Chaga, pt. 5 — The End

It seemed as if the hike out was half as long as the hike in. We stopped again at Oscar’s house, where my friend, who lives in Tanzania, buys a kilogram of dried, shelled coffee beans for 2,500 Tanzanian shillings – that’s $2.14. Oscar teaches me the only children’s game I see on the property: a wooden top and a whip to keep it spinning. I make a fool of myself for a few minutes trying to master the juvenile yet surprisingly obtuse – and altogether entertaining – activity.

As we piled into my friend’s Toyota 4×4 truck and started back down the mountain, we drew the stares of nearly everyone we passed. “Mzungu,” old men muttered to each other. “Mzungu!” the little children yelled. We were a spectacle because of the color of our skin. Maybe they recognized us as outsiders or even, God-forbid, intruders on their land. Maybe they imagined our carefree, wealthy lives of unlimited income and full stomachs in whatever Western country we came from.

I stared back, thinking about the Chaga’s simple life – the coffee, the chickens, the kids’ games, the single light bulb, the walks to pristine waterfalls – and wanted it for myself. Suddenly, the rat race of appointment-keeping, the background noise of the nightly sitcoms, the convenience of one-click shopping and unlimited technology, and the keeping up with the Joneses seemed altogether frivolous. Disgusting, even.

Here’s a Caucasian, middle-class writer living in the most affluent city in the most affluent country, envying the lives of Africans.

Now that’s irony. Beautiful irony.

The End.

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