This post will be written out of pure, raw emotion and gratitude but I have to write as long as my emotions still are like this. Without rational feelings, without too many thoughts.
When we went out for dinner tonight we were not expecting too much. Just a regular evening together and some nice food. We went to one of our usual places, a small restaurant along the road. This “Mama Lisha” (it translates to “feeding woman”) is basically a wooden hut with a woman cooking local food. Rice (or ugali), beef and vegetables (which usually means there are beans thrown on the plate as well). There’s no electricity at all and you eat in the complete dark, apart from the occasional headlights from some passing cars.
After we were done we ordered some chai and continued our conversation, when a local guy sat down at our table. At some point he leaned over and started a conversation with us, saying how much he’d enjoy to once taste “Mzungu food”. Instead of being annoyed, as I would have been back in Austria, that this guy was disturbing us during dinner, I asked him “What exactly is ‘Mzungu food’?”
This is how one of the most interesting and pleasant conversations I’ve ever had with a local started. We talked about his work, about life in Europe, about if immigrating to Europe is even desirable and so on.
After about half an hour he stood up and said he’d have to leave. We thanked him for the nice conversation and shook hands, when he let us know that he already paid our dinner for us.
We were in shock.
Actually, we still are now.
After so many conversations about the topic of how locals only seem to see us as “white people with a lot of money” this man singlehandedly proved us wrong and made us feel ashamed. He filled our hearts with so much gratitude and awe, it’s hard to find the right words. It’s almost impossible to describe how much this simple gesture means. He, a local guy with a job at the military and aspirations to seek for a better life, paid for us four Mzungus.
After we regained our bearings and picked our jaws of off the floor, we invited him to our house for “Mzungu food”. He did not only pay for me and S. but for the two other guys we were with as well, even though they were not involved in our conversation at all. Also, he paid for us before the actual conversation had even started.
My mind finds it hard to process this. So much goodness happened today, my hands are shaking and my eyes are getting teary. I’ve experienced so much kindness and thoughtfulness today, here in Tanzania, a country in which I was finding it incredibly hard to connect with and understand the people.
I have a lot of thinking and re-thinking to do. This has changed everything. My heart feels so full.
Thank you, Chriss. Truly.