Photo Credit: Courtesy: Lysandra
The Black Expat: A Jamaican Living In Uganda
Meet Lysandra, a Jamaican living in Uganda in East Africa. While there are many similarities between island life in Jamaica and Uganda, there is much to learn too. From similar foods to culture shock, this Black expat has a wealth of knowledge and is sharing it all here.
1. Tell us about yourself
I am Lysandra Chen. I’m from Jamaica originally but I have lived in East Africa for 30 years. Even still, Jamaican roots run deep so one can never really stop being a Jamaican, no matter how much water passes under the bridge.
2. Why did you choose Uganda?
I came to Uganda with my parents when they relocated from Kenya but decided to stay although my whole family have left the continent.
3. How was the transition from life in Jamaica to life in East Africa?
As a family, the first African country we called home was Kenya. I was very young so it was quite scary, I was expecting to live in trees and ride zebra to school, that was compounded by the first thing we saw as soon as we landed in Nairobi. We saw a pair of giraffe grazing in the savannah bordering the airport, everything was
so wild. In the beginning, we couldn’t relate with anything, the accents, the vast tribes and their associated characteristics, the food, learning a new language. It was evident from the beginning that although we are Black, we would never fit in. We kept and developed new family traditions to reinforce the need for togetherness (my mother must have been a genius). She held it all together and made the landing as soft as possible.
4. Where do you like to explore in your free time in the country?
In Uganda, my favorite place is Jinja, it may seem basic but it is close enough to get to over the weekend and far enough to be considered a holiday town. There are very
many beautiful towns in Uganda, but my best experiences have been in Jinja by the Nile.
5. What are your favorite Ugandan dishes and do any remind you of Jamaica?
My favorite has got to be meat in peanut paste. We have a lot of the same tropical food and fruit, calaloo, green banana, cassava, yam, soursop, etc, but green banana is as staple here as it is in Jamaica, the difference is in
the method of cooking. There’s not a lot of spice in the local food here.
6. What advice do you have for those hoping to move to Uganda?
When you move to Uganda, you will enjoy the people and the culture but try to find your community as quickly as possible, your community will give you sound advice and help regarding housing, education, investments, and more, because they have been where you are as a newcomer in an African society. Uganda is like any other foreign country, Italy, France, Venezuela, etc. Your naivety will be taken advantage of by people who are obviously more knowledgeable, so one should not come thinking otherwise. Ugandans are highly educated and very street smart, that said, they are also some of
the kindest and most generous people in East Africa.