Monday, 4 April 2016

GirlHood Memories of a Yoruba Church

I was raised up by the loud, West African ‘hallelujahs’, in stone, cold Hackney Pentecostal  churches, attended mostly by Nigerian/Yoruba women,  who duly pledged  their 10% in crisp, white envelopes to be deposited into the pastor’s basket at the altar. The discreet, tokenistic passing of the collection plate usually followed, where everybody became your audience as you placed your money in the deep recess of the plate. You see, the pastor did not want to hear the jingling sharp echo of the coins when they fell into the plate, but the soft, fluttering sound of pound notes as they landed inside. The pastor’s facial   expressions truly defied gravity when this occurred. It was definitely a sight to see.

There these women were, getting down with the tribal beat and sensuous sounds of the talking drum;  the twanging of the rhythm guitar, that sounded so much like Sonny Ade, ‘back home’.

There these women were, singing in loud, and out of tune voices, but clapping and snapping gold ringed fingers in sanctified rhythms for Jesus.

There these women were, getting down and *‘owambe’ for Jesus, as though they were manically dancing in Fela’s shrine.

 There these women were, sweating and wiping dripping foundation stained melting faces. Helmets of Afros wigs awkwardly awry and flipped relaxed hair that had sizzled back into their au natural states.

 There, these women were fanning their cheap cardboard fans, brought from the local Woolworths, creating their own DIY air conditioning moment for Jesus.

 There these women were, throwing themselves on cold tiled floors for the love of the  Holy Spirit, and speaking in undetectable tongues, interspersed with their  mother’s tongue,

 There these women were, playing their roles of spirit filled women without their absent husbands by their holy sides .

 There these women were, showing off their sartorial  styling, as they smoothly undulated down the wide church aisles: using it as their own personal catwalk  with fresh, brightly coloured, patterned Dutch wax materials, fashioned into contemporary  **eros and bubas, accompanied by their stiff, obedient  ***gelees pointed towards a satisfied and receptive heaven.

These are some of  the memories that I dearly hold of attending church as a young girl. My Yoruba influenced church memories of my childhood.

* Partying
**Traditional top and wrapper 
***Stiff head wrap

****Disclaimer: All the Yoruba language purists, please forgive me if I have spelt some of the terms incorrectly. I do not have my people around me; I am just surrounded by the Caribbean Sea!****

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Thoughts from the Other Side of the Postcard #3

As I write this long blog post, I am trying to excavate and type out the words to my fragile emotions. It has taken me several rewrites and loads of paradoxical thoughts and angst filled editing to get this out of my subconscious state and into my conscious being.
It seems that I have been carrying my past like an overstuffed travelling suitcase. See, my seemingly enchanted  life that I had discarded in London, had been swept along with  the tidal waves of romance and marriage; these were an anchor for me before I made  life changing decisions to emigrate from my uncertain familiarity.

I had a great job as a counsellor - helping vulnerable people with their dual diagnoses, mental health, anti social behaviour orders with disenfranchised youth, domestic violence, teenage mothers,  and other supportive elements of my work. I tended to work within agencies, where for me the pay was better, and most importantly, I was not tied down.  In retrospect, sometimes I wish that I should of thought better about job security and the pie in the sky pension. But this did not hover on my horizon at the time. I knew that my duration of living in London was becoming shorter and shorter, hence my somewhat laissez attitude I had towards the stability of my future economics.

At the time, my boyfriend, who is now my husband, was living, working and  bringing up his two children in Holland as a lone parent. Their mother in Dominica had given him custody and he wanted them to have a better opportunity at life and education in Europe.

Because of my working patterns, the fluidity and flexibility of my work allowed me the freedom to catch the Eurostar on many long weekends. I was able to  just steal away, receive my warm embraces and eagerly anticipated kisses, ride our bikes , in unison,  on the flat roads and bike sanctioned  lanes in Arnhem, Holland, and just to  feel his strength and  solidarity calm and our one day imagined fantasy that we would be together for ever! By the way, his qualities have not changed. He is still my protector.

Although I was living some kind of blessed life in London, surrounded by my two delightful sons and a chosen handful of dear friends, I was at a standstill; I was stagnating. My oldest son had moved out. My youngest son was undertaking his A levels in a college that was nearer to his father's home and he decided to move there instead. So I was free. However, like Eshu-Elegbara,(A Yoruba Orisha), I was at the crossroads of my life, looking to see what direction I needed to take; I guess my destiny told me soon enough. With all of this in hand, I swapped all that I had ever known for our unplanned adventures and the idyllic notion of stirring the nascent writer in me and  settling in the comforts of the 'nature island'.

