Mzungo Baseball Cap
I've never liked baseball caps. Especially for girls. I can't explain it and I know it is sexist. But over the past week, I've found myself adorning the cap I brought more and more. I packed it simply to tick it off my obscure and unorganized packing list. Africa seemed like a place people would recommend bringing a hat. Since the sun does its burning hot thing.
The reason for my hat wearing however, has nothing to do with the heat of the day or even with my increasingly greasy hair. Instead, it is a physical manifestation of something I am not proud of wanting: privacy. It's going to seem as though I am a paranoid fool. But after two weeks of walking down the road with stares that parallel a movie's rendition of a kid in high school who is the star of a campus wide rumor, I want a block. Of course, I love seeing a child's face light up from just a simple wave and there has been an accomanied feeling of minor fame with the entire ordeal which is exhilarating.
I've never been someone who shies from attention, in fact, when I'm in a self conscious place, I often seek it. But last night, as I was paraded around the Gospel Choir Concert like a show pony, I just wanted everyone to look away. I don't necessarily need a name here, it's already been predestined as Mzungo, meaning white person, which depending on the tone, can be positive or negative. Try as I might to learn Swahili, I can only pick up a few words in each rapid conversation around me, half of them I know are about me. What I am trying to say is, that even someone like me, who loves meeting people with smiles, has warped slightly (I promise only slightly) into a wanna-be hermit with the desire for sercurity.
Everytime I feel the instinct to turn my head down instead of smiling at a curious child, I am not only developing a distasteful mistrust but also hurting a relationship that has not even begun. Not many white people circulate this city. The ones who do have left a presedent of giving money and leaving, or so it seems from the children who greet me with "Give me pesa!" instead of the standard "Mambo!" I don't want to be another white person who flickers through and leaves with hauty thoughts of helping the poor, when really I am just establishing a system of dependence. I came here because I've never been to Africa, and I have fallen in love with the place and the people, and I am already planning ways to come back. But just because I adore it, doesn't mean that I can not see the problems. I do not know how to break the system, and I know that I single handedly will not. But I want to elevate my awareness. I want to build relationships not through money, but through personal experience. I have already seen amazing grass roots initiatives here that have had a tremendous impact in only one year (blog soon to come detailing them). I want to take of my baseball cap for good and truly soak in my vulnerability in this culture. I want to trust the Universe, which is the name I like to give God, fully and appreciate the emotions that I am capable of when in discomfort. Because I am so lucky to be here and to feel uncomfortable. I have already learned so much about the world and about myself. And by shutting myself off, I would just be shutting myself from new knowledge.
Just a little something I've been thinking about on this beautiful day.