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Ever since I returned from Africa in the Spring, it has been an internal struggle to re-adjust back to life in Canada. From the outside, these two places couldn’t be more different, and I consistently find myself comparing (“I miss this but not that”, “I can live without this but notwithout that”, “I love this, but that drives me nuts!”.
I like to refer to it as… ‘cultural dislocation’. It’s that feeling when you feel, well, a bit...culturally dislocated? It makes sense in my head (I swear!), but when I try and spell it out for others, it gets a little tricky. I’ll sum it up like this. I love Canada. I don’t just like the country where I grew up. I love it. I love that, for the most part, it’s safe and secure. I love that we have universal healthcare and a decent public school system in place. I love that we have freedom of thought and expression. I love that our neighbourhoods have parks. I love that we have sidewalks that make it easy for pedestrians to travel from Point A to Point B. I love that our parkways are closed to cars on a Sunday morning so that cyclists have free reign to bike along the water and into the mountains. I love that we can walk around, anytime of the day or night, and that we don’t require a ‘curfew’ because things can get a little “shady” after dark. I love Canada’s fresh air and clean water. I love the autumn, when the leaves change colours into a beautiful medley of reds, yellows, and oranges. I love that I love my country so much.
And, yet, there are things that I’m not so crazy about here in my ‘homeland’. Things that Africa does so beautifully. Africa is a passionate (albeit complicated) place. When Africans sing, they don’t just sing from their throats, but from the depths of their souls. When they dance, they don’t merely shuffle their feet and bop their heads; they plant their whole bodies firmly into the ground and feel the music vibrate through them. They greet their neighbours (wait… we have neighbours in Canada?!). They take care of their neighours’ children. They’ve learned not to sweat the small stuff. But perhaps that’s because they also know there are bigger battles to fight…
I’m sitting here, as I pen this blog, in the sanctuary of my backyard, surrounded by trees and flowers, and a cool breeze ruffling the air. And, for the most part, I’m happy to be home. But, there are moments – and many of them, at that – where I miss the ‘heat’ of Africa, the melodies of gospel erupting from the neighbourhood church at 3:00am, the street vendors selling everything from plantains to picture frames, the hybrid of contemporary and traditional.
I realize that life, for many in Africa, is not easy, and I’m not attempting to romanticize anything by writing this post. I am aware that there is considerable suspicion around foreigners (and ‘Westerners’ in particular) traveling to Africa (and other developing parts of the world) without having any real knowledge of or respect for the culture and history of the region. But I’ve always believed, and still do, that every place in this world, whether it be Canada or Cameroon, has positive and not-so-positive attributes associated with it. No city, country, or continent is perfect. But each is special and unique in its own right. And I hope that more of us can let our guards down and open our hearts and our homes to share with others what makes our communities worth getting to know.
I miss you Africa. Or, as I’ve come to call my utopia (a mix of Africa and Canada): Afrinada.
P.S. Because I can’t leave you without a small taste of the music that makes me come alive… you’re so very welcome! 😉