30.01.2009 - 30.01.2009
Aggie, Maswai (our gorgeous local cooks) and Eve (another volunteer) were already in the cab of our beaten up ute when I decided to go in to town with them yesterday, so it meant all the seats inside the truck were taken. I’ve ridden on the back a few times so far, usually in a group, but always with at least one other person. This was the first time I had sat back there perched on the tool box by myself.
Being a mzungu (a white person, or just anyone who is not African) in this area I’m living in is definitely a unique experience. Any thoughts I had that I could maybe blend in here eventually were evaporated on that trip through the maze of narrow, dusty, bumpy and winding roads that lead into town. Just about everyone looked at me, some just watched as I went by, the kids yelled out “MZUUUNGUUUU!!”, or they just waved with big smiles on their faces. It wasn’t just because I was by myself, I just think it was more aware because I didn’t have the others in the back with me diverting my attention. I can now fully imagine what it would be like to be famous now, complete strangers calling out to you, even just calling me mzungu, would be kind of like an actor being called by his characters name by random strangers on the street. It’s a very strange feeling to suddenly be a minority, and to know that wherever you go, you obviously stand out as being very different, especially when sitting on the back of a moving truck.
Even on the way to the childrens village I volunteer for here in Sinon, walking through the little pockets of rainforest and small banana plantations, the local kids come running up all excited and happy when we walk past. They call out mzungu, or they practise their English sentences like “how are you” or “my name is..”, but usually they just run up and grab our hands, and walk with us for a little while. It doesn’t matter how often they see us (we walk past sometimes a few times a day), they still get so excited.
Being a mzungu has it’s funny moments too, one of the other volunteers here (also a mzungu) has taken to calling out mzungu to other mzungus whenever he sees one. And on Australia Day, we were all on the back of the ute heading to town for a night out when some random person on the street in a busy part of town yelled out “VOLUNTEEEEERS” at us instead of mzungu… we cracked up laughing all the way to the restaurant. So, yes, I think we do stand out here, and not just a little bit either.