Life Abroad: Experiencing four seasons in one day
Life Abroad: Experiencing four seasons in one day: Every time I write about first impressions, I remember a story that my mum loves to tell. Though she has said it too many times, every time she narrates it, it sounds fresh and more hilarious, especially if said in my mother tongue. The story goes like this:
A long time ago, a young girl went to visit one of her aunties unannounced. When she got there, she found the family had prepared a meal that was ready to be served. She joined in. After prayers, the serving bowls were opened and the rest of the members served to their fill. She struggled serving herself. Then, her aunt served her. Seeing that everyone else was really enjoying the meal, she put up a brave face and ate. Of course she didn’t eat as much. Others made a second serving. She was disturbed. Noticing her discomfort, her aunt asked if there was a problem.
She responded. “It’s not about you, it’s about me. You see, in our house, we have never cooked flies. I didn’t know they could be served as stew.” Her aunt was concerned that this secret would be revealed, so she went out of her way the next four days to really impress her niece. She served chicken, beef, omena stew and the like. After every meal, she would ask whether her niece liked the food and what her would be when went back home. Her answer was consistent.
“When I get home, I will tell my parents that auntie cooked really well. . The food was really delicious . She made chicken, fish, omena and beef stew But, I will also them that on the first day, I ate flies.” The aunt really got bothered. She cooked everything else in a bid to erase the first impression but it was all wasted energy. The memory registered it and it was definitely going to be said over and over again.
The moral of this story is: “First impressions matter.” So with that understanding, allow me to share my first observations about my new home, Cardiff.
I haven’t experienced such an erratic and full- of- mood swings weather in my entire life as it has been the last three weeks.
You see, they tell you it rains all the time in Cardiff. That’s true. What they don’t tell you is, you will experience four seasons in a day.
You wake up in spring, before long, you are in summer, in another hour it feels like you are in winter and in another hour, you are in autumn.
The point is, you cannot plan anything with surety. Here, life is about Apps. I have downloaded 10 already. All of them are essential to my daily survival here. Invest in a hooded rain coat. It is practical and such a life saver.
Here, I am talking about the general populace and my observation around the same. By now, you know I reside off campus.
It’s about fifteen minutes from Cardiff University’s main building. I am informed that majority of the people I see are students because Cardiff has one of the largest population of students in the United Kingdom.
The city is always packed. Day in, day out. I am told it only looks like this when schools are in session. I notice that there are all types of nationalities represented. You see, I am a ‘tribeless’ Kenyan.
I really don’t care about anyone’s tribe, to me, “a person’s a person no matter the tribe” (My version of Kenya’s Wambui Collymore’s phrase, originally from Dr Seuss).
My human rights background teaches me to see everyone as human first, then stop right there. For the purpose of this blog, I can only see black and white.
Those are the only colours I notice. I can therefore, say, there are as many blacks as there are white people. It is truly a mixed racial city and I love it.
I walk around saying to myself, “Black is beautiful, just like white and we are all human, so let’s enjoy our differences but more so, celebrate our similarities.”
About 80 per cent of my classmates are of Asian origin. There are seven Africans in class and they’re from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Mauritius. All my lecturers are white.
I already suspect I will have a difficult time pronouncing the names of my Asian classmates. And who knows? Maybe I will earn a Chinese nickname too.
BIG CITY AND ITS CHARMS
There are really big malls and shopping arcades around. This means Cardiff City is definitely very touristic. Cardiff claims to be the city with high number of castles on the planet.
Other attractions include Cardiff Bay, Wales Millennium Centre, the Cardiff National Museum among others. At any given moment, you can easily spot tourists visiting the city.
You know tourists when you see them. They stand in the middle of the city centres and take selfies. They get really fascinated and impressed things that locals don’t bother about. Have you seen tourists taking photos by the ‘elephant tusks’ in Mombasa?
As locals, you look at them and wonder why anyone would want to pose with them for a selfie. But they do. And so do we, anytime we are in new places. Something like the smart connectivity at Mc Donald’s is a big fascination for me.
You mean I don’t need to have a charger to charge my phone? All I need is to place my phone on the designated area on the table and it charges?
Huh? How nice? Now, my problem with the big malls, it’s the sales they have all the time. Who doesn’t want a nice pair of shoe at 60 per cent off? I just need a prescription of how NOT to see shoes as I walk to my class.
I need a prescription of how to successfully leave my class and head home without accepting an offer to go for window shopping at TK Maxx then later leave the store with a bag in each hand.
I am looking forward to your suggestions. You see, it will be pointless for you and me, if I came back home broke after one year abroad. Help me save myself from these small addictions, I need to be controlled.
My housemates and I are truly bothered the amount of dirt lying all over the place especially in most parts of the student accommodation, Cathays being the notorious street.
Outside students’ accommodation in Cathays. PHOTO| PATIENCE NYANGE
Really, I imagine this city now would have found a better way or a system of trash collection. Walk around the night or the morning before trash gets collected and eeew, it’s really a disgusting site.
I think I have found a perfect problem statement for my course work. In the process of finding out if this is my problem or a common problem, I realise other people have also written about it. I am consoled that I am not alone. Clean environments make me happy.
I am a little perturbed, and I don’t subscribe to an “accept and move on” kind of attitude, I will therefore, engage the locals to get their thoughts on the same. Kigali in Rwanda claims the title as the cleanest city in the Africa, I wonder how they do it.
I will keep exploring and sharing my impressions in the subsequent blog posts. “Have you found a church? My mum asks all the time.” Yes, I have.
I will write about it in my monthly series of my impressions about Cardiff City and its environs. I am curious about their car parking system as well. I will do some research then write about it.
By PATIENCE NYANGE