Archive for December, 2009

The Wedding Picture That Sits At My Night Stand

December 30, 2009

I look at the wedding pictures my mother gave me-not quite “my” pictures.  My eyes scream “Yes!  I did it” and my smile spreads wide over my joy at the accomplishment seemingly of a lifetime.  Stephen has both his hands clasped around mine holding on for his life.  While I grin as if a wonderful joke has been delivered, he smiles politely to the crowd, playing his part-the husband of Shamika Goddard.

Our matrimonial garbs are like costumes: Chinese black suit with white cuffs for him and a white floral Chinese dress for me.  It is as if we are playing wedding, and putting it on for our friends and family.  Just kids.  I am not even wearing my real hair, I had braids put in.  Might as well have a wig on that states, “I’m not a little girl everyone, I’m a woman now.”

I lean toward the congregation of family and friends, away from the altar, eager to join them as a blushing bride-a wife.  Stephen stands firmly on the steps, lingering on the cusp of his new life, his old one now fading away into nothing.  Despite the lights and white flowers, the garland and the people, he stands as if alone.

Of all the things I will remember that day, I cannot seem to remember his face as I walked down the aisle.  I can recall, and tick off one by one, everything that went wrong, didn’t go as planned, or person who messed up.  But, as far as he and I were concerned, I remember our dance-how he held me close and we swayed as if there were no one else in the room (and my siblings and family weren’t chortling).  The rest of our nite from the honeymoon on, didn’t go so smoothly.  But that dance stands out.  Every headache about the wedding melted away as we moved together pondering our life together.  He may not have cheesed in the pictures or hugged me for all to see after the ceremony, but in that dance he let me and the world know that he was mine, and I his, forever.

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I Missed the Bus (Almost)

December 30, 2009

I was there

She was there

Waitin in line

Put in my order n thought I would be fine

And I was

She was

But it took too long

Cause when I looked

across the street the

bus was almost gone

I almost dropped my fries

tryna get out the door

and left my cell phone

charging at the corner store

Left right left

Left right left

as I crossed the street

I guess the bus could

really up and leave without me

Then I left my ham

burger

Without no

ketchup

And wouldn’t that have been

truly disgusting?

Could somebody plead real

quick with the driver?

If I get stuck in Mattoon

I won’t know what to do.

What to do.

One Day

December 29, 2009

one day all my belongings in the world will be in one place

one day i will wake up and go to bed in a bed i bought every night

one day my job will be a career or profession that has a salary and benefits

one day each of my knickers will have a matching b-strap

one day all of my clothes, even my at home clothes, will be comfortable and accentuate my features instead of highlight my flaws

one day i will be cooking and eating healthy meals daily (because of course, i will be able to afford to)

one day the man i love will be someone who loves me and lives with me

one day i will incorporate girly things into my regular schedule like pedicures and trips to a spa every few months or so

one day i will have the title of “Dr.”

one day i will own my own car

one day i will go to dinner in a beautiful dress with fabulous shoes and flawless makeup and jewelry with the man who loves me and lives with me and turn heads

one day i will help create and nurture life with the man who loves me and lives with me

one day my hair will be all the way down my back

one day i will hang out with my sisters and brother and mom and neice and nephew and mike … at a disney land resort

one day the people i know and love will actually be sent christmas cards, handwritten naturally, from me and my family

one day i will be asked to dance

one day i will travel to an exotic location with a very good friend

one day i will publish a book

one day i will stand in front of hundreds and speak, and they will all have wanted to be there just to hear it

one day i will die and people i knew will go to celebrate my home coming and on that day i hope that of all the things i had hoped i would have accomplished by the time i left the earth i would have at least been able to love and be loved

The Inevitable List

December 29, 2009

Though I should be sleeping, I am restless. I feel as though I quit smoking and am in desperate need of a drag. New Year’s Resolutions made me feel like such a quitter in the past. Now, I don’t bother with them. Every day is a New Day, so instead I celebrate in them and do my best with the time that I am given.

After looking back over the pain that was 2006, memories greet me which I had forgotten were there. I am reminded of the hardships, the heartbreaks, the unfairness, the sadness, the anger, the grief, and the loneliness. While I can count my blessings in health both in myself and my family, that is the only good thing about the year, that I and those I care about, survived.

You know, people go through a lot of horrible things in life, disease, death, poverty, oppression, torture, famine, and the list goes on. Just to put my problems in perspective, I am on the other side of a tumlutuous twelve months believing that I am a victor and not a victim.

To avoid reliving the year, I could provide highlights instead, but even that would be painful. The highlights of the year could be summed up in three seperate yet interconnecting situations:

Marital stress btw myself and Stephen and his friends (yes they were a factor…NOT a cause but certainly involved)

Financial stress with the summer’s purchases and credit use

Academically having to put my senior year on hold

The fact that I am not looking at two more quarters before graduation, that I won’t be walking the stage with the people I have walked this path with up to this point. The realization that I will have to return to California and do one full year possibly alone.

After having spent most of my life with most of my life ” in order” and “on track” and “in the zone” the entire year has been a complete deviation from that. The friends I have who I have seen more than once since I left campus: TWO. I can only hope that by the end of the year my finances will be where I want them.

I am working a job, building a business, and applying for another job and soon will be certified in tax preparation. There is a lot on my plate and thanks to 2006 I am a different person. I was a worker bee, a people pleaser, a “do whatever it takes” “put my best foot forward” kind of gal. Now….

Wow, I haven’t listened to music in a while. Its been ages. I almost get a kick out of having launch on in the background and hearing the music that’s out and about at the moment. I started with Death Cab but now its on some other band. Anyway, I would like to return to high school, or perhaps the summer before my freshman year in college. Its no use thinking of the past in a way that makes you resent being in the present, but its kind of hard.

I need a puppy or something. Since I can’t have a kid, and my poor plant Antionette may or may not be living in my apartment on campus, and the sad alpha fish Beni was taken from me by neglectful siblings, I’ve got nowhere to pour my extra love and devotion. I used to “stalk” guys in high school, watch them in between classes, if I shared a class with them then during class I’d watch, then at home I would think about them. The point is, I could focus on my classes or homework then switch to my crushes and have hours of time in my head. Now, there isn’t much up there besides my husband, my business, and my problems.

