Sunday, November 16, 2008

Obama is the new Muzungu

People always shout "Muzungu!" after us when we walk outside. Muzungu means white person and it's not meant in a bad way although it does make you very self conscious since everybody is always looking at you. Plus, imagine standing on the street in whatever city you live in and shout "black person! black person!" every time you see a person of a different skin colour. Would that work?

People are just less politically correct here. They say it as it is, and I have to say I prefer it this way. It's a little "ehh... what did you just say?" at first when someone says something you'd never say out loud at home, but I really like the honesty. They manage to do it in a good way that's just honest but never rude - most people other people seem to see honesty as an excuse to be rude.

As for Obama - after he won the election last week people have started shouting "Obama" at us instead of "mzungu". I don't know why. Some girls had guys shout "Hey, Obamas wife" which doesn't make much sense either...

People at campus are selling photos of Obama, laying hundreds of them out on the ground. Photos work a little differently here, few people have cameras so it's a little special to have a photo of yourself and your friends. A friend in one of my classes gave me six photos last week; four of himself, one of the Main Building on campus and one of Obama.

This is a little funny and a lot strange...


  1. Hey, not a regular follower just passing through and saw the "mzungu" thing. Funny really, my husband and I were often called "bai gui"(spelling?) when we lived in China which means white ghost and is not meant in a nice way or telling it like it is. When I asked my students why this happened to our faces they -after smirks and a few gasps of outrage(that I knew the translation I think)-either said we misheard or that the people spoke out of ignorance. I think the temptation to say what you think when you are sure the other person is unable to respond can be overwhelming myself. We found ourselves giving in to that temptation occasionally when we were frustrated too. By the way we were ESL teachers at a university in northern China.

  2. I guess I'm lucky that way - not a whole lot of people speak Norwegian :) Still, I don't like talking about people when they're there, chances are they'll understand more than you think.

    I'm sure I do get my fair share of people talking behind my back, but I only know they're talking about when they either laugh, look at me or mention "muzungu" in the conversation. And people tend to speak slightly... differently, more quiet, when they talk about you, even if they speak a different language.

    I'm thinking it would be fun to speak luganda, to understand what everyone says - but at the same time I'm sure I don't really want to know everything they're saying about me!


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