Party Animal

(by Greg)

A Burundian party is not like an American party.  I have learned this by now.  The first time I was invited to a Burundian party, for some reason, I expected nachos and music and a lot of laughter.  I think more than anything this reveals my own ethnocentrism.  Burundian parties begin with everyone sitting silently in a circle.  Often there will be a time of prayer, then Fantas, then the speeches begin.  After the speeches, things start to loosen up a bit.

Last night, a group of anesthetist students who have been working at Kibuye for the past two months held a party to say thank you to myself and the other Burundian anesthetists whom I work with.  They have been living for the past two months in a modest dormitory located just next to our house.  When I arrived at 6 PM, I was greeted by these 6 students dressed to the max.  One of them sat down next to me and explained that they have very little but what they have they wanted to offer to say thank you.  He then explained that what they have is their voices with which to sing and their prayers.  We then stood, and they began to sing, in Kirundi.  And it was beautiful.  They are incredibly gifted, incorporating harmony, crescendoing and de-crescendoing.  After three beautiful songs, one of the students read a passage of scripture, then gave a brief message about what it means to offer yourself as a living sacrifice to God.  

After that, the students went around and gave speeches of thanks for all that they had learned here at Kibuye and for our time and effort in teaching them.  Then it was my time to give a speech.  I tried my hardest to express my gratitude for their work and for the compassion they have demonstrated to our patients, highlighting the significance of modeling Christ-likeness to those who are suffering.  

And as always, there were Fantas.  But not only Fantas.  They also served delicious Beignets along with peanuts and cookies (which I brought).  After eating I told them I was really moved by their singing, and could they possibly repeat one of the songs they had sung so that I could record it, which they gladly did.  I have attached the recording below.  But then, things started … loosening up.  The singing got louder and louder, then the dancing.  Then, the samba line.  It was a room filled with joy, and it left me feeling massively grateful to God for calling me to this work.  

I hope you enjoy the recording.  


My Burundian Slumber Party

by Jess Cropsey

I’ve always thought that staying for a longer period of time (including an overnight) at a Burundian’s home would be a really interesting and enlightening experience, but it’s also something I haven’t pursued because the thought of doing it with my children seemed like more than I could handle.  Well, I finally plucked up the courage to make it happen and left the kids behind!  Readers, you may remember a post I did about a wonderful Burundian woman named Thérèse who has become my friend.  Given the history of our friendship and the proximity of her home (not too close and not too far), I asked if she would be willing to welcome me into her home for an overnight visit.  She was very surprised but also quite pleased.  

She asked me to arrive around 5:30PM, about an hour before dark.  (Later I was told that was so people wouldn’t know that I was spending the night there.)  It’s about a 30 minute walk, but John kindly gave me a ride most of the way.  Really, any excuse to ride on the motorcycle is a good one.  I requested an early drop-off at an isolated spot so I wouldn’t make a spectacle dismounting the motorcycle in my skirt!  

I brought a backpack with some bare essentials — a change of clothes, some purified drinking water, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, a cell phone, a notebook and pen for taking notes, and some food to offer as a gift to my hostess.  

We spent several hours in the evening cooking supper and I was reminded how time-consuming it is to prepare a meal.  It takes several hours to heat water and cook over a charcoal or wood stove — two hours just for the peas.  

She let me help from time to time and complimented me at how good I was at peeling potatoes.  :-)  While we cooked, we talked (mostly in French, but I learned some new Kirundi words too) and I asked a lot of questions.  During a lull time, she invited me in the living room to watch some TV (and no, most Burundians do not have a TV).      

Around 8:30, everything was ready and it was delicious -- meat (a special treat), potatoes, peas with a tomato-based sauce, and pâte (a dough cooked with manioc/cassava flour).  We ate with our fingers which proved difficult for me when I got to the peas!  We didn’t drink anything at dinner.  I wondered if this was intentional to avoid night-time trips to the outhouse at the back of her property.  

