PC: KSB

The sixth love language: food

An open door created a pathway between young adults laughing at the center table and napping on the back couch to Eva, the woman who made the office a home for them. A loveseat and cushioned chair encircled her table of snacks: today a full loaf of bread with a large peanut butter jar sidling up to grape jelly and some Mexican candies, the standard cheeseballs and animal crackers seated on her desk next to the Keurig and hot tea. If God is a provider, and if he has any love, he made himself clear through her food.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the five love languages: physical touch, words of affirmation, giving gifts, acts of service, and quality time. The Office of Multicultural Development, described above, held conversations about this very thing. How do you give love? How do you receive it?

The OMD, as we called the earth-toned space, also taught me that our conversations were incomplete. It was Eva that taught me the sixth love language: food.

African food and friends: beans made Angolan style, foufou, pilipili PC: KSB

African food and friends: beans made Angolan style, foufou, pilipili — all in the Illinois kitchen where I hosted so many friends. PC: KSB

God gave us food for many reasons: It gives us the energy and nutrients to physically sustain our bodies. It grants us joy through its countless flavors and even touches our souls when done with excellence. It creates community when people cook or dine together. It communicates culture as well.

Sharing food with others could be seen as a gift – say you deliver cookies to your friends during finals or mail your best friend a box of protein bars to make sure she is eating. It could be seen as an act of service, bringing rice porridge to someone who is ill or keeping mandazi and chai on hand for your wife when she’s recently brought a new life into the world. Even quality time and the sharing of food go together like PB&J. Thus, I don’t believe it fits in any one love language; I believe it is one to itself.

Personally, I feel loved by food. I feel both taken care of and cared for. Aside from Eva’s “care days,” or grand parties to bring students into the office and show them love, she offered her regular snacks daily—one of her rules was that you had to take something from her office once you stepped foot in it, even if it was just a teabag—and kept a secret stash of almonds just for me when I had dietary limitations.

Eva was so thoughtful, and in all practicality, she and the OMD provided my lunches for much of my college career. That’s how I was sustained, and that’s part of why I felt so loved there. Eva knew her students and what they liked and could or couldn’t have. She gave food out of the love in her heart.

She’s not the only one to love through food; it’s a large part of hospitality in Congolese, Burundian, and Rwandan cultures, for example. You’re sure to be served ugali, water, chai, Fanta if it’s on hand.

Once, my Rwandan friend picked me up from an airport and took me to his family’s apartment, where, although it was at least 10 pm and perhaps closer to midnight, I was made to eat a platter of vegetables and rice before I could sleep. More food, I’m always told I need more food. Food is vital to life, central to hospitality, and part of how people love others.

I currently work at a restaurant, and I have dubbed one of my coworkers “Official Sandwich Maker of the KSB (my initials)” since he thoughtfully puts together delectable, healthy sandwiches out of foods we can no longer serve to customers. I feel loved when I see him staring at the line thinking about what I would most like after I request something to fill my breakfast-deprived stomach, or when he gives me a fresh egg that was “definitely expired,” or when he pops around the corner to hand me a brown box with his creation simply as a surprise. Whether he is aware of this or not, he loves me through food.

I’ll forever be thankful to the OMD for loving me and for teaching me how to love others a little better. As part of being hospitable, I too enjoy giving food. One of my favorite activities is cooking together with friends, dancing around the kitchen to Kenyan pop while catching up on life and testing flavors to create something excellent. Biting into something so delicious draws me closer to God, enhancing our relationship in that moment of gratitude. Finally, I am honored to serve others food when they are sad, sick, or struggling. Thus, food connects with so many love languages and yet is its own.

 

Hanging out with my young friend, eating ugali and sombe. PC: KSB

Hanging out with my young friend, sharing ugali and sombe. PC: KSB

 

What are your love languages? How can you relate to the love language of giving or receiving food?

 

Birthday ice cream with one of my best friends. PC: KSB

Birthday ice cream with one of my best friends, Ili. PC: KSB

 

 

For more posts on this subject, read “Lunchtime in the DRC (Learning How to Eat),” which mentions Mama Julienne and how she loved me through food, and “MuKappa: A Taste of Heaven,” which hits on the communal aspect of food.

