Why I act the way I do when I come back home from Diaspora-Letter to Biko Zulu
Dear Mr. Biko Zulu and comrades, I hope this letter finds you in good health back home. We are doing quite well here except for the economic crisis that is depriving our pockets. This year, we might not be indulging as usual. But we will still make sure we send enough money for school fees, food and funerals. However, we might not be able to visit the motherland in large numbers as our tradition mandates. We recently received your letter nanoseconds after you sent it: http://bikozulu.co.ke/a-letter-to-kenyans-abroad/. Thanks to our fast Internet speeds. First we would like to apologize for the hard times that our brothers and sisters have given you, except we have no apologies currently available. It happens. That’s how it is. However, you have to apologize to us and to the rest of the Kenyans for your name. Biko Zulu? Where is your real name? Since when did we run out of authentic Kenyan names? Can you stop hiding your Kenyan name and wear it proudly? We import many things from the diaspora but names should not be part of the list. Get a Kenyan name if you don’t have one before you start criticizing our mannerisms. Mr Biko, you are very right that about our dollars – no one gives it to us for free. We work hard for them. And when we have made the money, we pay our bills, we pay school fees for our siblings, we buy 10 sacks of fertilizer for our relatives in the village and, finally, we buy that air ticket! That’s why when we come we splash money. We do it because we have worked hard for it! We buy expensive clothes and expensive drinks because we can afford to! Why would anyone continue drinking safari cane when he can afford champagne? Why live in Kibera when you can live in Westlands? Mr Biko, we all love nice things even herein the diaspora. When we come home, things are mad cheap. We don’t simply buy stuff, we shop and we have no regrets! We are not trying to keep appearances. No, we are acting normal, spending as usual. That’s how it is. Mr Biko, why bite the hand that feeds you? I have heard of countless tales of financial expectations directed at the citizens of diaspora. You should do more justice to our financial contributions that we inject to the economy: remittances are just but underestimated. You forgot what happens after we land at JKIA. The numerous dinners we are invited to, only to be left to settle the bill. What of the villagers, near and distant relatives who see us as their financial Messiahs. Strange tales of financial woes greet us wherever we go. Talk of how the only family cow had suddenly died days before your arrival, yet there was no money to replace it. Tales of the most expensive tea served in the village: a neighbor inviting you for tea only to pour out her financial inflictions until you part with Ksh. 2000. Sometimes it happens that an arrival causes so much excitement that a neighbor decides to go to labor – good news because your arrival was in God’s plan. Then you have to fork that 10k for transport, maternity fees, and diapers and cerelac! How forgetful of them that, sometimes, we are mere students with expenses, struggling to make ends meet between classes and homework – working odd shifts to pay for tuition, food etc. That we too have expenses and budgets. That some of us have families – and boy, daycare is mad expensive here! Yet we do not complain because we understand ‘things are hard’ back in Kenya. Given your preference for Russian quotations, it seems you believe more in Mikhail Gorbachev than Obama – I don’t believe in either. If the only way to change home is to be home then how have you changed home yourself? Why have the 40 million Kenyans not changed home yet? It’s because change is hard to come by –it takes time and comes in many forms. We might be thousands of miles away but we are still making strides. We work hard and save to make sure that our siblings, relatives and neighbors get better education. We send a few dollars here and there to help a brother start a kiosk. Many households are alive with electricity at night, thanks to the sons and daughters in the diaspora. We heavily invest in our economy. Isn’t that change? Social media is a powerful tool for exchanging ideas. But apparently Kenyans at home are better at using social media than those in diaspora. So is this how Kenyans at home make noise? We stoke Boniface Mwangi’s fires on Facebook then we go on Youtube to see if he survived the fracas. That’s cowardice! You want Boniface to get burned but you would rather sit and hide behind the safety of your screen. Since you are the Kenyan at home, why don’t join Boniface on the street, Mr Biko? We have realised that the only way we can fight these politicians and their endless plunder and greed is through the mighty power of Retweet!. Have you? No you haven’t! Your tweets will drown in the churning sea of social media melee… Walk the talk! Be brave! Furthermore, behind the veil of online anonymity, how many Kenyans have you and your comrades murdered on Facebook and Twitter? How many killed Caroline Mutoko online? When Ngunyi talked the truth, how many RIPed him