Kuvyibuha = To Be Fat: To Become Fat

By Jess Cropsey

On Monday, our family returned to our home in Kibuye after a year in the States.  It was a little surreal to drive up the windy mountain road back to our home.  Yes, there are a few new people and buildings, but life and work is much the same as it always has been.  Most of our time the last few days has been spent in our home unpacking suitcases, cleaning, re-organizing, unpacking things that were put into storage, etc.  But we’ve also taken a bit of time to greet some of our closest Burundian friends (an important part of this culture).  We managed to pull enough Kirundi out of the recesses of our brains to greet people.
How are you?
We are well.  How is your family?
They are well.

We’ve also heard some say, “Twari tubakumbuye” which means “We’ve missed you”.  But the most common refrain has been, “Waravyibushe” meaning “You have become fat” which is usually accompanied by laughter and hand gestures around the belly indicating large growth in said area.  One person even went so far as to tell me I had become fat everywhere, including my face.  Indeed, John and I each gained 30+ pounds during our year in the USA due to a combination of lack of self-control and differences in the cuisine. 

Our American diet included lots of meat and dairy (along with plenty of junk food).  The only time I've ever cooked a chunk of meat like this one above in Burundi was for Christmas or Thanksgiving.

Our weekly market order in Burundi -- 
We rarely eat any processed food here since most things are made from scratch.
But these friends aren’t being rude.  In fact, they are paying us a compliment in their culture.  In a place where many people eat 1-2 scant meals a day, being able to eat as much as you want when you want to is a tremendous luxury.  According to the World Food Program, 60% of Burundians are chronically malnourished.  In 2014, Burundi was ranked the hungriest nation in the world according to the Global Hunger Index and hunger levels continue to be ranked as “extremely alarming”.  So, being overweight in this country is a sign of health, blessing, and prosperity.  With this as a backdrop, it’s much easier to take these “compliments” and be reminded how fortunate we are.  I know I will need to remember it in a few weeks when I start to miss chips, chocolate, cheese varieties, breakfast cereal, cheesecake, and many other things that we indulged in during our time in the USA. 

On the up side, we’ve both already lost a few pounds!  By the time we get ready to head back to the USA again, we’ll likely be looking pretty good and receive lots of compliments from Americans about how thin we’ve become.  Then we’ll plump up before we return to Burundi and repeat the cycle all over again.   


Thomas Leonard said...

Good to hear you're back safe and sound. I remember folks being greeted the same way in W. Africa after trips to the States....sure is hard to accept as a compliment though :)!

Rebekah said...

This "compliment" never fails to humor me :) I'm so glad you could "indulge" while in the states and store up all those flavors and tastes for when you can't have them :)

Alan Wolfinger said...

Jess what a delightful article! I'm one of the itec team from the states here at Kiyube for a couple weeks installing a solar system and just want to say it was an absolute thrill to have dinner with your family a couple nights ago enjoying your amazing spaghetti and cookies and the story of your team's ministry journey together bringing you all to Kibuye. You and John are such a blessing and inspiration to us all! PTL!