Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Crazy Mzungu

"Ya' gotta' laugh" ("Husaidia kuweza kucheka"), people say. Believe me, I do, especially at myself and especially when I realize how peculiar I must seem to my kind neighbors in Maseno.

Kenyans are very polite, of course, so it is only if I happen to catch the nurses' eye contact during rounds, or glimpse the bowed and chuckling heads on the road, or hear the whispers behind the kids' hands, that I can grin sheepishly in acknowledgment.

Yes, I'm a crazy mzungu/white person/visitor.

Only a crazy mzungu would do leg exercises on tiptoe during rounds. But if I didn't, my calves would cramp unmercifully after working all day on cement and packed-earth floors.

Only a crazy mzungu would jog (very intermittently) down the road at 7 AM. Otherwise, I'd be late for chapel; but bemused Kenyans don't worry a whole lot about "late."

Only a crazy mzungu would read in the sunshine after lunch. "Are you sick, Sister?" "No, warm and happy." "Wow. We only sit in the sun if we have (chills from) malaria."

Only a crazy mzungu would eat ugali with a fork instead of her fingers, but my hosts thoughtfully set out utensils for me.

Only a crazy mzungu would drink "strong tea" (no milk, no sugar) and consider it delicious, although Kenyans make some of the world's best tea. Their "chai" is basically hot sugared milk.

Only a crazy mzungu would prefer drip-grind coffee to instant Nescafe/Africafe. Kenyans also make some of the world's best coffee, but it is considered an export item.

Only a crazy mzungu would feed table scraps to a skinny roaming mama mbwa/dog. Scraps are for people; dogs fend for themselves. (N.B. The Hardisons just added dog food to the weekly shopping list for us. What luxury! Emmah and I and Mbwa are delighted.)

Only a crazy mzungu would still be struggling with the language after four months. My Luo and Luhya neighbors understand one another, as well as me. They speak four languages, including Kiswahili, to my one-and-a-fraction.

I am grateful for their tolerance. I am even more grateful we can laugh together. In every language.


auuudra said...

i love this entry, so well put. you write beautifully.

Anonymous said...

Being a Luo in USA, you remind me of our way- the kenyan way.Thanks for that

Kas DeCarvalho said...

Your wisdom is international, Dee. We miss you.