Muzungu

by Sarah Luna

It means white person.

The first time I stepped out into Kigali, I felt as though I were lit up by a spotlight. Men openly stared at me. Women pointed with wide eyes. Children laughed and ran after me.

They all used the same word: Muzungu. moo-ZOONG-oo. Try it.

A funny word for a funny sight. How strange I must look to them with my pale skin and my stringy hair–like an animal’s tail! How laughable that I turn a different color when the sun is out. And what am I wearing???

I can see the questions in their eyes.

Moto drivers will tch at me for attention. “Eh, muzungu, tch tch. Eh.” They know they can get away with charging more just because I am foreign.

A group of women will shout out to me: “Muzungu! Mwiriwe!” White person! Good evening! I smile and give the customary “Amakuru!”, and their eyes light up. It is easier to be friendly with the women.

Children are the best though. Little ones who barely know how to talk will try the word on their tongues: “moooooooo-ZOOOOng-oo?” School-age kids will follow me in packs singing the word in a chorus. “muzungu! Muzungu! MUZUNGU!”

Me. Muzungu.

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