So over the past few days, i attended a few family gatherings. Christmas was passed rather uneventfully – i was and still am down with a severe bout of cold that has prevented me from going to the hospital the past two days. I am a bit put out by that because my elective is almost drawing to an end, and i don’t feel like i am getting as much out of it as i should. I think i am going to have to put it a few more on call nights next week just to replace those days i have lost.

When i was in the Land of Fish and Chips, there was a year i spent Christmas with a band of really close friends, and then there was a year where i spent Christmas completely alone, save for my dog. All festive seasons no longer hold any cheer for me; i just feel that they are like any normal days, really not much of a big deal. Part of me did wonder whether i was becoming a little too cynical, a little too lonesome. Then when i spent Christmas with my extended family a few days ago, i realized to my immense surprise that it was really not much of a difference. I was really looking forward to having lively debates/discussions with my relatives, but i discovered (to be honest i was not surprised) that none of my relatives were the type to share their opinions. Rather they fell into two categories – one group that would only listen and nod politely, and the other group who would narrate and not expect people to challenge their opinions.

In the end i spent most of the night watching a rented DVD with a few of my other cousins. I felt very lonely and i was incredibly bored. I wanted to go home, and just curl up on my couch with my novel, or watch a couple of my own DVDs. I missed my dog. This was the start of a gradual understanding that my life is no longer in Potato Land. My life is now back in the Land of Fish and Chips. It reiterated the point that i have known for a long time now – that i can be surrounded by loads of people but still feel lonely. I do not need a lot of people with me, i just need the things most precious to me to be close to me. And because of this, i understood also why festive seasons no longer feel extra joyous. It’s because i always ensure that the things i hold most dear to me are with me every day, so every day is a day worth living. I know this sounds very clique, but you have no idea how a lot of mere acquaintances are perplexed by my principles.

It has also been a few years since i returned back to my homeland. I came back this time round with an agenda. I wanted to know if there was anything worth coming back for. I wanted to check out the job prospects, and i wanted to know just exactly how my extended family matters to me. On the professional side, i have been dumbfounded with my numerous observations. I came to one solid conclusion – if i want to become a better doctor, i need to stay in the Land of Fish and Chips.

On the familial side of things, last night, i discovered exactly how deep alcoholism runs in my extended family. Hand in hand with alcoholism, i discovered with great sadness that violence came along, and it was always the wives and the mothers who bear the brunt of it. A discussion with a cousin turned sour. I recognized the switch and saw in his eyes the explosive rage my cousin launched into. It culminated with vulgarities and his mother had to drag him home. We are talking about a twenty-four year old man by the way. I discovered that my older cousin gets bashed by her drunken husband, but no one does anything. I learnt about the physical abuse another cousin meted out to a younger one, and it was only discovered when my aunt noticed the bruises. My aunt never told my uncle or her son (my other cousin) because the culprit would be severely hurt. I observed how rude some of my younger cousins behaved because they were emulating the behaviour of their abusive father and their mother was helpless. I found out how an uncle was openly sleeping with another woman, and how my aunt could still pretend that everything was all right, and the cheek this uncle had to still turn up at our gatherings with his head held high. I learnt of a cousin diagnosed with Schizophrenia but whose mother decided to hide him at home and not let him out because of the stigma. I was horrified. It seemed that part of the family’s dirty laundry tumbled out last night, on Christmas day.

Part of the problem is the culture, where women are still submissive. Another part of the reason i feel is with the exception of my family, none of my other cousins had the privilege to be educated overseas. They were not exposed to a variety of people or situations. They performed well academically and were thus treated like demi-gods. No one has ever shown them that Life is more than the box they have enclosed themselves in. A cousin who was losing a debate we were engaged in demanded that i should never question others and only myself, and he ended up accusing me of being an arrogant intellect. I was really astounded and stunned. Men are still treated with an elevated status. My few years spent mingling with the Western educated women in the Land of Fish and Chips had somehow made me think that i had over-exaggerated the imbalance of gender authority in my head. But barely two weeks back home, i understood that the imbalance is still very much larger than life.

I cannot stay here and watch helplessly as i see the men bully their women. My hands are tied. I would have called the Police in a jiffy, and have these fools sit their arses in cold cells. I would have asked the women to have the courage to divorce their husbands. But i know this is not how it works. I can kick up a major fuss but if the women are not ready to stand up for themselves, whatever i do will only exacerbate the problems and i will be branded the instigator of the family. Here in Potato Land, women are still expected to get married and tend to their families. I am considered an anomaly, though no one, man nor woman dared tell me that in my face.

I know now that there is nothing holding me back in Potato Land. I have done my part, and looked for any responsibilities that i may have. There aren’t any. I know now that i can move off without feeling any sense of guilt. Potato Land is a toxic environment. If i want to be a better person, then i need to leave this place. I know on a deeply personal level, listening and witnessing all these accounts have affected me. I am afraid of forming long standing relationships – i can’t bring myself to trust a man. I know this is a terrible mentality but i can’t help the fear. All the men closest to me, those who should be role models, are dreadful people. So i know i must leave. Leave this place, leave the people who do not want to better themselves, and find a path for myself.

This is it.


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