That’s what a friend called me when I made a sarcastic comment about one of those forward “Alerte! Alerte!” messages every Burundian is probably used to (and a bit tired of) getting by now. The message was about a neighborhood under police siege, but someone who isn’t quite a master of la langue de Moliere had written it. So, yeah, I made fun of the form – not the content – and my friend didn’t like it. He said I was missing the point.
But… I understand him. I was speaking from a position which I’m aware makes me seem detached or disconnected from everything that’s going on. I’m not in Burundi anymore. A few months ago, my life was threatened and so I packed my bags and left. I fled. Ni hatari.
My friend, who’s still in Burundi, doesn’t know exactly how and why I left, and being aware that I’m not living a typical refugee life, I can understand his attitude towards me.
I can understand his attitude because he probably doesn’t know hard it is to leave people you love behind when you know that they could be in just as much danger as you were…
He doesn’t how it feels when it hits that you will have to restart your life all over again, somewhere in a foreign land, not because you wanted to, but because you were forced to…
He doesn’t feel the shame of having to rely on other people for airtime, a haircut, food, clothing, a roof to sleep under… because you hadn’t planned for this and the little money you had saved, when you still HAD A LIFE, ran out…
He doesn’t know how your heart skips a beat each time you get that message telling you that there has been another attack, another death, somewhere… Because you dread to hear that something bad has happened to a person you know while you “comfortably enjoy” a life away from “the problems”…
He has no idea how you die a little bit inside when you hear or read about yet another death, and see those harrowing photos of dead bodies that we’re dangerously starting to get used to…
He doesn’t know that guilty feeling you have to fight every single day, when you’re reminded that they’re there, while you’re here.
He has never felt that knot in the guts get tighter each time someone asks you where you’re from, what’s going on there, why you’re here… and sometimes you have to lie because you can’t bear that pity look you get when you tell them the truth…
He doesn’t realize just how draining managing all these feelings can be…
But you hold your head up!
You hold your head up because you know, that at the end of the day, in the midst of all those difficulties, you have it way better than thousands, and even millions of people out there!
Yeah, “elites” aren’t allowed to be sad. Sigh.
Plus you sortta brought it upon yourself… well, I did!
Me and my big mouth, and my itchy fingers that always feels like they gotta tell the world what’s happening. #someoneTakeThisSmartphoneAway
“You shoulda kept your mouth shut!” is what some guy told me the other day. Hah!
Anyway, you hold your head up and fake a smile… Fake it till you make it!
You stay positive, learn to look for the best in every situation that happens.
Humor becomes your best friend, because humor is the only thing that can save you from losing it… that can keep you from going crazy. Because it’s very easy to go crazy…
And then once in a while, you slip…
Make a joke where you weren’t supposed to…
You say something “insensitive”.
My friend doesn’t understand that I’m out here, trying to survive too.
For many weeks I’ve been holding back from writing again. I wasn’t going to write about the “third term”, or about any struggle related to the third term, no. But I held back.
I remember that for a while, I actually held back from tweeting anything that wasn’t “Burundi crisis” related too. For months I didn’t use my Instagram.
Because I was scared…
Talking about anything else felt inappropriate, “insensitive”…
For weeks I actually didn’t allow myself to think about anything else, to enjoy myself, to be happy, to laugh… and when I did, I felt guilty about it! Isn’t that crazy?
When I (well, and some family and friends who had to knock some sense back into me) realized that I was on the path to losing it, I had to tell myself, STOP!
There is life after the third term!
There are only so many things that I CAN do about the situation back home – so what do I do before things return to normal? Just sit and be miserable?
You could argue that I could do, or could have done more than I did, but what is the price to pay? Is it worth it?
I see you die-hard “patriots” out there waving your “la patrie ou la mort” flags sky high… but, death? What for? For whom? For what? Don’t we have enough heroes already? What have we learnt from their struggles that kept us from repeating the same mistakes?
Well, I thought about all that and concluded that I would be much more useful to myself, my family, my country (if it wants me, nta forcing) and the World, ALIVE!
Where am I going with this?
I’m heading to the part where I say that right in the middle of the crisis, life has to go on… as insensitive as this may sound so some ears. This isn’t about giving up “the struggle” but it’s about doing it right!
Burundi isn’t just the 27,834 sq. km. wide piece of land. It’s way more than the politics or any power sharing games and agreements. Burundi is me, it’s you, it’s Abarundi, and without them, Burundi dies!
We cannot allow Nkurunziza’s, or anybody else’s political games (and their consequences) to put our lives on halt (well, iyo zitaduhitanye of course) – sure they make life much harder than it already was, but we need to keep on moving on.
Again, I’m not saying we should turn your backs on what’s happening, no. All I’m saying is, let us adapt, and let us not allow ourselves to slip into the victim seat. Because if we let the pain, the depression, the guilt and the shame take us over, we will die. We may not die physically, but we will die inside and the soul of Burundi will die with us! As we fight for what’s right, we need to keep our spirits alive for tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, or whenever we shall finally see the end of the mess we’re in!
I actually think that we could take ourselves out of it too for good, if we just dared to think a little bit more outside the (political) box.
And anyway, it’s not like this is the first crisis we’re dealing now, is it?
For weeks I have been wondering whether, when, and how we should bring This Burundian Life back, because, you know, we don’t “talk” about politics (to some extent at least), and it’s so hard to talk about anything else than the bloody “third term” these days…
But then I remembered the purpose behind the existence of the blog: to show Burundi the way it is – with it’s unique beauty, flaws, aspirations… it’s journey. The third term didn’t put an end to the journey. I would say it made it a little more worthwhile. Hence we should keep sharing stories of how we’re moving on… don’t you think so?
In short, this means we’re back!
From this week onwards, starting tomorrow, we will try to share with you at least one story of “life, a la Burundaise”. We’ve made our schedule flexible to the current (very volatile) times, but we will try to bring you a new story every week… That’s if you keep sending in your texts…
So peeps, stay tuned, but most important keep on moving!
By Karl-Chris R. Nsabiyumva, who is currently… well, I’m still on the move so I’ll let you know where I am when I settle down properly. Meanwhile, catch me on Twitter at @Mr_Burundi, and check out my blog: misterburundi.wordpress.com.
Photo by Arnaud Gwaga Mugisha