I tried picking up one person hobbies, learning a new language, repicking up knitting, reading new kinds of books, and now I am just rambling.

I forgot how great it was to just listen to music. Now, I try to only listen to postive encouraging tapes, cds, and broadcasts. Not that that stuff isn’t cool or anything, but this music is like a soothing balm to my mind.

It would be cool to have a secret second life. Like being a superhero at night, flying the skies of San Antonio and the surrounding area keeping the streets safe and the kids in line. I would totally have a cape and special boots that I could wear all night and not get sore feet from. My costume would be pants and a top with a utility belt and perhaps a rope or whip of some kind.

I could be the black cat. Wait, Halle Berry already did the whole black chic in a cat suit and ruined it for the rest of us. Alright so scratch the cat idea.

I couldn’t do an afro seventies thing because I do not need to further aid blaxploitation anymore than it already is. So the fish tank heels and dashiki are out.

I should sleep, I am sleepy but not tired. I have a headache. These typed words are the only ones around to hear me. How sad. 😦 I feel bad when Stephen feels bad about hanging out with his friends. I am glad he has people to spend his time with besides me. I don’t expect us to spend all of our time together. I should definitely find another hobby. A baby is not something used to fill a void or something to do cause everyone else is doing. So that’s out.

I thought about doing favors for money. Having guys take me around on their arm and pay me for my time. I am told that’s illegal, being an escort, but all that other stuff wouldn’t be on my list of services.

Now my headaches just talking.

I can remember a time when music would take me places. I would hear the first few cords or mouth the first few words and be spirited away to another world. Another life. I always envisioned a very simple life for myself. I’m talking cottage in the hills of sweden on a farm blind and deaf with a braille bible. Well, at times anyway. For the most part, I wanted to work at a job, have a home, a working car, a library card, and a guy. I wouldn’t mind a small house, as long as I paid it off quickly. I wouldn’t mind an older car as long as it was safe and reliable. I wouldn’t mind a monotonous job, as long as I had enough to pay bills and have like twenty or so left over. I did not want a lot of complication. Who does? Few people like operating in a crazy hectic schedule. Even though I operated best when my plate was full, I did so with the understanding that one day I would have nothing but my task at work to focus on.

I also used to use books to escape, to live out another life, someone else’s rises and falls. Not too many of those lying around these days.

Crazy, I Was Crazy Once…

December 29, 2009

It has been such a long time since I’ve written anything. Or perhaps I should use the proper vernacular-long time since I have blogged anything. Reading back over those last entries took me right back to those moments, those feelings, and those thoughts. I fancied myself a good writer, interesting, and well versed. Now there have been so many changes in my life, I wonder if I have the strength, courage, and patience to tell it all.

How do you describe going crazy? It’s like a panic attack, anxiety attack, loosing your very grip on reality for one provided by your mind. My mind, filled with vengeance for not being allowed to rest, concocted a series of false truths from which I drew my incorrigible conclusions about the world around me. To say simply that I was not sleeping enough does not quite describe the ongoing rat race I ran for nearly 20 hours at a time interrupted with 3-6 hours a night of dead sleep. The kind of sleep where you are asleep before your head hits the pillow. Your body turns and does not bother with comfort as your mind speeds past REM toward rest before the carefully selected ring tone chimes the end of another chance.

At the time building up to my stay in the mental ward of a hospital, I was working 40 hours a week full-time 8 to 5, working my business at least 6 hours, looking for time to spend with my family, and making time for my husband. If I lay down to rest and I did not fall asleep immediately, I quickly deduced that I was not tired and thus needed to do something constructive like finish unpacking the apartment. There were some days during the month and a half I lived this way that I went to work with one hour of sleep.

The job I worked was perfect for me. I did the same exact monotonous tasks everyday including a “field trip” to the bank and post office. I liked having a desk with computer, a break room, my boss being right there in the cubicle next to me. The credit department at least was in a room at the end of the building. I was always polite and up beat with everyone there but I believe I was not fully accepted. Maybe because I was so young and hopeful, cheery, or perhaps it was because I tried to gain new customers from the pool of co-workers. Either way, I just knew, behind the “smiles” and quaint “hello”s and “goodbye”s there was not an open armed acceptance of me.

At any rate, the week before my episode I was working my business and working my job with even less sleep. The stresses of my life at the time also included trying to purchase a plane ticket online and only having the use of one vehicle while my husband worked nights and I worked days. That Saturday was a big day for my business, luncheon and meeting, and that Sunday I was visiting a different church with a good friend. So on Friday 13th of April I left work with high hopes for the weekend and never knowing that my life balance would never be the same again.

to be continued….

What Color Is My Parachute? ROYGBIV!

December 29, 2009

when i was younger, my mother had a typewriter, it was black with gray keys and very nice. i liked the feeling of the keys pressing up against my fingers as i punched my words into the machine. then we got a computer. that i loved even more, not so much because it did more, but because the keys there clicked and clacked beneath my fingers. the sound made me feel more productive and as if i had typed a lot. i wrote a lot of stories and journal entries on that old computer.

this laptop is not the quietest computer i have ever worked on, but it doesn’t clack. i actually don’t like the silent ones, keys that are soft and cushion the sound of your tapping thoughts. i need to hear my progress, to confirm it auditorily. as a youth, i fancied myself a writer. i looked up to ann m. martin and r. l. stine and read tons of books…and not just for the book it pizzas and stickers. somewhere i still have all the stories i wrote as a child and teenager. i have always said that i would write a story of my life. i have started several times, each time painstakingly starting from the beginning as not to leave anything out. i have always been a very thorough person and i believed my life was lived in detail so it should be told that way.

recently i have written only the beginning of one short story worthy of only literotica’s lot. my zeal and passion for words remains and i wonder perhaps if i avoided the one major at Stanford i should have embraced. all signs have pointed to English as a major for me. my highest grades were either in math or english but i preferred english. i enjoyed the reading assignments, but i more so enjoyed the writing assignments as they gave me a chance to express myself through the perspective of a book. in acadec at judson i wrote an essay for a speech that i have looked back on fondly for years. my college essays were used to inspire several other students, not for plagiarism but for inspiration. while i was at stanford, i took an english class on w.e.b. dubois and got a great grade. i really liked the professor and she always gave me good comments on my work. she even said once that she wished someone from the english department could have swooped me up. at this point, however, i would need at least another year to complete an english major there. and more to the point, i don’t know what i would do with the major.

