Corruption, extortion, discrimination and the MZUNGU!

Mzungu – Slang for “white person/man”. Its what the locals here call us white people. To put it mildly, its the African equivalent of the term “Nigger” in western society.

So we’ve been living for a month exactly in Tanzania and over that period of time we’ve come accustomed to the various cultural differences and nuances that has come our way. We’ve adjusted well and we both love it here.

However we’ve made some observations over the past few weeks relating to the way the local people view Mzungu’s! The main one been their blatant use of the word Mzungu at any given chance around you and when they see you coming. Could you imagine what would happen if we went around calling black people the “N” word when you meet them on the street? There would be a revolt. Well its the equivalent here…but without the prospect of a revolt. Its viewed as no big deal and its the only way to describe a white person apparently!
Initially, when we found out what this word that everyone was calling us meant we felt really offended and shocked that even grown adults shout it from across the road and start laughing among themselves. It did cause a few incidents of increased blood pressure but I had to bite the tongue more times than I care to remember. The one thing we did realize from the off is that getting aggressive towards locals could spark alot of trouble. Gangs are prevalent in these parts of the world more than I ever thought….hell even the dogs walk around in gangs!! Speaking of dogs…I’m convinced that they’re racist as well as they always seem to want to attack us when we walk by 🙂

So after getting used to the label Mzungu, we were faced with another harsh reality! The reality that there is one price for African’s and another price for “non-residents” aka Mzungu’s!! Now we know that tourist’s are the main income for most people here…but then why try and rip us off?! A simple example would be the taxi fares. A short taxi ride costs TSH 2000(which is about 1euro) and a longer one costs TSH 4000(2euro). But thats the African price! The Mzungu price can start from anywhere from TSH 5000 for short rides and TSH 10000 for the longer ones. It’s beyond a joke though what they think they can get away with. As soon and you walk away from their initial quote and refuse to listen to them…you’ll get the proper price. So if we are getting a taxi we just say we don’t want the Mzungu price. Extortion is’nt the word though.
Another example of the rampant discrimination that goes on in this country is bus fares. Ok so we want to go to Moshi for a day trip. The sign reads “residents – TSH 5000, non-residents $10”!! Thats the polite way of saying “African’s TSH 5000 and Mzungu’s $10! I can assure you that if a Nigerian person walked into the bus station and asked for a ticket he would’nt have to produce his passport to verify that he was Tanzanian. It’s a case of the colour of your skin and that’s it…end of story.

Its a sad fact though as there’s so much in the media about racism in western society towards black people, but to be honest its equally as bad here towards white people.Its the only country I’ve been to where I’ve felt racially intimidated. I can just imagine how it must feel like to those who are subjected to worse conditions and situations of it.

Anyways, I just wanted to make an entry on this subject as it strikes us as both funny and intimidating. For some reason they think that because we are white we are very naive and easily fooled. But I can guarantee you that they misjudged the wrong two people 🙂

Apart from that we have no news. We’re having trouble with our visa’s….very long story and not our fault! That will get its own blog entry later on!

We’ve been making great progress with our project in the school and I’m proud to say that I taught my class how to multiply by using the visual aid of dots! A simple technique that I was shown, but a very effective one when there’s the language barrier to overcome as well!

We’ve been basically just going to and from school, eating and then hitting the sack around 9pm every night. The heat makes us so tired and with a 6:30am start every morning you definitely need the rest.