Friday, March 14, 2008

Ee-see-quensoo-o-cha (it means White Devil)

Whoever wrote the 2nd Ace Ventura movie definitely spent some time in Africa. This is one of the funniest cultural adjustment things for me. As an American I find it hilarious when children and occasionally youths up to adults who see me passing by say “moo-zoon-goo” at normal conversation audible level, if not a bit louder. Muzongo is the word for white people here, and since there are few of us it definitely has connotations. In other words, just picture if in a rich white suburb I saw a black person walk by and said audibly, “a black person! What’s he doing here?” In America we think these things and we do double takes but racial sensitivity prohibits most people from blurting out “honkey” or “darkey”.
Better still is when I’m in a crammed taxi and someone speaking the local language will say something about “muzungo” and of course I’m the only one around, so if I demonstrate my displeasure or say something to indicate I’m aware they act surprised and think that perhaps I speak the local language (again, Ace Ventura). Then I think they realize that they’re not the first person to call me muzongo. People have been quick to assure me that the origins of the word go back to “mu-lu-wanga” or something like that as spoken in Zulu of South Africa. When the first whites arrived there, as in America, they were friendly and so the origins of the word mean, “a good person”. I doubt if that’s what people are thinking when they call me muzongo, though I’m not sure exactly what they are thinking. I think its just standard labeling and distrust of foreigners being expressed with a word.

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