Leroy Odhiambo came to the U.S. in 2008 at the age of 11 because his family wanted greater economic opportunity. Despite travel agents that took his family’s money, he came from Nairobi, Kenya to Maryland. Two days later, he caught a plane to Seattle. Like many immigrants, his first few days were a jetlagged blur. Odhiambo still managed to find time to enjoy American food in a cold McDonalds before finally getting to go to school.
Odhiambo’s first year and a half in the U.S. were spent focused on his new home. But as time passed, he missed the food, language and culture of Kenya. At the same time, he is grateful for the economic opportunity that the U.S. has allowed him and his family. It also provided him with an opportunity to change his behavior, becoming “more reserved and more considerate of others.”
My name is Leroy Odhiambo. I came from Nairobi, Kenya. I was 11. It’s a big city, it’s pretty beautiful. We have fast food, you can just compare it to any other city.
There was a problem with the tickets so the first time we purchased them I guess we lost them. It was weird because my mom bought it through a travel agent who ended up just taking her cash so she was scammed. We said goodbye, waved and I think people were crying. I was trying my best to ignore that because I didn’t want to cry as well. And so I said goodbye to them and just walked over to the terminals. Again like I wasn’t really conscious of my surroundings for me it was like, I was thinking way more in the future, like how I’ll be going to school, where I’ll live.
So originally I went to Maryland for a day and a half before coming to Seattle. And in that day and a half what happened was I arrived jetlagged, went to McDonalds, it was pretty cold, went home and slept until like the next day we had to leave. I didn’t eat anything besides fast food so I though American food was good, but when I actually had home-cooked meals, I kind of cried because the food wasn’t as good as it was in Kenya. In Kenya, I would say pretty much everything is organic so there’s just that better taste to everything. Everything just has its own taste. So when I eat over here I spend a lot of my time comparing it to how it would be in Kenya. The ingredients we have and whatnot.
I didn’t miss Kenya for a year and a half. I just put it all behind me. I was trying to start a new life out here. Then out of nowhere I started getting homesick. I miss talking Swahili to more than just my parents, family, and friends. I just miss everything about it.