This post is special for two reasons. Firstly, it welcomes in a new year and decade. Cheers to 2020! May God bless us with stability and peace where we need it, the courage and faith to obey Him, and joy through his Spirit.
Secondly, this is my hundredth blog post on this site!
Now, I could write 100 somethings to celebrate that fact, but lists that long tend to be overwhelming. Instead, I’ll share twenty assorted things that I have learned over the past decade, and particularly over the last five years.
Feel free to add your own in the comments!
Being away from family isn’t the easiest, since I am blessed with an amazing one, but friendships can be just as sweet.
Working the opening shift is the best. Especially when you can see the sunrise through your window.
Being vegetarian isn’t hard when you have reasons for it! (The same goes for anything; if you have convictions, you can act decisively, even if it is difficult in some cases.)
Language acquisition requires active communication in that language. You have to practice.
Math and piano also need continual practice even once you reach a certain level. You can lose your skills even if you excelled at one point. Not everything is like riding a bike.
It’s rewarding to obey the prompts of the Holy Spirit.
Find yourself a church community. You’ll be doing yourself a favor.
Colorful lipstick is the bomb.
There is no shame in getting counseling. In fact, it’s quite helpful.
Refugees are awesome people. They are courageous, innovative and dedicated creators, survivors, and humans.
It’s best to wait for what God has promised instead of going against his timeline or words. That can actually hurt you, but what God has promised is so, so good.
Zero waste is the way to go. Reduce, reuse, recycle, and buy biodegradable!
Cacti make great pets.
Race DOES need to be talked about since the underlying issues have not yet been solved. You can read the story of how I came to realize that here.
It’s okay to let people go as you mature and move into different stages of life. Your high school friends might not be your best friends forever, and that’s okay.
At the same time, pursue relationships you want to keep.
Know the reasons why you believe what you do or live a certain way.
Be open to difference!!!
Be compassionate and empathetic.
Happy new year, everyone! Subscribe for more blog posts, including a special guest post in Memoirs of the Trees.
It’s Tuesday morning, October 22, 2019. Outside, it is raining and windy with a real feel of 43 degrees Fahrenheit, and the Chicago Teachers Union is STILL out on every highway bridge demonstrating to gain support.
Teachers have been on strike for about a week trying to meet demands that they initiated as proposals months ago. It took an extended strike to get any response, and they’re still negotiating to get things on paper and ensure that the capped class sizes will be enforced. (You can read more from the local news here.)
I remember when my mom was a teacher for a bit, and I was temporarily made to act as her mom because her work was round-the-clock and exhausting. That was in a private school with allegedly better resources (though no qualified nurses or counselors, if I’m being honest).
The point? Teachers deserve to be paid better. They have to live, too.
Moreover, the things CTU is asking for are for the benefit of the students, especially the students who feel the lack of resources most significantly. I’m proud of the CTU for prioritizing that.
Counseling comes to mind as a necessary resource. This summer, I tutored a boy who went to one of the best high schools in Chicago but had to leave due to severe bullying and mental illness that led to suicide attempts. His school counselor was his only safe person before he had to leave, but she was only there because it was a well-resourced school for highly intellectual students.
For those who think striking might harm the students, consider the long term benefits of having better schools. Adequate resources were not provided at the start of 2019 when teachers asked, and their proposals weren’t considered until they went on strike.
Just imagine what happens if there is an emergency but no nurse! Can the students really thrive if teachers are unable to give them the attention they need because classes are too full? And what about the kids who need counseling, the kids like the one I tutored whose lives may be at stake? I certainly don’t want to risk that over the course of years.
The Chicago Transit Authority has offered free transit to students during the strike, and school buildings are open as safe havens during the day. Students are being cared for as their teachers fight to secure better resources for them beyond this week. And that devotion is just another reason why Chicago teachers deserve increased pay.
We gather for people like Devon.
We hurt for young men like Devon.
The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord is enthroned as King forever.
The Lord gives strength to his people;
the Lord blesses his people with peace.-Psalm 29: 10, 11 (NIV)
Happy World Refugee Day! Today we remember and reflect upon the lived experiences of refugees as well as rejoice in their contributions. Let’s celebrate using these three R’s.
