An Immigrant’s Allegory of Running

The morning chill threatens to frost my lungs as I cut a  steady path through the tree line. Defiantly, I ignore the plea from my feet as they will themselves to stop.  I am reminded of how many challenges I have had to overcome to be where I am today. Like when I left my birth country 12 years ago  to go to school and didn’t know what I would find on the other side of the world. How I had to remind myself all would be well even if I didn’t know when I would see my parents next.

kenyans. beating ass.

No that's not me.. Its what I wish I looked like when I run

Looking around when I run, I am reminded I am just a piece in the puzzle of the big picture of life.  Awed by the raw beauty of tall pines towering over me, I find myself marveling at just how small I am and how much I really don’t have control over things. I know as I run that there is a bigger hand at work.

The pitter patter of my rubber soles as they have a personal conversation with the paved trail drum a rhythm on the blacktop. The ebb and flow of the rhythm is a direct reflection of the highs and lows of my life. Times when I have been pleased with how things are going like when I finally went back to see my parents after 10 years and lows like when I lost my job or that late night..uhh…. ‘conversation’ I once had with the boys in blue.

Excruciating pain from complaining muscles cut through my senses and for a moment all I can do is be with the pain until it is gone. Just like I had to somehow exist within the uncertainty that is life as an immigrant. When I didn’t know how I would pay for my rent, or school fees. When the fast talking accents of the deep south seemed to spew out a garbled array of sound that passed for English. As I forced my tongue to lighten and my mouth to ‘enunciate’ so I could be heard.  Struggling at first, and accepting finally that the different me would ultimately have to do. In the pain of running, I am reminded every time- that everything passes. Instead of resisting, I embrace it. I know it’s here for a while and it too shall pass. So I push on and after a while it’s gone and I am back to the place when I began, where I was hopeful yet uncertain. I am back to the beginning when I was full of dreams and I am convinced that I will continue trying and pushing on.

When I run, I am reminded of how human I am. It’s my way of getting in touch with my weaknesses and my strengths. Through running, I am reminded that I am on a journey. I am only a small piece of a bigger picture. That as everything comes to pass, I too will be gone one day and I can only participate as much or as little as I can.

 

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Diaspora Banter Part 1:Dog Talk

Trying to assimilate into a new culture can be tricky for a member of the Diaspora.  Subtle cultural nuances such as mastering the skill to conduct random banter can be more challenging than the more obvious cultural shifts one must make when trying to mingle with their new neighbors.  In America for example, conducting meaningless small talk is an integral part of getting to know each other and is a skill that must be cultivated and natured if a Diaspora has any hope of interacting ad becoming Americanized.

There is hope however, for those who find it difficult to engage in the activity of small talk in order to appear more open and accessible to others.  To conduct small talk, one must find a topic that is safe to for the participants to engage in. At this point it is important that I mention that any topic that might involve actually knowing the details of one’s life is off-limits. Steer away from any references towards physical appearances; these attract lawsuits because of the real emotions they evoke. All personal details must  be volunteered without any prompting.

My dog Poligraf Poligrafovich

Dog Talk for Diaspora

In the process of enculturation, a Diaspora must get comfortable with filling every silent space with information whether it’s relevant or not. This is called being outgoing. Years of engaging in small talk have yielded one topic that is a sure-fire way to create a connection and possible camaraderie. A Diaspora must squelch the need to create meaningful friendships as this is rare but can happen if you continue to engage in meaningless small talk. It’s in the form of Dog Talk.

Vast numbers of Americans own dogs. . Lovingly cared for, the lucky canines receive undivided attention, affection and are coddled sometimes even more than humans.  Some studies have even shown that companionship from dogs has the effect of reducing stress levels among Americans.

So it is no surprise then that striking up Dog Talk can be responsible for creating the kind of small talk that is necessary to get to know your neighbors. To perfect the skill, it is perhaps best to try it out on Random strangers walking dogs. This is important because you must communicate genuine interest in a topic that you might have absolutely no knowledge or interest in. Later, once you have learned to appear interested, you can try it out on your coworkers and neighbors.

Most Americans don’t mind carrying out conversations about their dogs to perfect strangers because they love their dogs so much and can’t wait to display this to any and everyone.  Asking specific questions about dogs is a great way to create lengthy conversation. Don’t worry if you don’t understand what a ‘shetland sheepdog’  is. Most dog owners don’t care whether you know the difference. They just feel the need to tell you so that you too can celebrate the existence of their most beloved companion.

