Friday, 26 January 2018

INTERESTING SEATING OBSERVATION IN PUBLIC TRANSIT (CLARIFICATION ON INSTAGRAM VIDEO REPOSTED BY INSTABLOG9JA)

Hello hi,

I woke up to multiple tags, mentions etc. on Instagram and at first, I was wondering what had happened, then I realised that the buzz was about a video I had posted some days ago on Instagram. The video (here - https://www.instagram.com/p/BeXD00Bgj7A/?r=wa1) showed me sitting next to an empty seat in the train while many were standing and I wrote briefly about one of my many encounters, which I will elaborate on here. Well, Instablog9ja posted it, thanks guys! You’ve given me some seconds of fame J LOL. On a serious note, I am glad that it was re-posted as it’s given me a platform to create awareness on this issue.

Picture of my umbrella comfortable sitting during a train ride :)



So, I read some of the comments – I could not read all of them as they were too many but the ones I read were enough to give me an idea of how to respond. Before I continue, I have to say that I was impressed with how passionately people commented on these posts, whether positive or negative. It shows how invested and observant people are in certain matters and secondly, it shows how sensitive the topic is.

In the beginning, it took me a while to notice that I almost always sat alone in the bus or train. Somehow, my bag always had a seat of its own and I honestly did not mind because my bag is usually heavy. I just assumed that if people wanted to sit next to me, they would ask me to remove my bag, which had happened on very few occasions. However, one day after a period of time, I started to feel like it was possible that majority of the people here were too nice to ask and so I tried to stop keeping my bag on the other seat. Guess what? My other seat still remained empty! And so I went back to keeping my bag on the seats. At that time, I still had not associated this pattern to my background or ethnicity; as a matter of fact, I barely gave it any thought. I have to admit I was comfortable sitting by myself, either reading a novel or listening to music during transportation and did not care less until one day, an African friend of mine was in the bus with me. As usual, my bag sat and he questioned why. I responded casually “because nobody would sit there anyway”. He laughed and said that I was correct. I was surprised at how quickly he agreed with me and later on, he explained that he had noticed that many people did not like to sit next to black people in the city and so his seat was usually empty or the last to be sat on. I was shocked to hear that and honestly, that was the first time that the thought of any association of this seating pattern with my background crossed my mind. I shrugged like I did not care and responded “that’s fine then, my bag can continue to sit” and tried not to give the matter anymore thought.

Fast forward to some months later, I was visiting a couple of friends in Sweden and we all got on the train together. We sat at some empty 4-seater area, i.e., those areas that have 2 seats on each side opposite each other. By the next stop, some other passengers had come on the train and one of them did not have any seat. So I began making gestures to show her that we had an empty seat but my friend told me not to bother myself, that people did not like to sit next to black people and I responded “In Sweden too?!” And that was how we began to talk about our observations. As usual, I tried to explore other options - maybe the passenger did not feel comfortable sitting in the midst of 3 people that she did not know, especially if they all appeared to be friends but my friend shook her head; she said she had also noticed it when she sat by herself and repeated exactly the same thing that my other African friend had said - about the next seat to her being the last to be sat on.
Although I had heard similar views from 2 Africans and a few more people after then, I remained unconvinced. The researcher in me needed to do her own research to make valid conclusions and so from that day, I began conducting personal experiments. I tried to make difference excuses – perhaps it was the seat that I sat on, maybe the seats were reserved for the elderly or maybe they were faced in the opposite direction of travel and so people would not want to sit on them; perhaps, people preferred window seats; perhaps, I did not look very friendly; perhaps, it was the way I carried my bag, maybe it looked too bulky and a passenger would think that it would hit them; perhaps it was the manner with which I sat, maybe I spread my legs too widely and so I was taking some space of the other seats; perhaps the music sound from my earphone was too loud; perhaps I made loud phone calls inside the bus etc., you name it, I thought it. I tried to test out my different “research hypotheses” by changing seating positions, squeezing myself to create more space, trying to relax my face to look more friendly (at the risk of even looking weird, lol), holding my bag in different positions such that my arm hurt sometimes, not making calls in the bus (which I hardly ever did anyway), and in general making changes that I thought would be suitable to invite another passenger. After many different adaptations, I came to the realisation that indeed the seat next to me usually remained empty or would be the last to be filled, at least 90% of the time! Although, I agree that that there are some exceptions e.g. some people naturally prefer to stand on the bus or do not bother to sit if they are going to get off soon, or that some seats are reserved for the elderly or disabled (however, you can sit in those areas until an elderly gets on the bus or train and that’s when you are required to stand), I had seen enough to make my own research conclusions. I finally accepted what some of my friends had earlier pointed out – that the reason why people did not frequently sit next to me in transit was most likely because I was African or black.

