Black African on Tinder

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it’s the 21st century and women are proudly taking on various roles in the world.   In addition to child bearing and being wives we are running businesses, working full time and taking control of our lives. There’s no more excuses for not being able to achieve your dreams as a woman. Our long hard fight for gender equality has meant we can no longer sit back and blame our failures on past biases against women. It’s made us busier, especially if like me, you are a woman living in the U.K. So where do we then find the time in our busy schedules to date? the way I’ve observed life for my African sisters in the UK is either you’re a frequent church goer hoping to meet Mr. Right and carry on your Sunday worship routine or you get on the tinder band wagon.

This is simply because, the African girls that want to date Africans have to face the fact that the brothers from the motherland are dating over the fence. its no secret that our African men are dating European women because they don’t want to be weighed down by African cultural norms. especially when it comes to providing and being the main earner. most of us grew up seeing our fathers bear the financial burden of the home and we honestly feel that going halves for a meal should not be the norm but a yearly event that we will expect to be paid back for in some way.  I guess we are spoiled, our African men genuinely take care of us.

So when I did find myself a single, African woman, a mother in the U.K. I decided if I didn’t want to die single I would definitely  try online dating. I was not phased by the stories I had heard about people showing up to a date looking nothing like their profile photos, or the fact that the person I could be meeting could be a complete phony. I went into it with full and foolish confidence.

I started getting together all the essentials of a good online dating profile, i.e. a good selfie to really show your face, a full body picture to show your whole body, a picture with friends (to show you actually have some and someone out there finds you fun), and a good “about me” bio. I tried a few sites, my first being Tinder.  Tinder in my experience wasn’t good, I matched with quite a number of blokes and got talking to a few but never really seemed to get past chatting. I think tinder is the go to site for a hook-up and not if like me you’re looking for something serious and long term. Delete App.

Then I heard about pof, plenty of fish. it was dodgy from the get go, members without profile pictures, dodgy unwanted, cringe worthy selfies from the get go and in my experience a lot of what I wasn’t into. I came across a profile however of a 40 something year old Irish man with a thing for African women. On paper he looked good, business owner, two kids and local to me. I was already planning holidays with ‘our 3 kids’. we decided to chat for a while before meeting, and this is a good shout because the online dating world is full of people that are liars, some are married and want a bit on the side and some could even turn out to be, God forbid, something like the ‘craigslist murderer’! so Irish and I were chatting, he was recently divorced, I was recently separated and we both had children, we were into live music and comedy shows and we both loved Africa, it really did feel like a match made in pof heaven. So one day I was at a job interview from hell, I had applied for what I thought was an office sales role but it turned out to be a charity sales job on the streets on Portsmouth. I found myself in Portsmouth handing out fliers and trying to get donations from passers by as part of a ‘job on training’. An hour into it, I realised I couldn’t do it and messaged Irish about it, he offered to drive all the way to Portsmouth to pick me up. We chatted none stop as he drove me home and he was the perfect gentleman. it all went very quickly,  (and this in my opinion is  a red flag) I met his teenage kids, I found myself cleaning his insanely dirty apartment and I couldn’t ignore the fact that every time we went out someone made a comment about the fact that I was ‘too good for him’. the straw that broke the camels back was when on an Abba themed night out he ‘mooned’ a bartender that had asked me what I was doing with  him, alluding to the fact that I could do better. I was embarrassed and I never went back. App Deleted, number blocked.

Then a friend told me about Bumble. its a dating app which favours women in that once you’ve matched with someone, they cant message you till you’ve messaged them and then they have a few hours (or days ) to respond. if they don’t you’re instantly unmatched. so it weeds out the time wasters. i matched with quite a few good men (pun intended). almost all of them were recently separated or divorced, which if you’re above 30, you will probably get a lot. the younger ones always seemed too eager to meet and not eager to chat. So if they are more than an hour away from you, you will probably not be up to meeting them if you have to take a bus or train. This is my way of looking at things since I made the decision early on that I would only meet people in public and never with my daughter, therefore it was important for me to chat with the person, video call, etc for at least a month before meeting in person.

