An alien at home

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In my years abroad I fit the `alien to the state` definition. I was born in different country, raised into a different culture, spoke in a different english and loved all the foreign sports..
When I got to Atlanta, GA all I knew about the place were the stereotypes – I thought every party would be a rap video, i would see T.I. at the mall or my personal favorite all old white people spent their nights on rocking chairs, sipping jack Daniels and holding a shotgun….
After a year I grew tired of holding my breath in anticipation every time I saw a guy with locks and I realized it would never be little Wayne. I stopped using GPS…well that’s a lie but I did stop using it daily! What never stropped happening was people saying to me `you`ve never had ABC before` as soon as they discover I hadn’t eaten what they’d been eating since they could chew; or when they proclaimed `you don’t know where DEF is???` when they discovered i spent my `summer break` in zimbabwe where I had spent my `fall, spring and winter break` as though I hadn’t mentioned that I LIVED in zimbabwe!
At first I used to love that phrase. Immediately after I shyly admitted my ignorance, an excursion would be planned to introduce me to everything from A-Z that a true Georgian must be acquainted with. I would try everything twice.. Make sure I liked it or put it in the that’s too much for me category.
Then it began to irritate me. Was I never going to be `georgian` enough. Would every time I have to pronounce vitamin lead to questions about what school I went to… I would always be foreign. No matter how much I learnt, repeated or tried to fit in-  I would always be foreign. That realization was a load off my shoulders… I will always be foreign. I embraced it…. Now my answer was no longer a shy no, it was a bold statement which included a comparison- `I had never had grits because we eat porridge in Zimbabwe, if you cook grits for me, I’ll make porridge for you`
I was suddenly not only happy to be the foreigner, I felt proud to be the foreigner because I wasn’t the person who always needed guidance I gave some insight in return. I wasn’t just soaking in a new culture, I was sharing mine also.
When I bored the plane to come back home, I thought I was ready to be back home, to be emersed in my own culture till I heard someone say, `you`ve never had ABC before????` ARGH!!!!!!!

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Grief is Awkward

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The seconds kept ticking, the nurse kept rushing around me.

The minutes were passing, the doctor kept speaking.

I felt as if I was transfixed in that moment. But my body kept moving.

Everything since that moment has been a blur. Telling people about the miscarriage. Talking to doctors about what to expect. Calling family to tell them that at 203grams, 18 weeks old, my cousin’s baby had passed away, with the tiniest toes I had ever seen in my life. Its all been a haze that my body has rushed through. The rest of me has still been in that moment.

The water gushed out of her. I still don’t know if she cried out because of the pain or the fear of seeing that deep red stream start trickling down her knee. The doctor called the time of death hours later, but since that moment, the little bundle i was looking forward to meeting was dead.

I was by her bedside throughout the checkups. Through the 4 packets of blood, litres of IV, platelets they pumped in her. I was there when they first said the word miscarriage. I smiled and laughed with her through the grief as we pretended the most important thing in our lives was how the room looked nothing like the ones on Grey’s Anatomy.  Time has moved on but I wonder if she’s still stuck in that moment like me. If even though her lips are forming a smile, her heart is still caught in the fear it felt in that moment. Is the tear i saw rolling down her cheek in that moment is still there, sunk into her skin.

What is left behind?

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People spend their lives worrying about what happens to them after death. I’ve spent many hours obsessing about that. But wondering is all I have had the bravery for. To go further would be to admit that death defeats us all. That I have not prepared for the end. Honestly what scares me most is to admit that death has a secret weapon that makes him invincible. Death’s power of surprise make him an enemy impossible to defeat simply because you never see him approach the battlefield. Every time someone close to me passes away, the thoughts creep back into my head-

” Did they believe in God?                                                   Was their relationship with god in the right place?                                          Did they go to heaven or hell?                                                      will i see them again?                                                                                               Am i in the right place?”

This post isn’t about how I had an epiphany and know the answers to those questions. On the contrary its about how I realized those were the wrong questions.

Chinua Achebe passed away. A few days before his death I had a heated discussion with my Nigerian friend where I called him a traitor to his English degree and nationality for not considering Achebe’s literature as the best in Nigerian writing. Unlike when a family member dies however, the questions of life after death did not pop up in my head. I felt the same remorse that I feel when my mother, across the distant crackling of the phone, tells me a distant family member who’s name I cannot remember has passed away. I sympathize with the loved ones left behind but feel no loss on my part.