Today we REMEMBER the existence of refugees, who are so often forgotten or ignored in the minds of those not suffering from the same insecurities. We remember their histories and the histories of our countries that have led to their circumstances.
We remember the wars in Congo, bombings in Syria, ethno-religious cleansing in Myanmar, and both the complacency and sometimes contribution from our nations towards these ongoing conflicts.
Today we REFLECT upon what we can do to change these circumstances in our countries and abroad. It’s social engagement. It might mean social activism. We reflect on the 1980 Refugee Act that allowed Americans to take in people fitting UNHCR refugee definition, allowing families and individuals from Asian and African countries to find new homes in the US.
We reflect on the ups and downs since then, the people the US is currently choosing to exclude, and, simultaneously, the growing need for resettlement as worldwide instability grows.
Refugees and natural-born citizens alike hold a position to affect positive change for the 70.8 million forcibly displaced people who are suffering and for the resettled refugees still in need of structural mobility. The UNHCR’s Step With Refugees endeavor is another way to reflect upon the lived experiences of refugees while contributing towards their success.
We also reflect upon the contributions of refugees to our countries and to the places they have passed through. We reflect upon the beauty that shimmers in their footsteps, the love and music and hospitality shared, the innovation and entrepreneurship so many refugees are known for.
I know refugees who guard local buildings such as hospitals, making sure everyone inside is safe. I know others who make the food you eat and who work in factories to make your bank cards. I know an educator, a soon-to-be social worker, a photographer, a fashionista, case managers, pastors, grandmothers, and others who contribute to the smooth running of their families, cities, and countries. I know compassionate and maturing school children, too. If you look around, you’ll find people you know and have opportunity to thank them as you reflect upon their lives.
Finally, we REJOICE in all these contributions and the successes we see around us, like those listed above. We also rejoice when steps are made towards stability — gaining refugee status, receiving a work permit, being resettled, being granted citizenship, et cetera.
Each of these are daunting and may take several years, depending on the context and specific situation. They are rare gifts, so we rejoice when they are given and strive for a multiplication of them.
Happy World Refugee Day, friends. Enjoy your local picnics, rallies, community meetings, and other celebrations or gatherings as you remember, reflect, and rejoice this year. Shalom.
Some moments are nearly perfect. Resting with my housemates on our rooftop, seven stories high in Waithaka, watching the orange sun set and taking way too many silhouette selfies with Kamau, is one of them. Being in Nairobi as a whole is incredible.
The sun sets to the right of Ngong Hills, behind some trees and above a collage of sun-faded blue and reddish roofs. Birds fly in and out of sight while Sia plays from the speaker. I blink dust from my eyes as I hop around the roof and settle in a corner next to my friend Leon.
Some moments are so full of freedom. Dancing with fellow musicians on a Sunday evening in Westie while my favorite artist, Tetu Shani, croons over his acoustic guitar is one of them. Being in Nairobi, the sun lighting up the sky every day and warming my skin, does my spirit good.
My housemates and I dance in the kitchen, practicing Kenyan moves. We dance in the beige living room as the pop music continues. We dance on the roof sometimes too. I decided before I came here that I would be free.
Some moments are made of happiness. Blasting “Usipime Mwanaume” by Naiboi and bumping “Earthquake” by Family Force Five while playing a competitive card game with Kairo and Kamau and spontaneously dancing is one of them. Being in Nairobi, I’ve laughed more than I have in ages.
Some moments give a person unexpected energy. A day of pillow fighting for two hours at home before hiking off the path in Ngong Hills, eating tomato flavored crisps at the summit of the third hill, and returning in the dusk, is one of them. Being in Nairobi, I’ve seen countless stars and heard precious stories from people who make life light.
I’ve grown stronger, thanks to Kamau’s physical training and encouragement. My housemate Fred and I do planks and squats, and then Kamau squats me. Rugby season is coming up, after all.
