Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Saturday, December 17, 2016

I am not a mzungu! (re-posted with the Afro)

I am not a mzungu is something I have to keep on repeating at least once a month to children.

I am baffled why children should call me "mzungu" a Swahili word for Caucasian. And there is no confusing me with a white man; I am unmistakably black. There is at least one other meaning of the word, but in general Tanzanians understand "mzungu" to mean a white person.

But I have had to consider that children have their own interpretation of "mzungu" and it is slowly beginning to make sense to me. The first time I heard being called "mzungu" by a child was in Rombo, on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. I was hiking and had my headphones. I concluded it was the headphones that made me a mzungu.

The second time I became a mzungu was during my Ukerewe to Butiama bike ride and as I rode through a village three children called out to me: "mzungu!" I responded: "I am not a mzungu!" They insisted I was.


I can attribute the second instance to my colorful mountain bike, sunglasses, and the huge Afro I was sporting. I could have deflected attention if it was only the bike, but I just couldn't go unnoticed for being unusual with that huge Afro and the sunglasses.
My colorful mountain bike.
This morning I was reminded how much I confuse children when a child called out my other name. I still have the Afro, I was holding my sun glasses in my hand, and I had a small backpack. I have concluded that, to these children, "mzungu" has nothing to do with race, but has a lot to do with the activity I indulge in (cycling), the accessories I use (sunglasses, headphones), and that huge Afro that even Don King would have envied. Or Wole Soyinka?

I originally posted this without my photograph, until Benjamin Leers commented: "where's the Afro?" So, here it is, below, although I trimmed it when I took this photo. Let me know if you think Don King or Professor Wole Soyinka would be impressed.
The headphones, the Afro, and the author of this post. 

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