Out of Kenya (part 3)

Week 2 (cont.)

My brother and his family stayed a few days before they had to return to work and school. I had some time to kill, and so I did. On Sunday, I attended the church plant my mother’s a part of. We were less than 10 adults, but there was Bible study (led by my Mum), followed by singing(led by the pastor’s wife), and a sermon (by the pastor, of course).

This is out-of-the-blue, but I just have to mention that I consumed a lot of tea, ugali, chapati and mangoes during my brief time with my parents.

Week 3

My time in the countryside drew quickly to a close; except for the mosquitoes, I was sad to leave. The bus ride back to Nairobi was thankfully uneventful. We got to the city formerly known as ‘The Green City in the Sun’ during the evening rush hour. I have repeatedly been in some major jams here in Rome, so I don’t know why I got so worked up about this one (and the ones I experienced in the following days). Talk of double standards. Anyways, being more stationary than mobile really got under my skin.

A few days after my return, a leading daily published an article on so-called ‘summer bunnies’. (Whoever came up with that name should be thrown in a porridge-filled pool). They are the Kenyans who live and work abroad, but return home for holidays. The article highlighted the unusual behaviour that sometimes characterizes those of us in the Kenyan diaspora. Having belonged to it for a few years short of a decade, I guess I’m qualified to answer some of the “accusations” levelled against us.

  • Not remembering buildings and street names: So true. I was shocked on my first trip back that I could only remember the exact locations of 3 streets in downtown Nairobi (Kenyatta Avenue, Moi Avenue, Tom Mboya Street). I could recall the locations of a number of buildings, but not the street names of those locations. It did not help that I wasn’t staying at the house which was my home before I left. Come to think of it, I have stayed at a different house on each return home, which has meant readapting my brain every time. Nonetheless I have been able to get around, but not without some patient explanations from my brother.
  • Acquiring an accent: My family back home will tell you that I haven’t changed on this count. However, I did have to change the way I pronounced certain words so that people could understand me. Case in point: my first name. When I first came to Rome, I rolled the ‘r’ in my name, which almost always led to my being misunderstood. A few months later, I came up with 3 different versions of pronouncing my name: Kenyan, Italian and English ( for Yanks, Brits, Aussies, etc). The Kenyan version has since been dropped in favour of the English one, alas.
  • Forgetting local languages: Don’t they ever communicate with  folks at home? This one borders on ridiculous.
  • Easily recognisable clothing: The article describes summer bunny attire as follows:

They love roomy, hanging t-shirts most of them emblazoned with the name of some American city, state or a university. Invariably they will be weighed down by tons of bling while the girls will be in something outrageous.

Phew, I’m off the hook on this one. Not that I don’t suffer from some wardrobe excesses: I find myself changing clothes just to go and throw trash. That’s what you get from living in a country where appearances are to be kept up at all times.

  • Forgetting how to use cash: They’re so used to plastic that cash overwhelms them. Ridiculous. That is one of the reasons why all currencies all over the world have big numbers on them, so that you can tell how much it’s worth, duh.
  • Having everyone think you’re swimming in money: Salaries in the developed world are definitely much higher, but so is the standard of living.  Many Kenyans working abroad have lowly jobs, which I have nothing against. Their families, however, may not know this. One lady I met worked as a nanny, but told her family she was a teacher. She would take photos at birthday parties and send them home as “proof” of her job. Such conduct only helps perpetuate the myth that life out here is easy. The last I heard, the lady in question had thrown in the towel and returned home.

(To be continued)