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Busking in Burundi

Intrigued

I lean forward in my chair at the front of the meeting room

watch the children who are leading

the singing

the dancing.

I decide to learn the feet first

and try to make my feet copy what I see

moving them surreptitiously under my chair.

Loose left foot

right foot to the front

and then to the back

with little circle twists

steady beat

for the rest of the dance.           

One of our translators told me

African babies are born with rhythm,

and my mind’s eye sees a little

brown baby being born

hitching his hips.

That was my first day at the widows’ and orphans’ retreat.

This last day

a colorful river of hundreds of widows,

heads wrapped in vivid cloth

flowing garments over their Sister Connection T-shirts,

walk the few miles from the retreat grounds down to House of Joy,

the first building on Mount Hope, the Sister Connection property.

They come to pray over every part of the property

and as they arrive they stream around House of Joy

surging together

dancing

clapping

singing

to the drum beating lightly.

On the periphery

I mingle

clap some

smile

and look for photo ops.

Then I

shyly

slyly

remembering how the children did it

move my feet

and mingle

on the edge of the dance.

A widow woman turns to face me

her hands raised a bit

and I

mirror her

raising my hands.

Whatever she does

I do.

And she ups the ante

challenging my small skills.

And the

crowd circles close,

cheering

coaching,

and I can’t do what they say

encumbered with my camera and bag.

“Give them to me!” says the director’s niece,

a big black woman visiting from Canada

and I do

and I dance

doing whatever my partner does.

“Jump!” that niece says.

So I jump.

“Higher!! Use your whole body!”

I do that too

feeling suddenly like I am flying

loose and free

jumping

jumping

jumping higher

in the middle of a

crush of clapping swaying

bright black women

facing that one beautiful woman

whose body mirrors mine.

 

Sharon visited Burundi for a Sister Connection widow retreat where hundreds of widows come together for worship through dancing and singing, teaching, and fellowship.