How to Get Home

“So where’s home?” Continued from yesterday’s conversation about “What recharges you?”

Maasai home

We recently had a visit from an English woman who had grown up in Kenya. The part of the conversation that resonated with me the most was when she asked:

“You have been here six years. Do you feel like this is your home yet? My boys (she had sons who had grown up in Kenya) have been here quite a long while but still consider Kenya home.”

Interesting, I thought. Home! Home! Home! Let’s talk about that place, where whether you go East or West is best.

What Do I Mean By Home?

Now for the sake of clarity let me be clear on what I mean by the word home. By home, I am not referring to the physical structure that protects you from wind, hail and stalkers. Rather I am referring to that place that makes you feel one of or a combination of the following:

a) Safe

b) Comfortable

c) Well protected

d) Loved

e) Free to be yourself.

After all, aren’t the above what most of us feel when we remember home. After a long, hard, scary day at work, we trudge home through the wind and rain so that we can get to that warm place where we can take off our shoes, unwind and just be. This place may not even be your residential address. It may be your local church or bible study group. It may be your local bar or hangout. It may even be your spouses home. Wherever that place is, where your troubles melt away and you feel most at peace, least on edge: THAT’S HOME!

Greek home

Home Away From Home

So maybe, you flew out ‘because everyone else is doing it’. Maybe you flew out because you could no longer stay home. Maybe you flew out pursuing a job. Maybe your parents surprised you with some money, some air tickets and a letter from a University that has a weird sounding name. However, you left Mama Africa and you are now abroad ( by the way, if you are, welcome, from a diaspora veteran). You have now been ripped away from that place you call home and are now all alone in this foreign land with foreign places, foreign languages and foreign ideas about where home is. How exactly can you get back home in the middle of this land far far away. Simple: Recreate your home.

What Makes Your Home a Home

I have two types of home. My first home is my house. Here I feel safe in the solitude that is provided to me by quiet nights. It is in this home that I do all my heavy mental work. It is here that I write this blog, study, learn and plan how I will become a better human being every single night.

My second home is anything that has to do with making people feel something. You need someone to speak in public, I’m there as long as I can make the audience feel something. You need someone to have a breezy conversation with, am there as long as you laugh.

My first home is home because I feel safe and protected within it and undisturbed and free to explore under the cover of night. My second home is home because I feed off energy from people. Believe it or not, when someone likes me, the high I get from that can keep me going for days on end. I feel safe in the fact that I can actually connect with my fellow human being because the way I see it, if you can connect with people, regardless of where you are and how poor you are, you will be better than you would be otherwise.

Western home

This Knowledge is Critical

Basically the reason I told that story is so that you have a frame of reference when I ask you, what make your home feel like home? What type of environment do you need in order for you to feel safe, protected and/or loved? Do you need a place where you feel connected to another person? Do you need a place where you can have deep, intimate conversation? Do you need a place where you can just think? Do you need a place where you can let your aggression lose? Do you need some quiet time? Do you need a place where you feel in control?

When you know what type of place feels like home, you are now equipped to begin seeking it out. The diaspora may be lacking in a lot of things, but not in places to go and things to do. Armed with the knowledge of what your home should be like, you can begin to go exploring different places all searching for that home.

As I have said in previous posts, once you find your home, once you find that place where you can just be, there is nothing quite like it.

Home in Soweto

What’s Your Perception of the Diaspora

A second element to this discussion is how do you perceive your country of immigration as a whole. In general, there are three ways you can look at your new country.

1) Home

2) Transition point between two homes

3) A Place that Just Isn’t Home

Though I have been here close to six years, this place feels like a transition point between two homes. It feels as though I was put here to learn and grow so that I could go back to my place of birth, aka sweet Mama Africa. If you feel like I do, then it brings greater purpose into everyday existence abroad. After all, you must get ready, prepare and learn so that you can seek out and/or build and then maintain your home once you have left the transition point you are currently in. So, look at yourself like one of those samurais in a Jet Li movie that has been banished from home and needs to train for years before returning home to as the greatest samurai ever who will save the kingdom from attack (I know Jet Li is Chinese and the Samurai tradition is Japanese but you get my point………)

Brazilian favela home

If you feel like the diaspora is home, then share with your fellow immigrants how you managed to fit into a place that at times can feel like a vast wasteland. There are a lot of people who need help figuring out just what to make of this place. Hell, even I would love to hear it. You are already way ahead of the curve. Please drag the rest of us along.

