Monthly Archives: July 2011

Black Widow Bungee

July 27, 8:06 am: Hey, do you want to go bungy today?

10:16 am: Missed call from 08…..

It was Brittany; the White girl with an adrenaline addiction. It wasn’t that I was ignoring her calls and texts – it was just that my body was still recovering from the unaccustomed exertion that I had been placing it under over the last few days.

“Hey Brit…Sure. I’d love to go bungee,” I said warily. “Sorry I missed all your messages. My phone was dead.”

It was a very convenient truth, but now that the batteries had been charged and contact made, there was no going back. You see, I’ve been in pursuit of my “best life”;  i.e. trying things I’ve never previously tried – or seen the merit in trying – for a short while. And after veritable weeks of verbal bravado and swaggering, it was time to pay the piper. I’d gone on and on about how ‘cool’ it would be to bungee, and how ‘awesome’ it was to have a jump so close to our summer residence.

“Yeah!” exclaimed Brittany enthusiastically, handing me a brochure, “and FAZE has the highest bungee jump in the WORLD.”

I laughed.

“No, it really does,” she said earnestly. “It’s the highest according to the Guinness Book of Records.”

Gulp.

I spoke only when absolutely necessary on the ride to Bloukrans. Fueled only by a cup of yoghurt and a Snicker’s bar, I only had enough energy to answer when spoken to.

“Are you nervous?” asked Brittany.

“Yeah,” I admitted. “Where you nervous on the way there?”

“For sure! It’s totally nerve wracking.”

Way to boost my self-assurance.

Finally, we got to the site. I feigned excitement and walked bravely over to the souvenir shop where I had to pay for the jump: a whopping R650 (< $100)! The girl at the counter eyed me with amusement. After asking me to step on an industrial scale, she wrote my weight and jump number on my hand.

“You must go immediately to get harnessed. You’re the last one in the next group going.”

I only had time to react, so I sped over to the harness hut. I kindly man named Frederick asked me if this was my first jump.

“Yes,” I said.

“It’s a good start,” he nodded with approval.

After he instructed me to step into the harness and pulled the straps up around me. The Teflon ropes hugged my crotch tighter than a long lost brother. It was uncomfortable, to say the least.  Once I was fitted, he radioed his compatriot to let him know we were on the way.

“Goodbye Marshall!” I waved. I love you.

Certain that I was going to die that morning, I prepared myself for certain suicide. I had chosen my clothes carefully: Black stretchy pants to camouflage any urine in the event that I involuntarily pissed my pants, a Hampton University t-shirt so that the divers could identify my body and tell the world that I was a college educated Black woman and not just some gidgit who’d carelessly leapt to her doom, and sneakers…because they were ‘sensible’.

A Colored man was explaining how we were supposed to leap. I missed the instruction because I was making up the rear of the bunch. This was not a good start. I didn’t know why I was there and NOW I didn’t know what I was doing. He led us from the edge of the mountain to the overpass of the bridge. It suddenly dawned on me: I was going to be jumping from a BRIDGE. If the jump didn’t kill me, one of the speeding cars above me would when the structure collapsed.

Oh Sweet Jesus.

Attached to the bridge was another structure made of chicken wire, spit and tape. We were expected to walk 60 feet from terra firma on this gangplank to the bungee site; again without pissing our pants. I saw the ocean from the left corner of my eye and the mountains to the right. Directly beneath me was a brown river, colored crimson by tannin…and probably a bit of human blood. My heart froze within me.

Don’t look down Malaka. Don’t look down!

Finally we got to the bungee station, which was little more than a maze of ropes and chords and a DJ booth. The band of idiots who’d also let someone talk them into this folly chatted amongst themselves. The DJ began to blare house music and current hip hop tunes. I felt a little more at ease, distracted by the music. Being the heaviest person to jump, I was second to last to go.

“21! You’re up!”

Sigh.

“What’s your name lady?”

“Malaka.”

“Is this your first jump?”

“Yeah. I figured if I was gonna do it, I should go big.”

“It’s a good start,” said the man lacing me up. “Why taste when you can eat?”

That ought to be a t-shirt. If I made it back alive, I would consider having a screen made.

“Okay, Malaka,” said the man breaking my thoughts, “this rope is made of blah blah blah, and has a tensile strength of blah blah blah. It’s strong enough to support 3.8 tons, so you’re completely safe.”

“Oh. Ok.”

“And if the cord around your feet fails, you have a second one around your waist – got it?”

I nodded and smiled.

“I like your attitude!” he gushed. “Okay. You’re going to raise your hands like this and on ‘3-2-1’ you’re going to jump. If you don’t jump, we push you.”

I nodded again, keeping my eyes firmly shut.

“Okay! 3-2-1: Bungee ai!”

Arms outstretched, as though receiving my destruction, and eyes clothes, I pushed myself off, hurtling towards certain doom. For a moment there was nothing but silence as my soul abandoned my physical being. Then there was a rush of wind that filled my ears.

