When walking home or to work here in Uganda, I’m often followed by many kids like little shadows trailing my path. Sometimes they follow silently just a few paces off my own, growing in number as I walk. However, most of the time they are loud and lively yelling “MUZUNGU! MUZUNGU! HOW ARE YOOOOUUUUUUU!?!” This is a phrase that is shouted at me on a daily basis here in Uganda.
Muzungu is the word used for any non-African person and the children here love to remind me that I am in fact one constantly. While there are quite a few muzungus in Uganda, there are not many in the area where I work in Kinawataka slum, and no other female ones that I’ve seen.
The children’s jaws drop in awe of the pale blond beast.
I seem to have developed a following of Ugandan kids who know where I work and run past on their lunch breaks and when they get out of school to yell at me until I respond. A few particularly impatient ones even threw rocks at the building to get my attention.
“Hey muzungu! MUZUNGU! MUZUNNGGUUU!!!” – Children
“Hello” – Me
“Hahahahaha! Muzungu how are you?” – Children
“I am good. How are you?” – Me
In unison: “I am fine!” – Children
This conversation repeats itself multiple times a day. Most of the time (if I am lucky) they run away laughing. Other times they stand outside the door peering in at the newest attraction. This can last over an hour.
Several of the people in the Kinawataka slum are newcomers to Kampala and have spent much of their lives in the villages without ever seeing a muzungu before so I don’t usually mind too much. After all, kids are supposed to be curious and it can be kind of adorable. A few have rubbed my skin to see if it is like their own and are puzzled by the wavy mess of hair.
I do sort of miss the anonymity of blending in. I get away with nothing. People I have never met approach me and tell me they know where I work or where I live. As a de facto representative of the muzungu clan, it is good motivation to always make a positive impression.
Posted By Shannon Orcutt
Posted Jul 4th, 2014