In July, 2008, I, Princess Rachella, Intrepid African American Girl International Journalism Consultant, pulled up stakes once again and headed to Nairobi, Kenya. Through my various adventures, I've concluded that if I get any MORE explosively fabulous in these prequel years to "THE BIG 5-0," I will have to register myself with the Pentagon as a thermonuclear incendiary device.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Indeed, the town has (mostly) paved roads, and a (relatively) major hotel, and many shops and restaurants (again, relatively speaking). In fact, I bought a pair of my favorite eyeglass frames in Eldoret. And I had a GREAT grilled tilapia dinner while I was there. But one thing I didn't get to do was tour some of the locations that were hardest hit by the rioting after the December 2007 elections.
I suspect part of the reason was subconscious, like when I was in Rwanda. Even after my harrowing trip through the genocide memorial, I still wanted to visit one of the Kigali churches where the most egregious atrocities occurred. You see, I've developed this theory that if I witness enough of the effects of the worst humanity can unleash, it will somehow inoculate me. Maybe one day it won't depress me so much if I can just accept that these events are a unfortunate yet non-negotiable part of being human. But other than my Golden Monkey trip, I spent most of my time at the US Embassy in Kigali, and probably preferred it that way.
Anyway, back to Eldoret. I'm mentioning it today because of an item I read in one of the local papers. It was newsbrief, only a few sentences long, but I could actually feel my blood pressure rise while reading it. Apparently, a group of Eldoret City councillors are taking a trip to Rwanda, to observe how the country has grappled with the impact of the genocide, and the strategies being used to keep moving forward. Because Eldoret was the setting for one of the worst post-election atrocitites in Kenya, the Kiambaa Church massacre, that kind of official junket seemed not only appropriate but logical.
But then I saw that 35 Eldoret city councillors would head to Rwanda on a 10-day trip. I felt myself going numb. I wanted to turn to somebody and ask, "Is this a misprint?? They can't be serious."
First of all, I gotta say I'm impressed that there are 35 city councillors in Eldoret! The town itself ain't big enough to swing a cat in comfortably, but hey, maybe there's more to it than what I saw, and maybe it needs that much administratin'. But can Eldoret really afford to have 35 publicly-financed employees spend 10 days away on a "fact-finding mission"?
Okay, let's say they went by road. One goodly sized tourbus would probably cost a lot less than 35 plane fares. And maybe they doubled, even tripled up on accomodations, instead of billing 35 hotel rooms for 10 days.
But as a lone foreigner who's spent the past few months trying to help fund a school feeding program for some of the children displaced by the post-election destruction and mayhem caused by Kenyan public officials, am I out of order to be thinking those Eldoret bureaucrats should have rented a freakin' DVD to learn about Rwanda's peace and reconciliation process??? Am I qualified to consider how much bottled water that money could have purchased for some of the thousands of Kenyans who are literally dying of thirst throughout this country at this very moment? Is it any of my bloody business to suggest that money might have replaced some of the school book funds that have allegedly been stolen by Ministry of Education staff, or pave a few of the deathtrap roadways in Western Kenya?
After all, just yesterday, I read that some members of Parliament were refusing to trade in their huge fuel-guzzling SUVs for smaller, more fuel friendly Volkswagen Passats because the VW's couldn't withstand the difficult terrain in their constituencies.
"I'm just sayin', dawg....."
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Reading the profile of Washington, DC art patron Peggy Cooper Cafritz in the August "O" Magazine made me feel like I've completely miscalculated the overall arc of my life. Or in plain-speak, nearly 25 years since my first full-time job, I find myself, in terms of accumulated wealth, property, or long-term financial security, without a pot to piss in nor a window to throw it out of.
Monday, September 28, 2009
"...If you're lucky, eventually you realize that the only way things are gonna get easier is if you get up off your ass and make it happen yourself."
