Being in a different country can be quite difficult and frustrating to say the least. To fit in becomes the only option. But blending in can actually be at the cost of losing your own identity; becoming something that you are not. It is so easy to start behaving like your new contacts, to begin thinking like them, and arguing similarly. While all these things are adorable and desirable, there comes a limit which one is not supposed to exceed because then one loses themselves. And I guess that is one of the extremities of engaging cross-cultural exchanges and/or activities. They could subject you to another dimension that if you don’t have a sober mind in, you could easily fall into the pit of becoming a copy of yourself. For instance I know that I am Kenyan, and yet I am in Norway. In the quest to fit in, it is quite easy to simply put myself aside and start adapting to the new way of life. But being a good student of culture, it is imperative that I learn as I teach at the same time. And learning doesn’t mean changing your entire self; it simply means observing with appreciative eyes and deciphering what is different and what can be picked knowing what needs to be discarded.
The only time that people will be regard you as being a true student; and even enjoy your company as you penetrate their territory is if they know they can also learn something from you. In fact one of the things I have learnt and noted over the past several months while in Norway is that I have ended up learning more about myself and my country!! This is because everywhere I go, most Norwegians and the people I meet are interested to know more about my country and my origin. This has meant that I end up speaking more about my country than I had ever expected.
Thus, to keep up the acknowledgement of my own country and my origin, I have adapted some precautions. These precautions only go ahead to aid me in being authentic as I present myself and represent my country in this new land….
1. The Kenyan flag: I have hung up my national flag on the wall so that everyday I wake up, I can always see it. This is to remind me of my country and what I should stand for. Every time I see the four distinct colors and the notable shield and spears at the center, my country’s entire history gets refreshed in me all over again. And I must say that with this, I have begun appreciating how beautiful our flag is; with an amazing blend of colors. And I have discovered how rich our history is. 😉
2. The Kenyan food: I guess I should say that my coming out of Kenya has really made me love and appreciate my Kenyan food more. It is true that getting used to a new system of eating can be quite a daunting task. In this breathe, and having been formerly informed of the importance of carrying some bit of Kenyan foodstuff, I packed a few things like coffee and tea. And for my Kenyan roots and nature, I couldn’t forget some unga (maize meal) for ugali (a special Kenyan delicacy). Other things like sugar, salt and sossi soya just found their way in my luggage. I must attest that these things have really come in handy… There is nothing as sweet as tasting your local food in a foreign land! 😀
3. The language: Language is one very essential element of any culture. Coming to Norway has opened me to the beauty of loving my own mother tongue. Therefore, every time I call back home, I endeavor to speak in my own native Luhya language (I have sufficient proof that this is not a dialect, but an entire language!!). And in Trondheim, I have made it a practice to always speak some Sheng and Swahili with my teammate. I have kept learning more in these languages and taking more pride in their distinctness. I have also found out that speaking English with my Kenyan accent (Oh yes, I also have some accent!!) is quite refreshing. It has been very original and given me a sense of pride for my rich origin. I, thus, have not been trying to speak any differently…. 🙂
4. Kenyan Music: Whereas I need to learn Norwegian by listening to Norwegian music, I have found my greatest inspiration coming from the music that I was listening to while back in Kenya. I have also kept track of the progress in the Kenyan music; thus ensuring that I am up to date and continually uplifted. It has been quite uplifting listening to Christina Shusho (I know she is Tanzanian!!), Sarah K., Reuben Kigame, Paul Mwai, and at times, when in need of being contemporary, getting hold of Juliani and Kanjii Mbugua! These simply give me a real Kenyan touch…
5. Kenyan shows: It is inevitable to lose track of all I used to watch while in Kenya. So, when in need of a Kenyan laughter, I have been enjoying the Kenyan jokes. And this has been made possible by watching comedy shows like Churchill show, Churchill raw, Offside, and Kenya Kona. 🙂 To keep up with the political flips, I have been watching news satire features like Flipside, Truthmeter and Bull’s eye. Not forgetting the amazing TPF, for the love of the East African progress in the music industry.
6. Kenyan news: To know what is happening back in my motherland, I have been reading from the online Kenyan dailies and keenly checking the newsroom tweets and Facebook updates. This has ensured that I am apprised and that I can always be at par with my fellow Kenyan fraternity.
7. Connecting back home: Given that I am human, I am truly not an island! As such, I need to interact with others because I am a very social being… 😉 And there are those moments when chatting with friends and family back home is just the only option.Getting to hear them “verbalize” what is going on and just to know that they are well is quite inspiring. It has been a great boost every time I talk with friends back home whether on Facebook, on phone or via Skype. It has become my weekly endeavor to ensure that I connect with both family and friends; a people who form a very essential part of my life.
8. Time with my teammate: Coming from the same country gives us a lot to share. To tap more from this encounter, both of us have purposed and agreed that we meet every week for a debrief. In this, we keep it natural and just talk… This really helps. It is through a teammate that somebody gets to know if they are changing; which is a good way of raising a red flag about stuff!
What more can I say but to simply declare that I am Kenyan and I am proudly so.