500 words for 500 days (day 5)

A barman from Burundi (part 1)

What do you know about a little East African country of Burundi? If you were born anywhere besides East Africa then this is probably the first time you heard about it. With the size of the country being barely above the size of the famous Irish state of Massachusetts (and almost two times the size of Nother Ireland) and GPD smaller than your typical Unicorn startup, it is almost like Burundi does not at all exist. To most people, it probably will be as good as non-existent, as due to its extreme poverty and lack of political importance on the worldwide stage, the chance of you hearing anything about it or even more, meeting someone from there, is minuscule. But today I have found out that despite all the odds, there is a small community of young people from Burundi who live and work in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Georgia is a very interesting county — after a series of political reforms that came at the beginning of this century, this proud and ancient nation came from being on a bring of collapse, due to extreme poverty and non-functioning government, to a nation that now has a thriving international community with students from all over the world coming here to study medicine, engineering, and agriculture. With almost everyone in the world having a visa-free, practically unlimited right to stay and work here, young people from India, Pakistan, Iran, Nigeria and as I now know even Burundi are coming here to study and work.

Although the salaries here are far from the first world countries, with an average worker making somewhere around $400 per month, the level of technical education, a legacy of the Soviet Union past, and local universities offering courses in English have attracted students from even poorer countries across the world to come to Tbilisi. With more English speaking foreigners coming to the country and a thriving tourism business, local businesses have begun to hire individuals from various backgrounds including one particular young man (we will call him Leon to protect his privacy) from Burundi.

Leon is one of 10 people from Burundi who live and work here, and he is a bartender at the local popular bar called Dive. I will tell his story in my next post as I did not have much time to learn about how he got to come here. I was amazed to find him here and to learn that he speaks whooping 4 languages — French, English, Russian and Georgian and we spent most of our time talking about banana beer from Burundi and how perhaps he should sell it here in Georgia, but I got so intrigued by this situation that I absolutely had to write about this encounter in my today’s post.

There is no special moral to this story, and, hopefully, I will be able to find out more about this unusual community tomorrow, but I would like to remind everyone that there are probably a lot of seemingly unlikely groups of people that you can find everywhere in the world if you just talk to people about their lives. This world became just a bit more magical for me today, and I am glad that I now have a way to share it.