Final Part of Njeri’s Message to the Next Group of Afropolitans

Airport terminal

Final section in the series where Njeri aka meek meek gives you the skinny on how she sees immigrant life. Make sure you read the articles from the last two days to read part 1 and 2. I come back from camp tomorrow. Yay! Finish your weekend right, Mwangi

8. Buy everything on sale…everybody else does…and if they don’t they are very dumb. Don’t buy anything at full price….I came to this country with about $5000 in savings. That lasted less than three months…between the designer jeans, shoes, accessories e.t.c…I spent it all. You can get everything cheap don’t go crazy and don’t be ashamed to be ’seen’ buying cheap stuff, first of all nobody is watching you and even if they are they probably will never see you again…my motto is ‘as long as it looks good get it’ ….I bought a pair of jeans for 400 dollars…. i don’t even like telling this story… i somehow forgot that that translated to 28,000 kshs… Hindsight is an exact science but please try and avoid doing this. Buy expensive food though, buy organic. Cheap out here when it comes to food is not better. I know it can be overwhelming to go to the store and actually choose…so many labels! but try. I actually believe that it helps not only nourish your body but your mind too. When you eat right you think better. Exercise is important too… Jog a little it helps clear your mind.

9. Avoid stuff thats fake, don’t get involved in any schemes that don’t seem right.
Go online if it sounds tricky and ask questions. When i got here i used yahoo questions alot. I asked about anything and everything. I have seen alot of people get deported because they involved themselves in fraudulent schemes and i know many more who will. Its usually your friends who come to you and whisper about some brilliant scheme to make money, don’t fall for it… if they are actually your friends they wont turn their backs on you when you show your disinterest. I have taught myself not to starve at someone else’s expense, i have also learnt how not to get into trouble. Stay away from drugs and people who do them, because if you are caught in a car with someone who has drugs, more often then not they will claim those drugs were yours and just like the DWI thing i mentioned earlier its not easy to get yourself up after that.

10. People overlook Social Security and Credit. Take your time to understand these. Credit is very important, good credit is almost a currency in itself. You need to build your credit and eventually it will allow you to get everything you need. With a clean record [no arrests] and good credit, the opportunities in this country are endless. Do not overlook your taxes either. Do everything by the book. this is not Africa ‘deals’ wont help you here but if you do everything by the book you can eventually get anything you want from good loans, a big house to nice cars and great investments. This is why, if you are planning to come and live in the states, you SHOULD NOT come on a visitors visa….Because you will not get a social security card so you will not be able to build your credit or get a job or go to school or get an apartment or anything. I have been here two years and the best i could get is a shared apartment, i cant buy a car or go to school or get a job but i have two or three good friends and they have been there for me thats why i emphasize on friendship so much.

I have been reading this book by Dave Eggers, its called ‘What is the What’ He says something in the beginning of the book that i hold as true, he says ‘I am tired of this country. I am thankful for it, yes, I have cherished many aspects of it for the three years i have been here, but i am tired of the promises. I came here, four thousand of us came here, contemplating and expecting quiet. Peace and college and safety. We expected a land without war and, i suppose, a land without misery. We were giddy and impatient. We wanted it all immediately-homes,families, college, the ability to send money home, advanced degrees, and finally some influence. But for most of us, the slowness of our transition-after five years i still don’t have the necessary credits to apply for a four year college-has wrought chaos. We waited ten years in Kakuma and i suppose we did not want to start all over here. We wanted the next step, and quickly. But this has not happened not in most cases, and in the interim, we have found ways to spend the time. I have held too many menial jobs, and currently work at the front desk of a health club, on the earliest possible shift, checking in members and explaining the club’s benefits to prospective members. This is not glamorous, but it represents a level of stability unknown to some. Too many have fallen, too many feel they have failed. The pressure upon us, the promises we cannot keep with ourselves-these things make monsters of too many of us.’ This is by far one of the most well written books i have seen in the last few years… I believe however that the lesson is clear. Get a hold of this book if you can and read about a fellow immigrant, Also get ‘the infidel’ By Ayaan Hirsi Ali. These books have little nuances here and there that can help you understand what exactly you are getting into.

