Where did we go wrong?

Yesterday I was walking from the Michaelertor past the Albertina to work. It was around 4.30 in the afternoon and I was minding my own business, keeping my head down and not paying much attention to the people around me. So it happened that I didn’t notice the guy who was walking past me. I didn’t pay attention to him at all, other than walking a bit more to the right side so we could pass each other easily.
So you can imagine my surprise when that guy suddenly turned his head, took a deep breath and full on spat into my face.

I was completely shocked. His spit was everywhere. On my face, in my eyes, mouth, hair. I just stood there, desperately wiping my face. There was no one directly next to us, and if people down the street or on the other side of it saw, they didn’t say anything.

While I was standing there, the guy never stopped walking. He just kept going like nothing happened.

The worst part was that I still had to get to work. While I washed my face in the lady’s room I still had to work for five hours before I was able to go home and properly shower. At home I scrubbed my face almost raw in the shower.

Now, I have several questions:
Why does this happen? Where did we go wrong that we now seem to live in a society where people on the street do not greet each other anymore but spit in each others faces? Is it education? The upbringing? Is it the parent’s fault? Can anyone be blamed?

On the off-chance that the guy in question is reading this, I ask you: Are you proud? Did you walk away patting yourself on the shoulder like “Yes, I just spat a random girl on the street in the face. Today’s a good day!”? Are you keeping count? Was I the only one or were there others? Do you get a sense of accomplishment and pride out of it? Do you feel better about yourself?

I didn’t necessarily take this incident as something against me as a person. I’m utterly disgusted and just so, SO confused. Why would anyone do this? What would bring a person to just spit in another one’s face?
Why is it that treating people with kindness and politeness is so rare? So rare, in fact that if a person you don’t know is polite to you, you cannot help but wonder “What do they want from me?” When did we get so hard and bitter?

I refuse to let this change me as a person, but yes, it opened my eyes. It was a wake up call, certainly, but I cannot, will not and don’t want to change who I am, because of other people’s actions.

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Kindness

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.