(Rhymes with “glow,” not “yoo-hoo.”)
That’s what Burundians say when they want to express sadness or empathy (low note), surprise (high note) or all three at the same time (high note–> low note). I’ve been hearing a lot of “yooooooooooo” lately as my friends and colleagues realize that I’m actually leaving tomorrow.
I’m kind of sad, leaving my cozy little well-feathered nest in Africa for the uncertainties and cold winds of high-stress, high-cost Western life, giving up the rice and beans and grilled meat (which takes hours to come, I guess they have to slaughter the goat first) for processed food and poutine. I think it will be a cold shock, like getting out of the pool quickly.
Luckily when I get out of the pool, I’ll have my “towel”– things I’ve been missing will all be there: family, old friends, hot showers, Dad’s espresso, my old bed, food that does not contain rice, beans or fried egg. In exactly two weeks’ time I’ll be moved in to my new apartment in Quebec City…and do I ever love that place. It’s my city…soon I will be walking my streets, going to my cafés, my bars, my school, my river, with my friends…or is it our streets, our cafés, our school, our bars and our river? Peu importe. I’ll be home. But for one home, I’ll be giving up another. It’s always like that. It will be especially hard this time. Because I don’t know if I’m coming back here again. Pierre and I are no longer together, and if I come back to work again in East Africa I will probably be based in Nairobi or somewhere in DR Congo. Popping back to see Emilie, Dieudonné, Antoine and my colleagues from the radio is tempting indeed, but it will be hard to get what I call “permission from the two guard dogs”– two enormous hounds called Time and Money. It has even been hinted that I could have a job here if I wanted, but there is no way I could pay off my North American grad school debt on a Burundian reporter’s salary of between $200 and $250 a month. So there you go.
My friends are sad to see the back of me, and I’m sad to see the back of them. Life will go on in Bujumbura, as it has done in Quebec and in Baltimore (and in Ottawa and Nimes and Berne and Kelowna and Ljubljana and St. Petersburg) while I’ve been here. I’m just switching lives. I wish I could be two places at once, but this isn’t Harry Potter. I wish I could watch Robert’s newborn daughter grow up. *sigh*