Alot of people will tell you be patient and swallow your pride and do whatever it takes to survive. I have lived here and i have been patient and i have done whatever it took to survive, but i will never sell my soul for a dream that wasn’t mine initially [the American Dream]. I have not done anything that i did not want to do. Do what you think is right. Always remember to be true to yourself. You really don’t have to stoop as low as they tell you to….you do have to stoop but to wherever you are comfortable. Before you come here you need to know what it is you want and how far you would go to get it. Stay out of trouble. I have a friend who i argue with constantly, his argument is the reason most foreigners fail when they come to this country is that they never fully commit to being here. At the back of their minds they are still convinced that they can always go back. I agree with him. If you fully commit to being here and you give yourself no choice but to succeed you will succeed. My argument however, is that if its not working after a few years of trying and if its not getting better don’t be afraid to leave, don’t wait until its too late. More that anything be analytical and logical don’t let your emotions influence your decisions.Those are my two cents…Good luck and God speed!!

No Comments

  • By rags, June 22, 2008 @ 8:27 am

    Very insightful information. Well done!

  • By Mzeiya, June 22, 2008 @ 4:23 pm

    Well the issue of obtaining credit is a double edged sword. In fact I reckon if you can avoid it the better. There is a lot of idle money around and the banks and loan sharks are running around to extend credit to the public. Apparently no one wants to believe that they cannot be able to repay- and indeed some may be having good grounds to believe so. However it is when you are stuck with these huge payments to pay off your mortgage, car loans, furniture loans etc that you realise you are in big trouble. Any setback, say a rise in interest rates or you are retrenched would just land you into big time trouble.

    So the new migrants should learn to live within their means even with the glamour around. For one, the public transport is very efficient and a car may not be a priority- unless of course your job requires extra flexibility.

    I agree with you about the company that one makes here. Its good to associate yourself with people who have similar goals, and also avoid being lured into drugs and prostitution. Just try and maintain your dignity. Refrain from that mentality that its a free world and that you can talk and do stuff so long as you are not breaking the law. You only create undue attention to yourself and those around you. Dont bring in that “disadvantaged mentality” even when it is obvious that your race is an issue in some affairs. Block it from your mind( or better still deal with it) because it only creates resentment which ends up hurting you. Stay healthy because this is not the best place to be sick- because that can be quite treacherous given that you will mostly be around by yourself or just a few people.

    Stay busy. Work, study is usually the routine for most people. If you are through with one qualification go for something else even if its a lighter one e.g. a language course. Join a club- not a drinking one- but a like a bowling club, fitness club, uni club etc. Meet other Africans in social events because sooner than later you will realise you cannot run from your identity even if you were born here. Steer away from trouble or petty feuds with other Kenyans- e.g tribal differences. People start profiling you and your reputation can easily be tarnished.

  • By Mo, June 22, 2008 @ 4:28 pm

    I normally refrain from saying this (because, really, it’s such a non-comment) but I’ll be back to re-read this when I have a clear head and comment further.

  • By Mzeiya, June 22, 2008 @ 8:20 pm

    apologies for Kenyanizing my post up there. I should be talking about Africans..

  • By mwalimu, June 24, 2008 @ 4:11 am

    You say
    ’seen’ buying cheap stuff, first of all nobody is watching you and even if they are they probably will never see you again

    I might also add that: Since you are African, they (the non-Africans) are not surprised. In fact, just because you buy expensive and live expensively does not remove your “africanness” from their eyes.

    You say “who has drugs, more often then not they will claim those drugs were yours and just like the DWI thing i mentioned..”

    I add: they do not have to claim. By association, you are already guilty. Whether in the car, at the apartment, wherever. There is 0 tolerance for drugs. Why do you think so many AA are in jail because of drugs? Mostly by association.

  • By Mo, June 24, 2008 @ 1:04 pm

    Well said, I especially like the point about having a network of TRUSTWORTHY friends to rely on. If you’re there for them, they will also be there for you and can prove priceless in your time of need.

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