One of the best trip I’ve made in Africa!
I still remember my every move on that island.
As I am finishing my 6th year of expatriation in Africa, my heart leads me to reflect on the pros and cons of living half the world away. Being an expatriate is a process, you do not instantly love life far from everyone you know and love, it has stages.I think that I am in the final stage : Realizing that it is hard to live far but still being proud of what you have accomplished. Of course those stages vary from one person to another.
For me, it was : 1- Being excited to live far, enjoying freedom, new friends, new house and discoveries. 2- Reality check, sacrifices and homesickness. 3- Loving the experience, discovering a new culture, really getting to know locals, traveling around and trying to cope with being different. 4- Hoping from one country to another, missing previous countries visited, starting from scratch and missing family and friends like crazy. 5-Realizing that it is hard to live far but still being proud of what you have accomplished. Thinking of going back home for good or for a while.
The last stage can be triggered by many things, for me it was realizing that being far is good but I am missing too many things : weddings, births, funerals, being myself,missing being free not to try to understand everything even when there is nothing to understand, a certain amount of peace and the list goes on…
I’ve lost my aunty, my cousin and my great grand mother within a short period of time. Because I am from the caribbean I could not attend the funerals or be there for my family. It is the worst feeling ever. Not that I feel guilty to live far but I am wondering if it is still worth it. I would also not want my husband to go through the same pain should something happen to the people he loves. He is also far from his family and we both feel kinda isolated. Of course we do have friends in Kigali even though it is not easy to befriend locals. We are so different from everyone that sometimes I am not sure I really have friends here. Anyway, we do not live likascetics but I do not feel attached to this land , that is probably why the idea of going back home started to grow in my mind, coupled with the pain of being far during important events and losing loved ones.
From time to time it hits me that last time Isaw my mom was 3 years ago. Of course it is nobody’s fault but it highlights the fact that when living abroad you do not always have a package that allows you to go home on a yearly basis. Or because you have to move from country to country sometimes, you sacrifice your summer hiholidays to pack and to get early to your new assignement so as to be kinda ready to start work without jetlag and so on….This year for example, I only had 20 days of summer holidays because I transitionned from one school that closes in late June to one that starts early July. With the packing and traveling, I only had 20 days to sleep and kinda enjoy France. Consequently , I have been a wrack this whole year.
So yes, being a expat means you usually live in a beautiful house with security and sometimes a swimming pool but it is not only about that! Far from it!
Here are my Pros :
– You get to travel and discover new countries and cultures. (I know Ghana more than some locals, I got the chance to visit parts of Rwanda and I know exactly the differences between west Africa and East Africa)
– You have the opportunity to share your experience with people and learn from them. (I can see how I influenced in a positive way some people that I met and children that I taught. I am also aware of how they also influenced me, to the point of picking their accent)
-You grow up spiritually. (If that is of any interest to you) I do not feel empty or purposeless, I have seen how the Creator made people and places different and I am thankful for the world’s diversity.
– Your focus in life changes. You learn to live differently.( I do not care about having the last Iphone, I do not spend so much in buying stuff anymore, I find conversations about H&M sales useless and I know who are my true friends and what are my goals in life)
-You go to places that you could have never imagined (I took a canoe cruise on Tengrela lake in Burkina Faso and met hippos, I held the tail of a crocodile, I saw amazing sunsets,I know what is Harmattan rain, I had dope road trips, I sat by a bun fire on a beach with friends, I swam in the warm waters of deserted beaches of the Ghanaian west coast, I contemplated and took a cruise on Lake Kivu etc…)
– You become more aware of how lucky you are when facing poverty and other people’s hardships.
– You will never be the same again (If you have lived outside the expat circle and did reach out to locals and embraced your adventures in foreign lands)
– You will taste freedom! (I enjoyed being far from everything, deep into the forest or driving on deserted dry northern roads, I enjoyed living knowing that anything could happen anytime)
– You will taste amazing food and beverages! (I now eat leaves and enjoy drinking amarula )
The list goes on….
