This morning I ran into Bamayo Mpundu and her three incredibly adorable daughters at the well. We worked through an amiable conversation as we drew water, the several gaps in the language barrier mostly bridged by the bamayo’s persistence and perseverance combined with my willingness to cheerfully say something completely wrong. All the while I made faces at the little girls, who beamed up at me with cherubic, toothy grins. [Mom, one of them is named Janet; you cannot possibly have a cuter namesake.]
Then Bamayo shifted the chitenge wrapped around her back to bring her youngest daughter into full view. To the delight of both her mother and a few other women who had arrived at the well, the baby screwed up its face upon seeing me and started wailing.
This is a popular game that women with babies like to play with the muzungu, since small children are told that white people will eat them. I reassured the poor kid in Bemba, “Don’t worry, I don’t eat babies. I eat large people because they have more meat.”
She didn’t look too convinced. The bamayos, on the other hand, thought this was hilarious, and repeated it for the terrified baby’s benefit. “He eats large people! Mwaumfwa? (Do you hear?)”
This is how my village will remember me after I’m gone: the white person who eats large people.