One writer said “Being in a foreign country means walking a tightrope high above the ground without the net afforded a person by the country where he has his family, colleagues, and friends, and where he can easily say what he has to say in a language he has known from childhood.” There is no better way to express it than this!
That passage pretty much summarises my month or so in this place and what it means it leave your country and seek to do kyeyo. Well this is not like any other country (like leaving Rwanda to come work in Uganda), this country has a set of rules that are not radical per se but yes it operates under the Sharia Law. When I was offered this opportunity to leave my beloved Uganda, I knew what it was going to be a tightrope I would be walking. Iguana, Legends, and even installing Whatsapp; those would be distant memories. The adherence to the law is one of those things that you are briefed about and yeah it is followed, yes was followed by two Skype calls for emphasis but of course rules are there to be broken. Nye!
I have been asked “how is Somalia?” and my response has been that I have not read in the papers what the situation is in Mogadishu. Somaliland is different from Somalia. Let us delve into a little history; in 1991, after the collapse of the government in Somalia, Somaliland broke off to form what is called the “Republic of Somaliland” and has remained peaceful, but this remains unrecognized by any country or the UN because of border disputes. Despite being unrecognized officially, because of its strategic importance in relation to the Gulf of Eden and being one of the largest livestock trade corridors and rumors of oil (of course), many development organizations (DFID, UN, EU, DANIDA name it) have a presence here. And Somalilanders don’t like being called Somalis. Yes that is the pride they have or shall I call it a condescending attitude in relation to Somalia that has failed to stabilize!
First the Muslims in Uganda are jokers (ok not all of them but the Muslims here make it seem so), here prayer is prayer, “Azan” blares every few hours from the various mosques scattered in Hargeisa. Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar…(Someone asked me who is Azan?; Azan is the call for prayer in Arabic). Meetings are adjourned or hashed because it is time for prayer and yes of course, I now partially understand why it is easy to radicalize religion and make it a rallying point for creating fanatics. Mindful to say, Islam is a very peaceful religion, I have always respected. Because everyone has three names, I am now called Ahmed :-)
When I signed up for this new role, I intimated to a couple of close friends that I would be going away to work in a place that has a strict Muslim doctrine, the first question was will you manage? I will not explore this further… The social life here is pretty much boring and routine(work-apartment-work-repeat) compared to the city that never sleeps but but don’t be fooled, human beings are creatures of habit and have learnt to adapt, folks always find a way of throwing parties in the big villas that house some of the foreign embassies complete with all amenities. Don’t ask me what the amenities are! Ksssh don’t let this out. The catch is to land that invite. For one to get that invite, one does not miss coordination meetings that are out of office, that is usually the gate pass and carry your business cards with the local number! Tokamanya!
I used to despise reading online newspapers because the content is usually nothing to write home about, but now the first thing I do in the morning is go over the newspapers to see what is happening. Is that being homesick or rather looking for a connection back home? Though, I don’t miss the endless hours spent in traffic in Kampala, I take 5 minutes to walk to work. That has been the serene part of being here and yes November-February the temperatures fall to 5 degrees, shall I call it winter?
The ironies of life though… females who live in cold countries are usually scantily dressed and those live in hot semi-arid countries are the ones who dress up and are covered up to 98% (I don’t know when I last saw a thigh…*facepalm*). But behind the hijabs worn by the women here, one sees a repressed sexuality that wants to burst its banks, well don’t ask how I know that. I would not say the people here are as benevolent as the folks back home, but they try and learning the Somali dialect is a very tall order maybe one could consider getting a “dictionary” but then again Sharia could earn one a deportation…