I must admit I feel my experience was better than most of my friends. One had a guy take her to a taco restaurant and he ordered one taco for them to share! another showed up and was completely different from their profile picture. Unfortunately all the dates I went on were with white men because of (probably), my location  being in a predominantly white postcode. I therefore do not have any perspective of my own to add on black men on tinder. I would say however be weary of white men looking for black women only for the experience. if someone even matches with you just because you are of a certain race then that is a red flag too. Here’s an article by Elite dating, that i think is worth a read https://www.elitesingles.com/mag/relationship-advice/meeting-people-online. here’s another interesting one Ten Do’s and Don’ts of Internet Dating

And how did my online dating journey end? well its been 4 years, we chatted for a while before meeting because I couldn’t find a baby sitter so that was good as it gave us a chance to get to know each other a bit better.  the bottom line is, the rules of dating I feel are the same whether you’re dating online or the old fashioned way, love yourself enough to be able to recognise when you’re being treated less than you deserve, always have your own money and do tell someone where you’re going.  I would say never pay premium for any site unless you’re seriously limited by what you can do on a basic profile, I didn’t pay for any of them. Most sites have a lot of functions without having to pay for the premium package.  Most importantly don’t be afraid, love is only a click away.

happy hunting!

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ITS NOT ENOUGH

It’s not enough to be indifferent, on the fence or concerned. It’s not enough to say “I have a black friend, I’m not racist. Its not enough for you to watch the news and say “wow, that’s terrible!” then carry on with your life as normal. You might as well be watching the Kardashians. It’s not enough to make yourself feel better by inviting your black friend to dinner, or send a heart felt direct message to your black friends inbox asking what she thinks about the George Floyd murder.

Imagine. Imagine your 16 year old son playing in the park and being arrested for a rape he didn’t commit and going to prison for 13 years only to be found innocent. Imagine your husband, brother or father going for a jog and being gunned down, murdered, for ‘jogging while black’. Imagine not being able to be yourself at work because if you’re ‘too black’ you won’t get promoted.

Speak The Hell Up. So if it’s not enough then what can you do? Talk. Talk to your children, no one is born a racist. It’s not a non issue or something to talk about when your child has a black friend in their school. It should be talked about. Period. Teach them about colour and diversity and celebrate differences. Watch movies that provoke their thinking. Teach them about Dr Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, show them that YOU are not racist. Speak out against injustice, talk about it on your social network platform. Let my fight be your fight. Let our fight be your fight. Turn on the news and tell your children why people in Atlanta are protesting, teach them non violence but tell them that George Floyd and Trayvon Martin should not have died the way they did. Speak out when your black colleague who despite being the best person for a promotion never gets it.

It’s not enough to read this post and just like or love it or share it. If you’re truly a friend then don’t tolerate racism. That friend or relative who is racist, tell them they can’t be around your children anymore. Dispel your myths and stereotypes about black people. Speak out against racism.

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My Pregnancy Journeys Compared

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I’m 9 weeks into raising my second and last EVER child. A boy. Wonderful news especially as I already have a girl. One of each as they say. I’ve heard boys are easier, and they love their mothers more, I will test this theory when they are teenagers but I’m very happy to have been blessed with both. Apart from the fact that my son was born during a pandemic, a day before lockdown in the UK, ( and I will write about that experience soon) my pregnancy experiences were completely different. The geographical location of each pregnancy, my personal growth and ability to panic less are some of the major differences.

I fell pregnant with my first child in 2013 in Thailand and returned to Zambia two months pregnant. I remember not being able to tell my mother about the baby till I was 3 months pregnant because of the shame an illegitimate pregnancy carried and still carries today. The fact that my partner at the time had stayed in Thailand and I had returned home alone, pregnant and unemployed further fuelled the tension with my mother. With my second child, I am now living in the UK, I have a partner who is supportive and the question of illegitimacy has not crossed my mind or anyone’s lips. not even my mothers.

With my first pregnancy I had no complications at all. I was also 28 years old. With my second at 34, I had two weeks of unexplained bleeding which thankfully turned out to be nothing. I put it down to a few things, with my first I was unemployed and living with my sister in Zambia. We had a house help who cooked all my meals and did my laundry. However with my second, I was working up until the 8th month, running my own home, looking after a 5 year old and a man, so basically two children! The second was therefore definitely the more stressful of the two. Being pregnant with another child running around added its own set of challenges, I still had to be a mother, while going through all the motions of pregnancy.  It was however really lovely to see my daughter excited to have a sibling.  If you have more than two children I’ll have to salute you as I have no idea how you do it and I do not intend to find out.