The Commonwealth of Dominica is a small, tropical island  which sits midway along the Eastern Caribbean archipelago, and is squeezed, like a slice of lime, between the two islands of Guadeloupe, which is in the North and Martinique, which is in the South. These two islands  are still under French rule. Dominica has had a fraught relationship with France; however it gained its independence from the UK in November 1978.

Dominica is truly a beautiful, lush country, where about two thirds of it is covered by tropical rainforests, and boasts, according to the locals, 365 rivers - a river for each day.
I initially saw Dominica as a place where I thought that I could loosen my tight fitting jacket -I wrote about this metaphor in a previous blog. However, unfortunately, I lost my blog to the evil clutches of cache, forgetting to renew my domain, and pure and utter carelessness on my part . My tight jacket for me was the oppressiveness I was feeling about living in London.  How my life was becoming restrictive. So, I decided to excitingly exchange my monotone for Technicolor. I was tired of living in the cold and grey climates of London. I was weary of drudging to work and keeping up the rhythm with disenchanted commuters who hated their jobs but loved their monthly pay packets. I was tired of squeezing onto  tubes, buses or trains, where my nose would be constantly assaulted  by offensive odours on varying days.  I wanted to feel some sun on my skin, feel the sand between my toes, and just truly breathe again.  I thought that I would be able to  swing and daydream  in my simple hammock on our  soon to be built veranda,  and feel the sweet  and tranquil breeze of the Caribbean Sea that was just a glance away from our property, hoping that it would  hypnotise me, energise my writings and inspire my creativity. 

When I landed in my newly adopted home, I offered my skills and expertise from my professional background. However, because I wasn't in the 'know', I wasn't able to successfully navigate my way through the maze of nepotism, political affiliation and lack of kinship within the country. Due to this, and after a while when our savings started to diminish -which was also offset by the fragile economic instabilities of the land - which ultimately led to our  own economic uncertainties, we took the initiative of plugging into our entrepreneurial aspirations. We took our love and knowledge of herbs, massage, aromatherapy and oils and started hawking them on the streets of Roseau. We built up quite a loyal customer base and met some very interesting people on our journey. People were fascinated by my precise and proper English accent and the way that I had seamlessly integrated into a small, island life - together with the pitfalls and joys that I experienced on this mountainous, undulating small island. I loved being with my husband, creating our fresh herbs (grown on our land or locally sourced by locals), together with the oils and creams that we lovingly produced. I loved receiving positive feedback and glowing testimonials about the healing benefits of our products, and how even folk, with small monetary benefits, would still come and patronise us.  How ironic it was when we had a great following from the many medical students who studied conventional medicine at Ross University located in Portsmouth. How gravitating it was to see the familiar faces of people in Roseau going about their daily business, and the hails, injected by witty, sad and delightful conversations we would get from complete strangers who brought our products. Folk who felt so comfortable in opening up to us on the kerbs and sidewalks of Roseau.  Sometimes it felt that I was conducting informal counselling sessions on the roadside! It was so edifying for both my husband and me; we took a lot of blessings with us. We also saw how the other side of the human spirit could be the and  how some particular folk would vent their silent grudges and envy towards our way. But we just laughed joyously at the bitterness and  'let it go' and just smiled inwardly  at the up and down  nature  - which reflected the topography of the land  -of our fellow human beings let we met on our journey.

However, the Tropical Storm of Erika literally cleaned away my cataract fantasies of surviving and living an almost sweet life in the  paradise I created within; the tempest rage of Erika surprised and drenched the country and its unstable infrastructure  in Dominica. The storm had accelerated our desires to leave, because frankly, things were no longer working for us over in Dominica. Faced with a non-existent economy, a paucity of people with tight, limited or no budget to splurge on our products, a slow dribble of tourists coming into Roseau  and the environs, and the hard, frigid  realisation that we are not in a financial position to conceptualise  our aims and objectives for our business  for now, we started looking at other destinations in the Caribbean. Erika manifested that for us. We came to the decision that Guadeloupe was the perfect place for us for now: it is only two hours away from Dominica on the ferry, and also, as it is an EU country, our rights living here as EU citizens are protected. Again,  the irony that this seems to afford us is not lost on me and it seems to be a continuous loop with my story of migration.

