A few weeks ago, the head of the primary classes in Kibaale Community Centre came and requested that each of her students be given medication for “worms”….a de-worming treatment. After speaking with our medical officer and the comprehensive nurse we all agreed that this was a great opportunity to talk to the students and teachers about hand washing as well.

The recommended medication was Albendazole… the treatment for worms is two Albendazole chew-able tablets to be taken at one time; no water or juice is necessary… they do not taste great but are very tolerable…… So, off I went to speak to each of the seven (7) classes about the importance of hand washing and then to give them the Albendazole tablets. The students would take the medication in my presence and the treatment for this term would be complete. The teachers informed me that in the past the students were de-wormed each semester. So, plans have been put in place for teaching on hand washing and a de-worming treatment to be done the second two or third week of each semester.

I brought back from Canada some teaching posters including one on a child washing her or his hands and one on the basic steps ….. 1. turn on the water; 2. wet hands; 3. soap up hands so bubbles are formed; 4. remove/ rinse off soap; 5. turn off water; 6. and dry hands.

It all seemed to be very simple and straight forward…. I had the head teacher or the class room teacher to translate, I had the posters, and the medication…..

In the first room as I stood up at the front looking out over the class, I saw a few familiar faces……..The teacher asked the class “Who is this person, what is her name?”…….immediately a young boy stood up and before the teacher could say anything declared in a very loud voice “Mzungu”…. and the class broke into laughter…….. finally after a few seconds which may have been a few minutes another student stood up and informed the class that I was Aunty Margo and I worked in the clinic.

This was the same in each and every class room…. the majority of the students thought my name was Mzungu and they did not know that my name was Aunty Margo….

The urban dictionary and Wikipedia have similar information….. Mzungu or muzungu (muh-zun-goooo) is a white man or white women usually a foreigner. In Uganda the plural is bazungu but in Kenya, Rwanda or Burundi the plural is wazunga The word stems from a Swahili phase which means a person who wanders aimlessly or without purpose. It is believed to original from the early explorers, traders and missionaries. The word mzungu is not a derogatory or negative term.

But I could not help but laugh as I thought back to each of the classes and how so many of the students thought my name was Mzungu… I have been told a number of times from various staff members in Kibaale as well as from the Timothy Centre that I should not be called ‘mzungu’ because I do not wonder without purpose but that I always have a place to go and a reason for going.

PS……… the Ugandans have great difficulty saying Margo. It is the “r” in the middle of the word which they cannot incorporate…. it sounds very strange to me and many times I do not recognize the fact they are speaking to me or calling out my name.

So…. what is my name?…. it does not matter if I am called me Mzungu…. because God knows my name, how many hairs are on my head and exactly who I am and he loves me.