Here are my Cons:
-You sometimes have to travel far. The journey can be extremely exhausting and the cultural chock can be overwhelming at first.
– People are not always welcoming and your being different can be seen as a daily flaw.
-People you love change and go on with their lives while you are away. Sometimes they do not keep contact. You have to put in much more effort to remain close to them (but thats not really a con 😃)
-It takes a while before you feel at home.
-You are always missing someone or something and sometimes you never get to be understood.
– You spend alot of money in travels to visit family or to move if you do not have a great package.
-You do not always find a support system abroad and your colleagues can be mean because they do not understand or cannot relate to your work ethics.
-Not every job proposal should be accepted. Some companies take advantage of expatriate staff because they know that most dont know anything about rules and labor laws in foreign countries.
– Life away means dealing with problems, with banks, insurance companies and all from far and that can be a pure nightmare.
The list can also go on, depending on your experiences…
So I might actually go back home, for a while…I will reconnect on a daily basis with my people, I will work, I will rest, I will enjoy different travels and journeys….and then I will probably be an expatriate again, because one cannot just stop loving being away, meeting people and enjoying breathtaking sceneries.
Cheers to travels.
If you are regularly checking this blog out, it’s because you love travels as much as we do. We can never come to a point when we tell ourselves that we are going to stay at one place. If you are like us then, always checking flights prices or looking for new unusual holidays destinations, you will love the following videos.
I was introduced to a great website, and found all their videos perfect for a Friday! Hit play and enjoy :
Check out this amazing website http://seekernetwork.com !!! et bon voyage! 🙂
“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
Article :IwannAfree pour Tytitelle Wax Your Life
One blog that I am in love with is back! Yay!
After a long first night, our (German Shepherd) babies are finally asleep (at 6 am). As I’m sitting here outside on an uncomfortable birdhouse thats is waiting to be hung on a tree -but I don’t want to move and wake the puppies- with the golden sun making it’s way higher into the sky, watching the little ones sleeping peacefully I felt like this is the time to finally update the blog.
We have been so busy and so many things had to be done first that I haven’t had much time or many thoughts for a new blog entry. We were in Europe for two months over the summer, visiting friends, family, taking road trips with friends we hadn’t seen in years, photographing a wedding, eating heaps of cakes and salmon, drinking lots of wine and ciders, enjoying the european summer, and gathering inspiration.
After we came back to…
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I do not really need to say one more time that Africa is the place where everything can happen. Say what, say what, anything can happen ….:)
Today I have chosen to remember a few awkward moments I had here. They make me laugh now but on the spot, it was another story…
1- Private space.
One thing that does not exist here is Private space. Africa is a place where people are brought up together, take the bus together, eat together, sleep together, watch TV together… and so on. For that they do not need private space the way we (western peole) need it. There will always be moments where you stand somewhere, let’s say to read a board and before you realize 5 other people naturally come to stand by you. But like really close to you, to the point that you can smell everything they ate in the morning. You will usually feel uncomfortable but no one else will. The others will rather enjoy it and even smile at you. That is what I call different standards and approaches. We are trained to respect people’s private space and freedom, here people are trained to always be close to one another.
So we went to that weird bar, with a pool where I dont think I can ever swim due to the dirty color of the water. We were eagerly looking for a place to hang out, so we thought that the pool water did not matter much. The place was huge with loud music (for once), nice lawn, lights in the trees, lounging area, tables and chairs and a gazebo. We carefully chose a quiet place to crash, far from any group having loud conversations. The waitress brought the beers and we started to chill.
30 min later a man comes out of nowhere, visibly a new customer and decides that he wants to borrow the empty chair near me. No problem I thought. Although there were dozens of empty chairs scattered all over the bar. Anyway, he takes the chair and puts it just near us. Like a few meters from our spot. Where he can hear everything that we say and he starts sipping his drink ….normal….
