How does one dress when traveling through four hemispheres in 24 hours? I left 80-something degrees in Nairobi and arrived to snow falling in Paris. Texas was sunny, and when I arrived in Mississippi at 6pm, I could see my breath in the air. Traveling in December is a little different than June and July, but despite the cold, I made it safe and sound. After two years of perpetual summer, my feet are adjusting to wearing socks again.
The best part of being in America this time is being here with Will and seeing family. Even though it's my first time to Mississippi, it feels like home. Everyone has been great, and I'm learning and experiencing lots of good Southern things - shopping at the Piggly Wiggly, eating chicken and dumplings, and meeting lots and lots and lots of very nice people.
On Monday we're off to Alaska. From Nairobi to Mississippi to Alaska... we're definitely experiencing some cultural changes, but it's all home. A little weird, but still home.
Visiting America is always exciting! And a little bit scary too. For anyone who has lived overseas, you understand what I'm talking about. If you haven't, please don't be offended by these words. Some people have been upset with me because I've felt weird about going to America in the past, but let me try to explain...
I'm going "home" tonight to Mississippi. The funny thing is, I've never been to Mississippi, yet it's considered home because it's America and my husband-to-be is from Mississippi. I'll be "home" in Alaska, but I haven't lived in Alaska in 14 years, and aside from my family, only know one friend who still lives in the ol' home town. For Will and me, Kenya is home right now - it's where we met, where we live, where out friends are. We've never been to America together, but that is "home" also. Home is a very confusing word.
When thinking about going "home" to America, I get excited about seeing everyone, meeting new family face-to-face instead of on a computer screen, eating bagels and cream cheese, seeing Christmas lights on all the houses. These things are very exciting! I'm itching to get on that plane! Been jumping around the house all week. Counting down! I can't wait!
At the same time, I don't fit in America in some ways. I drive on the opposite side of the road now. I hear myriad languages every day. Children beg at my car window while stopped at an intersection. I drive like a maniac and use my car horn more than my turn-signal, which isn't called a turn-signal here - it's an indicator. Kenya changes people. I'm a different person because of Kenya. I view the world differently. I speak differently. Being "on time" means something different to me. I have different experiences that no one back home understands. I am surrounded by people in Kenya who understand all this, but at home people cannot relate (as much as my dear family is trying). That's the scary part of going home - people expecting me to be the same Kimberly, but I'm not. Going from the Third World to America the Beautiful is always a little unsettling. But it's more exciting than unsettling, so AMERICA HERE I COME!
Hope I packed enough clothes... I get cold just looking at this picture!
I debate writing this, but people always tell me they want to know what's going on with me in Kenya, so here is the truth...
TRAPPED describes how I'm feeling lately in Kenya. The walls, the guards, the safety issues... I don't often talk about these things. Mostly, I don't want to scare my dear family or make them nervous about me living here. But the reality of life in Kenya involves being very cautious about safety, and lately it seems to bother me more than it ever has.
There is a lot of crime in Nairobi and across Kenya. Police can't be trusted, as they are very corrupt and blatantly ask for bribes. Car jackings, murders, and kidnappings occur even outside the city. I don't want to describe particular stories, but these safety issues are part of my daily life. Because of these things, I can't drive many places by myself, I don't go anywhere by myself at night, my car doors are constantly locked, I can't go for a walk in our neighborhood alone, and I am constantly aware of what's going on around me when I'm out and about town. I don't even wear my engagement ring because I would never forgive myself if it was stolen. All of these precautions are necessary and good, but I feel like I'm losing my independence.
I used to drive eight hours to another state by myself. People in Portland aren't going to hold me at gun-point while at a stop light. I can listen to my Ipod on neighborhood streets back home and not worry about someone stealing it or stealing me. I miss my freedom these days.
When I get to America in six days, I want to drive by myself to the store just because I can - with the doors unlocked. I want to walk through a neighborhood by myself with my Ipod in my ears. I want to go to someone's house and not wait for their guard to open the gate. I want a little independence again.
(Sorry if this scares some of you. I am safe because Will and I are smart about it and we make good choices. I promise.)