I was falling and falling and falling. 40 seconds in, I decided to open my eyes. If I were going to die, I wanted to see. It was horrifying, terrifying and exhilarating. All 250 lbs of my bulky frame were subject to gravity, and gravity was winning big time. The tannin river was ever closer and the bungee cord had still not become taut. When it finally did, I said my thanks to God…until the elasticity forced me up a second time.

Oh Jesus…Oh sh**!!!

Praying, screaming and cursing, I went into a tail spin before finally coming to a halt and dangling like a dead piece of flesh on an old wound. Then I heard a voice.

“Hi there!”

Holy Spirit? Is that you?

“Hi!” I yelled back. My brain was pulsating and my throat was tight. I wasn’t sure if the voice could pick up on my gratitude.

It was a man. He hooked some stuff together and commanded me to sit up. Then he began small talk. What he said is beyond me. I wanted to plant a big peck on his face for coming to get me, but he was too far up. Eventually, he and his buddies laid me on a plank – again made of chicken wire and tape. At least I wasn’t midway in the air anymore. I sprawled on the surface and let them have their way with me and the harness.

“Would you do it again?” asked one of the workers, grinning through his gold teeth.

“Nope. Never.”

“Even if I paid for you?”

I shook my head.

“Oh! Then I’m not going to let you up!” he said mockingly, pretending he was going to leave me straddling the Earth and sky. I was having no part of it.

“Uh uh! Okay, okay! I’ll do it if you pay for it!”

All the workers cackled. They seemed to get some sort of sadistic joy, knowing that we were all terrified and that the lives of so many mortals were in their hands.

“Some of them jump two to three times a week”, Frederick said pointing to his co-workers. “It gives you a new perspective of suicide.”

Yeah. I’ll bet it does. That’s why I’ll just wait for GOD to take me in His own due time, thank you very much!

Your kids (and therefore YOU) are not welcome here

Have you noticed this anti-kid movement gaining steam in recent months and weeks? Large corporations and small businesses alike are beginning to impose bans on small children, preventing parents and children alike from patronizing particular establishments. Hey, we live in a free world and capitalist society and businesses are allowed to admit whomever they please on their premises. After all, it wasn’t too long ago that local pubs hung signs reading “No dogs No Blacks/No Irish allowed” in their door ways. I grew up accustomed to racial bigotry and it’s never really bothered me – but these are KIDS!

It all started with Malaysia Airlines instituting a policy saying they would no longer allow infants and children in first class. I’m not unsympathetic to that at all. If I paid 4 grand for a one-way ticket to Dubai, I expect to travel in peace in comfort as well. But from there, it has snowballed into restaurants, hotels and even grocery stores banning children before they hit the threshold. Having been single and childless not too long ago myself, I understand the impetus – that being many children are incapable of self-control and silence and that any good business owner wants their paying customer to enjoy their shopping/recreational experience. Rowdy children certainly do little to provide a serene atmosphere; but I don’t think an all-out BAN on kids under 6 is the answer! Surely if we employ a bit of common sense there can be some sort of compromise.

Take my kids for example: all four of my lovely, loquacious children. I know my children are outdoor kids, and so I do my best to keep them precisely in that environment – outside where they can run and scream to their hearts content. I don’t take them the Ritz for dinner (can’t afford it) and I would never take them to the Fox Theater (can’t afford it) unless there was a 6 week run of Tinkerbell and the Lost Acorn, where I would expect 80% of the audience to be 10 and under. I’ve been that parent in Barnes & Noble who’s had my four year old running helter-skelter all over the book nook and as a result had steely eyes glaring at me. I have enough shame to make my purchases quickly and then leave, explaining on the way out that because of his/her unacceptable behavior we now have to leave the premises and cut our fun short. Next time, my child does better. Do you ever wonder why some 4 year olds are capable of sitting peacefully and respectfully in church or at the library? It certainly isn’t because they were born that way, but rather because they were bred that way! Social interaction with other adults is key for that child to grow into a personable and responsible adult in the future…and turning 6 does not magically make that happen.

A ban on kids does not affect me personally, because I don’t have enough discretionary income that would allow me to ferry my children to establishments in which their presence would be a distraction (like the Ritz). My behavior will largely remain unchanged. I do feel for those parents – like the Jolie-Pitt family – that want their children to accompany them to such places however. It just seems so…rejecting.  It’s like you’ve got lice or bad body odor.

“You’ve got kids? Ugh. GROSS.”

On the other hand, who’s really going to ask Angelina and her latest designer orphan to leave their table at Flame in the event of a baby meltdown?

And like those “No Dog/No Blacks Allowed” signs of old, the signs are everywhere that kids are best kept out of sight and mind; until they’re needed for something useful like fueling an advertising campaign or busy being not born at (i.e. abortion). The irony today  is that Fido stands a better chance of getting into Whole Foods than Jr. does.

