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Thursday, April 26, 2012

An i-pad winning story(convert)

You don't gotta tell me that you feeling this shit/ I can hear what am saying i know am killing this shit-50 Cent.

It takes special balls to be a rapper, to go on the same scene with people who are your heroes, your influences, legends in your mind and then say you are better than them. The above statement is an example of this, a snide casting aside of the need for affirmation and adulation. I wish I could be like him but I need to be told every once in a while, I live in the shadow of insecurity and what-ifs and yes I have my moments when I don't need it but every once in a while... which is why it was great to read what the judges in the fk-world blogging competition said about me:

His writing is funny, poetic and metaphoric with literary quality to it. The reader is drawn into his descriptions of what it is like being from Kenya and living in Norway, and the blog is filled with interesting reflections. Gragory manages to integrate knowledge even in the anecdotal and includes lots of good advice to his reader, eg “Convert. Don’t convert” – allowing for puns and double meanings.

And what is "convert. don't convert" ?, here for your consumption is my award winning post:

So, how do you learn to live in a foreign country, one so vastly different from home that your experiences, culturally, socially, economically have absolutely no bearing on anything you have seen before?

Try not to convert.
How can you bear it when a beer in the club costs 58 kroner, the equivalent of almost 1,000 Kenyan shillings. In Kenya this was 5 beers in the club, in Kenya this was the money I used for a whole week as a university student. But you can't think in Kenyan money otherwise you won't eat.

Don't convert.
How can you bear it when its defined as a warm day simply because the weather is at 5 degrees. In Kenya I was shivering at 18, 15 was too cold too bear. The June and July seasons were a nightmare of numbing proportions thoughts of frostbite actually entered my head as my hands entered my pocket. So 5 degrees is warm? But you can't think in Kenyan weather otherwise you won't move.

Do not convert.

How can you bear it when your definition of planning ahead is shot to hell. Book a ticket 2 weeks in advance and you're cutting it close, 3 weeks in advance, ah you're catching up, 4 weeks in advance then you begin to reap the benefits of the price tags of early tickets. Back home this kind of planning was futility. A bus ticket may have been available that far in advance but who would take it? Who can say with absolute certainty that on the 23rd of December he will be travelling upcountry to see his parents even though its already the 16th. Who knows what will happen?

In this regard at least we seem to be guided by the story of the man, the king and the horse, a man is sentenced to death and he tells the king in his desperation, please give me a year of life and I will teach your horse to fly. The king being possessed with curiosity grants him this boon. The man walks out gaily. He is asked what he thinks he gained by this reprieve and he says;

"in a year the horse may die, the king may die, I may die and who knows the horse may even learn to fly."
In three weeks the mountain may very well come to Mohammed and the prophet will be stuck with a ticket up country that he can't use. But you can't think in Kenyan uncertainties otherwise you won't save.

But don't worry

Directions here are simple, a street name, a number and you can find anything. Put this into google maps or use an actual map. You will be told what tram to take and what time it gets there, how many minutes walk it is to the place and if you actually get lost ask for directions and trust the person you are asking, the honesty to say "I don't know" is a Norwegian characteristic that will save you a lot of time. In Kenya directions begin with, "do you know the grey building? Ok now walk ahead until you see the other blue one, turn around until you see the old guy selling newspapers and next to him there's a guy shining shoes now squeeze between them and... " if you ask a guy on the streets for directions he may pause in puzzlement and frown his lack of certainty at you, if you still feel like trusting him follow his fingers on a wild goose chase to the ends of your wits.


Sometimes the loneliness is gnawing. Away from home, away from friends, away from family, away from everything that's familiar. You begin to ask yourself if you are the problem, you haven't made as many friends as you thought you would, you haven't had as much fun, haven't fallen as in love as the excitement of leaving home left you thinking would happen. When you are making more money in one month than you thought you would be this close to your birth. And nothing makes sense. Don't convert.
Then there's a random smile in the street and a telling glance, there's a beer bought and enjoyed, there's a flight bought and paid for, there's a friend made and spent time with, there's a new family being formed, a new home being built and a new love being felt.

So do convert.
Home is where the heart is but it can also be converted to home is where the hat is and right now my hat is in Norway. I think in kroner not shillings, in maps not words, I look at clothes to determine my activities not weather .
Its only when you allow yourself to convert that you realise the beauty of anything new. Only when you stand the cold of it can you see the beauty of the snow. When you hear a Norwenglish sentence like "those which want to go..." and its inflection stirs a little something in your heart then you are beginning to convert.

Convert your expectations, convert the way you talk and the way you act, convert the things you expect and you will find a way to enjoy the things you receive.
There's a world of familiarity of hope and comfort that comes of a stranger saying to you I hope you have a good night, but this is not a stranger anymore, this is a friend, a conversation converted that way of thinking too. A talk about borders and wealth, about disparity and inefficiency, a talk about differences which in the end is always a talk in similarities.

The world too converts
And as the winter is converted into spring the days get longer, the sun gets warmer, the smiles get wider, the walks get slower. The flowers bloom and it feels good. It feels like this is where my heart is.

After all who wouldn't be at home in a country where the verb for being married is the same as the verb for being poisoned. That sense of humour is a Norwegian gift(gift in Norwegian is the verb spoken about.)