Of course, I m wondering what is wrong with him but I am so used to those behaviours now that I keep laughing and talking with my man….I also try to ignore that dude.
Another 30 min later, our fun time was over. The guy decided to switch on the radio on his mobile. He went crazy with the volume, we could not even hear the bar music anymore. There was just a man shouting words in Kyniarwanda on the radio.
I never understood why our neighbour would want to spoil our nice time out. We had to give up the fight and leave the bar since he was unable to figure out by himself how disturbing he was.
2- Adjusting ones behaviour or activities to the time.
Another loose concept here is time. I do not need to tell you how meeting times are blurred and how people are never on time. Once you get used to it you stop worrying or being annoyed. What pisses me off more is the freedom that people take in actions at weird hours of the day or night.
Everyone here has a watchman or maid that likes to sweep loudly at 5 am even during week ends. Even more,that person likes to accompany her moves with loud radio in local language, usually the news or church songs and happiness whistles. The best of them like to make phone calls by your bedroom window at the same unduly hours. And it goes on and on…”Allo, ….yes….allo, can you hear me? Yes, it’s me…” followed by 20 minutes of local language. Some would say, no big deal ! now imagine the same when you are trying to catch up on some sleep or when you like to wake up to your favourite song.
We had to ask our guard to stop that habit of his.I am sure he thinks we are monsters.He is truly a very nice boy but he had a hard time understanding that when we are sleeping it’s not apropriate to make his calls by our bedroom window especially when he has so much space of his own in another area of the compound.
3- Having no control over how your hair must look like.
In other parts of the world people can wear stupid clothes and have weird hair, and it’s really ok. Here hair is a big deal and the hairdressers usually decide on what will look good on you or not, even when you do not ask. Since I live in Africa I have given up on my hair freedom.
There is a list of things that I hate, a few are : huge space between each braid, braids that are “kimbo style”, flat hair, neat hairstyles etc. But I particularly dislike hairdressers that dont listen to their customer.In Europe, they ask you what you want and then stick to that. Why? BECAUSE YOU PAY for the service! Here and particularly in Kigali, no hairdresser listens to me. First because they dont understand what I am saying and second because there is a particular way to do your hair here and everyone must do it the same. If you intend on being different it does not work. You can even show on a picture what you want, you will end up with the same hairstyle as everyone.
In Ghana, I only found a good hairdresser, one that listens to me, after 4 good years of wasting money. Some of my friends would drive 1 hour to go to a specific hairdresser, having big hopes but they would end up disappointed by the result. No one listens or should I say everyone thinks you should just go for the usual easy hairstyle.
Even my favourite Ghana hairdresser would disappoint me once in a while. Here, usually hairdressers master the hairstyle that you want after 5 attempts. Then please dont get the chocking idea of changing hairstyle because you will be back to the 5 attempts rule.
In case you were wondering, that is how my hair became so boring. At some point I was just changing the color of the wigs, but kept the same old braids style for years. Why are they so reluctant to let people choose their hairstyle or follow the instructions of the person who is paying for their service? I still do not know.
But I cannot count the number of times that I left home confidant and excited about a new do only to come back home with a sad face and threatening to undo my braids right away.
Looking at how other women do, I understand that I have to stop expecting so much. Those local women usually have a pleasant experience at their hairdresser. They give some quick directions in local language then sit back and relax. Some even fall asleep! I could never do that! Too afraid to wake up and find a bald head or a common hairstyle on my head. When they are done, they look at themselves in the mirror with a contented look and pay, even when their hair looks like a mess to me.
How do those women do that? Maybe they have also given up on their hair freedom and now accept whatever style, as long as it looks combed and different from what they had when they arrived 😮
I still got so much to learn and know that Africa still got so many awkward moments in store for me!
Life is always a surprise here, you never know what can happen to your hair, who will come and breath your air or what song the watchman will play to wake you up in the morning 🙂
For the first time in my 5 years on the African continent, I can say that I enjoy the quality of the life that I am living here. I mean, who would complain about low pace, clean and green surroundings, quality fruit and veggies, closeness to most interesting East African countries and so on?
