African Woman, feminism, I am not a feminist but...., Learning to Live a Balanced Life, Life Lessons

Black history month is here! Feminists, independent or autonomous black women?

My black history number one is always Wangari Maathai and all the women who have led the way here. Do you guys remember the Fourth World Conference on Women that took place in 1995? I do. After the conference, my father and the men of my childhood started to deal with women’s insolence, opinions and expectations with the answer “this is NOT Beijing, woman! If you go on like this, you have to move to Wangari Maathai!” Wangari Maathai was in Beijing in 1995 and she was divorced. When people in my childhood spoke about her, they said “she left her husband.” However, when I read about Wangari in the teenage years of discovery and defiance, I read that her husband had divorced her with the verdict that: “Wangari was too educated, too strong, too successful, too stubborn and too hard to control.”

Well, that made my mind up right there. When a man left me, I wanted him to say exactly those words, and nothing else. By the time I was twenty years old, I was referring to myself as a feminist, a word treated with contemptuous sneers in the circles I grep up in. A woman’s commitment to self-sufficiency astounds and scares. In Sweden, I sometimes get the question or the affirmation regarding how neglecting African men were of their women and how independent African were as a consequent. In the same sentence was the well-meant concern for how exposed the African women were to the men’s whims. I have not experienced African women as more exposed to men’s whims than the women of any other continent. Women in Sweden were and still are, in my observation, as vulnerable and exposed as the women in Kenya. The main difference I can discern between Sweden and Kenya, is that in Sweden, the word feminism is thrown about proudly, together with equality, human rights and other powerful words of the 21st century.

D:DCIM100DICAMDSCI0416.JPGMy mother was brought up by strong women and she made sure to extend us the same courtesy to my sisters and I. Obviously, we, as in most other societies, were brought up to be men’s support systems and reproduce. Therefore, we were military trained to find mates as soon as we could reproduce. I was, among other things, taught how to be a wife, a mother and a daughter in-law – to soothe, distract, coach, massage egos and nurture. A contradiction of myself, submissive when it served the family and tough as nails when it served the family. I was advised to always have a secret stash of money for myself that he didn’t know about. It was recommended that I find ways to keep myself busy so I wasn’t spending my days waiting for him because, apparently, idleness makes a boring, uninspired and irritated companion. I was expected to be his whole support system when he had none. However, I was also expected to be able to raise the next generation on my own, dependent only on other women’s wisdom and support. Hence, we were explicitly, implicitly and repeatedly taught to actively and consciously separate our support systems from the men’s. We were challenged to make our own friends, independent of the men and incorruptible by the men. Although impregnation or fertilization is dependent on men’s presence and continued existence, motherhood was not. A healthy, self-sufficient, holistic, autonomous individual that could live with or without a man. A rock.

Kenyans moving towards feminismDid the men get the same training? I have no idea! But here we are.

Both in Kenya and Sweden, most women always worked and still work just as much or more than the men. There is no fancy word to describe their freedom or captivity. Historically, men were of course the official bread winners, in both societies. However, women have always contributed, only without the trumpets going off to announce and thank them every time new shoes, blankets, curtains, school books and pens, children’s underwear and other necessities appeared miraculously. Traditionally, at least in parts of Kenya, women could not inherit property from their parents. So, the options were either to marry or make money and buy their own property. Even when a woman succeeded to get married, if she failed at generating her own income, she would be keenly aware of her destitution if the marriage ever fell apart. Her only hope was that the children, if she had any, would inherit their father and take her in when she was too old to take care of herself. No woman in any continent thinks that is fair or sustainable, therefore women’s perseverance at work and marriage.

In a world of shit hole countries and inter-country walls, I am learning to become untriggered, but I can still get a little sore when I am asked how I could become such a feminist, coming from Africa where women are so oppressed, with suggestions that maybe, I am reacting to the oppression. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I was not taught anything else.

Is that feminism or autonomism? Does it matter what it is called?

 

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African Woman, Fashion & Style?, Learning to Live a Balanced Life, Mental Health, Self Love, Therapy Sessions

F$£K New Year resolutions!

Hi guys! Hope you are having a nice 2018 so far? For me, it’s the 60th of January 2018, this month never ends! This morning, I did the math of how to survive the coming unbearable THREE days until payday on the 25th. At 08:00am, I had a few Swedish crowns left in the account. At 16:00, I have 0 crowns left and it is still 3 freaking days to go!