When I first fell pregnant I was determined to give birth naturally but the labour was slow and with no dilation I ended up having an emergency c section. With my second baby in the uk I decided from the onset that I would be having an elective c section. I remember sitting in the doctors office justifying why despite being healthy I wanted a c section. I was simply scared. Having lost my sister in 2009 when she died during labour, I had developed an irrational fear of giving birth and luckily I was allowed to have the c section. I must say that was the best decision for me, I was given a lot of information on what to expect with the C-section and I met the doctors that would carry out the surgery on the morning of the birth. It was a very comforting and surreal experience. I was even allowed to bring in my own music and though I was tempted to bring in the ‘circle of life’ from the lion king I settled for the ‘stand by me’ album by the kingdom choir who found fame after singing at Harry and Megan’s wedding. The surgery was over in under 30 minutes and as I was awake I got to meet my son right away. My partner was able to cut the umbilical cord making the moment special for both of us.

I am now almost 2 and a half months postpartum and I haven’t lost as much weight as I would have liked. I remember losing a lot of weight with my first child and 6 years later I was expecting my body to do the same thing. However, I am reminded that I moved in with my mom after giving birth and I had the joy of having my own house help, doing the laundry and holding the baby while I did my Zumba workouts. With my second baby born in lockdown, there’s no passing the baby to anyone but my partner. So the weight is not coming off and its going to take more than a few Zumba videos to lose the weight this time around.  Also as soon as I was ready to work out (after the 6 weeks recommended time), my partner went back to work leaving me home with a very active 6 year old and a 2 month old who refuses to take naps unless I’m holding him.

There are a few things that have made this pregnancy experience much easer and I will list them here.

1) nursing pillow; https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=nur sing+pillow&ref=nb_sb_noss I didn’t have one of these with my first child but I was gifted two by my friends and they are a good way to prop baby up, to help to get baby in the right position for easier latching during breastfeeding or if you simply want baby’s head to be upright when you need a break from holding him/her.

2) Next to me Crib;https://www.amazon.co.uk/Chicco-Next2me-Side-Sleeping-Crib with my first child I shared a double bed with her till she was three years old. This is discouraged as could lead to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome but it is for your own discretion. This crib goes right next to your bed so baby feels like they are next to you. Its quite expensive so be sure to stalk your local Facebook market place for a good 2nd hand one.

3) baby nest cocoon; https://www.amazon.co.uk/Baby-nest-Sleep-Pod-Portable when my son outgrew he’s Moses basket and we decided to move him into a next to me crib, he had other plans. He screamed non stop and would not settle unless we took him out of the crib. I figured this was because it was very roomy in there. This cocoon gave us back our sleep as it fits in the crib but keeps baby snug giving the impression that he was still in he’s Moses basket.

4) Nuby teething Mitt; https://www.amazon.co.uk/Nuby-99548-Teething-Mitt for early teethers. At eight weeks old my son started displaying symptoms of teething. He refuses a dummy and I cant comfort him by breast feeding all the time so this little affordable glove helps babies who haven’t mastered the art of holding onto a teething ring and prevents them from scratching themselves.

5) Infacol; https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=infacol&ref=nb_sb_noss you will want this if your baby is colicky. Its amazing and it actually works. Using infacol to ease my babies colic taught me that its okay to use products that are safe to make parenthood easier. I’m always looking for natural remedies so I wasn’t too keen on trying infacol. I had resolved to myself that I would ‘heal’ my babies colic by obsessive burping and I would stay up for over an hour on some nights to burp him just to avoid using infacol. I gave in when it was obvious my lack of sleep would only make mothering more difficult and I haven’t looked back since. However, do extensive research before introducing your baby to any products and always consult your GP.

Having had two children in two very different circumstances has taught me a lot and I can therefore conclude that children can be raised without the fuss of expensive gadgets and unnecessary medication. Things are good to have and can give quicker results but remember always that women have been having children since time began so go easy on yourself, your bank account and your body. There are a few things that can really help though and I highly recommend them; love, support, family, and a good nights sleep, whenever you can get one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I’m writing a book

You don’t normally have to write about writing a book but I have had months of writers block so this is me trying to practice and get the hang of it again before I embark on my life’s project. I’ve given myself a year to come up with a draft of my book that I hope will one day be published. Its a dream, not an impossible one, just one that will take commitment,good grammar and a tolerance for criticism,

I feel that my 30 something years on this earth have been quite the adventure.I’ve been fortunate enough to live in 4 countries and been adventurous enough to have some interesting tales. The theme of my book will be about how I came to live in the uk and those that know me well will agree that its quite the story. From the beautiful sunsets of Zambia, the flambuoyant streets of Bangkok and the communist culture of Romania to the idyllic locations of the United Kingdom,  under grey skies of-course.

