Mzungu Running

Mzungu. White Person. Not an offensive term, just an observation. Me, while I’m running down the dirt road in Tanzania. Kids call me mzungu, parents say mzungu to their kids, and once I even saw another white person and thought- mzungu.

I run down the main dirt road to town. No headphones, no phone, just me. No music to distract me from my breath. My distraction is trying to not fall. To not step on a rock, not stubble on the dirt and gravel path. To pay attention to the cars, the goats, chickens, people, kids following me, and obstacles in my path. I keep running.

I hear pole, pole pole- which means sorry, slowly slowly- not sure which meaning to infer. I hear mzungu, nzuri- white person, good. I hear kids shout, mwalimu- teacher! I run down the dirt road and chickens jump out at me, not sure which is more frightened- me or the chickens- we both scream. Kids and parents laugh, I laugh too. Sometimes I feel like I belong here, this is my home. Sometimes I feel like Santa Claus running through a small African town, awkward and out of place.

I’m learning not to care. I love to run. It centers me. It reminds me that everything passes, how I feel in this moment will change and it’s alright to feel uncomfortable. This run will end, I will survive. I don’t know what it going to happen. What I look like doesn’t matter. What people think doesn’t matter. I run through ditches, over bridges with open grates to the water below, past the millet laying out to dry, diesel fumes shoot out at me from the passing trucks, past the the curious stares, because I’m a mzungu running.


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