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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.