Seeking Home in The Age of The ‘Rona

It’s been 2 days since I officially became a college graduate. It will be another month until I can finally make the 26-hour travel back home.

Home has been a place I have been grateful to have but also the place I have been privileged to leave. From as early as 17, I have had numerous opportunities to travel outside of my Nairobi hometown to take advantage of the opportunities gifted to me both within the African continent and abroad. This mobility has become a central part of who I am, and yet, now at this crucial point where mobility seems frivolous and the world ever-so precarious,  I long for movement back home in order to be still.

On March 11, 2020, my school, Pomona College, like many other campuses across the United States decided to move classes online. In a matter of days, I witnessed my friends across the world take flight back home but decided to stay put doubting my ability to pack up close to 4 years of community and manage distance learning with a quickly approaching thesis deadline. To say that the next 2 months were challenging is an understatement but nevertheless I am grateful for health, food and housing at a time when such basic necessities are scarce for so many people in underserved communities. Through the deteriorating mental health, absurd final assignments and a never-ending tussle with my fellow organizers to support students, I persisted hoping that somehow things would begin to make sense— life could get back to normalcy and if not, I could at least participate in this new normal from the safety of home.

However, things are not changing. Here I am, it is the 20th of May and home seems fleeting. The Kenyan government, responsibly so, extended its international travel ban for 30 days on May 11th, halting my plans to travel after graduation. Given this policy, an optimistic estimate is that I could depart after June 10th, be under quarantine for another 14 days upon arrival before finally being reunited with loved ones. Looking at the rising cases, 1029 as of now, I am probably stuck in this liminal state for much longer. And while it sucks, I remain grateful for the idea of home,and that there will always be one even after all these is over.

Looking to the future, I don’t think that my days of global mobility are over. I know that the world has numerous lessons to teach me in numerous places across the world. I will however tread (fly) more cautiously  as it is predicted that pandemics are about to be a recurring feature of life in the age of climate change.This Covid-19 pandemic is a portal to many different social, political and economic alternatives. Awaiting a reopening of borders at my friend’s place with the past 4 years packed into 4 still-overweight-suitcases, I do see it also as a portal inward to appreciating the idea of home as people and not necessary a place. Amidst the uncertainty of borders, I have come to rely on the certainty of community. Here, with no way to get to the place I call home, I’m leaning on blood and chosen family and for this I am forever grateful.

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