As a white person living in a predominantly black country, it doesn’t take long to notice the stares. Even though more and more Caucasians, Asians, and Middle Easterners are living in Zambia, there are still many, many, MANY Zambians who find our color of skin and way of living…how shall I put it?…fascinating.
Let me give you an example. Yesterday, I took Charlie to the pool next-door, because it has been BLAZING hot. I got Charlie all ready to go in his swimming gear, lotioned up with SPF55, covered with his Paddington Bear sunhat, and strapped into his stroller.
As I strolled up the path to the pool, I overheard some Zambians behind me talk (in a loud, hard to NOT overhear sort of voice) about the “mzungu” (white person). Seeing as I was THE ONLY white person in sight, I had a pretty good idea that they were talking about me and Charlie…especially when they said, “mzungu baby.” That part really clued me in.
Well, I was not to be daunted. It was HOT, and it is a process getting an almost-5-month-old, fair-skinned babe ready to go swimming in the intense African sun. So, I casually walked past the group of 20 or so Zambians sitting in the shade and felt about 20 pairs of eyes follow me to where I parked the stroller by the kiddie pool. Again, I was not to be daunted (nor was I to be surprised).
Charlie and I had a grand old time splashing and floating in the kiddie pool and experiencing “a really big, cool bath with clothes on” for the first time. (I’m trying to think about swimming in the mind of a 5-month old). After a lifetime of swimming (probably more like 15-20 minutes, but again, 15-20 minutes in the life of a 5-month old is a long time!), we got tired of that and decided to dry off. As we sat in the chair getting our things ready to head home, I looked to my side and noticed a couple Zambian guys with their camera pointed in our direction videoing us. I suppose I should have smiled and waved, but I just carried on with business, pretending like nothing was abnormal. Because, nothing WAS abnormal!
On our way out, I heard several comments as I passed by – things including, “Cute baby” and “mzungu.” What can I say? Charlie and I are popular!
Actually, Derek is popular, too! At a local mall recently, as Derek sat on a bench waiting for me (the story of his life), a Zambian father place his little daughter on the bench next to Derek, ran back a few paces, and snapped their picture. Then, he grabbed his daughter and walked away. No introductions, no explanations, no asking for permission. Just plop, take a picture, and leave.
These are frequent events in our lives, actually. Now, we just have to get used to all the paparazzi!