A magazine for Africans and friends of Africa...Our Voices, Our Vision, Our Culture

Diary of a Reluctant Immigrant: Our 7 month Anniversary
By Muntu Chikondi

For me, the strangest thing about being an immigrant is that it was never my intention to leave my country permanently. My trip to England was simply an opportunity to take a break from my life, to do something different for a few years. I had a great life in my home country. I had a decent career, was in the vicinity of my parents, and had a better quality of life than the one I knew I was coming to...The Reluctant Immigrant Series continues ...�

Until we got together, Mr. Doright (to the best of my knowledge) had not had a serious relationship that lasted longer than seven months, or what I like to call, the "seven-month curse."

Although it was unlikely that we would fall prey to this most prolific of relationship curses and despite my weekly threats--which were borne of frustration with my situation--that I would go back to my own country, we thought we should celebrate this anniversary. As the date approached we both made our plans.

Having only really known Doright intimately for the duration of our youthful relationship and discovered that many of my preconceptions about him were simply untrue, I decided the best course of action was to get help from someone who had know him for her whole life. I contacted his sister, who thought I was barking mad and could not take the whole thing seriously enough to give me any meaningful advice. So I was on my own and unfortunately, not being a Londoner, quite clueless as to where to even begin.

I decided to stick with what I knew: I would prepare a meal. I began to research the menu, taking breaks during my work day to figure out what would be tasty, but still easy enough to prepare after a day in the office. In the end I settled on a mezze type starter of bread, cheese, Parma ham and olives, followed by lemon and herb roast chicken, stuffed with sausage meat accompanied by the usual roast potatoes as well as some other roast vegetables. We would have Ben and Jerry’s vanilla caramel fudge ice cream to finish it, as it was on a weekday and so I would not be able to bake anything for dessert. All of this was to be washed down with a pinot noir. Luckily, we had both booked the next day off just in case things got out of hand.

On the appointed day, we awoke as usual and went to work. It was not a particularly warm day and we struggled to get out at our usual time. To make matters worse it rained during my walk to the office and I was not sure that the day was going to go well. I had had the terrible judgement not to buy an umbrella, assuming, quite foolishly, that my flimsy jacket would protect me if I were ever caught in the rain.

I was not badly drenched and taking off my coat, I settled on to my desk and thought how glad I was to be taking the Friday off so I could have a long weekend. As the day went by, the work became more tedious and by lunchtime I was ready for a break. I went to the bank to get some cash out as I still had the world’s worse bank account and could not pay for anything by card. I wandered down to the local sandwich shop, typical of the recent surge of "healthy" eating places that were springing up everywhere. I purchased my usual: a smoked salmon and avocado sandwich in a wholemeal wrap accompanied by some mock fruit juice and some posh potato chips, and took everything back to my desk.

I returned to my floor of the building, where there was some sort of commotion in one of the offices and I went to see what was going on. There was a box with a picture of sunflowers on it surrounded by a gaggle of girls. When they saw me walk in, they squealed, moved aside and led me to the box. It had my name on it and contained a bunch of long stemmed sunflowers, my favorite flowers. It took a while for me to rescue my flowers and for us to return to work and all the while I smiled inside. How could I not?

It was getting dark by the time I left the office, and I knew it would be night when I got home, so I went to the local supermarket and purchased a bottle of red wine and the ingredients for dinner.

Heavily burdened by groceries, the flowers and my handbag, I soon realized my mistake at Kings Cross Station, when I had to change underground lines. Carrying the large box of flowers and the groceries was not fun. I was breathing heavily and sweating slightly by the time I got to the Northern line. I attempted to compose myself and look like a normal passenger rather than a mentally unstable person who had somehow wandered onto the train. I had not fully recovered by the time we got to my stop and I had to haul everything off again.

I somehow managed to balance everything around me until I got to the top of the escalator and then struggled ungracefully out of the station and into the cold night. Lucky for me, it was not raining, as I had to resort to slowly dragging the groceries and myself, while pushing the box of flowers.

