As I walk to and from the Girl Up office I continue to be the recipient of much attention. Staring, some pointing, and with the kids, much interest. “Mzungu,” they call out, both to me and each other. There is one group of kids down the road from where I live who like to gather and play the high 5 game with me. I introduce them to, “High 5, Low 5, Fast 5 – op! You’re too slow!” (That last bit said when I pull my hand away before they can slap it.) They love it. I love it. The nearby adults act aloof yet also appear somewhat entertained by this exchange. The beauty of play: it’s an easy fun way to make contact.
Before encountering the kids I pass two men and hear one of them say, “Mzungu” to his friend in their conversation. I turn and look at them, “I heard that…” I say, playfully. His friend busts out laughing but the guy who said it won’t make eye contact with me. He looks to the side as though to say, ‘What? Who me? I don’t know what you’re talking about.’
I remember what the animal communicator told us before the safari: that the highest compliment an animal can pay us is if they continue doing what they were doing as we pass by… this shows us that we’re in harmony with them and our surroundings. I wonder if I’ll ever get to walk down the road here and be in harmony with my surroundings in this way. I am NOT saying people are animals here… not at all… but it’s a great parallel experience of learning how to be in the wild areas that are not my usual stomping grounds and seeing what it takes to be harmonious with it rather than an obvious outsider. And perhaps that will never be possible here or only possible after a really long time… so then… what would it take to receive this experience for what it is, have fun with it, and allow ‘mzungu’ to open doorways of connection that might not exist without the difference of skin color?
Photo Credit: Emmanuel Walusimbi, photographer for the Girl Up Team and volunteer with the Champions of Change program