But businesses be warned! This generation will remember this day when THEY are the ones with the discretionary income and YOU are trying to coax those dollars off them. Nobody likes a hypocrite.

What do you think? Is a ban justified or should we all just try to get along? We were all kids at one point after all.

Following White People Up the Mountain

Yes. That is exactly what you think it is. That is a picture of my BUTT, which Robberg mountain essentially handed me this weekend. It never would have happened if I hadn’t been following after White people, pretending I could should do the things they do. These “white people things” include mountain climbing, shark tank swimming and extreme roller derby. However, there I found myself at dawn, peering over sheer ledges and slick rocks, praying that God and his angels would in the end deliver me. Mere words cannot justly describe the highs and lows that I experienced going over the mountain pass and treacherous terrain it took FOUR HOURS to conquer, and so dear Reader, I bring you Robberg Mountain in pictures!

 

 

 

 

 

 

It started off promisingly enough. There I was with biceps flexed and mind ready to conquer the mass of ancient rock.

The flat entry soon gave way to downward slopes and craggy cliffs.

There was beauty everywhere, but I could barely take it all in. My vision was impaired by my vigorously beating heart in my cerebellum. Yes – my heart was beating so hard that my brain was pulsating.

At long last, we got to more level ground. We were close to the summit. I felt confidence swell within me once more. There, under a cliff of cobble stone and silica, I posed in victory.

Once at the summit, we took in the view of the risen sun. With steadied legs and breath, I felt a wave of triumph sweep over me.

“That was child’s play”, scoffed Marshall. “We can do that again!”

Do not mock the mountain, I heard a voice caution in my soul. I looked ahead of me. There was yet another peak to scale. If it was anything like this one, perhaps I COULD make it.

The two turned out to be incomparable.

The solid ground suddenly turned to sand, sucking in my sneakers and making each step much more difficult. As my breath got heavier, a sour smell filled the air.

“Seals,” said Brittany. 

“Yeah,” confirmed Lauren. “You can smell ‘em before you see ‘em.”

We paused to take a water break, appreciating the beauty that was all around us.

“I gotta lend you this book I read,” said Brittany suddenly. “It’s about this guy who quit his job and went biking around the coast of Australia. He journaled his whole experience. Thought he was going to die a few times. It was an amazing story.”

“See? That’s what I’m talking about,” I shot back with ragged breath. “Who quits their job to go BIKING through the dessert of Australia? Who else besides white people!?!?”

Everyone laughed, but no one answered the question. It was rhetorical, after all.

An hour later we reached The Gap, a sandy patch of earth that divides the second half of the mountain. It was breathtaking. Brittany had stored Marshall’s and my water in her backpack, amazed at the idea that we had come to Africa without such an “essential” item.

“Our essentials are diapers and sippy cups…not backpacks.”

There were more seals below us, swimmingly playfully in the ocean. I had the  sudden wish to be a seal, carefree and flapping in the ocean. But then there’s that whole thing about sharks gobbling you up when you least expect it. Oh well. I took another bite from my energy bar.

After we traversed that sandy expanse, we came upon Robberg island – a solitary piece of land that was completely inaccessible at high tide. It was low tide; so the only thing separating us was distance, a few freak waves – and 100 foot sand dune with a 84* incline.

“WHOA!” we all gasped.

As I peered over the edge, wondering in my heart how we were going to make it down this ungodly drop, I heard a woman’s voice utter the solution. It was Brittany.

“Dude. Let’s run it.”

Lauren smiled.

The two of them shot off like rockets, hurtling down the sand dune like rabid Orcs into Mordor. White people!! There was nothing for it. I cautiously jogged off after them. It was the only way down.

But what a thrill! I laughed hysterically, grateful that I’d made it down without breaking anything. After we scaled the stairs leading to the other side of the island, we were treated to a show that made it worth every hour of the trek. The whales were in the bay, breaking the surface of the ocean and raising flippers and tails to our delight. Pod after pod swam by, greeting us with explosions from their blow holes.

All things good and beautiful must come to an end, and so we set back off on the return hike to the car. There was danger on every corner, certain death awaiting me with every step. The nimble white people had very little trouble navigating the slick rocks and treacherous mountain pass. I suppose that’s the benefit of doing P-frikkin’-90X ever day though. I watched them disappear further and further from view with every meek step I took.

At last, four plus hours later, the trudge finally ended. I was winded and  bewildered, but I felt empowered and ready to do more white people things.

Shark diving anyone?

Living and Loving in Naptivity

“There are days when I wake up, look in the mirror and get so frustrated with my hair. Whenever he hears me in the bathroom fussing with my hair I’ll hear a ‘click!’…and when I turn around Mario is taking a picture of it. He loves everything about it: the texture, the curl, the coils. He just loves everything about my natural hair.”

