Over the years, via this comparatively long running blog (yikes, I started this in 2006!!), I have had approaches by TV
and film company researchers asking various questions about expat life, apparently exploring the idea that a ‘fly on the wall’
documentary, fiction series or reality TV that might make great viewing for the
folks back home. Do I know anyone who has recently moved here from the UK who
might be willing to be filmed 24/7 for TV? (answer: No - are you joking?).
It's not hard to understand why they got in touch. Expat life in
Africa has long been fascinating, ever since the Out of Africa and the White
Mischief movies were made (thank you to early adventurers Karen Blixen, Idina
Sackville and Lord Erroll for making it so, and to 1980s film makers for
bringing it all to life so evocatively). But since the 80s, there has been a
bit of a lull. The Constant Gardener was
filmed in Kenya, then there was ‘The Last King of Scotland’, the Idi Amin
Biography filmed in Uganda etc. Other than that, if you want to see anything
remotely contemporary (other than gritty homespun drama Nairobi Half life), then you are in
the zone of wildlife documentaries like Big Cat Diaries.
I think that what the researchers were after was a modern day
series on a par with ‘Bridezillas’ or some such. Imagine a newly arrived expat who
is unused to employing domestic staff, riding around in a four wheel drive car with
nothing to do all day but experience frequent culture shocks while going about
a daily routine and basking in the sunshine. Throw in a bit of intrigue and imagine how well
that would go down during and English winter?
It was also once suggested that I have a go at writing something about expat
wives that perhaps could be on a par with Jilly Cooper’s ‘Riders’. Problem was, there was no way I could do it (in spite of a few fairly concerted efforts!)
Lines of enquiry quickly run dry as regards filming here. Perhaps
because East Africa is a bit 'too' dangerous, a bit 'too' different and
ultimately too far away for projects to take off.
I think that expat life in Africa is fascinating, not because of
any preconceived ideas of what life here is like but because of the reality. If nothing else, living in East Africa hurled
me out of my naïve ‘first world’ outlook that life could be ‘fair’ for everyone.
It has taught me that determination and hard work get people very far, but
there has to be some luck involved too. It is sometimes possible to help someone and it
is possible that trying to help in the wrong way can actually make things
worse. Resilience is a catchword in this part of the world and you absolutely
never know what tomorrow might bring. I guess for this reason, many visitors to
Kenya say that living here makes them feel ‘alive’ and not as if life might be passing us by. Frankly, there's seldom a dull moment.