Family

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My brother and his wife dancing to one of their songs.

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Game time.

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When your little sister is a chef and she decides to grace us with her amazing skills! It’s only natural to take as many pictures as possible of her creativity and work.

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There is no place like home. I love my family.

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Parents, siblings, cousins and friends.Coming home for Christmas was the best gift my friend could have given me. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and may you have a great entry to the new year.

Nostalgia

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I have been itching to write for a couple weeks now, the urge always comes at the most inopportune time, lying on my bed about to fall asleep, sitting in a meeting that begs my full attention, walking on the ice road, teaching a class or reading a book that has got me hook line and sinker. It’s not like I can keep the desire until a favourable moment to write comes along, this itch comes and goes as it pleases but since you are reading this friend, my desire must have finally aligned with a favourable time to sit in front of my screen and share my thoughts.

Winter is in full swing and I am so relieved to tell you that I am loving it, everything is draped in beautiful white giving my heart hope for this land every time I step out. Even with this peaceful contentment for the northern winter of which I am sure by April I will be begging for it to go away, nostalgia for home has been doggedly pursuing me of late. I don’t shy away from it, in my opinion it is good to miss the familiar from time to time for there are some that cannot stand the idea of going home. I am glad I have a community and family to remember fondly.

The azure sky with large ever green mango trees occasionally obscuring its view of us is always the first memory that comes to mind when nostalgia comes calling. The curtain call is on as the sun slowly moves to make its opening act on the other side of the globe. The crickets call gets louder as the day darkens, the chickens occasionally scratch the ground as they reluctantly make their way home, their chatter part of the evening cacophony. Children scamper around the neighboured some on errands to buy garlic or lettuce others simply hanging out with friends. The rush of the traffic gives the tempo to the evening beat. It is fast and moves with purpose, many rush home after a long day’s work. Here and there a dog barks a greeting, a heartfelt response reminds it, its not alone. Two houses down, a father switches on his radio, music is blaring out of speakers that have seen better days, it’s Friday evening, and he must celebrate. The familiar tune of an Angolan Kizomba – Passada song adds on to the evenings happenings. A group of teen girls are on their way to attend evening classes but temptation in the form of a gregarious young man and his Toyota Vitz parked on the road showing off an impressive sound system plays music that beckons the girls to forget their good intentions and join him. His woofers are big and his music makes every window on the street vibrate, its Friday evening let the beers roll and the dancing begin. The pesky mosquito that faithfully disappears to God only knows where when the sun is out returns with a vengeance, reminding everyone seated under the orange tree, I will never leave you. Grandparents chat and smack themselves as they absently kill the annoyance without a second thought. The sound of garlic and onions being fried in a generous amount of oil assails everyone’s senses, making some women ponder on whether to start cooking or watch the next episode of their favourite Brazilian soapie. Of course as darkness descends, the hot topic is the weather, everyone loves to hate the heat, it’s one of those nights when even with the sun gone its presence can still be felt strongly. Unbridled cheer burst out of a bottle of Coca-Cola as a group of boys share it amongst each other, the gush of water from the shower as someone else gives it a go at cooling their body encourages a girl to pull out a bucket, fill it with water and let her baby brother happily splash it out, his delight filling her heart with contagious giggles.

If you have grown up in a culture where a quiet neighbourhood is an ideal one, it is very difficult to get accustomed to what I call the music of an African neighbourhood. I remember when I was home last July hearing all that I have described and more, my heart and mind settled and I slept right through the night as if all of life’s happenings was a symphonic masterpiece put together to help me sleep in perfect peace.
I miss home.

 

I am because you are.*

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Well, I have been in Canada for a week now. Leaving was not easy, after all home is home right? There is much I took from my short visit but I think the best lesson for me was this:

It doesn’t matter what cultural back ground you come from, whether you classify yourself as coming from a warm climate where community is everything and almost all your life’s decisions are made around the thought, “how will this affect those around me.” Or you come from a cold climate where peoples natural tendencies are to look out for the individual; no one is an island, to grow in maturity, to know your strengths and weaknesses, you need other people around you. One is never too old to learn something new and one is never too young to impart wisdom to those around them. My personal growth, the maturity that I have acquired so far is not on me alone, it comes from those who have allowed me to be part of their lives, to share in their struggles, joy and suffering.

There is ubuntu* in all of us.

Dark chocolate, milk chocolate, caramel and mocha.

Deborah is 10 years old and from a young age she has been told over and over again that her dark skin is not desirable. At first she would cry every time she was told this but now she has grown a thick skin and merely tells whomever has tried to insult her, “so what if I am dark, I am still beautiful.” Deborah has sass, intelligence and confidence, I cant get enough of the sparkle in her eyes.