Mario, my friend’s fiancé and natural hair lover is part of a growing minority – a small number of men who actually like “natural” or unrelaxed hair. (Permed hair isn’t imitation after all, is it?) As intriguing as this is, what fascinates me more about Mario is that he’s not some ‘down brotha from around the way’; he’s a white guy straight off the boat from Germany.

I – I just have never heard of such. Clearly I need to get out more.

I know white guys and black women pair up all the time, but it’s rare that that black woman has the qualities that my friend possesses…namely a PhD and a TWA (teenie weenie afro). I have two cousins that have married white men, but they’re light skinned and bear more resemblance to Beyonce than India Arie. My experience led me to the assumption that if White men DID date outside their race, they would naturally gravitate towards our caramel colored sisters and away from the chocolate chip batch; and therefore towards the ones with straighter hair. My generation and those before have been taught that our natural hair wasn’t good enough for the boardroom or the runway, and it certainly wasn’t sexy enough for the bedroom. ‘Sexy’ hair is long and shoulder length with barrel curls. ‘Professional’ hair is straight and side-parted, tucked behind the ears. So again, Mario fascinates me.

My friend recounted several stories of adversity and defeat that her hair has brought her in the past. Her coils coupled with her pursuit of higher education have run off many a potential paramour and vanquished relationships in their infancy. She told me of numerous occasions where she’d be out on a date after being fixed up by friends, only to have her companion looking past her at some blond dainty girl at the table behind her. On one occasion, another guy left her standing on the floor of a club into the waiting arms and gyrating hips of 2 white girls without so much as an ‘excuse me’!

“Why are Black men so scared of women with PhDs,” I asked with irritation.

“Oh, it’s not just them,” she replied. “There was a FINE white guy who  I started chatting with in a bar and the moment I said I was in school getting my PhD he let out a loud “WHOA!!!”, took a swig of his beer and walked off without another word.”

She laughed and continued.

“I even had one friend who said I must stop telling men I was getting my PhD because it was ruining my social life.”

Interestingly enough, I saw this Youtube video three nights ago that discussed this very topic. Sometimes I can’t believe this is STILL an issue, but I appreciated the honesty from a man’s perspective.

I’ve never really understood this whole thing with Black women’s hair, and I really, really want to. How is it that something that grows out of my scalp, if left untreated, is somehow a political statement? Or that if I don’t go for bi-monthly reapplications of Dark n’ Lovely I somehow disdain Black men who date white women? Indeed, that has been insinuated by many a brother whose first words to afro’d and twisted sisters is ‘Oh…you’re one of them natural girls, huh?’ If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of that utterance, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

I have always been an advocate for Black women dating outside the race, and Mario is exactly the reason why. There are gorgeous, intelligent Black women languishing and wasting their lives away waiting for their ‘Black love,’ when really they need to be looking for ‘pure love.’ Pure love values and respects the handiwork of God, regardless of the hue of our skin or the heft of our follicles. It certainly appreciates an expanded mind, rather than fearing it. Pure love certainly isn’t jealous. Now that my friend is engaged, she is approached by all kinds of Black guys who previously wouldn’t give her the time of day. The idea that a ‘natural sister’ would consort with a white man confounds them, apparently.

“ ‘Ey shawtey, ‘ey. What you doin’ with him?” they ask with swagger. “Why don’t you come home with me?”

Come home with you? What on earth for?

When oh when will my people break free of the bonds of naptivity!?

The New Scramble for Africa

Yesterday I was trolling Yahoo News and discovered that Dakar has its own fashion week! The organizer of the annual event is privately organized by model-turned-designer, Adama Paris. The event is in its ninth year and if I’m so fortunate, I plan to attend the 10th showing in 2012. Young Africans are returning to their countries of birth or national origins in trickles, but the impact that they are having on culture and commerce is immediate and widely felt. (I will as always, shamelessly plug my BFFFL Nana Darkoa who is a force in this new vanguard.)

After centuries of colonialism and decades of post-independence war and in-fighting, it seems that Africa may finally be coming back into its own through needlework, keystrokes and mic checks. Africa’s glorious and vibrant music and fashion heritage is being revived in a modern day renaissance that beats with the pulse of a Kenyan runner.

Just this past week in Jamestown, my countrymen made an effort to showcase this re-appreciation for this 21st century enlightenment through a street festival dubbed Chale Wote. ‘Chaley wote’ is the local name for flimsy flip-flops that shod the feet of both commoners and aristocrats. It is an essential item in the wardrobe of every African, just as art is essential for the human soul. I believe it was in that spirit that these photos of the event were taken. Nana Kofi Acquah is a photographer with an eye for capturing the moment and skilled at unearthing pictorial gems among the mire. After reading his blog, I was saddened that I had missed such a showcase of local fledgling talent.