Now, is this racism? I am not an expert on this topic; therefore, I did not label it as such (if you read my Instagram post). However, I definitely think that there’s some form of systematic bias, whether conscious or not, and I am even more convinced of it now, based on the responses that I got from people after I posted that video on my Instagram page a couple of days ago. A lot of people attested to it and one of my friends pointed out that even when people eventually sat next to you, they would only sit with half bum-bum (buttocks), i.e., they tried not to let their bodies touch you. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that strangers should fall on your shoulders when they sit next to you; of course there should be a respectable space as much as possible, however, it’s quite obvious when someone sits next to you with an attitude depicting that they would rather not have. I had told myself not be concerned about such issues and I have been doing a great job at it such that I barely notice this behaviour as much as before. So why did I make that video? Because it was perfect timing, I was bored on the train, it happened and I like to make random videos. And why did I post that video? Initially, I was not going to but coincidentally, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine that evening and she was telling me about an awful experience that she had just had, which she thought was based on bias and discrimination. Hers was of a much more important issue, it’s personal so I cannot write about it. However, our discussion made me feel like it is important to shed light on issues relating to potential bias, as often times, people are not even aware that they are victims or the causes. Therefore, I posted the video.

So I hope this post addresses some of the comments on my Instagram or on Instablog9ja. I can understand that some people living in the same country but in other cities might not have the same experiences. I guess if you live in a city densely populated with Africans, then people would be forced to sit down next to you because they cannot afford to stand throughout their journeys, all the time; that is not the case for me as I am usually the only black person on the bus or train in my city unless I am with a fellow African friend. It is also possible that people in such diverse cities are more exposed and so tend to show less attitude of bias. Whatever, the case might be, I’d say make sure you don’t let people’s attitude towards you make you feel less of yourself.
Having written all these, I’d love to wish everyone a happy weekend and please feel free to check out my blog stories here on my blog and on Bella Naija (my last post on Bella Naija can be found here). Until next time, continue to spread love. xx


Please follow me on Instagram @Ugochiukah and twitter @vivio_gogo

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

ACHIEVING YOUR NEW YEAR (2018) GOALS: GRADE YOUR PREVIOUS GOALS

Hello hi,

Happy new year! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and holiday and you are recharged for this year, 2018. My last Bella naija post can be found here.

It’s hard for me to believe that we are already in the second week of 2018. It’s even harder for me to believe that although I have written out my New Year resolutions and goals as I usually do, I have not yet started on some of them. I hope you are doing much better in that aspect than I am, LOL. Every year, I write down what I want to achieve for the New Year and the things I want to work better on or some habits that I would like to drop, so in essence my New Year goals and resolutions. I like to make these handwritten and pin them on my office board, right next to my desk so that way, I can see them often. Usually before writing the new one, I look back at my previous year’s goals to know which ones that I would be carrying over; I was doing that this year, when I realised that I had been carrying over a few goals every single year since 2015. It made me realise that perhaps I was not working hard enough on some of my goals, which is quite disappointing. So, I decided to grade my previous (2017) goals which I had written and see how far I had come. Of course, not all of the goals have equal weighting but I just assumed so, just for the sake of marking. Guess what I scored? [see below for answer, hee hee]



Given, some things are beyond one’s control but at least, I have to make more effort such as setting objectives and plans to actualize my dreams and I cannot honestly say that I did that for some of these goals. This is not to say that I am unhappy or ungrateful about where I am right now. Heck no! Especially as I know that I thankfully achieved some dreams that I never even thought to write down last year to work on. However, I am determined to make better plans to achieve my 2018 goals and then leave the rest up to God. As they say “planning is everything but plans are nothing.”