I proceeded at a snail's pace towards my home, wondering if I would still be there when Doright walked past on his way home from work. I was once again blessed with good fortune as a young lady, who was most definitely Irish (the accent gave her away) approached me and offered assistance. She had no idea who I was, but it turned out she lived nearby and was just kind enough to offer. I suspect I was a pathetic sight, struggling down the road and periodically stopping to stretch my weary body. It had taken me about fifteen minutes to move a distance that normally took me two minutes. The Irish lady helped me to my door and left me to struggle, in the most undignified manner, up the stairs to the comfort of my own home.

I finally got into the house and began to prepare the main meal, putting the chicken on before going to shower. I was just getting ready when Mr. Doright came home and we sat down to partake in the bread, cheese and ham. By the time we had the chicken we were too full for ice cream and sat on the couch listening to music.

Being too full and having drunk the better part of a bottle of wine, we inevitably fell asleep on the couch waking in the middle of the night to crawl into bed and promptly fell back to sleep.

We woke early the next morning and Doright was excited and energetic, while I was trying to see if I could get out of leaving the house (it was cold and cloudy). He finally managed to drag me out just after lunchtime and we went into town.

I may have mentioned this before, but I really do not like shopping and it appeared this was what we were going to do. Mr. Doright’s motivation was his dislike for my "little black jacket" that he felt drowned me and looked like a small sack when I wore it. He was determined to ensure, having gotten me out of the house that I got a proper "girl's jacket." We went to a shop full of urban-chic clothing and I tried on various coats, none of which really fit. As often happens, we ended up going to Selfridges, our usual department store, and going through some coats. After hours of searching, I finally found one I liked and that Doright appreciated. He happily bought it for me. The coat has since been featured in most holiday pictures.

Jacket purchased, Doright seemed to be on a mission, taking me quickly though the back streets of SoHo and down to the river. I tried not to pay attention to the river below me as we crossed over a bridge by the London Eye. We were apparently late for something. I didn’t know what, but I assumed it must be very important because Doright broke into a trot. As we ran towards the big ferris wheel that is the London Eye, I began to feel slightly apprehensive (I am quite uncomfortable with heights, to put it mildly). My fears were confirmed when we got into the queue to get on. Doright had booked tickets (they give you specific time slots to enter the little pods) and we were going on it.

Despite my usual trepidation when it comes to anything over one storey tall, the experience was amazing. The ring is a 135 meter-tall ferris wheel that stands in Jubilee Gardens on the South Bank of the Thames. If you look down, which I barley managed to do, the river flows beneath you and you can look across the London skyline to the houses of Parliament, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Gherkin. When I was not gripped with fear I truly appreciated the city I had come to live in. The golden light of the autumn evening accentuated the beauty of the old buildings and made the river look magnificent.

I was, however, still relieved when I was back on terra firma and we were on our way back to the north bank of the river and back through SoHo. It was getting dark now and as we walked through the little alleys I wondered where we could be going. We reached our destination and I knew I would never have found it if he had asked me to meet him there. Even now I only ever find that particular restaurant by accident. The restaurant in question is Hakkasan, the only Michelin starred Chinese restaurant in London. Doright had been raving about it for ages but being a "poverty-stricken" immigrant, I had been unable to go. The interior was pristine, modern, with clean lines and intimately lit tables. The meal was sublime, a far cry for our local Chinese down the road and the staff were just attentive enough. The sommelier’s wine choice was perfect for my fish dish and Doright’s duck. After dinner, I felt warm and satiated, wondering what was next.

I barely noticed the usual hordes as we walked through SoHo holding hands. I was intrigued when we stopped outside what looked like a warehouse. Mr. Doright used one of those credit card shaped plastic keys to open the door and we walked into Milk and Honey. We trotted up the stairs and Mr. Doright asked for the area he had previously set aside for us and our server led us to the middle of the room. Doright, obviously upset with lack of privacy, went to speak with the staff as I happily surveyed the room. It was small, cosy and very red.

Doright returned, having been denied his perfect finish to the evening. We decided to call it a night and trotted back down the stairs. I suppose I was just feeling loved-up and slightly tipsy, so I would not have minded sitting in the middle of the room. However, going home to our own sofa, where we could sit and sip the remains of last night's wine while listening to jazz was a much better way to end our date anyway.