You are probably asking yourself, “What the heck is an Mnzungu?” Well, I am. A Mnzungu is a white man or pail skinned foreigner. Chinese, East Indian, Arab, and even Native Americans would be considered Mnzungus.
"Why will he take me away?"
Every culture has an object or persona used to scare children into morality and obedience to their parents and elders. Santa Clause, for example, is a very North American persona used to encourage children to exercise model behaviour and to "be good". He gives presents for favourable behaviour and coal as punishment to those who have been naughty and not nice. In Malawi, I am that object used to encourage obedience.
Malawian children are taught from a young age, “If you are bad the Mnzungu will come and take you away!” So children, out of fear, listen to mom and dad. Now, just like believing in Santa, most kids outgrow this belief quickly or never fully buy into the concept, however, there is always an exception.
Most children cheer and chase you with smiles and affections, happy to see you, but some…well, specifically a certain little one I can think of, really thinks I’m going to take her away.
There is a family that comes to the COBT therapy center in Area 25b where we work. The little girl of the family runs for her life every time she sees me! Behind a door she goes, then it slams, then the crying and wailing start. It's very cute and a little funny - but also sad - that my very presence traumatizes her so much. She is a little one - four or five years old. Her mom has tried many times to get her not to be scared of me, but each attempt at proper introductions has ended in tears. Then her mom, grandmum and everyone else present laugh hysterically. I do not think I can do the image justice of how truly funny it all is.
I guess you would have to be here.
Lilongwe from Home