It’s a love-hate thing: a brief assessment of my half-year living and working in my home country

home sweet home the odyssey online
Photo credit: CIEE

So I’ve been living and working in Zambia, my country of origin, for over 6 months now and…it’s been (slightly) better than I expected. I wouldn’t say that I’m having an absolute blast here but I can’t say I’m completely miserable either. Since I arrived in Zambia to start work, there have been many times when I’ve felt like a complete stranger in what is supposed to be my ‘home.’ But, surprisingly, there have also been rare occasions when I’ve felt like this is exactly where I belong and need to be at this point in my life. It has been quite frustrating trying to navigate this place that I know very well yet don’t know at all and I haven’t quite gotten used to eating nshima (our staple food) every second day. Plus, my anxiety has sometimes threatened to destroy some of the joy I have experienced since being here. However, with each new day that comes I’m adjusting more to life in Lusaka. I haven’t quite gotten over my reverse culture shock but I have come to view living and working here as a unique opportunity to learn more about myself. And a great deal I have learnt so far.

Growing up outside my country of origin and knowing only my immediate family very well, I’ve been largely out of touch with many of my family’s customs, traditional beliefs and cultural practices. I also haven’t really learnt either of my parents’ languages very well. The cultures of each tribal group in Zambia and the Christian religion are embedded in the country’s national identity. When I think about my own cultural (and religious identity) I go blank. I don’t believe I really developed a solid grasp on one. It’s something I’ve grown up without. I’ve gotten used to the stern warnings from my older relatives to learn a Zambian language, eat more traditional foods and immerse myself more in my parents’ cultures lest I lose touch with my cultural identity. I’ve also grown accustomed to the jokes that friends, family and acquaintances have sometimes made about my inability to speak a Zambian language properly. These days I take it in stride, laugh it off and move on. It doesn’t irritate or sadden me as much as it used to.  Having a greater appreciation of how my upbringing has affected my sense of identity has given me great clarity and peace of mind. I won’t be packing my bags to go ku mushi (to the village) any time soon and I doubt very much that I will be sampling mopane worms but I am, and have always been, open to learning as much about my ‘culture(s)’ as possible. So far, the experience of living here without the immediate family has taught me so much about myself as I continue to embark on this path to self-discovery. I accept myself for who I am and what I have become There is no monopoly on what it means to be a Zambian so I should be allowed to proudly label myself as such even though I can’t speak the languages well, aren’t deeply religious or disagree with some traditional norms and practices.

One thing I’ve always found particularly vexing about living in my home country (a self-proclaimed ‘Christian nation’ according to the Preamble of our  Constitution) is the conservative nature of Zambian society as well as the prejudices, patriarchy and misogyny that sometimes comes with it. Of course, women around the world face many hindrances to our being treated equally, in fact, to men and there are many places in the world that are infinitely more overly religious and culturally conservative than Zambia. However, I’m used to being in a slightly more liberal space where I can, to a greater extent than here, express myself freely without facing judgment, condemnation or even violence for something as mundane as wearing (not too short) short shorts or a mini dress on a scorching hot day or openly stating that all people; gay, straight, trans, bisexual, black or white are entitled to be treated with respect and dignity. Now that I’ve lived and worked here for some time, I’m starting to understand Zambian society more and I’ve been able to adapt accordingly so I can still be myself while being respectful of the values held dear by the majority of Zambian people. Also, having a few friends and family who are more liberal or share my childhood experience  and can thus empathize with some of my frustrations has been of a source of great comfort to me.

While I may sometimes have to grapple with feeling stifled by cultural conservatism and getting used to life here, I’ve also been exposed to another side of Zambia that has given me some hope that this place could actually feel like home someday. I’m hoping that, over time, should I decide to settle here indefinitely, I can continue to meet more like-minded people with whom I really click and perhaps carve out a nice little niche for myself in which I can develop my own business(es) and career as well as build a home.

Since I arrived in Zambia, I’ve more often than not had moments where I question my decision to take up work here and at times have felt profoundly homesick even though I haven’t quite been able to figure out exactly what I’m homesick for. Nonetheless, I constantly try to remind myself of the many wonderful things that have happened to me since I came and the opportunities for personal and professional growth that being here has presented to me. I’m in a place that’s so familiar yet so foreign to me which has been thrilling, exhausting, sad, and inspiring, all at the same time. At times, I love it, other times I hate it, but to some extent, I have adjusted to life here and although I don’t think I’ll feel like a proper local by the time my consultancy is over, I’m certainly going to have an even better understanding of who I am and where I could settle down in the future.


