A Diaspora’s choice: Engage or Retreat

I belong to the Earth

A Diaspora's Choice: Engage or Retreat

Every time I move, my family and I go through an anxious period of anticipation where we try to imagine what the new place will be like. Dogged by questions that only experience of the place can answer such as:

What will the new place be like?

Who will be our friends when we get there?

Will we like them?

Will they like us?

Will we fit in?

What will be our activities?

Having relocated three times, with one of those moves being across continents, I have began to see a pattern in the approach I have implemented to integrate into any new environment. At first I didn’t see a pattern but later, and probably because it worked, I did.  It’s a pattern born out of the desire to fit into whatever society I find myself in. It is a pattern driven by the Diaspora in me who wants to have a connection, craves identification and the deep desire of wanting to be part of the whole. Not just a sole entity existing without any particular anchor.

The life of a Diaspora is one characterized by their past. Circumstances which play an integral role in shaping our world view. In some instances making us more sensitive to stimulus around us and in others making us determined to transcend the adverse conditions that for some have led to our being where we are.

One such pattern I identified was at first subconscious but in retrospect, I realized was strategic in implementing swift integration into the society I was trying to be a part off. I drove around getting to know the layout of the area.   I found myself paying special attention to areas having international stores or restaurants. I also looked out for farmer’s markets.  Fresh produce enabled me to have the foods that reminded me of whence I came for they filled the unique void that only the smells and foods from my past could satisfy.

And then there was the social scene.  Carefully, I researched where other members of Diaspora spent their leisure time; I found them and created a separate social scene from my usual work environment.

In time, I had two entities; one that lived in the American world. Characterized by my nine to five friends. With my nine to five friends we had lunch, talked about work, inquired about their dogs and children and occasionally had drinks after work. Then there was the other me. The one that danced to traditional music from back home. The other me that went to functions from other cultures. The other me that cooked the foods I didn’t take to work except on diversity day.  The two world’s rarely colliding and when they did it was carefully orchestrated with open-minded nine to five friends meeting open-minded Diaspora friends.

And somewhere in the middle was the real me that wanted both worlds to gel together.

To seamlessly exist where I didn’t have to explain one world to the other.

With each new relocation, I found myself caring less and less whether one world bled into the other. While in the beginning I didn’t welcome all the questions regarding my origins, I later found myself sharing more and more.  The more I shared,  the less I cared whether the two world’s met. So what if the two world’s met? So what if one world didn’t understand the other world? In time they either would or not tolerate each other, leaving only those who dared know something new about another world, person, and culture.

Members of the Diaspora are faced with two choices. Either to be ambassadors of their culture and origin or to give up, retreat  and shut away from the world which they find themselves. The choice for a member of the Diaspora is not easy; either engage or retreat.

So which one is it for you?