Believe it or not, my book will begin with a lot of reference from the 80’s hit movie, the bodyguard. still one of my favourtites today. This movie is to blame or thank, for several decisions I have made in my life since the day I sat wide eyed in front of the telly and watched it for the first time.

My book will detail how I came to the United Kingdom, ,how I learnt to rely on God and how all these events brought me closer to my daughter. it will tell of adventures ive had like partying the night away in Khao san road in Bangkok and being the only black person for miles in Brasov.

My life experiences so far as much as they make for interesting conversation cannot fill a whole  book, so I will also bring in the events that led a friend of mine ,who has become like a sister, to the United Kingdom, a beautiful Swazi woman who tells the tale of hitching rides from a small village in Swaziland to the island of Seychelles to pay a man promising to get her to the United Kingdom. we both grew up in Africa, we both had a dream of raising our children in the UK and we both went to extraordinary lengths to get here, I cannot recall the day I met this woman because we have become like sisters and its almost as if we were destined to meet, so its my job to bring these events to life and to hopefully end up on Oprahs couch one day, if Chimamanda Adichie and Imbolo Mbue can do it surely so can I.

So let the countdown begin…

 

 

 

 

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the white mans guide to black hair

Being married to someone of the Caucasian race, I thought I would be  subject to some level of scrutiny regarding my hair. My partner, having lived in Africa for a while, thankfully understood the complexity and sensitivity surrounding my hair. So this is all about the experience I’ve had since moving to Britain just five months ago. I’ve been lucky to meet a number of people and fortunately one of them is a very generous Ghanaian hairdresser (she offers me countless cups of tea and deep-fried crackers). However,  paying 40 pounds for my hair is affordable yeah but then not really. So I decided to wig it for a month to save some money.  Dear mr white man, by wig it I mean, placing a head of hair that came from either a poor indian lady, a horse or a chinese workshop, attached to a cap, on my head and hoping it doesn’t fall off. i’ll add pictures to illustrate. So after meeting a few white british friends, one of them, decided to come visit me after 6pm. 6pm is my bra off, wig off, pajamas on, time so I wasn’t so eager to have company but I let him in. He walked in and there I was, wig off in my pj’s. He was shocked and asked me why I had cut my hair.  When I told him that this was in fact my natural hair, he didn’t believe me so I proceeded to show him my wig and how I put it on. In a polite british manner , he said that I looked good no matter what my hair looked like.   So dear mr white man, my hair is kinky, it’s not curly, noooo, its kinky. My hair is kinky and its short. It requires  a lot of hair butter and conditioner to be soft  and its at its best when wet or heavily moisturised.                  I went to work in the wig, my workmate, a spanish lady said she was impressed at how I kept my hair so straight throughout the day. I didn’t correct her, so when I showed up in my waist length braids the next week she asked if I had added extensions to my hair (the wig). I said yes, but if she’s reading this, then honey dear, the wig with the fringe is not my natural hair and neither are the braids I’m rocking now.  Call it black girl privilege that I can wear a wig one week, have hair extensions the next and  rock a fro the next. Dear white boyfriend, husband or besty, you can touch her hair only if you see her touching it or posting selfie’s of herself in it. If she does not want you to see her natural hair then believe me you never will. If you are privileged to see it then you re a keeper.  Of course, there’s a growing trend to ‘go natural’ and I am loving it. I did the ‘big chop’ and bought shampoos, conditioners and everything I thought I could to get my hair more curly. I didn’t last because I lacked the commitment to see it through. My regret because i know lots of girls who are going natural and looking great.                                                                                                                                    So hopefully I have shed some light on the mystery that is black girls hair. Please don’t ask me if my braids are heavy, they are made from synthetic fibre which is quite light. When you offer to touch them some, like me will smile and let you but some will scowl at you, but we will both complain about it afterwards. If you offer to touch my hair extensions and I move away like your hands are on fire, it’s probably because I do not want the wig falling off or I don’t want you to feel the corn roll ‘ridges’ underneath them. The basic principle for black girl hair, dear white man , is this, if i bought it, its mine!

