The problem with our people in the diaspora


Yung Stet

So, I am stuck with this two chaps sitting next to me on this 6 hour flight to +254, as they kept referring to Kenya. They were Kenyans returning home, perhaps for holiday or something. But the way they described Kenya and her people, you would be forgiven to think they were tourists visiting the beloved Mama Africa for the first time, and they couldn’t wait to take a selfie with a black person.

At one point, they even wondered whether the “African weather” would be friendly to them. I wanted to remind one of them, purely based on his accent that he should remember he was born in Nyangororia village in Masaba constituency in Kisii County, where he probably grew up battling jiggers and malnutrition. But then again, common sense reminded me to mind my own business. In any case, who would want to be pinned against the window 38,000 feet above the sea level by a chap with monstrous dreadlocks perched on his head like a nest for marabou stork.

The supposedly Kisii guy had this ridiculous dreadlocks that sat poorly on his head like a misused cleaning mop. Don’t get me wrong though. I have no heebie-jeebies with dreadlocks. As a matter of fact, I know many enlightened and empowered people who have dreadlocks. Its certainly not a spiritual manifestation or a cultural undertaking. I guess dreadlocks exist purely for fashion reasons, despite how some people walk around like theirs possess a spirit and soul. Over and above, though, dreadlocks are cool. Well, at least when perched on the right head. They are also very African. They portray a sense of authentic African patriotism that is rooted in our heritage, pride and identity. However, when they are worn for close to a decade and they don’t seem to have a good relationship with water, like my fellow Kisii traveller, that’s when we have a problem.

I regretted daring to look at the chap’s dreadlocks. Well, so that we are on the same page, allow me to paint the picture for you. His dreadlocks had accumulated all the dust that his adopted diaspora country could blow his way. Maybe he worked in a posho mill in his adopted country. Or maybe he’s the kanjo chap in that country whose job description involved chasing after hawkers. Well, maybe, just maybe he was a grave digger or the chap who dug pit latrines for broke people in that country. I wondered. His dreadlocks were so dirt, to the extent I was sure they were creatures, big and fat creatures, which had made his head their humble abode. Due to the dirt, his dreadlocks had begun to sport a different colour, besides churning an odour that displeased the nose. And don’t get me started on his dressing style, and belabored adopted foreign accent that kept competing with his pure African mother-tongue. Funny thing about mother tongues, is that they know how to wait for the right moment, and the right word to creep from the woodworks. They always wait for words like: thirty, really, and Laila, sorry I meant Raila.

The other chap looked curiously shy like one of those serial killers still on the run in CSI Miami. He struggled to speak with an American accent. An endeavour that elicited soft laughs from the people around. Until that moment, I have always imaged that if you are well-travelled or rather got an opportunity to live abroad, in the least you are supposed to be ‘civilised’. You know, do things like: eat with your mouth closed, speak gently and with respect, and then this one – wipe your hands with a servette as opposed to licking your fingers. Well, not for these chaps. They clearly never got a memo on personal etiquette.I guess it true what they say, you can get a man out of the village. But you will never get the village out of him.

So, we finally land in +254. They are tipsy and loud. Arrogant and self-centred. They walk like the whole world was supposed to stop and hold its breath in awe for them. They have this unbridled egoistic element of self-importance and self-entitlement. They feel important and valuable. Sir, which country are you coming from?, the lady at the immigration desk asks politely. I swear she said Sir. Well, what follows is a combination of salacious insults hurled at her, you will be forgiven to think her long forehead is one of those Middle East countries being bombarded by Russia for harbouring terrorists. Told ya bro, Kenyans are so stupid. This a %#$*% country, the Kisii chips in like a mixtape. Oooh! boy! the diasporeans (wait, is there such a word), are on a roll. They treat everyone with contempt and matharau, as they impose their newly acquired diaspora status.

I am always intrigued by some Kenyans who live and work in the diaspora. First, they land in +254 – their home, where they were breastfed and grew up – dressed in skimpy attitudes like they just arrived in a foreign country, and are here to save and civilise poor Africans. Then, they would go into this auto-hating of anything and everything in their own country. They will endlessly bitch about the weather, the roads, the food, the cars, the birds, the buildings, the drinks, the bars, the churches, the media, the water, the people, the mud, the potholes, the sky… phew! Nothing can ever impress them. They will keep comparing stuff in Kenya with their self-adopted country, as if we were in some kind of a competition.