By Hawa S. Kouta

“Hawa! Where are you from?” … Wherever I go in my life I am always asked this question just like everyone I guess.
Now, I wonder if everyone gets into as much trouble as I do by answering to it.
When I was younger the answer used to come straight away out: “I am from Burundi”, and then a “Really?! You look west African!”  that I’ve gotten used to would follow. And then I would be like: “Well that is because my father is Senegalese…” which would automatically be followed by a surprised look on their faces… “so you’re Senegalese then!” with a tone that would say that they had figured it all out.
But I, stubbornly, would insist: “No! I AM a Burundian (starting to get annoyed)”, and then I’d give a long speech explaining to them what really makes me a Burundian, you know, the usual “I was born and raised there, my heart belongs to this country” or “Ndazi no kwandika natura!” (You all know it’s not easy) … but my best line would always be: “Besides, I have a Burundian passport!” … Aho naba narushe no guharira, but with time I have learnt to improve my arguments.

To this day, people spend so much time trying to put it into my head that I am from Senegal, but after living almost 24 years in the heart of Africa, I am still not convinced although sometimes… well, sometimes i wonder if they are not right.

Anyways over the years this got me to think about “what makes a real Burundian?”
Is it the name? Is it the passport? Is it the culture or is it the attachment and the loyalty to the country?
Is it the fact I chose to call it home? I could have chosen to belong to a “better looking” country (from the world’s perspective at least) but I didn’t. I chose Burundi regardless the good or the bad, because when someone loves they accept the whole package. And what a package I picked!

See, the world should know that once you go Umurundi you never go back! With the unconditional love I have for our Petit Pays, no amount of political trouble, wars, corruption, poverty or calamities would actually make me turn my back to what’s dear to my heart! Besides, nothing brings me more hope than seeing my motherland clumsily trying to stand on her feet! Sure it’s slow but it is moving forward and that has got to count for something!

Some mornings, when walk into a Starbucks to get my coffee I usually think about ways to open one in Bujumbura. In fact everything, literally EVERYTHING I see on my way and find it nice makes me ask myself this question: “Mbega nobishikana gute iBurundi?”, like a loyal servant convinced that nothing is too good for my country! Yes, my country!

Not so long ago, as #myBurundianDream was trending everywhere, I became curious to take a look at what my compatriotes had to say about their dreams for the land we share. Most of them would talk about how their longing for peace, freedom, economic prosperity, etc. But that can never be my dream because IT IS GOING TO HAPPEN, that is the normal course of life: up or down, things ALWAYS get better. So don’t worry my people, Burundi will rest one day, I know so!
That, dear world, is what makes me a real Burundian: not my passport, not the fact that I grew up there but the fact that I always want the best for it (and will get it with some help). And I always, proudly, tell the world about that diamond waiting for its day to shine!

#myBurundianDream à moi: to bring the world to Burundi and get them to fall in love with it as deeply and irreversibly as I did so that they never ask again: “Burundi? Where is Burundi?”

What’s an American dream when you have the Burundian?

Hawa currently lives and studies in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia