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.

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
African Woman, Borrowed, Life Lessons, Therapy Sessions

Incredible Things That Happen Once You Learn To Enjoy Being Alone

I am home alone this weekend. Although I spent many years hoping I could be Kelvin for just one day, or an hour, my childhood never produced such a day. The most excitement came from battles to stop father drinking himself to death. He eventually succeeded. There was some fun in the antics to ensure that the mad man of our village stayed alive. We roofed his hut when he was away. We left food by the door of his hut and run away on rainy days when he couldn’t go out scavenging. We held him down for treatment when a snake bit him. He would hurt you even when you were helping him and he was accepting help. He didn’t know how to accept help graciously, because he was afraid he had lost too much pride already.

I was browsing through LinkedIn, as is the habit when I am taking a short break from being lazy on my free day. I am a team leader, so tips about habits that define good team members are always appreciated. Today’s episode of LinkedIn browsing led to  this  article.
Travis Bradberry is one of those people who know everything about people. It feels so when I read his articles. EQ (Emotional Intelligence), who knew such intelligence existed? Not me before I read Travis work. habits, handling bad bosses, improving one self, toxic friends, office politics. Name it. Travis knows something about it. I respect him. We may be saying the same things in different words. But I felt that Travis’  wonderful list missed some incredible points that make me happy to be alone. Which is so rare, as it surely is for most. Being alone is bliss for some, and it is loneliness for others.

It is a long weekend because of the ascension day. Which we celebrate in Sweden by staying as far away from the office as we possibly can.

Stockholm is at 18 degrees Celsius today! And will keep on that level all weekend! I can sit on the balcony, I can take a walk in a dress…oh God of Mt. Kenya, the things I can do on a sunny day! Alone

7 Incredible Things That Happen Once I find that I am Alone

  1. Books get read! I just got through The Bluest Eyes by Toni Morrison. As a black woman over 30, I should have read this when I was 20. It is a journey that has brought me to myself. I hope my daughter finds this book in our bookshelf on the day she is home alone. Before she is too old and just about the time she understands that being a woman; being a black woman; is being a woman made in precious metal. A pragmatic force. Music list

2. Neglected favorite music gets listened to! My very own special play list with no one looking at me as if I am lagging behind technology.img_0493

3. Poor grey legs finally get some attention after 6 months in hibernation! Summer is here (or summer heat is) and there is no shock when I at last remove the trousers that have kept the grey horror hidden from nice people. The Scandinavian winter is brutal, needless to say. Bad for the face, lips, hair, poor hidden legs that get the least attention. Really bad. I couldn’t show those legs to a man who is supposed to love me for my fabulousness!

4.  I can paint those winter nails too!

5. Hair gets deep conditioned at home without costing a fortune! With ingredients from my refrigerator. I create. That’s it! I get creative when I am alone! A concoction with henna, coconut oil, mashed avocado and castor oil. If you ever did this at home, you know you can’t or won’t do it in front of men. Even the men you love. They don’t get it. A plastic bag on my head for some hours…I pull that off nicely!!

Plastic bag on the head is as far as I am willing to go regarding photos in post.Mask on face is too traumatizing even for well-meaning readers.

6. Wonderful magic protection against the world & elements can be treated with the respect it deserves! The face gets a mud mask that I also leave on for some time. I have seen women with face mask on TV and I just don’t get that! I look scary in a face mask. I mean it.  Once, I had a mask when my sister dropped by with my niece who was 2-years old at the time. My niece screamt and run back to her mom. This is a girl who adores me and stands on my side when my sister and I are at logger heads.

7. TV can finally be the entertainer it is supposed to be. Why else do we have a TV when we never have time for it?! except when dusting it during spring cleaning. Lying on the sofa, red towel on pillow, plastic bag on head, mud face mask on and lots of Shea butter on lips. No guilt. No hurry. No one coming in every 10 minutes for some attention. Phone turned off.

Whole season 2 of True Detective. Collin Farrell has never looked sooo attractive, so close to suicide and murder. Rachel Adams is femme fatal in another genre and Vince Vaughn as a bad ass criminal who just won’t die!!??

Hope your times alone turn into whatever you need from them!

Borrowed, Life Lessons

Invictus By William Ernest Henley

Sailing in BerlinOut of the night that covers me, black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be, for my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance, I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance, my head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears, looms but the Horror of the shade, and yet the menace of the years, finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.