I discovered that when someone has a stranger or visitor spending the night in their home, you must inform the “chief” of the neighborhood (for security reasons).  Thérèse sent her niece to tell him and he came to the house later in the evening with two other assistants.  In fact, during my short stay, she had lots of people coming and going.  She's a busy lady!      

We slept in her son’s room (who happened to be away for the weekend).  Many Burundians use mats on the floor, but Thérèse has beds with mattresses.  We each had our own double bed, so it was quite spacious.  I admit it was difficult going to sleep in a different place.  

In the morning, she made chapatis (like a tortilla) and tea for breakfast.  More visitors came -- a brother-in-law with bananas from her land, three ladies whom she hires to farm her fields, the "chief" and his assistants collecting food for the poor in their area.  I wish I had more pictures to share, but I wanted to just be there.  Before I left, she told me that "it was a miracle" that I stayed at her house and she extended an invitation to come again (but next time with my kids).  I'm thankful for this woman and her tremendous generosity and patience with me as I slowly learn more about her culture.                


Origins - Discovering Our True Home

(by Scott)

When asked where I’m from, my answer goes something like this: Well, my dad was a church planter, so we moved around a lot when I was a kid. I was 11 when my family moved to a small town called Shippensburg in Pennsylvania, but most people from Shippensburg wouldn’t consider me from there. My husband and I own a home in Williamsburg, VA, but we currently live and work in Burundi, East Africa. This simple question of where I am from has a complicated answer as it does for most of our Third Culture Kids. 

B was born in Kenya, visits his parents’ “homes” in Michigan and Tennessee when his family returns to the States on Home Ministry Assignment but lives and attends school in Kibuye. M was born in Canada, currently lives and attends school in Kenya, visits Kibuye (the place she probably most associates with the familiarity of home) on school breaks, and occasionally travels to Canada for Home Assignment with her parents and three siblings. Bi was born in Ethiopia, was adopted into an American family, now lives and attends school in Kibuye but still returns to his American home (where grandparents live) for a time during the summers.

Even when an explanation of the physicality of our home is simple, home itself can feel complex. But when the explanation even of physical place where you are from becomes difficult to express, people feel a whole range of complicated longings and emotions. Last year, while watching a film with two of our middle school students, one of the main characters made a speech filled with expressions of national pride. One student remarked, “I wish I knew where I was from so I could make a speech like that.” This summer, my own daughter turned to me at a church picnic in America and said with panic in her voice, “Mommy, the boy next to me just asked where I’m from, and I don’t know what to tell him.” 

“Just tell him what’s in your heart,” I said. 

“But does he want to know where I’m from here or in Africa?” 

“It doesn’t matter what he wants to hear,” I said. “Just tell him what’s in your heart.”

Bearing witness to my student’s longing and parenting through this moment of confused unease for my own child made me think of my own complicated answer to the question of home. Why can I not just say what’s in my heart and follow my own advice? What prompts me to give a lengthy explanation each time someone asks (for me this has been going on since college when I moved out of my own parents’ house - well before a move to Burundi)? These questions lead to other questions: why do I struggle to feel at home in a place? what does it mean to be from somewhere? when are you allowed to say that you’re from a place? how do all those other people come to feel at home and accepted? should I just give the simple answer (“I live in Burundi, East Africa”) or is the complex answer the one that is about me being who I am? (and now that I am parenting a TCK and teaching TCKs) if I can’t figure out what the disjointedness of place means for my life and my idea of home, how can I help others? what are the spiritual lessons we can all learn together from the complexities of our definitions of home?

At present, I’m still asking many questions, but I am certain that the answer lies in Jesus. Home is about a person, not a place - of that much I am sure. Home is about always being accepted and loved no matter what you’ve done or left undone. Home, like love, “is an ever-fixed mark” (Shakespeare, Sonnet 116). But while this answer is true and comforting and fuller than any answer that geography can provide, it is no less complex or easy for our hearts to accept and express.