Finding your own happy by Africa Expat Wives Club

Posted on June 20th, 2017
Categories: News

 Expat life. Finding your own happy…

Expat life uproots and unsettles us. Friendships prove to be transient as people move on and it hurts that family are far away. As migrants, we often question if and when to go ‘home’ but in the meantime, it’s important to be happy.

Life can throw out more than a few curve balls. You may not be exactly where you thought you’d be, or doing what you had imagined and your circumstances may not sit well with you at a given time but whatever the situation, it’s important to find your own happy.

Horrific events in London over the past weeks put day-to-day life in sharp focus and remind me of the dreadful Westgate mall attack here in Nairobi in 2013. During the aftermath of Westgate we heard of threats of terror attacks weekly, even daily, mostly via anonymous SMS/text messages that were circulating like wildfire. Don’t go to the mall, don’t sit in traffic jams, school buses will targeted, attacks are imminent. You barely wanted to hear the news for fear of hearing of the next atrocity in Kenya (the Garissa University attack etc). Life changed. Shopping centres are now surrounded by steel rings. We have our car doors and boots opened and our handbags searched when popping in to do our weekly supermarket shop.

There’s a certain amount of added risk related to living in Nairobi anyway with the common threat of armed break-ins or carjacking, meaning that going out after dark (particularly alone) takes an extra dose of courage, but this shouldn’t cow us into submission. The disparity of wealth is still heart-breaking and I haven’t even got onto ill health!

Just last week, our house helper got ill with bronchitis, the chap who was once our askari contacted us to say he had TB and needed help urgently, food prices have skyrocketed for basic commodities which is affecting people badly (there is still no maize flour in the shops) and the prospect of yet another presidential election on August 8th doesn’t bode well. Still deeply scarred from the 2007 election crisis in Kenya, we’ve already seen land related troubles brewing in Laikipia. Apparently rippling discontent comes with the territory around election time but we keep hopeful of a peaceful outcome.

A lot of the above has not affected me directly but it does make me feel fortunate. I’m the lazy type who likes to get swept along by life so have to remind myself to appreciate each day (rather than, as an expat, worrying and second guessing what future might lie in store). So in this spirit, I signed up for an evening art course (we giggle, muddle and drink wine – our teacher is very patient), I go to the gym regularly and relish having coffee with friends (even when there’s work waiting at home). I sit in the sun when it peeps out just for 5 minutes to soak up some rays (it’s cold season here so a bit overcast) and I thank goodness that the family is all well. We need to find our own ‘happy’ in the small things. Who knows what life might throw at us next?

Check out other interesting articles on

  • Returning Home – BBC, The Why Factor. Interesting discussion on the migrants’ yearn to go home that is almost built into our DNA, the ‘myth of return’ (or intending to return but not quite making it), plus the reality of returning home. 30%-50% of migrants do go home.
  • Be useful. Be kind.” Advice from Barack Obama.
  • Have 3 types of hobbies: 1 to make you money, 1 to keep you in shape, and one that allows you to be creative.
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