Sarah's blog: Laughter
As a young girl growing up in Africa, my parents always encouraged laughter in our communication. Often, as we shared meals around the table, it was typical for either my mother or father to tell a humorous story or crack a joke. I always remember this saying : laugh and grow tall. As a young girl, apart from ensuring that my teeth were clean and hair was brushed, laughter was a staple in my routine.
Strangely though, this seemed to be the norm all around our neighbourhood and looking back, it felt like every household encouraged laughter as a way of life. It meant that the attitude of gratitude was cultivated quite early on. Regardless of your means, we always found something to laugh about. This then became natural to me, and so when I landed at Heathrow Airport on that cold winter evening, nothing could have prepared me for the culture shock that awaited (me).
What I first found surprising was how the people carried themselves as they got off the plane and headed towards the Border Control. It seemed like everyone was fast paced and anyone who was not looked awkward. So whenever one made eye contact, you were met mostly with angry and discontented looking faces. Any attempts to smile seem to disgust them.
My host Laura had been a classmate of mine in secondary school and had sent a taxi to pick me up from the airport. As I was nervous and had mixed emotions, I struggled along, attempting to make conversation with my taxi driver, however this fell flat, as he appeared not to understand my accent and kept asking me to repeat myself. I found our interactions quite exhaustive and after 5 attempts threw in the towel at the joke I had just been repeating.
The rest of the journey was quiet as I settled on admiring the picturesque views beyond my window and enjoying the thrill that the unfamiliarity gave me. On the way I received a phone call from my parents and the first thing I did, once I answered the phone, was to burst out laughing. The excitement of hearing their voices was enough to make my day. When I looked up, I noticed that the taxi driver was looking at me through his rear-view mirror. He seemed astounded and even shook his head with disapproval.
This image left a chill in my body as I dreaded about how the next three years as a university student would be in what felt like a hostile society. As these thoughts lingered, I only hoped for the best. Shortly, after we arrived at Laura’s and as my luggage was being offloaded, I rang the doorbell eager to see my friend! As soon as the door opened, I was greeted by an ecstatic Laura, screaming with joy and laughter, her arms wide open to embrace me. As she welcomed me with laughter, all the worries disappeared, and I felt at home.
Sarah is a Christian, mental health practitioner & mum. When she’s not working she enjoys walking along the beach, hosting a virtual bookclub, entertaining friends over homemade East African cuisine and storytelling.