Meet Brown Mom Abroad Malaika!
Malaika was born and raised in Kenya, Africa. I believe she is the only Brown Mom Abroad interviewed thus far who speaks three languages!
Malaika speaks Swahili, English and French. She is currently living in Québec, Canada with her husband and 2 children.
BMA: When did you first get your passport?
Malaika: I received my first passport when I was 12 years old. Prior to this, I travelled on my mother’s passport.
BMA: What city or country is your favorite place to visit and why?
Malaika: There are still so many countries I have not yet visited but of the ones I have been to, I still fall back to Kenya as my favorite country. It holds the most amazing memories for me and I had a wonderful childhood growing up there.
My favorite city in Kenya is Mombasa where there is a rich cultural history. The slower pace, friendly people and pristine sandy beaches make it an ideal getaway. It is also the place that my late father would take us on vacation so it holds a special place in my heart.
BMA: What city or country was your worst place to visit and why?
Malaika: I haven’t come across a place that I didn’t like in some way. My goal is to focus on the positive rather than the negative.
BMA: Is there any city or country that you have absolutely no desire to visit? Why?
Malaika: I am naturally curious about how other people live and like to learn from other cultures so there is no country I would avoid except for security reasons.
BMA: Can you list all the places you’ve lived and how many years in each place?
Malaika: Nairobi, Kenya – 20 years and Québec, Canada -15 years.
BMA: Have you experienced discrimination for being brown while traveling abroad? Can you elaborate on your experience?
Malaika: I personally have not experienced any discrimination while living in Canada. I have found this to be a generally tolerant society aside from language differences in Québec (speaking English versus French). As a result of being Anglophone, I sometimes felt shunned or ignored for not speaking French well. I think this is partly due to discomfort on both sides in trying to converse in an unfamiliar language. I decided to check my own attitude and try to improve my French so that I could feel more connected to French speakers and I feel at home here now.
I think a lot of discrimination stems from insecurities and misunderstanding and we have to look at the part that we can personally play in bridging the gaps. Interestingly, because I am mixed (half-white/half-black), I found that while growing up in Kenya, I was often treated as white and while living in Canada, I was considered black. There’s nothing wrong with that per se but it was just intriguing to observe this switch in perspectives depending on the culture.
BMA: What made you decide to live abroad?
Malaika: I decided to come to Canada to experience a different culture and to study Biochemistry and Music at McGill University. One of my brothers had completed his undergraduate degree at the same university and he had rave reviews about the city of Montréal and its dynamic multiculturalism.
BMA: Can you list all the cities/countries you visited?
Malaika: Travelling has slowed down a bit since the kids were born but here are some of the places I have visited:
Scotland: Glasgow & Renfrewshire
Canada: Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa, Niagara Falls, Montréal, Québec City
USA: New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Ann Arbor, San Diego, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Tennessee, and Kentucky,
Kenya: Mombasa, Kisumu, Naivasha, Nakuru, and Busia
(My mother bravely allowed me to travel from Kenya to her birth country Scotland alone when I was 12 years old. It was one of the best experiences of my life!)
BMA: What do you wish you knew before you decided to move abroad?
1) Be open-minded and go to your new destination with an attitude of embracing that culture and looking at life from a different perspective. Otherwise the culture-shock can be overwhelming and you may feel isolated.
2) Do your research on the pros and cons of living at your desired destination before you move. Before I moved to Canada, computer access and internet connections in Kenya were very limited so I obtained most of my information by talking to people. With the vast resources on the internet now, you are in good shape to get helpful information.
3) Recognize and acknowledge that you may have mixed feelings about moving, maybe even regret. There is an understandable transition period to go through once you move so just allow yourself to adjust and get used to your surroundings. Look for the positive things in your new environment and focus on that.
4) Moving to another destination (particularly one with a very different culture) does not mean the end of your ties with your previous abode. I sometimes felt torn between two cultures and what I should feel loyal to but there is nothing wrong with embracing two cultures and going back and forth between the two.
BMA: Did you meet your husband in your home country or while living abroad?
Malaika: I met my husband in Canada which was a very unexpected (and wonderful!) surprise of moving here.
BMA: How long do/did you plan on living abroad?
Malaika: I had planned to live in Canada for 4 years to complete my Bachelor of Science and then head back to Kenya but my darling husband derailed that plan by sweeping me off my feet and asking me to be his bride. The rest is history as they say and 15 years after first arriving in Canada, I’m still here. We have talked of one day moving back to Kenya (I still miss it incredibly!) but for now, we are here to stay.
I really enjoyed getting to know Malaika!
I hope you did as well.
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