on Facebook? Oh yes, remember Tujuane? The show should be renamed Tuuane. Mr Biko, are we you talking of the same Kenyans who unanimously executedand buried Mirfat on Facebook? When are you electronically cremating Edah Otieno? Accents. Don’t be too quick to judge when we ask for ‘warrer’ because we have had to do what we had to do to survive. We have had our embarrassing moments, when we requested for ‘water’. You should have seen them laugh when we asked for ‘coke’. We’ve had our times, good and bad. There were countless times when professors and others repeatedly asked me us to ‘come again, please’. Pardon us, perhaps our problem is that we learn quickly, may be too quickly. Soon enough, we went from‘it is what it is’ to ‘ir is war ir is’. And we’ve got no apologies to make. We are still not perfect yet. For some reason, many of us still can’t quite differentiate between ‘walk’ and ‘work’, ‘coke’ and ‘cock’, ‘cant’ and “c…’,‘hungry’ and ‘angry’. We are still refining our accents, yet you and others are busy complaining already! Please let us be. Wait till we master the American tongue! If you are adamant on criticizing our acquired accents, you should start by criticizing Kiraitu Murungi for mispronouncing the word ‘bus’. Kiraitu’s ‘Mbas’ would not make much sense if he didn’t talk of the ‘ndriver’. In my village, a bus is called ‘pas’. No one has or should have the right to blame him because he spent more than 20 years conversing in his native dialect. The man grew up where every pupil, primary and high school teacher was a Meru – where everybody understood the word ‘mbas’ meant ‘bus’. Even animals are not immune to this cultural heritage. In Kamba if you tell a dog ‘kuja hapa’ the dog will simple look at you uncertain of what to make of your words. But if you told the same dog, ‘kuya hapa’, the dog would come running like an antelope. Same applies to American dogs, and people of course. So do not blame us, because wherever we are, everybody including dogs understands ‘warrer’ to mean ‘water’. Ir is warr ir is! Security. My friend, we are very wary of insecurity everywhere. Just because we lived in Kenya for twenty something years is no reason for us to be less vigilant. Everywhere we go, even in the diaspora, we are circumspect. I am sure you read of the numerous homicides committed against Kenyans in the US recently – thanks to the Daily Nation et al! So it should be no surprise that we appear too wary when we walk the city. We have acquired expensive property that makes us prime targets. In this technology era, it’s not uncommon to arm ourselves with Ipads, Ipods, and I-phones! We have them because we need them. And we can afford them too. Everything is not for show. We have work and other important matters to attend to via email. Ask your diaspora brothers and sisters -they will tell you that some companies actually require smart phones for work. But in any case, there is nothing illegal with owning the latest I-phone 6s. If victims are being sent to the ICU for possessing a Ksh 1,000 phone sembuse I-phone?! You must be joking! English Grammar Finally, I find your critique of your Loita street conversation quite silly. You attack this poor fella’s grammar as if he is a native speaker. Did you know that Americans are terrible at grammar as well? Now you know. You will be pleased to find a number of grammatical inconsistencies in this response because I have not, and I care less, about a perfect presentation, especially for you. I have seen many people like you on facebook and elsewhere online illustriously ridiculing others for their grammatical inadequacies. I call it idiocy because I believe in communication rather than stupid grammatical rules that we need not adhere to. Have you ever listened to the typical Kenyan Swahili conversations? They are riddled with egregious violations of grammatical rules yet we still manage to communicate among the 42 tribes. I and many others engage with our friends in the villages and elsewhere – those not privileged enough to have had complete formal education. They have very powerful ideas despite their unsophisticated use of language – you should listen to them! Perhaps you and your comrades should join TSC to become teachers of language and literature. Mr Biko, do not complain about our accents and our money. Tame your resentment and bitterness, we still love you. We love our country very much, that’s why we keep coming back. We have seen efficiency, that’s why we complain. That’s just the way it is. We will keep sending them dollars and Euros and rupees and Renminbis. And finally, get yourself a real name from where the remains of your ancestors lie. Eti Zulu Biko, omera yawa!? I mean: Ir is war ir is (It is what it is) By Jalis Lagong- [email protected] Related story;
A letter to Kenyans Abroad also known as Diaspora
___________________________________________________________________________________________ Disclaimer Opinion/Views expressed in this OP-ED are those of the author and does not reflect believes and the thinking of Diaspora Messenger. If offended or disagree with the content, kindly contact the Author directly through the email provided.