You are in a new country and you don’t relate.
Coming to a point where most of your senses align to each other and you find yourself calling a place home is such a defining moment. A blessing on its own. It isn’t easy peasy to settle in a new habitat, learn to maneuver and somehow adapt to it and finally be able to call it home. It is a battle with all your senses. Best believe it. Beautiful thing is we all have the human capability to be able to do so against so many odds.
A lot of people ask me if I feel at home in my current host city, or if I will ever go back home and settle there. Those are two different questions. Do I honestly feel at home where I am right now? It is seasonal. I do feel very attached to this place because I came here at a fragile point in my life. In this place is where I took charge of my adult life mostly by myself. I had to make major life decisions here. It is where most of my childhood traumas creeped out of my subconscious and I gathered enough strength to face them. Where the healing of my brokenness started to piece together. It is where I sanely got to choose friends who became family. It is where I had to leave my comfort zone and learned to adapt accordingly, to feel included. Because you have to put in some work to feel like a part of where you are. You don’t take lightly a place where you’ve nurtured your independence.
I noticed that what so many people do when they get to a new place or say a whole new country, they first tend to look for what is familiar. I included. In the scenario where you find yourself in a country that speaks a foreign language, your heart literally leaps when you happen to hear someone speaking a language you understand. So most of us will actively search for people we may know through the various available social search engines like Facebook. If you are lucky you find people who updated their bio information to state where they are currently living and you anticipate with joy and hope to meet them. I have received so many requests and inboxes of people from Kenya hoping to meet me because I come from Kenya and they happen to be new here.
We look for someone to relate with. When I was completely new I remember every time I saw a black person they would node or wave. I got the wave of it and began appreciating that node or wave. It holds so much weight. It is as if to say “I see you, I feel you, we are together, just hold tight etc” Speaks volumes. And for a moment you feel good. I started calling these people “my own” So any time I would see a black person anywhere I’d feel some sort of company and also feel less alone. Up to this day if I’m in any event and I happen to see one single black person I will raise my head and hope to connect with them.
I made friends quickly due to the circumstances that I experienced in the beginning, but most of these were of the white community. I remember in so many of the social settings like house parties or events I was in, feeling not fully present or feeling like a part of them. The realization of me being different was apparent. One major struggle was the language. I zoned out of conversations fast. You know how you feel lonely in a place full of people conversing with each other? I used to feel that a lot.
I badly wanted to feel the sense of occasion and so I really appreciated those who chose to converse in English because then I could chip in confidently and feel included. It usually was a struggle to get myself to attend any of these gatherings where it was so probable that I wouldn’t find “my own“ to relate with. It is funny that at that moment I couldn’t put into words what I was going through. I just thought I was a weirdo and awkward in social settings.
Depending on how you take it, it could also be one of the best things to happen because it makes you learn the new language the hard way. If the hard way is your portion. I know it’s about perspective but for me personally, I got frustrated at times. I wanted to learn the language in my own pace. I didn’t want to feel like it was forced on me. And I wanted to have some fun in these settings without any pressure. I felt foolish at times when I tried to speak the little I could and even more stupid when I made simple mistakes in front of so many people.
What frustrated me even more was however much I tried to be in an ongoing conversation that seemed so funny and had others laughing their asses off, I sometimes didn’t relate at all. I wasn’t tickled enough to let out an honest laugh. But all together I would mostly smile and pretend I understood. Homesick would creep in at such moments.
With time I noticed a lot of people, more than you and I can imagine, move into a new city and their first approach to connecting with the place is to find the people they familiarize with. They tend to stick to their language, culture and find it hard to get out of that comfort zone. It can be extremely depressing not being able to connect with an environment you are in, where packing your bags and going back home is almost not a choice. (Watch out for another article highlighting depression caused by factors like change)
Depending on the circle of friends you create and let into your space, your life will be highly influenced by that. They will be the people you take advice from. Some of these will give you misguided and unsolicited advice and because you might feel vulnerable to your living situation you will blindly take the advice. At some point you will wish you had known better, researched more, and kind of wisely defined your end goal right from the early beginning.
As lonely as it is, I feel it is important not to forget to mingle with our hosts or better said with the white community. I’m not saying that the various groups or initiatives formed by our communities are not helpful, in fact they are very important. Some of these initiatives do such a commendable job. You know nothing beats that beautiful feeling of home that you get from attending an all Kenyan party. The food, the music and the exchange of stories that give you information and offer different perspectives is needed. We all need from time to time to feel this connection in an all familiar community. You should however realize what measures you need to take to integrate into your new environment and be cautious about it.
