A little materialism check

July 24, 2008



Today I received a comment from a guy on the street that I’ve never gotten before in Kenya. Usually, even if I’m having a bad day, I’m still smiling as I walk down the street. How could I not? Everyone says hello to me and I lot of the guys tell me I’m beautiful, I always feel like a celebrity! But today my smile was missing and this man noticed.


“Muzungu, mbona leo unaonekana huna furaha?” (White person, why do you look sad today?)


I could have said “Leo nimepotea pitchas na musicki yangu yote na sasa nimeskia mbaya.” (Today I lost all of my pictures and music so now I feel bad).


But somehow I hesitated. Had a muzungu asked me that question I would have told them straight away that my computer had gotten a virus and although my friends at the cyber café were able to salvage most of my documents, I lost all of my pictures and music when they reformatted my computer. A muzungu probably would have sympathized with me, telling me “that’s horrible” or “I’m so sorry that happened to you, that totally sucks.” They would probably find it totally normal for me to mope about the loss of two pretty superfluous things.


But how could the guy on the street possibly sympathize with me? He was a boda driver, one of the guys that gives people rides on his bicycle for what most likely amounts to less than $2 per day. How could he feel bad for me when the cost of my computer, camera and music could probably feed his entire family for a year? Music and pictures won’t feed him, they won’t won’t help him feel better if he gets sick, they’re really not all that necessary.


So instead I said “Hakuna shieda, nimeskia mzuri sasa.” (No worries, I feel good now).