You only get what you give

Hello 2017 and Happy New Year, dear readers! After taking a bit of a hiatus due to a serious case of writer’s block, I’m ready to get back into the blogging game!

As I sat down to draft this post, my first in a while and my first of 2017, I looked back on the previous year with great fondness, the good and the bad. I like to think of 2016 as the year that made me. I explored parts of East and Southern Africa for the first time in my life, learnt two new languages, met some fascinating individuals, made wonderful friends and came across an unexpected source of inspiration for my blogging and my life in general. After feeling lost, confused and rudderless for a long period of time, I’ve rediscovered my passion and found my calling. Well, I feel like I’m at least a quarter of the way there.  

The pivotal moment of 2016 which renewed my hope for the future was a talk I had with my mum’s youngest sister over the Christmas period. I’d had another panic attack and anyone who’s experienced this knows what a terrifying ordeal it can be. My heart was racing, my chest felt tight, I couldn’t breathe and I was absolutely hysterical. I was on the verge of driving myself to the hospital when aunty took me aside, helped calm me down and took me for a walk. As we walked through the neighborhood, she shared many things with me that made things look a little less bleak. I learnt about both the struggles and triumphs she faced in her early 20s, I got some insightful home truths and received great relationship advice. I can’t say that it was any one particular thing aunty said that got me through my episode, just that our little chat was just the cathartic release I needed. It helped me put things in perspective and suddenly, I had figured out exactly what it is that I want (and need). I finally feel like I’m at peace and significantly, I’ve found the thing I’d lost a while back…hope.  

For many people, myself included, a new year implies new opportunities for a fresh start. So although I’m not the type to make New Year’s resolutions per se, whenever a new year dawns I’m inspired by this idea of hitting refresh, so to speak. While I don’t believe in giving the entire game plan away, I will share a little bit about my goals for 2017. As the ‘happy new year’ messages, tweets and the like began streaming in I came across this awesome Vern McLellan quote above which aptly encapsulates the attitude I’m adopting this year. Spurred on by the difficulties I’ve faced in my personal life and the enduring love and support of friends and family, I’m doubling my efforts as far as my creative endeavours and business ventures are concerned as well as getting more involved in philanthropy and feminist activism. My mother constantly reminds me that negative thoughts stunt one’s progression through life and that if you do things in a spirit of optimism, you’re most likely going to yield positive returns ten-fold. It is with this in mind that I will put in as much effort as possible into quelling bad habits and seizing every opportunity I get to learn and grow.

For the first time in a while, I feel a sense of purpose. I’m fired up and raring to get back on the proverbial horse. I pride myself on being a realist though so I’m allowing myself some margin for error. As always, I remain hopeful that things pan out as I envision. If not, I’ll keep soldiering on until it does.

To my beloved friends, family, readers and followers, I wish you all the best for 2017. May the work you put in this year yield exceptional returns.

Here’s to a purposeful, productive and prosperous year ahead!

Moving On, Moving Up, and Moving To, Greater Things: Why I’m Happy I Had Such a Bad Year  


2015 just flew by, at least, for me, anyway and thank goodness, it’s finally behind me now! It was a year filled more losses than triumphs and more angst than joy. But I’ve always prided myself on being a bit of realist so I’m taking those negative outcomes as necessary life lessons to get me to where I need to be in the future. Sweet twenty-16 has arrived and I am excited about the countless possibilities for greatness and opportunities for growth that this New Year signifies.


I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions per se but I do like to set new goals for myself each year and I always make a conscious decision to learn from the mistakes I made during the previous year. Christmas and New Year can be a depressing time of year because you’re kind of forced to reflect upon everything that happened (or didn’t happen) during the year as a new one begins. However, this isn’t always necessarily a bad thing. I feel, it’s the ideal time to decide exactly what you’d like to do differently and take stock of all your non-material wealth. Granted, you can decide to better yourself at any time during the year but the beauty about starting a new year is that, you can start anew and with the wisdom one gains from hindsight, you can go into it with a completely new strategy.


