I’ve been away from our African home for 3 weeks now and I’ve suddenly realized that I’ve got what used to be called a split personality, now it’s known as having a Dissociative Identity Disorder.
Here’s one definition:
‘dissociative identity disorder is a severe form of dissociation, a mental process which produces a lack of connection in a person’s thoughts, memories, feelings, actions, or sense of identity’ (webmd.com)
Most of us turn towards Hollywood on this issue where we see someone suddenly transform into a totally different person and go ‘Oh, they have a split personality’.
Why on Earth would I confess to this?
It’s quite easy really. I was in the car with Pete and we agreed that we felt like fish out of water in a country that we call our ‘other home’. Sure, we hold an NZ passport but it doesn’t make us Kiwis. We are a mixed breed – born in New Zealand, spent a good number of years in Australia but Kenya feels more home than any other place.
We literally have to speak a different language, dress differently and act differently. I still get shocked that there is no place in cafes to wash your hands before you eat. It rains here A LOT and it’s the coldest we’ve been in a long time. Temperature wise it’s not that cold but it’s a chill that goes to the bones.
It’s almost like we have to put away our ‘Africa lifestyle’ and pretend that we belong here.
But there’s this tugging of a war inside of me. I’ve adapted and become someone else who doesn’t fit in here, I’m just pretending. I feel like the real me is waiting back in Nairobi.
It’s not that I’m not making the most of it, it just feels weird. I’m loving time with family and the food here is phenomenal, there’s no doubt about that. When I’m skyping my team back home I can slide back into my comfort zone. Even after a few weeks of being away, I feel like there’s a strong pull to East Africa while here I am not connected to much Kiwiana at all.
So what’s the answer?
I think I will embrace my very different ‘mes’, while I’m full on Kiwi on the outside, on the inside I’m very Kenyan. I’ll keep speaking English out loud and Swahili in my head. I’ll use knife and fork with my chicken here but gladly use fingers in Kenya. I’ll get to understand how this new country of mine (for 2 months) works and then miss the simplicity of it when I return home.
When you see me, feel free to say ‘habari za asubuhi’ (good morning) and you will make my day, but I warn you, my Kenyan side might come out in full swing!