Since arriving in Kenya, Jennifer has become expert at ‘showing up’ at all sorts of random events and shindigs, many of which she’s found out about online. Forced to leave her comfort zone far behind, here is a week in the life of Jennifer, the new expat in town.
After a lonely first couple of months and once the allure of the local supermarket, bank branch and coffee shop had been thoroughly exhausted, Jennifer set out to spend a week socialising to the max in order to make new friends.
First there was the Hash House Harriers running club (also known as the drinking club with a running problem). Jennifer had never run so much as a mile but desperation, loneliness and the prospect of another evening spent staring at the white walls of her apartment drove her to take on what, at best, could be a short jog through the city followed by an evening spent meeting new people. Heart in throat and trainers on feet, she arrived at the allotted city venue by 5pm on a Monday evening. After an eyebrow raising display of muscle stretching carried out by middle aged men wearing extremely short shorts, the group soon set off into the one of the city parks leaving Jennifer, who started gamely enough, to stagger along with the back runners, dropping to a walk where possible, then finally sharing a bonding experience with a lady pushing a pram and another who had a leg injury.
One and a half hours later and Jennifer, still red faced and trying to catch her breath, could not have been more surprised to find herself in the centre of a circle, downing a pint of beer to the gym locker chants of thirty odd total strangers.
“Why was she born so beautiful, why was she born at all, she’s no f-ing use to anyone….!” They sang as a metal cup was handed to Jennifer by a man fondly known as ‘horse’s arse’. “It’s your fine for being a Hash virgin tonight” he joked with a wink. Jennifer was handed a lurid pink ‘Hash Virgin’ T-shirt sized XL. She is still not sure if she will find the strength to go back next week.
Jen felt that she couldn’t fail to have fun at the Scottish reeling evening but as it turned out the numbers did not work so Jennifer was paired with a bemused Kenyan waiter who, though working his way through the steps gallantly enough, turned out to have two left feet. As they Stripped the Willow, the two of them got hopelessly lost, much to the chagrin of the pure Scots blood instructor. Next time she resolved that she would have to bring a friend (if she could ever find one).
Then there was the corporate night out held in a vast hotel ballroom decked out in company colours. Jennifer had high hopes for making new friends but after a brief welcome drink, guests were herded to large round tables where they were rooted in one spot for over two hours of speeches and prize giving. The drone of the MC and rounds of clapping were only interspersed by performances by troupes of scantily clad African dancers drumming, ululating and leaping about athletically. The dance show seemed uncomfortably reminiscent of colonial times but apparently is still considered acceptable stock entertainment for formal functions. A glamorous yet hard nosed young lady with braids and a pretty dress seated next to Jennifer said she was working for a local media house. She and her companions kept themselves well oiled with straight whiskeys or Baileys on the rocks and spent the evening glued to their smart phones.
“Have you lived here long?” Jennifer yelled in an attempt to open conversation with the bored looking man seated far across the white tablecloth. Shouting to be heard above the ambient noise. “Oh, I’m just here on business. I actually live in Dubai.” he said. Jennifer smiled wanly, giving up. Dinner was not served until 10.00pm, by which time there was only enough energy to roll over to the hotel food station, eat and then run.
The prospect of an open mic poetry slam evening that Jen had enthusiastically signed up for when the date was at a safe distance, hung over her dauntingly during the days before. Her main dread was the prospect of random members of the audience being called up to read out their ‘spoken word’ compositions, so when notification of a mixer evening arranged by a global expat organisation pinged into her Facebook feed, she leapt at it. Once she had ‘liked’ the event, she received a flurry of friend requests from some slightly suspect sources. This should have served as fair warning. Imagine Jen’s disappointment when, only an hour into the evening she had been approached by at least three middle aged men who quite obviously had been resident in the city for decades and were just looking for a date. Jen was left wondering if this expat socialising organisation was in fact a euphemism for Tinder.
When a fourth man in his fifties started ambling toward her, waggling his eyebrows, Jen took to the door, called an Uber and retreated home to Netflix. This expat socialising is hellish hard work. Jennifer has a few more names in her contact list, but not many that she’s ready to call. Perhaps next week will work out better? There’s a lecture on birds of prey at the museum of Kenya followed by a mixer at the adjoining snake park. What could possibly go wrong? #bridgetjonesyoushouldbetakingnotes
Featured image credit: Unsplash
It’s not much fun being the newbie in town. If you have any relate-able experiences, let me know!