February’s Here

It’s February. A new month. Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day. February is just full of reasons to celebrate.

When I lived in Minnesota half a lifetime ago, I used to look forward to February 1st because it always seemed to be 20 degrees warmer than the day before. That didn’t mean it was warm; just warmer. But now I’m in sunny Southern California where it is always warm.

While I enjoyed Buttontapper Challenge in January, I will change directions this month. Instead of following Laura Roberts’s excellent prompts, I plan instead to seek out news items from the many exotic and little-known places of the world I have chanced to live in.

One inspiration for this shift is that I finished reading Wanjiru Warama’s second memoir about her life in San Diego, a place she had intended to come for just a year, to complete her university studies and to relax and be refreshed from the stresses of her life until then in Kenya. I enjoyed both volumes of her memoir, Unexpected America and Entangled in America, because of the parallels I saw between her successful adjustment to America and my not always very successful attempts to adjust to the countries I chose as temporary homes.

Wanjiru introduces her memoirs as cross-cultural stories. Her story is also an immigrant story, though like many immigrants, she didn’t come here expecting to stay. It was only going to be one year. Just like my stays in Asian, European, and Caribbean countries were supposed to be for one, two, or three years. Africa offered me just months in each country.

This is an important time in our history to learn about immigrant experiences, to understand the reasons immigrants, especially unexpected ones, have decided to stay here, adjusting to all the challenges instead of returning “home.”

Unlike Wanjiru, I have abandoned my initial attempts to write one or more memoirs. Instead, thanks to the advice and guidance of two teachers of creative writing at OASIS in San Diego, Caroline McCullagh and Lola Sparrowhawk, my WIP—work-in-progress—is a novel with a protagonist much smarter than I was who met a man more willing to share his love of country with her than any man I found there. My hope is that I can use these two fictional characters to share the cross-cultural lessons I should have learned and to do so sympathetically and sensitively.

The working title of my WIP: The Friendship Code.

Please join me on this journey.

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