One of the things I like about Binti is the exploration of what "Alien" really means and the discovery, along the way, of what "human" really means.
Binti is a young tribal woman whose tribe covers their skin with otjize,a mix of mud and oil that maintains their link to their land on Earth.
Binti has persuaded Okwu, an alien shaped like a large Jelly Fish but moving through air rather than water and always referred to as "it", to put some on its tentacles. Here's how Binti describe Okwu's reaction:
Covering them with so much otjize, Okwu told me, made it feel a little intoxicated.
“Everything is . . . happy,” it had said, sounding perplexed about this state.
“Good,” I said, grinning. “That way, you won’t be so grumpy when you meet everyone. Khoush like politeness and the Himba expect a sunny disposition.”
“ I will wash this off soon,” it said. “It’s not good to feel this pleased with life.”
Okwu sounds like some of my French colleagues. Happiness is very nice as a temporary phenomenon, particularly when it arrives unexpectedly and without effort, but its meant to be transitory and pursuing it is pointless.