Around 6:30am I walk to the kiosk to buy a loaf of bread and a packet of cigarettes. The kiosk is closed, too early, so I walk back home and drive the car to the closest convenience store.
I think about my trip. In a few days I will be with my mother in the US. The occasion is her 80th birthday, I do not remember the last birthday I spent with her and I have never been to her house, the only one I know it the one in Miami and that’s over 16 years ago.
Her birthday has always been my mystery, she reminds me well in advance then on that date she calls and I wish: “happy birthday..mwa, mwa, mwa.”
I have the complex of being unwanted by my family, so I never call or keep in touch, but my mother is the parent I know best. My father lives on distant planets, I visited two of them and it was about 35 years ago.
I have this duty that I must be present for my mother’s 80th birthday. I have zero recollection of such events. I do not know when and where it last happened.
Recently, my wife, who is Kenyan, went to visit her sister in Washington DC and took the opportunity to drive 5 hours to visit my mother. I really appreciated it and asked my wife about my mother’s health and my step-father, her husband, which I really like. I like him because we bond and live on the same planet.
My wife, and her mother, spent 10 days with her sister. She did the tourist path with all the monuments and shopping malls.
“Did you meet new people?”
“My sister’s friends” she replied.
“That’s nice, where are they from?”
Her sister has been living in the States for more than 15 years. I do not understand!
“Did you like the food and the restaurants?”
“Oh, we went to a Kenyan restaurant and it was really good”.
Coming from Kenya and going to a Kenyan restaurant abroad. I don’t understand. Wait! they went to a Mexican restaurant and the portion was too big.
I am going to the US and will eat the gamut of what I remember when I lived there; pastrami sandwich, breakfast in a coffee shop, bagels, ice cream with butter scotch topping, apple pie, rye bread, White Castle burgers, crab cakes, scallops, cheese cake, fat gherkins, Nathan hot dogs …. Wow, I can’t wait!
I am French, in France I eat French but once my brother invited me to a Japanese restaurant in Paris. I love sushi, the place was full and I felt weird.
“Did you go to supermarkets?”
“Yes, but I didn’t like the vegetables they are so big, perfect, shiny and taste like plastic.”
“That’s true, they look like they’ve been “syringed” with water and coated with wax. Personally, the vegetables, here, taste better, almost organic.”
“What did you guys cooked at home?
I am quiet, regular food is food from home. I still don’t understand.
The Diaspora leaves the home country to recreate it abroad. In Paris, I saw African carrying babies on their back, Indian women with sari and Arabs with jellabas. I don’t mean during culture day, but everyday.
I am not in the mood but I have to tell you this joke which I found on the internet.
A young Arab asks his father:
“What is this weird hat we are wearing?”
“It’s a “kofia” because in the desert it protects our heads from the sun!”
“And what is this type of clothing that we are wearing?”
“It’s a jellaba because in the desert it is very hot and it protects your body!”
“And what are these ugly shoes that we have on our feet?”
“These are babouches, which keep us from burning our feet when in the desert!”
“Tell me, papa…”
“Yes, my son.”
“… Why are we living in Dearborn and still wearing all this shit?”
Why expatriate yourself if you cannot leave home. On TV, an Imam lives for over 20 years in England and does not speak English. It is the same for Latin people in the US, so much so that in Miami the signs are in Spanish and English. Culture is so thick.
Even for me, culture is thick. Here, in Kenya, I don’t eat local dishes. The meat is hard and taste funny. Ugali, the staple food, is maize flour cooked with water until it forms a thick paste and I hate it. Then the Nyama Choma, roast meat, which is a slab or piece of goat cooked on an open fire with no seasoning or marinade. It’s tough and hard to chew. The fish is boring, Tilapia and Nile perch, they have a sea but they prefer eating lake fish.
When I cook crabs or prawns my house girl, cannot understand how I eat these ugly scary things. She thinks I am weird and look at me with disgust.
I love cooking, I spoil myself, at time with; mousse au chocolat , leg of lamb with Moroccan spices, chili con carne (I make the spice mixture), fish with mustard or sun-dried tomato sauce, tostones, lechon asado, shrimp scampi, beef bourguignon, curry goat, braised beef, strawberries in Grand Marnier, guacamole, hummus, tzaziki, arroz con pollo, lamb couscous and I “confit” my own duck legs. My favourite drinks are wine and mojito. My former neighbor made fantastic mojitos.
Yes, I have acquired lots of cultures. That’s why I am so thick with it too.
I wrote to a food critique asking, for when I have guest from abroad, the address of good Kenyan restaurants. “None in Kenya!” he answered.
Then why he always requests for a vegetarian dish in restaurant he visits, since I never saw a meat dishe in a vegetarian restaurant. He kept quiet on this one.
I am always on time for a meeting then I wait for hours. In local markets I still pay the highest price because I hate to bargain. I am a foreigner so everyone think I am rich even when broke, it’s the reason the money I lend is never returned. My local driver’s license has USA on it from the day I made the transfer, so I always pay higher bribes to the police. In court, lies and kickbacks prevail, don’t go unless you can pay the judge higher than your counterpart.
A French acquaintance, about to leave the country for good, was ranting that after four years, she had never been invited for dinner by Kenyans. That’s true, it is very rare …. me, three or four times and I have been in Africa for over 16 years.
I was invited to weddings and funerals from people I hardly know, I think it is because my presence provides importance to the functions. I don’t understand.
I need to buy some airtime for the internet, I buy on a weekly basis, today is Saturday but usually on Sunday we have no power. So my airtime is for 6 not 7 days.
I like blogging but worry about what I write, I write lots of things then self-censured myself by not posting.
In Africa, which is one of my favorite topics, people are sensitive about criticism. Recently I removed all traces of my real name on my blog. I am careful, you never know. The outspoken one live outside the continent.
Do you know the International Herald Tribune newspaper was founded in France in 1887? Diaspora rocks sometimes.
I would love to meet Africans bloggers from the Diaspora. I read their blogs and some are very good.
I wish they would muster the strength to rally the Africans abroad. The continent has lots of problems and needs changes. I am irate about African politic and bad governance. You should visit the continent it is a must to see in a lifetime.
Paradox: African politicians going abroad are pompously invited by association from the diasporas. Africans leave home because of corruption and bad governance but wine and dine the people who are the reasons of their departure. It really sucks.
I never saw, in my days, Africans protest in front of the UN against anything. Believe me; I crossed 1st Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhatan almost everyday for over 20 years and never witness anything like that. I hope things changed, it must change.
The new Nobel Prize winner, pro-democracy activist, Liu Xiaobo is still in jail for his ideas. The man is noble.
In my compound, where I live, we are majority expats. Expat life is comfortable and we form a nice community but shit, I miss home!
I fuck up though; almost an expat from birth and I no longer know where home is.