I’m Mzungu!

I’m Mzungu!

Children and babies run to the street to peer into my car as we drive by waving, yelling “Mzungu…Mzungu!” I wave and they giggle with such glee.   A fleeting happy moment, they were noticed by the Mzungu.   If I was able to capture their image with my camera, even bigger waves and laughter.  I didn’t get called this until we went out into the villages.   When we drove up into North Uganda I made a comment that no one was calling me Mzungu anymore.  They said oh yes they are, but here you are known as Muno.  Great!   I’m still a celebrity of sorts.  I’ve also been called “a White” as opposed to being Indian,  by a very sweet proper lady.

So if you are wondering how I’m dealing with being the only white person here alone, I’m great!   I have to be honest that it worried me at first, but these people are so loving and I prayed that when I came here that God would make me colorblind, because we have such ingrained things into our American culture, bordering on racism, I didn’t ever want to bring any of that with me.   And now my friends I will tell you that I’ve been several days not reveling in my white uniqueness or even seeing others as a different color.   I’m just here in Africa, enjoying the moments I have with new friends!

There are so many volunteers here, I’d say the number is greater than actual tourists or travelers.  Driving through the North on some desolate road, I saw a Mzungu girl and a Ugandan man backpacking it down the road.  I always wonder why they are here, where they are from, what is their story?   I’ve seen lots of European men with Ugandan girlfriends or wives in Kampala and many other Mzungu girls with Ugandan men also in Kampala.  Those usually go to the Mall or other known places where there are Mzungu’s.

I’m actually noticing them as much as the African  children do…haha   I want to wave but that is so silly, I don’t know why not though, I’m waving at all the Ugandans.

My friend Chris here in Jinja told me that a group of volunteers felt offended by being called this, thought it was racist.   He kindly explained the origins of the word.   I actually found a good bit about it on the internet myself.  Mzungu is the preferred word because Central and East Africa people do not link people of European origin to the “white” color. This is because the concept of color coding ethnicity is not a part of their culture. Actually they consider people of European origin to be reddish or pinkish. And believe me I’m plenty red about right now!

Isn’t this lovely though now you understand that in Africa they really don’t separate color/race?   I’m just one very sunburned very pink person that they have understood comes in love and a big heart.  I think if anything the Mzungu to them represents money and richness.

I try not to talk much about home.   The way I live is a foreign concept to those who have nothing.   I try to make the conversation one of questions about their culture, language, social issues, and other typically Ugandan things.

Mzungu (pronounced “Mmm-zoo-ngooo”) is the Swahili word for “Person of European Descent”. Literaly translated it means “someone who roams around aimlessly” or “aimless wanderer”. The term was used by Africans to describe early European explorers. It is commonly used in most Bantu languages of east, central and southern Africa.  The plural form of Mzungu in Uganda is Bazungu.

I’ll miss my celebrity when I go home.   I’ll be back to my normal grind and waving insanely at people on the street and they will think I’ve lost my ever loving mind.   Maybe I have.

I do not feel like a visitor here.   I don’t think I would have ever felt this way after the first day.  I feel like a friend, and to the children, a celebrity.   I rather like being Mzungu!

  1. linda lessis says:

    that concept is so interesting. points out how insular we are in the u.s. about other people’s cultures and experiences.

    i find it so sad that travel to foreign countries is the exception rather than the rule for young people in the states. how many of the young men and women of our current “entitled” generation would feel so differently if they experienced how people live in other countries? truthfully, even in other parts of north america . . .

  2. lori hetzel says:

    Hello my good friend, Mzungu!
    I think in the begining of your trip you may have felt like a wanderer, roaming around endlessly, but have found that you are most welcomed,by such a welcoming and warm people. People that you have now been woven into, and will always be connected to. You will make a profound difference in their world. Just think if there were paparratzi (?) in Uganda, they would be following your every move, being the celbrity you are! I look forward to your next entry,Mzungu.

    Lori

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