Kenyan Diaspora: bitter sweet home coming

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(By VICTOR OKWARO) Aaah, December in Nairobi is the winter bunner season! This is the time when hundreds upon thousands of our fellow Kenyans from the diaspora come back home for the holidays! This past December was no different. The diasporans came with plenty of dollars, pounds or Euro’s, ready to spend at any provocation, derailing us locals with daily bar hopping, partying and traveling. We locals enjoyed their presence, as we rarely have to dip in our pockets while they are around, and we’re willing to sacrifice sleep to keep them entertained in the short time they are around; a small price to pay. That’s for as long as the foreign currency lasts of course. Then by end December or January, they vanish, leaving many fond memories, massive hangovers, a few broken hearts, and sometimes a bitter taste in the mouths of many locals.

You see, Kenyans at home and Kenyans from diaspora have a complicated love-hate relationship. Some of us locals believe our diaspora brethren are show-offs flaunting foreign currency, snobbish, spoilt, fake twenging, condescending folk, who cant seem to remember Kenyan landmarks anymore, complain about too must dust, poor customer service, and everything else wrong with our country. Our diaspora brothers and sisters on the other hand also perceive many locals as lazy and always expecting hand-outs, inefficient, corrupt, unambitious, used to lower standards, not aggressive enough in demanding better services, and so on. Some of the above may be harsh but these are the extreme and real perceptions that do exist.

I interacted with a number of our Kenyans from abroad in December and in January- friends, friends of friends, and acquaintances. After some prodding, they shared some of their perspective of how it feels being back home, even for a short period.

As much as it is may be sweet being back home, they feel a disconnect somehow. This is due to a number of reasons. One is sometimes their memories of home and the realities when they do arrive are worlds apart. When they are abroad they reminisce about Kenya, almost like their stuck in a time capsule. When they come back home though, people have moved on, young cousins have grown up, their former popular hangouts are not the hotspot’s anymore, and even their beloved topaz is no longer the fast-food place of choice to go to at 6 in the morning! They feel lost and out of their comfort zone.

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