I’m currently back in Kenya visiting my sister and my newborn nephew. I’ve been back for just shy of 2 weeks now, and although this was once my home, things are very different now. I still consider Kenya to be a second home to me and I always will, however, when I come back for visits nowadays things aren’t the same. It got me thinking about the reality of having grown up the way I have.
If you’ve been with me from the start or know me personally, you’ll know that I’ve had what one usually calls a unique upbringing.
Born in Australia, moved to Kenya when I was 10, went to boarding school in England for 4 years from the age of 15, moved to Austria when I was 18, only to move back to Australia when I was 19.
You could say it was a pretty hectic lifestyle I lived for those 9 years from when I originally left Australia to when I finally returned home.
I know I referred to the experience as a unique one, which it certainly was, and almost everyone I meet exclaims .‘that’s so cool, you’re so lucky!’ For the majority of it, yes I agree with them, but for the other half of the time no one really understands just how hard or, let’s be completely honest, shitty it was and still is.
My sister, who I spent practically 3 years living with in England (just the two of us), still lives in Kenya, and my parents, who I’ve technically not lived with on a full time basis since I was 15 (due to boarding school), still live in Austria.
Although these factors are up there with being some of the difficulties of the life I live, I’m almost becoming immune to it. For the most part, I’m lucky enough to see my parents and sister at least once a year, and sometimes I’ve been super lucky to see them more than once a year.
The part that I really struggle with, and I’m currently facing as I sit here in Kenya, comes down to my friends.
Having lived in Kenya for 5 years prior to moving to England, I had established countless friendships and always had people to hang out with. When I lived in Kenya but went to school in England, not seeing my Kenyan friends for a few months wasn’t that hard because I knew that at the end of the term I’d get to go home and see them all. A select few of them were even in the same situation as me (at school in England) so I’d sometimes get to see them while we were both there.
It wasn’t really until I moved to Austria in 2013 that things started to get hard friendship wise. Because I had not gone to school or previously lived in Austria my friendship circle consisted, literally, of no one; so coming ‘home’ to Vienna at the end of the term was incredibly difficult for me because I knew I had no friends there to look forward to catching up with. All I wanted to do was to go back to Kenya and be with my friends there.
Things sucked for a while, but I got through it, and eventually after finishing high school I moved back to Australia for university.
Here lies the other hard part of constantly moving. I had been away from Australia for a total of 9 years now. You’d think that in 9 years a lot would have changed, but that’s not entirely the case.
Some how everything was the same yet very different, if that makes sense.
I was still friends with the girls that I was friends with from primary school, but in turn they had their own friends that they had made from after I had left Australia. They had 9 years worth of memories with these people and not that many with me, the girl who had moved to Africa when she was 10 but was suddenly back. Fortunately they are a great bunch of girls who really made an effort to make me feel included.
I’ve even been fortunate enough to catch up with some of my Kenyan friends in Australia, and even had some friends from England come all the way out to visit me in Melbourne.
But even then, I was missing my friends from Kenya and England, and the lifestyle I had, especially in Kenya.
And now this is what I find myself facing today, here in Kenya; a place I used to beg and fight to go back to. In the 12 days that I’ve been here so far, I have caught up with a total of 1 friend. This isn’t by choice, it is down to the mere fact that in the 4 years since my leaving Kenya, all of my friends have essentially gone their separate ways, headed off to universities in either England, America or other parts of Africa. As a result, each time I come ‘home’ to Kenya, less and less of my friends are around for me to catch up with.
And this is honestly the hardest thing for me to cope with. Before I come back to Kenya, I have all these memories of my time here, experiences with friends and souvenirs in my mind of previous trips. So much so that these create expectations for me, I expect to catch up with every single person I consider a friend here, I expect to be doing something each and every day with someone in particular or a group of people; expectations that are continuously shattered.
A place that was once so familiar to me, is slowly becoming more and more of a stranger. And that is the reality behind moving numerous times and leaving behind places and people that were once home.
No doubt the next 4 weeks of my time in Kenya will continue to be hard as the memories with certain friends will not be relived.
I have to face the reality that comes with moving, and that is that it will never be an easy experience. Realistically, for the rest of my life and the countless times I’m likely to move in the future I will continue to experience the same situations and emotions.
If there’s anything that I’ve learnt recently on the topic of this it is this:
You can’t expect things to constantly remain the same. Change is inevitable and no one can stop it. Friends come and go, people move on, don’t take it personally, it’s just life.