The always venerable Wikipedia defines an expatriate as “a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country or culture other than that of the person’s upbringing.” In other words, they’re strangers in a strange land. University of Kentucky fans have always identified themselves as members of “Big Blue Nation,” and in many cases, the BBN really CAN be found almost anywhere your travels take you. With that in mind, the series “The Ex-Pats of Big Blue Nation” will profile those Kentucky fans who have moved away from the Bluegrass State for whatever reason, asking how they’ve managed to maintain their devotion and fanhood despite living in areas where every exhibition game isn’t televised or where no one in the neighborhood understands the significance of the date April 2, 2012. Y’all, Kelli and Chandler live in a place that’s honestly wild- Madagascar. Read on and enjoy hearing about life as a UK fan outside of Kentucky.
Chandler and Kelli with their language tutor’s sons in their new UK shirts
We are Chandler, Kelli, & Waverly Snyder, with a baby on the way (due in November) and our Great Dane puppy, Alastor. Although we were both born in other states, we were both raised in Lexington and definitely consider it to be home. Currently, we live in Ft. Dauphin, Madagascar; the large island off the southeast coast of Africa. We are serving as Southern Baptist missionaries here in Madagascar. We arrived on the island seven months ago and will be living here for the foreseeable future.
As exotic as it may sound, the nitty-gritty of Madagascar is anything but, save for the beautiful tourist towns and our current beach town of Ft. Dauphin. Mostly we wake up to the sound and smell of a roaring diesel engine next door and the chirping of children walking to school and the slightly less adorable chirping of adults yelling down the street to one another. Our solace is found on the beautiful beach; that is, until the sellers stop by or the children stop to stare at our red-headed, fair-skinned little one.
Madagascar isn’t recognized for its outstanding national play, but there does happen to be both a Men’s and Women’s national football (“soccer” to us Westerners) team; unfortunately, neither team is of the winning variety. This fact alone underscores the country’s desperate need of the BBN presence.
Besides the fact that moving from America to Africa is the hardest adjustment anyone would ever have to make, it goes without saying that being the only two people within the borders of a country that know anything about, much less understand, the depth of BBN, is another difficulty in and of itself. How many Kentucky fans are in our area???? 3. The local UK alum group meets in our home daily, 24/7 actually. We have two members; hopefully a third in about 18 years.
Because no one here really cares much for “fandom”, except maybe who will win the bocce ball tournament or cock fight, the best we can do is wear our gear, carry our blue-and-white market bag on every available occasion, and instill in our daughter a love for the home team.
The most difficult thing about being outside of (like practically un-plottable) the geographic BBN, is not experiencing the excitement of new recruits and a new season. Is there really a best thing?
Our favorite memories differ. For Chandler, it is the entire tournament run for the John Wall and Demarcus Cousins team. While they did not achieve the Dream then run held all the intrigue a UK fan can love: last second heroics, a Cinderella feel, and overachieving. For Kelli, the 1996 NCAA tournament game. At only 8 years old, this is one of her most vivid memories of her favorite team of players. With her family at a friend’s house near downtown Lexington, she remembers standing on the roadside high-fiving other BBN fans stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on their way to celebrate our first NCAA championship in 18 years.
On game days, we wear our favorite UK shirts and often have to stay up until the wee hours of the morning to stream video, or at least audio, of the game through the internet… when the power is on. We haven’t resorted to any drastic measures as of yet (as long as you don’t count waking up a 3 am to watch), in order to experience a game. Fortunately, for the games that we miss Kentucky Sports Radio has our back; as well as our UK loving friends and family who keep us in the loop with just about everything.
If you or any other UK fans were to head our way for a visit, first, save your money, it’s expensive. Secondly, we have yet to create our UK-themed room as we don’t have a Fan Outfitters and must wait on packages from the States containing UK love (think Matt and Drew could send one this way?); however, once you arrive, we’d be glad to let you wear our Number 1 foam finger, borrow a drink cozy for your semi-cold Coca Cola and take you to the beach because it’s always beach weather in Ft Dauphin… except in cyclone season.
How do locals respond to our fandom? Well, just telling people here that we are from America; as opposed to France as they expect, this being a French-settled country, is unfathomable for the Malagasy. Throw in that we’re from a state called Kentucky and we love the UK Wildcats… well, we’ve lost them by that point. So, needless to say, they couldn’t care less about our fandom *audible gasp*. But do not be discouraged: We have done our best to express our fandom for our beloved Wildcats to our language tutor who still doesn’t quite get it, but humors us, nonetheless. Kelli’s mother has even gone so far as to buy UK tshirts for our language tutor’s 3 sons (above). We’re trying here.
Waverly’s fandom began from birth, we just foster that love as she grows. As is the UK way, she has officially been inducted into the BBN upon receiving a package from Chandler’s mom with her first cheerleading outfit and pom-pom. The outfit, pom-pom, and her rendition of the C-A-T-S cheer is just about the cutest thing you will ever see.
We have good news and bad news for those who may ever live outside of BBN. The bad news is this: if you happen to move out of, not just BBN, but the good country of America, you will most likely be the only fan in your town and probably the whole country. No one else will get as excited as you do about the top recruiting class in the nation or an NCAA title. No one else’s heart will hurt when your favorite player gets injured and is out for the season. Deal with it before you leave BBN. The good news is this: there will always be KSR to help satiate your hunger for the latest news and, if your family truly loves you, they will send you the equipment necessary for you to watch recorded games and will do whatever necessary to ensure your happiness.