Post Tropical Storm Erika and leaving the ruins of Dominica, I never glanced back towards the tall body of Dominica, as the ferry lethargically carried my husband and me - still traumatised - to the French Overseas Territories of Guadeloupe.

We had been offered sanctuary from the storm from this delightful woman, Marilyn, who is from Dominica. We had met her and her beautiful family on previous occasions on our fact finding visits to Guadeloupe. I will never, ever forget their authentic support and their unconditional love. It truly makes me believe in the decency of people who don’t even know you, but will offer you shelter. These people are not family, but they have made my husband and me feel that we are family. I will never forget them, as it has truly made me believe in the loving kindness of strangers
Whilst in silent contemplation on the way over, I was still attempting to decipher the haunting images of Dominica that had left me feeling so sad:

 Set adrift from the many broken bridges, where cars, buses and four wheel trucks had to cross raging, dirt filled  rivers to reach their final destinations; roads, recently heralded by the people and the government, which were solely built and constructed by Chinese labour, and now were  teasing us with  large craters and seismic splits, showing us the true nature of their shoddy construction and faulty workmanship;  small villages decimated by the sand, uprooted stripped barks of trees and twisted, awkward limbs of these trees, waterlogged and bobbing in unfamiliar locations; large, foreboding boulders carried along by an unforgiving storm and dumped outside unsuspecting portals; cars, bikes and dumper trucks carried along like balsa wood toys and unceremoniously scattered within the many rivers, the heaving mud and sands of these waters and the Caribbean Sea; landslides of mud taking away part of a community in Petite Savanne,  who were peacefully slumbering in the watery embrace of Erika and having no awareness that their last inhaled and submerged breaths would be their conclusion to their diverse lives.

The solitary images of Dominica, with scant attention from the world media and the sometimes glaring mistake of geography with that OTHER Dominica, was really only pushed forward by the proud daughters and sons of the soil - who live inside and within the sizeable areas of the Diaspora -who made the world know that the Commonwealth of Dominica DOES indeed exist, and that they, as a small island will rise and reunite once again; this was their rallying cry in the aftermath of the destruction. For me, my realisation  and my status as being an ' outsider' but married to a proud son of the soil -who  by the way decided to return back to his homeland  after living in Europe for several years, where he was sick and tired of bolstering 'foreign', when his beloved country needed his support - and  after nearly three years of living in Dominica the storm helped me to eliminate my own  romantic veil that had me covering my eyes to see, that indeed, Dominica is extremely underdeveloped,  is not really prepared for natural disasters, is systematically riddled with poverty and varying levels of inequalities when it comes with access to health and employment (the statistics for unemployment is very high), with a very weak infrastructure and, in my own subjective  opinion,  a completely inept and incompetent government, lead by an indecisive and weak leader.

These have been some of the images that still pierce the innards of my soul. That has still stayed with me. A month anniversary of Tropical Storm Erika has come and gone. People on social media, out on the streets and elsewhere are still talking about it. This time it was different though. When Hurricane David literally blew the galvanized roofs, houses and other movable objects to oblivion  in 1979,  nearly thirty six years ago to the day on unexpected islanders,  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social  media networks did not exist. The internet was just a pixel of somebody's imagination. The impact of social media has been phenomenal on giving the Commonwealth of Dominica it's rightful voice. It is a voice, I hope of redemption, hopefully of salvation, truth and reality of what has to be faced in the aftermath.
It seems like only yesterday that I was receiving Lime mobile alerts warning me about "Tropical Storm Danny". The gender  of the storm had changed, but what it had engendered for Dominica was complete disaster and devastation.

Although there has been a chorus for unity and the rebuilding of the country, I will remain distant and observant and watch Dominica from the shores of Guadeloupe. Time will tell, just like the precious time it will take to build up my beloved, adopted country, Waitikubuli, 'Tall is Her Body'.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Disappointed in Dominica

The Musing and Words of a UK African Woman Living In London.: Thoughts From The Other Side of the Postcard #2

Thoughts From The Other Side of the Postcard #2

Right now I am sitting in a cafe in Mero. It is a hot, sunny afternoon in the Commonwealth of Dominica, and it's the annual 'Reggae on the Beach'. Today is special though, because the event is a fundraiser for the DAPD - a really worthy cause and I applaud the owner, Frederique, of the popular eatery, Romance Cafe, on this beach for taking the much needed initiative for bringing the many disabilities that face some Dominicans out from the shadows and into the clear light.Sadly, it seems that disabilities are somewhat kept hidden within this society, so it's nice to see their visibility, if albeit for a day.
As my vision becomes further accustomed to my surroundings, my awareness is sharpened by the differences between the 'privileged' and the 'underprivileged'. The differences are in plain black and white -  excuse the pun- and this pains me so much. The remnants of colonialism lingers like an unwanted odour, and the consequences of this are very real to see.

