Between #MeToo and #AmINext – what a time to be a woman.

Today has been triggering.

next-hashtag-yomzansi

#menaretrash + #notallmen + #metoo + #aminext all came together as distinct and strong hashtags in divergent and competing camps in different combinations and with lines between them blurred. When all those hashtags first trended around whatever circumstances they were triggering enough so in combination they are just….!

Uyinene Mrwetyana (19) was brutally murdered on August 24, 2019 by a 42 year old guy who worked at the post office she went to look for a package from.

Just the above sentence could be the whole post, but I’m going to go into my feelings. Since yesterday I’ve been going through my twitter timeline and refreshing not just the outrage at this particular case and other recent missing stories, but personal accounts of  women’s first and second hand experience with rape and murder. Honestly, it’s been addictively unhealthy for me. It’s kept my mind and heart racing interchangeably because ALL of the stories and the fears embedded in them for all the women coming forward are all too familiar. I felt and feel like such a coward for watching [so closely] the handle that started naming, picturing and shaming and warning others based on anonymous submissions from women who still live in fear of the vast array of men they experienced danger/rape/assault from. A part of me watched to see if there was someone I know in there for maybe vindication. That maybe something I experienced and haven’t been brave enough to face and expose could be done by someone much braver than I. I’ll tell you it hasn’t happened and as it has continued into today that need for some release has gotten stronger. Along with my fear. I took out a bottle of wine to review for my long abandoned wine blog, but that 2017 Du’Swaroo Tannat has become the crutch upon which I’m leaning on to write this. So many of the stories involved the perpetrators using alcohol to impair the women and many accounts talk about the woman not being sure what had happened and then either being afraid to report because they were unsure OR, if they DID report, being asked about their lucidity and recollection of events. So what am I doing sipping a glass of wine as I write all the way AROUND this topic that feels so personal and real? Numbing the pain. The pain of suppressed feelings, wonderings, doubts, certainties around what has happened to many women/myself. My heart is still racing and I’m typing through a tearwall in my eye, a runny nose because the pain is so real, but I already know I’m not going to tell my story. What will it change for us personally? For the women who have come forward especially in a country whose gender based violence is as pandemic and documented globally as South Africa’s is? Everyone knows wussup. Women have BEEN coming forward since the beginning of the country.

As this story has, for lack of a better phrase, blown up and been hashtagged, there are SEVERAL concurrent stories of missing women, confirmed deaths, bodies, active abduction attempts, not to mention rapes, shootings, stabbings of [sometimes pregnant] women by men in their lives.

Many women have been through situations where they thought surely they were going to die in the hands of a man they knew and loved, speak less of complete strangers. When we were young we were all taught about stranger danger – which is legitimate and easy to determine and isolate, but somehow, conveniently for those who were teaching us, they forgot to mention the even more ominous opposite. It doesn’t even have a phrase to capture it. It is that ubiquitous. Something unable to be named. So how does it get acknowledged. And then solved?

I am currently feeling very hot, my heart is racing.

The other day I asked a friend of mine who I heard mention her story of rape in preparation for a press event how come she had never told me about it. She thought she had. She then told me. This whole phenomenon and universality of rape experience and culture is soooo omnipresent. We have the same story in some ways and not in others. As she told me I was miss #metoo. Her story ended and we moved on to the next topic. It matters, but what does it matter? We see all around us that they all mostly get away with it and they are the men in our lives. Mine died. Many die with the violation taking away any chance of closure or consequences for their actions. What a violation that itself being taken away is. It happened when I was so young and over an extended period of time. I remember as young as I was [and comfort myself now maybe] that it was not penetration, but also that it was VERY wrong. I never told anyone EVER. He died I think in my early teens when I was told that uncle z’bani z’bani (so and so) died. And thought so nothing can happen now anyway. I’ll just dead it. But these things never die. Only a small part of us dies and that part comes back to haunt us when things like what is happening on the internet with Uyinene rear their traumatizing head. When we are triggered. If we rationalize, in attempt to cope, in our head that it wasn’t so bad [because there wasn’t penetration], that he loved us and wanted us to himself, was the father of our child, was our father, was Papa in the house of the lord, that part that died doesn’t feel as dead. We feel [maybe] whole. Holding onto ourselves because in the storm and swirl of it all we ourselves are all we have.

