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.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
"Should I go ahead and make the pies now so they can be cooled and settled, or should I just spend the morning chopping veggies? And how much time will I need to let the bread dough rise twice? Or maybe the morning should just focus on scrubbing floors and dusting? Oh, and is there enough wine, or soda, or whatever beverage might be required??"
But this is the third year in a row I've been outside the US during Thanksgiving. I'll probably never forget my first Expat Turkey Day, because it was about a month after Julie died, and it was in Gulu. I actually could have had some poultry that time, if I'd been willing to murder the gift I'd received after returning to Uganda from her funeral. But I still haven't grasped the concept of eating something you've actually met, so I passed on slaughtering my "welcome back chicken" to mark the holiday.
I'm actually having trouble remembering what I did for Thanksgiving 2006. Ditto 2005. But I'll certainly never forget Turkey Day 2004, when I worked like an Alabama fieldhand preparing a spectacular feast for the Ambivalent Archivist I was dating. From the minute we agreed to spend the day together, I vowed to woo him into submission with my culinary skill. Sure, I wasn't in love with him, and didn't even want a long term relationship. But because I knew he felt the same way about me, every feminine wile in my body was ignited. Using sex on demand and near-gourmet food, I was determined to make this man cleave to me. This would grant me the overall victory, and improved leverage for dumping rights, I concluded.
Anyway, I became absolutely OBSESSED with forcing the Ambivalent Archivist to sample butternut squash. While vetting potential recipes, he mentioned never having tried it, and not really wanting to. Oh, HELL no, I said to myself. You gon' eat my butternut squash risotto, and you will fall prostrate at my feet in sheer bliss and gratitude that I led you to this Pulpy Promised Land.
I also brined a turkey overnight for the first time in my life, using garbage bags, because I didn't have a pan big enough hold the bird and the gallons of brine. AND I made sweet potato pies. And homemade rolls. There were other mouth-watering entries, but you get the drift. I figured after he finished eating, and getting sexed up a few times, this man would have no other choice but on-the-spot commitment.
Well, to his credit, the Ambivalent Archivist ate the risotto without flinching, even said he liked it. He went back three times for everything else, and then we flopped onto my sectional couch and watched a Marx Brothers Marathon on TCM. Then he fell asleep. Then I fell asleep. I think we both woke up around dawn the next day, and then he got up, thanked me for everything, and went home. No nookie transpired, tragically.
Suffice it to say, I am not currently Mrs. Ambivalent Archivist. But that experience definitely marked a big turning point in how I view holidays in general. Ever since the Jones Family "Death-Off" began in 2003, my own notions of family have taken a hit. My siblings are doing their own thing, and I'm doing mine, and there's not really a solid center of gravity anymore. So my theory these days is that unless you're part of an immediate family unit with a mate and/or children of your own, holidays mostly just do not compute.
As a single woman nearing age 50, I'm fairly lucky. If I were in the US now, I'd probably snag quite a few invites to join in on other people's Turkey Day feasts. But there's no denying my status as "Perennial Fifth Wheel," or more bluntly stated, "Old-Assed Social Orphan."
I mean, what the hell do you DO with me? I'd be pretty content to sit at the kids' table for the most part, so that's a plus. I find large gatherings of (well-behaved) children quite refreshing, especially when I know I can walk away at any time. But with the adult crowd, how do you explain who the hell I am??? "This is Rachel, a dear friend who has nowhere else to go." Then of course there's the option of trying to pair me with your Cousin Leonard, who's about the same age and either thrice divorced or has 4 baby-mommas and a teensy substance abuse problem, and who's hasn't worked in 12 years. And who has to get back to the Halfway House before 8 PM, so we'd better go ahead and start eating now.