I came to that conclusion over the weekend, while lying flat on my back on my bed directly under my oscillating fan. You recall many descriptions of me lying in that position, don't you? In fact, if any compromising photos of me ever turn up on the Internet, that's
what they'll depict: A flop-sweaty, Jockey-drawers wearing Rachel, arms and legs akimbo, deep in the throes of a mind-bending, earth-shattering.....hot flash.
Last week was so bad, in fact, that my blood pressure shot up to 190 over 101 at one point. Deciding it might be prudent to avoid delving the antediluvian horrors of the Kenyan Health Care System while in full cardiac arrest, I sought help. I was given another hypertension medication, and told to go home and rest. Which I would have done, if it weren't for the blasted night sweats and hot flashes. Most times, if you put your hand on my skin, it's like placing it on a dry pancake griddle that's slowly getting warmer. That is, until the sheen of sweat rises, and your skin feels clammy and hot at the same time. And your emotions? Fuh-geddaboudit.
Like I've said plenty of times before, I bore myself when describing my perimenopausal peregrinations, so I won't venture too deep into this train of thought. Just know that for most of last week, I gave myself full permission to marinate like a goat shank in self-pity, frustration and bottled water, using the occasional Double Stuff Oreo f0r fuel. Thanks to recent musings, you already know part of why I've been in the emotional dumpster. Add another upcoming birthday into the mix, and basically, I've been a useless heffalump.
But then, last Saturday morning, something clicked. Right near the tail end of those lost
days of hormonal despair, I flipped past a CNBC International documentary about legendary book and magazine illustrator NC Wyeth and his family. I knew the name, and of course had heard of his equally legendary painter son Andrew, so I decided to watch. (Hell, it was better than logging my thousandth viewing of "Mr. Bean" on BBC Entertainment.) Turns out Daddy Wyeth was a tortured genius of sorts. He always wanted to be known as a great painter, but was largely recognized solely for his illustration work.
That's why he devoted himself to nurturing his children's artistic talents. Especially Andrew; because of his frail health, Andrew was home schooled, his every artistic instinct lovingly indulged. By the time Andrew was a teenager, NC was raving over his skill. Sadly, he was also despairing over what he saw as his own failure to move beyond "mere" illustrator status.
Anyway, two comments from that documentary hit me like a depth charge. First, one of Andrew's fabulously successful siblings, inventor Nathaniel Wyeth, described the day in 1945 when their melancholic father was killed, on a railroad crossing, with his beloved, beautiful, curly-haired 4-year-old grandson Neely on the front seat beside him. Now, the official conclusion is that the car stalled on the tracks in the path of an oncoming train. In fact, the engineer recalled seeing NC Wyeth place his arm in front of the child, as if trying to shield him.
Still, the family knew NC Wyeth was often depressed, even hopeless at times. But even if he was suicidal, surely he wouldn't take that adored grandchild with him?
Nathaniel's voice caught as he described the event, and then he was silent for a few seconds. Then he continued, "Sometimes, I think fiction writers are overpaid. Because when you look at real life, my god," he said.
Now, I've done my share of grieving over deceased family members. After all, I was "orphaned" at 44. And I still bear the "Scarlet S's" that all suicide survivors have emblazoned on their souls, thanks to my eldest brother David's choice. And I readily admit I'll probably never get over losing Julie. But can you imagine having to live with even the faintest possibility that your beloved, anguished father may have killed himself and your young child??? (Note: I hate to pile on here, but I also just read that NC and Nathaniel's wife were alleged to be having an affair...could that be why he took the boy with him? GEEZ....)
Anyway, the next 2-by-4 to my psyche came when Andrew Wyeth described how his father's death affected him. He bitterly regretted never doing a formal portrait of his father, and recalled how NC's love and nurturance had shaped him so profoundly. But then he concluded that, if you're lucky, the death of a loved one makes you "come to." It's like you've been existing on auto-pilot before hand, possibly in part because that person loved you so much, or because you depended on them for so much. When they're gone, you're frog-marched towards a more conscious awareness.