I’m all I’ve had since it happened to me because I’ve kept it to myself. Some might argue that talking about it and telling others about it would have meant it wasn’t my burden to bear all along, but ultimately when it was happening, by design, it was only to me. Young and isolated and only to me. Just me and him. I knew him. He knew that. But he’s dead now and that is the only almost good in it all. I don’t even know the circumstances, but what it means is he can’t do it to me or anyone anymore. But if, as is usually the case, he did it to someone else and worse they kept silent OR spoke out, what would have changed about what he did? For many women, there is never any closure anyway EVEN IF and sometimes especially if they go to the authorities. Many women’s stories are their secret or their abuser died or walked away scot-free. Surely something can be done in many places where protections and legislation have been upgraded to more accurately address some of the ubiquitous aspects of what we are talking about, but South Africa is such a special case. For as long as I can remember anecdotally as a child to through research, statistics, documentaries, films, news etc. as an adult – what even gives? From primary school boys raping and maiming fellow primary school girls, grandmothers being gang raped, babies being sodomized, pregnant women being shot*, everyday trafficking and rape…every single week there is a trending missing woman overlapping with a body found. All of the women in me are tired.

“Wow hey this child gave me trouble. Took her forever to die” he told the police. Compared to what?

*I was in a relationship with someone who told me a story about someone he knew in SA getting his girlfriend pregnant and didn’t know what to do. I asked him what he had suggested and he said he told said friend that he should kill the girlfriend… my blood curdled, but the conversation continued in that familiar self preserving way that in the background we are wondering if we heard what we heard and also trying to rationalize it because OF COURSE we are in danger, but also not necessarily. Or at least not immediately. I asked him why he would suggest that (because I am a [single] mother) and he said he was just joking. That he was or wasn’t didn’t even matter. Everything about that statement was violent. I felt assaulted by it. I told him so and he thought I take everything too seriously. I take serious things seriously. But rape culture and its pervasiveness means violence against women [by men] is actually a joke.

I finished my wine. I guess I did tell it…partially.

#aminext

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*@afropolitaine*

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On Gender – Are We Letting Kids Run Their Race?

How many times have I thought or mentally bookmarked that I will write about xyz topic after a particular incident or day? Waaaaaay tooo many times. So without explaining or setting up too much here goes:

The other day I attended sports day at my baby’s school and obviously being the [literally] active parent I am I came ready to smoke some other mom’s in whatever required a mother’s participation – short, tshirt and sneakers. I was a bit late because of some technicians who had showed up at home a bit later than they’d promised, but I made sure to politely, but assuredly, excuse my way to a seat in the front. I asked to see a program of the scheduled races and events and at some point during the downtime and in my wonderings realized how early and almost explicitly our children are programmed into gender roles. The children themselves and attending adults, through some of these seemingly mundane activities, are realigned into them regardless of how we actually live, teach and perform gender roles at home.

As is typical, the sports houses were organized by color (red, yellow and blue) and then races and events themselves were either girls’ races or boys’ races. Cool. Then came the more fun ones that incorporated a task or fun activity like wash day, shopping, work day, waiter etc. I could see in the program that my baby was in the waiter race and not knowing anything about what it would be I was excited to see what my bundle of cuteness would be doing. Comes the race and the teachers set up a hat, then a cup a few meters ahead and a plate a few more meters ahead in each lane. The items were colored according to what sports house the kid in that lane is in. I then noticed all the children in this race were girls. They would have to run and pick up the hat and put it on, then pick up the cup, then pick up the plate and finally run to the finish line. I am not going to tell you my daughter chose to walk instead of run and then proceeded to walk across the lanes to her friend instead of straight in her…so that you don’t ask me why. Ok so that was one event.

Other races that made me side eye no one in particular, all girl’s only races, were the wash day and shopping day ones. The former involved a clothing item on the ground, then a bucket of water a few meters ahead, some pegs a bit ahead, then a clothing line. You can imagine what the race/task was here. The latter had a dress, then a wig, then a pair of shoes, then a handbag and the finish line all spaced out with a few meters between them. Each little girl had to put on those items (all borrowed from their mom) and race to the finish line oversized dress, high heels and all. A teeny part of my brain was already like hhmmmm….

The next race was a boy’s race – work day! *insert side eye* It involved a shirt, pants, shoes and a work bag in a lane all spaced out with some meters between – basically the same as the shopping day race. The last event that had me thinking come on people seriously?! was the family race where the teacher heading the events asked for “mommy and daddy to please come and pick up your child and pick a lane” to [relay race]. This had me scrunching my forehead some not even because I’m a single mother, but because there were 1. Definitely and visibly way more mom’s present (about 75%) than dads so 2. This was going to leave out so many children from participating. What would have been more inclusive was to ask for 2 adults to come forward for the child they came to support whether they were a heterosexual parental unit or otherwise (I know – I should hold my progressive britches). Even for children who do have a mommy and a daddy, the chances of both being present on a Friday morning, assuming one or both of them work, were slim.

