First Look, Tanzania

I boarded the bus, as usual, set down my basket, and hung onto the rail above me. Next to me, a Maasai man sat with his daughter on his lap. She was maybe around three years old, traditional circle scars on her cheeks. They wore traditional dress, as lots of Maasai continue to do when they venture into the city. The little girl seemed totally amazed at the sight of me. For the first time in my life, I realized that I might be the first white person that a child had ever seen. In this globalized world, I imagine that is an experience you have to trek pretty far to find, and now here she was: remote Africa riding my Msasani/Kkoo bus. She laughed, stared, smiled, repeatedly pointed me out to her father.

If we had been somewhere else, this interaction would have carried an air of, “white woman comes to see the real natives.” I’m sensitive, so I probably would have felt a combination of honored, invasive, privileged, regretful, and socially clumsy. Instead we were each in a foreign city, a place meeting new things. I looked at her, grinning back, equally in awe.

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