I know the word shy and the name Cate Mukei doesn’t sound right in the same sentence for most of who know me.
But I have been unknowingly acting shy!
See, when I arrived in Sweden on April 7, I had not clue of the transformation I would go through as a person.
I went through the crying stage where I really wanted to go back home. Infact, I just wanted my mother. To get over it, I tried to make new friends but that didn’t really go well.
I’m a very talkative and goofy person. Most of my Kenyan friends thought I was funny. No one really peed on themselves because of I joke I made but still, they did change their facial expressions.
That’s not the case anymore. Most of the time people just stare at me. Blankly! Do you know how humiliating that is? When you just sound like a chatter box? No one is responding to you?
That’s actually one of the reasons I decided not to pursue a career in journalism in Sweden. I attended several press conferences and I remember trying to explain something in comparison to how media work in Kenya and everyone just stared at me like I was an alien. If it wasn’t for some other foreign journalist (I think he was from BBC), I think I would have broken down there and then. He made me understand that it was nothing personal. That’s just how Swedes are.
Then there is the accent. I never thought that Kenyans have a unique accent until I moved here. And sometimes people don’t understand what I say. It also doesn’t help that I have a soft voice. Remember, I’m talkative but not loud. I still don’t understand that bit myself. So having to repeat myself all the time really did things to my self-esteem. A shy journalist? I was really hard on my self and frankly speaking I almost gave up on starting conversations with people.
Learning Swedish also affected my English skills so much that I have to think all the time when I want to express myself. I have to think in Kamba, translate it to Swahili, then English and finally Swedish. Just picture how difficult it is to have a conversation with me lately.
So what kept me going?
Frankly speaking I’m still rebuilding myself self-esteem. Mostly because if I am to progress, I need to talk to people. It’s important that I communicate and confidently share my capabilities. As a creative, I have also discovered that I’m now in a different set up and I have do adapt to it. I’m not hanging out with fellow creatives and can’t easily share my scattered thoughts. I’m in Rome now….you know what is expected when you get there!
I have also started appreciating small things around me and using them to motivate myself. For instance the number of people smiling back at me in a month has sky rocketed from two to eight. Mostly because I now work for a multinational company. Guys, did I tell you that a Swede actually sat next to me in the bus and started a conversation with me? I’m thinking of writing a book based on that single incidence.
Anyway, I have to stop here and study for my Swedish Language National exam which is an week. Another self-esteem boosting milestone!