Thursday, August 27, 2009

My name s Mackenzie

My name is not white girl, branquinha, muzungu, or any other reference to me by my color.

Muzungu (“white person” in Luganda or Swahili) is the word of choice here. It’s cute when a 3 year old says “hi muzungu” as I pass, because they are being friendly and don’t know any better. It’s nothing short of irritating when a man shouts “muzungu” at me from the window of a passing truck or a matatu (public transportation - think VW van made into a sort of bus).

I don’t like being classified for being pale. They children I live with are good about it since they see so many white people, but anywhere else I go I hear shouts of “hi muzungu” or even worse, the high pitched “how are you?” because obviously white people sound like that. I am overcharged on everything that doesn’t have a price tag physically on it, because people assume that since I am white, I have money. I have taken to bringing one of the Uncles with me when I shop in the neighborhood, because it doesn’t happen when I’m with someone Ugandan who knows what the price is supposed to be.

I realize that being “muzungu” does carry certain privileges, too, though, so I can’t be only irritated. Bodas will always stop for me, even when I want to walk. Most people are eager to talk to me. I can walk into some of the nicest hotels in the city and not be questioned (this one has been tested). I could have jumped into their pool with all its fountains and grandeur, and no one would have given it a passing thought.

So, although I might be annoyed at being heckled and overcharged, even here my race carries privileges I haven’t earned. I am more accepted here in Kampala than people from different Kingdoms within Uganda. I am told not to interfere in such matters, but it does trouble me. I am still trying to better understand these issues. Maybe once I am more comfortable, I can even share more stories about what I have already seen.

Thank you again for your support. Know that I am fine, just trying to make sense of all that I am experiencing. Moving to a completely different culture is a lot to take in, and I am learning more every day.


  1. I had to google Boda..:)

    Interesting how people are judged by their color different ways

  2. We as humans have made such incredible progress, but situations and events make us realize just how far we still have to go. I am so very proud of you and what you are doing. I love you and am always thinking of you.