Muzungu!

Muzungu!

I hope I never tire of the experience of children seeing a white person up close for the first time. Any given day as I walk through rural Rwandan villages, I have both children and adults yell out, “Muzungu! Muzungu!” [white person!] Children often come running in a group and hug me, yell the only English word(s) they know, or dare each other to touch me. Mothers will call for their children to come look at or touch the Muzungu. I try to use their intrigue to my advantage and greet them and try to get to know them. Today I met a family of 9 children. They were pretty rural, very dirty, and very shy. A couple young girls about 6, 8, and 9 with babies in tow stood back, wanting to greet me, but fearful. One girl in particular, maybe 8 or 9, continued to stare. She looked so scared but so curious. I made only a few steps toward her still leaving a good 6-8 feet between us. I held out my hand and said a few Kinyarwandan greetings. Slowly she came and stuck out a finger to touch me. I continued to smile and tell her it was ok. I was her friend. Meanwhile her sisters were behind her, but verbalizing and laughing as if she was the scaredy-cat. They weren’t about to get close to me! Eventually she inspected my skin, my hair, my fingernails. She kept turning my arms over to the underside where they are whitest and rubbing and rubbing saying all kinds of things that I didn’t understand. She was most fascinated by my red fingernails, so after demonstrating as best I could that it was just paint, I picked a little bit off exposing my white nail. This really intrigued her and she kept picking my fingernail polish off excitedly. Meanwhile a sister behind her was slapping her to stop as if this was rude. Yesterday, at a school, one girl sneaked up behind me to touch my hair and ran off, so I told them it was ok. I then turned around crouching down for them to feel it. I must have had at least 30 hands in my hair laughing and screaming. One girl kept rubbing my arm and then smacking her face as if she could take the white from my arm and put it on like make up. A little way down the road, some girls came running and yelling to meet me and touch me. It doesn’t take much to be a celebrity here. 

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