They Call Me Jesus

12 May 2009

They really do. I know that I’m a tall white man with a beard and hair that is getting a bit long…but come on! In the end, I am living in a very religious corner of the world and in an area that isn’t so used to seeing Mazungos. But Jesus!?!? It’s mostly children and consistently happens every time I leave the base. Hard not to smile and my teammates really do get a kick out of it as well. It could be worse, I suppose…

In general, the children of Shamwana are really great and are genuinely thrilled to see me. As I walk through the village, I am constantly greeted by the cheerful “Halo, Halo Mazungo!!” that is shouted as the handful of children that belong to that particular parcel run out at top speed to greet me.

Now What?

As soon as they get to the footpath, they stop suddenly, not always sure what to do.

The older ones try out the few lines of French that they’ve learned at school and the customary “Bonjour…ça va? Comment t’appel tu?” is stammered out…without waiting for a response and usually without the ability to really understand what I would answer anyway.

The younger ones shyly approach and stretch out a hand to shake mine or touch my legs…immediately racing back to their parcel with huge smiles on their faces, bragging to their parents and siblings that they actually touched the Mazungo!

The brave ones follow behind me for a bit and then slyly reach out to take my hand or to grab a finger. Before I know it, I have tiny black hands in mine as two very proud kids, extremely happy with their newfound acquaintance, are leading me through town!

Pictures of me

The first day I first arrived, there was a cute little kid who had an empty matchbox that he was using as his make-believe camera. It was clear that I wasn’t the first Mazungo here in Shamwana because he knew exactly what to do. He would put the matchbox to his eyes to snap a picture of me. CLICK…and it would be done. He would then open the matchbox and pull out a scrap of advertising from an old magazine, proudly showing me the picture he had just taken!

Donnez-moi une Photo!

Pictures are really fun. They love it and the moment you take the camera out, the children come flocking. Genuine excitement. Digital cameras are great because you can immediately share your picture with them…and that is thanks enough here in Shamwana.

Before you know it, the entire family has materialized for their chance to be in the picture. The little ones are shoved to the front. Babies are swung into view…the snot sometimes wiped from their nose and sometimes not. Smiles are always hard but, with a little encouragement, they come out and are wonderful. Bright white teeth shining out from their black faces.

The children of Shamwana really do brighten my day and I also walk away from such encounters with a big smile on my face!

G Assenheimer | Children of Shamwana

Photo: G Assenheimer | Children of Shamwana