as it stands, i am an african and african american major. i chose it because i stepped out of economics at the beginning of my junior year and needed something i could finish in the time i had left. luckily, the major consists of courses from various departments such as psychology, sociology, education, philosophy, and so forth. unfortunately, everyone always asks if i am going into teaching or education with the major. frankly, i have no idea what i am going to do once i graduate from stanford. i have mentally tried on all kinds of professions and even have dreamed of a few. the list so far is:

professor

i figure i can be welcomed with open arms to stanford or any school really because i am a black female, not the sole reason but it will help, to teach ….well that would end up being a whole new list. perhaps i could be like a college advisor…..well that’s another profession. already this list is getting longer and i haven’t even really started yet.

teacher

several different ppl have told me over the years that i would make a great teacher and that i work well with kids and i have great energy and patience and presence. i always figured that the red tape and frustrations of school politics would be too much for me like most of my favorite teachers.

psychologist

ever since junior high, i have told ppl that i was going to study psychology and become a child and adolescent psychiatrist…i also thought of doing relationship counseling. i heard once that the profession has the highest suicide rate, i also heard the same about another profession on this list. i bet you can’t guess which one, i think you’ll be surprised.

massage therapist

in productions and during various rehearsals people would frequently give out back massages and kneck rubs. we were all stressed and tense and hey, it was high school so any excuse to feel up on somebody was gold. i was told that i was really good and have continued to get praise from my husband. at one point, my life plan included going to a massage school before college so that i could be licensed and use that as my part time job to pay my way through school. of course, the training costs money and at the time i didn’t even know they had schools for massage here in san antonio. the only one i knew about was in austin. currently i am still thinking about being like a freelance masseuse and going to various offices and buildings and setting up regular appointments with ppl so that they don’t have to leave their office or waste their gas to get to me. i like the idea, it seems easy and enjoyable. i could also sign up to work at a hotel and eventually find myself at a really fancy or exotic one, or even work on a cruise ship! ever since i saw last holiday with queen latifah i thought about working at a ritzy hotel or at a vacation spot and getting the best of both worlds.

school counselor

i get to help kids, i get to work with universities and trade schools and different careers to guide the students. but like being a teacher there is a lot of red tape, paper work, and craziness. but also like a teacher i would have the summers off. eh…

admissions counselor/recruiter

this is one of the professions i had a dream about. i would travel the country, maybe even the world, talking up stanford to tomorrow’s best and brightest. i would answer questions, have a slide show, movie, who knows! i do know that i want to have some kind of san antonio stanford alumni association so that we can network with past, current, and future cardinals. i feel so left out here in san antonio and i don’t feel as though there are any welcoming alumni in town i can network with. you know, go out to lunch, see a movie, talk about profs, dorms, and such.

food critic

i can be a picky eater….actually a particular eater is more accurate. i know how things should generally taste, look, and smell and when i come across something that could be better technically or otherwise i rarely keep quite about it. i am always raving about one product or another for example trident gum. its good for your teeth, sugarless, and has great flavors! i say that to everyone when i am chewing it or happen upon the opportunity in conversation. why not get paid to share my opinion. the only thing is i don’t know if i have to be a former chef or if there is some kind of schooling or something. i am sure there is some training. it does combine writing, eating, and going out so i think that its at the top of the list in terms of popularity.

health inspector

i remember from the movie “deliver us from eva” that the main character seemed like i would have been in life had i continued through college and not been sidetracked with life and marriage. i can be very anal and her job seemed like something i would be good at. i figured i would get to know my city’s dining establishments better and know where to go and where not to go. i am not sure exactly what the credentials or training entail but its on the list nonetheless.

mystery shopper

there are so many scam websites out there about all kinds of things. i heard about mystery shopping, read some article on several websites thats supposed to be from like the new york times or some other reputable newspaper, and have considered the obvious perks of being paid to pursue goods and services. i feel as though i am a good judge of character and have a great eye for details, so this would combine some aspects of health inspector, food critic, massage therapist (traveling and exotic accommodations). the only problem is to get into this profession you have to pay for the different “jobs” or “opportunities”. i am not sure what they are referred to.

financial adviser/financial planner/credit counselor/tax professional/financial literacy advocate

i took a class taught by mary morrison, a financial aid officer at stanford, my freshman year and ever since decided that i wanted to be in control of my money and wanted to help other ppl do the same. i wanted to be educated about budgeting, investments, insurance, estate planning, spending, all of that. since stanford didn’t have an accounting major, i looked at management science and engineering, economics, and some special kind of math major. econ seemed like it had courses closer to what i wanted to do so for a few quarters i pursued it. i thought about becoming tax certified at a local college in palo alto before i graduated so that i could start making money and doing ppl’s taxes. since then, because i have a shroud of doubt hovering over my life i am not sure anymore if i have a passion for wanting to be a ameriprise financial advisor or an h&r block tax person. i did consider being a mary kay financial planner and working specifically with mary kay beauty consultants with budgeting and taxes. of course, it would help if my business was running smoothly but that’s a whole nother blog.

children’s party entertainer

in the twelfth grade and last nov- this feb i worked as a party hero at mr. gatti’s. i always got good surveys, the kids loved me, and i loved being a goof ball. i even used my party skills at two baby showers, both my sisters’, and my friends’ birthday party when she came to use my pool as the location. i mostly used the gift opening bits like pulling out the tissue and tossing it comically in the air with a careless and flippant grace. i would also read all the cards aloud and make various comments about each gift and made sure to say thank you as well as give the birthday person the opportunity to do so. i also basically ran time management on the parties so that they moved forward smoothly so directing everyone to or from the food at the appropriate time, explaining and playing the fun games, and so forth. some ppl specifically asked for me and even asked if i did parties outside of gatti’s. i am sure that i could make an interesting go of it if i would have lots of fun and none of the bad parts of working at gatti’s like closing the rooms. i would have to bus the tables, wipe down the tables and chairs, stack the chairs onto the tables, sweep, mop, squeegie, and then finally hot mop the floors before i could leave. but i was able to keep any cakes that weren’t claimed at the end of the night and grab a few slices of pizza and some watermelons or mac and cheese during my shift. that was great. and of course all the beverages i could drink!

