My Year In Kenya

By Rose Miyonga

 Rose Donkey thandiekay.comIt’s the heat that hits you first.

As soon as I step off the plane at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport it envelops me in a familiar embrace and I know that although I am more than 4000 miles away from London, I am home.

It was never my intention to take a year out from my degree at University College London and move to Kenya. It was actually conceived during a conversation with my sister, Poppy, who is a photographer and lives in Nairobi, on the way to Heathrow Airport.

“Why don’t you come to Kenya for a year?”

She suggested. “I can’t just…” I stuttered

“Why not? If you want to be a writer, write, and if you don’t like being in London, come to Kenya.”

So I did.

On the outside, it could look like I was in the throes of a breakdown: I dropped out of university, got a tattoo and moved to another continent, but I was actually calm and joyful, seeing my life with clarity and enthusiasm for the first time in what felt like years.

Poppy & Me in Tsavo National Park, Kenya c. 2001

Kenya is where I was born, and it is my Fatherland, so in a way it made total sense to go back there, move in with my sister and get a job as a writer. I went with the blessing of my family and my university, and I didn’t feel nervous stepping off the plane into that warm Nairobi night. Instead, I had managed to find a remarkable power: confidence.

I don’t believe in fate or destiny. I believe in making things happen, in asking for what you want and embracing opportunities (and working hard, sometimes).

When I arrived in Kenya, I didn’t really have a plan. Poppy and I went back to her house and ate brownies and chatted and laughed long into the night, and the next few days were spent visiting old friends and enjoying the sunshine.

It wasn’t until I had been in Kenya for a few days that the enormity of what I had done really struck me.

I had been living independently to varying degrees since I was 16, but support from my family, scholarships and student loans had meant that I’d never felt entirely financially self-sufficient. A paying job was for the first time not a way to make extra cash, but an urgent necessity.

Luckily, Poppy once more had a simple solution, and introduced me to a friend who offered me her job: my first full-time paying job as a writer.

I very deliberately went back to Kenya for myself, to nurture myself and reconnect with my Kenyan identity and my Kenyan family, to seek new adventures in a place that I call home.

I stopped acting out of fear and obligation and started acting with confidence and vitality.

EM8A5720Now, back in drizzly London and preparing for a new adventure in Madrid this September, I carry the memory of re-learning what I first learned as a young child: how to ask for what I want and how to approach life with confidence and a willingness to have fun along the way. 

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Rose Miyonga is [currently] a London-based student, writer and general adventurous woman. Born in Kenya to a British mother and Kenyan father, she has lived, studied and worked in the UK, Kenya and the United States, and hopes to make a career out of traveling, learning and sharing stories.
Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

 All photos courtesy of Poppy Miyonga

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