We often don’t celebrate American holidays on the days that the rest of Americans celebrate. For one thing, obviously, they aren’t Burundian holidays and thus if the holiday falls on a weekday (as Thanksgiving always does) it’s a normal work day for us. But I do want to celebrate, for several reasons. One, I’ve grown up celebrating certain holidays in certain ways and feel quite nostalgique at certain times of the year. Two, even though my kids have spent most of their lives outside the US, they will return some day and I’d like them to have a good understanding of certain holidays. So this year, July 4th came and went. My Facebook feed was filled with pictures of fireworks, sparklers, and berry topped desserts…and it all felt rather anticlimactic here, where a teammate graciously played patriotic songs for my kids while they colored flag pictures, and I worked a normal day.
Fortunately, the team rallied and we decided to celebrate on July 8th instead. It wasn’t July 4th, and Burundian independence day had come and gone (mostly unnoticed by us) on the 1st….plus, the team is no longer solely Americans. In honor of our Canadian teammates and our British short term visitors, we decided to name the day “National Pride” celebration day. Since Canada and Britain aren’t independent in quite the same way. :) In typical Kibuye fashion, the holiday needed to be modified somewhat to fit our resources, but we still tried to make it as “classic” as possible. Scott and Lindsay picked up a couple of small Burundian “Jikos,” clay and metal pots filled with charcoal that are used instead of stoves, and created them into a small grill. Potato salad, deviled eggs, and french fries appeared on the tables, along with a three layer red white and blue cake. (And, to be honest, Indian style rice, papaya, and other local foods in lieu of chips and jello). There had been an embassy 4th of July party (in June) and so a few people showed up with “Uncle Sam” style hats. We ate on picnic blankets under the trees and a few rounds of horseshoes and baseball followed the food.
|The grill master!|
A good time was had by all. It got me thinking about my heritage as an American, and how interesting it is to step out of my home culture and see it through new eyes. It’s now over seven years since we left the US to work in Africa. I identify less and less as a typical American, but not necessarily more as a Burundian. I'm really grateful in a lot of ways for the culture in which I grew up. There are things that I used to take for granted, that I now know are privileges instead of rights. The freedoms I experienced (and still do) as an America are far from standard in the world. And I think that working for similar freedoms for people of other countries--freedom to worship, free to pursue health and an education, free to live without fear of starvation--is a GOOD and even necessary thing. Perhaps without my American "past" I wouldn't see things in the same light.
Of course, living outside America has been a good thing for me too, and almost every day I count it a blessing to have had my world view expanded (and to have it continually expanded!). To be able to see the joys and sufferings of people from a world far different from my own, to see how we are different and yet still in many ways the same. To experience the challenges of communicating in other languages, to know how it feels to go without, to feel the shock of foreignness but eventually to accept the foreignness as the new normal. So, happy independence day, America! Thanks for the role you play in my life. And happy independence day to Burundi! Thanks for being my new home. May we continue to work together to make it a better place.