I know Damaris through her sister Eva Muga, who I went to university with. I’ve never met Damaris personally but she has been a Facebook friend for a few years now. (In Kenya we befriend anyone and everyone on Facebook and then get to know them later :))
I thought of interviewing her because I think Dama is an interesting person, who has also lived abroad and is now back in Kenya. She is also a pioneer for Face of Africa in Kenya, an international modelling pageant. Her only request was for me not to change her answers, which I haven’t, although she uses a lot of her own lingo 🙂 her answers didn’t disappoint! Enjoy, but first a bit of background:
When did you go abroad to which country and for how long?
“It’s been a while, but I went to Germany in 2001 or in the later part of 2000. I stayed in Germany for approximately 10 or 11 years.”
When did you go back home and what led you to going back to Kenya?
“I came back in 2010. I always wanted to come back home, I loved living in Europe, but something was missing.”
Where did you stay in Germany for the first year?
“I stayed with my Boyfriend, he was the main reason I moved to Europe in the first place. I met him over the internet, way back then in the dial up days. We lived in Nuernberg- Germany.”
What income generating projects have you taken part in since you went back home?
“Web and Graphic Design, I started a fashion blog, that sort of made me a shopper and stylist so that too has generated some money on the side, but, graphic and web design is what puts beer on the table.”
How do you stay true to being a person who is Kenyan but has also lived abroad?
“I have always been Kenyan, ALWAYS . I think that is what makes it so much easier for me to settle back here, I love street, I will eat ‘Nairobian’ street food any day, show me good mutura and chapos in south B shopping center and I am home. I have done 7 course meals but, it’s not me.”
What issues do you find most challenging dealing with in Kenya that you did not have to deal with living in a foreign country?
“Time. There are so, so many things that are against time in Kenya or Nairobi for that matter, The traffic jam is at the top of the list, you spend 2 hours on a stretch that would have taken 10 minutes at the maximum. Keeping time is very important and is no longer a matter of Africans are laid back and “hakuna matata” kind of thing.
Bureaucracy, I think its bureaucracy though we like to just merge it with corruption. In Europe, if you want any paper work done that involves government, you go to the said office, queue and you get you work paper work done, if you have the correct requirements, you will get the document or signatory, in Kenya we are struggling with that.
Infrastructure is failing us.”
What do you love most about being in Kenya?
What do you wish you had done that you did not do when you lived abroad?
Do you ever regret going back to Kenya?
“No. Never and it’s not even easy, I had a better easier life in Europe.”
What things have made your transition much easier…was it family, friends?
“Nothing is easy, it’s not easy, it was never going to be easy, but if one person made it easier its Angelina Koinange. ‘She is my sister from another mother.’ She was there when I ran out of money and she was my SHELTER.
I have also had wonderful friends like Christine Oduor; she gave me jobs on the side and moral support. It was just great and overwhelming …overwhelming, because I came back and there were these women; my school mates, friends, who had blue chip jobs, who owned their own businesses, with a great apartment; and I knew from all the times I came back home on holidays from Europe that I want to be like them.
These are Kenyan women who have made it, who are on their way there, the list really is long: June Onyango, who picks my calls at odd hours and really is the best caterer and chef this side of the Sahara, Verah; who writes for Nation newspaper, Wangeci Murage, Business Development Manager at ZUKU, Winnie Thuku, author of several Kenyan best sellers, Wanjiru Rutenberg, Akili Dada Director, Christine Oduor, admin and field research head at PSI Kenya –another sister from another mother, Faith Murage from high school; who I just met recently but we had a great time and was heading marketing at Nivea Kenya and has now moved to Synovate, my cousin Norah Ogot, who has her own company Peak Brands that has gone multinational , Waboi who is on the Kenya Film board, Juliet Njeri who is with BBC, Julliet Opondo who is an artist with her own exhibitions, Linda Karuru, who is producing films and commercials. Edna Kosgey, who is an encyclopedia on everything elections, Janet Ligare – brilliant photographer and graphic designer, And then there are their friends; I am surrounded by great women. I want to be like them, and I could not have been where I am mentally if I was in Europe.
What I have learnt and experienced in the past 3 years is ….. AMAZING!!!!!
That aside I stand on the shoulders of a giant, Ms. Naomi Odoc….. my mother, my queen, my daffodil, my Switzerland and because she is no longer here, she is backed up by some great humans, my siblings; Evelyn Muga, Oduor Muga, Nora Muga, and Giftor Muga, who have repeatedly saved my life.”
What do u do now?
“Graphic and web design……my brother and I work in our own company.”
What advice would you give someone planning to go back home… if someone had 5 years to plan this what should they do?
“Save, save, save,save money. Kenya is wonderful; and like any other country in the world it’s better for YOU with money. There are many, many things to invest in.
If you cannot save, invest in a good education, the corporate scene in Kenya is a fantastic money earner and they love degrees.”
Any final thoughts?
“I’d like to say hello to my friends in Europe who I miss alot….Zhore Ismaili (Zhore’s book ‘Mein Neue Freiheit’ has just hit book stores), Markus Barnads, Djana Bosnic, Uwe Koerner and my sister on that side Sandra Wamira.”
And there you have it folks. I could not have said it better myself…..save, save, save.
The article is by Anita King; a Kenyan living in Sweden. She has a blog detailing all her adventures abroad, called www.asummerbunny.com. She likes cute kittens and all the Real Housewives on TV!