There’s a little love story behind the BFC. Everyone close to me knows it, and many of the 2007 students are just finding out (with much glee). But today’s big romantic event couldn’t have happened without it, so it’s probably a good chance to share some of the passion behind the project.
I asked Bridget to come to Burundi in 2007, first and foremost, to document the pilot-project through pictures. As a professionally trained and award-winning photographer, I knew she could find a beauty in the chaos over here that might help us get the attention we needed to continue. It was no small bonus that she’d also been making films for 10 years and has design talents that we continue to exploit in all our promotional materials. She deserves far more credit than she gets for her BFC work, for sure, but I also preface her many talents to save face a little. A love affair was indeed born, but luring her deep into Sub-Saharan Africa to do so certainly wasn’t the calculated ploy many of my friends joke it must have been. At least I don’t think it was…
Regardless, Bridget and I are now painfully in love and happily married, so it gave me indescribable joy to pick her up from the airport today. She’s come to once again photograph the goings on here, but is doing so on her holidays, so she can only stay for about three weeks. Her timing is therefore strategic – she arrived at 1:15pm (after 40+ hours of travel), and when we left the airport almost an hour later, it was straight to the 2:30pm wedding of none other than Papy Jamaica, the BFC Technical Director.
Papy actually met his wife while trying to attend our wedding in Ottawa. He bought his ticket and flew to the Canadian High Commission in Kenya to get his visa. They delayed and delayed their decision, until finally denying him the chance to come, saying a wedding wasn’t a valid enough reason for him to travel to Canada (…yeah, I know). You can imagine how disappointed we were, and how upset Papy was, and yet during that time he met Estelle. He decided to use some of the time he had planned to be in Canada to stay in Kenya, kindling the fires of romance. He instantly knew he wanted to marry her, and told her as much. And only ten months later, here we are.
A Burundian wedding is a grand affair indeed, an event that fuses numerous Christian traditions with both local and widespread African customs. Dozens of family members (mostly women) wore extravagant dresses and head pieces made from the bride and groom’s selected wedding pattern. Singing and dancing was of course joyous and inescapable, accented by spontaneous throat calls that are the rolling, high-pitched version of whistles or cheers.
The slightly impatient white preacher (who never seemed to allow the Burundian translator to finish a sentence) also placed special emphasis on the husband’s role as the head of the household and the wife’s need to always be there to cook and clean for him. A slightly different tone than our own ceremony.
One highlight both for us and the giddy audience was a performance by the BFC’s own Apollinaire. There’s a reason he’s so popular here, and we never tire of getting the chance to see why first-hand.
It also helped bring everything full circle, reminding us that there’s more to the foundation of this project than equipment and courses. There’s a love for what we’re doing, and whom we get to do that with.