Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"You look pretty, like a muzungu."

"You look pretty, like a muzungu." I was told, once, by a taxi driver who'd known me for ages here in Dar es Salaam.

Muzungu - white person
Mchina - Asian looking person (doesn't include south Asians)

I don't know what came over my driver that day when he said those words. He'd seen me go into that same salon more than a dozen times and come out outwardly unchanged and that was the first time he'd said anything about it. Thing was, it wasn't my eyebrows or upper lips I had waxed.

My friends, Tanzanian or otherwise, reacted in various shades of amusement or embarrassment (not quite sure if it was for me or for the fever), there were some who got became quite indignant at the gall of this man. They asked me if I'd been insulted and said surely I'd said something.

I could've been offended, but why should I be? If his definition of pretty is a muzungu woman, who was I to disabuse that notion? If he was just being nice and had reached the limits of giving compliments in a strange language, then why embarrass him by correcting him or asking him to justify that comment in some way? I replied, "Asante," which is thank you in the local lingo, and let it go. 

It's all about perspective. I choose to think of that as an anecdote of my life abroad.