The Humanitarian Experience: Fitting into the Somali Culture

The WORTHY - Worldy Possessions


Moving to Kenya to teach and administrate an ESL school has been quite the adventure. I will start from the beginning, and as I tell you keep in mind, that being apart of this experience has only opened my eyes more. I hope that it will do the same for you.

We work within the inner-city of Nairobi, Kenya. We are here to administrate and teach English to those who are striving to become a part of the Kenyan culture themselves. The people we teach are a people who are, trying to keep their own culture alive while fit into their new reality. We teach English to people who are finding refuge in Nairobi, many of whom are dreaming of success and freedom.  We teach primarily to the Somali refugees of Nairobi.

It was December 2012, when my husband and I left our home in California. With all our worthy – worldly possessions crammed into 6 bags and we had tears in our eyes. I knew it would be hard, I had been warned it would be hard. We had tears for the miles that would separate us from our family and friends, tears for moving from our home, our culture, and I am grateful for those tears. Had I not had such tears then I would not be able to relate to those we now teach.

Our New Nieghborhood

Our New Neighborhood

Had I not shed a tear when I boarded that plane, I would not be able to relate in any way to the Somali people, to my neighbors, my friends. Their culture is not mine, and their lives lived thus far are vastly different than my own and yet they know my pain of separation from family and home better than some of my friends and family in America. They know what I mean when I say I miss my brother, my parents and homeland. Of course the reason of separation differs vastly as, my separation is by choice and theirs is due to complex religious and political issues of Somalia.

For the past 5 months I have studied their language, experiencing days filled with accomplishment and anguish. I have been frustrated by my mouth’s inability to form words and sentences that truly express what I want to say, and I have yelped in surprise when I find myself understanding Somali. The past 5 months have given another insight that I could not have learned about in book of travel or anthropology. These past 5 months of learning the language of Somali has, without a doubt allowed me to have yet again, another way to relate to the Somali people in Nairobi. And now as I sit in the ESL school and hear the frustrations of our Somali students, as they try to conjugate confusing English verbs, I smile. For I know their pain, just as they know mine.

My struggles in finding my words and missing home have in a way made it easier to belong.

When I return home one day to America, I want those same tears that filled my eyes, only I want them for the longing of those I am meeting today, those who are tolerating me and encouraging me to teach and learn.


Rift Valley

The Magnificent Rift Valley


6 thoughts on “The Humanitarian Experience: Fitting into the Somali Culture

  1. Admirable work,God bless you for the work you do to teach English.l myself a retired teacher.I hope one day Somalia and the other troubled counties unite to solve their differences.Greetings.jalal

  2. Bless you for this work! Your post is a lovely, honest reminder of the decisions and sacrifices you made…but it also contains seeds of the wonderful changes that will come of this.

  3. What an awesome undertaking! I haveto commend you for your writing style. While I know you were striving for substance, more than style, I want you to know that you could be an English major. 🙂 You’d be a great documentary writer. I’m sure your new loved ones will miss you dearly when you return to the states, just as you will miss them. Today, just focus on giving them everything you are capable of while they have you. God is gonna take care of the rest. How wonderful to learn another language!!! ~Your cousin Patricia

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s