Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Who am I?

I've started this blog post without a title. By the end of the entry I'm sure it will have one, but currently the monologue you are reading is not sure which route it will take. Only a week ago I got back from an absolutely amazing two week safari with my brother and a friend to the four corners of Kenya, where we traversed rainforest, desert, high mountain peaks and deep coral reefs and everything in between. However, I don't feel particularly inspired to brag about my awesome holiday (even though it was awesome). Tonight I read the blog of a westerner studying Swahili in Dar es Salaam, and their post of African lateness. I presume this person must be quite new to the continent if they are needing to express their observations on lateness and its causes, as after a while it is best just not to think about it and get on with the African rhythm as an ordinary part of life. But the point is this; the person was expressing  something and was using that expression to help with an aspect of their life. I haven't done that in ages! Tonight I'm going to write about my situation and if you want to see safari photos, invite me around for coffee another time ;-).
I am a marine biologist. I am a Christian. I am a PhD student. I am an NGO worker. I am British. I am a foreigner. (Blog title decided here) My life currently seems to be a balance of contrasting and sometimes conflicting roles. Never before have I had to negotiate so many different facets to my life, especially in my work, where I have to balance very carefully where I invest time in PhD work and work for A Rocha. But it stretches to every aspect including social life. Not until I had the lovely, but surprising crash of worlds with my friends and brother visiting here, did I realise how I live with different personalities, one for Kenyans and A Rocha and one for the UK. Not that I'm being un-true to either world, but their almost entirely independent existence in my life means that I express and interact with things in different ways. 
This balancing act is sometimes quite stressful, but for most of the time now, I have figured out how to do it with not too much difficulty. I switch language, mannerisms, jokes without even having to think about it. Sometimes I realise mid-switch and I'm glad that I can dip in and out of different worlds. I don't think that the various strands of one's life necessarily come together and harmonise, but rather that you just learn how to hold all the strings at once. I don't think that much of the Scientific community I interact with and the Christian community I interact with would agree on certain points. Where do I sit? In both camps and in neither. Sometimes I feel pressure from one side or the other to confirm to that view, e.g. views on church, views on alcohol, views on data-sharing, views about the West etc. etc., and sometimes I become a chameleon if I feel too uncomfortable to stand my ground. Other times I don't know what my stance is and I just get on with it, like my ambivalence towards African time. 
A multi-faceted life can feel quite lonely at times. Very few people span the variety of experience and expression that you do, so it is a road you must walk alone. This has certainly been the experience in Kenya, where I have had to learn how balance and nurture my various roles fairly independently. Balancing roles doesn't always need to be difficult; a guy who likes fishing and golf can play golf one day and fish another, but the particularly contrasting and conflicting nature of some of the roles I assume is where the challenge lies. 
I think that currently I am really content in my roles and also quite content that not many other people necessarily understand them. The only puzzle remaining is this; how many other people go through the balancing act? I think it has taught me a lot of resilience and life skills trying to keep all the balls juggling, but is this a normal part of growing up or something unique to unusual situations like living and working abroad? If you're reading this and understand what on earth I am trying express leave a comment.
Anyway I might as well leave one sneaky photo to get you interested in the awesome safari.
Until next time.

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