In my study villages, my whiteness explains the fact that I arrive in a truck, that I carry a lot of papers, that I give out bicycles, that the village chairman wants to meet me and that I don't stay long. Even in the office, where I'm working with Tanzanians of a similar education level who are also passionate about development and conservation, my outsiderness lingers in missing Swahili jokes, my direct communication style, misunderstandings of workplace culture and frequent consumption of peanut butter. To me, these things mean I'm a graduate student and American, but to everybody else, this is all summarized by the fact that I'm white.
Tanzanians don't go out of their way to make me feel this way, its an inevitable part of expatriate life. In fact, the consistency of this feeling is part of what leads to the intimacy of expat communities.
But I have found refuge from the spectacle. The only space where I am momentarily free of my mzungu spectacle badge, is on a small field or muddy plot of land with a handful of gangly teenage boys, two make-shift stick goals and a ball in the middle. In other words, playing football.
When the ball goes out, they giggle and remember that I'm white, but when the ball is in play and we are attacking out of the back after a quick turnover, all that matters is that I'm open.