Hot. Sticky. And my skin is choking on the stale clothes that I haven’t taken off in two days. Hair that hasn’t been washed in two days. Two days? No, surely it hasn’t been that long, I haven’t slept a night’s sleep yet. But, yes, I guess this is day two of airplanes, airports, passports, lines, and “please put your liquids in this plastic baggy for inspection”. Two days of going and waiting to go and now we are finally stopping. We have reached Dar Es Salaam. We have reached…home.
And so our journey really begins with us finding our way in a new city with a new language and a new way of driving and new way of living. And maybe someday we will “blend in” if we are successful learners of Tanzania. But for now, we rely heavily on others and on God. And if we are accepting of that, it is our best hope for excellence.
After stepping off the plane the first word I could pick out was “Muzungu.” The word muzungu in Swahili comes from the root translation of the word “foreigner.” Over time it has come into context meaning, “white person.” But there isn’t a negative connotation to the word at all. Africans seem to say the word while laughing, smiling, or expressing some sort of joy. Even if you eat in a side of the road restaurant the manager may yell to the neighboring establishments and let them know that “Muzungus are eating here.” This surprises me. This wouldn’t fly in America. Being called “white boy” isn’t the greatest of compliments in the States. The term, “white men can’t jump” and Vanilla Ice pop into my head. But in Africa, being called “white boy” means respect. While amused, I’m still not comfortable with it.
As I have been thinking about, it speaks to the forgiving quality of Africans. Sure, Muzungus have come and kidnapped millions of Africans to use as slaves, but they’ll still show you respect. Sure, Muzungus have forcefully come and used Africans as pawns in their empires, but they’ll still show you respect. Granted not everything in Muzungu-African relations has been bad, there have been many good things, but there has been enough major incidents that it could be easy for Africans to turn their backs to Muzungus. Yet, they don’t. They are forgiving and hospitable people that have welcomed us to their continent, and Tanzanians to their country.