I innerstand that other people's joys and ultimately privilege should not be a beacon to my dissatisfaction and unfairness that I constantly see played, like a broken DVD player, before my eyes, but there is  a real and nagging sense of inequalities on this paradise tropical island, and its  is glaring, just like the bright sun rays bouncing off the Caribbean Sea. It's impossible not to see the real chasms of poverty that I sometimes  see on this island.

 As more and more privileged folk move here, to make Dominica  their final place of destination- where they can afford to build palatial mansions deep within the fresh interior of the verdant and abundant rainforest, or high up, within the precipes of their privilege -  some of the poor folk of the island have to live in plywood huts, fortified by galvanised roofing , sometimes clinging on the waterfronts of abandoned beaches, dotted with derelict and functional fishing vessels. On the same token, there are Dominicans who have built wonderful, pastel coloured homes in the many luscious locations that they call home after being away from home for many years. This in no means eliminates the dignity and pride that these citizens may have in their humble abodes,  but there is clearly  disparities displayed with the 'haves' and 'have nots' in my beloved adopted country.  These same mansions, built on steady foundations of mountainous landscapes tend to  look down condescendingly on some of  these shanty roadside parishes dotted throughout the island; and the hopelessness I witness of young, unemployed youth, sitting on stoops or  older men, who maybe cannot access their farming lands or plots,  frequenting the many rums shops in the neighbourhoods is a wake up call to this intense poverty. I can validate this claim, as I pass these places on a daily basis, thus I cannot escape this dismal reality as I drive with my husband, on the way to Roseau.
About a week and a half ago, an article was posted up on a website The site is geared towards independent travellers  and was entitled "Disappointed in Dominica". It caused some controversy amongst Dominicans living here and the diaspora, because the author spoke about poverty - although this was not the purpose of the article. He really wrote about being disappointed about being a tourist on a cruise ship and not having enough time in enjoying the sights and additionally, the lack  of organisation around some of these tourist sites. From my innerstanding of the article, he just merely touched on the issue of poverty, however, unfortunately this is what the commentators seemed to zero on in. I wholeheartedly agree with a lot of the commentators points being made about his limited capacity about  being a cruise ship tourist and  that it is virtually impossible to see the natural abundance and beautiful natural sights of  of the 'nature isle' in this particular capacity. I also see the implications that can be assumed when talking from his privileged stance as the ' an island struggling with poverty and trying to accomodate tourism'.He further asserted that 
'the island's infrastructure just isn't able to handle the amount of visitors it is receiving.'In my opinion, he is correct on both accounts. What was sad, after reading a lot of the comments were the myopia that some of these commentators  chose to use when it comes to the obvious poverty on this island.

 Its real!

This is an island that used to be known for its agriculture. It was an island that had abundance of crops - bananas was their gold - before agriculture stopped being the main event and where tourism has inconsistently taken over.
Where, during tourist seasons I see loads and loads of buses parked by the port in Fond Cole, or the bayside in Roseau, with gigantic cruises, that could swallow up Roseau  - waiting to see if they can pick up tourists to take them totourist  sites, such as Trafalgar Falls, Champagne Reef and other such splendor sites.  Nonetheless, when the tourists come in on the cruise ships - either in Roseau, Fond Cole Harbour or Portsmouth - they have already booked their package trips. Consequently, the local bus drivers lose out, even when they try to sell their laminated dreams on size A4 papers. I have since found out that a lot of these bus drivers used to be farmers. Make of that what you will.