So I’d like to challenge you all to grade your previous goals and work harder and better this year. For me, 2017 was an eventful and exciting one with some challenges and overall, testimonies. I pray that 2018 is even a better one and that by the end of this year, we will give more testimonies about God’s grace and favour in our lives.
I look forward to giving you more stories this year and feel free to send your stories you might want me to share on my blog.

Have a blissful 2018. X


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Tuesday, 26 December 2017

MERRY CHRISTMAS! A WRITER’S PLIGHT

Hello hi,

Merry Christmas! It’s hard for me to believe that the last time I posted on my blog was almost a year ago; to be precise, it was on February 23rd 2017. This year has been eventful, with moments of tears and joy, lots of hard work and achievement and full of God’s grace and mercies. Throughout the year, I had many people asking me why I had stopped writing or had not posted on my blog or Bella naija and I felt a bit sad that I was not sharing my stories that may have been a form of entertainment to others. In addition, it made me slightly feel like I was not using my talent to the fullest extent. To be fair, it was a very busy year for me and there were many times that I wanted to post something including on Easter Sunday, on my birthday, graduation etc.; I always had stories on my mind and never for once did I forget about my blog. However, there were a few reasons why I did not get to share any stories and I will share a few of them with you now:


  • ·       Firstly, I never stopped writing. This is true as I still have lots of backlog of stories which I hope to share eventually and also, because I started doing more of a different kind of writing – academic writing. So while I may not have shared things on my blog, I got to published a few research papers and my dissertation which was over 200 pages, phew! While this obviously had an effect on my blog sharing, I have to say that this was still positive for me because I still shared meaningful work that could potentially contribute to saving lives. So this was a huge achievement for me.

  • ·       Secondly, I felt guilty even without being blamed. So as a student who had lots of school work and research deadlines and with some of school heads following me on social media where I used to post my blog stories, I felt like it might look as if I had way too much time on my hand if I wrote and shared my stories. Like I said, nobody ever accused me of being incompetent but that did not stop the subconscious feeling from growing and so with time, my posting and also writing plummeted because every time I wanted to write I thought about some work I could be using the time to do. However, looking back, I do not think this was the best way to handle things because truth be told, research work can never finish. Since writing is a form of escape for me, I actually think that I may have gotten more work done if I had written more as this would have helped me release stress and tension, lots of which I was under at the time. The most important thing I should have done was appropriate time management, which would involve allocating time for different things so as to have a balance between work and personal life and once it was time for personal business, then I should not have felt guilty. Oh well, I have learnt this now and I hope I can apply it to my life in the future.

  • ·       Thirdly, I started to care too much about what other people thought, if I would be judged for perhaps writing about controversial issues. So there were times, I wanted to write about relationships for example, and then I would stop after wondering whether my story would be professional enough to share since I now had more professional connections. This defeated my purpose of writing because as I explained earlier, writing for me was a way of expression. I neither write to be liked nor to please anyone; I just do it as a hobby and I barely even get paid for writing. I also do not wish to pretend to be someone else while writing because then, it would serve no purpose to me. So now, I have told myself to just write –whatever comes to my mind, my fingertips, I would write as long as I am able to by God’s grace.
  • ·       Finally, I started to care too much about criticisms from people who assumed that they were parts of my stories - my writing casts. There were many times I would share a story and someone would call me to question why I wrote about them. Often times, they were correct and sometimes they were not which they never believed when I would tell them, It is funny and great to see how relatable stories are and how people are happy to read about others but get really defensive when they think they were written about. One of the last times it happened, it was a guy who I used to think I liked and after then, I started to lose my zeal to write or share my stories because I did not personally want to hurt anyone. It took me some months to wake up and realise that as a writer, there was only so much I could control because many stories stem from our environment, including our imagination, the names used in the stories and our experiences. Therefore, if you are in a writer’s life, you might get written about whether you like it or not. So I would say, if you happen to become a “cast”, be honoured as not everyone was important enough to make it into a story and if you don’t, consider yourself lucky at least for that time being as you might make it at some other point.

