White girl moves to Africa. It was just a matter of time before Annikah realized she is a bit different around here. Kids have an amazing way of figuring things out, of making sense of their world and if we are careful not to jump in and allow them to discover on their own it can be pretty amazing. Really, it is one of the best parts of parenting to me, to get to experience another little human being discover and make sense of her world. When we moved here we knew we were in many ways going to rock Anni’s world for better and worse. She is figuring out that life is different here and that she is part of that difference. It is easy to realize when walking through the market drenched in sweat while the locals (wearing twice as many layers) have not a bead of perspiration on their faces, or when we get weird stomach bugs from even a drop of unsafe water when the local kids can drink it off our roof (they do too!), or when every time we visit neighbors people come out to stare at Annikah like she is in a museum or the zoo, they are fascinated with her every move. No doubt we are different and apparently novel as most days when we are out and about people remind us so by saying “Mzungu” as we pass as if to point out the obvious fact that we are indeed white.

Annikah has figured out that she is a Mzungu. We never have discussed this with her in any formal way but the other week as we were getting her ready for bed she announced that she is indeed a “zungu.” We asked for more explanation and she said “because Anni wear that” and pointed to her skin. I thought that was a pretty profound thought. To her after careful observation and experimentation over the last few months the only difference is skin, just the covering we wear, not the person we are. She is now sure to point out other Wazungu when we are out and even discovered a few hiding on her backpack that Grandma sent. Racial identity to a two year old, pretty interesting stuff.

http://i204.photobucket.com/player.swf?file=http://vid204.photobucket.com/albums/bb212/roxanne_engstrom/mzungu.flv

http://i204.photobucket.com/player.swf?file=http://vid204.photobucket.com/albums/bb212/roxanne_engstrom/mzungubackpack.flv

*Jason would like to set the record straight that he does NOT wear or own any yellow dresses…… Just in case Anni’s story leaks to the media.

  1. Anonymous says:

    I always tell people that Children are the most perceptive beings on this earth. They may not always know how to articulate what they think, but they know things šŸ™‚ Way to go Anni for knowing it just the skin we wear that separates us!Also, I am sure when she gets older, she is just going to love the naked video šŸ˜‰

  2. Anonymous says:

    i love this story. it makes me think back to our fun times with the little league kids on chicago’s west side. remember when the people would yell, ‘hey white girl!’ across the field when you you and/or i were trying to find a trash can or the bathroom or just had a novice look on our face? there was never a question about who’s attention they were trying to get!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Such a cute story. Right out of college I taught for the St. Louis Park district. I taught in all kinds of parks. Rich neighborhoods, and Martin Luther King Park where there was no grass, just rocks and broken bottles. Made teaching Creative Dramatics a bit challenging. At the time my hair was all the way down my back, and the little girls would want to touch it, and pet me, because they had never seen real blonde hair in person. I still remember their faces. Now I know what to get Jason for his birthday, a yellow dress!:)

  4. Anonymous says:

    Rox – you have a British inflection by way of Zbar! What up? Chi town represents! Word. You’re my favorite zungu! That’ll be 20 bucks extra šŸ™‚

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