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Why Baba mzungu?

Don’t blame me, I didn’t choose it. A bunch of wonderful kids in Kisii, call me Baba Mzungu and I like it so that’s why Baba Mzungu.

My girlfriend’s little girl calls me “my mzungu” which makes me feel a bit like her pet stick insect. Mind you, she can make be do whatever she wants with a flicker of her beautiful eyes, so maybe she is not so wrong

I used to be called Leisimane (Englishman) by my foster kids is South Africa. Occasionally David, rarely Papa. Everyone in the township knew Leisimane and whenever I drove in I would be followed by an army of kids.

I suppose it would have been the same for any European driving into the township, but no one I knew was as foolish as I was.

South Africa is just distant memories now, but Kenya is a dream. I visited for the first time last September, after having made some contacts on the Internet. They bullied me into coming over and I am glad they did. This was not a tourist holiday (well, not all of it), it was business.

I stayed in Nairobi, moved out to the coast for a couple of weeks, back to Nairobi and a weekend in Kisii.

In the capitol, I think I was “networking”. I was certainly meeting a lot of people, drinking a lot of tea, and taking hours to check a few emails. (The internet connection in our office was worse than slow ~ but this is Kenya

In Kisii, I visited a children’s home. The youngest children were shocked, then fascinated by this mzungu amongst them ~ this is when I was given my name by a tiny little boy called Josephat

There was a slight communication problem in Kisii. My mother tongue is English, I have picked up a few basic words of Swahili, but these kids speak Gusii. One boy, Boniface, made a terrific effort to talk to me, with a couple of words of English, a few more of Swahili, (some of which I knew) and sign language. We got along fine

So, what next? I was due to return to Kenya on 15th January, but I am still here (in the UK). I have been advised not to go out just yet. I have provisionally fixed a new date for around the beginning of February.

The problem is that I want to travel through the Rift Valley to Kisii, possibly by public transport, and that is where a lot of the trouble is ~ and a dead or injured NGO officer is good for nothing. (Some would say I am good for nothing anyway ~ I hope they are joking).

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Categories: Engineering
  1. June 13, 2009 at 16:43

    Great to know why baba mzungu. Love it!

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