Anyone white person who’s ever been to Africa will know that you can’t come here and expect not to stand out.
Each country seems to have a different word to describe its white visitors. In South Africa they say ‘mulungu’, in Rwanda ‘muzungu’. Here in Ethiopia it’s ‘farange’, or ‘farangi’.
Sometimes it feels like a taunt; more often just an exclamation. I’ve walked through South African villages and had small kids literally run down hillsides towards me, shouting “Mulungu mulungu mulungu I’m fine how are you! I’m fine how are you! I’m fine how are you!”
My Ethiopian hosts, however, are a little more restrained. Who are they to be seen running from hillsides? Anyway this is Addis; anyone who tried that would probably be hit by a taxi.
Oh, I stand out alright. And there’s no discrimination: I can count on being equally ‘farange’d by young girls, teenage boys and old women. But it’s the delivery that never fails to crack me up. It’s so completely deadpan. I can only imagine that the conversation goes something like this:
“Yeah, I know, what a bastard right? So I told him if he ever treats me like that again – white person – I’ll be going out with Worku instead.”
Or: “Can you believe the price of nappies these days? I might have to start getting those reusable ones, but they’re disgusting and anyway – white person – what can I do when there’s no water half the time?”
Clearly the only explanation is that there’s a nationwide Ethiopian game of farange bingo going on that I don’t know about. I love it.