Friday, 20 December 2013

A Bad Case Of Traveler's Fear (Fear of the Unknown)

(Originally started 12th December 2013).

Days before I came to Juba, I was under a whole lot of fear.

I was having a bad case of 'fear of the unknown'. I did not know what to expect on my first trip to my own country. I did not know how I would be treated, if I would fit in, if I would feel comfortable with the languages, the local behaviour and customs etc.

The fear was there and it even came with a little bit of sadness. I was terrified out of my mind and expressed this to a few loved ones; some really tried to comfort me.
Other loved ones/friends gave me some tips and advice. For months I've been told by anyone who has been to Juba that,

1) it is a wonderful, great city, etc.2) keep an open mind if you go. Your experience will be different to the next person's.
I'm glad I have come here and actually made my own judgments and decisions so far; something that would have been fair for me to do any way.

My fear came out of a place of wanting to belong. For so long I have expressed much love for Africa, some kind of knowledge on the continent's rich history and the continuing neo-colonial presence. But there's a big difference between reading and educating on Africa and actually coming here to see everything for yourself; reality sets in and pretty much all your ideals of what can become of the continent takes a back seat.

My fear was elevated when I arrived. I stood out like a sore thumb (it could have been because I was wearing a hoodie in 40 degrees Celsius weather when I first arrived...).

The airport was just chaotic but luckily I was too tired to be expressively fearful.

From the airport to my cousin's house on the outskirts of the city, the fear came out little by little in the form of awkward laughs and consistent staring from the car windows.

I just couldn't believe I was here and I was seeing/experiencing the things I did.
On day one I even asked myself, 'why am I here?'.

I've always lead a very comfortable existence. Every place I've been have always been somewhat relatable to the UK or Netherlands. But this was so new for me. The air I was breathing, the languages I was hearing, the things I was seeing. Day One was overwhelming for someone like me to the point where I just went out with my cousin immediately because I was too shocked to sleep and recover from my long-haul flight.

I had to get used to the constant stares. I felt like people were peering into my soul from the moment they began to set eyes on me.

My cousin funnily told me that, 'if a guy likes you, he just stares'. And her dad told her that.
Funnily enough I just think people stare because people appear to be pretty brazen about things. Which is ok and quite funny.

It's now Day Four and I'm still a little fearful of walking down the streets of Juba because of the stares. The 'fear' I had was not the same kind of fear I had before I came home, it was rather mild and more superficial.

I've been told that I will grow accustomed to the stares so the fear of stepping outside on my own or even with someone else will slightly go away. Looking like fresh meat is not the way to go if you want to blend in amongst your people.

It is Day Ten and I have to say I have grown accustomed to my concerns. My fear of not being able to fit in has pretty much dissipated. I have familiarised myself with the unknown. Most importantly, I have decided/concluded that,

1) fitting in should never be the sole aim of any one person in any area of life,2) I pride myself on being unique and that is what I need to carry with me wherever I go,3) people in Juba aren't that different from myself!

To conclude, feel fear, analyse it, try and rationalise it. But don't let it consume you or stop you having a good time.