As many of you have noticed I haven’t posted in a while – I was on holiday in awemazing Kenya – the only place on earth where anyone can shout ‘wamlembez’ and a whole bunch of people scream ‘wamyonyez’ – things I hear. I later asked someone what it meant: I can’t or won’t write it out loud – so if you know you know and if you don’t well…… ask around.
Being home with loved ones is one of the best feelings ever, and many diasporans have said to me that they (temporarily) forget their diasporan problems. They enjoy being home so much that the idea of finding heaps of red bills blocking the door isn’t too daunting: not too daunting until they have to literally push the door open to get in. Despite that thought, it’s a blessing to have a home to return to in a foreign country. There are many people in the diaspora that have no homes and by many accounts have nowhere to return to at home.
You may remember the plight of Dan Mutungi, a homeless Kenyan man, who was filmed by someone (by consent I presume) begging in the streets somewhere in Luton. He was appealing for assistance which, as it turned out, was assistance to pay a fine slapped on him by the council for begging. Dan explained that he was from Machakos and had been in the UK since 1992. Other than funds to pay the fine, he was appealing for food and shelter.
It was a sad situation and a lot of people asked why he couldn’t ‘just’ return to Kenya. I think it’s unfair when people use the word ‘just’ so loosely – because there could be a multitude of reasons why he hasn’t returned home or couldn’t. For starters, he claimed to have lost his passport and we all know hard it is to renew a Kenyan passport in the UK let alone replace one.
It’s also unfair because most of us know how it feels to be a foreign native – to look Kenyan, to sound like one, to visit every year, to have loving families who welcome you with open arms, but still feel like a foreigner in your country of birth and youth. Like when someone shouts ‘wamlembez’ in your apartment block and everyone but you reply ‘wanyonyez’ then you know what I mean. There is also the unspoken propensity to judge the foreign natives more harshly than the natives.
I have no idea what happened to Dan. Recent google search did not generate anything new.
A few days ago, another story (video interview) of a homeless Kenyan surfaced on Facebook – this time it was a woman named Peggy. In the video she explained that she was the firstborn of three children: she has three brothers and her mum is a single mum who lives in Kenya. Peggy, who was born in Kenya, explained that her mum worked and still works very hard, and despite having a hard life she’s managed to be an international businesswoman. Peggy describes that life as ‘brutal’.
She explains that her mother’s international businesswoman status can explain why they were all internationally educated and lives in 3 different continents: “We were educated internationally. We went to different countries. I came to England, Steven went to America, and George went to Manchester (huh….). He was here with me and Kevin went to a South Malaysian country.” She explains.
Peggy has an 11-year-old daughter – it is not clear where this child is, but it can be speculated that she’s most likely with social services or in foster care. When asked by the interviewer where the child was, her demeanour changed and said, “she’s around…. around here somewhere”.
Peggy sounded like an extremely well educated articulate person, but something about the way she spoke cast a shadow of doubt as to her overall stability – one can speculate she’s addicted to something – most likely alcohol – and this might be the reason she lost everything, including her child. She was very emotional as she recounted how she came to the UK to undertake a master’s course and how her mother had begged her to stay…”When I came to England, I came to undertake my master’s in international marketing. It was a short stint because the course was short too and I had already done my bachelor’s degree. When I went home, my mother begged me to stay, stating that she had a bad premonition, but I didn’t understand,” Peggy cried.
This story had me in tears because it could happen to the best of us. It’s painful to listen to someone explain how they must fight off thugs, rapists and drug addicts on a daily basis, and how social services won’t help them because they sound intelligent and don’t exhibit obvious signs of mental instability or drug abuse. They should probably watch this video because there’s clear evidence of incoherence and disjointed fragments of information which could mean a tormented mind.
A lot of people commented – but most poignant was how people urged her to pack her bags, or no bags for that matter, and head off home. Others urged her to see a doctor because no matter how intelligent she sounded, one can’t help but pick the subtle cues of incoherence, confusion and desperation. The desperation in her voice fluctuates with emotions and utter helplessness.
Once upon a time I was homeless in this land of milk and honey – not in the same way as Peggy, I had a roof over my head only I couldn’t call it home – but homeless the same. I can’t even begin to explain the desperation, isolation and hopelessness one feels while in the absolute depth of psychological agony: I was lucky I had very supportive friends and family and it all worked out for me. People should be more considerate when making comments and/or ‘advising’ because sometimes what a person needs more than anything is a listening ear because some comments and advice are the same as kicking someone when they are down. The silver lining though was that some of the comments sounded like actual proactive help.
Be considerate when advising because you just never know why a person hasn’t thought it that way.
I’ll follow up on Peggy and advice in due course.