To me mourning Achebe seemed out of place despite my great love for him. Because to me Achebe was his words. His ability to weave gold out of ink was what made him a treasured and valued part of my life. And his death cannot change that. He will always be alive to me. I will always look to his words for wisdom. The characters he created will keep me company along my journeys. his poetry will always be enlightening.

Chinua Achebe is immortal. The lives he has changed, and will continue to change, have immortalized him. He found a way to take a piece of his heart and leave it in the world.

BOOKS CHINUA ACHEBE

This is my tribute to a great African man, who wore his heritage with pride and touched my life.

 ” its not difficult to understand somebody like yourself, somebody next door who looks like you. What’s more difficult is to identify with someone you don’t see, who’s very far way, who’s a different color, who eats a different kind of food. when you do that then literature is really performing its wonders.” Mr. Achebe I hope to live up to the greatness you have.

When death comes, what lies ahead my be unknown, but i want to be sure that what I’ve left behind is something to be proud of.

Two Weeks Notice

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Have you ever leaped?? Truly leaped.. Plunged into the unknown, head and heart first. If you have then maybe you can agree with me, that “a leap of faith” is not the right term. Faith has nothing to do with it.

What spurs a revolution?? I used to believe it was the “faith” they had in that things will get better, all they have to do is fight. I thought it was “faith” shinning through their eyes as they put up their fists in rebellion. I was sure “faith” united the front and inspired the plans of attacks liberation heroes plotted. After watching a million movies about revolutionaries ( my favorite kind of movies) I believed what Russell Crowe in the Gladiator, Mel Gibson in Braveheart, Leleti Khumalo in Sarafina were attempting to emulate the faith that real life revolutionaries like Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyerere, Mahatma Gandhi drew strength and conviction from in their struggles.

Yet faith was not what lead me to make a stand. In fact faith was what kept me in a stationary positon. I had faith my hardwork would pay off. That all my extra hours and dedication would be rewarded. That I existed in a just world, where good things happen to those who wait! Ah faith, how you failed me. Kept me in a dead end job drawing strength from the convicion that my time would come!

It never came… Then I got mad… Resented the world for not appreciating my worth; for making me feel like a useless cog in a machine. As the anger grew, it crushed the little happiness in me. I never believed my job would be my life, and yet the despair the job left me with, began to encrouch every part of my life, it was a shadow that dragged me down. As I got madder and madder, my faith got defeated by the weight and all that remained was my anger.

And so…

i quit

Change had not come fast enough for me. I was tired of waiting. I couldnt stand to wait any longer. And so I typed up my little letter and handed in my two weeks notice. Faith had shackled me. Faith that things would get better held me back into waiting for “better.” but truly only when I told myself that I didn’t know what the outcome of my decision would be, but anything, even defeat to a fate much worse than the present would be better, because I would know I fought. MAD! yes, i was mad now my decision is MADNESS and yet in all this uncertainty, i feel sure i am where i am meant to be. A calm clarity in all the upheavel shows me that though the destination is unknown knowing i am on road is all i need! I AM ALIVE AGAIN!

Confession: I dated my sister’s boyfriend

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Right across from the television in the living room, was my father’s pride and joy, the bookshelf. I loved to see him reach out and pull out a book, I would watch him leaf through until he found the exact section he was looking for. The look of bewilderment would be replaced by a look of relief, as enlightenment dawned on him.

Bit by bit, I devoured the books on that shelf.It is because of that shelf that I am an avid reader

Naturally, as most girls, I loved the bible stories retold with beautiful pictures, the fables, and the fairytales. Books were my favorite form of entertainment, till i discovered the tv remote. And while I expanded my vocabulary, perfected my grammar and learnt the art of storytelling, I missed an equally important lesson until recently.

As I was watching a television show ( i am not ashamed to admit, it was Jerry Springer, the show that requires no brain cells to be used at all) a message from my ex-boyfriend came in. You know the kind, the ones where even though you hate Taylor Swift, you wanna sing the entire song “never getting back together” and leave it on his voicemail instead of typing a reply. I started to wonder why my love life could not be like the fairy tales I had read about as a child. Why my life, in general, could not be like a fable where I pull out the sword from the stone and be declared a king! And i must say as I looked at the television screen, I was comforted that my life was not a special on the show.. or was it?