I talk with my husband, who was born on this beautiful island about the golden years of agriculture in Dominica. He has so many stories about the days, when he was growing up, about the plentiful of crops that grew on this island. Now the banana industry has been ruined by Black Sigatoga disease - further information about this destructive disease can be read here. To hear Dominicans talk about the poor plight of the state of agriculture in Dominica is very sad; in fact it is a daily conversation heard on street corners, in shops, on buses and all around the island. Because agriculture seems to be a non factor here - right from the top of the government - in my opinion, the land loses its wealth. When the land loses its wealth, it then filters down to society. So the complete denial and myopia about not seeing the poverty of the land is worrying and unrealistic.

 Yes, its integral to have a love and pride about your country, but when the inevitable becomes evitable, its important for the rose coloured spectacles to become detached and view what was used to be a certain romantic nostalgia for your country and transform it into cold reality of what is currently  happening in Dominica. In order to view the reality of what is happening in their precious homeland,  its time for some of them to perhaps, spend more than a few weeks in their homeland, before they go back to the comfy confines of the diaspora, and embrace the benefits that they have there and may not get over here for now.  I am not meaning to sound alarmist, but as a writer, I don't want to censor my words and be inauthentic with my opinions, as it is what it is. It is what I am seeing every day, and there does not seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to agriculture.

Poverty is rife here because of the total eradication of the agriculture sector. The unemployment rate is extremely high for the youth. The economy is non-existent. There is a paucity of investors. And no, I am not including the ever growing community of Chinese who are over here, with  their shops which sell inferior goods, without any kind of consumer awareness.

 This country is beautiful in terms of nature, but it has failed agriculture. 

Agriculture used to be the backbone of Waitikubuli (the Kalinago name for Dominica), but now it has a slipped disc. I am optimistic, and I see a clear vision for Dominica, however, it needs some of its sons and daughters of the soil to start returning home to make a difference. Fortunately, I have met some, despite the challenges that they face, they are home.

 Typing furious comments about the realities of your country will not make a difference, especially if you are seeing red through the lens.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Thoughts from the other side of the postcard: Part 1

Some folk think that I  am living the charmed life on the 'Nature Island'. Don't get me wrong, my life style has changed drastically, and all for the better I may add; running  our business, hands on,  and doing something that I have wanted to do for a long time. It seems appropriate that our business is all about nature and wellness - we create our own herbal massage oils and aromatic creams, with herbs and spices either grown on our land, or sourced locally from farmers who do not use any harmful fertilisers or chemicals. We also package dried and fresh herbs. We go out on the streets and sell to the locals and tourists. I feel that I am living my dream!
Check out our Facebook page EnTaise EnTerprises™ for further information. Well, after that quick sponsor advert, let me continue with my blog post!

When I first starting blogging about migrating to The Commonwealth of Dominica, I compared it metaphorically  to wearing an ill fitted, tight jacket. My jacket still feels tight at times, but mostly it is transforming into a better fit, all the way around. At times, when I do my daily reflection and meditation in the morning,  when I have offered up a libation to my ancestors, when the different tropical birds are chriping away  in flowing harmonies,from my wooden shutters or balancing on the rails of our soon to be completed verandah,  where the many small lizards scamper and seek sanctuary from the hot solar rays, where our cat and two dogs dart freely around the land, I I marvel at it all, and the same time, I get a bit perplexed at it all. I mean, here I am, sat in the lap of nature, where the Caribbean Sea is not a mirage, and the many bowing trees of moringa, the great big mango tree, sandwiched against our soursop tree, the trailing passion fruits, which constantly carpet the soft, rich earth earth, where plants and plants of wonderful smelling, aromatic basil, succulent plants of aloe vera, peeking scarlets of tomatoes, heads and heads of lettuce, and other vital crops, lovingly cultivated by my husband's hands; where the tall palm of our coconut tree - where coconut water is drank - instead of purchasing it from a shop, and the soft jelly flesh of this nut is devoured hungrily by my husband and myself,  I am in awe. Absolute awe and cradled in the abyss of paradise.

But, on the other side of this postcard of my thoughts is my perplexion thoughts, on why there is not any manufacturing plants to capture the amazing resources from this land, the high rate of unemployment of youth, the continuing plague of the rise of alcoholism and the slow emergence of crack cocaine, the disenfranchised people left to accelerating poverty because agriculture on this precious island has been abandoned due to the political ramifications of it all, on how the cost of living on this island is exhorbitantly expensive. The economy is virtually non-existent  -except for the small  Chinese community, who dominiate the majority of business in Roseau and the environs , In addition  a recently voted administration who have constantly been accused of corruption and other negative deeds within the land  - check Dominica News Online, which gives some indication of how people feel about Dominica, and some who are attempting to advocate for change. I won't go too much into the political aspect however, suffice to say, it does not look too good for democracy. But hey...

