Saturday, 4 January 2014

Different Worlds

I’m writing this on a plane, flying between London and Nairobi after spending 6 weeks in the UK for my nephew’s 8th birthday and Christmas. Despite being a lot shorter journey than it was in the days of old, it’s 8 hours of being in limbo land, practically pinioned to my seat by the bulk of the person next to me, and the small space between my seat and the back of the seat in front (which at least this time seems to be staying in the upright position!).
Always very odd to be going from one world to my other, very different one. Both of them are normal in that they’re both home, and I function equally well (I think) in both, and yet so very different to each other.
In the one, there’s family, and friends who I’ve known for many years, with an increasing number of friends I’ve known from Kenya. In the other, there’s no family, and an every-changing circle of friends, as people come on shorter contracts, or figure that, mainly due to family reasons, it’s time to return to their home country.
In one, there’s an overwhelming array of merchandise in the shops. In the other, the range is getting larger, but there’s always an uncertainty for how long you’ll be able to find a preferred product on the shelves.
In one, things seem to fall apart when there’s a power cut. In the other, it’s barely noticed, businesses, schools, shops and even some homes being set up with backup generators.
In one, things are generally orderly. In the other, well, ……!
In one, roads are signposted well and satnavs are the norm anyway just in case you can’t read the signs! In the other, you’re on your own!
In one, practically every city and town has good restaurants, shops, cinemas, ……… In the other, very few of the towns have been developed to anywhere near the same level  as the capital city, which itself ‘boasts’ the largest slum in Africa.
In one, even country lanes are tarmacked. In the other, even the road between my flat and the office in the capital city is murram, with streams of muddy water during rainy season creating gullies and ravines.
In the one, the amount of daylight varies dramatically over the year, but life continues as normal. In the other, the sun comes up and goes down at pretty much the same time all year round.
In one, I blend in and have anonymity when walking amongst strangers. In the other, I don’t, and because of the colour of my skin am automatically targeted as being wealthy (which relatively speaking I am compared to some, but certainly not compared to the guy in the big new 4WD in front of me!).
In one, I was born and brought up, though am not longer resident (which has its complications). In the other, I’ve been resident for 11 years, but am only permitted to be there through the granting (and payment) of a work permit. A long term future is by no means secure.
In one, poverty is in your face. In the other,  you see it on television or read about it in the newspaper.
In one, it’s summer all year round. In the other, things are very changeable!
In one, there are tight restrictions on health and safety. In the other, there’s a much greater degree of flexibility and ‘freedom’.

Going from one world to the other can be hard, largely due to the leaving of family and friends.  However, both worlds are home. They just happen to be very different.

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