Beautiful Desperation

There’s something about writing blog posts that makes me anxious.  The evil Writing-Block Monster lurks around every corner and prods me sharply, to “do it later”.  Some people call it procrastination.  I like call it what it really is – the Writing-Block Monster.

I’m entering my third week in Aotearoa – the Land of the Long White Cloud (aka Godzone, aka New Zealand).  The past month has been a sensory overload with so many images, people and events.  Whilst it has been enjoyable, it left me desperately clutching to my memories of Kenya.

I left Kenya a week before Christmas and headed to Nigeria for two weeks to spend time with my extended family and attend a few functions.  It my first time travelling to Nigeria by myself and I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun I ended up having.  I was able to connect with my family in a deeper way and see more of Lagos and Anambra State than I usually get to.  I also attended a few traditional marriages and was involved in two (one of which was a spontaneous involvement).  I relished this experience as it helped me understand and appreciate the culture of my people more.


In and amongst all the excitement the difficult conversations – or “ice-bergs” never failed to appear.

“You need to settle down.  Our village needs another Ozumba daughter to wed.”

Yes, Uncle.

“You need to come back to Nigeria and live.  Then everything will be good.”

Ok Aunty, you see it’s not that simple…

“You need to forget about all this Western culture, you’re in Africa now.”

Hold the phone.  Wait, what?  Forget about what?  Forget half of myself?  Forget that it was my Western up-bringing that led me to question the way things are; eventually leading me to Kenya?  Um no.  Not happening.

And so there it began – the desperate clamouring for my memories of Kenya.  It was almost as if my experiences, my friends, the work that I did were floating away like helium balloons I accidentally let go of.

Today I was fortunate to catch up with my friend Yong, who had recently come back to NZ after spending two years in Tanzania.  It was helpful to hear about his adjustments and wrestling; and to process back and forth.  One point from the conversation that stuck out to me was – now that I am here, how do I become fully present here, right now?  Which memories do I keep and which ones to do I allow to float away like helium balloons as I seek to become relevant in this context?  Inevitably, this must happen if I am to relate to people around me in an effective manner…

One balloon I refuse to let go of is my desire to make an impact (no matter how small) in the human rights landscape in Sub-Saharan Africa.


3 thoughts on “Beautiful Desperation

  1. Hey Jen,

    Loved your post. Must’ve been a little awkward navigating the pressure to ‘be like us’ without seeming like you were rejecting Nigerian culture. Looking forward to seeing your calling clarify as to how your life will impact (no matter how BIG!) sub-Saharan Africa.


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