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A post Brexit immigration

Walking down the streets of Southampton, I feel truly at home. This is mostly because just two months earlier I had left Romania and my days of playing “how many black people will i see today”? are truly over. When we landed at the famous Heathrow Airport I was in awe at how i suddenly didn’t stick out like a sore thumb, i became invisible, just another black girl walking the streets of England.  Southampton certainly has its charms, its a sort of small town with a non overwhelming big city feeling all rolled into one. From the charming Bargate constructed in Norman times as part of the southampton city walls ,which was the main gateway to the city,to the Cenotaph, a stone memorial at Watts Park  originally dedicated to the casualties of the First World War, to the beautiful parks and the docks, where, just before noon on 10 April 1912, the Titanic began her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York.  As you walk along the ancient city walls, there is a plaque that tells you that Jane Austen  lived there and walked along the same walls.The city museum has a titanic exhibition and the city gallery has some interesting works which could keep you busy for a solid hour.  Its like walking into history, almost like going back in time. Being a history buff, I have welcomed this city with open arms and it,me.                                            I have had my fair share of culture shocks of course, like the first time I got on a bus and had no idea how I was supposed to pay so I went on and sat and noticed, the driver, as polite as british people are, was waiting for me to pay him without even letting me know! it took a nudge from a fellow passenger for me to realise what was going on. Then there’s the time I was in the supermarket and the cashier asked if I wanted a 5p shopping bag, for me ‘p’ meant pounds, period, so i went on and complained that 5p (which I thought was 5 pounds) was too much for a shopping bag. The cashier was too polite to point it out (you have got to love british etiquette) but I found out later and out of embarrassment avoided that particular cashier since.      ‘p’ means pence by the way, and it takes a 100pence to make a pound. (hahaha).                 It was three weeks after I had arrived that i first heard about the EU referendum. I watched the debates, the news so closely and my perception of this country changed. As i walked along the streets I began to notice that there were so many languages being spoken by people as i walked past. This, something i had loved and marvelled about the city, suddenly made me feel uncomfortable. I felt the pro leave supporters had some sort of right to want to leave the EU and its relaxed immigration laws because their home had somehow become unrecognisable. So instead of counting how many black people, I found myself counting how many people i met that I could somehow guess were not truly, a 100 percent british. I lost count. However being an immigrant myself and of less than three months, I definitely gravitated towards the remain campaign and watched with disappointment when the result was delivered. Immigration of-course was not all the leave campaign was about but it made a very strong case. As i walked down the streets after the `brexit’ vote, i suddenly wanted to appear more british. I wondered as i walked if people could tell that i was an immigrant, I remember an incident where a man was following me and when he asked where I was from, i answered him, in the best British accent i could muster that i was from London. He wasn’t, it turned out,  a racist bigot but rather a philandering fool, but I was protecting myself from what everyone assumed would be a xenophobic post brexit Britain.  There were of-course a few hate crimes reported across Britain and closer to home, a group of racist bigots had arranged an anti-immigrant protest which, thankfully, was squashed by an even bigger pro-immigrant protest.                                                                                                                                                                                               I still feel at home here, as I walk along the streets people still smile and say hi . Most people i meet still claim they voted remain, obviously to avoid uncomfortable conversations. At the playground, there is usually more than three languages being spoken and the only game i play now is “guess the language”. I now have an ear for romanian, polish, german, spanish, french and igbo so i’m doing pretty well. For me a post Brexit immigration is like anything worth something in life, a challenge. A chance to succeed and be a representation of my culture in a foreign land.

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Jane Austen plaque

 

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the Titanic leaving Southampton for New York

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the Cenotaph

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a model of the Titanic, in the city museum

 

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MOTHER.

