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.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Phenomenally 50--and Friends Forever

Behold 3 of the luckiest half-century old women of African descent to ever walk the face of the Earth.

They are partly responsible for yet another lapse in my blogging routine, because they just left Nairobi last Thursday. They landed here two days after I returned, from 3 of the most fabulous weeks I've had in a very long time. In fact, my recent stint in the US almost...ALMOST...made up for the 8 years of puredee personal and emotional Hell that preceded it. I had such a profoundly healing and joyous time while back in the US, I fully expected to pay for it by being totally depressed right about now.

Fortunately, these two women helped forestall the funk. Meet Faith and Danita, whom I've known since 1979 and 1980 respectively. I met Faith, the one in the middle, during Freshman Week at Northwestern University. She cemented our friendship by dragging my backwards ass out of my room in Allison Hall and insisting that I go to a frat party nearby. I probably expected Satan himself to be taking tickets at the door, and that I would get pregnant if a guy looked too deeply into my eyes. I remember trying to come up with a few excuses to get out of going, but Faith wasn't having it.

She's been all up in my grill ever since. Seriously, Faith is probably the one person who knows my tics and twitches as well as I do, because I've shared them with her ad nauseum. She's enough of a friend to never use them against me per se, but she also won't let me get away with anything. She's my guru; thank God for Skype, because it's kept us in check when necessary over these past few years.

Danita came to Northwestern the year after Faith and I did, and they bonded because they'd both been raised in suburban Cleveland. Danita's an engineer with the most disarmingly friendly, cheerful and personable energy of anyone I've ever known. I've spent more time with Faith over these past few decades, and yet once Danita and I reconnected, it was like we'd never missed a beat.

They spent about 9 days in East Africa recently, and as I told them in an email earlier today, "The Oasis of Graciousness" never felt more like home. Their being here reminded me of one of the biggest challenges of expat life: that missing sense of "family" and deep, knowing friendship.

There is something about being around people who've known you for decades, and who CHOOSE to travel thousands of miles to be with you, that is truly comforting. You laugh in ways you don't get to laugh with your expat friends. You don't have to explain stuff, and yes, you "exhale" in different ways. You're not always on high alert and with your guard up. You're more at home inside yourself.

That's also a pretty good way of describing turning 50. Faith accepted that glorious mantle in April; I'm next up in October, Danita's turn comes next year. And I think our African sojourn cemented something very important: We are blessed and highly favored. We have lives our own mothers didn't even imagine for us. We have professional role models like Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey to help us carry ourselves in the world in ways most women of African descent in the diaspora can never even pretend to imagine. We can set goals and dream dreams and take chances and say yes--or shout "NO!"--in ways our mothers couldn't.

So even though at one point these two innocent looking women did something so diabolical and treacherous to me that I can never fully disclose the details, they also helped ease my reentry into the Kooky Carnival that is life in Nairobi. They reminded me once again that true love and friendship don't fade across the miles and years, and that getting older really IS getting better, if you keep yourself surrounded by really great people.

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