Nothing, and I repeat, NOTHING, can prepare you for life abroad. As we move closer into daylight savings and freezing temperatures, diasporans have no choice to reflect on just how much there is no place like home.
1. You Are Suddenly A Forex Exchange Calculator / Genius
We have all experienced it before.
You find yourself, like a computer scanner, taking stock of items and prices at every store you look into, doing the math of “Ok, this Orbit gum is $2.50, which means it is KES 250, and in Kenya they sell it at (____)”, marveling at the absurdity of it all and wishing you could go back to the good old days of bargaining, worrying about how much money you are spending, how much you have left and how quickly it will go if you continue spending 250 shillings on a piece of candy, and so on and so forth. This cycle goes on and on, despite the knowledge that NONE OF IT matters!
Your money will never be the same and spent the same way as you did back in the homeland. If you are still in this stage, I advise you to 1) Get over it or 2) redirect your genius skills to import/export business.
2. Daylight Savings is Real, and (at times) Scary
Daylight Savings is not just Question #15 on the GHC paper.
I remember the Biblical story of Joshua praying for the sun to stand still in the sky for the battlefield. But if no one told you that the summer sun rises at 5:30 am and stays up till 8 pm or later, or that the winter sun would rise lazily at 7:00 am and bid adieu at 5 pm, a first experience of this phenomenon feels like the Day of Reckoning. I still vividly recall a cold chill running down my spine on my first day as I stared up at the bright yellow sphere at 7 pm, shining with all the fervor of a 4 pm African sun. I wanted to go back home, away from this God – forsaken land.
It takes time to adjust depending on where you are. But if not, east or west, at home the sun always rises and sets at the same time.
3. Everyone Is Obsessed About The Weather, And So Are You
it all starts when you notice that standard greetings almost always include a conversation about the weather. And why wouldn’t it? The weather here is as bipolar as anything else -blame it on climate change. Do not be lulled into a false sense of security thinking a sunny day in the middle of winter will bring warmth, before you find yourself frozen on the sidewalk with the cheeky sun blinding your eyes.
Check the weather daily, dress accordingly, and know your Fahrenheit/Celsius conversions.
4. People Around You Talk Too Fast
This includes trying to understand new accents, tones and phrases.
Don’t lie – How many times have you just nodded your head in response to a hard-to-decipher verbal barrage at the store? For me, one too many. Asking “what?, pardon?, hmm?” more than twice is annoying, so okay! becomes a default response to low level interactions.
Do not be discouraged however, the more you talk, put your voice out there, the easier your interactions will be. After all, communication is a two way street.
5. You Still Look Like a Tourist
Kenyan fashion choices have never stood out so much as when you step out into a new country. For those of us whose stories of travel came from third-party suppliers, the standing advice at the time was always “dress warm! socks, kabuti, scarf, everything is too cold.” Funny how I never got to hear stories of summer from them. I wonder, do Kenyans only travel majuu in the wintertime? – but I digress.
You can easily spot the fresh off the boat Kenyan starting from the airport. Sport shoes, blue jeans (you know the ones), bubble jacket aka “ya watchie”, and a determined but deer-in-headlights look about them. This look can persist for upto several weeks or months, depending on how soon you get over sticker shock – see mathematical genius.
6. Where is the Flavour?
I will admit, this is something that never truly goes away. It abates depending on how your taste buds evolve, your culinary exploration skills, and good old fashioned ingenuity – mrenda farmers in Minnesota mpo?!!?
I remember recognizing nothing on a university dinner menu except spaghetti and meatballs. With fervor I heaped on a plate of this delectable meal, hoping that somewhere the gods had placed familiarity to guide me in a strange land. My betrayal was palpable as the meatball tasted like papier-mache dipped in red water, the spaghetti a miserable excuse that continues to confound me with its terrible taste to this day. As you can tell, I was traumatized.
A few tips:
- Look into Asian/Indian/West African stores – they stock a great deal of foods that are similar to our own, and you can also get introduced to other healthy nutritious foods.
- Do not be afraid to shop online. You will find a lot of Kenyan groceries this way.