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Somewhere along human history the standard was set and it was: the lighter skinned you are, the more desirable you will be. One of the meanest way to attack an African black girl is to speak about her skin tone. I know what I am talking about, I am dark skinned, I have had my share of prejudice because of this. You just learn to live with it. One hears comments such as, ” She is beautiful, if only she was not so dark.” In Mozambique there are certain jobs that lighter skinned people will have a better chance of acquiring than a dark skinned person. For some women, the pressure from males and some of their girl friends to change their appearances is so strong, it causes them to use dangerous skin lightening creams that if used continuously irreversibly destroys their skin.

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So where did this idea come from that Caucasian skin is better than Negroid skin? I don’t think there is one single reason. Here are some of my reasons; even though colonization is a thing of the past in Africa, its legacy is still alive and well on this continent. For example the idea that Caucasian people are superior in every way to us and therefore steps must be taken to be like them is still very prevalent. Even in today s politics there is often this strong under tone that for Africa to succeed it has to copy the West. Another is the movies that we watch, the beauty magazines that we read, the authors that we enjoy,darker skinned people are rarely in the spot light. Even the dolls that are sold in supermarkets are white, it is close to impossible, scratch that, it IS impossible to find a black doll in Mozambiqan supermarkets. Put all these and other reasons together and a culture is created that states lighter skin, is always, will always be better.

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Even in Pikangikum I found the same attitude amongst First Nations there. The fact that many people do whatever it takes not to tan because “dark skin is ugly.” I think some folk have said this to me completely overlooking the colour of my skin. The bullying that children pour on others who are darker than them is phenomenal.

For various reasons I don’t have a complex when it comes to my skin colour although there are days when I really get bothered by the comments I hear. I pray and hope Deborah will grow up with the confidence I see in her now, that she will refuse the push to try out skin lightening creams and love herself for whom God created her to be cause, ” dang girl, you are beautiful!!”

Mist and mountains

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I have been visiting home for 3 weeks and God willing will soon be returning back to Canada. It has been sooo good to be in the familiar, “to let my hair down.” Two weeks ago I did a fly by visit to Capetown South Africa. Since most of you know how much I love mountains it is inevitable that I would post  pictures of some of Western Capes mountains.

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These were taken on my way to Hermanus to visit some very dear friends. Hermanus is two hours from Capetown and absolutely beautiful. Imagine being able to take a five minute walk to watch whales by the bay? Thats one of Hermanus main attractions.

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Ed Sheerans song “I see fire,” was constantly playing in my head as I drank in the beauty that is the Western Cape of South Africa.

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The Yellow School Bus

( I want to put a disclaimer before you read the rest of this post, contrary to popular belief not all Africans live in abject poverty and ignorance. It gets really frustrating when I meet people in N.America who are shocked that I don’t live in a mud hut and my house has running water and electricity. I have lost count how many times this has happened to me! For heavens sake!!! North Americans have no excuse for such ignorance, you have so much information readily available to you ( most Africans don’t have this luxury), is it not possible to research a little? Instead of eating up what the media throws at you?

I often wonder if I will ever stop being amazed at the humble school bus. You know, the yellow bus that picks up children all over North America to take them to school. Sometimes I stand and stare at it wondering if the kids inside know just how privileged they are for that simple bus. I know many kids back home who at age 6 walk several kilometers to school. I did that for a brief time in my childhood. Education is so very important that whether a household has parents or it is run by children, many will do whatever it takes to get to school. There is a sense of pride when you finish school albeit going to University is close to impossible. Most children know, life is better off with an education than without one. I know of mothers who go without good clothes and sometimes eating well just so they can scrape up money to send their children to school. I have had lots of children crying because they desperately want an education. As for walking an hour or two to school, well that’s just the normal part of life, nothing to moan over.

When I was working in Maputo, I often spent several hours a day a couple times a week walking through the community visiting the children under our care. One day I went to visit Samuel*. I had known him from the time he was 6 months, terribly malnourished with a mother sick with HIV. My mother made his mom come to our house every day for a couple months so that he could be fed back to life. He was literally skin and bones (yeap like those pictures the media loves to flaunt about when it talks about my continent) Like hundreds of children that my parents have helped over the years, little Samuel began calling my parents mama and papa, he became a part of the church family. We continued to watch over him after his mother died and his grandmother started looking after him and his older sister. When he turned 6 his grandmother decided to leave her two grandchildren and live some place else. And so Samuel s 13 year old sister became his parent. A sad reality that happens too often. We as a family could not intervene and take them home … such situations are too common in some communities.

