Nostalgia Mania: A Diaspora’s lasting Malady

Memories

Aaah...If only...

It happened almost instantaneously and I remember it as though it were yesterday. 12 Years ago, I sat on the window seat of  an airbus waving goodbye to my beaming, proud parents as they waved goodbye to me. In those days, pre-911 days,  family members could actually walk to the tarmac and wave. Sitting in the belly of the huge plane, I clutched my Bible and tried to hold back the tears threatening to spill and make as mess of the thick mascara I had slathered on my eyelids especially for the trip.

I remember the early seeds of yearning taking root in my memory and over the years taking root  growing  into a constant emotion that entrenched itself firmly in the fiber of my being.  Suddenly thrust into a world with a different beat and rhythm made me yearn for the smells and noises of my childhood. I cooked all my childhood dishes, sought out people from my country of origin and avidly followed the news from back home; something I had considered a bore and only reserved for old people but instead found myself becoming  a kind of reluctant expert of sorts.

As I embraced and committed to nostalgia mania, the malady of which I have never recovered,  I also seemed to form a sort of cleaner, nicer version of  my memories of home. Gone were the memories of the dusty, crowded streets. Gone were the memories of the long, blister inducing rides on the potholed roads in suspiciously old death traps disguised as public transportation. Nostalgia replaced these memories with softer colors of the majestic African sunset. The crowded dusty streets were replaced with smiling people always ready to talk-not shout- at you. The constant stream of uninvited guests who would visit us for indefinite periods was a memory that was also replaced by yearning for company which really was a result of the lonely individualistic society I now found myself in.

I realized one thing though. And that is that whenever I indulged in these feelings of yearning, I also experienced a feeling of dissatisfaction with where I was. A lost-ness. I feeling that somehow something was amiss every time I took a trip back home via Nostalgia Airlines. I wanted to assuage the yearning so I took the plunge.

After 11 years in self-imposed exile, I went back home.

 

The soft glowing memories I had created of my homeland were shattered 10 minutes after my arrival. Not only were the people not smiling and speaking gently, they were scowling and hurriedly shoving their way through huddled masses of people trying to  get to wherever they wanted to go. The ride to my mother’s house was a bumpy affair that tenderized me mercilessly. My heart raced and tried to escape its protective shell that was my shocked self.

As we rode in the pitch black night, I realized that engaging in nostalgia had helped me weather the years away from home. Nostalgia had helped me retain some of the cultural experiences I had grown up with. Through cooking, interacting with other members of the Diaspora I had found a way to keep a sense of who I was in new strange world. Nostalgia mania had brought me home. Urging me to take the plunge and go see how everyone at home was doing.

I came back refreshed, with a new set of memories and this time, I was ready for I was sure that Nostalgia mania will lead me home once again. A lasting malady that would inevitably lead me back home again.

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