Powerful, determined, hardworking, accommodating and loving. These are just some of the words that I could use to describe my mother Gladys, who changed her name to Gladness because she wanted to mark a new beginning in her life. After losing the love of her life and having to raise six children, the youngest,only 10 at the time, my mother grew a skin so tough that at times she forgets to smile. They say it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a strong woman to raise a village. My mother, I can imagine, knelt down to her God and with tears in her eyes, determined that she was going to raise those six children the best way she could. And she did. We didn’t have it all, we rationed food, we went to boarding school with a note (in red ink) explaining that she would be late with the terms fees, we sometimes went to the next grade with last year’s shoes, but somehow we stayed together, united. The spirit of family and togetherness is so important to her that every time one of us lives home, she ‘adopts’ a relative in need, sends them to school, helps them start a business and gives them a second shot at life.                                                                                                                                My mother is completely selfless, she spends all her time, day and night . working at a school she owns, she shops from charity shops, her idea of a good time is non alcoholic wine, banana bread and the home channel.     She has worked tirelessly to achieve her dreams, something I admire greatly and I am yet to emulate.. As a young child, I remember her collecting books and writing term forecasts for a school she hadn’t even opened yet,. You never really know how much she is sacrificing till you see her building another extension to the house or retiling the floors. She is a woman on a mission, building a legacy for her children. My mother is also in school, at almost 60! You really cant help but hope that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.            Now that I am a mother and already throwing my hands in the air over one child, I wonder how did she raise six of us on her own?     With God of course. You don’t need an alarm clock in our house, mom wakes us up with her singing out of tune praise songs in the living room. If you want to see her bad side, lose one of her gospel CD’s or call out her bad singing (sorry mom). Once the whole house is up and running, she retreats to her room and prays for the day. In her room are all kinds of stick it notes with our names on them and prayer requests alongside each name. What more could you ask for? If you are a member of her house, bible study on Wednesdays and Church on Sundays are compulsory and if you can sit with her in the front pew you get bonus points.                                                                                                                                                          If you want to truly know my mother, take a walk in the streets of Kitwe. Many will stop you, ask how she is, talk about how she helped them, how she is like a mother to them.   My mother herself says that if dad woke up from the dead, he would never recognise the woman she has become and how much she has achieved. Now that I am a wife, I have fond memories of mom and how she treated her husband, with the respect of a king. My fathers birthdays are forever etched into my memory because they were such a lavish affair. My mother put on a spread for him year in year out, we had to ensure the house was spotless before he came home.   Again, this is something I need to emulate.   One of my favourite memories of mom is me writing my final Grade 12 exam, Chemistry. It was also my birthday and I couldn’t wait to leave the room and start my new life as a school leaver. I knew mom had no car at the time, so I hadn’t packed because I was sure she wouldn’t arrive till much later to pick me up. One of my friends took a bathroom break during the exam and came back smiling from ear to ear at me. She quickly whispered that my mom was in the visitors area. I was so happy that she had shown up so early, ready to usher me into the next era of my life. When I was in the hospital with labour pains, she was there all day and all night.   I ended up having a C-section and the doctors narrated to me that I was still under when they took my daughter to mom and instead of holding my daughter, mom asked for her daughter, me. She demanded that they bring me out alive, and that they keep my daughter safe until she saw her daughter! She then knelt down outside the operating room and prayed for me. I laughed and cried as I am doing as I write this.   I should mention that, before they started operating on me , I had seen angels in all white with large swords surrounding my bed. That was of course because of my mothers prayers. I hope I can be half the mother she is to me. Happy Mothers Day Gladness.

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mom and my young sister Chikondi

 

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mom and I during my graduation from the Copperbelt University.

 

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Death comes Unexpectedly! Those are the words from a scene from “Pollyana” a best selling 1913 novel by Eleanor H. Porter that is now considered a classic of children’s literature and was adapted to screen in the 1960’s film of the same title. The scene is so vivid in my mind, a priest yelling the words to a frightened congregation. Terrible and morbid as it may seem, it is as true and sure as age and taxes.   They say losing a loved one is the worst form of grief, I think grief cannot be measured in general. The loss of a childhood pet, the loss of a lover of two weeks or of two decades, it is, every time, heart wrenching and for me, time seemed to come to a complete stop. I have two photos in front of me, one is of my dad, In this picture he’s wearing a red two piece, shorts and a shirt with a picture of Donald duck, and the winner smile he blessed me with. He is with my uncle, who was one of his closest friends, the other is of my sister , Antoinette or Tony who’s wearing a grey tank top and grey skirt. Both of them died prematurely, unexpectedly, but then, who ever dies at the right time?                                  The 11th of March is really about my sister. Tony was full of life, vivacious, sometimes petty but always willing to give everything an extra push. It seems unfair to even have to write about her death. Wish I had taken the time to write about her life. Losing someone is never easy. Even when it happens slowly and right before your eyes, it stings and it hurts, more like a direct stab to your heart. It’s also the kind of thing you think happens to other people, somewhere else. When it happens to you, it’s all so unfair. But when is the end of any human life ever fair? And to whom is it ever fair?

Death is something we will never understand but have to reckon with at some point.

I had spoken to Tony just hours before she died. Do you think maybe I could have gotten some kind of spiritual hint that that was the last time I would ever speak to her? I probably wouldn’t have hang up the phone except to allow the rest of the family to say their goodbyes. Somehow I doubt that would have made it any better.

When I got the news of her death all I remember feeling is a deep sense of emptiness and I began to question everything, why, why, why? Most of all I wanted to know where God was in all this; had he dosed off for a second or momentarily turned he’s back on my sister? Didn’t he know her dreams? Her hopes? I have never felt more abandoned. Never before has silence been so deafening.