And then I saw THIS ‘analysis’, which also saddened angered me  The writer makes the insipid assertion and the unmitigated assumption that the poor are somehow less worthy of feting this renaissance…simply because they’re poor. What business do embassies have funding a street fair in sprawling slum such as Jamestown, when they need rice for their bellies, she pondered. To make matters worse, the ‘poor woman’ had to endure the dusty hands of little nigger children as they crowded around her in welcome. I was at a loss for words, until one blogger aptly summed up her inane utterances.

“We are more than the contents of our bellies, or in this case, the absence thereof,” said Kobby Graham in a tweet.

We are three part beings, you and I: spirit, soul and body. It is just as damaging to ignore the feeding of your soul as it is to neglect the nourishment of one’s body. One simply cannot live off rice and United Nations nutrient mush eternally as Holli rambles in her article. Africa and Africans are far more than the contents of our bellies.

There is a new scramble for Africa, and the nations are coming once again to spoil and divvy up our lands and resources; and China is at the forefront. But I have hope that through this new awakening and appreciation of self, we can quell that onslaught, if even for a little while. We must rebuff the attitudes that seek to lower us to a nation of charity cases and embrace the beauty in the muck.

No one said Africa is perfect. It may be a mess, but it’s a beautiful mess.

Walking Prophylactics

“You guys should do township tours as a family. A day spent with you, and our teen birth rates would go waayyy down.” – Michael L.

Yesterday we went to Sedgefield Market on the N2 with our missionary compatriots. Marshall and I are the only ones with kids. Everyone else in the group is a carefree single just a-servin’ the Lord with a spring in their step and while viewing the world with rose colored glasses firmly fixed to their frown-free faces.

It was a lovely winter day. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was warm enough to walk around in short sleeves and sandals. The market had every sort of vendor imaginable and we took our time browsing and sampling the homemade fare that the vendors had come to sell. Well, our friends did. Marshall and I spent the morning trying to keep the children from destroying the tranquility of the bazaar. For the most part we did okay. The children were compliant, even somewhat agreeable – up until “The Scene”, which comprised of a cascading series of unfortunate events that came in waves so violent that it was hard to keep up.

As we sat down to breakfast on tree stumps serving as stools, Aya announced that she wanted a hotdog for her meal. Not one to pass up meat, I said I would have one too. Nadjah had been lustfully eyeing everyone else’s English breakfast before finally announcing that she wanted a plate of bacon. I have her R20.

“Make sure you bring back my change.”

“Okay, Mommy!”

She returned with a yoghurt parfait.

“Where’s the bacon?” I asked incredulously.

“Oh. I decided to get something healthy instead,” she answered simply.

“Okay…then where’s my change?”

“They didn’t give me any.”

What?? Three bucks for a yoghurt parfait? What a rip off. I let it go though. It was a beautiful day, and there was no point in getting upset. That is, until Nadjah took two bites and refused to eat any more.

“You better eat all that yogurt,” Marshall said darkly. “This whole meal cost me 2 hours of work!”

In that moment, I heard a yelp of protest. Stone, who had been uncharacteristically quiet, was suddenly throwing fist-fulls of wood chips and dirt into Michelle’s blond hair and bosom.

“No, Stone! No!” we all chorused.

Just then, Brittany broke into a rowdy cackle at the other end of the table. I turned my attention to find out what was amusing her so much. Nadjah, as it turned out, had abandoned her parfait altogether and was begging bacon off two elderly male strangers who were about to feed their left-overs to their dog.

“Don’t give it to the DOG,” she objected. “Give it to ME!”

Oh sweet mercy.

In the corner of my eye I caught Aya quietly smearing ketchup all over her face and wiping the excess onto her trousers. Just as I was about to admonish her by telling her for the billionth time to use a napkin, I heard Liya walk behind me, contentedly singing in her sweet toddler speech.

“Bah bah bah bah,” she babbled.

What was that in her hand? She was waving something blue that made a crinkling sound as she clenched and unclenched her fist. Oh dear God. It was one of my sanitary towels.

I hardly knew where to begin. Should I grab the Always pad from the baby, wipe the mud from Stone’s hand, give Nadjah a lesson on begging food off strangers before nagging Aya about dirtying herself with condiments yet again? What was the proper order?! Defeated, I hung my head and waited for it all to pass, which by some miracle it did.

After the storm subsided, it was suggested that we consider bringing teen girls into our home to see what a life of parenting really looked like. 5 minutes with some inexperienced knucklehead surely couldn’t be worth all this.

“You guys are walking prophylactics,” Michael declared, handing Liya back to me. He didn’t say it, but I wager he may never, ever have kids. Ever.

Oh Michael, I wanted to say. You don’t even know the half of it. Until you’ve found yourself half- naked on a tin roof during a raging lightning storm because you’re trying to break back into your house after your kids have locked you out…Today was pretty tame.

Aboriginal Grocery March

My thighs had begun to burn and weaken when Marshall suggested I turn around.