Will I ever go back home and settle there in the near future? Truth is I don’t know. But home always being home, there is a possibility for me to always go back. And I would dread to even think that I would loose that possibility. Going back for good? This might depend on so many factors though. Like a cliche example, If a prince charming…wait! no! they are kings nowadays. So if I meet a king and the gods see it fit for us to have our kingdom in the homeland so be it, I might just come back because the gods won’t let you be. That was such a bad example but I’m not editing. All to say, life has a way of surprising us.
I can’t finish this without letting y‘all in on a secret that many diasporas have. They say if they were to come back home and not have to pay rent and have a well paying job, they wouldn’t think twice but take that chance. So generally and most probably a lot of us diasporas are still searching for greener pastures out here in the not so green of places. The irony!
So for any of you who is on this tough journey whose end game is going back to the roots, where you call and feel fully at home; I pray for you to thrive successfully and find your way back home in your desirable time and Gods timing. Hang on on that string of hope that it shall one day work out. And in the meanwhile, I really hope you find joyful ways to relate and connect with where you are at at the moment.
If this article made some little little bit of sense to you or spoke to you, please let me know on the comment section below. Feel also free to share it with someone who might need this.
I definitely will want to settle home… I have never referred here as home cz i always feel like apart of me is missing.
I know that feeling too well.
Is there a moment I will call this home ???.. I don’t think so . East or west…. Great work .
East or West …
I hope your find your way home
It really is hard in the beginning, the language, the realisation of your colour thus standing out, the homesickness, the environmental change, the food, but the human brain is phenomenal and constantly helps us align ourselves with life.
It saddens me that I don’t get to see my mom as she is ageing, holds my nieces and nephews when they come to the world, buries my family and friends when they leave it. That is the greatest loss of living away from my first home.
Now I know that anywhere can be home as long as Danny and Shay are there. Could be Kenya, Australia anywhere apart from America (next level racism) I found home in this 2.
Such a great article Shiro!
The human brain is such a wow 😃. I get sad too missing out on seeing my parents age, missing out on my close ones birthdays and even worse missing funerals of people I know that if I had it otherwise I would attend.
Having to live somewhere far away from home is challenging at the beginning. It gets better with time but you still don’t regard this place as home. I never used to follow the news about my homeland as often as l should have but right now l am always wanting to know what is going on. You never settle when you are in a foreign land only if you just have to. These experiences that one goes through makes us stronger in the very end. I miss those moments being close to family, friends, environment and having to walk around in the streets without having anyone looking at you as if you are either lost or don’t belong there.
I understand how people feel when they go home for a short break and feel like they would do so much with their limited time. I would urge people to cherish those moments that you have with your loved ones and that includes your motherland.
It was a nice article Ciru.
The feeling of being home is indescribable, and it is so true that when we go home for such a short time you feel like you would do so much with that time even though after that time you look back and see you didn’t enough with the limited time. It’s you can’t consume it all because there is so much happening.m at the same time.
I‘ve learnt that beginnings are indeed challenging and it does get better when you have an open mind. Isn’t it funny how we follow up on what’s going on more that we probably did when we were back at home. It’s probably the fear of missing out or not wanting to disconnect with home.
Thank you for reading.
I related so much with this. Thank you so much I needed this actually. If I had to choose I’d chose to stay home down but we are looking for better opportunities that we dint find and some of us want something that is outside our comfort zone which is how we will grow
I‘m glad that you resonated with this. I think so many of us would choose home if we had better opportunities there.
This is exactly how am feeling sometimes like you don’t fit but then you need greener pastures thanks for the article really felt better and encouraged
Thxn Shiru, I love the way you adresse issues that are so relevant. I can so much relate to your experience. Fact is home is home but unfortunately the opportunities and circumstances can’t allow us to be there for the time being.
I miss the family life and the events that happen and you can only know about them “ukipigiwa story”.
We also live in fear, wondering if our loved ones are fine.
On the other hand we appreciate being here and as you said integration helps one get orientation easier.
Hi Ciiru, this is a good one thanks for sharing your experience. Also, I think it’s good for anyone working on returning “home” to expect the reverse culture shock. When you return you find that you changed and people don’t get you anymore. You also don’t get people anymore. You will start that whole process of fitting in and making what used to be home, home again. One can be super disappointed to be welcomed “home” by a culture shock
Ooooh yeah. This is very true and we forget that that too. Thank you for putting it down here. It can and most probably will be quit a ride. That for sure