Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Burundi...last visit to Turame!

I'm in Burundi, trying to finish an impact assessment project that I started 3 years ago! We are interviewing clients to try to assess the impact that their loan from Turame has had on their lives--health of the family, profitability of the business, social relationships, etc. The loan officers working with me on this project have been fantastic--putting in long hours and trekking many miles to find clients. Here is a picture of one client being interviewed in a rural village:
In the midst of working, I'm also trying to reconnect with friends here. On Sunday I went to church with a colleague from Turame, and afterwards her family showed me some of the new houses being built in her neighborhood. It is amazing (and sad!) that many new HUGE houses are being built in Bujumbura, which means the poor people are kicked off their land and forced to live farther up in the hills around the city. In the picture below you can see one of the mansions being built in the distance. The kids in the front of the picture live in typical small mud-brick houses that are currently on the same hill as these mansions. Such disparity!
Turame is growing and developing with leaps and bounds! Not only that, but there are many great things happening...I've really enjoyed hearing how God is working in the staff and the clients. There seems to be a renewed spirit of comaraderie, and they are especially excited about going on a staff retreat in October. The picture below is the head office in Bujumbura with their brand new sign on top. Very impressive, when you consider how far they have come from being a very small program just a few years ago!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


We just got back from a wonderfully relaxing vacation in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Most days, we spent several hours by the pool or on the beach, reading. We loved the fact that our ‘major decisions’ for the day were whether to be by the pool or on the beach, or what kind of taco to have! :)

We resolved early in the week that we wanted to try to do 3 things each day: 1) Walk on the Malecon (boardwalk), 2) watch the sunset, and 3) see the fireworks from the pirate ship that went off each night. We succeeded nearly every day! The sunsets were amazing….we loved to watch the sky change colors.

We also did lots of walking on the Malecon through the old section of town. Whenever we walked, we heard shopkeepers call to us “Hey, amigos! You want a free taste of tequila??”

A few unusual points in the week:

1) Bob got his picture in the local paper! There was a sewer problem in the street near our hotel, so some reporters came and wanted a ‘tourist perspective’. Bob spoke to them, and got his quote and his picture in the paper the next day. They mixed up the names though, so his picture is connected to the name of a local restaurant owner.

2) We got to watch a large turtle (tortoise?) lay eggs on the beach! She dug a hole, then laid 89 eggs! When she started to cover the hole with sand, the police came and moved her so that they could move the eggs to a safer spot.

3) Serendipitously, on the plane to Puerto Vallarta, we sat next a man who had grown up there. He drew us a map of the town, gave us recommendations of restaurants, and told us the traditional Mexican dishes that we should try. We were so grateful for his tips, and it helped us to get a ‘well rounded’ sampling of some of the classic Mexican dishes in town. Those restaurants were not on the ‘tourist list’ of restaurants that tended to be pricier!