To conclude, I have come to a decision that I will not apologise for my writing for any of the reasons above and based on this, I will be writing and sharing more stories in 2018 by God’s grace. Like I said, it’s a God-give talent, why waste it? After all, my blog says: “My thoughts, my dreams, my stories, my life...!

Very big thanks to everyone who has supported my writing and blogging throughout the years and encouraged me to write. I wish you all a very merry Christmas, filled with love and joy. Enjoy the season and spread the love. X

Please like and share this post as well J , thanks!
Please Follow me on Instagram @ugochiukah
Twitter: @vivio_gogo

Thursday, 23 February 2017

GIFTED

Hello Hi,

I hope you've been great. I'm back with another story. In the spirit of Valentine's day past, I wrote this piece. Enjoy and feel free to comment. Please also like and share with friends etc. xx


GIFTED

The Huffington Post

Amaka had grown to be a wiser woman over the years. Her past relationships and those of her friends had taught her to prioritize what was more important in life. With every wrong relationship she had experienced, she became more certain that she was closer to her prince charming and farther away from her frogs; that was hope to her. She had had multiple heart aches and every time she went through them, she updated her list of qualities that she did desired and those she did not. The interesting thing about her list was that she also had a segment titled “my weaknesses.” This was where she listed the things she had come to realise were her bad habits or things that she felt she needed to work on, in general, as she believed that no one was perfect, including her. She wanted growth, to grow into the woman that the kind of man she desired would also desire. And from all the years, she had discovered that her Achilles’ heels were gifts.

Oh yes, Amaka loved gifts very much, regardless of what they were. As long as they came wrapped or in pretty boxes, she would get excited and very happy. It was not because she was materialistic, she was not; rather for her, gifts used to be a sign of love. Growing up, she grew accustomed to the little gifts she received from her parents, especially her father, and other loved ones on occasions such as Christmas, New Year, Birthdays, from trips and even sometimes on random occasions. She also had no hesitation or problem with giving gifts too as that was her way of showing love and appreciation. However, things had happened over the years to Amaka that made her review her perception about gifts.

These changes started little by little but became more prominent with her ex-boyfriend, Chima. The first time he flew into Nigeria to visit her from the States, he bought her an IPhone which made her ecstatic; the next time, it was an IPad and the time after that, it was an Iwatch. “He must truly love you”, her friends said as they all stared at the gifts in awe. She was also excited but something felt off to her. It was not only because she did not think that he could genuinely afford the gifts but somehow she felt that the gifts were being used to cover up for something that was missing. She just was not sure of what it was but she began to realise that every time he got her upset, he would appear with a gift and then, they would sweep everything else under the carpet like nothing happened. She tried to convince herself that there was no way that he would buy her so many expensive presents if he did not love her. Things got really sour with time in her relationship as cheating rumours were flying around as well as stealing rumours and slowly her trust for him started to plummet. But every time she found a reason to break up with him, he got her a gift to keep her with him. This carried on for a few years until she got a dreaded call one morning. The lady on the other end said she was his main chick and he had run away with some things she had helped him buy without paying her. “Things like what?” Amaka asked, holding her breath; “Many things” the lady replied, “including an IPad, IPhone and I-Watch.” That was the day Amaka’s relationship with Chima ended, after two long years; years that she would never get back.

But time had gone past since then and she had grown although she found it difficult to go into another relationship or accept gifts. It was no surprise that she had developed trust issues and in every new relationship, she wondered if she was the side chick. Now, she was dating another man, Ikenna. They had been together for about 6 months and she was beginning to feel more confident in their love or at least that was what she thought until he disappeared on Valentine’s day. No gift, no cards, no message from him except his reply to hers wishing him a happy Valentine’s day. She had sent him some chocolates and even though she was not expecting any expensive present, she had thought that he would at least take her out for dinner or try to spend the day with her. She was disappointed and when she voiced her concerns to him, his response did not make any sense to her.
“You know that Valentine’s day is just another day and we don’t have to wait for that day to show love” those were Ikenna’s words. 
“Yes, I know that we don’t have to wait but I still think it’s important to spend it with loved ones, just like Christmas, birthdays etc.” she replied annoyed.
“Fine, we can go out for dinner this weekend and we can stop on our way to buy a gift, if that’s what you want.” Ikenna replied.
“That’s not what I want…” and so their argument continued.
Amaka had questions and she wanted to know where Ikenna had been on that day, who he was with and what he had been doing. He had refused to give her any meaningful answer the entire week and every day, they had a new argument.

