There was a single white cloud dangling over the Avila, casting a dark shadow on the sharp green edges of this little mountain. I stood near my window and looked interestedly as it moved sideways towards El Paraiso, then sharply towards Chacao, fading slowly into the distance as if escaping an impending obstacle ahead.
Life was going great. I had received my big promotion at work and the house I was living in was majestic. From a tiny bedsitter in the outskirts of Nairobi to a three-bedroomed maisonette in Caracas, you could say I was living the dream.
I did not want for nothing. The fridge was fully stocked and the two entertainment areas in my house were buzzing with sounds from the NBA channels. It was either the Pacers game or the Warriors. I had options. Life was good.
See, dreams are amazing things. They are these invisible pushes that motivate you to do even better in life. They nudge you towards things that non dreamers deem impossible. And when they come true, they elevate you into the upper echelons of life and make you an important person. (My dream was to go abroad. And not only that, to assimilate into a new society. To become like them and to be one of them).
So I kept at this dream. I read books about these places, listened to songs from the greatest rappers to perfect my swagger and watched films by my favourite actors: Anthony Hopkins and the like. To put it simply, I was a well prepared diasporan in the making. My 16 years of practice would come in handy when I occupied these spaces.
My dreams of going abroad were inspired by my grandfather whose tales of travel to Georgia and other places had made me promise myself that I would go there someday.
However, reality is a strange thing. It shoots you back to a time when dreams must meet reality and for the first time in 20 years I feel like an outsider. Not just in the common sense of the word, but a proper outsider who has little room in this fabric. You know how you would walk down the streets of Nairobi and not worry about being seen? Here I stand out. The only black girl who lives in this ‘posh’ area of Las Mercedes.
My walks to school very early in the morning are usually interrupted by loud shouts of ‘Negro’, followed by some Spanish chatter and laughter.
Here, I have to watch how loud I laugh lest I appear aggressive and a bit of a threat.
I have to hone in my emotions if I want to fit in. The days of taking someone to the side when they have done you wrong and giving them a piece of your mind, as I came to find out, are totally frowned upon and could earn you lots of enemies if you are not careful.
Here, body language can be off putting. You see those days when you would frown when you heard something unpleasant or shake your head when you disagreed with a sentiment, those days don’t ‘exist’ here. Here, you speak calmly. Always. Excitement and enthusiasm have expressive limits. They have to be reined in.
Here, your friends are not necessarily your friends. I mean, just because you spend the weekend with a few people sharing food and enjoying a game of football together does not necessarily make them your friends. It is called socialising.
Here, there are no salons for my hair. My hairdresser is a cleaner at my school. She is also a black woman from Trinidad and Tobago who is also learning this art of dreadlock weaving.
Here, everything is brilliant. Even when it is not. Being honest is something that is measured. Things are people-pleasing.
Here, loneliness is part of your existence as an outsider. This fabric has been cut to fit a certain size and there is almost no wiggle room for new members. Here, you are on your own.
So I do as every outsider would do. I enjoy the confines of my home. Here I have options. I can at least replicate the essence of belonging. Cook some ugali and sukuma wiki, binge on some NTV news on the BBI via YouTube TV and sing along to Sauti Sol. (Senjeeeee halo halo halo)
Here, I look forward to going back home to a place that accepts you as you are. A place that has no rules. Where your loud laughter is infectious and makes your ribs hurt. A place where five minutes of interacting with a stranger makes them a lifelong friend. Where even when you are alone, you are not lonely. Where honesty is welcome and salons are abundant.
The writer is a Language and Literature teacher in Caracas, Venezuela, and author of My Six Little Fears, the poetry chapbook collection.