Life as a Mzungu

This blog is meant to include both the positive and negative parts of my stay in Rwanda. Everything has been so incredible positive for me, but I have had a couple negative experiences that I think are worth sharing.

Here in Rwanda I am called a mzungu. “Muzungu” is a word used in all of East Africa to describe a white person. I hear the word several times just walking through my neighborhood. When passing by children, I am guaranteed to hear, “Mzungu, Mzungu, how are you?” over and over again.

I actually don’t mind this name at all. I understand that people are excited to see someone of a different race, and I admittedly enjoy the attention of children running after me.

Unfortunately, however, many people here associate mzungus with endless amounts of money, of which I do not have.

I walked to the market by myself on a Friday morning last week, and I was approached by a short Rwandan man on the way there. He told me he had walked 2 hours that morning to get to town, and he was picking up a book for school. He followed me around the market,  and after I had finished shopping he asked for a picture, my email and phone number, and a dictionary. Feeling generous, I obliged all of his requests, including the dictionary, which cost about $15. I felt great about the interaction, until some of my Rwandan friends explained that this is a common tactic used, and the “bookstore” where I purchased the dictionary was most likely fake.

Since this interaction, I have been inundated with emails from the man, Mitchell, asking me for money. I have met in town two more times, each time asking for the same thing. I have had many similar interaction with other people as well.

I have a difficult time saying no to people, so it has been quite difficult for me to refuse the daily requests I receive for financial assistance.

I have noticed, however, that I am being approached by less people as time passes. People are beginning to recognize me in the streets, and I am becoming less of a novelty.

Although it is a little challenging being a mzungu here, there are so many great things about it. I am so grateful for the shouts of “Muraho!” and big hugs I receive from friendly strangers.

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