It is rocket science.

65th January 2018

In Kenya, this is the week mama mboga – female grocery store owner – sells on credit. 90% everyone of her customers is broke after all the celebrations planned with the purpose of emptying pockets. If mama mboga is feeling cranky, she closes down during this week and rests in wait for end month.

mamamboga
Eat Well – Only, not in January…

Screw the suckers!

Independence day on 12th December comes first and it expects every self respecting Kenyan to celebrate the republic. Then comes Christmas. No words needed, right? By the time the New Year comes, no Kenyan is calling any other Kenyan for any reason whatsoever. There are things you don’t have to pay for – #PleaseCallMe and #PleaseSwishMe. The pain in all Kenyan asses, School fees, is not to be ignored.

As a young Nairobian, I used to move back to my parents’ or siblings’ homes for the whole of January.

In Sweden, my life is upside down and I am an adult not young anymore. So, I cannot move back to anyone’s home. When I did the math this morning, I realized I had a few coins left for my survival and smiled. I then decided quite promptly that I had to go shopping for some cheap food for the coming THREE days. We have a grocery store, not so far away, that usually has some cheap edibles short-dates on Sundays. I never bothered to shower since it is a short walk. I the applied a little lipstick to fool the fools and a winter hat does the trick. I am as dry as a withered thorn-pine in the desert so I took a drop of oil on my palm, the oil running out too, added a little luminator that too is running out! When it rains, it pours! and matched out whistling happily. I was looking fly! Like a million Shillings!

Shopping 60th January 2018Remember I have promised to stop buying useless crap in 2018 so I can save money and be rich? Well, that was rich coming from me! As I turned to go into the grocery store, I saw the 70% off poster on the window of some store. Or 30% sale price. These poster are usually in red, so you couldn’t miss them if you tried. I feel happy because I understand that on the 60th of January, most shopkeepers multinational retailers selling crap know that I have only a few coins left so the sales posters are a way of being nice to….waaiit for it….ME!! I match into every shop that has a sale poster on. I am listening to Adele’s, Make You Feel My Love. There is no other way I can show myself some love on a day like this.

I even bought a Pomelo on sale! Seriously, sod off and f4£k off with all the freaking new year resolutions! I have been shopping! I have new crap! I feel temporarily elated. And don’t you dare give that crap about the elation not lasting! I am perfectly happy with temporary bliss! I have no fresh groceries but who cares?! I can raid the freezer for the next 3 days.

If you are good with the January planning, can I move in with you for a couple of days?

#YouAreNotCrazy. You are #Passionate.

/Linda

African Woman, Learning to Live a Balanced Life, Life Lessons, Loves of a Life Time

Dream Men

Maasai Cricket warriors
Maasai Cricket Warriors by Francois Nel/Getty Images

When I see this picture of black men moving their bodies with ease and control; displaying this capacity Africans have to embrace new things and learning without prestige. learning them without abandoning what they already know. I remember my dream man.

As a young girl growing up in Kenya, I never had a dream wedding, just my dream man. He was black, like the men who brought me up – he was dignified, he was “the silent, strong type”. My father drunk too much, so my dream man did not drink. My father smoked and every hug left me feeling like I was hugging his shadow and the real man, my father was hidden behind the layers of cigarette smoke and alcohol. My future man would not smoke.

He would look like that man swinging the Cricket bat and I would adore him and he would adore me. Maybe, if he was kind, I would even *let* him have a mistress to massage his beautiful ego.

And then I moved to Sweden and my dream expanded in form and content. What a twisted rope life is!

African Woman, Learning to Live a Balanced Life

Late Christmas Gifts

So, we had a NO Christmas gifts policy. We have done this for like 3 years now. And it works. Mostly. The problem challenge is, the business world doesn’t try very hard to help us honor this policy. Sales have to be made. Forecasts have to be met.

So the sales period starts immediately after Christmas! Like 25th, 23:59:59 immediately. Everything you didn’t buy before Christmas is on sale early morning on the 26th! You could just run out to the shops, those that are open, and get back in time for boxing day disappointments. Lawd help us!

