A couple months ago, Mike took a trip upcountry and on the drive home he called me to say he had a present for me. My first thought was that it was a rabbit, because I really want one and upcountry they have little kiosks that sell rabbits by the side of the road (I'm pretty sure they're not meant to be pets, though, those roadside rabbits). But he was traveling with his boss who I was certain would not tolerate a rabbit in the car for the several-hours' drive back to Bujumbura. So I waited anxiously to see what my present was.
Cheese! Mike had visited a frommagerie, fresh cheese shop/maker, with his boss, sampled the cheese, and knew immediately that I would love it. At Frommagerie St. Ferdinand, they make two kinds of cheese: frommage de vache and frommage de chevre, cow cheese and goat cheese. And boy are they good! It's the heaviest, freshest, creamiest cheese I've ever had. It's all made right here in Burundi with fresh cow's and goat's milk. He bought enough that after a couple months we've just recently run out. (It freezes well.)
We shared our cheese with some friends and everyone else was just as hooked as we were.
Mike said that the cheese maker's brother lives in Bujumbura and would be willing to supply us any time we wanted to order. As it turns out, I'd met this brother independently of Mike. When we were driving around one day Mike said, "The cheese guy's brother lives there," I said, "Hey, I know who lives there!" So I called him up and we made a deal. Thanks to all my friends and coworkers loving the cheese, we had quite a hefty order.
Yesterday I collected the cash from everyone and the cheese was delivered. I think our cuisiniere (cook/housekeeper) was a little confused and overwhelmed handling all the cheese and money, because he was home when the cheese was delivered and I wasn't. It does feel kind of like a drug deal. I have a dining room table covered in cash -- coins are rare in Burundi and even the smallest denomination equalling about 8 U.S. cents has a bill -- and plastic-wrapped cheese packs that look like bricks of cocaine.
Tonight I'm hanging out at home, waiting for people to stop by and pick up their cheese stashes. I'm a cheese dealer with a major hook-up.