A week had passed since the event but Amaka was still not satisfied and became more doubtful. She brought up the issue again and this time around, Ikenna walked away and came back into the room a few minutes later. “I know what will cheer you up” he said, “I have a gift for you.” Amaka instantly turned away. “Don’t think you can buy me with gifts!” she snapped without looking at what he was holding. She refused to look at him or receive anything and insisted on finishing her conversation. So Ikenna was forced to keep the presents away and answer her questions. He was shocked by her attitude and so was she, although she also felt proud of herself for rejecting his gift, whatever it had been. For her, she had succeeded in achieving a milestone in overcoming her major weakness and she had shown Ikenna that she could not be distracted by material things; something she felt like she should have done with her ex-boyfriend. They had a long conversation that night and Amaka came to the conclusion that Ikenna was not being honest with her. Although she did not mention it to him, she knew that she had to break up with him soon and just before she fell asleep, she told herself that she would do it the next day before she left his place.

It was just past midnight when Amaka woke up to use the bathroom. As she walked back to the bed, she saw the wrapped present. Ignore it, a voice said to her but she wondered what harm it would do if she just took a look; after all she had already made her point clear to him about not being able to be purchased with gifts. She was just curious to know what was inside. She took a look at Ikenna and he seemed to be fast asleep. So she carefully unwrapped the gift as quietly as she could. She covered her mouth to prevent her from screaming when she saw what was inside; it was a Rolex diamond wristwatch and she stood there in admiration until she was startled by Ikenna’s voice.


“Do you like it?” He asked; she almost dropped the watch in shock. She was speechless and confused at that moment because she had been so sure that he was asleep. She was not sure of how to respond so she just smiled. He got up and kissed her “I knew you would like it” and then took her back to bed. That night, Amaka cursed in her mind “Damn curiosity, Damn gifts!” she said to herself. She was very upset with herself because she knew that once again, the breakup which she had scheduled for the next day was no longer going to happen on that day.

Thank you for reading; don't forget to leave your comments and share please and follow me on:

IG: @ugochiukah
Twitter: @vivio_gogo

Have a beautiful remaining week!

Sunday, 1 January 2017

HAPPY NEW YEAR! 2016 HAPPENINGS AND 2017 EXPECTATIONS


Hello hi,

Happy New Year! I’m so excited for 2017. 2016 was quite eventful and went by quickly but I am extremely thankful. I felt like I experienced a lot…from getting and giving heart aches, to anxiety, to romance, to travelling, to health matter, to peace! Sometimes, it was so confusing but God always had a way of showing me his presence. There were times I could literally feel His favour around me such that I could almost touch it. I got to spend time with some of my family members, made new friends, rekindled old friendships, and dumped a praying mantis (ooh! I almost wrote a story about that!). And speaking about stories, I know I have not written in a very long time, not because I did not want to, but I was engrossed in other types of writing and duties. I have missed writing stories a lot, it was like a therapy for me and a way of expressing myself so I hope to get back to business this year. I’m definitely adding it to my goals for the New Year.





And that reminds me of my 2016 goals – I had quite a few, including things like getting my learner’s driver license (I achieved that in November, ha ha, better late than never). I love to plan things and write them down so I had written some goals at the beginning of the year and I took a quick look at them recently. My other goals included things like:

  • ·       Publishing X number of articles (To be continued)
  • ·       Weighing X kg (± Xkg) (I went in and out of the scale but at least I was conscious of my situation, which is the key)
  • ·       Learning more French (oui, je l’apprends encore)
  • ·       Ride my bicycle (to be fair, the weather was not always good; in fact it snowed today :P so TBC)

And last but not the least:
  • ·       Getting married! (I didn’t even try for this one)


Lol! When I was reviewing my accomplishments and things I needed to work on based on my list, I realized that this was written at the bottom, with a pencil, and in a smaller font. I do not remember why it was so, maybe I had added it at the last minute to my list and maybe I was too shy and did not want others to see it since I put the list up in my office next to my desk. Perhaps, this was why I did not achieve it, lol, so I will work on it next year. Nah, I’m sure it was just not yet God’s time for me. J

I may not have achieved everything on my list but I am happy I wrote them down. Just like a popular saying “Planning is everything but plans are nothing”, I think it’s a great idea to plan and so I’m making a new list for 2017 including carry-overs from 2016.