Guys am I overthinking this? I did think and have enough metacognition to wonder if maybe I felt some typa way because I am a single mother and that maybe if I wasn’t I would have been completely oblivious to some of this, but I think I know myself well enough by now to know that no I would stiiiilll have thought about it. I think it’s important in educational settings as well as in our homes to foster expansive, progressive and inclusive paradigms and enabling environments instead of limited and therefore limiting ones. We all can’t control what goes in each other’s homes, but surely school should be a place where the future of our children and the societies we therefore want to create and live in are shaped. Who am I to know what people’s homes are like and/or what they should be – absolutely no one thank you very much save yourself your nywe nywe nywe. Mina I’ve said my two cents, now let’s do better and be more mindful and deliberate about how we DO gender with our children and become more inclusive of who they actually are now and might become in the future.

Side note, all the teachers are women…so that might be the perfect lead into the blog post I promised on twitter where I said I would one day write about how Zimbabwean women are both feminists and misogynists.

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*@afropolitaine*

afrofoto day 3 | my hat is not a snapback, but have i snapped back?

Yesterday was day 10 and that’s what I committed to AND I owe you guys 3 other posts so let me render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.

The afrofoto is not of the nearly snapped back African mother’s body…no. It’s of the floppy sunhat I have loved for years my mom got me in Ghana. There’s nothing particular spectacular about the hat, but it’s strikingly unique in a simple way. The brim isn’t too large or stiff and the print, though colorful, isn’t loud. I’ve worn this hat so many times and always take it with me when traveling because it folds and it versatile and the brim holds up after being scrunched up between waaaayy more clothes than I need in suitcases on 13+ hour long flights.

This past Sunday was so much hotter than the rest of the previous weeks have been so when headed out I knew to lather the sunscreen on and wear a hat to protect my face. I wish I had some hats like this for baby (I’ll let my mom know) because I know they’d be a comfortable wear.

Since I mentioned the nearly snapped back African mother’s body, I might as well indulge you guys.

To be completely honest, it hasn’t been easy getting back in shape (the literal shape I was in pre-preggo) because someone told me starting to work out for a breastfeeding mom would reduce supply. I looked it up of course and like anything many humans experience there are strong opinions on that and the complete opposite. I decided not to take my chances since I’d committed myself to breastfeeding exclusively. My supply’s been good and baby is now starting on foods so I decided TODAY to get on my “fitness journey” (the ” ” are especially true). I did my first crunches probably in a year – 30 of them! Whoohoo and I know I’m going to suffer if/when I laugh tomorrow, but no pain no gain. I’ll do it again tomorrow and take it small small, un peu un peu, mbijana mbijana, poco a poco…we will get back to the 4 pack. I’ve been eating healthy before, during and after delivery so we’re good on the food front. I might show you guys some progress pictures in a few months.

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*@afropolitaine*

afrofoto day 7 | on necklaces and STUFF like that…and whatnot…or whatever

I moved exactly a month ago now and it’s taken much longer to get settled. I definitely reduced the number of boxes that were unpacked and have a functionally arranged closet….along with a pile of cloths still on the floor to be sorted through. In realizing I still possibly another year of breastfeeding my honey bunny I’ve tried to organize clothes by keeping those that are practical and easily accessible for that and then there is the sentimental reasons keeps, then the this is one of a kind how can i get rid of it. Those last 2 categories are mostly what is on the floor because I am strongly aspiring minimalist. Moving really really really reinforced that. You/we like to think we have not that many things until it’s time to move. Even then you look around yourself and see the big furniture items and maybe think I don’t have that much stuff, but once the furniture and big pieces are out, the STUFF is really where it’s at. I was so upset with myself for how much stuff I had. I’ve got boxes at the door of things I already identified as having been unused or unnecessary at the other place. Thank goodness for the silver lining of babies outgrowing things at a pretty consistent pace. On the one hand yes you have to keep getting them things, but on the flip side you get to get rid of things at the same pace.

Anywhoooo I finally got to a box that has my jewelry and I’ve also sorted through that. Quite a few ended up in the bucket of jewelry I will NOT be keeping. Some are just because I never really loved them, but many are just not practical for a grabby baby who’s teething at this point. Today’s #afrofoto is one I kept. I have loved this necklace from the time I got it at one of the African themed jewelry stores at OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg. In fact, many stunning pieces I have are from shopping I  did transiting through that airport. Pretty pennies were paid for them. I’ve definitely outgrown the jeweled phase of my style for now…or until my boo boo is well beyond being fascinated by colorful things around my neck. So yeah.  What does the necklace have to do with moving and the stress of it? Nothing or something necessarily,  but it was part of the STUFF we find ourselves with in these situations.