fitness trainer

who doesn’t want to be in the best physical shape their body can be in? i am tired of looking at the result of medications, no exercise, and not enough food to have a nutritious diet. i think that once i get healthy i would love to help others and by helping others it will help keep me healthy. plus i hear they pay great.

story teller

in elementary school we had a story telling club and i was asked to several classes to perform my story, “the old woman and her pig” by rita litzinger. of course, i had already been into acting and reading so the two were a a great backdrop to this. during the beginning of the first year of my sabbatical i looked for a story telling organization here in san antonio. i guess i signed up to receive emails from one group because i do now every once in a while. i thought about putting together a group and traveling to schools all over performing variant stories.

personal assistant

well after watching the secretary what more is there to say.

just kidding. i would like to be like rory on the fifth or sixth season when she got the internship with michum huntzberger at a newspaper. working in an office, answering phones, making travel arrangements, getting lunch, coordinating meetings, stocking supplies, remembering important events and days and gift buying. i wouldn’t want a “devil wears prada” experience or anything but it does seem to have a nice ring to it.

professional organizer

after watching so many episodes of clean sweep, clean house, how clean is your house, and neat, i thought for a brief while that i would want to go into some person’s space and help them move out the clutter and find a new cleaner way to live or work. i once cleaned and organized a slovenly living room for my cousin’s mother when i was about nine. she was amazed to see the carpet hadn’t changed since she had first moved in. after a whole afternoon’s work of folding clothes, matching shoes, and cleaning the carpet and table, she reached into her purse and gave me a quarter. so i knew if i ever did it again, it would not be for the money. i just liked being able to give the space a new lease on existence. i know a few ppl in my family who live in absolute clutter and i can’t see how they do it. my apt isn’t always magazine ready but i don’t have a thick layer of dust on hundreds of obscure knick knacks and doodads or an entire room that no one goes into because its overflowing with broken furniture, old clothes, and God knows what else.

writer

as i mentioned before, i have been writing since i first learned how. i wrote stories for elementary classes, stories for fun, stories for flirting, and stories to sort out my life. i don’t see myself making money from a book, i actually don’t even see myself writing an entire book. i haven’t considered being a journalist and writing articles about rando things. i suppose nowadays there are ppl who are paid for their blogs but certainly nothing is going on in my life enough to warrant a paycheck.

dental hygienist/dentist

for about 6 months during and after my freshman year i had decided to major in human biology, or humbio, and become a dentist. i figured i could make my own hours, be my own boss, help kids learn about taking care of their teeth, and make good money. i really liked going to the dentist as a kid. i liked getting my teeth picked at, it felt good to me. not that i am a sadist and like pain…well to address that accurately would warrant another blog….anyway, i liked the new toothbrush and picking a toy out of the wicker stained chest and the wacky pencils and stickers. i liked the goo i had to sink my teeth into and wait while the suction tube sat in my mouth. i even liked the toys in the waiting room, as simple as they were. being a pediatric dentist seemed like it would be a great job. but, as i started to tell ppl this, they would say that i didn’t seem like the dentist type and that i wouldn’t want to do something like dentistry. i had already chosen the dental school at the uthsc here in san antonio and planned out the tests, funds, and courses. but, after a woman i had just met told me with great seriousness that the believed i was destined for better things i decided to drop the idea. i go back to it sometimes. it was such a neat and tidy path in life. i have always sought the straight and narrow, day to day hum drum. it would have afforded me everything i wanted, an okay house, an okay car, all my bills taken care of, flexible hours, vacations….if there was a way for me to go back to stanford and spend the …i am sure three years it would take for me to cram all the required courses into i would do it and return to my dental path. the dental hygienist job was thrown in because i believe that’s the person that does the cleaning and maybe the x-rays. i wouldn’t have to do any root canals or capping or anything, maybe just assist. cosmetic surgery wouldn’t be for me. i would rather be on the preventative end. i also met a woman at stanford’s multicultural alumni weekend when i was volunteering. she was a black dentist and gave me her card. i even started a stanford pre-dental society on campus but i am not sure what happened to it after i stepped out.

dancer

i wanted to take ballet classes or gymnastics or piano when i was younger but i felt we didn’t as a family have the money to afford such activities so i used public education and all it could offer me to replace those desires. i believe that if i had chosen ballet or gymnastics i would be happier with my body, i would be able to perform like the women on the hanes commercial and that i would be a completely different person. there have been so many movies about ballet and hip hop and ball room dancing and even one recently about gymnastics. step up, shall we dance, stick it, you’ve got served, take the lead, honey, save the last dance, and so on. similar to the fitness trainer idea, i would be in shape and feel my age and feel like the old self i used to be, fun outgoing energetic smiling loving carefree strong independent beautiful force.

so after that little exercise the jobs that truly stuck out to me are as follows with the most popular to me at the top:

dentist
food critic/health inspector
massage therapist
children’s party entertainer
fitness trainer
dancer

chances are, the food critic/health inspector position looks the most likely.

now that I have moved in leaps and bounds, its time to do a little squatting. you see, stephen tells me that i tend to “crap on his dreams” all the time by pointing out how something he wants to do won’t work or how its illogical or poking holes in his ideas or plans.

after perusing superficially for a few moments i can already tell that my first choice might as well be taken off the list. according to eHow website, which provides an article on how to be a food critic:

Realize that being a food critic is usually not a well-paid position, and there are only 30 to 40 such positions in the country.
The idea of being a food critic is much more appealing than actually being one. It’s physically taxing to eat rich food or bad food every day of the week, but it’s required if you’re a professional.
It’s unpleasant to bash restaurants, and it’s even more unpleasant to regularly eat in restaurants that merit bashing.

then, thanks to the dept of labor website, i now know that:

Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians, also known as safety and health practitioners or occupational health and safety inspectors, help prevent harm to workers, property, the environment, and the general public. They promote occupational health and safety within organizations in many ways, such as by advising management on how to increase worker productivity through raising morale and reducing absenteeism, turnover, and equipment downtime while securing savings on insurance premiums, workers’ compensation benefits, and litigation expenses.

neither sounds like what i really want to do after all. i don’t know if i should have let all those ppl deter me from wanting to be a dentist. i am also considering going to grad school and studying psychology. i also very briefly and in a fit of passion contemplated being a sexologist and helping individuals and couples like the dr on discovery health channel. all the ppl i have found who do that have phDs.

i don’t know. the colors of my parachute have swirled together to form a brown worthy of pampers. i have poked so many holes that i fear my fall will not be pleasant when it ends.

maybe i should reconsider being an escort.

