This is an attempt to summarize my last few days here in Burundi. There’s stuff going on all the time. Aime is doing his best to navigate me through the thorny tree which is his home country. In a blink of an eye I went from superiorly showing Aime around in the streets of Stockholm, to completely rely on him. I’m trying to pick up what is going on around me. Since both my french and kirundi (the local burundi language) is poor, to say the least, I need to rely on body language and selective english words. It’s a rather fascinating transformation to have experienced. Going from a streamlined swordfish to a beached whale.
However, I believe this is how you learn in life. When you’re outside your comfort zone you learn to appreciate things, to be humble and grateful. It not so much an active choice, you simply have to. Running people over or not showing respect will get you nowhere. It might work if you spend your entire life with people you’ve known all your life, walk the same streets up and down and whom you share the same opinions with. A scenario which much likely will make you cocky. Convinced that ”this is how the world works”. Period. No opportunity to reflect. Where would you get a different point of view?
In Sweden, Aime is perceived by many as a black immigrant, a dishwasher who’s struggling with the language. Believe me, here in Burundi, Aime is Don Corleone! I will write much more about Aime later in this blog. Both his dark past and his bright future.
Although I’ve only been here a few days, I’ve already experienced several Burundian ceremonies (dinner parties, gathering in our house, weddings and bar hangouts). We eat constantly. You never say no when offered food. Had a notion I’d come back to Sweden tanned and fit. No way José..
It’s burundian costume to hold speeches whenever there’s a gathering of some sort. This goes for a rather casual gathering in your house to a formal wedding ceremony. The latter example doesn’t really strike me. After all, a wedding is a time for celebration, a lot of money have been spent and much time devoted to pull it off. However, even in casual friendly gatherings, like youths have all the time all over the world, speeches are expected. Last night, we went to a goodbye party for Yvette. Her former classmates wanted to say goodbye, since she’s soon moving to Sweden. When we arrive the ”head of the class” greets us welcome, expressing his happiness to finally meet Yvette’s soon to be husband, his appreciation of my presence, why we are there and so on. There’s an element of respect in this action. Everyone is listening, paying attention to what is said. The speech goes from very serious; ”We love you, I’m sad you’re leaving, we will miss you”. To jokes which cracks everyone up. When he’s done speaking, there’s another person doing the same thing. Remind you, this takes place in a bar with beer drinking kids. Later it’s Aime’s turn. Thanking everyone for showing up and so on. The night continues with more drinks, conversations and laughter. As a matter of fact, with the confidence which alcohol brings, I held my first Burundian speech later the very same night! I believe it was the first speech they heard by a muzungo in this type of constellation.
Two nights ago, we went to Bora Bora. A nightclub located on the beach of lake Tanganika. Absolute madness! Wish all my boys would have been there, you’d love it! Dancehall music pumping till 9 o’clock in the morning by this famous Rwandan dj-crew.
Earlier the same evening we attended a wedding party. It was a friend of Yvette who got married. We arrived just in time to catch the traditional Burundi dance. About ten guys wearing traditional clothes, dancing and drumming on tam tams (huge drums which you hit with sticks). A very cool experience! The only white person there, surrounded by hundreds of burundians, eyes wide spread open and jaw down in my lap. No wonder people were staring at me. Must have been hilarious to watch.