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*@afropolitaine*

afrofoto day 6 | am I a “sweet mother”?

Today was a hard day. It really tested me not in the general general sense of testing, but in that LIFE revealing way. I will not get into details and save that for my memoir or maybe sometime way down the road when it’s actual comedy…one of those things people tell you many years after the phase that oh remember that time when such and such, now look at you. By the time the day ended early evening baby and I came home and I had a snickers ice cream bar, a glass of wine, some kettle butter popcorn, 2 lollipops, a huge salad, some pasta and mussels I made. I came home from battle I won and enjoyed the spoils if you will. Sooooo in all of that I completely did not think about #afrofoto until literally right now. I don’t even have a picture, but I was like I can’t just skip this day. I already have a skweredi (debt) with you guys for day 3. I really have nothing for you guys today, but also a LOT. But since today has already been a LOT, I will leave you guys with this picture and leave you all to your imaginations on what the mood of the day was and now is.

#mood

Looking at myself in that picture I relish looking like an African mama – it’s a superpower! and as I thought that the song Sweet Mother and it’s lyrics came to mind.

Sweet Mother – Prince Nico Mbarga

It’s funny cuz on Mother’s Day when I went to church (mostly Ghanaian), that was the song they played on the letout. It was originally sang by Prince Nico Mbarga a Nigerian-Cameroonian highlife artist. It’s ever poignant and ever timely for mothers universally and today was one of those days me myself the song could be about me, but just generally a reminder of how much mother’s go through and still keep going. I’m so proud to be a mother and I’m glad in everything that motherhood takes I managed to get #afrofoto day 6 up.

Also, the cloth wrapped around me was my grandmother’s and she got it in Zim and I think I’ve had it since I was like 18. (cloth talk again lol)

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afrofoto day 5 | red red wine (pinotage)

Sooooo….confession time. I have another blog. At some point it completely pulled me away from this one here and I was completely absorbed into developing and growing it. It was about wine. Correction, it IS about wine and I enjoyed doing it so much and gained a teensy teensy bit of “fame” from it. It was during the time I lived in NE DC and would look for wine related events like tastings, launches, readings, pairings, etc. There was this ka-YUTE little wine shop that opened [I hope is still there] called DCanter (toooootal play on words) I enjoyed going to in Capitol Hill a comfortable walk or short bike ride to. Cute decor, not HUUUGE selection, but comfortable and they always had great events featuring sommeliers, vintners, viticulturists etc. The guy who owns it or is the manager was just genuinely engaging without being salesmany and it was just altogether lovely. Anywhoo back to my “fame” surely I can’t miss a chance to share with you guys. I walked in there looking specifically for a pinotage totally expecting to find just 1 bottle/type. Nope they had a few and he also put me onto something. We get to the front at check out and he asks me why I haven’t been writing recently. Guys! Like those are the small moments bloggers/I live for. Of course I died of shyness and was more interested in how he knew it was me….silly question i know, but you know…self doubt. Little ol’ me. Anywhooo back to wine. 

I wasn’t able to drink wine while I was pregnant and for a long time after I had my little booboo, but you know I decided to not be so strict on myself because no one would cut me some slack. So once in a while…

My favorite reds and possibly variety overall are pinotage (hyperlinked to one of the best resources for wine info and knowledge at whatever level (Wine Folly) and tempranillo. That first one is a variety unique to South Africa that wasn’t, until recently [nearly famous], that well known in the “traditional” wine world (French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish – European). It was/is still sort of seen as an outsider, but from the moment I tasted it years ago I loved the depth of the flavor. Besides the typical bouquet of notes and flavors, it has an additional smokey essence (wouldn’t quite call it taste) to it. Like how things back home sometimes do. It’s a slow and unrushed sip. One where you take a sip and listen to what it does to your mouth and how it warms your chest like a cuddle. Ok that’s it this is not my wine blog, this is —-> https://thatoeno.wordpress.com (ThatOeno on twitter as well).
Today’s afrofoto features a wine my little cousin (she’s grown guys, but will always be my little … *wipes tears at what a wonderful young woman she has grown to be*) bought me. She’s actually one of those people who since having the baby has presented me great wine drinking opportunities. She’s in the navy and brought me back some heavy thick madame full bodied red from France when she came back from her voyages. Last week she asked me what are some good reds because she wants to stock up for her place and of course without hesitation I said “pinotage and tempranillo”. Here she comes on Friday like she’s just visiting and hands me a bottle of each for mother’s day