Where My Girls At?

December 29, 2009

A Search for what Japan has to offer African-American Women

I grew up in South Texas. My city was mixed with predominately black and Hispanic people with a community of Asian people. In high school, a black friend of mine claimed that he knew Japanese. Seeing as how I had no precedence before of the two races mixing, I thought only white guys watched anime and enjoyed hentai outside of the Japanese race. Needless to say I didn’t believe him. He countered with the fact that he had lived in Hawaii when he was younger and promptly followed the claim by saying something in Japanese. I spent the ride home trying to pronounce onegaishimasu, and vowed to take Japanese in college.

For the first year, there was a black guy and girl in my Japanese language class. My second year, I was alone, but had met an older black girl who actually went to Japan to study abroad. She encouraged me to do the same. I figured since all the professors, advisers and upperclassmen strongly urge freshman and sophomores to think about studying abroad, I thought, Why not? I have never been outside of the United States and there will never been another time like now. Before leaving, the orientation meetings every week allowed me to meet another black girl, There were now two of us who would travel together to Japan. I decided to seek out other African-American women in Japan. I began wondering why they decided to go and what they were doing in Japan now that they were there.

Before I describe the accounts of my run-ins with the women below, I feel as though I should clear up a few terms. When I use the adjective “black” to describe a person, it generally means African-American, though it is acceptable to cover the range of African and African-American people. Of the African people, I refer to those who are not of European descent and are brown skinned. People are no longer so closed minded as to assume all of Africa is filled with “black” people, and instead there are “white” people mostly concentrated in southern Africa. “White” people are anyone of European descent. So, as I continue with the racially and gender charged paper, I will refer to black and African or whites with ease and now without hesitation.

Being the amiable person that I am, I had no trouble striking up conversations with strangers. The problem was finding the specific kind of strangers I was interested in talking with. After physically seeing only two black girls walking the streets of Kyoto, one girl inaccessible to me as I was riding my bike, I lucked out one Monday evening. While going out for ice cream, I met three black girls, all of whom were from America. Two of them were on vacation from California. One of the girls had always wanted to visit Japan and the other was just along for the trip. The first two girls from California and I spent a good hour or so discussing their trip so far and my experience as a student abroad. I taught them what exactly the shop owners said each time they entered a store (Irasshaimase) and they told me of their experiences.

As the first two girls and I stepped outside, I finishing my ice cream, we all literally ran into a black man and woman both also eating ice cream from a different ice cream chain from right down the road. We all laughed about how frozen dairy products can bring us all together and began a wonderful conversation about who each of us was an what we were all doing in Japan. The new woman had been an East Asian Government and Politics major and was now teaching English. She had been living near Kyoto for at least a year and hoped to improve her Japanese before entering law school. The first two girls left in pursuit of getting to their hotel before the doors were locked. I spent a few more minutes talking about my experience in Japan and mentioned how lonely I felt in the city. She claimed that there was an African-American community in Japan, and that she would make sure to let me know get-togethers and bar-b-ques.

The moment that I found the black girls in the ice cream shop, and the other when we ran into the other black girl, both filled me with joy. We all expressed an excitement due to finding sisters of our communities so far away from our homes. According to their accounts, however, when they saw other black girls before and waved or smiled, they more often than not got the cold shoulder. They mentioned that these particular girls were probably African, and seemed arrogant and haughty. I cannot speak for other cultures, but I am sure, to a certain extent, that all have a negative reaction to being ignored. In my community, there is a term for the act of acknowledging another’s existence and being colloquial: “to speak”.

As one black person to another, I have to “speak” and in return I expect the same. For members of the same family, there is a specific method. Whenever we visit each other, I must go to all present, or on the premises, and say hello and ask how they are. Show an interest and that I care. “You ain’t gon speak?” “Why ain’t you speak to nobody, gon straight to the kitchen” or “Yall didn’t speak to Mamaw in the back room!” are all phrases I have heard in various forms many a time as a child. It was considered rude if you didn’t say hello to everyone in a home, no matter where they were, when you arrived and goodbye upon leaving in the same fashion.

This concept of “speaking” and including everyone when doing so transcends to black people “speaking” to each other everywhere. Once the term is applied in general, its meaning simplifies to an acknowledgment of other blacks, a nod or smile, in passing on the streets. There are exceptions to everything, and if you are in a gang or a less than reputable person, the circumstance does change. However, for the purpose of this account, the description of the African girls not “speaking” to the American black ones could be interpreted as being rude and making the African-American women feel as though they were of a lower status. I personally did not meet any African woman, but I did meet one from Jamaica.

Biking to lunch one day, I turned the corner out of the backstreet alley behind the center and coasted across the street past a bus stop. I stopped abruptly when my brain registered that a black woman was standing at the bus stop . . . and that I was in Japan. Filing my hunger aside for the moment, I backed up as sanely as I could and introduced myself, rather clumsily, to the woman. After responding with her name, I asked if she went to school or worked. I figured the black women I met in Japan would either be on vacation, or be abroad such as myself. Thankfully, there is more to experience from Japan than tourist sites and classes. The woman told me that she did not work or go to school. With a surprised response, she clarified that she was a housewife. My facial expression must have distorted her “matter-of-fact” one, because she went on to explain why she was a housewife.

She met her husband (a Japanese man) in Jamaica and lived with him there for a number of years. After 3 children, the family moved to Japan. She had just finished volunteering at the Kyoto International House and waited for the bus to take her home. Seeing that she was anxious to return to busily waiting for the bus, I dared to ask her what she thought of the black women in Japan, since she had been in Japan for so long. Her response initially substantiated what I already knew to be true. She told me there were not a lot of black people in Japan. She then expounded by adding, “Those here with their families rarely go out and the rest here are students.” At the time, I knew one other black female student. She was in the SCTI program. So I continued to look for other black females studying abroad, on vacation, teaching English, or even married.

