Unusual Today, Ordinary Tomorrow

On their way to the market with basket of tomatoes and sacks of potatoes.

On their way to the market with basket of tomatoes and sacks of potatoes.

Have you ever experienced being in a place where what seemed so different and unusual at first, became common place and ordinary after awhile?  Something that made you want to take a picture the first time you saw it but in time you realize how normal it is for everyone and it becomes normal for you too?  It’s a process that demonstrates you’re settling in, becoming an inhabitant rather than a newcomer.

Moving dirt and rocks by the "head-full" to build a wall.

Moving dirt and rocks by the “head-full” to build a wall.

When we first moved to Burundi I was continually awestruck at what people carried on their heads, bikes and motos.  Now, after many months seeing people carrying things on their heads, it’s become more common place, just as seeing a woman with her baby tied on her back in a fabric sling is fairly normal here.

Traveling to or from the market.

Traveling to or from the market.

But occasionally there’s is still something out-of-the ordinary being carried, or maybe it’s just the first time I’ve encountered it.  For example, we’ve seen lots of goats transported on bikes but this was the first time I saw a  pig strapped onto the back of a bike going down the mountain road at about 35 MPH.

To market, to market, to buy a fat pig!

To market, to market, to buy a fat pig!

It’s difficulty to get pictures of many of these situations because usually you encounter these abnormal things as your drive down the road.  It seems odd to Burundians that you would want to take a picture of what’s normal to them.  Isn’t your head or your bike a tool for carrying things too heavy to carry a long distance?

Great balance!

Great balance!

These bottles of coke are full because she is one her way back from the store.

These bottles of coke are full because she is one her way back from the store.

Then again, the moment I think about what’s abnormal or remarkable to me–someone carrying a five-liter can of water or a crate of coke on their head–I’m quickly met with the words “Musungu, musungu!” (white person) as I walk or drive by.    Most often from children, but also from grown-ups, and I realize I am a novelty, an unusual occurrence for many Burundians.

She hasn't learned the word for "white person" yet.

She hasn’t learned the word for “white person” yet.

It’s not that they don’t know white people exist, it’s just that there are so few white people living here that we are “out-of-ordinary” to them, something worth remarking about.  No matter how much I settle into living here and get use to it, I will be unusual to them.

Vender of clothes and jeans.

Vender of clothes and jeans.

I hope that even as I settle in and get use to living here I will continue to be surprised, even as the unusual becomes more common.

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5 Responses to Unusual Today, Ordinary Tomorrow

  1. Interesting topic…. “Using your head”. I love hearing from you.

  2. nelly says:

    I love the pics and the thoughts related, keep it up!

  3. Steve says:

    Love the second photo!

  4. Liz Meiners says:

    I’m sure you will, Carolyn. I love being a student of culture…there’s always something new to learn and experience.

  5. lisacadora says:

    Isn’t it interesting to see what is “normal” for others, especially when we had no idea? It’s amazing what people are capable of. So glad to read about your new digs. Sounds like you are happy and settled in. How are classes going? How are your kiddies back here in the states, esp the one here in Cinci?

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