Then just like the look of enlightenment world pass my father’s face, it came over me. Stories, fairytales, fables are all told to teach a life lesson. Even though the story never seems about you the reader in particular, the truth is it applies to everyone. They are meant to be a guide to how to handle real life situations. We can all learn a life lesson from the stories we read.

What have I learned from those pages of black and white is that life can be colorful… From, the party girl, Cinderella I have learnt that now matter how tired you are from being overworked, always welcome magic and happiness into your life, one magical night is all you need. This lesson I try and remember when on a Friday night i’m exhausted from work but someone calls with the opportunity to go paint the town red.  And of course I learnt that a princess looks impeccable and gorgeous at every ball she attends.

From parables I learnt God invented genetically modified foods, so if you have too many friends over, pray over the food, and the five loaves and two fish you had left in your fridge can be a feast.  sharing a meal can fill all the bellies around the table and the good company can leave your heart feeling more love than it can contain.

I picked up a few good hair tips from Rapunzel. And from what I considered one of the scariest childhood stories, I learnt to always remember someone’s name before you go into business with them. Rumpelstiltskin is the only reason I take extra efforts to remember every guy I have ever given my number to.

From Humpty Dumpty… well i’m still wondering why if you’re an egg, you’re on a wall in the first place. Which I guess is a lesson in itself.

Then I realized that if these fables teach everyone something, the idea then is that life is a repeat. What is happening to you, has happened to someone else before, and will happen to someone else after. The pessimist may think that means life is not unique, the optimist (who I chose to side with) should infer that if i listen enough to others I have a chance to make the right decision in my life by avoiding their mistakes. I just need to learn.

Back to the title:

That isn’t me in the picture and this isn’t a Jerry Springer special. It is the realization that my ex-boyfriend exhibited the same a**hole traits my sister’s boyfriend had. He had the same beliefs, the same reactions, in the end the same complaints and our relationship fell to a similar demise. My sister saw it early on as I rambled on about “what he’d said… what I’d said… but i’ll forgive him”  Unfortunately when she pointed it out I was so adamant in my belief that my relationship was nothing like her’s. Her’s had been a failure, mine would work. I was resolved we were unique to all the other failed relationships I had watched my silly love drunk sister and friends have.

I was dead wrong. Had I chosen to listen, I may have exited earlier and saved myself the $1.99 I used to download Taylor Swift’s song from Itunes.

History repeats itself! The next time I pick up the phone from a friend about a problem, I won’t only play Aunty Agony, I’ll try to remember the scenario, so when it creeps up, I know which fable it relates to.

It hurts me to say this but… I am no longer an activist.

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A voice inside me used to cheer me on through all my trials. It would tell me famous quotes that William Walace (Braveheart) used to inspire his men in their rebellion. It would remind me of the difference one little man can make in the grander scheme of life. It motivated me to join community service groups, learn debate skills to coax others to join a movement, it pushed me to strive for the greater good.

As I’ve grown, just like my speaking voice, my inner voice has broken. It is deeper and unfortunately, it is selfish. As I read the post by Fungai Neni, about what defines activism, I realized I no longer fit into any part of that definition.

I hope you do not misunderstand, or judge me too early and assume I no longer care about my community or my roots. I still attend community service events, and give my time to charity, i still tithe to God, I still do good deeds for my friends and family and wave my flag during sports events.

Yet, I am no longer an activist.

The difference for me lays in how much I am doing.Or rather how much I am not doing. Not in terms of how much time, or how many projects, although that has drastically decreased also. But more in terms of how much of my heart and soul goes into these acts. I used to devote my entrie day, my entire heart and soul to a cause. School or work was something I did on the side, but my life’s every breath was to make the world a better place.

What has changed in me??? My father always told me, the only way to fix a problem is to find the core of it, it is pointless to just rebuild a torn down house on the same foundation because the next tornado may have a different name but it will have the same effect. As Koketso Moeti puts it “it starts with the man in the mirror”

I wonder if my voice broke during the plane ride here from from Zimbabwe. If as i stepped onto the plane and my feet left Zimbabwean soil for a foreign college degree that would fulfill the selfish motive to make my life better I lost the land that humbled me, the land that uplifted me.

I wonder if it broke while I was in college. When I became exposed to so many different exciting cultures that I put my own in the backseat when it came to driving my actions. When I began to prefer going on holidays in Colombia with friends instead of returning home for Christmas to spend the day at my parents farm.