Finally, if this place doesn’t feel like home at all, then read the preceding sections of this post and go about creating semi-homes here in the diaspora. As soon as possible work on finding or creating that place of quiet strength, comfort and stability. Maybe start hanging around solid, stable family people who shy away from drama. Maybe find a job in your local place of worship. Maybe find work with the elderly or the youth, where there is little threat to you. Whatever you need, seek it out and once you have found it embrace it.

We All Need Homes

After all, we all need homes. We all get tired and we all need to recharge. So please don’t take this gift from yourself. Leave a comment or get in touch with me to let me know what’s happening.

Now go home,

Mwangi

No Comments

  • By Ken, April 1, 2008 @ 9:56 am

    Thought provoking indeed!
    That is a topic that I have internalised for a long time and still no answer.

    Reason being that:
    - Been out of Kenya for literally half of my life.
    - When I am away from Kenya, nostalgia kicks in big and definitely miss it.
    - when in Kenya can not wait to get away after a fortnight.
    - We all change, paradigms that guide our lives change. That said, relating to people here (abroad) and those at home has drastically changed or shall I say evolved. And so begs the question where do I comfortably fit in? or should we remain shallow thereby making life ‘easy’?
    This is my personal view, others will definitely differ with me considering plenty of factors e.g. family background, are we loaded nyumbani or broke?, am I doing well abroad or not, do I have kids that need child support (we all know of people screaming home is best due to the amount owed for child support), there are just too many factors to consider, therefore will be very general in my views…

    Perhaps you may be right i.e. “Simple: Recreate your home.”

    Found this article in Newsweek and you can peruse for yourself……. http://www.newsweek.com/id/117845

  • By Mwangi, April 1, 2008 @ 10:25 am

    Thanks for the article Ken; very illuminating. After your comment and reading the article I now feel that what I prescribe in this article, is more of a, temporary-just-to-keep-you-going solution. I say this, because my perception of this place has always been that I was going to go back to Kenya and so everything I say and right comes from that place.
    It might be a great long term solution but I am glad that I unwittingly started a discussion to which I don’t have a conclusive answer: Just what the hell are we? Are we African people? Are we Africans in the diaspora? I am so different from the person I was when I left and this place has so many unique experiences and challenges that have changed me and change us all whether or not we want to change. I will definitely write about this in future: thanks for sowing the seed in my subconscious.
    I’ve rambled, so I hope it makes sense.

  • By Kelly, April 1, 2008 @ 3:17 pm

    This morning, I woke up at 4am from a really bad dream. I was at the airport with my family saying goodbye and everyone was crying so hard, my niece was clinging on to me, and basically it felt like a funeral.
    When I think about it, it’s an insight to the kind of fears we often have about making a move abroad. What if I move and I’m miserable? What will happen to my family in my absence? and the winning one; what if my grandparents die in my absence? More often than not, these fears are irrational but they are there, and it’s definitely comforting to know that one day, overseas will be a kind of home.
    Thanks!

  • By Mwangi, April 1, 2008 @ 4:27 pm

    @Kelly: I am glad I was able to be of some comfort and some use to you, especially as you are about to face project Cayman ( http://pinkmemoirs.wordpress.com/2008/03/28/leaving-kenya/) : that’s what this blog is all about :D

  • By gal africana, April 1, 2008 @ 11:48 pm

    Why can’t both places be home? Copenhagen is home when I’m in Copenhagen and Kenya is home when I’m in Kenya. I’m working to own homes in both places because they both feel like home in their own very distinct ways. I was in a limbo with regards to what I was and where I belong for a very long time and have concluded that sometimes the need to define ourselves only serves to limit us. I think I feel at home in Copenhagen because I’ve put work into knowing the city and discovering those places where the ambiance and people make me feel welcome and happy. I do the same thing when I visit Kenya. Explore, find something that feels good, the dig your tush into it and make it warm and yours…a bit like a dog does before it lies down on its blanket

  • By Mwangi, April 2, 2008 @ 1:03 am

    @gal: You know whenever you have anything to say about the whole psychology of immigrating over I am all ears because you are actually the first of my peers (sad to say) that I have ever had this discussion with. Your take on having two homes, is actually pretty spot on. I’ll tell you if I manage to build myself a second home when I return home (haven’t been there since Jan 2004 so looking forward to seeing any changes that may have been made)

Other Links to this Post

  1. Work From Home — April 1, 2008 @ 5:07 pm

  2. The Displaced African on Capital FM in Kenya » The Displaced African — July 1, 2008 @ 7:43 am

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