 

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As MuKappa, our Sunday events were centered around dinner. This particular photo captures the surprise birthday party that Cabinet threw me, complete with homemade soft pretzels. PC: KSB

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View from Panera, PC: KSB

Computer access, Global Ubuntu, and future topics

Dear friends,

I’ve missed writing for you, and I apologize for my inconsistency in posting. I haven’t had a working computer in about a year and do not have WiFi at home, so I’ve been using library computers. What a blessing public resources are! However, now that I am working full time (praise God! See cover photo for view from my workplace), I have not had the luxury of computer access but once this past month.

Thankfully, I did have the privilege of writing for Global Ubuntu, an up and coming nonprofit that focuses on cultural exchange through a variety of programs. They’re starting off their vision with a blog. I wrote about an intelligent, compassionate, resilient man named Dieum, from the beautiful city of Goma, DRC, in the post “How the piano man became my best friend.” I should be hanging out over there a bit more in the future as well. Head over there to check it out and see what else my friends at Global Ubuntu are doing!

If you have any topics you’d like me to write about here, feel free to leave me a comment. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope to see you folks soon!

Love,

Katelyn Skye Bennett

selfie PC: KSB

Cockroach. PC: KSB

Where do cockroaches go when they die? (A poem)

Behold a tale of myst’ry and woe

And the questionable fate of where cockroaches go

Upon their death, if they ever die,

(For nobody knows if they do…sigh.)

 

Heaven, hell, or the next door apartment?

Do they die outside or in a compartment?

They can resist a bomb scare, or so I’ve been told,

But doesn’t a cockroach ever grow old?

 

I once saw one fall down a drain;

Another in the fridge was fain

To take a nap, and never quite

Woke up from the cold, oh what a fright.

 

When cleaning to extinguish them

I found five exoskeletons

Atop the black refrigerator.

They died before; I found them later.

 

But most remain a mystery.

Many are born, oh cute babies;

They grow into teenager years,

And then their adult fuzz appears.

 

Brown and hairy are their legs,

And they continue to lay eggs

But rarely do I find them dead;

They only multiply instead.

 

I hope you enjoyed this poem! As you likely noticed in my last post and in this poem, I’ve had quite a few adventures living with Mr. Cockroach and his family. The German roaches are mysterious and plentiful neighbors, bold and full of life to be sure! If you cracked a smile at either post, be sure to like it and share through your social media. (I know you’re on it!) And don’t be shy; comment your own cockroach stories below, too. (No spider ones allowed though. Seriously, I can’t stand those creatures.)

God bless, and may your lives be

cockroach-free,

As mine it seems, may never be. 

 

cockroach. PC: KSB

Open letter to cockroaches

Of all the bugs with which I’ve shared a home, cockroaches are certainly not the worst. We have the German kind, so they’re really more like beetles, and they don’t seem to do anything except be everywhere, so it’s not that bad. I honestly find it amusing at points, though also a bit annoying. Because I am frustrated with certain things, I have crafted a letter to the king of the cockroach clan that resides in my apartment complex. Please enjoy and share this if you have similar issues with the cockroach community.

Dear Mr. Cockroach,

How art thou, O ruler of my apartment? I don’t know why I think of you as a mister, but I do. Evidently there are enough women in your bunch to multiply your offspring in this humble domain you have chosen to be your kingdom. That’s fine; babies are good, but I do have a couple things I’d like to discuss with you for the mutual benefit of Apartment 301 and the building as a whole.

  1. You reign in this apartment, in this whole building in fact, but you don’t pay rent. Do you know the cost of living these days? Since you use the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room more than I do and repose in the living room and bed room as well, I think it’s only fair that you do your part. With the amount of roaches in your clan, it really shouldn’t be that expensive. So please, I know you’re the king, but you have to think of the good of your people (meaning us four actual humans) in your apartment kingdom. Thanks.
  2. I don’t mind sharing with you. I really don’t. I like to think of myself as a friendly and hospitable person. But when you walk all over me (literally when I’m on the couch and you’re walking across my body), that’s too much. Let me maintain some dignity, and don’t abuse this relationship. I need some respect.
  3. This respect implies privacy as well. I’ve learned to close my eyes when you decide to sleep on the wall a yard from my face. I know you won’t hurt me. But when you are on the toilet seat and I need to use the loo, that’s unacceptable. I would appreciate space in my bedroom, though I’ve learned to share, but I absolutely need the privacy of a free toilet seat when I need to relieve myself. Just go on the wall. It’s only a few feet away. Don’t claim my chance to have a throne just because you’re king.
  4. And please stop entering the fridge to eat our food. It only ends up killing you anyway.

