Living Leeside: Naomi enjoyed a warm welcome in a cold land

Kenyan psychologist Naomi Masheti has found a friendly home in Cork but tells Roisin Burke she still hasn’t got used to the cold.
Living Leeside: Naomi enjoyed a warm welcome in a cold land

Dr Naomi Masheti. Picture Clare Keogh

KENYAN psychologist Naomi Masheti has spent the last 20 years living in Cork, with many fond memories formed on the grounds of UCC.

Living in Ballincollig with her husband Dave, Naomi is the proud mother of three; Wycliffe, 33, Chriss, 23 and Claire, 17 and the adoring grandmother of two; Adam, 6 and Bella, 2.

“I love my grandchildren, they are like a de-stressor. I love playing with them, going to the park and things like that. They are such a delight, it is like therapy.

Naomi works as a programme coordinator at the Cork Migrant Centre at Nano Nagle Place, interacting with asylum seekers at Direct Provision centres across the county and offering respite from the struggles they endure during their time at the centres.

“I work in preventative health measures, I provide a safe place for mothers and babies to do activities and to relax,” she says. “They can meet other people and experience well-being. Sometimes I do workshops on various topics, such as parenting, etc.”

In her spare time, Naomi enjoys TV dramas.

“I love Greys Anatomy, I have watched it from the very beginning, I think in another life I would have been a doctor. I also love forensic stuff, like Blue Bloods, CSI, Criminal Minds and the supernatural stuff is like an escape from work.”

Naomi’s husband Dave is half Irish and half Kenyan and the pair met in Cork many years ago.

The 54-year-old said that she loves Cork but dislikes that she is so close to the sea as the sea is too cold to enjoy.

“In Kenya, we are in the water the whole time, it is lovely, but it is too cold here!”

Naomi said some of her fondest memories of her time in Cork have been at UCC.

“The atmosphere is very welcoming, it is nobody’s place and everybody’s place. You can blend in easily, the culture and environment are hard to describe, but it is very positive.

“I felt at home there. The psychology school is very small, so you get to know everyone and people are very friendly and open, we were like a family.”

Naomi completed a BA and a MA in psychology at the college.

“I remember finishing my Masters and walking over the bridge crying because I thought I was leaving.”

The psychologist went on to complete a PhD in psychosocial Well-being of African Migrant Children in Ireland and remains a guest lecturer with the school of psychology.

Naomi said after 20 years in Cork, the Rebel County very much feels like home.

“My neighbours stop to chitchat, the same with the supermarkets when paying for my groceries, the local post office and even the occasional garda in the street.

“I love the English Market in that I can actually buy foodstuff in an actual market. I love the farmer’s markets I suppose because I love to cook and the food from the markets is so fresh and so local.

“I have grown to love the accents and I love that people from Cork take such pride in coming from Cork. I love Cork too now and I can’t imagine living anywhere else in Ireland but Cork.”

Since moving to Cork, Naomi said she has formed a fondness for spiced beef, eating it every Christmas and stocking up on the stuff to ensure she has a supply all year round.

“I quite liked bacon and cabbage but when I discovered spiced beef, I was delighted.”

While Naomi is very happy in Cork, she said she does miss her sisters and brother who are still living in Kenya.

“I miss my family, I miss the weather, I miss the sense of family/community togetherness, I miss the way Kenyans speak.”

Naomi said that in Kenya, you could be listening to a TV station where a conversation is being carried out in English like a discussion panel and the panellists just switch from English to Swahili without blinking. This seamless switch from one language to another is so mainstream that the locals don’t even notice.

“I did not even notice it myself when I was living there until I came to Ireland and then went back heard it. I was like ‘I am back’.”

Naomi gets home every few years and keeps in contact online through WhatsApp and Zoom.

“I have found, since lockdown, that I can attend more things in Kenya, funerals are online, weddings, family meetings, I have felt more included.”

The mother of three said her children are proud Corkonians and she has no plans to leave Cork any time soon.

My children are Corkonians and I have grandchildren here so I would say half my heart is here and I cannot function with half a heart I guess.

“Ideally, I would spend the Irish winter months in Kenya. I still have not got used to the winter months.”

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