A B C s…

abc-award-1Be forewarned. This is cheesy. And it’s about 3 years old.  I stole this from a blogger [“The Curvy Spine”] who recently liked a post I did & is a fellow Jersey girl… and apparently, she got tagged by another blogger [“Nissi Knows”]… and I have nothing better to do on a weekend night, but relive my teenage years when Yahoo! chat rooms dominated my life and, on occasion, I’d get an email questionnaire that made me reflect about adulthood to come. Told you this would be cheesy!

The deal is that I’ve got to go through the alphabet talking about myself and biggin’ up other bloggers. This is, I can do…

If your blog is placed here, consider yourself awarded the ABC award. You can accept by copying the theme and passing this practice on.

Africa, my new continent of residence.

Bossip.com is my secret online tabloid vice. Maybe not so secret…

Canada is the first destination to which I took my eldest Godson for his annual birthday trip. It was my way of forcing him to get a passport and get on a plane.

Delhi is where I met my husband.

Elephants have been my favorite animal for a very long time.

Frankfurt is the city that my husband and I last visited together.

Geneva is the one place my grandma ever wanted to visit. We went over Christmas/New Years 2005-2006. I vowed never to take a winter vacation to a cold weather destination ever again.

Harlem is the only place in America where I would ever want to raise children. So much for that pipe dream now. Thanks, gentrification!

Isaacman is the author of the book I’m reading right now.

James Baldwin is one of my favorite writers and one of my historical muses.

Kinani means dance in Shangana & it’s come up as a possible baby name.

London is the only city I’ve wanted to live in that I haven’t yet lived in. Live long… it could happen.

Maboneng is my favorite neighborhood in Johannesburg and, hopefully, it’ll be home in 2017.

New York City is the only place on earth I feel at home, at peace, and inspired – at the same time.

Olympus is the brand of voice recorders I just bought. I bought 3 at one time and I’m so proud of myself for it. Who needs to rip the house apart trying to find the one voice recorder I have 10 minutes before I’ve scheduled an interview? Well, not this girl. Not anymore!

Photography has been in my family for generations. If I actually publish the travel photo book I’ve had in my head for the past few years, I would officially make the third generation of photographers on my dad’s side.

Quran is the religious holy book of Muslims (like yours truly). I have only read it once and I’m long overdue for a re-read.

Reading is my favorite activity, which is shared by fellow blogger Kinna: http://kinnareads.com

Strawberry shortcakes are my traditional birthday cakes. My mom has ensured that every birthday that we share together, there is a strawberry shortcake to celebrate the new year. American style too, none of that British with a biscuit fakery.

The Bitchin’ Dietitian is a blog i follow regularly, though I have to admit I’m a couch potato who has reconnected with my affinity for butter and salt. But, I do love to read it as if I have self-discipline and/or access to ingredients!

University of the Witwatersrand is where I’m studying to get a PhD. Proud Witsie over here!

Violence eradication is the purpose of this blog that I follow: http://understandingviolence.org 

Wife. The newest of my many hats. Dare I say, the title is starting to grow on me.

Xenophobia is a term that I’d never heard of until about a year ago. I’ve learned a lot more about it this past year traversing South east Africa.

Yebo! means yes in Zulu.

Zanzibar is the latest trip plan I’ve made to come together with my ‘Mixed Masala Marriage’ crew. We came started earlier this year in Dubai because we’re all in intercultural marriages and trying to find balance. Next year, Zanzibar!

The End.

The editorial value of code switching?

When I first picked up Americanah over a year ago, I put it back down after page 10. It was yet another African turning on Black Americans by pretending to both know and despise Black America. When my book club picked it last month, I was more curious this time around. As a Black American in Africa, maybe I wanted to find hints for how to navigate the reverse world. Alas, I found no hints. And I really didn’t find many bursts of wisdom, just a strong  sense that Ngozi was telling us all that where we are from is truly where we belong – no matter how many lives we wreck in the going and coming. I disagree with that sense (which may be more strongly felt because I absolutely disagree with extramarital affairs). But, when I picked up Autobiography of an ex-Colored Man, I realized that becoming what you aren’t to become who you think you deserve to be is a timeless human challenge.

The 1912 book by James Weldon Johnson focuses on a mulatto who spends his whole life wondering which color is more advantageous to him – Black or White. When it is in his best interest, he code switches. He plays that part and lives that side of life’s dream, until it no longer becomes the winning card. He trades all that Blackness has to offer, by using remnants of Black music to make a living entertaining Whites all over the world. He eventually marries a White woman who, after some shock and horror, accepts that he is of Black heritage. While I was pretty disgusted with the book’s content, it took me back to an America that’s only 100 years gone from today. It was an America where the popularity of the Cotton Club co-existed with the highest rates of lynching of Black men in history.

It brought me back to the counterintuitive-ness of today, where similar extremes seem to be so ever-present. Where our Black president ground-breakingly declares immigration reform and gives us December 26th off AND a laundry list of young Black males are gunned down with impunity by police. There is no ‘but’ here… this is not abnormal and this is not an aberration. These things co-exist and make code-switching both necessary and useless. Our times have always been odd. And that oddity has always made me seek the shores of elsewhere, where the odd isn’t for lack of giving a damn about another person’s life. But, it’s deeper. It’s older.

Difference and hatred can be a colonial and aristocratic being. That being is a being I understand. I can see how centuries of human chattel and land grab combine to create indivisible barriers between people. And I can also see how those who experience it in vastly different places can be brought together by the similarity of that experience. So, when I grabbed Half A Life, by V.S. Naipul, it was finally a text I could understand. The code switching Indian who traveled the world reinventing himself to escape his farce of a family, finds himself in a new country. This unnamed place must be the country in which I reside today. He speaks of living someone else’s life – the life of his wife who was born in what is clearly Mozambique. Their initial attraction was born out of recognizing the code-switching in one another and finding relief in no longer having to pretend. Better yet, they don’t even feel the burden of admitting which parts of themselves are lies – old and new. This brings them together and it is what tears them apart decades later. One day he wakes up and feels that he hasn’t really been living a life of his choosing. But, if not his, then whose?

These three texts brought me full circle to wondering what wandering is all about. Has my life been a long tale of serial code switching – becoming someone who everyone believes you already are? And if so, why? For me, it’s about finding a place where I’m comfortable being uncomfortable. There are situations of discomfort that we can tolerate and others that we can’t. I’ve never been able to tolerate code switching close to home. It’s why I don’t take photographs of New York City and very rarely, if ever, in my hometown. It’s why I don’t stop cursing when I go work. It’s why I wore a kurta in India for all of 5 times in 2 years.  Take me far, far away from what matters to me and I’ll be whomever I must, but get within 10 feet of something that matters to me and I must be myself. It is an automatic and involuntary reality.

Code switching is a survival tool, not a way of life. It isn’t sustainable over the long-term. In fact, over the long-term, it is parasitic. It eats away at the soul, casting doubt and promoting amnesia. What being in Mozambique has brought me is an undying sense of self. So far from what I know, I find the familiar in me – even when I am not looking for it. The routines come back. The fish and grits on weekends. And the soul music on Saturdays. They say you can run, but you can’t hide. I disagree. I think that’s only true if who you’re running from is you.

From others, you can live a series of lifetimes playing the part that curries the most favor.

Whether it be a Nigerian woman in 2013, an African-American man in 1912, or an Indo-Trinidadian in 2001, great writers seem to cling to that conundrum. They do more than explore it, they dissect it – as if trying write an obituary for someone who they met a lifetime ago and only now realize that they’ve never really known.