The Mind of an African Expatriate
Yesterday I was talking to a couple of friends of mine and was surprised to realize that I actually have philosophical and political opinions about the state of third world countries, particularly my own, Uganda and Kenya. The conversation, of course, was an exercise in nibbling at the ideological buffet; I felt so far removed from things, and the ensuing silence when my friends had left my apartment with sleepy eyes rumbled and shook something within me. I would like to think that all of us who live "overseas" still feel some connection to the place we come from. I'd like to think that the grumbling of my mind's belly was more than the resounding consequence of unpracticed emotional voidancy (as Soyinka would call it) and detachment.
Before I turned to sleepier escapes myself, I browsed our bookshelf. I was searching for something. I'm still not entirely sure what. I know you're thinking, "This guy is so surreal," but you try reconciling the identities of a man in, for lack of a better term, self imposed exile; deep within is a rift between what we are and what we once were, who we want to be and who we feel we can be. The only responses from the bookshelf were the echoes of unanswered questions, ever poised on the valley lip of realization, somewhere between who we are and who we are becoming, somewhere beyond what seems possible. World histories (that all may be one), political satires (for the good of mankind), technological philosophy, novels (part escape, part reality's excavation). Frustrated I turned my back on it all and headed to my bed.
I feel amazingly guilty sometimes. It descends on me every once in a while, a haunting lion of my past, present and unshaped future; You should be doing more. You ignore me and yet you embrace me. We two cannot mix like that forever, you know.
Barely audible, my whispered prayer. "Africa. I am...God save us."
I looked at the books by my bedside; UNESCO's history of Africa volume IV, Yancey's Reaching for the Invisible God, and the Bible. Then, after a chapter in 1 Corinthians, exhausted and helpless, I drifted off to sleep, to the lush countryside between Jinja and Kampala, the shores of Lake Victoria in Entebbe, the dusty, busy bordertown of Busia, and finally back through the Kenyan highlands overlooking the pink pastel coloring of Lake Baringo's flamingos and into the heart of the city of my youth, Nairobi, the place of cool waters; my place of rest, even all these miles away; my home.