Overall, I am thankful to the Almighty and hopeful for next year. Three of the things that I ask God for next year are Love, Faith and Peace. A summary of my year:

January – I found myself singing “fool again” by Westlife and “survivor” by Destiny child
February – Family time, whoop whoop!
March – Lenten season; prayer mood
April – had my annual ice cream cake
May – Established good friendships
June – Anxious, confused, worried (much ado about everything)
July – Regain of hope
August – Worked like a bee
September – Gulliver’s travels
October – A Brazilian experience
November – Had the best poutine in Montreal
December – Got to experience common side effects of morphine and I pray I never had to take it again!

So that’s it, you might see some stories titled as some of the phrases above, coming soon. Once again, I am thankful to God and my wonderful family and friends for a special year and I look forward to a better year.
Happy birthday to my amazing little sister (who wants my handbag). I pray God continues to show you favour abundantly and bless you accordingly.
 I wish you all a very happy new year. Please tune in for more stories this year; I promise that I will try to be good.
And follow me on twitter: @vivio_gogo and Instagram: @ugochiukah

xx

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

The 21st Century Relationship(s) by Ngozi Okoroji

Hello Hi,

I'm back again! This time around, the story is from a friend sharing some interesting thoughts...:

pic source: forfriendsforever.wordpress.com
The 21st Century Relationship(s)

As a child I watched my folks and how they related with friends, most of which were bosom and from childhood. They chatted about growing up, what the village was like, walking to school, farm, market to sell goods with mama, going to the stream to fetch water, wash, and play. How they all grew up, got married and are scattered around the world. What amazed me was how they all supported each other and gathered together every time there was an event (good or bad). I picked a lesson from their relationship - sacrifice keeps true friendship.


The English dictionary defines a friend as a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically one exclusive of sexual or family relations. The bible in Proverbs 18:4 defines a friend as one who sticks closer than a brother. With these definitions let me talk about the 21st century friendship.

I like to use myself or people around me as examples. Since birth till date (least that I know am an adult now), I can count how many friends have come and gone. I am compelled to write this based on experiences with friends; speaking to others made me realise that everyone had a thing or two to say about friendship.

The 21st century friendship is a carnivorous one. We feed off each other, we can only be friends when there's a need or benefit from it. Unknowingly, the 21st century friendship can be described as ‘use and dump’. My realisation from the old and new generation is that as technology evolved so did friendship. It grew from making sacrifices, trusting each other, sticking up for each other etc. to convenience, lies, being two-faced etc. Someone once told me that friends could mar or make you. So it's important to choose wisely. A school of thought says that like minds attract each other. I think it's become something material that attracts one (money, beauty, brains, contracts,
wealth, influence etc.). I once knew that friendship had these few characteristics: Trust, sacrifice, tolerance, sticking up for each other etc. The modern day friendship is filled with lies, deceit, jealousy and so much negativity.

This even applies to relationships. A young man meets a lady his attracted to and all he thinks of is how to sleep with her and all the many things she has to offer physically as opposed to getting to know her (personality, background, temperance, religion, beliefs, ideologies, intellect) etc. I once met a young man who went with me to meet my friends for our Friday night hangout. It was our (I and the young man) first time of meeting and I appreciated the gesture of taking me to meet with friends and bringing me back home. In my little head, I was thinking that maybe we will do this again - just the two of us and get to know each other better, but of course he ruined it when he kissed me. At that moment, I froze but since the car was off, I played along and kissed him back. Maybe I shouldn't have kissed back, but at that moment I couldn't think straight. I guess that's the price to pay for hopping into free rides. I can't get that scene out of my head, every time I reminisce about the world we live in, I can't help but think we live in a rotten age.

