African American in Africa: Pamela in Kenya

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Meet Pamela Mohamed in Kenya!  Pamela moved from the U.S. to bustling Nairobi, Kenya with her husband and children to escape a hectic American lifestyle.  That was almost five years ago and she hasn’t looked back since! Pamela shared wonderfully open insight on adjusting and settling into her life in east Africa!


ABOUT YOU


How long have you been living in Kenya and how long do you plan to stay there?

I’ve been here for almost five years.  I’m not sure how long we will stay, but you never know where we will go next!


Is this the first country that you’ve been to in Africa?

This is my first time living in Africa, however I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited Senegal, Somalia and Uganda for business/work and Zanzibar for pleasure.  My must-see places to visit, InshaAllah (God willing) are South Africa, Morocco and Ghana.


What brought you to Kenya?

I literally moved here for a change in life and opportunity and for our three children to experience a world outside of the States. My husband and I visited my brother-in-law who had moved here for a job in 2005.  Fast forward, I came home from work one day very stressed out and told my hubby, “baby, let’s move to Kenya”. Two months later to the date we did just that. My Somalian born hubby was all for it.

 Pamela and her husband, Bashir.

Pamela and her husband, Bashir.

Can you talk about what you do professionally?

I’ve been a registered nurse for over 20 years in the States and I made sure I immediately got my license here since I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do professionally. I completed the required training, and as of September 2013 I am a Registered Midwife.  In addition, I graduated with a Masters of Public Health in December of 2013.  My dream is to open a health center and provide excellent maternity and child care, InshaAllah.

I also co-own a restaurant and bakery with my brother-in-law called The Mug, in town.  Alhamdulillah (Thank God) the restaurant is doing well. I feel there are more business opportunities here versus in the States.  

 The Mug.

The Mug.

What advice can you give for African Americans who want to be involved in starting a business in Kenya or in Africa?

Find something you are passionate in, have patience and do not to be naïve or quick to trust people.


ON EVERYDAY LIFE


What’s life like in Kenya for you?

Our life here is good, Alhamdulillah. As long as I have my hubby and kids here I am happy and can live anywhere.  I transitioned well but admit I stressed my poor husband out because when we first moved here I wasn’t busy and didn’t know a lot of people.  My husband encouraged me to go back to school for my masters which took that boredom right out the door. Now I’m comfortable living here, have my own routine, meet great people and appreciating this experience of living abroad.


What do you love the most about living here?

The quality of life is better here, especially for a family, and I’m able to spend more time with the kids.

Having an extra pair of hands (nanny/cook) to assist with cleaning, cooking, and transporting helps tremendously.

I love the weather.  99% of the time it’s perfect - not too hot and not too cold. I love that my family is eating organic fresh foods and as well as healthier less processed food.

Importantly, I feel more comfortable being a practicing Muslim. Our children are able to learn even more about our religion.  I enjoy spending the Ramadan month of fasting even more than just the date because there’s much more of a community here, even among the non-Muslims.  I was surprised how many Eid greetings I would receive from friends who are not Muslims.  

Our children attend a British curriculum private school where they are taught multiple languages: French, Kiswahili and Arabic, which I think is wonderful.

Everything is here!  You can find any kind of restaurant, nice movie theatres, home massage treatments etc.  And I have a young lady come to my house to do my daughter Naima’s and I’s hair.

 Pamela's daughter Naima touching a baby crocodile at Mambo Village in Kenya.

Pamela's daughter Naima touching a baby crocodile at Mambo Village in Kenya.

What were the most difficult things to adjust to?

People’s concept of time is terrible. The term ‘African time’ is true. It’s difficult for me because I’m very punctual.

Traffic is terrible and there are aggressive drivers, especially the public transportation drivers, however infrastructure in this sector is improving.

People assume that since I’m from America I have Donald Trump money. I quickly school them on that.

It’s frustrating how much of everything is a long tedious process. Something that could be handled fast and easy isn’t always done that way. And to make matters worse, people assume you know the process.

I had to learn how to deal with many Kenyans style of communication as they do not like confrontations. They can’t say “no”.  Most times they can’t come out and say what they really mean. I have no tolerance for it. However, overall they are friendly people.

Not having a Target or Walmart here is frustrating. That should be number one on the list of most difficult things to adjust to.  A store that sells EVERYTHING is nada here. One day I was driving around looking for buttons for my daughter’s uniform. Going to town was not an option.  Of course I go to the one store that does supply the buttons, and it had closed at 6pm. I arrived 6:02pm.


Can you give an overview of the cost of living?

Housing, food, and clothing is expensive in Nairobi.  Labor is the only thing reasonable.


How’s your SOCIAL LIFE?

I have a great social life and have met many people who I consider to be dear friends, Kenyans and non-Kenyans.  There is a fairly large African American community here.  I’m blessed to have four of my brother-in-laws having moved here so my local family is growing with more sister-in-laws, nieces and nephews.

I’m also able to enjoy frequent date nights with hubby and Kenya is simply a great place to raise our children.

I do miss my graduate chapter Rho Zeta Omega Chapter (Atlanta) of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

FINAL REFLECTIONS


Did you always dream of living abroad?

Yes, but I didn’t know exactly how, where and when. I believe we are here for a reason. The transition has been uneventful. Don’t get me wrong, I occasionally have my “I hate Kenya”, days especially when I’m driving, but the good outweighs the bad.


Do you think enough African Americans visit Africa?

I don’t think so in my opinion. Unfortunately, the media portrays Africa as a place with nothing but jungles and huts so people are afraid to venture out and see what it’s really all about and experience it’s true beauty. Maybe some would love to visit but can’t because of finances, work, family, or having that time to get away. I will also say that you can’t just come here for a week.

 "For the folks that think we live in the jungle, here's a visitor in my back yard enjoying fruit from the tree!"

"For the folks that think we live in the jungle, here's a visitor in my back yard enjoying fruit from the tree!"

What would you say to encourage more of them to visit?

Be open-minded, take a chance and visit. If you know someone currently residing in an African country you are interested in, take advantage of that opportunity and visit!  Do some research, Google, ask questions and then see for yourself.  If you don’t have a passport get one now.

Why is visiting Africa an important trip?

It’s important to experience various cultures, meet different people, to see also how other people live, as well as to see a true definition of poverty. The experience will make you appreciate life even more.  I did an internship at a health center in Kibera, one of the largest slums in Kenya and it was the most humbling experience of my life.

 Pamela holding a baby at a health center.

Pamela holding a baby at a health center.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

My husband and I have no regrets of moving to Nairobi. We can’t believe it’s been almost five years since we made that big move! The world is big so we are open and we want our children to feel the same. I feel extremely blessed.

I do miss my family and close friends in the States.  Only one dear friend who I’ve known since high school has come; she visited a year after we moved move here. I pray more family members and friends will visit us!

 Pamela's children with their grandparents visiting from Canada at a local Kenyan mall.

Pamela's children with their grandparents visiting from Canada at a local Kenyan mall.