In Sweden, this phenomena has a name: Mellandagsrea. Literal translation: The in-between-days sales. I know, genius! After Christmas, before new year sales.

new monitorWe are not too romantic, we buy the things we need or always wanted but were too expensive. This year, we went all in:

  1. Acer Monitor for my work-at-home space. I did all the setting up myself! My beloved Dell XPS 13 does not really have a HDMI port worth the name so I had to get an adapter cord. A USB 3.1 to VGA. I am very proud of myself!
  2. Sebastian received his bought-online-package just in time AFTER Christmas. Poirot box for those days when working-at-home is not at option and Netflix is not doing the trick.

poirotThe sales may get even bigger and better after the new year when they know that we cannot even afford our daily bread.

African Woman, Health & Balance, Learning to Live a Balanced Life, Life Lessons

Happy Holidays!

20171216_205010I am a paradox of needs. When I celebrate Christmas in Kenya, I miss the quiet Swedish Christmas. When in Sweden, I miss the crowded, noisy Christmas in Kenya.

Kenyan Christmases are a noisy feast, due to the mere fact that everybody available is invited. Most adults will bring their favorite music with them and dancing will start before food is served. Children are let loose in the country side to play, sing, hide and seek. Adults catching up loudly while music plays in the background. It is not necessarily Christmas carols. People will dance, talk, laugh and eat all at once.

In Sweden, a melancholic people to start with, noise is frowned at. The voices need to be low. Music is low-key and definitely more Christmassy than anything else. It is cold outside so children and adults are cooped up indoors, itching to get out and breath. Or, watching the lined up Christmas shows on TV, starting with Donald Duck 15:00 pm. Yes, it is a Swedish Christmas tradition to watch Donald Duck at Christmas.

Xmas AhlensWhereas the Kenyan Christmas guest list is unplanned or loosely planned, and the Kenyan Christmas dinner is never served. Swedish Christmas dinner is served promptly at 18:30 on the 24th, December. The table is set for a pre-planned number of people for a pre-set length of time. An eyebrow or two will be raised if any uninvited person shows up for Christmas.

Although I have never seen anything get slaughtered for Swedish Christmas dinner, in both Kenya and Sweden, the food and alcohol plans cannot be faulted. Everything is bought from the grocery store. Not even a butcher’s store! Swedish Christmas delicacies are almost the same as midsummer delicacies, only fatter and warmer. Alcohol-wise, the Swedish Christmas plans, are similar to Kenya’s, meticulous.

Basically, Christmas and baby Jesus are not welcome into a Kenyan Christmas until:

  1. Since something has to be slaughtered for a Kenyan Christmas, the goat, sheep, or cow is tied outside grandmother’s house in Nyeri or Meru.
    • Sometimes, it is just a measly bird (hen or cockerel), but still! As long as something dies for Christmas!
  2. The grill for nyama choma – roasted/grilled meat – is in its place with a sack of coal beside it.
  3. The sacks of rice and sugar, the gallon of oil, the bucket of cooking fat, the bales of wheat and maize floor and the vegetables have been acquired.
  4. Alcohol has taken its respected Place:
    • A couple of Tusker crates – the number one selling beer in Kenya – are purchased.
    • The whisky bottles are delivered from the cities or
    • The Muratina and chang’aa is brewed by one of the older relatives in the countryside. Finally, sleeping arrangements are made.
  5. Extra mattresses and blankets are acquired and extra space is borrowed from willing friends and neighbours.

Xmas CharmOn the 24th, at the same time the Swedes are preparing for Christmas dinner, in Kenya, someone is being assigned the chicken-catcher role. To make things fun, the bird earmarked for Christmas dinner is let out to graze with the rest of the birds. On the 25th, as the Swedes wake up to leftovers and hangovers, the hen or cockerel is running the catcher in circles around the village trying to avoid being caught. Uninvited villagers and guests can easily get caught up in the chicken-catching drama. The bird will be caught, eventually.

As a child, I was the best bird-catcher according to dad, outrunning a hen in ten minutes. As an adult, I cannot run to save my life.

Xmas CardIn Kenya, the cooking, grilling and drinking starts on the 24th and continues to the 26th. No table is really set, and everyone present is busy preparing and serving something to eat or drink.  By 15th December, the relatives with wives and children start to arrive wherever the party is at. There is no knowing how many people will show up for Christmas, so you buy enough provisions  for double the number of people you think may show up.

And voila! Jesus is welcome!

How was Christmas like where you are?  And what’s the plan for New Year?