With all my research and experience from failed relationships, I ponder what will be left of this generation and the future generations if relationships are based on all of the above listed.
I pray someone who reads this learns to savage relationships. Let’s add a little spice from the old generation friendship to our new school friendship and make the best from it. I drop my pen here, till next time when my thought takes me elsewhere.


I am not a conventional writer but I felt inspired to this. I hope it enriches someone.

Thank y'all for reading and as usual, please comment, share with a "friend" :) and remain blessed.

Follow me on twitter: @vivio_gogo ; Instagram: @ugochiukah

Monday, 1 August 2016

THE ONLY BLACK WOMAN

Hello Hi,

Happy new month! I cannot believe that it is already August, wow! I know that it's been ages since I wrote and posted on my blog. I have missed writing but to be fair, I have been doing some other types of writing :). Just a reminder that my last BellaNaija post can be found here and hopefully you will get more from me soon. I also hope to resume writing more often so watch out please. Today's story is something I hope many can relate to so please read, comment and share with your friends. I wish you a lovely month filled with beautiful things.


photo credit: thegoodhairdiaries.blogspot.com

THE ONLY BLACK WOMAN

It was good news! Hali had just received a scholarship to go and study abroad. She was excited and looking forward to a new opportunity but at the same time she felt sad because she would have to leave her friends and relatives and go far away. Presently, she did not live in her country, Ethiopia, but she still felt at home in Kenya. Not only were the two countries close to each other, she had friends and relatives living there too and she could easily find her native foods to eat. In fact, there were so many similarities that it felt like she had never left home.
Hali had made the perfect friends; she always thought to herself of how lucky she had been. There was the talkative Hewan, the sweet and gentle Liza, the event planner Kibre and the religious Temar. They were all course mates and had just finished their Bachelor’s degree in biological sciences. From the first day they met, there had been a strong connection and although it was unintentional, they had formed a girl squad with themselves. They were always together and very protective of one another and barely spoke to their other schoolmates. None of them had a boyfriend and unknown to them, they were seen as snobs, with rumours even being perpetuated that they were a lesbian cult group. However, they never noticed as they were engrossed in each other’s life throughout their four years of study. Hali’s travel was therefore a big change in their lives. Of course, Temar, Hewan, Liza and Kibre were happy for Hali but they were also sad to say goodbye. Hali was not just leaving Kenya but she was going far away to the United States of America to further her education and get a Master’s degree in Pharmacology. The other girls were not yet ready for a second degree; Hewan wanted to work first and earn some money; Temar wanted to become a business woman; Liza, who was an only child, wanted to get married and start a family; and Kibre was not yet sure of what she wanted and wanted to take a year out. That was the beauty of the group; even though everyone else outside the group saw them as the same kind of girls; they all had very different personalities and goals.

The night before Hali left the country, the other girls threw her a farewell party. It was no surprise that only a few people attended since they had not exactly been friendly with other people. Nonetheless, it was an emotional party. They exchanged gifts, recounted their favorite moments and made plans on how to keep in touch. Towards the end of the night, Hali became more nervous as reality dawned on her that she was leaving indeed to a new continent, where she knew no one and especially to a state where she heard that there were barely any black people. As the girls packed up to leave her apartment, Hali grabbed Kibre’s hands, the most outgoing one amongst them whom she trusted to continue to organize their friendly meetings.
With tears in her eyes, she said to Kibre “Promise me that you will keep in touch and you will make sure that the others do, please.”
Kibre made the first promise and with that all the other girls made their vows too. It was not going to be difficult, they assured Hali. She would quickly make friends, but their friendship would remain solid and once they got good jobs or husbands or figured out whatever they wanted to do with their lives, they would get US visas and pay her a visit hopefully within a year. They also promised to Skype regularly during the weekends, since they all had access to the internet and with these, Hali felt more confident about their friendship. The next morning, she left with the earliest plane for the state of Vermont in the USA.