It is important however, not to be intimated by the vast amounts of information you may receive about dogs when you are getting to know your new neighbors. Sprinkling affirmatives is imperative because otherwise you risk losing an enthusiastic participant. Other questions you might want to ask are: how old the dog is, whether it’s male or female, and even if it’s been neutered.

If you are a Diaspora and are a neighbor to someone owning a dog, you must ask to pet the dog. This was difficult for me in the beginning because of a latent fear I had developed from unsavory experiences with wild dogs in Africa. American dogs are trained to be nice.  Some may  nip at you, some may be  too boisterous with their play but owners will generally tell you if you can pet them. This way they can continue to display how knowledgeable they are about their pets.

If you are a Diaspora who works with someone who has pictures of their dog on their desk, they want you to comment on the picture. It will yield more conversation than if you attempt to just ask them to tell you about themselves. Because most dogs reside inside the house with their owners, and are therefore

taken out on walks every morning or evening. Taking a walk during these times, will make you accessible to your neighbors so that you can engage in more conversations that will endear you to them.

In a culture beleaguered with small talk, a Diaspora must learn to engage in it no matter how uncomfortable the experience may be for them. I must say that as resistant as I was in the beginning, I found myself engaging in meaningless banter almost on a daily basis and has made people refer to me with adjectives such as friendly, outgoing, and even open despite the absolute lack of really knowing who I am and where I am from.  Without learning this most important skill, a member of the Diaspora has absolutely no hope of successful integration into American society.

Dare to make a Difference! Get Inspired by the likes of Wangari Maathai

Wangari Maathai

The Great Wangari Maathai

Wangari Maathai was undoubtedly a great person. Her activism in saving the environment was underscored by her earning a Nobel Laureate, making her the first African woman to hold that honor. Distinguishing herself, she established an unprecedented culture of respect for the environment and became an activist for women’s issues.  Her passing leaves a deep gaping void that one can’t help but wonder whether it will be filled by anyone?

Will Mathai’s passing  give rise to other passionate individuals who will champion causes that are for the good of all? Or will the flurry of R.I.P messages, videos, status updates all give way to the next big newsworthy item?

The social networking phenomenon has given rise to the age of the pseudo caring generation. Every time something takes place, a flurry of thought provoking status and tweets rain down the walls of the post driven social forums. Deep introspective quotes and messages, designed to show how reflective people are, are the norm.  And once one is given the thumbs up or acknowledged for their updates, very rarely will there be a follow up on how one has actually done something that is inspired by the likes of Wangari Maathai.

Will the passing of the likes of Wangari Maathai really give rise to action driven individuals who will go beyond self-aggrandizement?  Or will social media continue to offer the protection of anonymity  for people who in reality just go about the daily routines of their lives once they have expressed their shock over her passing?

People like Wangari Maathai and other greats, didn’t need social media to make a difference. They never posted a tweet or face book update to show what they cared for. Wangari Maathai and other like her just got up and took action.  Caring for a cause that means something to you and taking the necessary steps to do something about it, is what makes a difference. Further still, it doesn’t matter how many people know about it. Simply doing it for the good it brings to the world is reward enough.

So I say unto you, oh avid face book status people and tweeterers, enough with the dramatic attestations of how much you will miss Wangari’s work. Get up and do something that you really care about and which will make this world a better place. Perhaps it’s as simple as just going over to your neighbor and giving her/him a hand. No one has to know about it. And once you do that thing that makes a difference, resist with all your might the overwhelming urge to tweet or update your status about it. Just keep doing it for the simple pleasure of making a difference in the world.

All About Diaspora

diaspora logo

What is the Diaspora:  the movement, migration, or scattering of a people away from an established or ancestral homeland.

Moving away from what you have always known puts you in a position to take in new experiences. The experience of establishing a new homeland away from your ancestral land can be an Augean process. In most cases, members of the Diaspora experience challenges that end up making them extremely resilient. In other cases they end up isolated in their transition from a place of familiarity.

This blog will highlight some of the triumphs and challenges experienced by the Diaspora. I have been a member of the American Diaspora for 12 years now. I have lived in Texas, Minnesota and now in the process of transferring to North Carolina. All through the years, the desire to hold on to the inherent qualities that make me who I am and have led me down this path means that for a member of the Diaspora to succeed and find a place in their new environment, they have to acknowledge their past experience that have shaped them into who they are today. The result of which is a more holistic experience of being a global citizen.

Diaspora Girl