By Karl-Chris Nsabiyumva
Photo by Arnaud Gwaga Mugisha

Four years and a couple of months ago, fresh out of University with a degree in my pocket, I had plans to change the World… well, starting from Burundi. I was wondering this morning about what my life would be like if I had stayed in England, applied for a (rather pricey) work permit and sought for a job there – which is what everybody thinks I should have done – instead of coming home. One thing I’m sure of is that I’d be making way more money than I do now; I’d probably have a Masters or some professional qualification by now (at some point, influenced by my mates, I wanted to be a stock broker in the city); and I’d be a professional (international) elite… AND I wouldn’t be here babbling about my “life”…

… When I landed in Burundi just two days after my last exam (I was that eager) I had an idea which I was convinced would somehow improve the livelihoods of Burundians, make me millions after a few months; and a poorly designed website that went with all that. A year and a few months down the line, I had significantly better designed website, but empty pockets, an empty bank account and I hadn’t made any social impact at all. I needed money, and changing the world was no longer a priority… so I sought for a job, and I got one…

… Yes, the primary reason why I stepped into employment was because I needed money. I still wanted to be useful though; you know, to “make a difference”… And I believed that the only (logical) way was “up”; you know, to build myself a career, rise up in ranks and all that… but when I got into this whole employment thing I discovered realities which I would have never thought existed…

… I met former directors that had quit their jobs to settle for much lower ranking positions (in other organisations) just because they offered better pay – forget about building a career … It came to my attention that good job performance was often associated with an education abroad; like a few weeks ago when a colleague confessed she had guessed that I hadn’t been educated “here” because I did my job “well”. I’m sure she meant it as a compliment but I didn’t take it as one; because if the common belief is that our education system is incapable of producing a competent workforce then what hopes can one even have for this country? Bref… I also realised that connections, origins and political allegiance often had precedence over skills and experience when considering people for jobs and promotions. I got bored and irritated by a few things that I will not talk about here (I still need my job); and I learnt that nobody is really interested in making the world a better place: it’s all about the money!

… But what about purpose? What about satisfaction? What about happiness? Is anybody really happy? What makes you happy? Is it making money or is it being purposeful? Achieving something? I’ve been asking myself these questions for the past few weeks and so far the only answer I have is that I’m not a morning person: I really hate waking up early in morning to do whatever… And please, the world does NOT “belong” to those who wake up early. This isn’t 1813 but 2013! Productivity has nothing to do with how high the sun (or the moon for that matter) is in the sky! Some of us are more productive later during the day! Anyway, I just needed to let that out. Where was I then?

Oh yeah, money vs. achievement. Well, I don’t know what comes first yet. I guess we’re all motivated by different things, depending on the circumstances we face. For example I’d be more inclined to quit my job today and explore other options (looking for achievement) than I would be if I had a family to take care of (which requires money) – and that regardless of my belief and value systems.

Life is anything but easy (I’m not really speaking for myself) on this side of the World and often, otherwise “good” men are obliged to go against their morals and convictions to afford putting a roof over their heads, food on their plates and clothes to cover themselves… If they don’t take care of themselves (and their families), who will? I’ve learnt to understand (though not condone) such men… Their situation (and eventually what they do) isn’t good or bad: it is life! Life is messy and it is made up of many good and bad things. The weight of each thing depends on personal appreciation and on where one is standing. But I believe that something can be done to make the mess a little bit “tidier”… I don’t know what that thing is; I’m still wondering…

Karl-Chris currently lives and works in Bujumbura. You can check him out at misterburundi.wordpress.com and follow him on Twitter: Mr_Burundi