Some moments are the backdrop of memories. Hearing the frustratingly endless barking from our neighbor’s dog business, squeezing into the back of a matatu on the way to Kawangware, taking in the aroma of onions and masala from Leon and Kamau’s cooking, hanging laundry on our windy roof while Kairo squeezes water on my burning feet because I didn’t wear shoes again, squishing between housemates on the couch to watch YouTube, these are some of them. Being in Nairobi, I’ve been doing a healthy amount of hugging, and I think that’s part of why I love it so much too.
In our house, it’s not surprising to find toe nail clippers everywhere and combs nowhere or to discovering a laptop above the fridge and the salt in my bedroom. But with so many of us here, we don’t have to stress.
This trip is one of those rare moments where life is almost perfect, where one could take a photo of the sunset and still feel the cooling air later because the people and times were so precious.
Just give me sunshine, hugs, good friends, some music to dance to, and a side of chips (fries), and I’ll be fine. Life doesn’t have to be that complicated.
Every December, people around the US finally allow themselves to listen to Christmas music, joining the few of us who believes in the extension of the beautiful season. Yet with the introduction of this wondrous genre to public radios comes the airing of one particularly degrading song.
“Do They Know It’s Christmastime,” a well-meaning song written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure and sung by a variety of British artists in 1984 under the name BANDAID, redone several times by contemporary musicians on behalf of different causes, plays consistently on every variety Christmas station. While originally meant to address a famine in Ethiopia, it gives no further thought to the lives or beliefs of Ethiopians.
The song does not consider that maybe this country where Orthodox Christianity has existed for thousands of years, before the Anglophone world had heard the good news, does indeed know and celebrate Christmas. They follow this calendar and celebrate it on 07 January.
Perhaps if Geldof and Ure had taken time to speak with Ethiopians or the other Africans the song “covers” and ask the question in the song’s title, they could have written a better song that did not degrade so many humans while intending to help.
The original lyrics read,
…But say a prayer, pray for the other ones
At Christmas time, it’s hard, but when you’re having fun
There’s a world outside your window
And it’s a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears
And the Christmas bells that ring there
Are the clanging chimes of doom
Well, tonight, thank God it’s them instead of you
Well, that’s grim. “Dread and fear,” “doom.” Thanks for highlighting the growing African economies in nations such as Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Libya, and Rwanda. Thanks for praising the countries that had gotten on their feet after colonists like Britain itself finally gave them independence a mere two decades before the release of this song. Thanks for giving a shout out to the music industries that were beginning to take hold in places like Kenya. Thanks so much.
And “thank God it’s them instead of you”? That strikes me as heartless. But let’s continue.
And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time
The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life
Where nothing ever grows, no rain or rivers flow
Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?
You’re literally lumping what is now 55 different countries into one and saying the geography and situations are all the same. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, we have a lot of jungle, for example. And lakes. A massive river. An ocean port. Farms and corn and fruit trees. And mountains – with snow (though that’s the only place you’ll find it in DRC, which sits on the equator).
Also, why is snow a necessary indication of the holiday? Christmas originated as a celebration of King Jesus being born in what is now the West Bank, Palestine. Though snow plays a role in many Anglo-phonic songs about the holiday and indeed in my own life as someone originally from northeastern USA, it was not originally part of the picture.
Moreover, “they” do know it’s Christmastime. In Congo, a 95% Christian country, we don’t celebrate in the same commercialized way the US or probably Great Britain does. It is more minimal, in that we don’t tend to give gifts and don’t propagate the Santa story. But we do expect the holiday to come every December. We have our own Christmas songs that church choirs do. We go to church on the holiday to celebrate and hold all-night prayer vigils. So to answer the question once more, yes, “they” know it is Christmas.
In 1984, the songwriters were addressing the Ethiopian drought but then sweeping the rest of the continent under the mat of their ill-spoken words. You can’t do that. There’s too much diversity on the continent and even within the countries that compose it. And to only show the “dread” and “doom” of a place or places is not a healthy way to call people to your cause because it denies the humanity and life within those places.
Not to worry, though. Maybe this was just written…and sung by over 40 artists initially…and redone four times, most recently in 2014… simply because everyone was too cold and grumpy. Check out a solution for this below and consider some better ways to communicate your cause here. Finally, petition your local radio to stop playing versions of the BANDAID song and others like it. Peace.