When that documentary ended, I took it as more of a sign than all the rainbows I've seen since October 19th, 2007 put together. After all, both Nathaniel and Andrew were quite elderly when they shared those remembrances. Nathaniel lived 45 years after his father and son died so horrifically. "Frail, sickly" Andrew died just 9 months ago at age 91--64 years later. Imagine all those decades of enduring profound losses, and somehow still functioning.
Kinda made me reconsider the whole "Lying On My Bed Feeling Sorry For Myself For Being a Bloated, Hot-flashing, Middle-aged Cry Baby Who Misses Her Big Sister" scenario. After all, the younger Wyeths managed to live up to their father's pride in their talent and accomplishments, to even surpass his wildest dreams for them. They even managed to embody the goal he felt he'd been denied.
So, I decided to use one of Andrew Wyeth's paintings to illustrate this posting. It's called "Groundhog Day," and I remember watching the Bill Murray movie of the same name with Julie once. It reminds me that yes, quite often every day can be a challenge, even a boring burden at times. But as long as you "come to" the next day, you're obligated to venture forth, to at least explore what's gonna happen. And unlike the movie, more often than we're willing to admit, we get to write our own script.
P.S. Okay, I try not to read too much into things, but sometimes, instead of hot flashes, I get chills.......
I just finished reading NC Wyeth's Wikipedia biography. He was born on October 22nd.
He died on October 19th.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
I had barely pushed the button on that blog post when the sarcastic bile began to spew. People, I am many things, but dangerously delusional is NOT one of them! Other than a set of plumpish lips, Ms. Thang leaves me in the dust on so many levels, it's hard to know where to start. She's about 14 years younger, 40 pounds lighter, has six kids to my zip, and by all accounts, gets OUTRAGEOUSLY jiggy whenever she wants with Brad Pitt.
Monday, September 14, 2009
To become an expert hula hoop-er, you have to know how to stand your ground. You have to square your shoulders even as your hips are pivoting like a ball in a greased socket joint. If you wanna earn serious props, you have to keep that hoop swirling even when your hips get a little sore and you might be getting a little dizzy, and you might just wanna give up. To win, you gotta keep going. You don't ask how or why, you just do. Just like Eloise did.
Oh, and this picture also reminds me of my sister Julie, the Master Hoopster, able to keep multiple rings swirling at any given time. She certainly stood her ground. She was unparalleled in her ability to stare down life, square her shoulders, ball up her fists and propel herself forward.
Now, you may wonder what's got me contemplating the foremothers. Well, I was looking at some pictures of me that were taken while I was at PCEA Muniu last Friday, and I couldn't believe how much I looked like my mother in them! Gone are the malnourished lines from my Northern Uganda days. Oh, I'm not morbidly obese or anything, but I've also concluded I'll never again in life reach the Size 4 I attained in Gulu. Nowadays, Baby got back, front and sides to boot. But more than my body, I was totally focused on my face in those pictures. I have never, EVER seen Eloise so clearly and sharply before! It's kind of scary-yet-comforting at the same time.
Also, this is about the time of year 2 years ago that I learned Julie was beginning her last journey. Of course, next month will bring another solemn anniversary. I'm hoping maybe 10 years from now I won't be as pensive during September and October. For the time being, the memories come unbidden.
But like I said, this picture helps me sort of consolidate everything that's going on in the old noodle right now. The little girl who will always exist in my mind's eye. The strength and flexibility I inherited from Eloise and Julie. The focused, take no prisoners, shoulders squared stance. The determination to succeed.
Looking at this picture, I realize that no matter what storms may come, I will stand my ground. And I won't back down.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
I suppose if I hadn't already roused my conscience and started thinking about reconnecting with the kids at PCEA Muniu Primary School, a story in this morning's Daily Nation newspaper would have done the trip.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Oh, who do I think I'm foolin'? I've spent the past few posts whining about existential angst, when all my psycho emotional challenges of late are directly related to these three yellow slips of paper.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
One more person just texted to say she can't make it to my party, about 45 minutes before the merriment is scheduled to begin.