Sunday, July 5, 2015

Hey Mzungu!

As I start my second week of living in Eldoret, Kenya I reflect over the last week. I have learned many things about the culture in Eldoret but its just the tip of the iceberg. I have learned new traditions of eating and drinking as well as many new Swahili words. One of the first words I learned was Mzungu.

Why did I learn this word first? Mainly because that is what I am referred to as I walk around the streets of Eldoret. Mzungu means white skinned person. I compare it to the work gringo used in Latin countries, but it is much different. Mzungu is not a derogatory term but merely a way to get your attention. Often foreigners will use it to refer to themselves. "The other Mzungu's could not come for lunch." or while bargaining "Is that the Mzungu price?"

As I have wandered the streets of Eldoret I am becoming more familiar with getting around by foot. I am still getting used to the cars coming from opposite directions. The weather has been fantastic, its rainy season, but has not rained much in the last couple of days. Kenyans consider this time winter. During the day it ranges from 65-75F (20-25C) which for me feels like perfect t-shirt weather. Around me the locals are wearing puffy snow jackets and scarves.

The markets are busy on Saturdays where large crowds squeeze through narrow passages between wooden shacks piled with second hand cloths and hanging fruits. As you walk through hands reach out and grab you attempting to direct you into their shop. Others shout at you "Mzungu Mzungu welcome please come!" If you find something you like you begin to bargain until you reach a price that you would pay. I always have a set price in my head before beginning to bargain, I start lower than that price, so when we reach a common price its closer to what I was willing to pay.

Besides the street life I have also learned much about the night life. Its common for people my age to spend Friday and Saturday dancing at one of the many clubs in Eldoret. I have been to 4 one one, Spree and Signature. These nightclubs mix local African beats with popular American hip-hop and Latin dance music. Men are very forward and the whole night you constantly spend running away from men attempting to sneak up behind you. Many are relentless chasing you halfway around the club despite your efforts to shoo them away.

Dress code for these clubs are liberal. Many women wear short skirts and crop tops but with the touchy crowd most Mzungu's opt for long pants and nice blouses. Even with conservative dressing you will still be chased around.

I am excited to learn more Kenyan culture and learn more Swahili. I have finished my first week in Kenya and I have 51 more weeks to learn. Make sure to follow my adventures in Kenya. 

1 comment:

  1. Adrienne, I'm laughing out loud at your description of running away from the men in the clubs. Some things don't change. I had a very similar experience in the Bahamas in 1978, only back then they were called "discos." Anyway, I just caught up on your blog today. I'm so glad to see the pictures and read the stories. You're going to have an amazing time!