I remember, as a  young girl, just reaching the milestone of my puberty, that I did not want to live in the UK when I got older. It wasn't due to any conscious thoughts at all, I just felt that I did not really belong there. Since that time, I have had paradoxical notions about my 'Britishness, and how my identity ties within all of this. I just knew that I wanted to marry somebody who did not live in the UK. I wanted to be with a man who was either from Africa or the Caribbean and who would mirror my thoughts. It took a long, long time. But I guess, when you have that belief, that nagging intuition, it finally manifests. Well, it did for me, albeit, it took me two children, studying for two degrees, stress, heartache and then joy to finally manifest into my reality.

I was briefly chatting to a brother on Facebook earlier on today. I think, in his own way, inspired me to write this blog post. He told me that what I did was an inspiration for others to follow my lead; and to also bridge the gap between the diaspora and  the motherland. I know that fear sometimes takes us out of the equation to literally step out on faith. Fear, I know, has kept me back from my dreams. But as I sit here,with the brillant sunshine pouring truimphantly  through my mosquito screen, and when I stand up, I can actuallysee the Caribbean Sea, sparkling like jewels, I give thanks to the fierce Goddess within me, that never gave up on my dreams - even when there were negative forces against my husband and myself to abandon them. I give thanks to my ancestors, to whose shoulders I balance on a daily basis, who keep me humbled.

I do not see myself as a pioneer. I just listened to my growing intuition  -which has grown even sharper whilst living in Waitukubuli. I know its the spirit of my ancestors, who are gently guiding me towards the direction that I was meant to live. My late mama was born in Nigeria, I was born in London, and I am now living in the Caribbean. Make of that what you will.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Changes...Can also be challenges as well

The other day I was going through my news feed on Facebook, and out of the many inspirational picture images I saw was this one, and it jumped out at me. I had to read it many times as it was brillant and so true:

" You can't spell challenge without change"

This hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks, and something that has become so relevant and authentic to me lately.

Ever since I have moved to my newly adopted country, The Commonwealth of Dominica, I have hardly, hardly any kind of contact with my family - my siblings and other members of my extended family. I just want to insert here that  these circumstance have been external, it is not something that has happened in isolation. This has been  gathering whirlpools of stagnant water over many years. And now, I wish to put a filter on it - and start cleansing and healing myself from this pain and disappointment.

  Now, those of you who are aware of the meaning of my name, I have a twin. In the Yoruba culture, twins are revered; even the mothers have a special twin name given to them when their twins are born: 'Mama Ibeji'. 
 Well, what has happened to my twin? I did not invite her to one of the most amazing experiences in my life - my marriage. That should give you, the reader, an understanding where I have stood ( and ultimately fallen) with my twin. There was a genuine reason for this. I had no regrets then, as I have no regrets now, several years later.

Our family is not  great on support at all, as the dysfunctional contributing factors including  envy, resentment and umitigated rage from certain sectors of my family, have attempted and succeeded to  block this change. I can hold up my hand in this lack of support towards my family, as I have also been part of this dysfunctional tumour, by being on the front seat and not wanting to 'rock the boat' due to fear of what other members of my family would think of me, or say to me at the time. However, I cut off  this cancerous tumour when I moved thousands of miles away. I needed to get away for my own sanity and I am glad that I did.I  have been through traumatic times, but I have overturned them and literally come through the fire, to dust myself off from the molten ashes that have attempted to stain and tarnish my character. 

Instead of elevating me, and applauding this brave and pioneer move that I have made to the other side of the world, without any kind of family support and  family network, there have been  some family members who have had underlying hatred and undeserved resentment thrown onto my path. Thus, my journey has been an obstacle of   barbed pieces of wire,  constantly reminding me of the pain that I have endured on my path. But, as I write these words, what did I expect? A person who is unable to help themselves, cannot help or support others. When a person speaks of themselves as a healer and they are still expunging their own kind of pain onto other people, then they are still within their  healing process and cannot heal other peoples broken spirits, until they heal their own. Take note my twin sister...

