As always when I’m doing something, things seem to fall into place in the last minute (if they fall into place at all), my trip to Burundi wasn’t an exception. I sent my passport to the Burundian embassy in Oslo in order to receive my visa. However, they claimed I didn’t pay enough money. A few angry and explanatory emails later the passport finally arrived – 5 minutes before I was about to embark on my journey!
I met up with Aime in Stockholm. We were both obviously very excited about the trip, hence talking loudly about everything between heaven and earth.
”When you’re in Stockholm it’s hard to believe that Sweden only has 9 million inhabitants. Burundi is the size of Småland but the population size is the equivalent”, Aime said. A few minutes later into the conversation, he continued: ”I remember my first experience of Europe. I was so scared. I thought to myself: how can I live in a place like this? What am I supposed to do here?”
His reaction isn’t very surprising considering he arrived to London from Burundi. I cannot in my wildest dreams comprehend the transition he (and so many refugees world wide everyday) experienced.
Later at Arlanda, Aime showed me his passports. He’s uses passports. One of which is new and one which is from 2008. The latter states his grant to Sweden. In general, burundians doesn’t have (read: are allowed) passports. I barely recognized Aime in the picture from 2008. Sure, he was 5 years younger, but it was something else that caught my attention. He was much thinner, his eyes were unfocused and totally empty. They completely lacked the lively spark you see present day. It was my first visual encounter with Aime’s former life. A Bob Dylan quote popped into my head – ”when you got nothing, you got nothing to lose”.
We board the airplane. The diversity strikes me. Young swedish boys and girls (whom I found out later where heading to the swedish school in Nairobi for an exchange year), africans, chinese, older westerners in the classic dull khaki dress. Guess I’ve only been flying the much more homogeneous Ryanair lately..
11 hours later I look out the window of the airplane. Clouds are heavily resting on the mountains which surround the city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It’s early in the morning when the wheels of the airplane hit the ground. A light fog sweeps in from the hills, embracing the outskirt slums of the city. Despite the fact I’ve read meters of books about Africa and the developing world, this is the first time I actually see Africa with my own eyes. I’m smiling.
In a small, boiling, stinking toilet myself and Aime change clothes in to our newly bought suits. We want to look our best when we arrive to Bujumbura. After all, Aime hasn’t seen his beloved wife Yvette in one year!
The soon to be husband and wife’s reunion was absolutely beautiful! It reminded me of my former distant relationships; how much it hurt to be away from each other, and how all those feelings were washed away as soon your longing lips finally met again.
Except for Yvette there were approximately another twenty people there to greet us. Uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters – one big burundian family. Distant or not. Family is family here. They see no difference between brothers, cousins or your mum’s best friend’s son. It will always be a brother or a cousin.
Our convoy of 4×4’s arrive to a big house where more people are waiting for Aime’s arrival. The garden is set up for a ceremony. We eat, drink and celebrate till the midnight hour. My first Burundian ceremony.
During the evening, people kept asking me if I’ve seen ”Ze movie Titanic” (with their lovely french accent).
I kept answering yes.
”You look like Jack” (referring to Leonardo DiCaprio). Every time I laughed out loud!
It’s a compliment compared to my first day at uni in London, when the person (let me remind you this was my single first conversation with a fellow student) who was in charge of signing in new students, asked me ”Do you know Basshunter?”
Yes, I replied.
”You look EXACTLY like him!”
Thanks asshole..This is going to be a great semester..
I went to bed with a strong feeling of gratitude. I’ve never experienced such a warm welcome before. It had been a long and exhausting day. I fell asleep instantly.