Shortbread, Lies and Returns

Today I kicked off my year of living dangerously. I ate the last biscuit in the tin at work. Down with social conventions and British manners! I saw that golden Scottish shortbread, brushed aside any twinge of embarrassment and went in for the kill. And then scuttled away like a criminal crab.

I’ve been in Britain for 11 years now; I know that’s 11 years too long because when I went home to Malawi on holiday last Christmas I got sunburn, heat rash and devoured by mosquitoes. That didn’t happen a few years ago. It’s something that I do think about more often since I fired the starting gun on my 5-year plan to Return to the Motherland last year.

Yes, many an African expat (yes, expat) nurses that dream; it’s what keeps you warm in the frozen wastes of northern Europe and the rain-slicked streets of London. It’s that little tie to home that allows you to deceive yourself that no, you’re not a lifer, you haven’t drunk the kool-aid, you’re not so comfortable in your Western life that you can’t just go home.

The stories Africans tell themselves are endless. “I’ll marry at home.” “I’ll definitely move when I have kids.” “I’m building a house.” “My cousin/uncle/sister [insert relative here] is buying a plot of land for me/is going to start a business with me/says this is the time to move back home.” But sometimes, like me, you look back and suddenly a decade has passed.

The funny thing is, home is changing just as you are. You can’t go back to the country you knew as a child, you have to accept her as she is now; hopefully she’ll take you as you are too. You can always go home but you can never go back.


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