The pinotage is a 2015 shiraz blend at 15.5% alcohol (the higher the percentage alcohol of a wine the slower it’s suggesting you sip it …to me) and it tastes like all the wonderful poetry I started to tell you all above. Besides “Wine of South Africa” one of the signature markings of wines is the screw top. Another reason why European wines/industry kind of hates on them. The South African industry has always been about sustainability and has been able to adapt with the times. Corks, although traditionalists mad at the democratization of wine consumption might beg to differ with a pinky in the air, especially natural ones, are terrible for the environment and sometimes the wine itself. More on environmental effects at this website – Academic Wino – another incredible place on the internet with my types of information superheroes. They also, as I’ve experienced too many times, sometimes crumble into the wine and are difficult to remove. It also makes it so you have to finish a bottle because it doesn’t keep that well once the cork isn’t airtight.

So afrofoto day 4 – pinotage. Ladies and gentlemen, you’re welcome. Check out the other blog if you will. It’s not dead, it’s dormant. AND to the one person who asked me to keep going with the story about the road trip from South Africa to Zim, can we just meet over a cup of tea/glass of wine, there’s so much to tell….sike! I definitely will one of these longer days 🙂

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*@afropolitaine*

afrofoto day 4 | cut from the same cloth (on upcycling my late Gogo’s fashions)

FullSizeRender-27Continuing from my last post, one of the things I did whilst in Zim was get some clothes made. Until that point I hadn’t bought anything maternity because quite frankly its all hideous and unflattering…to/for me. I wanted some cute African print somethings I could maybe even wear beyond pregnancy.

 My grandmother was, to anyone who knew her, a very very stylish lady even well into her goto-ness (grandmotherness). ALL, if not 95.9% of her clothes were African print dresses, skirts and tops and whatnots from fabric she’d collected from all her travels. She visited my mother in all the countries she lived in and did quite a bit of traveling herself to others. Those were a lot of countries and she had a LOT of clothes. Like the rooms that were ours when we were little have closets full of her clothes. Her room’s entire wall of closet had more clothes….I’ll just leave it at a lot.

In being my grandmother’s handbag when I was little and well into my adulthood while she was alive one of the things we enjoyed doing together when I’d be in Zim is going to her tailor maNdlovu. They had a very special relationship so while I was home in July I took a day where I picked 2 of my grandmother’s outfits whose print I liked and took those to maNdlovu to upcycle them. At this point it had been a year since my grandmother’s passing and when i walked into her shop she started crying….and then I did too. I think especially that I was pregnant must have really touched her because she knows how my gogo would jokingly nag me about her great-grandchildren. MaNdlovu immediately recognized the outfits I brought because she’d sowed them.

I had a couple of pictures for what I envisioned and of course she had to chime in about the length of the dress and the snugness of the dress I wanted…i had to sternly, but lovingly remind her she was not making a dress for gogo anymore and that gogo would have wanted me to wear whatever the hell i want. After all, in her own heyday, my gogo was a stylish shasha (fly girl)!

Cut a long story short, today’s #afrofoto is what maNdlovu made. It’s cute in and of itself, but sooooooo far from what I showed her. She is one of those tailors, especially when you are first going to her, you need to go back to 7 times for the first 5 things she makes for you before she learns you. I’m glad it managed to be wearable post part.

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*@afropolitaine*

Today was Africa Day and I’m bringing back #afrofoto – Day 1

I have 2 alarms set in the morning. The first one goes off, but it’s not for getting UP. It’s for WAKING up…I have 20 minutes to check into the world outside the 4 walls around me (news, email, social media etc.) AND feed baby for the morning while we lie in bed. I get into Instagram and there were a few posts, especially by people/Africans in time zones ahead, wearing their African print clothes, showing off jewelry and/or flashing back to their last trip back to the continent. Did Africa die…? no! It was all for #AfricaDay!! Today was/is Africa Day. Quick history behind it – May 25 marks the founding of the African Union in 1963. It’s celebrated in many African countries and, OF COURSE, by Diasporans – we no dey carry last.

