Recently, I've started to look forward to my walk home from work. I guess that's not anything special to say, except that there's nothing particularly special about this walk. It isn't very far at all, maybe half a mile, but with the protruding rocks it isn't quite an easy walk. I wouldn't say it's particularly beautiful, either. The open sewers meander along the dirt roads and cut their way along the rock that Tete is mostly built on. Goats and ducks are everywhere and so is their smell.
In my neighborhood, Bairro Felipe Samuel Magaia, I am the only non-african. And no matter how good I think my tan is, I stick out. So much so, that when I first started walking to work, the children would yell one of three things to me, "China," "Chinese," and "Muzungu (the word for white in Nhungue)!" Being ethnically Japanese and growing up in Hawaii, that was definitely the first time I was ever called any of those.
Kind of annoyed, I started yelling back, "I'm American" and "This skin isn't white!" Eventually this Chinese turned into Americano. Which I thought was good progress, but not being good enough for me I would yell back the equivalent, "Mozambiki!" They'd smile and if they were brave enough they'd ask me for "mili (money, also in Nhungue)". To which I'd ask what their names are. They would spend five minutes explaining all their names to me; This is Eliza! This is Manolito! And they would forget the issue of money completely.
Recently, my new friends began calling out "Mano Estavan (big brother Stephen)" and "Estevan Americano (American Stephen)!" Seriously, no matter how bad my day gets, walking home to twelve kids yelling "Estevan Americano" always makes me chuckle. Sometimes they hold my hand and walk me home for a minute, which I like to imagine are tiny blessings they give me in their own way. And always they yell "Estevan Americano" until I can no longer hear them.