Overwhelming feelings

I know it’s been a while that I last posted another blog. It’s been a quite hectic period for me in the sense of personal and college university reasons. Writing my thesis has taken so much of my time and energy, and finally I’ve submitted it. It’s been a roller coaster of ups and downs, but I have managed to get myself together.

 I’m not the type of person to expose too much of my private life publicly. What I know for a fact is that there’s always a reason for me to keep going on. Whatever happens, will happen for a reason. I always believed that something meaningful might happen in the future. So regardless of my lack of self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-doubt, I will definitely strive in the path that I have always been looking for. I’m about to enter a new chapter in my life that I believe will affect me either way.

I have been feeling and I’m not the only one feeling this way, I used to mention this before, that this transition of life is affecting all of us: mentally, physically, and financially. This crisis has turned so many people’s lives around from happiness to despair or from despair to happiness… Every individual’s situation has its own issues to manage or to fix it. Talking about resilience has made me think about the thesis that I wrote. I’ve been thinking about the refugees who have to cope with a lot of hardship during and after the war. Their resilience is incomparable. They inspire me to keep moving and believing that there’s still light in the moment of darkness.

Hearing so much news about the number of deaths due to COVID-19, unemployment, burnouts, isolation, racism, xenophobia, etc. really affects me mentally. This is the problem when I’m too drawn by the news and social media… With so much going on, I need to keep reminding myself to take care of myself while still being vocal and bring awareness about difficult topics. My level of sensitivity can be very overwhelming and I need to take a few steps backward and allow myself to make time for myself without being on my phone every few hours.

This rehab from social media is really needed at times. I need to start sorting out my own life and plan my life to achieve the goals that I set for personal development. The support and the help I keep having, will help motivate me to keep moving forward.

Global Movement… Time to wake up!

I know probably some of you have been wondering about my absence… There’s been a lot going on these recent days. I haven’t been in the right state of mind to write. At the same time I have been focussing more on my thesis, which took a lot of my time and energy. It has been an emotional rollercoaster these past weeks and days. But now let’s focus on the real current events going on around the world.

Haven’t you been feeling that times have been changing lately? 2020 is a year of crisis, reflection, action and movement (Black Lives Matter). The untold history about the treatment of African-Americans has been unfolding recently. The unjust system that has been going on for years in the US needs to be addressed. Even here in Belgium, the colonization period has not been given as much attention as it deserves, especially the negative side i.e. the barbaric crimes committed by King Leopold II and the Belgian government during the colonial period, hasn’t (often) been mentioned.

The video gone viral of George Floyd’s death has sparked and awakened the global movement of BLM and protests. I can proudly say that I took part in this protest together with my siblings, some family members and friends in Brussels just two weeks after the video emerged. When I watched the scene… I couldn’t contain my tears and anger… so many emotions ran through my body. Unfortunately enough I was very much aware of the police brutality and the systemic racism in the US, this is nothing new… I’ve seen countless videos of victims like Trayvon Martin (when the BLM movement even began), Tamir Rice, Eric Garner (the same situation: ‘I can’t breathe…’), Philando Castile and the list goes on… I have since posted a lot of videos and articles about treatments of black people in the US and all over the world but not as much as I am now… But Floyd’s video really motivated me to become more vocal and daring to reveal a lot of uncomfortable truth about racism, police brutality, discrimination and the oppression that most black and poc (people of color) have been facing over the years…

I myself as a mixed-race person, I barely face racism here in Belgium. But I have encountered some indirect racism at work and in school, especially in the countryside. The passive racism I faced was the attitude of some of my colleagues towards me compared to my white student colleagues. I sensed the interaction with me as completely different from the way they interact amongst themselves. Let’s be honest here, it’s not because I barely encountered active racism that still up till this day racism doesn’t happen here. I know some people who experienced racial profiling and racist slurs from their white peers.

Thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement, some changes in policies not just in the US but also in Belgium, which are long overdue have finally come about. Finally the history of colonialism under the Leopold II era is implemented in the education system for last year secundary classes. It also helped pressuring the policy for practical tests against discrimination. Even some statues of Leopold II have been taken down, but that’s not going to help the fight against racism. But it’s the beginning of change that we want to see in our institutions.