African Woman, Health & Balance, Learning to Live a Balanced Life, Life Lessons

Transformations that Change us

DSC_0067This Christmas, I celebrate that my Afro has turned four years old. A milestone. I have managed to walk by relaxers without succumbing to the promise of “straight easy to handle hair” for 48 months, 208 weeks, 1, 456 days.

After these years, kitchen ingredients are no longer just cooking ingredients, they are hair and skin products. Who knew?

I moved to Sweden in the summer of 2006 and my hair survived that winter solely due to all the treatments it had received in Nairobi. In the beginning of 2007, I started shopping around for an Afro salon. Between 2007-2010, there were two recommended Afro salons near where I lived with one recommendation each and I couldn’t recommend any of them, both being expensive nonchalant and tardy. There was a different hair dresser every time I came to the salon and I had to start over every time. Explaining my needs, my likes and dislikes, my sensitive scalp, my fragile hair. I had to find and try other salons.

Once, in desperation, I went to a Brazilian hair dresser at the recommendation of a new found Brazilian friend. They didn’t believe I had sensitive skin and scalp so the woman who treated my hair used the same products as she used for everyone else. After the salon visit, I came home and washed my hair again. With conditioner for sensitive skin.

I am neurotic and nutty that way.

The last hairdresser I visited in Stockholm had to close down a perfectly good salon in the end of 2015.  She was caught cheating on the taxes and received a tax bill with all the tax arrears that had to be paid in the coming years. That would ruin any good business.

DSC_0633
Before – 2013

In Sweden, I have had to answer the question: “Is that your hair?” in all the gracious ways I can master. And then some.

No, it is not my hair, it is a weave. My hair is braided under there. Bitch!

“Why can’t you just have your hair?”

Good question! I would counter, is that the natural color of your hair? #¤#&%

“Did you know that in India, Indians girls are scalped for free and the hair sold to weave wearers?”

No. I didn’t. . . WTF is wrong with folks?! I have to read about that. How and where is hair dye made? Anyone know?

When Sebastian and I met the first month at the university and became quick friends, I was a bony bald thing. I had just gone through chemo, lost patches of hair and shaved the rest at Jill’s salon, around the corner from my first apartment in Stockholm. Jill’s was owned by a nice Ghanaian couple. Soon after, they had to leave for England. Sweden didn’t work out for them, they almost lost their children to welfare.

Sebastian and I started dating about a year later and for some reason, he liked me and my short-haired head. By the time we had been dating for a little over three years, he had seen me bald, short haired, permed, weaved, braided and other nameless Afro styles that reveal themselves in the morning. In my childhood, my grandmother used to call these miscellaneous styles porcupine style. Hair with a will of its own.

In Kenya, and later in England, I was at the salon every week, spending any penny I could spare on my hair. Arriving to Sweden, a good weaving could cost up to 2,000sek ($230) and this is after paying a similar amount for good enough human hair. Simple medium braids cost as much. In Kenya and England, I chose salons through personal recommendation. I was sure of the quality of work. Knowing no Africans, or blacks in Sweden in the first years, I could only find recommendations on the internet.

Have you ever had a weave sewed in so tight you removed it in the night? I did that in my second year in Stockholm. Sebastian sat by and massaged my scalp after the fact. Braids too tight, braids too big and/or braids too short. I never used to remove my own braids, I went to the salon to get them removed so my hair could get deep conditioned and washed right after. In Stockholm, I started first, to remove my own braids and weaves and then after a couple of disappointing years, I started to braid my own hair.

I had never worn a wig before I moved to Sweden, but three years in and I had ordered a Brazilian on Amazon and requested an Indian from my cousin in France. Things were looking up! Instant hair.

“Is that your hair?”

No. . . . I couldn’t do it any more.

In the end of August 2013, I graduated, got a job and I threw both my wigs away. I ordered 5 packets of Expressions from eBay UK, just to be on the safe side. I raided Taj Mahal, the Kenyan owned shop on Queens Street Stockholm, and bought ORS shampoo, conditioner, hair oil, the works! I already had coconut oil, Aloe Vera, olive oil and almond oil at home and felt quite confident that it would do.

I was in for the greatest transformations of my life. I was not beautiful at all, my grandmother had lied to me in all kindness, God bless her soul. I was an ordinary woman, confident and loved.

But this hair of mine, it is truly beautiful!

afro back
Summer 2017 – Yoga by the Lake