Our next Brown Mom Abroad interviewee has been incredibly kind and patient as I’ve struggled the past few weeks through busy mom life, a pretty bad lingering cold and a surprise visit from my brother!
I’m excited to introduce you to 32-year-old Brown Mom Abroad Kaylan, currently living in Namibia.
BMA: When did you first get your passport?
Kaylan: I was probably around five or six years old when I received my first passport to travel to the West Indian nation of Barbados. My four maternal great-grandparents were born there and my mother owned land there, so we would visit the country often for vacation.
BMA: What city or country is your favorite place to visit and why?
Kaylan: As much as I love Namibia, where I live now, my favorite country to visit would have to be Barbados. Considering the huge lack of knowledge African-Americans are afforded as it relates to our ancestry, being able to pinpoint my Barbadian heritage is such a cherished piece of information and means that the island will always have a special place in my heart and soul. I would really like to take the African Ancestry DNA test so that I can know more detail about my African lineage. Particularly in my visits as an adult, I really fell in love with the island’s culture, food, music, history and of course its beauty. Barbados has just always felt ‘right’ and it also in many ways prepared me for life in Namibia.
BMA: What city or country was your worst place to visit and why?
Kaylan: So far, the worst place that I’ve visited was probably the town of Swakopmund, Namibia. It’s a visually stunning location on Namibia’s coast. Some of the world’s tallest sand dunes surround the town while lying along the Atlantic Ocean which simply put – is a phenomenal sight. Swakopmund also has a substantial White Namibian population, who live in the town’s fancy homes and beach houses, while a few minutes away the Black Namibians live in make shift homes – there’s a huge gap between the rich and poor. The times that I have visited I’ve felt like I stepped into the Jim Crow south. I felt racially profiled as I walked through the shops and was stared at like an intruder while dining in restaurants. The irony is that it’s promoted as one of Namibia’s top tourist destinations, but aside from the sand dunes and beaches, it’s not a place that I plan on frequenting.
BMA: Is there any city or country that you have absolutely no desire to visit? Why?
Kaylan: Aside from obvious war zones, No, I honestly haven’t traveled enough in my opinion, and so I’m pretty open-minded.
BMA: What languages do you speak?
Kaylan: English, very little Oshiwambo (my husband’s mother tongue), and French, which I studied for many years in school.
BMA: Can you list all the places you’ve lived and how many years in each place?
- New York (my birthplace and majority of life).
- Washington, DC (where I went to college – Howard University)
- Greenville & FarmVille, North Carolina
- Atlanta, Georgia
- Barbados (about one year when I was 24 years old)
- Namibia (almost five years).
BMA: Have you experienced discrimination for being brown while traveling abroad? Can you elaborate on your experience?
Kaylan: Unfortunately racism and discrimination in Namibia is not limited to the town of Swakopmund, as I described above. The legacy and atmosphere of apartheid is still very present in Namibia today. To me racism in the U.S. today tends to be more covert, while in Namibia it can be surprisingly blatant. There are establishments that you go in that have predominantly White patrons and you get the feeling that the owners would prefer it to remain that way. It usually begins with staring or being spoken to in a harsh or cold tone – and you just know what you’re dealing with. Then there are the times you can’t help but wonder if you would be treated a certain way if you were a White foreigner.
BMA: What made you decide to live abroad?
Kaylan: After spending time living in Barbados, I realized that I loved the energy that a Black governed nation brought to the table. By about the age of 23 I had become disenchanted with corporate America and around that time the travel bug also bit me. After my mother very suddenly passed away in 2007 I took a trip to Barbados with a good friend of mine. Later that year I decided to move there and that’s what I did. Unfortunately about a year later my paternal grandmother developed pancreatic cancer and I ended up returning to the U.S. to help take care of her – until she passed away. My passion for living abroad had not dissipated and to me the logical next step was moving to the African continent. I researched opportunities on the Internet and ended up applying to and being accepted into a teach abroad organization called WorldTeach. I chose their Namibia program because I had missed the deadline for their Tanzania program and at that time I had what I now realize were misconceptions about Rwanda – another nation that WorldTeach offered a program in. So I went with WorldTeach’s year long teach abroad Namibia program and arrived in Namibia in December of 2010 and the rest is history.
BMA: Can you list all the cities/countries you visited?
- USA: New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, DC, Las Vegas
- Toronto, Canada
I’ve been to airports in Puerto Rico, Senegal and South Africa for connecting flights. I haven’t done nearly as much traveling in Africa as I want to because in the midst of various jobs that I’ve taken here in Namibia, I didn’t make time for traveling. This will change very soon! I’ve also traveled around a good portion of Namibia on professional and personal trips.
BMA: What do you wish you knew before you decided to move abroad?
Kaylan: I wish I had understood the importance of making travel plans and sticking to them before becoming a mother. It’s not that I can’t travel now, but I definitely took my earlier years in Namibia for granted. There is so much to see in Namibia’s neighboring countries alone that I have yet to visit and now with a four-month old, it’s just not as simple as just getting up and going. On the flip side, I look forward to seeing the rest of the continent with my husband and son! The idea of being a traveling mother is pretty cool and even more so when I think of the experiences my son will have!
BMA: Did you meet your husband in your home country or while living abroad?
Kaylan: Yes, I met my husband in 2011, during my first year living in Namibia, about six months in. He is Namibian, of the Ovambo tribe, and he joined the staff of the school that I taught at. Despite our vastly different cultural backgrounds, we immediately clicked as if we grew up right next door to each other. In September of 2014 we were married here in Namibia. I could’ve never imagined having such a culturally exquisite wedding and I felt like a queen! Two videos documenting our wedding can be viewed on my YouTube channel.
BMA: How long do/did you plan on living abroad?
Kaylan: When I moved to Namibia I didn’t plan on ever returning to the U.S.! Although now, depending on how life pans out, I am open to the possibility. I always say that ideally, I’d like to live in the States for six months out of the year, and spend the other half in either a Caribbean or African nation.
Enjoyed Kaylan? Follow her journey abroad!