I remember, when I initially came to reside in Dominica, people just assumed that my family were from here; that my bloodlines flowed so smoothly, just like the 363 rivers and streams that are on this beautiful, tropical island.  I mean, I am from the same tree in a sense, but the branches are different. I was always told that my husband is my family. At first, I rejected this idea, as I wanted to include my twin - I mean, we existed together for nine months in a womb, we reluctantly dressed alike until my sister willingly left - but after seeing her nasty disposition before I left the country and the pretence that I kept up with it in order to gain some kind of semblance and attachement with her, I just let it go. But after today, she is symbolically dead to me. I will not go into the whole extent why I had to make this indelible decision. Suffice to say, I am glad I have. I feel like a weight has been dropped from my shoulders. I feel that decades of pain and guilt that she has consciously pushed onto my burdened shoulders and fragile spirit has flown away. I feel free from anger, resentment, envy and ultimately, hatred from my twin sister.I no longer feel pain, I just feel a sense of relief. I feel sorrow for our lost cord, our connection, which when I think about it was severed from an early stage, when she decided to leave my mama's home, (age 12) because my mother's tongue was too strict. Because she didn't want to be disciplined by a strong Nigerian/Yoruba woman who had her best interests at heart. So, with the reverence of twins in our culture, she broke the golden rule. I think she has been trying to play catch up since.

I used to shrug at the idea that you cannot choose your family , but you can chose your friends. 
However, this is about change, and I am about to undergo  a huge shift in this trend. So, my organic and holistic family consists of  my husband, Enson Williams,  my two young men, Benjamin and Akin, and my younger brother, Tayo. That is fine for me. This is my new definition of family.

So now, after really reflecting on it, and because it is a really hard challenge to face, it has made me see clearly now, where I can truly feel the change of redemption from this bondage that has held me down for so many years regarding my family. I can forgive, because in all of that, I LET GO. And in my letting go, I give permission for all of  the family dramas, the dysfunctionality, the guilt, the pain, the envy, the pettiness, the divisiveness and all the other negative elements of my family,  to just leave... To get gone! My vision has become clarified through this mind blowing change.

And so shall it be.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

There is no place like home... or is there?

Like Dorothy, in ‘The Wizard of Oz’, I want to click my proverbial ruby heels at times and murmur the lines ‘there’s no place like home’ to be whisked away, just like Dorothy, to home and her comforts of home.  Sometimes, I want to go back to the ‘home’ that I sometimes miss. But then, like Dorothy, I eventually wake up, stare at the ocean that is within my view, and thank my ancestors that I am here for a reason, even when the thought of ‘home’ becomes a site of comfort to me. 

The primary theme to my uncompleted novel is what the notion of ‘home’ is to my protagonist, so I am quite versed in the contradictions that I am always facing when it comes to this pertinent issue for me. 

I often try to conjure up what the notion of ‘home’ really means to me. I over stand, that my constant analysis of what ‘home’ is always shifting and transforming; thus my notion of ‘home’ is always a constant change for me. When I look from it from the perspective of an Afrikan woman, born to a Yoruba, Nigerian woman, born in the capital of the UK,  then my notion of ‘home’ means to me – and let me just stress here, as it’s subjective to me – as being an ‘outsider’. I never felt that any stage in my life that I ‘belonged’ in the UK. I went through the motions of carving my education, a career and just being ‘present’, but there was always the questions of me belonging. My sense of belonging was always inconsistent to me. However, when I have my moments of deep reflection and meditation, and looking into my own lens of reality, together with my sometimes chaotic upbringing,  I have this almost contradictory feeling of what the UK represents to me. It’s all I have known. All I will know – for now.

My reality is that I am far, far, far away from home. The ironic thing in all of this is that this place, residing here in the village of Salisbury (the birth of my husband) , part of St Joseph’s parish, in the Commonwealth of Dominica, is  starting to feel like the only true home that I have had. I do not have family here, but every time I look into the face of a Dominican, I feel that I am ‘home’, and I am not even touching on the fact that I have been told that I resemble a family member!

I moved around so much in my life. I was a gypsy before having any kind of over standing and notion what it meant to me. My life has been made up of nomadic wandering over the years. I guess I have been overcompensating and trying my damn hardest to place an anchor on this shifting base which I called ‘home’. 

