I’m white, very white, despite red dust, pollution and a lot of sun each day. I know I stand out and I know I am a foreigner (Muzungu) I just didn’t think I would get Muzungu fatigue after only two weeks but already it is affecting my nerves and mood.
There is nothing I can do about being called Muzungu (foreigner). I know it is just a thing people do, it is the one bit of fun in their day and it is habit to call out Muzungu when they see a white or foreign person.
The thing is it’s not just kids, but young men (mainly), women, old people, the slightly insane, the poor, the rich, anyone basically as it does not discriminate who calls out the chorus of Muzuuungu!
I know I bring it upon myself as I like to walk a lot and each day as I walk the 10km round trip to work and back I get countless calls of Muzungu – no matter how often I pass or how familiar I think or hope I am becoming.
I just wish it would stop… it is not going to and the only control I have is how I react to it and I find it largely depends on my mood. If I’m happy all good a hello back and a smile, if I am tried, hot and it is the 509th time for the day I can snap – but it doesn’t do any good and I am better off putting my effort into making sure every child is vaccinated than to stop people calling out Muzungu to foreigners!
The other pet peeve but again nothing I can do about it, is the almost always young men blatantly asking me for money. I know I am richer than the vast majority in Uganda just in my presence here where I can choose to be here – even as a locally paid volunteer. Still there is nothing that will make me feel comfortable to be seen as money and not as a human.
Having said all this it is nice to be on the other side of the coin and a minority and learning through the basically racist taunts of Muzungu, white man, John, Peter, James or some other typical white name. Learning to have a thick skin and resilience in situations you don’t have control over can only improve character and empathy to those who have to endure hardships far more trying than being called Muzungu.
Footnote – this won’t stop me losing the plot every so often and abusing the 137th person to call me Muzungu tomorrow! And trust me this in not the only place in the world where it happens if anyone is familiar with the calls of: gaijin, weigook, gringo, gora, americanski, ferenji, etc…