On that particular day when I came to visit, Samuel was alone. I asked him where his sister was, turns out she was often not home. I stood there holding back tears, what was I to do, I had no legal right to take him home. Standing there looking at him I realized sitting with Samuel and crying over how hard his life was would not help the situation, and so I sat on the floor with this 6 year old and we discussed how much firewood he needed to start a fire in the morning and if he had enough rice to cook so that he was not hungry when he went to school. We discussed if his school uniform was clean and encouraged him to keep waking up at 6 so that he could walk to school and not be late. My heart hurt as I treated little Samuel as if he was a responsible teen. After that, I went to the neigbhours and asked them if they could continue keeping a watchful eye on him.

I know there are a host of  external and internal issues that leave so many children on a reserve with a sense of hopelessness, sometimes I can’t help but wonder, is it not a privilege that a child here can wake up one morning and decide: ” I am tired of school, its too boring, I won’t go anymore!” and never sit in that yellow bus again?

*Samuel is not his real name.

Do you pray? please pray I get a new camera. Spring is making a valiant effort to make an appearance, it would be real sad if I can’t capture anything on camera. I can live without a camera but it sure makes my life sweeter!

Black girl and her hair!

This post is a very, very, long time coming! Where do I even begin?? First of all with all the adventures I have had with my hair it’s a miracle that in 5 years of blogging, not once have I mentioned my hair escapades.

If you are black and a female you will know the amount of drama that comes with our hair!!! I look at my white and First Nation friends and man, it is hard not to be envious of how easy it is to take care of their hairs compared to ours. I have a problem, I like to experiment on my hair … a lot … most times its a DISASTER and my mom has had to save my hair from myself every time. You see, I read about all these wonderful ways to soften African hair and I try them and then by the end of the experiment I am a pile of tears as my dear mother fixes my mess. Yes even in my late 20s my mom was still saving me!
Here are three examples of the epic stupid decisions I have made with my hair.

I read an article once about how egg is very good as a natural conditioner ( forget the fact that I didn’t finish reading all the instructions) so I whipped up two eggs poured the stuff in my hair put a shower cap over it and then proceeded to sit outside the very warm Mozambiqan sun. You, see I had also read another article on how when one puts conditioner in their hair, sitting in the sun would do wonders in helping the conditioner make the hair softer.
Welllllll friend!!! My mom came to check on me and asked me what were the white things in my hair?? turns out the egg had started to cook. I rushed to the bathroom and without thinking it through used warm water to take the egg out which only cooked it more. Leaving my whole head full of white flecks that were impossible to remove. Of course mother had to help me comb the stuff out.

Then there is the other time, I dragged my mother, father and sister into Maputo city hunting down different hair products cause I had found some African American hair blogger whose hair looked AMAZING (sing the word when you read it) and swore that her methods would help anyone. I bought half of her recommendations, cause I couldn’t find the other half (forget the part were you are warned to be careful of the products you mix into your hair) My mother was sceptical but I showed her pictures of the African American like me with hair flowing right down to her waist!! OMG, I was determined that would be me! I piled all the stuff in my hair (which included rinsing my hair with green tea), crossing my fingers for a miracle… two days later my results started to show. Clumps of hair on the sides of my head and the back began to fall. To say I was inconsolable is the biggest understatement of the year. Friend, I cried, I completely freaked out fearing that any morning I would wake up with all my hair lying on my pillow (FYI this happened last year) I ended up getting the hair cut I promised myself I would never get. The one that Rihanna and Pink made famous, shaved on the sides and back, long in the middle. My dad kept telling “Don’t worry daughter, it will grow, hair always grows.”

Then in the 6 years I had dreadlocks ( pretty sweet dreadlocks all thanks to my mother again) one of the many remedies I put in my hair was a hair product called “hair mayonnaise.” The label said nothing about how it would affect dreadlocks, my logic was hair is hair right??? Wrong! I heaped the whole bottle onto my hair and then I saw my mistake. The stuff clung to my dreadlocks and turned them all white. As if I had dipped my head in white paint. One look in the mirror and you guessed right, I shouted for my mother. She came running into the house thinking something horrible had happened, took one look at my hair and just shook her head. The next hour was spent with her using boiling water (no exaggeration) and her bare hands to take out all the product out of my dreadlocks.

Then there was the time I washed my dreads with coca-cola … but that’s another story for another time.

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I have been away from my mom for almost a year now and I am so proud to say my hair has grown a lot, I have behaved myself and not gone on any crazy experiments … lets hope I keep strong and not fall into temptation!!!

I love you mom, thanks for saving my hair!