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.

 

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.

A Diaspora’s choice: Engage or Retreat

I belong to the Earth

A Diaspora's Choice: Engage or Retreat

Every time I move, my family and I go through an anxious period of anticipation where we try to imagine what the new place will be like. Dogged by questions that only experience of the place can answer such as:

What will the new place be like?

Who will be our friends when we get there?

Will we like them?

Will they like us?

Will we fit in?

What will be our activities?

Having relocated three times, with one of those moves being across continents, I have began to see a pattern in the approach I have implemented to integrate into any new environment. At first I didn’t see a pattern but later, and probably because it worked, I did.  It’s a pattern born out of the desire to fit into whatever society I find myself in. It is a pattern driven by the Diaspora in me who wants to have a connection, craves identification and the deep desire of wanting to be part of the whole. Not just a sole entity existing without any particular anchor.

The life of a Diaspora is one characterized by their past. Circumstances which play an integral role in shaping our world view. In some instances making us more sensitive to stimulus around us and in others making us determined to transcend the adverse conditions that for some have led to our being where we are.

One such pattern I identified was at first subconscious but in retrospect, I realized was strategic in implementing swift integration into the society I was trying to be a part off. I drove around getting to know the layout of the area.   I found myself paying special attention to areas having international stores or restaurants. I also looked out for farmer’s markets.  Fresh produce enabled me to have the foods that reminded me of whence I came for they filled the unique void that only the smells and foods from my past could satisfy.

And then there was the social scene.  Carefully, I researched where other members of Diaspora spent their leisure time; I found them and created a separate social scene from my usual work environment.

In time, I had two entities; one that lived in the American world. Characterized by my nine to five friends. With my nine to five friends we had lunch, talked about work, inquired about their dogs and children and occasionally had drinks after work. Then there was the other me. The one that danced to traditional music from back home. The other me that went to functions from other cultures. The other me that cooked the foods I didn’t take to work except on diversity day.  The two world’s rarely colliding and when they did it was carefully orchestrated with open-minded nine to five friends meeting open-minded Diaspora friends.

And somewhere in the middle was the real me that wanted both worlds to gel together.

To seamlessly exist where I didn’t have to explain one world to the other.

With each new relocation, I found myself caring less and less whether one world bled into the other. While in the beginning I didn’t welcome all the questions regarding my origins, I later found myself sharing more and more.  The more I shared,  the less I cared whether the two world’s met. So what if the two world’s met? So what if one world didn’t understand the other world? In time they either would or not tolerate each other, leaving only those who dared know something new about another world, person, and culture.

Members of the Diaspora are faced with two choices. Either to be ambassadors of their culture and origin or to give up, retreat  and shut away from the world which they find themselves. The choice for a member of the Diaspora is not easy; either engage or retreat.

So which one is it for you?

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