Moshi is safe. It’s also very clean. It’s peaceful and pretty.
If it’s not too late in the morning when I leave the house, I walk into town. I can stay in the shade on the side of the road, and enjoy the walk thinking through things for myself.
The boda-boda drivers call out to me for a ride. Where the Tarmac road in Rau intersects the road into Moshi town, the taxi drivers do the same. Two rotaries later, the newspaper men and curio sellers call out to me. Sometimes idle men on the sides of the street also call out. The Rastas we call fly-catchers, trying to take advantage of tourists.
‘Jambo! Hello, my friend!’ they call. Some walk alongside me.
‘Sio leo, kaka. Labda sio kesho.’ Not today, brother. Maybe not tomorrow.
I recall living in Roxbury, constantly harassed by catcalls. I’ll never understand why classless men think it socially acceptable to harass women in public, but they do. Generally I’d give it back to them, or ignore them altogether. You can’t teach class.
But here is different somehow. What is it?
I try to work it out as I walk.
‘Rafiki! Hello, my friend! Good morning!’
By the time that I’m in town, I think I’ve got it.
Being white growing up in New England, I’ve never been singled out for my skin color before. Here, I am. They’re not calling to me because I’m a woman, they’re calling to me because I’m white.
Mzungu. One who walks in circles. Either because we’re lost and don’t know our way around, or because we go exploring and return eventually. Europeans.
I don’t know which I prefer, if either of them. I definitely feel less vulnerable for being white versus a woman. I can’t help being either.
In Roxbury, we had a shared since of space. We had to get along on the same street. Here, I feel like a tourist. I wouldn’t want to be friends with these fly-catchers even if I could.