February 29th, 2009. I remember it like it was yesterday. The minute I walked out of that airport, I wanted to go back home. First,It felt like I had walked into an oven. The place was hot!!! I felt the heat instantly. I felt it on my face, on my skin,gosh I even felt it on my hair. I felt it in my nostrils when I took in my first breath,and the smell…the smell…It’s different. That uncomfortable heat that I still haven’t gotten used to four years down the line. Yeah it was summer, I understand that but this place is hot even if it isn’t summer.
I started missing home even before I changed my money and took a cab to where I was headed. I reached my destination, got a sim card and called home. The connection was bad, I missed my mom, I wanted to go back so bad. I dreaded the heat, I dreaded everything, then the culture shock hit. Everything was different, the way people behaved here, the food, the weather, the transport everything was different. I hated most of all being stared at. These people can surely stare at someone. sometimes I used to wonder if I had grown a beard overnight.
That was then. It would take years for me to share my experiences of this place. They have been many. Some have been bad, like when I had a kid of not more than four years call me a negro as I walked down the street, or how teachers would look me straight in the eye and explain an important point in the native language knowing fully well that I couldn’t understand. Should I talk about the giant cockroaches that fly in the night? or the heavy rains called the typhoons that would make us miss class for weeks sometimes? Let me save all that for another day.
It hasn’t all been bad you know. When you look past the dreadful heat,(that’s the one thing people, the one thing! And when someone from Makueni tells you that a place is hot, you best believe it.) So look past the heat, then you will enjoy a country that is beautiful and green despite the heat. A country with a variety of fruits some which I had never heard of before. A country where you don’t have to go to the coast to see palm trees, where coconuts are abundant and “buko juice” (that’s coconut water and with time, it became a favourite) is in plenty and pineapples, the pineapples are everywhere, and they are cheap too.
With time, I got over the culture shock. At first, tolerated the place, then it eventually became home. I got used to the people, I learnt to love some of their food, I took time to understand their culture, or at least I think I tried.
I was amazed by the honesty of these people,or is this not honesty? Let me first tell you how people here pay their fare. Their matatus are called jeepneys, these are face me kind of cars (should post a pic soon). You know like those we used to have in shagz back in the day, where you sit on opposite sides and face each other? Anyway, if you don’t know them, you are young and i’m old. Go figure. So anyway, they get into a jeepney, no conductors for most parts so they pass their money from one passenger to another, until it reaches the driver, the change comes back the same way. Cool huh? try that in Africa then let me know how it goes. I’m not hating i’m just saying.
Then you get into a supermarket, a mall, a fast food joint, or whatever and the guard is like “sir/ma’am” greeting you depending on the time (lol they also check your bag as you enter the mall so…). Here you can walk around with your phone and wallet in your hands and nobody will care. I’m not saying they are angels, I’ve lost a few things over time, i’m just stating things I have noticed. They try to be polite, that’s after they get over the initial shock of seeing a black person.
Most of these people are friendly. I said most, not all. I made a ton of friends, and that is what is making this so hard. It’s time for me to leave, and I never thought , I would say this, but I will surely miss this place.
I will miss my friends. Hannah baby, ( you African mzungu) girl, you made this place bearable. I will miss ordering Indo food with you. Jhim (My Jimmy) thanks for being such an amazing person. Forget the bad swahili words Andreas taught you. Betel girl, you got jokes. All the best in everything. Prescripto is now my thing, wearing it like crazy. Will surely and always remember you. Heading to Ethiopia soon. Andy, thanks for the gum , the chocolates, the candy, the jokes. Vegas man, you are something else. Remember mental duty? I still have that letter in here somewhere. At least now I won’t have to deal with you not having yellow paper all the damn time 😦 , Rahul, thanks for the rides to school. Will surely miss that power machine. You all are welcome to Kenya
To my Kenyan/Ugandan friends, Andreas, Ruth, Lungo, Vinny, Mwembs, Sheila, Roba, Rho, Mo, Anna and Abby, Jolly, It’s a small world, it’s a small continent, better still, it’s a small country. Peace.