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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  • And they tend to thanks everybody for everything no matter even if they are paying for a service.

    • random

      I am a kenyan kenyan and thank everyone for almost everything including mama mboga…

      • I respect, appreciate and thank all but not in excess if you know what i mean.

  • Martin

    Dude the ACCENT part nevere ever! Some dude’s been away 10 years and he still has a Kenyan accent, another muppet flies out today and comes back in Dec with a ‘Mike Jones’ Accent! Thats just nanzenze!

  • Brikenyan

    Its winter bunny not bunner! Secondly who are these people who can’t bargain at Maasai market dude stop lying I know plenty peeps who have lived abroad for 20 plus years and speak better swa and mother tounge than locals. I should know i am bicontinental and can hold my own here and abroad no carrying people with me to maasai market for “translation” I take mats all the time afterall is it not transport for London that transports me in London so why should mats and KBS be any different. Infact on meeting me in Nai unless i showed you the stanps and visas in my passport you would think i have never even been to Uganda. On meeting me in London you would think i was born there such is adaptability my friend

    • vic

      dude glad you have it easy when you come home, but speak for yourself, not everyone is you, and not every experience is like yours, there are many others who have a whole different perspective…

      • Brikenyan

        For every person that has to be translated for at Maasai market or wherever there are ten others who don’t need the translation do the math. My three schoolmates from high school and I do all those things I mentioned one lives in france, the other stato and we have been away since after high school left at 19 yrs and we are in our early 30s. From my observation it is mostly shagzmodos who made it big abroad who usually exhibit tendencies you mention most city born and raised kids are very much down to earth. And I am a chick by the way i love how you conveniently asumed I am a dude anyway enough arguing with folks refering to bunnies as bunners am out peace!

        • Sue

          New word for me….”shagmodos”….. maybe i’ve been away too long

  • Brikenyan

    Dear Capital blog editors please start seriously checking what content you post on your site they have been quite a lot of basic unresearched articles doing the rounds lately #thatisall

  • sura mbaya

    Aaaaaah siiiirrrriii! We are all still Kenyan and one cannot switch accents on and off at will. It takes time to acclimatize but by the time diaspora guys start sounding Kenyan again, their vacations are over. It also depends on when one left – if you left as an adult, say after undergrad, you were probably comfortable enough to not make too many changes but if you left for undergrad, you were still impressionable enough to make the changes that would ensure that people did not stare at you when you spoke. Those changes are not easily reversible whether you were born and raised in Nairobi or Kapsabet.

    We are what we are and each person’s experience is unique. I have a lot of diaspora friends that are down to earth and are able to walk in and gel into any environment across the world.

  • Andrew, SD

    I had to change my lingo for my own good, did it stepwise, first cut-off all swahili words, then trying to enunciate words correctly and getting accustomed to geographical vocabulary. In kenya i speak swahili all the time – at times i get stuck and look for words, but it’s far much better then “twenging”. I remember jan 2011 stumbling upon this gurl at jkia. she had a kenyan passport, so i started off with some swahili and she couldnt get it. another occasion i had a good time with a emirates kenya employee, she bought me coffee on transit in dubs. Funny thing is the more you fly out of motherland, the more the self-esteem goes down. it’s at the tops when you leave kenya, but by the time you have to literally get pulled out of line by a security personel in some foreign airport, it’s totally gone. One time i accidently went into the “afganistan” lounge to wait on a connecting flight. It was a big mistake, the white old dude pat me down. One hand on my right shoulder, the other on my left and he kept pushing thru and thru.. coming to think of it, how could he have been “patting me down” with his hands on my shoulders? lol. In jkia i’ve already known some guys, they don’t bother me at all, stamp my docs and want “chai” hahahaha.. i don’t mind buying since i know in some hours im gonna be the invisible black funny looking fella. I love kenya. Love y’all family

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