I typically choose my outfit for the day the night before so I thought to myself *insert thought bubble* “How can afropolitaine the blogger mark this here day in her own way? – CLOTHES of course”!! There’s a dress I’ve worn just once that I bought while in Ethiopia when I went to the market on an in country work trip to Bahir Dar. There were so/TOO many dresses like it, but something about the color combination caught my eye [it wasn’t the combination of either neon colors nor the red-yellow-green]. I haggled HARD for that dress because the market was HOT, had WAAAAAY too much going on and I knew I didn’t want to have to come back so I was getting everything in gifts for others there and being DONE. I wore it the first time while living in Baltimore (just moved a month ago) at Artscape to a Wyclef Jean concert (life was gotten there [he really is/was such a talented artist and I didn’t realize how many hits he’s had throughout his career….but that’s a convo for another day]).

The dress. Let’s talk about the dress. It’s the typical/traditional woven off white cotton called shemma. It’s a pretty casual style and a bit see through because the weaving is light so I wore a beige short tank dress underneath as a liner. I actually fell in love more with it now because I previously thought it would only be cute during maternity – this dress said no girl you can wear me anytime!

 I enjoyed wearing it and got several compliments in it *insert dancing salsa girl emoji*  (yes …i just realized dancing and salsa make that redundant, but also it could be salsa the food).

Onto where this blog stands currently. OBVZ I have not blogged not nearly enough. Actually, even not near enough is way more than what I’ve done. Motherhood has taken all those moments I used to use for stuff like this and replaced them with a completely different set of joys. When it’s not those joys its also just enjoying the teeny tiny sweet ounce of doing nothing. Funny how doing nothing also means something completely different now that I’m a mom. “Doing nothing” can be folding laundry you meant to 3 days ago when it dried, doing your OWN laundry, clearing out the clutter indoor inbox…lol…it’s different. I do, now that she sleeps better (earlier and longer) want to ease my way back into blogging. It was, after all, one of the joys I had before. I’d like to make a commitment to you all so STARTING TODAY, I’m bringing back the #afrofoto daily series! I’ll commit to 10 days first and push to make it past that day by day.

FullSizeRender-23

(guys I couldn’t [be bothered to] figure out how to shrink this a bit…but shoutout to Riko for taking the pic)

So yeah this whole post was Africa Day and #afrofoto day 1. The dress is from Ethiopia, I’m excited to be back…ARE YOU WITH ME?! Ok, let’s do this together 🙂

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*@afropolitaine*

I Got a Boob Job in Ethiopia. (read for context)

Earlier this year (2016), March to May, I went to Ethiopia for work. One of my projects is there and was in need of more direct support since, until then, everything was being managed and coordinated remotely. This post will make very little reference to work because…well that’s just how I’ve rolled online! Also because it was equally, if not more enriching for my personal development and self awareness and the stamps in my passport marked me learning the world a little more.

Sooooo…where to begin. It was the first time I went to a country I had never been not knowing anyone at all…that’s not completely true. The first one I did that SOLO and for that long not knowing anyone – 2 months is a long time. When the opportunity came up, the challenge excited me and per usual, being the pragmatist, I mentally prepared myself to be able to withstand whatever the emotional challenges of taking a leap would be. It was definitely going to happen and I had fears, but that wasn’t going to stop the show.

Got there and hit the road running and there was a lot to do, but I made a deliberate effort to personally experience the country. I looked up restaurants, tried foods, visited museums and traveled to different regions.

Here are some tidbits about the country:

  • population = about 94 million with the Addis metro area holding about 4.5 million
    • most populous landlocked country in the world
  • Addis Ababa is 2400 – 3000 meters above sea level
    • 2nd highest city in the world after Asmara, Eritrea
    • some say is about the
  • languages = Amharic (spoken by about 30% of the population) is the official language while Oromo is spoken by more people (33%)
    • next most spoken are Somali and Tigrinya
    • over 80 total languages with almost 200 dialects
    • language groups = Semitic, Cushitic, Omotic and Nilo-Saharan
  • religion :
    • Ethiopian Orthodox = 44%; Islam = 40%; Protestantism = 18.6%
    • Ethiopia was one of the first Christian countries in the world when Aksum Kingdom (modern day Ethiopia and Eritrea) made it the state religion in the 4th Century
    • traditional religions are practiced by almost 3% of population mostly in the south

Now that the formalities of context are out of the way, you may be wondering how all of this connects to boobs in the title. Well….

A few weeks upon arriving in Ethiopia my skin was Guh-LOWING! You hear me?! Every comment/compliment on my snapchat was about how good my skin looked. Having been deliberate about the skin care and makeup I brought on the trip paired with eating so much healthier food, drinking a lot of water to counter the challenging altitude, the different air and the African sun – I was like of course I’m glowing. Why/how would I not be?! Work was stressful, but the newness of a completely different environment was renewing my soul.