Before coming to Kigali, I was used the West African hussle and bussle. Mad traffic jams, people everywhere, rubbish freely thrown, loud music in buses and almost everywhere, loud church preaching , fights with taxi drivers well ….everything loud!
After a while it started to annoy me but most of the time I would just ignore the noise and go on with my life.
Anyone living in Kigali and who have experienced life in other African countries can understand the chock that this city is for me after many years riding in west Africa. I am experiencing boredom and quietness for the first time in Africa.Yes!
First, of all the city is tiny. You can drive around in a short time. The feeling of having seen all that there was to see is constant. Huge change from Accra where you can easily spend years withoug crossing the boundaries of a particular neighbourhood. Yeah that is how big and bubbly Accra is.
Second, people are weirdly quiet here. You won’t hear children playing outside, neighours arguing or music being played (except if you live near Amahoro Stadium where church leaders often come to shout/preach and sing/dance). But you can hear birds singing. Of course birds also sing elsewhere but it is often covered by city noise. Not here. People enjoy the quiet, at all times.
I never thought I would miss noise. Incredible! It created an ambiance, a melody to my Accra life. Here I have no idea what is the hit music or how to dance on it. In Accra, especially at that time of the year there would definitely be a hit song with silly lyrics that would drive you nuts and you would see kids dancing to it on the street and finally find yourself loving that song and dancing to it in a party or in your bathroom. I miss that.
Third, there is no sea. It is weird to me not to be able to drive to the beach on a Sunday afternoon. Even if I would not swim (the sea is rough in Ghana)I would enjoy a people watching activity by the sea. Obronis getting a tan, Ghanaians in their church dresses, sitting on the sand (yes!), the dj going crazy with the volume, jollof being served with grilled Tilapia and a cold Star or Alvaro,men peeing in every corner of the beach (not minding being seen)….it would all be noisy, busy, annoying but finally enjoyable.
In constrast, here there is the lake, the mighty lake Kivu. Dont get me twisted, the lake is just dope! Clear and cool water, soothing lake, fishermen sailing, the limitless lake, quiet feel….yeah, but it is always oh so quiet. Sure you can enjoy nature, without disruption when you want to rest but after a while it becomes so quiet that you wish you could hear someone talking or a child playing.
Fourth,food is boring. I used to complain about the daily Ghana jollof or fried rice…how I long for some now. I have got enough of the potato chips (although delicious), all meat, rice and dodo. Aaaah, the fresh red sea fish of Accra… I still dont enjoy “isombe” and cannot figure out the need for all those buffet restaurants serving tons of mediocre food. With so many fresh veggies and fruit in town how can someone always eat the same boring food. Last time it occured to me that I still dont have a favourite spot here where I like to go and eat. Here no food makes me hungry! Except maybe the delicious “Nyamachoma”(grilled juicy meat). But again, after 3 diners at Car wash (a famous meat- Kenyan spot), I do not want to see meat again, not even on pictures and it’ kinda hard to find an alternative.
I could go on and on about how I miss feeling that there is some action around but it would let you think that I don’t enjoy being here. And that’s not true. I have my good days where I am excited about discovering East Africa and Rwandan culture but I also have my bad days when I just miss my west Africa vibe, my friends left behind, places where I used to go, the last flat I lived in, the sea breeze and …..dare I say the chaos of Ghana.
They say you dont know what you have got til it’s gone and I could not agree more. I am maybe not going to live in Ghana again but I feel special to have lived there and I know precisely what I love about this country and about west Africa in general.I also might not live in Rwanda for ever but I am happy to be able to learn more about myself through the challenges of living in a quieter place of Africa. I have great memories, recent ones too, and they are all about living abroad.
I am lucky to be able to discover new places, to meet new people and to see beauty in more than 1 country so I will try to have more good days in Kigali in 2015.
Who knows I might start to appreciate quietness and life of retirement…