“Why don’t you try it backwards!” he panted.

I rotated my rear and placed it in Marshall’s view. Our synchronized movements immediately felt more natural. I gasped my relief.

“Isn’t that better?”

“Much,” I breathed.

We’d been walking up the steep hill for 15 minutes or more. The incline was burning my thigh and calf muscles, but there was no way I could give up and go back home. The kids needed groceries and I was too cheap to pay for taxi fare – a whopping R12…or $1.85 – for BOTH of us.

Our house sits on the edge of Piesang in Plettenberg Bay, where the mountainous range would be a challenge for even the fittest outdoorsman. As I watched Plett’s numerous luxury cars struggle up the bend, their engines churning against gravity, I contemplated the impact that the very same ascent was having on my own body. It couldn’t have been good. I haven’t walked any further than the driver’s side of my car for years, and the very idea of a mile-long hike had terrified me to the core.

It’s only a mile, Malaka. You can do it!

Powered by self-affirmation, I felt a wave of confidence wash over me – that is until an elderly lady whizzed by me on foot, shaking her head in disbelief and disgust.

Get in shape or hire a taxi, you oily American swine, her weathered eyes said silently.

Leave me alone old lady! mine yelled back.

Finally, after trudging for 30 odd minutes, we reached the top of the mountain and began our food purchases. We selected our items with care, mindful that we’d have to lug each bag down the way we came.

“We need some milk,” Marshall said.

“Yeah…but keep in mind that we have to carry all this back,” I cautioned.

“We also need some onions.”

“Yeah…but don’t get a sack. We have to carry all this back! Only get 1 or 2.”

Onions an’ milk is mighty heavy.

Why have we been forced to walk about this small city ferrying our food around like a pair of homeless goats? Because we’ve had to return the car we were borrowing for the last month to its owner. I admit, there were days that I took the car for granted. You never really appreciate the value of a vehicle until you’ve had your thigh muscles raped by an unforgiving mountain.

During our descent, Marshall expressed his gratitude that we at least did not have to carry our items the other way round. I agreed; but a quarter way through, I stopped and fought back tears of anguish.

“What’s wrong?”

“The plastic bag is cutting into my hands!” I wailed. “We need a trolley!”

Sadly, none of the grocers in town would let us buy one of theirs. Why ever not, I’ll never know. After all, one of the quintessential images of American life is that of a homeless person loving pushing all their precious belongings around the streets of any given downtown metropolis in a Kroger cart. I was offering them culture for Heaven’s sake! American culture.

“Hire a taxi,” was the resounding reply to our plight.

But my miserly ways prevented me from doing just that. Sensing that I was about to give in Marshall stopped walking and looked around. He went into the bush and came back with a stick. Instantly I knew what he was thinking.

“That is brilliant!” I cried. “Like the Aborigines!”

He smiled and tested the strength of the stick with the weight of the heaviest bag. Then he added his last two. He confidently trudged on with his ancient hauling apparatus on his shoulder. He looked so much more comfortable than I felt. Further down the hill, I found a stick as well. So there we were, two Black Americans in Africa with sticks and plastic bags shamelessly walking half way around the city as if nothing was wrong with this picture.

By the time we got home, we were each a dusty sweaty mess. Our neighbor, an English granddame, was aghast when she realized what we’d done.

“You’ve got neighbors for goodness sake,” she scolded. “Next time you need a lift to town, just ask!”

She glowered at me, trying to convey the seriousness of the matter. I wanted to feel foolish, but I couldn’t. My husband and I had just conquered the elements using nothing more than our wits, brawn and a pair of sticks!

“Yes ma’am,” I said, feigning repentance. “I will.”

Which of course I won’t. I rather enjoy the feeling of being a modern day hunter-gatherer.

Sadistic Grief

Two nights ago one of my childhood friends died in his sleep. He was 27. His sister, the oldest of 5 kids, was my best friend and he and my brother used to play together. We were an odd bunch in those days – one of the first ‘hybrid Ghanaians’ living in Ghana. Our common bond was that we each shared one African-American and Ghanaian parents. We’d sit around and reminisce over our juvenile memories of America while squabbling over the last piece of smoked fish for our abolo. Our friendships were tempered through countless sleepovers, Easter egg hunts, pretending we were blood cousins and “break ups”  where we declared that we were no longer friends anymore, only to make up a week later.

Although I can’t confess to seeing or talking to him in over 17 years, Senyo was like a little brother to me. He was an awkward kid, and had such a quiet soul. He never bothered anyone, and was just about the business of living…you know what I mean? It’s hard to imagine that he is actually gone. He died as he had lived: pretty much alone, and quietly. His mother- my ‘aunt’- found him the next morning.