Over the next two weeks, I met three other English teachers, none of which from America, who choose Japan for its financial opportunity. In the Osaka subway, I rushed past a black woman after exiting a train and decided to stop, if only for a moment, to ask her who she was and why she was in Japan. She was nice and offered that she came to Japan to teach because the money was good. From her accent I immediately concluded that she was from England. The other two black women I met later that night in Osaka were at the opening of a soul food restaurant. The women were from Canada and took advantage of the ease with which one could obtain a visa for teaching in Japan as opposed to the process America. One of the girls even wanted to return to Canada, or go to the states, to get her teaching certificate.

So far, none of the women I talked to had any knowledge of the Japanese language or culture prior to arriving except for the East Asian studies major. I did run into a fellow ryugakusei in the Osaka subway. She was a student of Southwestern in Texas and had decided to “do the Japan thing” because it was different. I saw in her the reasoning I used in finding myself abroad in Japan. She seemed open minded and ready to encounter and enjoy all that Japan had to offer. The question was what does Japan have to offer for a black woman?

In my quest to find my place in Japan, I found a nearly barren land in academia. The readings in the Immigration, Citizenship, and Identity in Japan course focused mainly on the more significantly numbered Korean experience. The other groups mentioned include Brazilians, Peruvians, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Philippians, the Bangladesh, South East Asians, and Middle Easterners. The articles, books, and papers all explore the various types and kinds of foreigners in Japan, as well as the reasons for the groups coming to and leaving from Japan, but none include a discussion of the black foreigner. The closest non-Asian minority I could relate to in the articles discussed Brazilian nikkeijin. These second plus generation, mixed Japanese persons flocked to Japan under the ease of a new visa revision only to find an unexpected life awaiting their arrival. The Japanese who also expected to receive their blood-kin with open arms were surprised to find the Brazilians unlike the Japanese in so many ways. I related to these Brazilians in the sense that Japanese youth are becoming interested in “black culture” and perhaps we could connect on that level. I expected to be embraced because of the popularity of hip hop, however the popularity I witnessed for hip hop was shallow and lacking in the understand necessary for me to connect with.

Walking the streets of Kyoto and witnessing the night life of Osaka, I saw my people . . . being copied. The clothes, the music, even some afros and cornrows adorned many a Japanese teen. I had a feeling that the girls and boys wearing Phat Farm and sporting their fros were not aware of the foundation behind the clothes and the meaning behind the words. In her article, “Raw Like Sushi,” Vanessa Altman-Siegel describes the hip hop culture in Japan amongst its youth as “repackaged for trendy teenage consumers.” (Altman-Siegel) The baggy pants children in the ghetto wear are the result of hand-me-downs or providing larger pockets and more space to hide stolen or illegal paint cans. When this attire became available after the mid-80s in response to rap and hip hop music and dance, a venue for westernization opened up seemingly never to close.

After the 70s and 80s, Japanese women were no longer strictly held under the impression of a kimono’s fashion and style. “[N]o self-respecting woman ever went out with bare arms, much less uncovered legs or feet. Sleeves were mandatory and going bare-legged was out of the question, even during the hottest months of the year.” ( Jolivet) Today, Japanese women can wear trendy shirts, shoes, hot pants, skirts, and flaunt their “carefully polished fingernails . . . false eyelashes, their bodies burned to a crisp by UV rays and their hair dyed blond or bleached.” (Jolivet) Yuka, a Japanese student in America, explains, “If Alaskan Eskimos were cool and in the top 40, teenagers in Japan would think they were cool too.” (Altman-Siegel)

Two problematic results of hip hop and its popularity in Japan are the fact that the youth involved are “negating their Japanese identity” and “missing the significance of [the] Afro-American experience in the United States.” (Altman-Siegel) In light of the trends and exciting new lifestyle hip hop music and clothing provide, Japanese youth have begun to “refute the ‘straitjacket society’ in which they live, where their lives are predetermined by the time they are 13 years old.”(Altman-Siegel) Japan’s nearly unrivaled low crime rate and stubborn assertion of “cultural homogeneity” create a sense of irony as Japanese youth sing along with lyrics about the ghetto in foreign apparel to their traditional attire. Even though the exposure to hip hop has prompted some Japanese to “explore injustice within their own society,” it is not enough to create a well-rounded depiction of America’s black people. (Altman-Siegel)

The discussion of hip hop in Japan is important in order to understand the exposure Japanese people have to black people in America. The media in Japan plays up the many crimes committed by gaijin regardless of their race or origin, but

“[s]tereotypical images of black Americans are disseminated throughout Japan” mainly through the media. (Altman-Siegel) The gap hip hop leaves about black people is filled by the media’s interpretations of events dealing with violent young black men or rambunctious black females in irrefutable clothing. The other way in which Japanese people come into contact with black people is through hip hop/rap concerts. According to a rap concert promoter in Japan, the “media has given us such wrong information” and the rap artists he has met are “different [from what we expected]. They are much nicer.” (Altman-Siegel) Meeting with black people face to face is the best way for the Japanese to learn of the richness and depth of the black culture. Until then, advertisements and toys rooted in stereotypes from America enter the homes and shops of Japan and provide unreached Japanese with another idea of what black people might be like.

The images depicting seemingly colored characters or people appear to be made out of naivety about the struggles colored people have suffered in America. The “Aunt Jemima” character mocks the female house slave, but a Japanese person sees a jolly happy black person. The above toothpaste label, for example, was used in Japan as late at the mid-1980s. Without an extensive and thorough understanding of slaveries repercussions, Sanrio’s Chococat and Badtz Maru, though a lovable addition to the Hello Kitty line, would never seem offensive. The Japanese do not understand how the toys created a controversy amongst westerners. By piecing together the information and images of African-Americans from America, black foreigners are grouped into a special category of cool and fashionable, but still foreigners.

Jeanne Belisle Lombardo, after writing a book review on Toni Morrison’s Beloved, was asked about the attitude Japanese people hold towards blacks. Though a white woman herself, she provided a well-rounded account of the reasons behind Japan’s stereotypical images as well as the bare essentials of “newspaper articles of racial strife in large urban centers in the United States and a small knowledge of the period of slavery in American history” for background information. (Lombardo) Japan receives its knowledge of the black community, if not through hip hop lyrics and fashion, then through news casts and American media. This can include movies, television shows, newspaper accounts, etc. If the news is serious enough to reach Japan, and it involves a person of color, chances are the news is not positive. Without a solid way of unbiased depictions and clear explanations about race and history in America, the Japanese take what is given to them and create labels such as the toothpaste above or believe hip hop embodies the life of all blacks. Of course, my exposure to Japan was anime and a few friends, so I understand how a lack of information and using popular media to formulate an opinion of a people can be incomplete and flawed.

