Stories of Love, Dating, and Bicycles in Upcountry Burundi

Stories of Love, Dating, and Bicycles in Upcountry Burundi

Today we take you to upcountry Burundi, which can only be reached by off-roading, 4-by-4ing, or, if you have the strength and stamina, cycling! And believe us, you want to stay tuned. You’ve seen how bicycles are imperative for basic needs like collecting water in rural areas. You’ve been amazed by how many Burundians traverse hilly terrains, carrying heavy loads on bicycles, to sell their day’s goods to support their families. You’ve heard how bicycles are used as taxis and sources of employment and income in Bujumbura City. But what comes next, you have to see to believe!

Don’t turn that dial, because today we uncover how bicycles are inexplicably linked to (y’all ready for this?)…dating! Wait…what?! We were surprised too!

That’s why you can’t take our word for it. Travel upcountry with our Burundian friends as they share firsthand stories about how bicycles are so paramount to dating, that you can’t have one without the other!

…In Burundi upcountry, having a bicycle is like having a house in America. A lot of women won’t date you if you don’t have one because it helps with transportation to carry water, get food, or go to the farms. You’ve seen pictures of people carrying 300 pounds on a bicycle so it does really play a great role in affordable transportation.

If you can’t afford a bicycle then what else can you afford? If you don’t have a bicycle that can support families and save kids, who do you want to come date you? It’s something that people can notice even though it’s not a big deal in the United States.

In fact, bikes are considered a prestige. It is said that it is very hard to court a lady unless you have got a bike. It is even a cultural condition that if you (boy) don’t own a bicycle you will not get a girl’s ‘’yes” if you want to marry her.

For example, there is one location in Bubanza Province, called Gihanga Commune, where every activity is done with bicycles. Everyone has to have their own bicycle, because you cannot be successful while dating if you don’t have one. If you are to ask the hand of a girl in marriage, the first question she asks is ‘Do you have a bicycle?’ You have to prove that you have one before being accepted for marriage. It is very difficult for boys to get married without having a bicycle to help fetch water, because in Gihanga, there are huge issues with reaching the water supply to sustain daily life. Girls will choose men that have bicycles because they need them to survive in these remote areas.

This even extends to actual wedding ceremonies. At the wedding, some guys wear suits and the transport means is a bicycle because here riding is survival for life. So, people at wedding parties come with their bicycles.

As you can see, before any other well-developed transporting vehicles were born in Burundi, possessing a bicycle as a vehicle in one’s household equalled an abstract of wealth, survival, and being able to provide for the family.

A huge part of our work here at BFI is to share and exchange culture and friendship. Continued gratitude to all our Burundian colleagues and friends for sharing their intimate and heartfelt stories of life in all parts of Burundi. You are the lifeblood of BFI! Special thanks to today’s contributing authors: Fabrice Bizimana, Alex Hakizimana, Odette Mwiza, Schadrack Ndayihimbaze, Innocent Niyongabo, and Jérémie Ntirandekura.

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