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LIFE ABROAD: Why we pack omena, Royco and everything in between

Wednesday October 16 2019

The author ( extreme left) poses with  other international students at Chepstow, a small city outside Cardiff. PHOTO| COURTESY

The author ( extreme left) poses with other international students at Chepstow, a small city outside Cardiff. PHOTO| COURTESY 

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Have you ever left a place you called home and started life afresh? I guess you have. We all do at some point in our lives. We pack and leave loved ones, we grow up and leave our parents’ home, we leave or take a break from relationships, we move cities and then we gain the courage to move countries and finally continents.

Every time we leave our comfort zones, move places, sooner rather than later we realise we have carried ourselves with us. So, it can either be a terrifying moment or an adventure of a lifetime.

We spend time wondering about what kind of people we’ll we meet on the other side or if we will make new friends. We worry about winter, the possibility of racism and home-sickness. We bombard our lives with a thousand questions.

In my last article, I mentioned that my fellow Chevening Scholars and I found ourselves in a chat group almost immediately after the results were announced. It’s through this group where we connected with other scholars heading to the same school.

We discussed a lot about what to expect during the two months before we left. We discussed about our visa application, the delays and what could have led to the same.

While most of us were happy to have made it to the prestigious list, it was evident that this was also a journey full of anxiety.


We all hoped that we would find a place we liked and call it home. While we hoped, another discussion was starting.

What should we pack? How many suitcases should we carry? What’s the limit per suitcase? Will xyz stuff be acceptable?

The packing conversation was truly hilarious. When we were ready to leave, every Kenyan wanted to carry a piece of ‘Kenyanness’ with them to the

United Kingdom. Interestingly, we all had ‘things that were so dear to us and leaving them behind was such a hard decision to make.

I will explain. In Kenya, specifically in Nairobi, we love parties and we are glad to find reasons to celebrate. My family, friends, mentees, colleagues organised a number of parties before I left.

I attended seven of them, all of them dubbed ‘Farewell Party’. Every time I attended these parties, I went home with lots of gifts, most of them personalised. Books are one of my favourites. I received 11 books two weeks before I left Kenya.

As I packed, I really wanted all my gifts with me. I wanted to wake up to my gifts spread all over the room, just a reminder that, if it ever gets lonely abroad, then I have a community back at home that truly loves me and is praying for me.

I struggled to have them fit in one suitcase. This was not going to happen. I removed them and made peace with the fact that I was going to leave them behind.

While I was going through my own struggles with my moving checklist, the other scholars were busy discussing what food to pack.

The list of foodstuff packed  ranged from maize flour specifically Jogoo, bush honey harvested from Emali, Royco powder and Royco cubes.

I also brought Royco, never mind that I don’t even use it to cook! This, I can assure you was as a result of peer pressure.

Anyway, the list continues, Omena (ordered from Kisumu City) Kericho Gold, Simba Mbili Curry Powder, Fulu/wiu (small fish) Obambo (dried fish) Bude (smoked fish) Tropical Heat Spices, porridge flour, etc.

Just like the rest, in addition to my Royco, I packed honey, spices (tea masala, mixed spices, pilau masala) 2kg of maize flour and mwiko (cooking stick), curry powder and Kericho Gold tea bags.

Some of the products my housemates carried from
Some of the products my housemates carried from home. PHOTO| PATIENCE NYANGE

So what really makes us carry all these things in such huge quantities? Patriotism, maybe?

As I was researching for this article, I asked my fellow scholars if they would pack all the things they did if they were to do it again and the answer was a resounding no.

The reason? It was possible to buy all these things from our newly acquired cities. They agreed that they might have a slightly different taste, but they could find them. I should have brought my gifts, especially my books rather than the foodstuff I brought with me.

Isn’t the whole essence of relocation about meeting new people, learning a new culture, experimenting with new foods and new recipes, toasting to a new life and living it to the fullest? Soon, you will realise that moving from your comfort zone is actually the best thing you did with your life.

Anyway, we learn. I can only hope those that are coming after us will not bow down to this peer pressure. What’s your experience? Please share.