Living in a foreign country is not always easy. After the initial cultural earthquake, there are always small after shocks that jolt you to the fact that you are an alien. I remember a Korean friend I had in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He always had a bunch of kids following him whenever he walked on the streets. The kids would call out loudly, ‘China! China!’ and do some mock Bruce Lee moves. As innocent and as good intentioned the kids were, you would definitely not like that to happen to you on a bad day. Then of course there is the homesickness and loneliness that creeps up to you once in a while.
There are many good things that happen though. You get to meet many local people and foreigners like yourself, some of who make valuable friends. You also experience new culture and get to have totally new and unexpected experiences. Unless you look carefully, there are small things that can almost go unnoticeable. Take for instance dressing.
Supposing I was writing this from an office in Nairobi, Kenya? I am sure that I would be wearing a coat or blazer and a tie. When the day becomes too hot, I would remove my coat and hang it at the back of my chair. If I stood up, you would see the outline of a white vest under my shirt. The shirt would most probably be soaked in sweat all over the back. Under these conditions, the face tends to shine, giving the impression of a generous layer of grease on the skin. Girls hate that.
As it is, I am writing from an office in Hargeisa, Somaliland. I am wearing jeans, a light T-shirt and sandals – just perfect for today’s weather. This dressing would also be perfect for ending a promising career in many Kenyan offices. It would also result in an internal memo from the boss. The document would be addressed to the remaining members of staff reminding them that casual dressing is only allowed in the office over the weekend.
Did you know that the official working hours in many Somaliland offices are from 8 am to 2pm, Saturday to Thursday?
Whenever my day is not going too good, I try to hang in there. I keep in mind that as long as I keep trying, things will eventually go my way. But then sometimes, I am not even sure that I am the best judge of what is best for me. I feel lost.
On such days, I need a strong shoulder like yours to lean on.