Although I love injera and the several types of shiros and wots, it was quite different that everything everywhere all day was that. Some food and smells were new to me so it made sense that my olfactory senses were sharp as a hound dog.

I was ALWAYS tired you hear me?! It didn’t make sense at ALL except that is a side effect of being in much higher altitudes (check 2nd tidbit above) I equated it to altitude sickness. In my efforts to stay fit I would try to go running on some mornings and found myself short of breath very easily. I made it through workshops and trainings by the spiritual Redbull grace of God because I would struggle to actively stay alert. It didn’t help that now coordinating daily chats with boo as well as check ins and teleconferencing with home office on a 7 hour time difference meant very little sleep after the Ethiopian work day was over.

Also, I was very VERY irritable. Unreasonably so. It mostly happened internally, but many mundane things irritated me. Actually, they were quite legit – at the time. And in hindsight. Why would I find the cleaning lady or housekeeping’s hair on the table or countertop after she cleaned. WHHYYYYY? In. The. World. did I find hair in my food at different places in my time in Ethiopia than anyone should ever have to throughout a lifetime?! It put me off eating completely because I was almost guaranteed to find a hair so I ate looking for it and the times I let my guard down I would feel what had become the familiar horror on my tongue. Seriously, one day I had completely given up on food and decided to get a smoothie. Ordered a simple mango something something at this clean looking establishment where it took entirely too long to make, but ok they are cutting fruit from scratch ergo freshness right?! NO! It tasted good, and about halfway through I felt something thickish, long and stringy so I thought oh this must have been a stringy mango. NO. It was a long (4 inches or so) string of hair all up in my mouth. As I pulled it out of my mouth I wanted to FIGHT E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. Why had God forsaken me?! I thought I had already reached the pinnacle of quitting finding hair on my food only to look up and have ways to go. I’d thought my previous level of Quit was it, but I completely QUIIIIITTT!! I never thought it was possible. I never hespererit. We thank God for his mercy that endureth forever because…

Off the segway and back on the main road. So glowy skin, heightened smell, increased irritability, indefatigable fatigue, and now we get to the last thing. Connecting all of this to the title of this post – les boobs. They were big. Ok bigger than what I left the US with. There was a noticeable more-than-snug to how they wore. I adjusted to the outermost clasps and extended the straps down a little bit so the brassiere wouldn’t dig into my shoulders. What was gentle regular cleavage was now a little more jiggle and bubble than I considered classically classy. The middle button on my very nice dress shirts would sometimes come undone. Hhhmmm. Was I eating too much?! *hint hint*

Cut a long story short, I found out I was pregnant when I was in Ethiopia. While I was out there solo, so far from home, with no friends or family around. I was all I had to support and get through the news and associated next steps. We had been talking/joking about it on the phone and almost a month into my being there boo and I got really real with the reality that something outside of altitude sickness and Africa being great for my soul was going on.

Cut a long story short again, at the point I found out I had been a month in the country with a month more to go. Six weeks pregnant and keeping it between the two of us …. and my Ethiopian colleague whose wife was currently pregnant who I asked about a good doctor or hospital to go to after I confirmed by peeing twice on Chinese labeled pregnancy tests I got from the pharmacy down the street that I was IN DEED with child.

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I successfully wrapped up my assignment in Ethiopia fully satisfied with everything I had been able to accomplish professionally, but/and ready to go back home. Reunited with boo and now figuring things meant coming to real terms together vs. whatsapp calling and face timing over wifi.

On my social media, I still interacted and posted with the same almost regularity as before and there wasn’t/isn’t anything in particularly that would make anyone see a picture I posted and say I’m pregnant. Except that ONE TIME we were going to the beach and I was on snapchat snapping from my chest upwards. I was wearing a haltered bikini top and a friend commented “BOOBS”. It was the only moment I thought – can people tell?! Within that week about 2 other close girlfriends casually commented something about my boobs and I casually lol’d it off with a “thaaaaanks girl”. At this point I thought about starting a joke about myself. That I had actually gotten a boob job in Ethiopia because it turned out to be much cheaper than in the US, but that I hadn’t revealed it yet because they hadn’t quite finished healing.

No I did not get a boob job in Ethiopia guys! My body was and is still preparing itself to feed a brand new human addition to our race and my family (yikes my very own one!) who will come out of this very body. One who currently has developed all her bones and insists on turning all the way up in my belly. Who has my heart melting at a black and white sonogram. Initially my breasts were the first protrusion to signal something big was happening…that is until the last few months that my belly now outprotrudes them by a couple more inches.

