Researcher, Mother and traveler

A child’s smile (‘De glimlach van een kind’)

“A child’s smile makes you realize you’re alive. – De glimlach van een kind doet je beseffen dat je leeft.” A sentence from an old song from the Netherlands. A sentence that is completely true and which I was confronted with this morning and yesterday morning on a very positive manner.

Always the other
Since living and working in Tanzania, I realize like no other that I will always be ‘the other’, always ‘the mzungu’. I’ve written about that before. On the street I am often called after and children still hold up their hands and ask ‘gifti?’ At work, I will always remain the ‘other’ with my Dutch principles, openness and directness, which are not always appreciated in this closed society. Even more so because my openness and directness seem to not only stem from my Dutch background, but also because I am simply me, Marion. In my family, I will always remain the ‘other’ with whom it is quite scary to start a conversation. Sometimes it frustrates me and my fellow wazungu enormously, but if we put into perspective where it comes from, we can live with it.

Also the other
As mzungu, you always remain an attraction for the children. And that’s not always in a negative way. Today I drove from the school of my children to my work, deeply in thoughts about what my day would look like. Driving along a narrow dirt road, an adolescent boy approached me with a toddler in school uniform on each hand. The youngest looked at me confused for a moment, but then her hand went up in the air, a big smile appeared on her face and she waved vigorously at me. My day was good. Yesterday I had a similar experience. I stopped at a zebra crossing, which a man on a motorbike was about to cross. On the back of the motorbike sat a little girl in a school uniform. She watched anxiously as I approached the zebra crossing and her (I think) father wasn’t about to cross yet. I stopped, the father waved at me, and a big smile appeared on the girl’s face. As I passed behind them along the zebra crossing, she turned her head all the way to keep watching and smiling at me. Yesterday, my day was good too.

The smile – de glimlach
I will indeed always be the other person, but that is not always a bad thing. A child’s smile makes you realize that you are alive. “De glimlach van kind doet je beseffen dat je leeft!”