So today we went walking. We are staying in a cottage about 2 kilometers from the heart of Nanyuki. It is a town of maybe 45,000 people, though from the main highway that runs through town, it appears to be a small town. But then, it is very densely populated with many people in very small (often 1 room) homes.
We walked down a dirt driveway to another dirt road. There are many things a person can only notice from the slow pace of walking. One thing I noticed was that there were no other mzunzus (white people). We walked by a place where someone was making furniture. He looked up, saw us, laughed and began to sing with words we could not understand. After we had passed, the singing stopped. We never felt unsafe, just awkward. Everyone stared at us. We greeted those we passed – “jambo”! And a couple of times there was a tentative response. We walked past a primary school. The children in the playground ran to the fence and waved. “Mzungo, mzungo!” they cried. I waved.
Persons walked past us and then turned around to look at us. Cars slowed and drivers looked our way. I began to wonder if the newspaper headline might in fact be – MZUNGU WALKING!
One reason that we decided to spend 3 weeks in Nanyuki was the significant white population in this area. I want to see how whites and blacks interact
and learn what I could from both. However, I’m just not seeing white people.
Later, I asked a Kenyan man about my experience. He told me the people were surprised to see a mzungu walking. Mzungus have cars. They don’t walk. “Where do Kenyans and mzungus interact?” “Mostly, they don’t,” he replied. “When I went to church, we were the only mzungus present. Where do mzungus worship?” I asked. “Mostly, they don’t,” he replied. Mzungus would be a great mission field it seems.
Because of all the stares, I wondered how Kenyans viewed me. What assumptions they had beyond their surprise that we were walking. “Kenyans see mzungus as wealthy people,” he said. No doubt because they drive cars. “But Kenyans haven’t spoken to mzungus. They don’t know.”
Last week, I had a conversation with a white man from the US who lives in a remote village. He is the only white person in the village. It took a while until he was able to meet and interact with the people of the village. He advised me that it takes more than a few days or even weeks. “Just enter the village and sit under a tree and eventually people will find you approachable and when they do, miracles will begin to happen.” Or maybe in a place like Nanyuki, you just keep walking.
We spent the afternoon at Imara. Here is a home where Kenyan children are spending the first years of their life with their Kenyan mothers and the mzungus from Minnesota. Mzungus are living with Kenyans. As I held a child in my arms, I wondered aloud the impact it will have for this child. There is hope for the next generation if we can walk together in love.