Where are you from?

I have been using UBER and TAXIFY quite frequently here and I find that this is where I have some of the most interesting conversations and learn so much about an individual, Nairobi, and the incredible culture here. It tends to go the other way as well, after I ask about their story they are quick to show the same curiosity and ask where I come from or more specifically what is my ethnicity. That is after the individual hears my accent and realizes I am not from Kenya or from any other African country.

I tell them, I am from Canada and that is where I have been living for the majority of my life and then I still notice a bit of confusion. I explain that I was born in the Caribbean and that I am part Indian (here they call Asian) and part Caribbean. I do explain that Canada is very multi cultural and that there are people born in Canada who are from different ethnicities.

When I studied colonization in Kenya I read that there was a large population of men from India that came over and helped build the Kenya-Uganda railway. The construction began in 1882 and reached Nairobi in 1902. The railway helped shape the relationship between India and Kenya (Otieno, 2016). Kenya has a large population of people from India to this day and I believe this is why I am asked if I am from Kenya.

I have noticed when asking taxi drivers if they are from Nairobi they become excited and answer “yes!”. Afterwards they usually share with me which village they originate from. I was chatting with a woman yesterday at an event I went to. She explained to me that most people are fine to answer where are living, but she also mentioned that some may not want to talk about their village because of political issues that have become apparent over the years. Carotneuto wrote, “ethnicity is a continually negotiated and changing cultural process, and identities across Africa are constantly being reinvented, within and beyond the political sphere”. From this I have decided to ask if Nairobi is home and then from there they can decide how much they want to share.

I have always enjoyed these conversations as someone being adopted into a Caucasian Canadian family; as these are the types of questions I have been asked for so long. How we identify ourselves is important and I think we can learn so much by asking questions but in a respectful way. We learn to value each others uniqueness, and to see that although there are differences between us there are similarities within us as well.

References:

Carotenuto, M. (2006). Riwruok E Teko: Cultivating Identity in Colonial and Postcolonial Kenya. Africa Today, 53(2), 53-73.

Otieno, J. (2016). Standard Digital: Kenya’s railway history and its Indian roots. Retrieved from https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2000208362/kenya-s-railway-history-and-its-indian-root

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