight!