C’est moi!


The year was 1993

We had just moved to Mombasa (Kenya). I was five years old. That was my first tie. It was made of leather.

For five years I would grow up on the Swahili shores of Mombasa’s North Coast, living in a neighbourhood of humungous villas, electric fences, and neighbours we knew nothing about except the cars they drove. I spoke English at school, Swahili at home with the houseboy, the watchman and the maid, and broken Kirundi with my parents. They used to get my brother and I Tintin VHS cartoons and comic strips from the Alliance Française so we wouldn’t lose the little French we’d brought from Burundi. This trick worked: I got exempt from taking French at school, and when we returned to Burundi in 1997, I had no trouble integrating the francophone school system.

I always wonder what my life would be like today…
If we hadn’t moved to Kenya, if my parents hadn’t been strict about speaking Kirundi, if I hadn’t been a foreigner in a foreign land at a young age…
If we had decided that we liked it better in Mombasa and never moved back to Burundi… if there were anglophone schools when we did, if I had ended up in different schools…
If my parents hadn’t been able to afford the life they gave me, if they had had other kids…
If I had gone to University in South Africa instead of England, if I hadn’t taken summer classes and graduated in two years, if I hadn’t returned to Burundi, again…
If my business plans had worked, if I was self-employed, if I had more money than I do today…
If I hadn’t started writing, if I hadn’t drawn the attention I did, if I hadn’t left Burundi, again…
If I had gotten married at twenty-five like I had planned, if I had kids…
If the war hadn’t happened in Burundi, if the country wasn’t poor…
If I didn’t feel a little bit guilty every time I indulged in a “first world” pleasure or complained about a “third world” problem…
If I wasn’t Umurundi… if I hadn’t been exposed to everything I have been exposed to…
If I didn’t wonder so much…

I’m not the “African” you see on TV.
I think in English, speak Kirundi like I was born in a village, have seen more of America than people born and raised there, know the lyrics to almost all Francis Cabrel songs, and dance to Ali Kiba. I have the Game of Thrones theme as my ringtone.

I’ve grown up feeling like I’m caught in between two worlds.
One where I’m just an average bloke, where real elites drive Lamborghinis, fly first class and own penthouses in Dubai;
And another where I’m an image of success because I have a job, access to a bank loan, drive a second hand Toyota, and can afford three meals a day.
I’m caught in the middle of two worlds: one where I’m told I have enough and another where I’m urged to aspire for more.
Nothing I ever do feels good enough.
So I navigate this life wondering, measuring every step, questioning every direction, doubting every decision, praying to God to help me do the right thing, reflecting on every little thing that happens, and asking myself “what next?”

My quest in life is to live forever. I’m pleased to say that so far, I am on the right track. But if I die, I won’t have failed; I’ll just be alive on the other side 😉

4 thoughts on “C’est moi!

  1. Hi Kris! ‘m sorry to post this comment like that. But I’m have an job offer in Burundi. But I don’t know anything about your country. I really want to talk to an Burundian to understand more before decide to accept this job or not. Because I have some questions about life n people there.
    Can u help me !! If u have time, leave ur email n I will write for u.
    Merci beaucoup!!!!

  2. Hi Kris,
    My name is Linda and I live in London. I also have an offer to work in Burundi and like Lucy; I do not know anything about your country. It would be helpful to get some real insight into the country from a Burundian.
    Best wishes,

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