Eight things that reminded me of home

Chevening Scholars Class of 2018

The UK is a multicultural place which has long attracted people from all over the world, who enrich UK life by bringing their own influences with them to these shores. It is not uncommon to walk around a city and hear multiple languages being spoken around you, or to go somewhere remote in the countryside and still find a chicken tikka masala or a kebab. No matter your origins, there will always be something to remind you of ‘home’ so, this month, we asked our scholars to share some of the things that they've come across in the UK that remind them of home.

1. LIVING IN PEAS

Azim Kassim, Brunei

‘My parents love gardening. My late father was passionate about planting fruits; he used to grow papayas, lemons, and my favourite childhood fruit, guavas. My mother was passionate about flowers and landscaping. When I was young, at times my chores would include helping my parents by pulling out the weeds, and watering the flowers and plants. It was an interesting experience but I did not share the same passion as my parents for gardening fruits and vegetables.

Bizarrely, or perhaps out of curiosity (or a sign of my age), I signed up for Leeds University Union (LUU) Rooted which is a food growing project that maintains a roof garden and an open garden where vegetables and fruits are open for anyone to consume. What started as a carefree volunteering session, I now find to be an enjoyable therapeutic session so much so that I've grown immune to handling giant worms and the smell of compost.

At one of the LUU Rooted events, we were taught how to reuse containers including ice cream tubs by filling it with compost and green peas and putting them somewhere they can grow really fast – within two weeks in fact! These beautiful magical green pea shoots truly remind me of my late father, my family, and my humble rural village back home. 

Also, it gives me more reasons to indulge in Ben and Jerry's ice cream!’


2. THE BRIDGE FROM BRIGHTON TO BOTSWANA

Juby Peacock, Botswana

‘The Brighton Pier reminds me of the old bridge in my home village in Maun, Botswana. Building up memories for my photo album whilst here in the UK, I took this picture because I have had so many fun memories at the Pier. It’s been my go-to area to relax – just like the old bridge was for me in Maun. By contrast, the old bridge in Muan is white and built on wood in white sand, and it has river water flowing all around it instead of seawater. But similarly, it brings out the same feelings within me.’


3. THE CAKE I NEVER ATE

Yuanli Shi, China

‘I celebrated my birthday in March. I video-called my family in China and was surprised that they were gathering together to celebrate – my cousin was even baking a birthday cake for me… even if I wouldn’t be there to taste it. I was very moved and missed them in that moment but my friends in Cardiff then came to also celebrate the day with me, and in that moment, I felt so lucky that I have two families in the world!’


4. SCOTLAND ROCKS

Pantea Armanfar, Iran

‘“Conversations” is an art project I did as part of an exhibition titled “Testimony From The Rocks” in Stornoway. The piece is based on the idea of similarities between two distinct, yet connected islands in Scotland and Iran.

Going through hundreds of archival photos from Scottish history, I found more similarities than I could have imagined. Despite the many cultural differences, I have been able to see how similar humans are and what connections they can make and this reminded me of home.’


5. SOUNDS LIKE HOME

Abibatu Kamara, Sierra Leone

'I live in a cosmopolitan area with a classic display of the cultural diversity that exists in the UK – the whole scenery is awesome. Every now and then, as I walk around my neighbourhood, I keep on soliloquising, “this is home”.

Crowded streets, pubs, a local market, street food, and other elements replicate my home in Sierra Leone. It’s amazing that I can get everything I need to prepare my local food at the grocery market – bargain priced – just like we do back at home.

Sometimes, I bump into people speaking my dialect and it is joyous to exchange greetings with them! It truly feels like “home sweet home.”’


6. HIKING TO HARGEISA VIA THE SOUTH DOWNS

Ahmed Dirie, Somalia

‘Growing up in Hargeisa, Somaliland, hiking was an important part of my childhood. I remember going with a group of friends to hike the mountains surrounding Hargeisa and en route to the mountains, we would pass through valleys where there were plenty of jujube (gob) trees which is a wild tree bearing small (sometimes sour) fruits. We would feed ourselves with the gob fruits to feed ourselves during our journey. It was one of the most exciting activities we enjoyed at the time.

Recently, whilst hiking in the South Downs of England with a group of friends, I couldn’t stop reminiscing about those days and despite the fact there were no gob fruits to eat along the way, I enjoyed every moment of the journey. I came to the UK and rediscovered my passion for hiking.’


7. "LOULOU CHINOIS"

Nalina Sungeelee, Mauritius

‘Back home in Mauritius, February can switch between scorching rays of sun on some days and thunderous monsoon-like downpours on others. The only constant comfort is the New Year celebrations by the various multicultural communities in my area. The most anticipated of these festivals is the Chinese New Year when the entire island is on holiday and whether you are Chinese or not, if you don’t go to your local Chinatown, your neighbours and friends will make sure the festival comes to you!

February here in London, I discovered, is sometimes crisp and bright, sometimes bleak and frosty, but generally always invariably cold. So, choosing to go out on weekends is no easy choice. But, that weekend was special; the Year of the Pig was here and if Chinatown wasn’t going to come to me, I would don my armour of boots, hat, scarf, and mittens to go on a quest to find the familiar. The rhythmic percussion of the Chinese drums, mythic lions, and dragons in trance combined with the décor of bright red lanterns floating overhead and a selection of moon cakes made for a complete sensorial experience.

Whilst curiosity for the exotic drives most visitors to Chinatown, it was a need to be reminded of home that pulled me there. The crowds were there, the red lanterns, the drums, and finally, a gorgeous majestic purple lion (“Loulou Chinois” as we call it in Mauritius) rearing and fluttering its beautiful large lids. It turned its head to look right at me and right then, I was home.’


8. A VERY HANOI CAFE

Phuong Anh Nguyen, Vietnam

‘I loved walking the streets of London on cold winter afternoons. During those walks, the mellow coffee smell on the streets reminded me of Hanoi, Vietnam.

Vietnam is the second biggest producer of coffee in the world so when I was packing my luggage to move to London, I packed some boxes of coffee as gifts for my new friends. They all loved the strong delicate taste of Vietnamese coffee!

In Hanoi (where I lived), coffee is an essential part of city life. We don’t drink cappuccinos, espressos, or soya lattes – our most popular types of coffee in Vietnam are by drip filter, coffee with eggs drunk black with condensed milk, and weasel coffee. “Coffee-to-go” is not a popular trend in Hanoi as we like to enjoy our peaceful weekends/evenings meeting close friends to share stories besides a cup of brown coffee in a cafe. Drinking coffee in Hanoi must be slow enough to feel its sweetness as well as the tranquil lifestyle of the city.

Similarly, London’s cafes are little havens with fragrant coffee and aromatic cakes. In the hustle and bustle of frantic city life, you can visit a pretty coffee shop to sit and read a book or people watch. A cup of coffee can make you forget all pressures, stress, and the busyness of your daily life. If you want to truly live, live slowly.’


Thank you to all of our scholars who submitted pictures and stories to this theme.

To submit your own pictures and stories to the latest themes, please check your most recent Scholargram for submission details.