I was angry, very angry at God for not answering my questions and I realized that at times of tragedy, man seeks an outlet and for me, God was my target of blame, the ultimate punch bag. God became my figure of blame when I couldn’t make sense of the circumstances around me. Tony was pregnant, with twins, the first ever in our family. She had prepared for twins as most expectant mothers do, matching outfits and two of everything. Grace and Faith were the names we had picked. Sadly, one of the twins died along with her during the birthing process. We named the surviving twin Grace as a reminder that out of this tragedy, there was still grace enough to save one baby. That didn’t make things any better.

On the day of the burial, we passed a park where newlyweds were taking pictures, sealing that day forever. I looked on trying so hard to forget that day. I was trying so hard to run away from the fact that I was burying my sister. I felt angry at the absurdity of life and wondered why it had the audacity to go on like nothing had happened. It wasn’t till we got to the graveyard that I realized that my questions had been answered in the most unpredictable way.

While I was expecting an angel in my dream to tell me she was fine, I instead saw hundreds of graves. Some had dates that told you someone had lived what can be said to be a ‘full ‘life and others told stories of people who lived a few days or months. I had to keep up with my relatives for fear of attending the wrong burial; there were lots of them. I saw the hurt in the eyes of other mourners, much like my own, I heard the moaning and I knew that I wasn’t alone; death had robbed us all. Of course the death of someone means different things to different people and I knew I wasn’t mourning her the same way my mum, her husband or her friends were. But we had one thing in common; we were all mourning.

I buried my sister that day and I took the pastors words to heart and decided to begin to release her. I realized that God is in control, not me. My plans are not his plans and he does not need my permission to fulfill his plans. Nothing escapes him; he is all knowing and all sufficient. Knowing that other people are hurting like you are is not gratification but it helps us refrain from drooping and brooding over our own loss. It helps us to begin the process of moving on.

Once the mourners had cleared the funeral home, I also packed my bags and decided to go back to the town where I work. However, I felt I ought to mourn my sister a little more. Wearing makeup and discarding my chitenge* felt like an insult to her memory but I decided it had to be done; I was going to mourn her for the rest of my life after all.

I think about her every day, her lifeless image is engraved in my memory, her children are a constant reminder of what I’ve lost but also of what I’ve gained; an appreciation of life, a heart to console those who are hurting and a spirit that acknowledges the awesomeness of my creator from whom I came and to whom I will return.

There are a few things that I have learnt about the period of mourning that would be good to note down;

1) Be a source of strength of strength to someone, I had to suppress my grief for the sake of my young sister and my late sisters children.

2) Talk about the good and bad things that remind you of your loved one.

3) Take it as an opportunity to re-examine your own life and make the necessary changes for death, time and chance happen to us all.

There are certain things that one should never do or at least refrain from doing;

1) Never blame yourself. Regardless of what happens, God’s timing is God’s timing.

2) Do not neglect God. We can’t understand him at times but he’s really the most reliable person we have.

3) Do not withdraw from social events, friends or work.

I still struggle to accept that this story is a permanent part of my life now, how can I? I still get tears in my eyes when someone asks me what happened. They say time heals everything but I’m still waiting. A friend of mine lost his brother the other day and I know there are millions of people hurting and asking the same questions I asked, I’m not sure if the same answers would apply to everyone but I’m sure of one thing; Tony was not the first, she certainly won’t be the last but I trust in God’s love to give me and you the peace of mind to trust him completely.

*Chitenge refers to a wrap cloth worn by women during funerals and while executing daily household duties

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30!!!

37042455gifce_smHere I am,four days away from the big ‘three O’,lying stomach down flat on the bed hoping I can write a good piece and hopefully flatten my post preggo belly at the same time. Dreams. Multitasking.

Ild like to be writing this from my sun room in the gorgeous countryside house that I just bought sipping on some rare french wine from my vast wine collection downstairs. But alas, here I lie trying so hard not to move as any movement will wake my 1 year old (going on 5) who insists on sleeping in our bed.

I always said I wanted a child before I turned 30 so you can congratulate me on that. I always wanted to marry out of my culture so more congratulations. I always wanted to travel the world, and I can gladly say I lived in Thailand for two months, spent a week in South Africa, was in an airport in Dubai for 7 hours, spent three nights in Zimbabwe, more airport stops in Kenya (do these even count??) and I now live in Romania. More congratulations.

