Alex Halperin

All articles by this author

The Mzungu Thing

The Mzungu Thing

Many foreigners have a complicated relationship to Africa's woes: we want to help, but we also take pleasure in Africa as it is.

Late in 2007 I arranged a meeting in Arusha, Tanzania with an American in the travel business. Underneath a pile of titles and affiliations, this big gregarious dude, whom I’ll call Morgan, worked to bring tourists to desolate villages, a specialty sometimes called “poorism.” I’d planned to write a magazine story about delivering tourism dollars to the Barbaig, a polygamous tribe who wear plaid blankets and sandals cut from tires, like the more famous Maasai.