“We can spot a tourist a mile away!” So I was told by my French, Dutch and British friends when I was an aupair in France many adventures ago. I confess I can not. Many slip through the cracks of my tourist spotting abilities as I am limited by the obvious -backpacks, running shoes, maps and cameras. According to my European friends -American tourist wore white socks and running shoes while canadian tourists all had canadian flag patches sewn on bags or hats : )
I on the other hand, in Kampala – can be spotted a mile away -or so it seems. I am met daily by the warm, “hello muzungu!” whether I am in a car, on a boda boda (moped taxi service) or on foot… even in pitch darkness. “How can they see me??” my friends can often hear me asking? OK.. I admit… i have become quite curious about the Muzungus I can spot, too. We often smile at each other or at times, give each other personal space by not staring : ) Muzungu (MU-zung goo) means white person in Uganda. According to the urban dictionary muzungu is a Swahili word referring to missionaries and early explorers meaning “those who wonder aimlessly”. : )
Being called a white person is funny actually since I have never thought of myself as white in Canada. I am considered a POC – a person of colour. : ) For the most part it is not meant to be derogatory here in Africa in contrast to North America where it would not be acceptable to call out skin colour hellos to strangers in passing. Strangely – I am not offended -especially when children use it. However, it has become a little annoying on occasion when I am tired and would prefer the Hello Mukwano! (friend) that others have thrown my way.
Today (ok – many days) being spotted meant I was potential sponsor money. I quickly tell my new friend of the moment that Kids Canada is a cultural exchange program for children here in Uganda and in Canada but would be happy to check out the orphanage he supports.
Uganda is beautiful and so are its people. Everyday I hope Kids Canada and our ground leaders here are able to touch at least one person in our path -to let them know that not all muzungus are pockets of wealth nor out to save them. In Canada, organizations like ours are determined not to perpetuate the belief that all African children are sad, hungry and orphans as depicted in the media and in charities of the past. Today – I know that I can not do that on my own nor will I create the necessary wave but today…..i will settle for a small ripple…