As soon as she alighted from the plane, Hali could feel the difference. Nothing was similar to where she had come from and nothing looked familiar. There was no East African at the airport or in her school hostel, or in her classroom, or in her church. Everywhere she went, she looked around for East Africans but as the days went by, she began to realise that she was being too optimistic. Any African would do, she eventually thought to herself and after weeks with no success, she wished for any ‘black’ person. When months had gone by and she had still found none, she settled for looking for any ‘coloured’ person. It was not because she had any problem with making Caucasian friends but she just wanted somebody that she could share her spicy foods with and someone who understood her afro hair. She had become so spoilt in Kenya that now it was difficult for her to do certain things for herself like making her hair and doing her own make up. There were times that she considered going to the neighbouring city as she heard that there were more diversities in the population but as time went on and with the increasing school work, she gave up on the chase. She became used to being the only black person there and she even nicknamed herself “the only black woman”.

Hali tried to keep in touch with her friends in Kenya from the day she arrived in the states. She already had a lot to tell them but the time difference was a barrier as when she was up in the morning, they were already going to bed and vice versa. Their first group skype call was scheduled for the weekend after she arrived. All of them attended but the call barely took place as the internet connection was horrible for some reason on that day. Only Temar showed up during the next meeting scheduled a couple of weeks after, because Kibre had begun her travels, Temar was having a training for a new job and Liza had just gotten a new boyfriend with whom she was out with. Hewan, she learnt, had fallen out with the group shortly after she left for the states. Hali and Temar spoke for a short while; the conversation was awkward and that was when she realised that she had never really had anything in common with Temar and they had never spent time alone before throughout their college years. Somehow spending time in a group was different from spending time alone. Therefore, Hali looked forward to the full group meetings but that never took place because one weekend after the other, there was always an excuse for it not to happen. Hali tried to reach out to them individually via Facebook, WhatsApp and other apps but after a while, it seemed like she was the only one making the efforts and nobody else was interested. Thus, after some months, she was no longer in touch with any of them and it was via Facebook that she found out that Kibre and Hewan had gotten married, Liza had returned home to Ethiopia and Temar had started her small business in costume jewelry.

Hali had not been invited to any of the weddings and even when she tried to reach out to congratulate her friends on their accomplishments, she received bland responses. It became clear that she had either been ostracized from the group or that the group did not exist again. There were moments when Hali felt lonely and she would sit in her room, going through her picture albums and the parting gifts from her former friends. She reminisced on the great times they had spent together and she wondered how things could have changed so quickly. She cried whenever she remembered the promise that Kibre and the other girls had made and how no one had cared to keep them. She made up her mind to be strong and get used to her new life or else she would get depressed.

Almost two years had gone by and Hali was rounding up her master’s program. She was looking forward to moving out to a new city and finding a job immediately after she finished. She was in the final stages of her Master’s thesis and had to spend long hours in the laboratory, thus making her return home late at night sometimes. It was on one of those nights as she was going home that she passed by a lady. At first, she did not notice as she had been absent minded but she looked again and there she was - it was another black woman! She stood in shock as the woman continued her way in the opposite direction. She felt the urge to run after her and say something but she knew it would come off as creepy so she just stood there until she could no longer see her. When she got home that night, she slept well for the first time since she arrived in the country. It was as if the new woman had brought a new hope into her life. She prayed that she would see her again and her prayers were answered a week after. She ran into the woman again just about the same time and same place and that day, she decided to say hi. They spoke for a few minutes. Her name was Mirabel: she was from Jamaica and had moved there recently with her family. She was quite older than Hali and was married with two children. Hali tried to contain her excitement and continued to ask many questions. The woman was on her way to work; she was a night nurse at the nearby hospital and so she had to leave.


After that day, Hali ran into the woman almost every week that she worked late at the laboratory. They would greet each other pleasantly but briefly. And although, Hali would have loved to build a stronger friendship with her, she did not want to start something that would leave her heartbroken again like her former friends. She also did not think that they would have many things in common given the age difference or the time to hang out as much as they were both busy. However, every night that they passed by each other, Hali would feel a strange feeling of joy and would sleep like a baby. Somehow, Mirabel’s smile reminded Hali of Liza, her hair style reminded her of Kibre, she had the same colour of eyes as Temar and the way she walked reminded her of Hewan. In Mirabel, she had found happiness and began to feel less lonely and although, Mirabel would never know, Hali had made a new nickname for both of them and every time after they passed and greeted each other, she would whisper “the only black women.”

The end

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