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.”
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Stay blessed xx.