I am pregnant and 7 and a half months in, I’m closer to being a mother than I have every been in my life. A whole me. Woman. Mother. to a Daughter. Her early stages of development happened in Ethiopia and like the feelings I had prior to going there, I don’t know everything about what’s to come, but I’m over the fears and more excited about the newness of the experience, our child, our love, a NEW love come what may.

While I’m expecting, expect to read more posts about my bun in the oven
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*@afropolitaine*

I wrote an obituary a year ago – for the love of *my life

 

A year ago today, life dealt me the card where I wrote an obituary for the person with whom I shared the greatest love. I’ve written a variety of things throughout my life from speeches and poems, to technical reports and executive summaries, blog posts and grocery lists, lyrics and emails. I love writing, but nothing prepared me for the monumental task I asked to take on and was granted the opportunity to. There, rightfully so, should be nothing that prepares one for the writing of an obituary short maybe of having done it once before.

 Coming from a big family of big personalities, coupled with the time sensitivity and pressure to get programs and publishing done, yet countered by the delicate balancing act I knew it needed to be – the below is what I wrote. As much of a loss as it was for me, she was so much to everyone and loved everyone she knew be it friend, family, neighbor or stranger “one by one”. This had to be as much about her and inclusive so everyone who read and heard it felt like yes they were included in that message. Although she was MY grandmother and very specific people’s wife, mother, sister, friend I wanted the words I thought and wrote to reflect the collectiveness of the broad spectrum of love she created with everyone who knew her however long. The personalness of the individual and personal relationship was to be held in each person’s heart and memory to be shared amongst each other, but these last words were for all of us to find comfort in ALL having lost collectively.

Obituary

Eleanor Moyo (née Twala) was born October 29, 1941 in Fort Rixon, Zimbabwe. Her father and mother relocated to Mberengwa in 1948 where she eventually attended the local primary school and graduated from Dadaya Secondary School. In 1961, after 5 years of courtship, she and Cleopas Daniel Moyo, were married. Together they eventually had eight children, four daughters and four sons, they raised in Zambia where they lived for nearly 20 years before returning to Zimbabwe at independence

Although initially reluctant to “entertain” JWs who would often come knocking on her door, Eleanor eventually came to the truth, ironically, after Cleopas agreed to meet with and “interview” them. On his suggestion, she eventually agreed to give them a listen. She was eventually baptized in 1979 in Ndola, Zambia. In 1982, two years after Zimbabwe’s independence, the two moved their family back to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe where they have lived to date. This city, also called the City of Kings, was to become the family’s headquarters. A home filled with beautiful and unending stories for family and friends where she enthusiastically welcomed, hosted and shared her love of food, fashion, music, dancing and fellowship. Stories for days.

As a working mother of 8 and several grandchildren, she spent 22 years at Mpilo Central Hospital in medical records of the X-ray department until retirement in 2003.

Her official diagnosis of Stage IV breast cancer came in October 2012 and she came to the US soon thereafter for treatment and care. The last three years saw her fight a spirited battle with the disease. In all of that time, her joyful, energetic spirit was steadfast to all who loved and cared for her. She laughed, danced, cried and cooked for most of that time.

On September 6, 2015, at Laurel Regional Hospital, she passed on having spent the day with and surrounded by Cleopas, all 4 daughters, 2 nieces, 4 grandchildren, relatives, friends and brothers and sisters of the congregation.

She will forever be celebrated by her eight children, four daughters and four sons, twenty two grandchildren and countless relatives and friends she was very near and dear to.  To all who knew Eleanor she was an amazing daughter, wife, mother, sister, aunt, grandmother, friend and colleague. A phenomenal woman. Legend. May she rest in peace and may we all be blessed for having been blessed by this child and woman of God.

To the congregation and the Kingdom Halls she went to, we are eternally grateful for you all keeping her spirit filled and strengthening her faith. Here she made friends who cared for her like family. The countless errands you took her on, the scrumptious meals she enjoyed in your homes, the scriptures you read and the hymns you sang. Thank you.

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I have the * in the title above because this was not about me and I was not the only one who lost a love. As much as a love like hers is thus far irreplaceable in my life, the my-ness of it all seemed too selfish when I saw the outpouring of love for her I had known was there, but I hadn’t quite seen with my own eyes all at once.

A year on, may my grandmother continue to rest in everlasting love and peace. I look forward to the strong feels she still inspires in me.

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