I wonder if it broke when I began to think of volunteer work as a lonely way to spend my Saturdays. If it was in that moment I chose to go out with my friends in a smokey club and buy expensive drinks instead of save that money to send to a charity.

Or perhaps my voice broke the moment I began to use Facebook as my homepage instead of the NY times. When I learnt about the Egyptian uprising from my friends status and expressed my opinion with a comment before I had researched educated articles, like I used to when I read the newspapers regurlarly. When I lost touch of Zimbabwean current events, and spent more time googling songs, make up, hairstyles and pop stars lives instead of finding ways to enrich my knowledge.

I don’t know when, but I know when it became clear. When I fully heard my new voice and its high pitched scream sent a shiver down my spine. I was staring at my computer screen, in my cubicle at work. At a job that stopped being challenging and interesting months ago. A job that still kept the bills paid, and kept me looking fabulous but made me an average worker ant. I realized I’d entered the corporate world. I had done what the teenage activist in me, had considered unforgivable, what I had watched many before me do and prayed I would never do.

I now refer to my origins as “Africa” instead of Zimbabwe. My five year plan now has “returning to my home” as plan B instead of my final destination. I talk about a finding a new desk job instead of finding a way to fund desks for less privileged schools. I find annoyance and dissapointment in the injustice of the world, and instead of trying to change it, I accept it and mumble about how its incomprehensive.

My fear is I don’t know how to get the activist in me back. No, that’s not the truth. My fear is to accept the truth. That the activist voice, isn’t broken, it still exists. That the root of the problem is that its been drowed out. Drowned out by my surroundings, by the culture of selfishness I’ve adopted in America. Drowned out by my failure to make a mark instead of blend in. My failure to walk the lonely road of being different. Once in a while it musters enough courage and energy to let out a whisper, a whisper such as this blog post. But I know once I accept this truth, I will be at a fork in the road, where one path leads to unfulfilling yet easy life filled with exciting pitstops and a dreary existance, and the other leads to my heart’s desire, but my greatest trial.

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My greatest fear is that I am inadequeate, that I lack courage and conviction, and I will not chose what Robert Frost described as the road less traveled. I will follow the easy path and not make my own. Because the evidence shows that, that’s exactly what I’ve already done,

i’m insane- don’t you get it?

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“i’m not crazy, my mother had me tested” to those of you who aren’t extreme Chuck Lorre fans or Big Bang Theory enthusiasts, that is the line the quirky Dr. Sheldon Cooper from the hit comedy show repeatedly says when his friends give him the “you’re crazy” look in reaction to one of his undeniably crazy moments. After i let out a squeal of laughter and wipe away my tears – to those that haven’t watched the show, yes it’s that good- I realize I envy Dr. Cooper!!! not because he’s super brainy, definitely not because he’s socially awkward and not because he has absolute confidence in his lack of madness while I on the other hand have many doubts – doubts that come up when every time i think a guy’s cute, my friends give me the ” you’re crazy” look, or when i laugh at someone’s mispronunciation of a word then realize no one around me is laughing because ONLY IN ZIMBABWE is the norm to ridicule someone for a slip of the tongue instead of blame it on the accent, i digress – i envy him because he has the patience to articulate his feelings to a group of puzzled faces, as many times as it takes for them to understand! 

i’m one of those people who when you piss me off, and i try explain, i end up crying

i’m one of those people who wants you to know that you pissed me off without having to tell you

i’m one of those people who craves a pat on the back but feel too humble and shy to openly say “that beautiful stuff right there, yea that shit was me.”

i’m one of those people who wants to ask for help but can’t stand the look of pity that comes with the help

and because i’m like that, I HATE SAYING IT TWICE! because now u’ve made me think i’m crazy because you don’t get it. I just need you to get it.

Get that when i’m being moody – don’t call me moody

Get that if i’m broke- i can’t go out to eat

Get that if i say I can’t – I can’t, stop asking 

Get that when I’m angry – hurtful and untrue things slip out of my mouth – don’t hold it against me

Get that when i go quiet, you’ve hurt me so much, i don’t want to talk about it, but i need to hear that you’re sorry

Get that if I love you – its harder to forgive you

Get that when i’m wrong, i don’t wanna hear i told you so, i NEED to hear you believe its still going to be okay and you’re proud i stood my ground, even if my stubbornness is infuriating.

I just need you to get it, or act like you get it!

BECAUSE I’M TRYING TO GET YOU, and what you don’t get is, it hurts when you don’t try.