One of my long-held dreams was to experience life from a non-Ugandan perspective and to achieve this, I had to start with Kenya, our eastern neighbor. This is due to its vast international exposure and I had long planned that this was to serve as a starting point for all my future global engagements!
Presently, I have lived in Kenya for more than a year and I have slowly adapted to Nairobi’s busy but apprehensive life. This includes getting accustomed to local lifestyles so that I blend myself into the typical Kenyan way of living! Generally, I haven’t had any major challenge in associating with the locals who from the onset have embraced me as one of their own.
As a Ugandan, it has been easy to adjust to Kenyan life for the reason that even before I finally settled here, I used to come once in a while for short stays that didn’t last more than two weeks. It is through these ‘look-ins’ that I continuously learned about Kenyan food, culture & ethnicities, languages, people’s attitudes and the overall costs of living! Remember, Kenya is a member of the East African Community that also includes Uganda.
What’s interesting is that almost every Kenyan I meet declares to me how they admire my country a lot, despite Kenya being miles ahead in terms of economic development.Some men have described to me their adoration for Ugandan ladies who they say are well-mannered and highly respectful. They say this as they dread their own ladies who they regard as being violent and lack respect.
Others have also expressed to me their admiration for the peace and security in Uganda and how they like our president, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. Still, others expressed their fondness for Ugandan traditional food especially ‘Matooke’ and the climate. Such assertions have left me motivated that truly there’s something unique about my country that’s admired by Kenyans!
Striking up a conversation with an average Kenyan has been so easier to me considering the fact that they’re so inquisitive about my country and want to hear from a Ugandan. Humorously, most of them crack jokes about our long-serving president while wondering how we’ve managed to bear with a man who’s ruled us for more than 30 years!
Generally, keeping a low profile has also enabled me to avoid getting caught up in the chaotic Kenyan life which requires an overzealous person to match it. I have strictly emphasized my student status as I came here to study my second degree, Masters of Arts in International Relations and Diplomacy at Mount Kenya University. This has kept me busy throughout most of the time I have spent here. But this wasn’t my primary motive for settling in Kenya.
Like an attractive giant, Kenya has always captivated me because of very many reasons, among them include;
- Being a technology hub for East and Central Africa. Kenya offers a modern taste of improved high-tech advancements in ICT which makes it a magnet for bright young minds like me (Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg were recently here).
- Improved world-class infrastructures and facilities in sectors like education, transport, communications, stable electricity and water supply.
- High standards of living with simplified access to basic social amenities, i.e. medical services, improved security, access to world-class shopping and entertainment centers, etc.
- The liberalized top-class economy. Kenya is one of the most industrialized countries in Africa and being a business hotspot, it offers a favorable and a very competitive economic environment.
- Other factors include its strategic geographical position and nearness to one of the world’s major oceans – the Indian ocean, the conducive climate, wildlife, access to specialized international amenities, i.e. Embassies, major global airlines, the media, etc.
It was important that I settle in as a student to savor all that Nairobi city, and Kenya as a whole have to offer, but which I lacked at home in Uganda. At first, I thought that learning Swahili is the key to successfully live in Kenya but I have proved this otherwise. Here, an average Kenyan can master an understandable level of English, but at least they can also pull off a mixed accent of ‘Swinglish’ – a form of twisted English and Swahili. Moreover, I am uncomfortable to learn a new language but I have managed to easily get along with Kenyan life without having the basic knowledge of their national language.
Nairobi is a major African cosmopolitan hub that has attracted numerous people from all over Africa and beyond. They have incredibly called Kenya their home for several decades. There is little to contrast with Ugandan life that I truly miss at home and this includes the staple food (of course, I really miss Matooke), listening to my favorite radio stations, the inability to regularly communicate with my relatives especially my beloved Grandma!
Personally, a lot has changed but I came with a piece of Uganda with me so that I do not entirely miss home. The Ugandan music collection, art pieces, coin money, souvenirs, the photos that I used to take back in Uganda, all keep reminding me of my beloved home. Additionally, I subscribe to different online Ugandan media to keep up to date whatever is happening back home.
Being a law-abiding person, I have never thought of contravening any local norms and laws because I understand that being in a foreign land requires me to be extra careful and avoid engaging in anything that could put me into undesirable trouble. Part of this has been registering as a foreign national to acquire an Alien ID, applying for a Student’s Pass plus a work permit to engage in legitimate employment.
It’s a unique experience to live in Kenya but the biggest challenge is the high cost of living than at home. This hasn’t been any easier because I haven’t yet secured a reasonable means of income. Nairobi is a vibrant and rapidly expanding green city under the sun and I’m sure of using it as a base to adventure Kenya, the rest of Africa and beyond, Insha Allah!