I now understand the atmosphere into which I entered Japan. Aware already of the ease with which countries have learned the power of hip hop in advertisement, I was prepared for the clothing and music. I realize now, looking back on my time in Japan, that I represent America first, black people second, and a woman third. Had I stayed in Japan for 6 months, a year, or more, my experience could go one of several ways. In John Russell’s film “Struggle and Success”, the lives of several black men and women were examined. Some were students, others taught English, and others lived lives outside of the norm for a black foreigner. One man was married to a Japanese woman with children. Another man and woman worked in separate sectors of the business world beyond Nova and private tutoring. As a student, I could experience Japan in a way only a student could. Ultimately, my experience in Japan, though I am a woman who is black, is my decision. The Japanese I met may or may not have had a preconceived notion about me as I rode my bike through the streets of Kyoto, but I smiled and bowed whether or not I received the same. The most rewarding encounter was riding behind a group of Japanese businessmen. I said, “Situree simasu, sumimasen.” As I passed, I smiled hearing their, “Gaijin datta yo…” Despite the low numbers of women abroad in Japan, regardless of the meager selection of black women in Japan, no matter what the Japanese believe about black people, whatever I give of myself in Japan will only help to enhance what the Japanese give in return.

Bibliography

Altman-Siegel, Vanessa. “RAW LIKE SUSHI: Hip Hop Culture in Japan.” 06/28/05.

<http://eserver.org/zine375/issue1/living5.html>

Jolivet, Muriel. “The Sirens of Tokyo – Young Women and Prostitution in Japan.” UNESCO Courier, 07/01. 06/28/05.

Lombardo, Jeanne Belisle. “Importing Racial Stereotypes” 04/20/02. 06/03/05.

The Man-Boy Epidemic

December 29, 2009

Girls grow up to be ladies, mothers, wives, and friends. Boys grow up to play video games, collect toys and comic books, drink and throw parties until their mother, girlfriend, or wife forces them to stop at least on a regular basis or they have to act their age due to an illness or having kids. What the hell?

The following are questions I wish I never had to ask my guy:

Did you brush your teeth today?

Why are there ants in the dirty dishes?

When are your friends leaving?

Why are your friends having a “sit-in” in front of the house against me?

Where is your clean underwear?

What is that smell?

Is that smell coming from you?

Where did you put the receipts for bills?

What happened to sticking to the shopping list?

….and I could go on. I want to know what the song writer was thinking when they said the following words:

“Hold on to your love. You’ve got to hold on!”

“Let me cater to you…”

“Age ain’t nothin but a number…”

….and I could go on and on and on and onnnnn with that one. But why fight for something? Why not give up, give in, or give charitably until your lungs give out? Cause God said, “No, you’re not dead yet.” And that’s the gospel truth. I can’t run to a convent. For one, I am not catholic, but I have mad respect yo. For deux I do want to live and I want to live life more abundantly…not in problems cause we all know “mo money mo problems.”

So I am like Solomon. King Solomon was asked in a dream by God what he wanted. He responded, “Wisdom to rule your people.” Thanks to historical events, I don’t know whether or not I am next in line for African Royalty or not, but I do know that I want wisdom. I want to make educated and wise decisions. But love….

“Love is a many splendid thing. Love lifts us up where we belong. All you need is love…”

Of all the things God created, love is one doosy. There are several different kinds of love just in the Bible.

I don’t speak greek, fluently ;), but I do know that “agape” is the love reserved for God btw Him and His creation. Then there is erotica love which needs no introduction and there is a third that is in between the two. Sexual love was meant to be shared with discretion. Whatever you believe and whoever you are sharing it with, you GOTTA be careful of a few things:

always clean yourself thoroughly Before and soon After

if you are one of the fortunate few who still have their virginity…keep it. don’t just give it away. its not candy. keep your legs closed and you can thank me on your wedding night.

dont spread horrible stories about what did … or didnt happen to friends and family. its way too private for dinner fodder.

…and i could go on. Being married has taught me way more than I bargained for about life, love, and the pursuit of happyness. My life is apparently open for discussion at least here in my hometown. So ask me questions and I will tell you no lies. Good ppl of my facebook various networks, I look forward to crawling out from under this cozy rock called married life I’ve been dozing under to address you as my pr guru Jesus suggests in an online press conference following this break of my personal writer’s strike solidarity movement. I guess the strike is over, but I really have no idea since I dont have cable and newspapers freak me out.

At any rate, I am back to share my thoughts and hope you all enjoy them. And ask me lots of questions. One of my heros is Bill Nye the Science Guy and the others you will surely discover on this quest called life. As God said, “You’re not dead yet…so get up already and LIVE!”

Pebbles from the Pond of My Mind

December 29, 2009

I believe the more experiences and people you seek out the better a mirror you construct within which you can see yourself.

I don’t like the way my thighs rub together when I walk, so I need to ironically walk more to change that.

When you are on the other side of the hill looking back, you don’t think about the classes you got a C on in college or the bills that got you down that one stretch of months, but you think about your experiences and your relationships. That is why we are living. Not to get a job, house, car, and family. When you are lying on your cooling board, do you really think that your transcripts are going to flash before your eyes?

As a woman, all feminism aside, I believe we were made for childbirth, not men. We carry life and bear life in so many ways.

Things no longer fall into my lap as they once did. More and more these days things seem to just fall.

As Monty Python so famously noted, “I’m not dead yet.”

My freshman year, God blessed me with $15,000 in scholarships and grants and Stanford said, “Thank you for paying for room and board, and welcome to college!” So all the hard work and time and effort and energy that I used my senior year in high school went to waste. Stanford is one of the wealthiest universities in the nation, quite possibly in the world. And now I know how they got that way.

Needless to say, I will not be joining the alumni association and giving my money to the university. They already opened the flood gates to incoming freshman, they dont’ need my money, but they want it nonetheless because I guess they think I am trying to cheat them out of my education when in fact it is me who is being swindled into an education. Stupid private schools.

