Thursday, 20 June 2013

A Year in Summary




It has been one year, one whole year that I have counted myself a resident of Uncle Sam's land, a temporary one but a resident non-the-less. I had grand ambitions of my literary intentions in capturing this last year but as always, the gap between ambition and execution remains.

So, for now, indulge me in my summary (although not exhaustive) of my American experience so far.

Weather
We have to start with the weather, I am British (technically), after all. We landed on US soil on one of the hottest days last year with temperatures at 104 degrees farenheight (All you celsius users will have to use a browser to translate that as my assimilation has meant that I have lost a grip on centigrades!)

My small corner of the USA is humid - that's what we get for building on marsh land.

Driving
Chaos reigns, yet I have experienced less road rage. Curious.

Grocery Shopping
One stop shopping is non-exisitent and price comparison is nigh-on impossible. You pick a few brands and stick with them. We do like brands around here.

Mommy Wars
Yes, I spelt Mommy with an 'o', I think it best encapsulates this phenomenon. Mommy Wars are alive and thriving. You only have to listen to NPR (oh yes, I use the acronym for National Public Radio - part of my assimilation) to hear something or other about Sheryl Sandberg, Amy Chua, Ayelet Waldman. This then spawns countless morning show appearances by many women defending their positions, multitudes of blogs affirming such positions and endless forums on the same.

Language
Not the same. I have started using the word awesome as a catch-all to express interest, excitement and happiness. I have also resorted to making sympathetic faces for not so happy situations. This way, I think I am understood most of the time although they might think I am a bit odd if not a bit simple.

Accent
I have a weird Kenyan-British accent. To many Americans I have encountered, it sounds British, then cut to close up of my face or any part of my body where my skin colour is exposed - then you can see the confusion on their faces.

Race
It is a joy most days to live in what appears to be a racially integrated society. For me, the small happinesses are walking around town and not being the only black face. Seeing many people of colour in professional capacities and in positions of privilege.

This is the 'greatest country on earth' with a black president. So much so, that many describe it as a post-racial America. You do not have to dig deep to see that this is a farce. The inequalities are there. You only have to stand outside a food bank to see that most of it's users are disproportionately people of colour. I live in a so called 'bad area' and it seems more densely populated by people of colour than other parts of Columbia.

I moved to Britain determined to be seen as a person first and my race as a secondary issue. I would like to think that I succeeded for the most part. This country cannot seem to afford me that same opportunity. Worse is reference to me as an African American. If I must be defined by a point of origin, I would like everyone to know that I am Kenyan - yes I am African but in American lingo that is reference to a place with a homogenous culture and people. I find that offensive.

So when faced with the question as to where are you from: in my head, I am thinking - my mother's womb but instead I say : "awesome, well I grew up in Kenya but lived in Britian for about 10 years".

Labels
We like them here. Republicans, Democrats, Conservatives, Liberals...the list goes on. A dichotomy in any such labeled area of life is beyond understanding. You have to pick your box with your particular label to be understood. I would like to think of myself as a Christian Liberal but apparently that is a contradiction in terms.


If you have read the above and thought that I am not happy here, it is quite the opposite. My time in America is for a defined period. So far I have met people from different walks of life that I may never have met. I am enjoying the positive smiley faces I encounter, great parks, outdoor pools and drive through anything.

If you have stayed with me so far, thank you. If you would care to send me your thoughts - hopefully not telepathically --that would be appreciated! Share this if you will and if it sparks a conversation - awesome!