After over a decade, I traveled to Kenya for two weeks to visit my family. Days before boarding the plane I was apprehensive and hardly excited to be eaten by deadly mosquitoes and be covered in red dirty. I loved and love my life in D.C. being so close to fun, fitness and food.
I remember dreaming about living in D.C. when I was in high school as if it were some distance land. In fact, the vain of my existence was to be a “city girl.” With the power of my tongue I’ve truly made D.C. my home.
It was unsettling to think of how my family would receive me after more than ten years, and how I would accept them as my own. For a long time family has been a triangle of the Gachenge women: my mother, my sister and myself. In going home, to the place my mother calls home and a place I called a vacation, I knew the only thing I could expected was to expect nothing at all. But as soon as I landed the charades began with those daunting experiences of hugging family who introduce themselves with “You don’t remember?”
No I didn’t remember anyone and I blame it on being a stubborn teenager during my last visit. I did not want to spend my entire summer before high school in Kenya. Looking back it was ridiculous that I did not take advantage of the little time I spent with my father who later passed. But after this trip, I am learning to forgive myself for that and be thankful that souls never die.
This time my experience in Kenya was very different from my last which included going to Mombasa to really vacation. This time around we experienced what a stay-cation is like in Kenya when you stay home and spend time with your family. I found myself sneaking away to grab a Tusker with my uncles more often than a summer’s week in D.C. Hanging with the guys is truly the only way to escape peeling potatoes and washing a mountain of dishes.
But before the night would fall and the Tusker festivities began, I’d find myself fighting for a chair to sit among the women in my family eating lunch while preparing for dinner. I thought Kenyans talk loud on the phone because of poor sound quality but amplified is truly the only sound level used when communicating. Enjoying the conversation were also greedy little chickens that drank your chia if you put it down. But then again everyone enjoyed the gossiping conversation as long as it was not about them. I’d stick around to hear what I can and elbowing my translator cousins to help me understand the conversation long enough for my water to boil.
Can you imagine running through the coffee field with a bucket of water just to reach your destination and find grasshoppers in it. Do you run back for more water or invite the bugs to shower with you ? Of course you choose the latter. I know I only had an hour before the sun went down if I wanted to bath with sunlight, I didn’t have time to rub to sticks together to make another fire.
In a short amount of time you become one with the bugs, trees and everything in between. But that was what I fell in love with. I enjoyed the time I spent with my family; I enjoyed my culture. The memories I created left a lingering impression and I only wanted more. For the first time a triangular dynamics was not enough, I wanted to have my uncles, aunties, cousin, grandma and grandpa in my life. Returning home felt empty because I only thought I had everything I wanted.
Then I remembered I have more than just them, I have a brother who I spent a lifetime not knowing. With them all in the mix, I saw an opportunity to more have more. More than I ever dreamed for myself. I left a big piece of my life in Kenya and I plan to retrieve it.
Next year I hope to conclude the year being Miss DC, Miss Africa and completely the second season of Millennial News. I will then pack up my life here in D.C. and take my self-made career as a political millennial influencer international.