Life is fleeting, hard, unfair, lovely, trying, fun, exhausting, cool, bad, unyielding, vicious, hurtful, hopeful, and a myriad of other things I haven’t even begun to know yet. I encourage all to take advantage of the life that God has blessed you with and no matter what is going on good or otherwise, cherish it because one day will be your last and it will be too late then to grieve over the fact that you never learned French.

what color is my parachute? roygbiv!

i have always been a very thorough person and i believed my life was lived in detail so it should be told that way.

I have decided that I would no longer pursue a guy and instead would let him pursue me. Of course, its a process and I still find myself nudging a few of them along time and again.

After all the guys and mixed signals and unreturned calls, txts, or emails I get a guy that is genuinely smitten with me and I am just not that into him. He calls himself The Mohawk. Isn’t fate cruel?

I have had 2 guys respond to my cl ads, call me and set something up, then fall off the face of the earth. I told my friend down here about it, and I was like, “What happened?” and he goes, “Their wives.”

Until I have a boyfriend, I am going to keep meeting and getting together with guys. Not sleeping around, just hanging out. Why not, free food/movies, and having a guy usually tell me I am beautiful. As long as I don’t get hacked to pieces its a great idea.

He says that he wants to take it easy as friends. Sure, ok, cause when you couldnt’ keep your hands off of me and insisted on me staying despite the all nighter you had in front of you I totally felt that “friend” vibe too.

I can see that my life has started spiraling and nothing ever spirals upward.

As I muster the strength daily to keep my sanity, literally fight my own demons, work my several jobs and keep hope alive that I will one day return to Stanford and finish my degree, floating throughout it all is the sad scent of my situation with Stephen. It seeps into prayers, creeps into brief moments of laughter, hazes over a good book, and wraps around my throat as I sleep alone on the floor every night.

Montel, Here’s What Happened

December 29, 2009

I want to share my story not for pity, or empathy, but solely to give God the glory and to allow my testimony to give hope and courage to someone else.
The oldest of four children, I grew up around alcoholic and abusive men and unhealthy out-of-wedlock relationships. Education quickly became my ticket out of a nearly impoverished struggling family. Graduating in the top 4% of my high school class, I applied to over 50 scholarships in the hopes that my grades and scholarships would alleviate the pressure from my then single mom to pay for school. A mentor opened my eyes to a larger picture and encouraged me to apply to Stanford. Because of his words of belief, I took a chance and applied.

Even after receiving over $15,000 in scholarships and grants, I found myself having to work as a work study student while at Stanford to pay for plane tickets to California from Texas at least three times a year. I worked as a research assistant, office assistant, babysitter, teaching assistant, and even started my own business to allow more flexible work hours and improve my people skills. In the midst of my undergraduate life, I married the first decent guy I had ever experienced up to that point in my life. Understanding that I was the “good” child out of four, that I was the “smart” one, I came to the conclusion that looks were not my thing and the love and affection I was not getting from home would have to be found through a boyfriend and eventual husband. According to Paul in the Bible, it is better to stay single but if you must marry to avoid fornication then do so.

Next month my husband and I will celebrate 3 1/2 years. We do not have any children but all three of my younger siblings either got pregnant or got someone else pregnant without any higher education or plans for their future. I knew that my family and community were counting on me to finish school, but the summer before my senior year my husband and I found ourselves heavily leveraged in bank and credit card debt. I could no longer turn a profit from my business, did not have enough cash or credit to get the plane tickets to return to school, and when I petitioned all the supporters and mentors and family members who committed to helping me finish my schooling for a co-signer on a loan no one would even fill out the application. I had to beg my mother just to apply and she doubtfully obliged me. Needless to say, she was not approved and though my credit score was high due to my status as a student without solid and consistent employment history I was not able to get the funds together in time to start my senior year.

I have since been on sabbatical, working my business, putting a plan in place to pay off my debt, dealing with my relationship with my husband, loving my neice, nephew, and soon to come addition to our family, serving my church and community, and just last year I had the rug pulled underneath me another time. I was hospitalized for a sever anxiety attack and diagnosed with manic depression. The first week I was in the hospital to this day I do not recollect. I was told that doctors believed I would never recover and would have to be institutionalized. My medications included a mental suppressant, anxiety pills, and others which resulted in weight gain, depression, and lethargic behavior. My psychiatrist and therapist worked together after I was released from the hospital but my husband and I could not afford the co-pays and medication costs on his salary alone (a little less than $1200 a month) so I told my doctor that I was ok and that I no longer needed the medication.

For months, I calmly worked my business part time and worked outside of the home part time. This past November I began working full time outside of the home on a night shift and in February my husband lost his job. My business, which I was still building and was not yet at a profit level, covered bills, gas, and what little food we could get. God blessed me with just enough from my customers and family to keep me going but the stress and pressure of bills, debt, working, and building a business once again took its toll and just last week I had an anxiety attack in my church parking lot. Suddenly, I realized that if I did not change soon, I would end up right where I was nearly a year before and obviously I had not learned the lesson God had for me.

I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me yes, but I can do nothing without him. I cannot do everything. The hand cannot do the work of the foot. I have such a heart to serve and help as many other people as possible that I never learned how to first take care of myself. When I started making phone calls for physicians, psychiatrists, and therapists my mother and I quickly realized that her Humana health insurance through the post office expired for me due to my age. So here I sit thanking God for restoring my mind (Luke 8:35) but I have to decide to pay debt or pay for doctors, pay bills or go back to Stanford, earn my car in Mary Kay or struggle with the one car my husband and I do have.

To whom it may concern, I have seen your show and know how you help people. I am not asking that you take all my financial and health insurance problems away, I know the value of triumph and victory from a tough challenge, but I am at the end of my rope, I have tied a knot, and I am swinging in faith that God will provide what I need to get through. I want to complete my senior thesis about my experience entitled Fantasized Experience Appearing Real (F.E.A.R.) and use it as a foundation for a dissertation in behavioral psychology and be able to say that my Ph.D. did not come from my academic skills but rather because God saw fit to return my mind and remove the spirit of fear and grow my spirit of faith. I would be most appreciative to share my story and help other young people, men and women who have lost hope to fear and paralyzing anxiety. To attest that there is a way out and up. I would be more than happy to share all the details and intricacies of my story as well as my full background, conspectus, and so forth. Please contact me at your earliest convenience and thank you in advance for your prompt response and consideration.

God Bless,
Shamika Goddard

Marc 2008