Back to Kenya!!
Two key courses offered under the Fredskorpset Exchange (FK) program is the Preparatory course and the Home-Coming Seminar. May this year, together with my fellow exchange participants, we gathered in Oslo for 3 days home-coming seminar. I never knew it can be a big challenge going back home after just a year. I consoled myself, I am a Kenyan and “Kenyanism” is deep-rooted in me, so why would I find it a challenge? After the seminar, I tried to picture the challenges that lay ahead of me but I consoled myself, “Come on, I will manage, there is more into being home than focusing on imaginary challenges. If anything, some of these are things that I really missed within the first few months of my stay abroad.”
I felt at peace being at home, eating Ugali, pilau and chapati using my fingers leave alone spoons, I almost forgot using knives and forks for a while. All the time I ate using my fingers I remembered one of my Norwegians friends, whom I invited for dinner, I made Ugali and he insisted on eating using a fork and a knife. I let him be, especially when he told me, “Oh, that is so primitive, only our fore fathers did that. We can´t do this in this civilized way of living”.
Of course he was right, but within a few seconds of saying that, he spilled all the food on his trousers as I watched and thought to myself, “Mmmmm, what you just did is even more primitive.” Only young kids in Kenya will make such disasters. But, I understand them Norwegians, I once taught a group of my girlfriends how to eat with their fingers and it was such a hard task for them.
My one month in Kenya saw me travel a lot but I still missed the peaceful way of living in Norway. The quite life, cars moving yet I never hear the hooting and shouting of the bus conductors and drivers. I missed the peace in the buses. Back at home, the matatus in the city with the boom-twaf kind of music I found it so irritating. Too much noise, I always felt like, gosh, this is too much! All the time I did long distance travel, I stayed awake for the first time, I thought to myself, did Kenya change? What happened to the drivers? Seems they all became very reckless just within a year. That saw me travel by four different bus companies, and though I always booked myself the executive seats, still there was no difference. Same drivers, chewing miraa, hooting all along the Mombasa highway, poor roads and noisy passengers. All this I kept to myself.
“Be on the look out, don´t think everyone will be there to give you the VIP treatment you expect now that you have been away for a year. That doesn’t take long, after a few days they are used to you being at home and all the excitement goes away. It happens, it shouldn´t suprise you.” Said one of the psychologist at the homecoming seminar. Of course I never expected any VIP treatment, I was just going back home to have a break and see my family and friends. So as it happened, I was prepared for it.
The first few days, I already got tired with answering the same questions about Norway. “So how is it to be in Norway? Do you like it there? How about the people, do they discriminate against you, are they racists? How about those Mzungu men, did you get yourself one? Do you plan to get yourself a permanent job there? How about the food, do you miss home? And so many more questions. “Not so long you get bored of answering the same questions over and over.” Warned the psychologist. True to his words, that was me!
However, the most boring bit is the expectations that Kenyans put on people who have been abroad. I am sorry to have disappointed most of you. “You haven´t changed”, “Oh You haven´t changed much as I expected.”“Oh you are still the same Patience we knew.” “I don´t know but I expected a different person, especially after a whole one year. You haven´t forgotten Swahili.” You don’t even have an accent. Bla, bla, bla, bla, bla!!! Honestly, what change did you expect from me, it´s just been a short while, I am just the same girl, but guess some of you had too much expectations, I am sorry, if I did disappoint any of you.
Has she changed?? New Accent?
Once we were sitting with my girlfriends over lunch hour in Nairobi and one of our friends called one of them and the conversation went like, “ We are having lunch with this Norwegian girl, it´s been a while you know.” She said and the voice on the other side went like “ He he he, how is she, has she changed, does she have an accent? I will be meeting her to see for myself.” “Oh no, she is still the same bubbly girl you know with better Swahili than the rest of us, she hasn´t changed, we thank God for that.” She responded. At this juncture I had to explain myself.
“Listen people, too much expectations, I see. This girl hasn´t changed much, I am still the old Patience, one thing that has changed, which you might not realise for now, is the fact that I am not the same girl who left Kenya, so much has happened within a year, I have seen various places and people, learnt a lot about life in Norway and Europe at large, toured various countries in Europe and sharpened my worldview. I have a better exposure to life, got more experience as far as my career is concerned, and basically a better view of life in the diaspora. It´s not what many of us imagine. That is basically the change, which many of you might not notice as you were too busy concentrating on very minor changes.” I explained.
Others expected me to go back home with a Norwegian accent, sorry people. I still speak fluent Swahili and my mother tongue to bits. I am just the same Kenyan girl but my thinking has changed. If you expected me to bring a European Swag, I am sorry!!! Now, I understand what it means when people go out of their countries, even for a short while and the whole world has too much expectations. Wait until it´s your turn, then you know it can be tough dealing with such kind of expectations!!
That was just part of my stay in Kenya, many more stories in my subsequent blog posts.
Enjoy your week ahead!!!!