Repeating the same thing has never been a strong suit of mine. I am a stereo-typical pioneer/visionary looking to go down the path least traveled, explore the uncharted territory, and find things previously unexplored. As soon as I have settled something; it is time to move on! We recently had some fantastic visitors come out to Burundi, Al Willette and Cari Canale. We were able to give them a few weeks in our shoes. We did everything from meeting some of the most amazing people on earth, to riding dirt bikes through the Burundian mountains on everything from smooth tarmac to dirt single track, up to Rwanda by car with my Burundian buddy Alex, and worshipping God at the heart of Bujumbura. No doubt our guests had the opportunity to see some amazing aspects of our life here. No doubt that they received a taste of our not-so-settled adventure in Burundi!
We were out one afternoon in the forest between Bururi and Gitega, and Al had requested we stop on dirt bikes in a local village. I knew the soon to be outcome and was prepared, but I think he may have been a bit shocked. As we came zipping down the red dirt trail into a place in the forest with a few mud-brick shacks, one small child saw us and shouted, “Ummmuuuuzzzzuuunguuuuuuu!!!??!!” (white person!). As the legend is told, white people are the boogie man. White people eat children who misbehave. So he could have been shouting in fear or excitement depending on how his behavior growing up and how much his parents had to threaten him to act in line!
We stopped our machines and greeted what started as five people but then turned into countless people. We couldn’t even see outside or over the crowds that gathered to see us. I just couldn’t help but smile ear to ear. I had done this before and expected the crowd, but my comrade was joyfully surprised to see all the people. I couldn’t quite get back to him to translate for him as there were just too many people in between us. To be honest, we started feeling like Miley Cyrus popping in on an all-boys junior high school. Looking back, there was a rush of people greeting Al with the all the English they had ever heard, all coming out in one string of words. “HellohowareyouI’mfinefankyou.” We happily chatted back and forth with a few people in the crowd about their day and general small talk. My Kirundi is, thankfully, strong enough now to do that (praise God!). Al shook as many hands as possible and communicated anything that was possible with hand motions and English. After a good time there, we motored on to our final destination of Gitega.
These types of moments become the norm for us, but it is such a joy to share them afresh with new friends. Maybe that is just the pioneer in me. Either way it is such a blessing. When we finished our time together, Al quoted a famous line “Dr. Livingstone I presume?” with his own spin, “Mr. Serwat I presume?” He had understood a bit of my all too wild at heart spirit in our quick two weeks together! Part of my visionary heart though is seeing Burundi for what it can be. More than what it is now or has been. Burundi is an amazing place that, with some patience and faith, I believe will be radically transformed.
**Photo Credit: Cari Canale