Those who know me and my family personally know that we don’t handle emotion well at all. Oh we’re very good at ‘anger’ and ‘outrage’ – even hatred… but the intensity of grief is not something we’ve managed to master as yet. My brother has not spoken to either my sister or I since we all got wind of the tragedy. Our guess is that he’s holed up alone somewhere, doing whatever he needs to do to get by. Seclusion is generally our coping mechanism, until we’re ready to emerge from the cocoon of grief in the most peculiar way: We make jokes.

For example when my grandmother died, she wanted everyone to wear white and shed no tears on the day she was to be buried. That’s not popular in Ghana. It’s not popular period…but there you have it.

After my sister and I had snotted and cried on the phone together last night, she called me today to do a follow up call.

“How are you doing?” I asked.

“Me? I’m ok,” she replied. “I realized something last night after I got off the phone with you.”

“Uh huh?”

“I’m an emotional giver. I wanted to pay for the whole funeral if I could, but then I realized that I don’t even know Senyo anymore.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” I mulled. “I was thinking the same thing. I mean, I haven’t seen him since he was 10, I think.”

“Exactly! He was our childhood friend and Facebook friend, but I don’t know Senyo the adult. He could have been a douche for all I know.”

“I highly doubt it…but ok!” I paused for a moment. “We’re such horrible people (Marshall nodded at this point). This is a tragedy, and we’re not taking is seriously!”

“Can you imagine how it will be when you die?” laughed Adj.

“Yeah,” I snickered. “Maybe Sami will come up to my coffin at the wake and ask you in front of everyone if you remember the time you had to look into my vagina and fish out the tampon I thought was stuck in there.” (This is a true story, for another day.) We cackled wildly at the thought of our bereaved friends listening to the narration of this tale, and others just as disturbing and inappropriate.

“I don’t want a funeral,” Adj declared. “I just want them to throw me in a box and then have a party.”

“Party hard, eh?”

“Yes!” she exclaimed.  “In fact, I want that to be the theme song for my funeral: We Gonna Party Hard!”

As we chortled on the phone, Marshall looked in us in disbelief. I reassured him that we would never do anything of this sort at his funeral. My jesting stopped once the words were out of my mouth.

That’s really the point, isn’t it? One day my husband will die. One day I will die. We’re all going to die one day, and that day is hardly ever of our choosing. I would never choose for Senyo to die at 27, just I would never choose for my grandmother to die at 83. There is so much more life to live and see. If I could, I would keep my loved ones with me for all eternity. But this life is not our eternal life, is it? I know this in my head, but it does nothing to dull the pain of loss.

So rest in perfect peace, Senyo, till we meet again.

Cartoon Characters That Need their BUTTS Whopped

God is, among other things, really super smart. And in His infinite wisdom, He has given me the gift of a knack for the written word but kept me safely sequestered from employment as a child novelist, animation script writer, copy editor for a children’s series and/or all things having to do with educating children through entertainment. I am far too ‘practical’ for that type of job.

If you’ve got kids under the age of 8, chances are you have parked them in front of the TV and wandered off to do something else (i.e. laundry, dishes, a quick poo, etc. etc.). In those hours, your children become well acquainted with the characters on TV, thus forcing YOU to make their acquaintance as well. From Big Bird, to Clifford, to Spongebob, you know them all. Some of them are beloved throwbacks from your own childhood while others are unsavory, revolting newcomers.

Like Caillou.

God I hate that bald, cancer stricken little bastard. I hate him so much that I joined the Facebook group “Caillou Needs his A** Whopped!”. It was formed by a group of adults whose vitriol towards this fictional character was so palatable, I could taste it in their every keystroke. I felt right at home.

I hate everything about Caillou. I hate his clothes, I hate his impudent voice (which is artfully  and appropriately provided by a GIRL), I hate his mom, I hate his dad…I just hate everything that he is and stands for. If you’re unfamiliar with Caillou, here’s a synopsis: He’s a 4 year old Canadian brat struggling to find his place in the world as he goes to “playschool” while defying his parents’ simplest requests.

“Caillou!” his mom will say. “Come pick up your toys before supper.”

“I don’t want to!” Caillou will retort, and then continue playing with his paper airplane.

“Now Caillou,” his father will interject softly. “It’s time to clean up.”

This song and dance will continue until Caillou has a fit and throws himself to the floor. His father and/or mother will then intervene, offering to make a ‘game’ of cleaning up WITH him.

Humph. I got a game fuh ya, niggro. How about a little game of catch – where you get to catch my fist in your little pasty face! Gonna lay there and tell ME you ‘don’t want to’. You done lost what little bit of sense God gave you. You know, my eldest tried to go Caillou on me at one point. I quickly let her know that her name was not Fantasia Barrino, and life was indeed, not a fairytale. Needless to say we no longer watch Caillou in our house.

