Wednesday, May 20, 2009


There is something about Burundian residential architecture that has often fascinated me - the open bricks at the roof-line of each room.  These bricks appear in a variety of patterns that vary from home to home, and they are all screened to prevent unwanted things from entering the home (like bugs, I imagine).  The purpose the open bricks - to aerate the home.  These openings in each room keep air moving through the home at all times.  Instead of air-conditioning, Burundian homes have air-circulating!  

Last Saturday afternoon I noticed the movement of the air as I drifted into a welcomed nap. The air brought in more than just ventilation, it carried an aroma of the food being cooked in the house next door.  I could smell the tomato, the spice, the sweet note of the sauce simmering over the charcoals.  I could also hear the music playing from a few different homes at once - an African beat, some Fifty Cent and the ubiquitous Celine Dion all at once.  It was a cacophony that was circulating around my room and interrupting my attempted afternoon sleep.  But these openings are never shut, and so you are ever exposed to the sensation, sounds and smells of the outer world.

These openings are like portals to the neighborhood around me.  I hear the favorite music of my neighbors.  I know when they are cooking - from both the aroma wafting from their outdoor kitchen and the sound of clanking dishes.  I hear, un-muted and un-muffled, the rooster chorus each morning, the workman constructing the wall next door with heavy-handed hammers, the laughter of friends in the cool, darkening evening.  These openings keep me connected to my surroundings in a very unmediated way.  I feel the very rhythm of my neighborhood, I experience it with my senses.   

The structured openness of Burundian homes is something I am coming to enjoy.  It is also something I am realizing I need to learn from.  I need to have a practiced and perpetual openness to the world around me, to aerate my soul in ways that keep me immediately aware of my surroundings.  It is easy to live behind locked windows, shuttered from the things that are around me.  I can choose to shut out unwanted influences, or I can just become acclimated to living with the windows shut and not even notice how out of touch I am with my environment.  I can miss opportunities or the voices of those in need can be muted, never gaining my attention.  But I don't want to live a life that is closed off.   I want a ventilated soul - open to the world around me.  Now learning how to do this... that is something I will need to explore.  But I want to be exposed, to be open, to not miss being where I am.

This Saturday, before the above mentioned nap, the family went to Bora Bora for a pizza lunch. They have a great thin-crusted pizza garnished with fresh basil that I love!  But the view... stunning!  And the air was certainly circulating, the breeze coming off of Lake Tanganyika.  Life is good... so I want to remain open to receive and savor it!

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