Sunday drive

November 19, 2007

The time I get to spend with the Burundi refugees is all too short lately. But I am grateful for the time I had, pre-job, for daily visits that built a foundation allowing for easier relationship building even when so limited in quantity. So as time passes, and we grow more comfortable with each other, it seems that this comfort lends itself towards more frequent moments of spontaneious laughter. This afternoon I drove them home from Church, now that they have been placed in local subsidized housing units. My poor little Pearl didn’t know what to think with four extra bodies piled into her . . . I don’t think I imagined the extra creaks and groans mixed in with her usual gear shifts and clutch adjustments. But she carried us safely—and happily—to their home. It being my first time there, I relied upon Petronie’s unique brand of direction-giving: a mixture of wildly waving gestures and blurted orders of “Stop!” “Go!,” “Here!” and “No!” Considering it all, we managed the journey surprisingly smoothly.
Once parked in front of their apartment, as the rest of the crew bounded towards the door, the elderly Evode stopped and looked back at me in the car. He said something and then walked back to me. I expected him to give another goodbye handshake, as I have grown fondly accustomed to his hearty and repetitive greetings and goodbyes. But I realized he was saying something else, trying to tell me something specific. I was afraid something was wrong: were they locked out? But no: I saw that Faransine was already traipsing in the door, dancing as she sang the refrain from one of the day’s songs.
And besides, Evode was smiling awfully broadly as he gestured . . . I rolled my window down and listened as he beamingly gestured towards their apartment door. “Numba!” he said, pointing to the sign. “Numba!,” he repeated. Then it hit me. He was proud of his progress in the language, and was simply showing me his newest word: “Number.” I laughed and shook his hand “Goodbye” again.
The drive home was a happy one; I was energized by the vibrant love these friends so freely offer me. And I was honored that Evode—a man whom I suspect to be a deep well of experience and wisdom—was so set on sharing his small victory of learning with me before I left them for the day.

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