The other day the kids were watching Kai Lan on Nick Jr. Now, I generally like Kai Lan, but for the last few episodes, the little monkey and tiger have been getting on my LAST nerve. (And yes, I know their names: Rintu and Hoho.) In this particular episode, Kai Lan and the crew were going to perform a dragon dance in the town’s parade. They drew lots to see who was going to hold the head of the dragon, the tail, etc. Rintu drew the card that said he had to hold the middle of the dragon up. Do you know 2 minutes into the parade, Rintu decided he didn’t want to be in the middle because that job wasn’t “important”, then dropped his pole and ran off??? All was resolved when Kai Lan did her little song, showed Rintu that he was indeed important and they all marched happily in the parade.

Nah man. If that had been ME, things would have gone a little differently:

Rintu: I don’t want to hold the middle of the dragon! It’s not an important job! (He drops his pole and runs off angrily.)

Kai Malaka: Rintu! Rintu you little snaggled-toothed, stripped retard! You get your tiger arse over here and pick up this pole!

Rintu: I don’t want to! (He huffs.) I want to hold the head!

Kai Malaka: You know want Rintu? People in Hell want ice water. Little kids in Libya don’t want their fathers to be murdered in the night. Obama wants another crack at the White House, but he probably won’t get it. YOUR job is to hold the middle of this dragon, and so help me, if you don’t get your bug-eyed behind over here…(my jaw begins to tighten.)

Rintu: What Kai Malaka? What’re you gonna do?

Kai Malaka: (I breathe slowly before bursting into song) *I got it, I got! I really, really do. I got it, I got it! I know just what to do!* Screw you Rintu. Hoho, Tolee, Ye Ye…everybody shift your poles and redistribute the weight. See this Rintu? That’s physics. We just eliminated your space. We don’t need your whiny behind no ways. See you at the parade, sucka.

*****

This is not the lesson network TV wants to teach your children (and I assume the type of lesson you don’t want them learning at 4 and 5), and it is also why I will never be hired in the realm of edutainment: I’m like the Nancy Grace of children’s publishing. It’s my job to tell you the truth, not to make sure you like it.    

Honestly Mom, You Stink

If you didn’t have thick skin before you had kids, you will certainly develop it afterwards. From the moment a child is conceived, he/she changes your life.  From morning sickness to stretch marks to, hair loss to weight gain, nothing ever is really the same – and that’s just in the first  two years of your little angel’s life. I have found that once your child develops the ability to express him/herself, they begin to look less cherub-like, and the honesty in their discourse is almost ‘demonic’.

There’s a reason the old adage “children are to be seen and not heard” was coined. At first, I thought ancient parents created the phrase because of the decibel level with which most kids seem to employ when they open their mouths. I am now a firm believer that this phrase was coined not because of the volume that Junior speaks with, but rather the substance that is issued from Junior’s mouth. How can someone so young, with so little exposure to the world, inflict so much damage to an adult’s self-esteem?  Are their infantile utterances proof that at our core, human beings are all inherently evil?  They say the truth hurts, and my children are in the business of hurting me every day.

Just yesterday I was in the toilet, doing what  one does in the toilet: taking a dump. I woke up early so that no one would bother me, since my children have a propensity for serving as my audience whenever I’m in the middle of doing something private (like taking a dump). I relished in the silence and solitude of the predawn peace in our house. It didn’t last long.  As if sensing a shift in my body heat and mass from the other room, Nadjah got up as well. She knocked on the door…and the only reason she knocked is because I had the foresight to lock the door.

“Mommy? Can you pass me my Hello Kitty toothbrush and some toilet paper please?”

I sighed and paused in mid push. I hoped that if I was quiet long enough, she’d eventually go away. Of course, she didn’t. She knocked again.

“Mommy?!?”

I clenched my butt cheeks together, lifted myself onto my toes and pulled the toilet paper down from the top shelf. After I had both her requested items in hand, I cracked the door and handed them to her.

“Here!”

“Thanks Mo—Oh my GOSH! Mommy, you stink!”

Of course I stink, you foolish girl! This is a toilet, not a rose garden!

“Whatever,” I muttered, and went back to my log laying.

********

That same evening, I again made the attempt to have some private time. I brought my laptop into bed with me and began looking for What Not To Wear videos. It’s one of the few guilty pleasures I allow myself, since the TV is perpetually on NickJr. This time, I failed to lock the bedroom door and Aya bounded into my room soon after, smiling because she had me all to herself for the moment. DRAT!

She flopped into bed with me, face first into my lap. Her cute little face immediately crinkled up.

“Mommy, did you take a bath today?” she asked in obvious disgust.

“Of course I did!” I retorted.

“Oh. You stink, Mommy,” she informed me matter-of-factly.

You little fool. You came into MY room while I was minding MY business and put your face into MY lap while I was on MY period! Of COURSE it stinks!

I glowered at her and then decided to ignore her. A woman with a more sensitive disposition may have been broken by all this verbal abuse, but I am strong! I am an iceberg! I will not be so easily broken!

I’m an iceberg…

I’m an iceberg…

*Crying* I’m an iceberg!!