Roger’s Multi-Cultural Family Living in Cape Town

May 11, 2012 3 comments

 

Roger is a Kenyan currently living in Cape Town, South Africa as the proud father and husband in a truly multi cultural family. His wife is Austrian, and sons were born in Botswana and Scotland. Read more about Roger’s experiences raising children in the beautiful city of Cape Town, and what surprises people most about his home country of Kenya.

 

Tell us a bit about yourself. How would your friends or family describe you?

I’m from Nairobi in Kenya but have not lived there for almost fifteen years. I currently live in Cape Town and I’m an IT Professional working at the University of Cape Town. My family and I have moved around a bit over the years and moved here a couple of years ago from Edinburgh. We have two cheerful little boys and we hope to stay in Cape Town for the medium term at least. It’s very nice here.

I like simple things and perhaps might be described as a simple person with an open mind towards most things. I’m sure that a penchant for good ale would be added into a description of me at some point.

Can you tell us a little about what inspired your move from Kenya to South Africa?

I left Kenya in 1998 to go and study in South Africa. I quite enjoyed Johannesburg and ended up getting a job and staying there for four years before moving on to Botswana and then the UK and eventually ending up back to South Africa again ten years later. It has been quite an amazing period in my life during which, and most significantly, I got married and we’ve been blessed with two lovely boys.

If you would describe yourself as multi-cultural, tell us a bit about what culture you most identify with and why. What culture do your kids most associate with?

Though it might not be very obvious to my friends, I’m very proud of my culture. I come from the Kikuyu tribe in Kenya but do not speak the language very well. Why? I really can’t say. It’s just one of those things that baffle everyone including my parents who have other children who speak it flawlessly. I understand it perfectly, but the words just don’t roll of my tongue the way they should. I’ve been practicing for many years but have finally resigned myself to the fact that eyebrows will always be raised whenever I try and speak it.

Multi-cultural? I would say yes. My first born son was born in Botswana where we lived for five years, and his brother born in Scotland a few years later. We really loved living in both those countries and I would say absorbed a lot of the local culture and still have very good friends there. Oh, and did I mention that my wife is Austrian?

My kids are what I recently discovered to be third culture kids where they don’t identify with either parents culture and adopt amalgamate cultures from outside where either parent was born.

Can you describe a typical day for you?

When you have little children, there’s no such thing as a typical day. The morning always begins explosively with a an ever varying mixture of drama and emotions stretching from wet beds to lost cardigans as we attempt to herd our charges through the morning motions of getting them ready for school. A more complete description of a typical weekend for us can be found in this piece I wrote a while back. Are weekends with kids fun?

What is the best part of living in your country? The worst?

Cape Town is a very beautiful city that has endless opportunities for having a good time. It’s a bit like going on a beach holiday and never leaving. Having to work during the day does little to dull that feeling. Even as I write this, I’m looking out the window at Table Mountain and thinking that I will never tire of the view. Even the traffic is nowhere nearly as bad as some places I’ve lived in. It takes me twenty minutes to drive home from work.

The absolute worst thing about this place is the latent racism. I still get stared at when I go into the local pub and I’m consistently the only person of colour. I’m guessing that it will take a couple more generations to see the apartheid hangover finally end. I don’t let it bother me too much though and I go where I want, when I want, and people eventually just get on with their lives.

What books or films would you recommend someone who’d like to know more about your country?

Barack Obama’s book Dreams From my Father has a section about his experiences in Kenya that capture many aspects of our culture very well. Excellent book that. The recent movie The Third Grader is not too bad, though it only captures a small aspect of the whole culture. There’s a lot more to Kenya than that. A book that I’m currently reading – One day I will write about this place by Binyavanga Wainania – quite nicely captures my experience of Kenyan culture.

What language or languages do you use on a day to day basis?

I mostly speak English and get to speak Swahili and some Sheng whenever I meet my Kenyan friends. I very rarely speak Kikuyu. I listen to German being spoken in my house all the time. It’s almost as if I’m not there. I understand it quite well though, but shy away from speaking it unless cornered. My three year old is already better at it than I am. 

What’s something that visitors are often surprised by when getting to know your country/culture?

Kenya has a very vibrant night life and a populace that loves being in it. It is my opinion that it is because Kenyans are very friendly people who love their beer and love to laugh.

I think this always catches a first time visitor to Nairobi by surprise. In my opinion, that was once called humble, it is the party capital of the world.

About the author

Carrie McKeegan
Carrie is an American who just moved from Bali to Mendoza, Argentina. Carrie caught the wanderlust bug early on from her parents, who raised her in Mexico City. Carrie and her husband David have lived in New York, London, Barcelona, Costa Rica, Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo, and Bali before moving to Mendoza. They are actively working to pass on the travel bug to their young son Timmy, who has already been to twelve countries.
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3 Comments

  • Theoutsidecitizen

    Speaking Kikuyu for a child who grew up in a middle class family in Nairobi, Kenya goes as follows.

    If you are the first-born child, you will find that the only language your parents converse in with each other and you is Kikuyu. Your will only learn English and other languages after Kikuyu is firmly rooted in the core of your being. You will never lose your fluency in the language.

    If you are the second-born child, your fluency in Kikuyu depends on the age at which you find your elder sibling. If he or she (or they) is already at school, you will find that he or she is speaking English at school and being assisted in his fluency in English by your parents. The house will, thus, have a mix of both languages spoken in it. This will confuse your appreciation of Kikuyu and it will, inevitably, take a back seat to English. You will understand Kikuyu perfectly, but the fluency of your articulation will be poor and will never improve unless you move to Muranga and stay there for a few years.

    If you are the third-born child, you will be in a worse position than that of the second child and will probably never even want to make an attempt at using Kikuyu for fear of being lampooned.

    And so on…

  • @ theoutsidecitizen-I disagree. It has nothing to do with birth order. You need not move to the village for a few years either! I’m the third and last child and speak fluent Kikuyu and we lived in Nairobi. My parents spoke to us in Kikuyu. They also had us spend a few days in the village with my grandmother during the school breaks just for the bonding experience but that was in the early years because after the age of 12 you wouldn’t catch me dead in the village!

  • Theoutsidecitizen. I’m going to take comfort in what you said as I’m the fourth child in our family and so will happily use this (despite what Irene says :) ) as my excuse for the poor elocution of my mother tongue.

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