With my two boys, I attempted to make a ‘home’, but I still was kept afloat, constantly moving, every year or so, on my baseless foundation and my lack of over standing in demanding decent social housing, when I fitted, like a jigsaw puzzle,  into the criteria. But due to my rebel spirit, I didn’t permit anyone to dictate where and how I should live – be it on the twenty second floor of a tower block in an impoverished neighbourhood, or deserving of better residential standards to bring my children up; I decided on the latter.  I tried so hard, but there is one thing that I can say that I proudly achieved with my sons though. Through all of the upheaval of my relentless moving, they were fortunate enough to keep their own personal anchors with their fathers; my precious boys were able to attend to the same schools – throughout their formative years. So now, they can proudly state that they have the same friends from high school, which is something that I wished that I had.

 So even  with the one constant wheel, on my sturdy caravan, I was  trying to get and maintain some kind of semblance in my wanderlust  life, I never wanted my boys to go through what I went through growing up. Because of my constant moving around, I never had the chance to make genuine and sincere friends in school. I never had a high school crush; I was never ‘the most popular’, simply because I was on ‘the move’ all the time, so the roots to my growing up eventually became frayed and ultimately, abandoned. My growing pains suffered immensely due to my sense of not belonging to my peer group. This was keenly evident to me when I attended a reunion several years back, and some folk forgot that I had even existed! What can I say? *Laughing*

After literally half of my life spent in the UK, primarily in London, I then took the absolute conviction to pack up and move to a small, tropical island on the other side of the world at the end of 2012. I had nothing to burden me down; my emotional luggage that I had kept tightly and solidly  wrapped up , which accompanied me on my many journeys were discarded. I can really relate to Erykah Badu’s classic song, ‘Bag Lady’, because I was dragging around all of my bags and I needed to release a lot of them and just ‘let go’ - and I did.
 My sons have grown up – one is working full time and the other will be graduating next year from university. I miss them tremendously, but fortunately with the plethora of social media, I can keep in touch with them with a flick of a button, thousands of emoticons to convey my love and my dry sense of humour and a scroll of a mouse.

Why did I move to a country that I had only visited in the past? It starts with L and ends with E. Yes, L-O-V-E carried me all the way to these shores. Although my husband had lived in Europe - Netherlands to be precise - before I met him, I still encountered some negative naysayers who assumed that I was only returning due to his ‘immigration status and restrictions’. So far from the truth that a hiccup of a giggle and an upturn of my lips into a smile would invariably appear every time I would tell these naysayers the undiluted truth. Sometimes I didn’t have the energy and just let them bathe, like asses, in their ignorance that they proudly wore as priced pieces of designer wear.  It is so humorous to me how assumptions are created, only to realise that the truth will always prevail; and the truth has set me free. Let me just explicitly state at this juncture:

My husband obtained his EU passport a long time before I was manifested into his existence; before my soul had captured his heart and my name had lingered on his heavily Dominican accented tongue - so there! 

My husband is a creature of nature – literally. His spirit was rapidly declining because he could no longer be in the crux of the natural habitat that he grew up in. He could no longer feel the grit of soil beneath his strong fingernails that were starting to peel, due to the lack of Vitamin D. He could no longer speak a language that was oppressing his tongue and be part of a system which was depleting his spirit; in a system where his invisibility as a Black male was countered with pernicious stereotypes of a dreadlocked man, who raised his children singlehandedly, in a system that psychologically kidnapped his two biological, Afrikan children – too long for me to go into here, but maybe another blog post… All of this added to his own upheaval from a land that wanted to hold him down and imprison his senses, so he made the correct decision to make his own personal odyssey to finally return back to his rightful home. 

After we both decided to make this  gigantic  move; taking a leap of unadulterated faith,  and  after weighing our options of the pros and cons - the advantages far outweighed the other - we wholeheartedly decided to marry – it wasn’t a whirlwind romance either, as we had been previously been  ‘courting’ long-distance for six years –we had a wonderful and simple ceremony, which was attended by selected close, authentic friends and a bare minimum of family members, so there were no levels of toxicity, but instead, a whole heap of loving vibrations throughout our lovely ceremony.

So now, I sit here, on the veranda, peering out at the Caribbean Sea, as the warm fingers of the solar rays reflects on the surface like prized diamonds, and ‘home’ almost becomes my jewel in my crown,   Sometimes, the feelings of being homesick almost engulf me, however,  like the tender waves of the sea, it ebbs and flows like the tide, as I continue to daydream of what ‘home’ really means to me, and how it can comfort me in a land, that although is beautiful and full of natural splendour and calming energies, it is  still, at times paradoxically  ‘foreign’ to me.