The Manitoba province is a land with a diverse, interesting population, and, most importantly, truly phenomenal food.
Our class experienced this firsthand on multiple occasions on our trip thus far, and today was no exception: we ate a lunch prepared and served by Syrian refugees, and it was one of the best meals I have ever eaten. The chicken wraps were a personal favorite. At my table, I got to talk with Dieundonne Mbarushimana, a refugee from Burundi, who spent hours telling his life story.
“I tell a good story,” Mbarushimana said. “I have a very big story.”
Mbarushimana spent almost a decade of his life in prison in Burundi. He also was involved in an accident there that paralyzed him and forced him to be bedridden for six years. After his injury, Mbarushimana sought to learn a craft he could do with only his hands. He became skilled at crocheting. He showed off some of his creations, including some crocheted carrots with smiley faces.
He also expressed that he grew immensely in his faith. He listens to Radio Maria, a radio program that allows him to hear Christian songs and scriptures in his own language.
“There are two ways in my life: crocheting and listening to Radio Maria,” Mbarushimana said. “If you are a new person in a new church, you cannot catch anything, but you can go home and listen to Radio Maria, and you hear.”
Despite all the tragedy he faced in the past, Mbarushimana told his story with a sense of wonder and a surprising sense of humor. He reminisced about being in prison and stealing guard’s underwear when the guard was in a shower and selling it to someone else for an amount of money equivalent to a nickel. He began to laugh so hard after that story he had to pause for a full minute, and I couldn’t help but laugh too.
Mbarushimana’s wasn’t the only big story we got to see and hear about today. We also got to learn more about the efforts of Ben Rempel and the Manitoba province to bring and accommodate more immigrants into the country.
After a long bus ride full of naps and some phenomenal and some questionable music choices, we also got the chance to visit Emerson, a small town on the Canadian border. We ended the day by heading to dinner at a pub with journalism students from Red River College in Winnipeg. We heard their thoughts on everything from Calvin and Hobbes to the physics of curling. It was a phenomenal experience.
However, I couldn’t get Mbarushimana’s story out of my mind. I thought about how proud he was to tell his story, in both its tragic and funny parts. One of my favorite parts of journalism is the personal stories, the many bizarre, tragic, or phenomenal events you get to hear. I look forward to more of these stories and am thankful for the people like Mbarushimana, a strong survivor, willing to put his story out into the world for anyone with an ear to hear and a chicken wrap to eat.