Courage, Ma Ma, Courage

Pronounced with a French accent, as in coo-RAJ, Ma Ma, coo RAJ.

It’s my favorite thing about living here and I look forward to it every week.

Amongst the many things that figure into what makes a place a good place to live, (alongside of the people, the climate, the safety and security, the food, the freedom, the house, the adventure opportunities, the job that brought you there in the first place), for me it’s a good place to run outside. I don’t think I would much relish a place where you couldn’t, either because of air pollution, or safety, or climate, or culture, or traffic, or just no good surface to run on.

And I was doubtful about this place at first for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is lack of non-working daylight hours. But as we’re settling into a routine, I’m finding ways to make it work.

And every Saturday morning that I can, I head out to run my loop. It isn’t very far and I’m not very fast, but it is STRAIGHT UPHILL. And those of you who have run many miles with me (Carol, Dana, Marla, Clay, Katy Roark, Dr. Bob, Jennifer, Shaunda) know only too well how much I HATE uphill and how badly I suck at it.

But here’s the deal: when I run up this hill on a Saturday morning, everyone and their brother is out on this one road. It’s like The Place To Be On Saturday Morning. I see all sorts of sights, like large groups of men jogging and chanting, (despite the fact that this has recently been outlawed in Burundi), people carrying all manner of things on their heads (this must be one of the main routes to get into town from one of the nearby upcountry villages), walkers, bikers, and people exercising on the side of the road near the monument.


And when they see this old, Mzungu female sweating and panting like there’s no tomorrow, struggling up this ridiculous hill, they all shout to me “CooRAJ, Ma Ma, cooRAJ”. Now I’ve never actually known what that means, but judging from the context, I always thought they were trying to encourage me. So on a whim, in anticipation of writing this post, I put “courage” into a French to English translator. And much to my surprise (I assumed it would just translate as courage), guess how it translated?!?! “CHEER UP!!”

And I do. In fact, I love it. I look forward to it all week.

While I’m not the only runner, I’m generally the only white female, so let’s just say I’m noticeable. And I’ve determined that the more pitiful I look (the more sweat, the more panting, the more struggling), the more encouragement I get. And judging from everyone’s expressions as they smile and shout “Courage” (or sometimes “Esprit”, which I take to have a similar encouraging meaning), I think they get a kick out of me. And I’m quite happy to provide them with the Saturday morning entertainment.