However, I keep thinking about 20 – something me graduating,very well, from the second highest learning institution in Zambia and ready to take on the world. I jumped all in after that,working any job as long as it added value to my work experience and career goals. I had the plan, graduate, work, job, car, flat, husband, plot, kids, forever after. It was a solid plan and still is for alot of people in Zambia.

My career took off okay


. I worked a series of odd jobs in the begginning. Some unpaid just to avoid being idle. I even acted as a district planner for Masaiti District on the Copperbelt Province! I remember advising the council on where to build a district hospital.  Me. Its the stuff a planners dreams are made of. Then my experience at the lusaka planning office took me to the beautiful Luangwa District where I learnt the secrets of the Marula tree, elephants love to eat them, humans can only drink it once processed as it is extremely bitter.

I finally landed what I and most of you would agree is the dream job. Sales consultant for First National Bank. Glamarous. And it was. High heels, pencil skirts and glowing skin from the reliable air conditioning. I worked it like a pro, winning little inside competitions for being super fast on the account opening process. I did it for one year until It became too mundane for me. I threw in the towel and went to Bangkok. The city brought a new perspective on life. I saw people living. People who did what they love and made money at the same time. It was a real eye opener for me and so I started a business.

The business idea was amazing. Selling products from bangkok to zambians, online. It took off to a great start and we even opened shop. But it was short lived as we failed to account for so many other operating costs. So not only was I pregnant and unmarried, I was also unemployed. I decided to wait it out till the baby was born and thats just what I did.

I eventually got back on my feet,moved to a new town, worked with great people and alas, the rest is history.

Life is lived in those moments in between those so called ‘big moments’. My life so far has been a blessing. I was blessed with a loving father for 14 years, a fun filled sister for 24 and a sunny niece for 6 years. I continue to be blessed by an extraordinary husband, a headstrong beautiful daughter and a flamboyant family.

Turning thirty is a big deal. Theres alot of stuff you can get away with in your twenties, but once you hit thirty you are just ten years away from forty. You are officialy an adult, if you are married then these are the years you plan your childbearing, cement your career path and begin to say things like investment and real estate.  However, life is for the living and as long as you are alive its never too late to begin again. For me, 30 seems like a damn good begginning.

 


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ROMANIA:Loves & Loathes from a Zambian Perspective

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As a Zambian living in Romania for almost three months now,I can sum up my experience in one word; Interesting.

From the minute I steppef out the plane,it became clear to me that I had become a ‘minority’. I immediately began a mental game of “count the number of black people” and needeless to say,the game didnt last long! I felt a surge of panic but it was immediately diverted by a friendly voice “Hello! Are you from Miami?!” I was taken aback. But I decided I was going to stick out like a sore thumb anyway so why not act like a celebrity in the process?

I arrived in the summer so it was beautiful,warm and friendly neighbours who took me shopping,eager passersby staring only ever so slightly. Heres the thing with staring,the older people,and theres alot of them on my street,they stare with shock,the younger ones with curiousity. I have learned to just smile and wave.

Going out to a restaurant is as big a deal as it is in Zambia. You want to eat something you cant cook at home right? So I tried the local cuisine. Soup is a big deal,big deal. Theres a traditional soup made of animal fat,eaten with whole chillies. My family here order it each time we go out. I will not be ordering it any time soon. While we like our meat well done,here all the restaurants I have been to serve meat Medium Rare and its the norm here. So if I go out to eat I am most likely to end up at Mc Donalds or Pizza Hut. Shameful.

If you dont own a car,you can use the taxi Company. Just carry your Rosary and say a few hail marys because the taxi drivers drive like the way the Zambian taxi drivers drive. Like they own the road and the road owes them something.

Romanians and not just the taxi drivers,seem to be impatient. If someone visits you,they will ring the doorbell and expect you to immediately appear. In Zambia we knock once,wait five minutes,knock twice,wait five minutes,call the name of the person u want to see, and wait some more. The waiting part doesnt exist here. If you hear your doorbell,jump regardless of what you are doing.

I would be lying if I said I didnt love this place. My town is surrounded by mountains,the air is so clean and its so beautiful. The culture is rich and the people friendly and always offering compliments.

I still count the number of black people because they are so few,if any. I dont bother so much about the latest Brazillian weave because here,natural is perfect. I love how people launch into a full conversation in Romanian after hearing me say a few words,I love how they have all these little tit bits of advice and are always looking out for me. I miss the amazing sunshine of Zambia but I cant wait for the morning I wake up and theres snow falling from the sky.

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