I think I’ve heard the cliché a million times. The honeymoon is over. In other words, the bliss and novelty of an experience have worn off, and what follows is the grim reality of the future. Or something like that. I feel like something of the sort happened to me the past weekend, but rather than it being a rude awakening, it was rather liberating. In fact, I can point to a specific moment where I had the transition, from “tourist” to resident.
I had planned for one of my friends who is in Nairobi to come up and visit me, and I was excited for the chance to show them Nanyuki and the surrounding area, my new home. However, her project in Kenya had some last minute complications and at the last minute it turned out she wasn’t able to come. I found out Friday night and was really bummed. When I woke up Saturday morning I realized I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my weekend. I had spent my first weekend in Nanyuki getting the lay of the land, and last weekend down in Nairobi, experiencing it for the first time. I had been preparing to do something similar, showing my friend the sights of Nanyuki, again as something of a tourist. At first, I guess the fact I wasn’t going to be showing someone around took the wind out of my sails.
Then, I had this epiphany of sorts I guess, this progression. The time where I can just be a tourist, and not really plug into society is over. It’s time to move on, and start being an actual resident of Nanyuki, Kenya, my new home. I shouldn’t be content to just marvel at the newness and excitement of my time here. It’s time to engage with it, to start to see the road I live on as my street, see the route I take to work as my commute, see the grocery store in town as my local store. I’ll undoubtedly still have a lot to discover, a lot that will challenge me, a lot that I won’t understand, but I think it’s essential that I start to look at my life here in a different way. I shouldn’t conceive of myself as “a recent Georgetown graduate who just moved to Kenya” but rather as a “microfinance worker who lives in Nanyuki”. I want to be accountable for my actions and who I am in the Nanyuki community. I don’t just want to enjoy meeting new people, but hope to form deep, meaningful friendships with the people I’ve already come to know.
The rest of my weekend involved running into a co-worker in town, playing pool at “Old House”, a bar/local hangout that I hadn’t heard of before but really enjoyed, a curry lunch at the local expat scene (it’s something of a Nanyuki institution, I’ve discovered) and watching England-Italy with an Englishman I recently met (England lost in penalties, to the dismay of both my new friend, and the loud, drunk Brits in the army who were watching at the same place). As a further sign I’m adapting to Kenya, the venue was outdoors, and I was absolutely freezing, though I’m sure it was probably 50 degrees or more. The Kenyans were all wearing heavy jackets and scarves, the Brits t-shirts and shorts, and for once, I thought the Kenyans were more appropriately dressed.
While I can’t say that anything that I did was particularly exceptional, I’d like to think that I will remember this past weekend as an important one for me. It was when I stopped thinking about myself as someone who is just here on extended stay, but rather as someone who is a resident of Kenya (even if my visa doesn’t say it), here to live and work.