Thank you for hearing my complaints, O Mr. Cockroach, and considering my words. You know where to find me to discuss these matters further. Thank you again.

Sincerely,

Katelyn Skye Bennett (Skye)

Taken at #WRD2017 at the Denver capitol. PC: Katelyn Skye Bennett

Why you should support refugee resettlement today

Refugee resettlement is a personal issue to me. Not only do I live with and attend church with 150-200 resettled refugees, who became my dear friends once I met them in the United States, but I also have friends who have applied to receive refugee status and are waiting for that to start the process of potential resettlement.

The family fled the Democratic Republic of Congo, where their hearts still lie, in order to protect their physical lives. They lived in a Tanzania for a short bit, but the country did not provide services to help them, so they flew to Madagascar to stay with a friend and “survive better” there. The youngest family member is six and has already traveled from DRC, through Rwanda and Burundi to Tanzania, then through Kenya to the island nation of Madagascar. He has spent time living in a city in DRC, one in Tanzania, and two in Madagascar since 2015.

Praise God that this family received the first document from the UNHCR stating that they are being considered for refugee status. But after that, if they receive status, the chances of them being resettled are still incredibly low.

Less than one percent of the 22.5 million refugees worldwide are resettled. Refugees can spend 8 years in a camp, 13 as one of my friends did, or their whole lives. Some of my church friends were born in a camp. (Many refugees live in cities, too, as these particular friends do.) Because of the diversity of protracted refugee situations, the length may vary by country and situation.

Despite the amount of people waiting to resettle to a safer nation with more opportunities, the United States has cut its numbers in half. (This article by PEW Research shares more numbers regarding the history of refugees in the U.S.) In the 2016 calendar year, we accepted just under 97,000 people, with a goal of 110,000 in the fiscal year due to the Syrian refugee crisis. Under the 2017 Trump administration, we accepted only 50,000, and in about two weeks we will see the results of the decision for 2018.

Not only has this drastic cut resulted in prolonged instability for refugees waiting to be resettled, but it has also hurt the American economy by cutting jobs for Americans who worked in refugee resettlement. As someone who volunteers in this field and desires a job in it, I’ve witnessed this firsthand.

This is our last chance to influence our politicians before Trump’s decision is declared in October. Pick up the phone and make a call. Use resistbot to send a text message that will fax your politicians. Go to Twitter and Facebook too. Refugee Action Colorado Coalition (RACC) has shared these posts for anyone to use and suggested a minimum of three posts per week:

50k #refugees is inexcusable.  Would be the lowest goal EVER.  We want #75k. #COWelcomesRefugees #GreaterAs1

Stop dismantling refugee resettlement.  Stand against #refugee/Muslim ban. #COWelcomesRefugees #Stand4Refugees #GreaterAs1

#Refugees make positive contributions in economics, national security & community strength. Sustain US refugee resettlement program.  

RACC helpfully shared the handles of Colorado politicians, saying, “Let’s tweet @realDonaldTrump @WhiteHouse and our Senators @SenCoryGardner @SenBennetCO and your Representatives.”

The rally at the Denver capitol on World Refugee Day 2017. PC: Katelyn Skye Bennett

The rally at the Denver capitol on World Refugee Day 2017. PC: Katelyn Skye Bennett

Political action is surprisingly easy with media today. It’s something every American, even minors, can do. Get on your knees and pray and then pick up your cell phone. Together we can make our voice heard this September.

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That moment when you forget you have chronic pain

 

Two of my friends are marrying each other in a few weeks, and they are planning a boat trip the day before the wedding. I was talking to one of them about it, asking how to RSVP, and he said he was not sure if I would be able to participate in the day trip due to my back, since the activities involve hiking.

My friend was very considerate and left the options open to what I thought I could handle, but he remembered what I forgot: that I have chronic pain that affects my daily life.

I forgot this because the boat trip sounded fun. I forgot this because I am a socially active person. I forgot this because I am relatively physically active as well. I forgot this because I was feeling strong during that conversation.

Chronic pain and illnesses are odd in that they do not always manifest themselves. I can go a week carrying my guitar on my back and walking to the library, dancing around the house, and lifting babies so they can “fly.” I will have discomfort and pain in this time, will potentially take some ibuprofen to ward off the stronger pain I feel coming, and will certainly require several massages to keep going in this time, but I will still feel relatively strong.