I mentioned that 2015 wasn’t the best year for me but really, the last three years in general haven’t been the easiest in terms of my personal life and career. But I had to go through some of these hardships in order for me to get to a better place. In the final year of my LLB studies, I suddenly found myself feeling lost and confused. All the things I thought I believed and understood no longer made much sense. I had gone from being somewhat self-assured and driven to anxious, demotivated and constantly worrying about my future. Even on my graduation day, which should have been one of the happiest days of my life, I felt no sense of accomplishment. I’d worked so hard for seemingly, nothing really. Considering the fact law was something I had always wanted to do and enjoyed immensely, how could I suddenly be having doubts?


Following my graduation, I wanted to take a little time off to unwind and explore my other interests beyond law while I made plans to pursue postgraduate studies in the subject. At that time, certain events had transpired which caused past traumas and painful childhood memories to resurface so I was desperate for a fresh start. Unfortunately, the plans I made fell apart and everything I did to get my life back on track yielded only negative results despite how much time and energy I’d put into it. It seemed as if I just wasn’t good enough. I didn’t cope with it too well either and I’m no longer ashamed to admit, that my emotional and physical well-being were suffering too. Anyone who suffers from anxiety issues would understand just how debilitating it can be.


I’d never been so directionless in my entire life but, eventually, I reached a point where I’d had enough. I decided to confront my emotional issues head-on. Even though it’s been very tough, I think the worst is over. The great thing about hitting rock bottom is that the only way is up. Instead of fixating on how much of a mess I thought my life was, I started focusing my energy on the projects I had abandoned as trivial or out of my reach because I felt I wasn’t talented enough to pursue them. This blog is one of those projects.


It felt incredible to start The Diaspora Baby in July last year. Not only have I rekindled my passion for research and writing, but I have learnt a great deal in the short space of time that I’ve been blogging. By undertaking the blogging enterprise, I’ve read many compelling stories and inspirational blog posts, discovered some interesting concepts and most importantly, I’ve accomplished one of my main goals for starting this blog – learning more about who I am. I’m looking forward to improving my blog this year by further exploring the notion of being a third culture kid, featuring some guest bloggers, including more personal anecdotes and analysing more literature on the subject of identity.

In addition to The Diaspora Baby, I started a second blog on Instagram entitled: Urban Afro Gypsy. Unable to come up with a way to consolidate my vast array of interests into a single blog that made sense, I decided to create two, centring on two very specific interests of mine. Urban Afro Gypsy can be labelled a fashion blog, plain and simple, but (and this may sound unoriginal) it is a lot more than that. It encompasses many different aspects of the subject matter and is a platform for me to share not only the outfits I throw together or which celebrity’s closet I’d love to raid but also allows me to explore my deep interest in men’s fashion, African fashion, accessories, great memories associated with beautiful clothing and history, among other things.


Although my two blogs have different subject matters and purposes, they converge in one respect. I believe that fashion is a strong visual expression of one’s identity. The name of the fashion blog describes not only how I describe my sense of style, but reflects my hybrid cultural identity – my African roots, blended with modern urban fashion and the gypsy-esque lifestyle I have grown accustomed to over the years. I also often look to gypsy culture for clothing inspiration. I’ve already made a number of changes to Urban Afro Gypsy and have exciting plans to make it grow and build a brand from it. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself, every day is new learning experience which is the whole point of the exercise – to learn, grow and flex my creative muscles.


I’ll be 24 this year and although I’m not exactly where I’d envisioned I’d be a few years ago, I’ve still got my whole life ahead of me and knowing that I’m not the only 20-something struggling through it is a comforting thought lol. Overall, it hasn’t all been bad. I’ve met some phenomenal people, made a few friends, picked up a few new hobbies, matured as a person and improved some of my skills. I’m very grateful to my amazing friends and family who have supported and encouraged me even when I felt like a complete failure. I’m also very proud of myself for staying the course in spite of how many times I came really close to giving up.


To quote Kevin Nealon in one of my favourite movies, Happy Gilmore, moving forward,  “you gotta harness the good energy and block out the bad.” Here’s to being anxiety-free and totally awesome! To anyone who’s reading this, if 2015 was a tough year for you, I’m in your corner and wish you a kick-ass 2016 and beyond!