Happy-sad to be back home

Finally, I’m back home. I don’t know if I’m happy or sad. Maybe both. I returned at a period when the economy is in crisis. Inflation is soaring and the value of the shilling is on free fall. I can’t believe how expensive life is here, how much I pay for transport, for basic commodities, and it makes me wonder how people survive. It makes me scratch my head how I’m going to survive these tough times, seeing that I have to start from scratch.

Before going to Nepal, I gave away everything I owned. I carried my valuables in a small suitcase, and for the last two years, everything I valued in my life could be packed into a rucksack. Now I have to start buying everything I need to make a house feel like a home, and wow, it’s scary! On top of that, I have to live for several months, even a whole year, without an income, for we in the business of storytelling, more often than not, live on empty stomachs. I wish I was Stephen King! No—I wish I had a simpler ambition in life, like to be a teacher, or a plumber, or an electrician. I would have long ago settled into a simple life, got married, had three kids—but I’m cursed to tell stories so I should carry the burden like Jesus bore his cross to death.
This photo describes Uganda today. A used charcoal stove, unsold bananas, broken bikes, and a beggar.    
I’m sad to be home because I don’t get attention anymore. In Nepal, if I went into a shop, I got first-class attention, and many times I escaped the pains of standing in a queue. Whatever negative attitude they had about Africans, they respected me because I was a foreigner. They thought I had money.
someone was always trying to take my photo

So after two years of living like a first-class passenger in a luxury cruise, I fall off the sky into the harsh reality of an anonymous starving artist. Three days ago, I tried to reactivate my old phone number, but what a treatment I got from a receptionist in an MTN service center! All the time she talked to me she didn’t take her eyes off the TV. I thought the TV was for clients to look at as they endured unbelievably long queues, but this girl thought they put it there for her entertainment. Her replies were terse, what I call “auto-reply,” when you are on auto-pilot in a conversation. Monosyllables like “yes,” “no,” “I don’t know.” I got so pissed off that I decided not to buy an MTN SIM pack.

I instead went to the Orange shop next door, but was it any better? The receptionist or cashier or salesgirl or whatever they are called looked at me with this blank look when I walked up to her. She didn’t even say “hi,” or “hello,” or “how can I help you.” Certainly she didn’t give me the smiles that greeted me in each shop I entered in Nepal. She just stared at me as if I was blocking her way to the toilet, yet she has diarrhea. I figure she didn’t like her job much. She didn’t say much to me. I spoke and she pulled out a SIM pack. I paid and she gave me my balance without a word and kept looking at me like she was a zombie, so I fled from the shop, feeling very stupid with myself.
But slowly I’m getting used to being anonymous again. It’s a good thing. At least I don’t get cheated, and I don’t have to argue over the price of everything. It’s such a relief not to be stared at every time you walk down the street.
In Nepal, I got stared at so much that I felt like a fish in a bowl. Every time I walked down the street, I felt like a model on the catwalk, with people taking photos using their mobile phones, others giggling and calling out to each other saying, “Look! Look! A habsi!” It wasn’t just because I was a six-foot-tall African living in a village where they had never seen black people before. The white couple who lived a few houses away from me suffered the staring just the same. When they had just moved in, people would knock on their door, and they would open to find a crowd of about six people at their doorstep. And these people would not speak. They would only stare, not even respond to the “hello, how can I help you.” It’s as if they had come to see animals in a zoo—and certainly when you go to the zoo and the monkeys talk to you, do you respond?
They stared, even while I was in the privacy of my room.
One time, I was standing by the street with a friend, just talking. This was in New Road, a very busy part of Kathmandu City. I wasn’t aware that I had caused a jam, for drivers slowed down their vehicles to gawp at me. Pedestrians stopped too, forming a crowd around me, to stare. Angry and embarrassed, I escaped into the nearest shop, and the crowd dissipated. The jam vanished.
Another time, on the same New Road, I caused an accident. This guy was riding a motorcycle, but he couldn’t take his eyes off me. He only realized his mistake when he ran into a car. Luckily, he wasn’t injured, and his motorcycle had only minor damage.

I suffered that kind of staring for twenty months. Not even a superstar gets that kind of attention, not even a fish in a bowl. And I can’t say I’m sad that I’m once again anonymous.


This post is written for Blog-A-Licious Blog Tour 7 a fantastic blog hop that brings together bloggers of all genres, backgrounds and locations. Check out Stuart Aken’s blog  and Dora’s Peace from Pieces . Enjoy the tour with us. Click HERE.

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12 thoughts on “Happy-sad to be back home”

  1. That was such an interesting post. I have never been to Nepal. I love reading about real travel, its so cool reading about your adventures away from home. It just goes to show how we judge one another. Also how differently other cultures behave. I remember a friend of mine came from India and went back there to see family. She walked on the streets in shorts and a tshirt, and was stared at, as they don't respect women who arnt covered.

  2. Thx for the comment Editor, yes the staring is a little more than curious staring. I'm told it happens all over South Asia, and to some extent in South East Asia as well. I know people from the Horn of Africa also stare a bit, but not this much. And foreigners will get attention in rural Africa, but not to this extent. It's always polite attention.

  3. Sounds like going home is a bit of a culture shock–when really–it should be leaving home that brings that about. I never thought of it in reverse, LOL. Wonderful insight–I appreciate you sharing!! Cheers, Jenn

  4. Dilman, glad you made it home safely, sad to see you are enjoying it, but not enjoying it! Good you are adapting back to your not so popular self.

    If I walk into a shop and I am not treated like they want to "earn their sell" then I walk right out and find another shop to buy my goods.

    You were the center of their attention back in Nepal, I wonder if they miss you too?

    Thanks for sharing,

  5. @Debbie, the friends I made there do miss me, I think. I keep getting long emails stained with tears… :-)) I hope they will one day visit me in Uganda as well.

  6. @Jenn, yes, there's something called Reverse Culture shock. My girlfriend told me I'll experience it, and I rubbished her claims, but now I think she was right :-)) the woman is always right!

  7. The things we take for granted are many. Enjoying others and places is a gift. The saying is a prophet receives no honor in his hometown. Glad for you that you went home though. Great post.


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