The Daily Life Of An African In A Very Non-african Neighborhood (immigrant experience)

27 Jul 2016

2nd place at Edubirdie essay writing contest

Author: Veronica Njeri Ndungu

Monday; 8.16 am (Brooklyn,NewYork). The alarm goes off and it suddenly dawns on me that  it is another day ,new opportunities, new dreams, new goals, but are they really new to me? I struggle to wake up, I tell myself, ‘some more minutes to sleep, just a few like 10’,but no sooner have I closed my eyes than I hear Elisa’s half-broken hairdryer razing through her thick Caribbean curly hair all in a bid to straighten it. That is Elisa for you, lives in a world of her own, in fashion magazines and the bourgeois lifestyle that almost every other girl of Caribbean decent has adopted in this neighborhood. I am forced to wake up,and in my half-awake half-asleep movements I almost step on Lucille’s cat,Lucille is my other roommate, she’s Asian, from Manila town in Phillipines,the cat is in shock that I dared disturb her peace while she’s curled up like a ball enjoying her siesta. Headed to the bathroom I overhear a heated conversation between my other roommate Leticia and the landlord Hugo. Leticia is my African American roommate who feels more connected to me than anyone else in the house because she says “we are from the same motherland”. I quickly rush to get ready for my Philosophy class.

New York fashion is edgy and very eccentric, here is where you see the thigh-high slit skirts, the tight denim jeans, the belly-cut tops,sheer,cotton,all types of fabric in one outfit, yet here I am, still hanging on to the coat my mother lent me before I came to study in the University of New York on a full scholarship for a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations. I still wear those faded jeans and blue canvas shoes I had bargained for in the hot sun in an open air market somewhere in the outskirts of Nairobi(the capital city of Kenya).I catch the subway to school every morning  and I take a seat next to a burly old man, reading  today’s newspaper with a freckled wrinkled face who then lifts up his eyes to see who is seated next to him and then goes on to be deeply engrossed in literature, the headline of the paper reads: The Economic implications of Brexit.This looks very controversial, and somewhere halfway through the journey he looks at me as if trying to decide whether to talk to me or not, and so he does and he implies in a matter-of-fact kind of way that Brexit is detrimental to African economies because we heavily depend on foreign aid especially from the European Union and he finishes this statement with a wide smirk on his face .I really don’t know what to tell him, shocked at his audacity, and before I could muster up courage to respond, I have to alight because I have reached my destination. I trudge through class still thinking about what the old man just told me, and suddenly it is time to study. Lecture halls are usually full for this particular lecture, but not today, there’s seemingly less attendance than usual. The lecturer is busy talking about Blau-Scott and Etzioni typologies but my mind has wandered off into how I am going to get this month’s rent from working my two jobs.

Lecture is over and I have a meeting with the African Foreign Student’s Association at the cafeteria where I hurriedly run off to. This Association is made up of 2 Nigerians,1 Ghanaian,1Kenyan,1 Zimbabwean,2 Ethiopians. The 2 Nigerians,Chinedu and Adaobi are ultimately the loudest in the group and are often the first to suggest any course of action. Today’s meeting is about the presentations for the Annual Culture Week happening  next month. This seems very interesting as I am excited to showcase our beautiful Kenyan Maasai culture.Chinedu and Adaobi are already suggesting what Ankara fabric they would carry and what dishes to prepare.

I normally work two jobs; one as a shop attendant at a retail store and the other is a babysitting job I do during the weekends. Before I got these two jobs, I had a hard time, going through various interviews, failing ,it was hard getting a working permit using my student’s VISA and so Leticia who had a  Kenyan lady friend who was leaving the country talked to her and she agreed to lend me her Social Security card number so that I could use it to get jobs easily. It has been quite the struggle, being ‘Mary Anyango’ while I ideally I was Jacinta Wambura.The horror every time my social security was scanned for payments or for any health transactions, my stomach would twist into agonizing knots, my palms would get sweaty, thoughts running through my mind of ‘what if I get caught’ or arrested’ all this would be cleared up when the lady at the cashier’s desk would belch out ‘cleared. NEXT!’ and I would hurriedly grab my card and run off maybe too fast so that they do not discover my real identity.

So today work was really hectic, I had to sieve through coupons for customers, the long ones with buy 3 rolls of tissue get 2 boxes of cereal free, or the one for buy 3 packs of detergents and get a bottle of toilet cleaner free; this is often the characteristic of most if not all Black American shoppers, always gathering up stuff they do not need all because they have offers and appear ‘cheaper’. After my shift, I was craving a cheese burger from a food vendor down the street a few blocks away from the retail store.(Here is where I usually get my dinner most of the times as I have no energy to cook after such long days like these)

I hurriedly head down the street and grab a juicy cheese burger wrapped in greasy paper and I pack it in my bag and head to the metro station to catch my bus home. Going home, I scroll through my phone as I have hardly no time to use it during the day and  I suddenly remember that I have to call Mrs.Parker,one of my baby sitting clients to confirm my availability to babysit her daughter Clara on Saturday. I call her and as soon as she picks up I begin apologizing fervently and confirm that I will be early to babysit Clara on Saturday; I dare not turn this down as I really need this money to be able to comfortably pay my rent among other personal supplies.

As I get home, dragging my feet, I hear loud music coming from the second floor of our apartment, it must be our next door neighbors again. I shrug it off and I have to fumble with the key lock before I can get in the house, it is weird for nobody to be home today especially this late. I go through my call logs, drop my bag on my bed, and lazily lie there skimming through angry text messages from Claude. Claude is my American boyfriend of 6 months, we met at an Art Gallery in Manhattan, when a contemporary artist was showing off his works inspired by his trip to Kenya and Tanzania and our conversation picked up immediately, alluding to the different types of portraits and other genres of art. Last night however was different, there was something cold in his tone, I had earlier on stood him up on our date and I simply didn’t have a logical explanation for it, I just didn’t feel like going out, sometimes one needs their space, but he took it very personally and I chuckle as I go through these texts, I get scared, am I not supposed to feel bad or remorseful, but here he was, condescending and with his airy tone of voice so vivid even in text messages, my friends think he is with me to justify himself that white and black can mix and often every time spoke to me with an air of privilege, that I was somewhat privileged to be dating him. I then head to shower, it’s been a long day and I soon get into my pajamas on, my paperback Sidney Sheldon novel and my juicy burger and make myself comfortable but before I even take a bite, the doorbell goes off, I drag myself to the door and there he is, his pink freckled face, tall built body hands full with a huge bouquet of daisies and lilies and with his deep hoarse voice asks, ‘May I come in?’’

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This is a story of a young immigrant in America, green for new experiences and we take a look at  her day to day life. In this story I have infused fashion,politics,romance as well as social relations of any normal immigrant as well as a little humour.

This contest was made by Edubirdie

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