Friday, 22 November 2013

Burundi The Land of Handshakes!

For close to two years, I've been working in Burundi-a tiny east African country (trending is a word that Burundi failed to take advantage in the east African integration to form an integration with DR Congo and Tanzania-I wonder what they'll call it!)

My service in Burundi is with Burundi Youth for Christ. One of the reasons why I was hired was to foster the east African integration which the government has decided to trample. So I may not be here anytime soon.

Over the time I've been here, one thing still beats my understanding! The Burundian Greeting.
Burundians are very social people who love their amstel and primus beer(not for this article but I couldn't go without mentioning it)

I'll describe the famous greeting with my own experience and this how it is.

To go for work, I take a 100m walk to the taxi-moto stage for my motorbike ride to work at a cost of 1000FBu. At the site of me, about five motorbike riders race to me and I usually take the one that reaches me first. He however won't set off unless I give him and his five colleagues/rivals handshakes.

Vrooom! I'm now at the gate to my workplace and the gatekeepers won't let me in unless I shake his hand or give him a hug!/¿?

Then I'm in with my Burundian and American friends.  I could easily pass by without even saying hi to the American but even a hi is not enough for the others! You have to shake hands. In my first month, a colleague-Jean Marie(not real name) related me to an arrogant murderer. That by consistently refusing to walk to his desk to shake his hand, I was 'killing him,' and I promised to always shake his and all Burundian hands so I could go to heaven and not the filthy Burundian jails.

While at work we receive an average of six visitors who are shown around and you can't survive more handshakes!

At the end of the working day, more handshakes as a symbol of farewell and good will. This is followed by another taxi-moto handshakes.

Vrooom! I'm now at the boulangerie/bakery to but bread for the next day. More handshakes from the bakery attendants and any one buying bread. The cluster of beggars all around me want money or bread but they want handshakes first. Actually that's the reason why I've never given any of them money.

Once in a while, I go to my bank(Ecobank-one of the only banks that give ATM cards) to withdraw some money. More handshakes from the security. Many times, the ATM is faulty and I've to withdraw from the counter. More handshakes from the cleaners, receptionist, tellers and even the manager himself! I almost thought I'm holding a really fat back account! That would be the most logical explanation but then this is Burundi!

Now in the Couture-a Chinese supermarket for a few basic supplies (the Arabian lady here is offended if you talk about Arabia. She claims she's 100% Burundian. That's evident by her love for handshakes anyway). More handshakes from her and any shoppers there!

Taxi-moto handshakes again and I'm home for another handshake from my Cook.
I'm home for a while then I decide to go to the nearby joint for a drink and some brochettes. That's when the bar attendants and goat roasters line up for handshakes before taking my orders!
Goat eating is always interrupted by strangers coming and leaving the joint. They all want handshakes!!

Then I'm home again for dinner. Before I sleep, I try to count the number of handshakes for the day so I could say a prayer for God to bless them.
You might want to help me count.

How many hands did I shake today?

2 comments:

  1. Hahaha! Wait, what?! Maybe that's a Gitega thing because I rarely shake anybody's hand! I would otherwise spend my whole life doing that. I get away with a "Bite?/Amahoro" + a smile + some chit-chat when necessary... a lot of people do that and it's enough.

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