Occasionally during our first month in Burundi I’d turn on the faucet and no water would come out. Often this was because the electricity had been out for too long and we’d run out of water that had pumped from the well. But occasionally, when I’d get frustrated at the lack of running water, I’d look up from the kitchen sink to see a young Burundian girl filling a yellow vegetable oil container with water from our spigot, which stops the flow of water into our house. She’d then hoist the water container onto her head and head up our walkway, balancing it with one hand as she opened our gate and started her trek home. A slap in the face of perspective, I can get frustrated when water doesn’t run only because I have a house that has running water. And then, a few weeks back, the water stopped running. After 4 days without water we had water again, and enough water pressure to actually take a shower, it was a cold shower, but I was so grateful! I was pretty much giddy with joy over a cold shower.
During our first few weeks here we thought Ella was getting contact hives from something, then we realized she was getting flea bites. Our couch was full of fleas, our house became full of fleas. Fleas are not so easy to get rid of in Burundi. It just so happened that I was reading the book The Hiding Place by Corry Ten Boom. In the book Corry talks about her sister insisting that we are to obey the Bible and give thanks in all situations and so her sister thanked God for the fleas in their concentration camp bunks. Later they found out that the reason the Nazi guards would’t come into their bunk room was because of the fleas. I felt compelled to thank God for the fleas and although I don’t have any deeper/Godly reason for why we have fleas, I can tell you that having fleas resulted in our having a higher level of joy about the new living room set we were able to get. Every time I sit on our new couch I am grateful. Our couch, which is not a thing of luxury by any american standards, feels like an incredible gift to us.
We have slow internet, we’ve mentioned that before (4 minutes of that blue bar loading g-mail yesterday) but about 3 weeks ago something happened to the lines that bringing internet into our house. So, to get online we’d have to go for a little walk and stand outside of the containerplex or the fourplex to pick up a wireless signal. Did I mention it’s rainy season? Yep, so standing outside for slow internet to load. At least once I heard the click of a Burundian’s cell phone camera as it snapped a picture of me, the crazy muzungu (white person) sitting outside with my laptop. Yesterday, thanks to some new equipment brought by someone traveling from the states, we now have internet in one room of our house. It’s amazing how grateful one can be for slow internet, when It’s enjoyed without critters crawling about you.
All this to say that a funny thing that I’ve been noticing in this life we’re experiencing here is that daily, almost continuously I am feeling grateful and because of that gratefulness I’m experiencing deeper joy.
There’s this way of life here where nothing is expected, so much is out of our control, or the control that we perceive that we have back in the states, that I just end up feeling grateful when I turn the faucet and water comes out, or eat something and don’t feel sick, In the states I could drive around all day and never stop to praise God that I didn’t get killed or hit anyone. In Africa driving is like one long intense prayer for survival (because it’s CRAZY!) followed by rich praise in God’s great mercy for seeing you through to your destination.
When I expect things, like lights to turn on, I get frustrated when they don’t. But here, electricity being out is expected, so when it comes on it is met with an exuberant outcry of joy. If it’s on in the morning and we can brew coffee then there is even greater rejoicing! When nothing is expected everything seems like a gift.
Tonight, we have electricity, we have running water and I’m blogging from my bedroom, I have this little apprehension that if this triad of comfort happens too often I’ll forget to be grateful.