Oh, well, enough of this self-absorbed riff. I did actually have a pretty cool Thanksgiving last year in Nairobi, but the folks who threw that catered bash opted out this time. I'm dining on Indian food with a few friends tonight, at a place I haven't tried but hear is really good. If that's true, I'll be very thankful for that. But I chose the cartoon above as a way of summarizing yet another Expat Thanksgiving Experience. The frustration of not quite being understood, the sense of deflation and loss, and more often than not, the prospect of staring at a plate full of something that will surely NOT satisfy what you're truly craving.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
By anybody's standards, especially in a country with lots of HIV/AIDS-related challenges, that statistic denotes sheer madness. But it also yields insight into my relationship challenges in Kenya. Specifically, it offered instant clarification for what happened last Saturday afternoon, when the colleague who'd suggested getting together for coffee never showed up.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
He paused and said, "Are you eating it while you shop, or will you be taking it with you?"
Curious question. In my head, I was all, like, "Brah, if I wanna shove every kernel of it up my ass, it ain't your concern. Why you all up in my Kool Aid????"
But I caught myself and said, "I'm just heading out the door, thanks." He scooped up the golden nuggets, filling it almost to the brim, and then placed it beside the machine. I reached for the bag. The young man actually pulled it from my grasp, reached down into a drawer, retrieved a stapler, folded the top of the bag and then stapled it closed. Three times.
ANYEURYSM ALERT!!! Dude, WTF? Once again, one of the myriad cultural nuances of expat life had reared its deformed little head. What is it about Kenya that makes service people staple, fold, tape, and stamp the bejeezus out of every receipt, bag, or envelope during every transaction???
That's when I knew for sure: "Dear Sweet Baby Christ on a Cracker, I need a week in America real soon."
"I'm just sayin', Dawg...."
But damn, that thing is awesome! Just found out it's the tallest monument in the world, standing 150 meters high. You almost have to see it to even believe it.
My friend Brenda helped put it all in perspective. She reminded me that there are many bones encased in the pyramids of Egypt, from the thousands of workers who died building it. When it comes to statues, monuments, and memorials, humans can be relentless about ignoring practicality.
Okay, I've been here now almost 17 months, and it would be a pretty safe bet that Yellow Smock Guy is actually extracting a bribe in this very instant, before signalling to some half-starved urchin to move away from this guy's bumper and allow him to exit the parking space. (Hey, you gotta admit the urchin strategy is a lot cheaper than a mechanical boot.)
Next, while I can appreciate these walking billboards for a less corrupt society, I can't help thinking the people who need to be ruminating on this message are getting somewhat of a pass. The average citizen ekeing out a grim existence on a dollar a day already knows corruption is evil. That's why they're living on a dollar a day...and probably can't even afford a parking space. Mayhaps a few of these walking billboards should be employed in the halls of Parliament???
Finally, can a sister get a big "DUH!" from her peeps? Hells YEAH, corruption is evil! How bout fleshing out that message like this: "Corruption is strangling the soul of of our nation, and until we decide to prioritize the basic well-being of the many over the luxury of the few, we are surely doomed?"
But wait, all that lettering would cost too much money, and there are far better uses for it. I hope I'm still here when those uses are actually employed.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Monday, November 9, 2009
After a challenging few days it hit me: I really DO know when to hold 'em, AND when to fold 'em. And I'm sitting on the balcony of the swanky-swank Le Meridien Hotel near Daker listening to the waves crashing along the shoreline, and I am fucking GOLDEN. 48 Karat, to be exact. One for every year of my richly blessed life.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Friday, November 6, 2009
I don't know why I like this picture so much.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Okay, it was bad enough that I had to spend 9 hours sitting in the middle of a noisy scrum of Chinese businessmen on the way to Dakar, and one of the guys kept playing with the window shade like he was a friggin' 3 year old while I was trying to sleep, and then we had to sit on the tarmac in Abidjan for an hour with no air conditioning and no bathroom access before finishing the trip to Dakar.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
I really struggled over whether to use this photo for this posting, primarily because I didn't want y'all to think I've lost my damn mind, or get myself in trouble with the Internet Morality Police or something. But I can think of no better way to herald my upcoming trip to Dakar, Senegal, than to share this gift my Italian friend Roberta brought back from that city for me.