(My definition of feeling strong means being able to walk without having to think about it.)

But then I will have a breakdown. The pain will grow too strong, and an inexplicable weakness will overcome me. Tears will come, my limbs will go weak, and I will lie on a couch or the floor and have to talk to myself again and again and again in order to sit up or move my legs.

“Okay Skye, you’re okay. You’re okay. Move your leg. Move it. MOVE YOUR LEG. Come on, Skye, sit up. Oops, you’re not moving. Why aren’t you moving, Skye? Silly. There you go. Try again. Good, okay, let’s sit up now.”

Sometimes I will be strong in the morning and have a breakdown at night.

Sometimes I will have a totally strong day.

Sometimes I will have a totally bad day.

Breakdowns tend to happen once a week, on weekends, on Sundays. (The devil still cannot stop my worship to the one true God and my Healer.) However, I cannot predict when I will have a good or bad day.

I asked my soon-to-be-wed friend to pray for me to have strength during the entire wedding weekend. I told him I would plan to go on the boat trip but would cancel that day if need be. I absolutely love hiking, so I really want to go.

And who knows? Maybe the Lord will heal me by then. It has been seven years of pain so far. I think it is about time to enter a year of Jubilee and be rid of this pain. Don’t you?

 

 

Some say refugees. I say friends.

I spend nearly every day of the week hanging out at the houses of refugees or having them over my place. On weekends many of us attend church together, all weekend long. On weekdays others of us eat lunch together; I always look forward to 12:30. Several of us practice music together, all of us converse together and call out the ways we appreciate each other, and some of my acquaintances who are refugees open up their houses till midnight to share ugali and rice and greens and fish.

Just this Sunday, I visited a Congolese pastor’s house as a stranger and left with an invitation to return anytime. As I left, he made sure to point out his apartment number and floor so I could find it next time. Thank you, Pastor David.

I recently realized that I talk about my friends who are refugees differently than I talk about my native-born American friends, particularly those who are white or monocultural. Sometimes this lends context, but it can also be problematic if lending to an othering effect.

“Reaching out to” or “serving” our refugee neighbors or any marginalized population in order to feel good about ourselves hinders us from fully engaging with the group being “served.” When we do this, we are looking through a lens of power versus powerless. Although we may be doing good deeds and growing in our understanding of particular refugee populations, subconsciously thinking in terms of power dynamics blocks our hearts from receiving love.

We native-born Americans are not the saviors. But we can be good friends.

Here’s an idea: let’s develop deeper friendships so refugees become fully human in our eyes, fully capable of giving while still fully needy, like us native-born American humans. Let’s open our hearts to receive love from the strangers and soon-to-be-friends we seek to welcome.

While the humanity of refugees is not a question, it is important to note that the human experiences of refugees have been shaped by horrors like war and statelessness. Refugees have experienced things most native-born Americans have not. Their experiences will vary by age and country and contingency. The histories of the countries they have fled and lived in have shaped them in significant ways. The color of their skin will also impact their life chances once in the United States. We must consider the systems in place that affect their daily lives.

Refugees in the United States have overcome a lot: less than one percent of refugees worldwide are resettled, and it is common to spend almost two decades in camps or foreign cities before coming to the US, if granted status here.

Yet once they receive this status and move yet again, they come to a land that often treats them poorly.

Several of my Congolese-American friends have told me that Africans do not believe them when they say the United States is not heaven. (I witnessed this over
-admiring attitude firsthand in DRC myself.) But the truth is that when they come to the United States, they can barely make rent. Their living conditions are not necessarily significantly different. They start at the bottom of the workforce. Academic degrees do not always carry over to the American system. In short, life is still quite difficult.

Take pause today to consider these injustices. Do a little research. Sleep on what you discover. Wake up woke.

Now take pause to consider the ways refugees give to your community and the United States, the ways you have seen them serve. Thank them for their contributions. Be creative about it.

Today I stand with countless global citizens to celebrate world refugee day. It has been a truly splendid day full of energy and smiles and even a bit of dancing (see the InTandem – a Flashmob of Empathy video below from Denver’s World Refugee Day rally.) I particularly think of the ways my friends are bettering my life through their hospitality and friendship and food. The main ingredients I have noted are time, love, and ugali, given in generous portions. I am grateful for my friends who are refugees and am incredibly glad to be a part of their lives as they are in mine.