That’s why I have been informing myself daily about the untold stories of black people not only in America but also in Europe. I want to highlight these important topics to spark conversations amongst us and to bring some type of awareness. The activists that I follow keep us up to date about the history of systemic racism and the current events happening in the world. I was able to help my friend a little bit for her life art coaching so she can implement and address those issues about racism into her work.

I followed an interesting webinar yesterday about ‘Decolonize Belgium too’, a panel conversation between activists. It was an interesting conversation. Very educational with many interesting topics. I have learned a lot about their vision of structural racism and how we fight the system together.

After these global protests which have led to some action taking place around the world, let’s not be blind and forget that we still have a long way to go! Those are small victories but there’s still a lot to be done for this whole institutional racism to be dismantled… It’s an ungoing battle and I’m definitely not going to stop supporting activists and stay silent about it.

Even during the whole pandemic of COVID-19 going on in the world, it has helped us to reflect more on the real issues that blacks and poc have experienced, because of that a lot of people are more awake and finally call out this systemic racism that’s perpetrated the underprivileged and unequal treatment towards blacks and people of color.

I’m relieved to see how much my generation is getting together to fight collectively and willingly to work towards equality for all… That’s why ‘All Lives can’t Matter until Black Lives Matter’! The attention should lead to awareness and meaningful conversations.

The joy of dancing

Here in Belgium the lockdown is slowly being eased since May 4th. It’s nice to see that life has been slowly resuming under strict measures obviously. I know that our ‘normal’ won’t be the same as how it used to be. We’re still living with uncertainties, I’m patiently waiting for this whole pandemic to be over with.

In the meantime, this week is going to be sunny! I have been trying to stick to my daily routines with some of the activities from the 5-day challenge.

For the first time I did my Afrodance workout with my little sister. It was really amazing, dancing with all our entire body, without focusing on any part in particular. I have always been doing cardio, tabata, HIIT and hiphop dance workouts but never a real African dance workout. I really enjoy the rhythm, the energy and the vibe!

The workout program that I’m now following and subscribed to is called Kukuwa Fitness. They have amazing versatile African dance workout routines (Senegal, Mali, Ghana, Nigeria…). I would really recommend checking out their youtube videos, but if you want some more videos they have them on their website. You need to subscribe if you want to participate in all their videos. I would say check their website!

The dance workout was so effective and vibrant. The routines are quite easy to do but damn halfway I was really out of breath! It was worth it.

I’ll say take your chance!

I have to admit, I have been sometimes slacking to keep my workout routines… but as we say ‘what is not started today is never finished tomorrow’ – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. I know I keep saying tomorrow I’ll do the workout at least 3-4 times a week, and it ends up being 1- 2 times a week. 😛 The motivation needs to be there so I can kickstart my day with a positive mindset and confidence.

Love the fact that I have been doing this workout with my sister, normally we never workout together. Dancing with her brought a lot of joy and fun into this routine. I wasn’t too distracted with my tiredness because of her. I found it more motivating to do this together instead of alone.

Afterwards I followed a yoga session to stretch my muscles after an intense workout. Yoga outside under the sun while listening to the wind blowing and the trees moving. It was very relaxing, I had a zen moment and felt the connection with my body and soul. It’s an amazing feeling and felt more energized than ever.

It is a good way to distract myself from social media at times…

I was even thinking to go out to the city tomorrow for the first time since this lockdown started. I stay cautious even though I built immunity. Face masks are compulsory in public transport and in some shops too. It feels to me that there’s never a guarantee that this whole virus will be completely gone. There could be a second wave coming since this whole lockdown is slowly easing and more people are outside now than before, so it’s best to stay cautious. That’s why I don’t go out too quickly and still take those measures seriously…

I would say everyone out there! Stay safe and keep protecting yourself and others.

I can’t wait to see the rest of my friends and family! ❤

We’ll definitely going to celebrate after the lockdown has completely ended! 🙂 😀

Reconnecting with myself

Last week I joined in the 5-day transformation challenge created by my dear friend. She’s a Therapeutic Life Art Coach.

After that challenge I feel sooo much better now! I didn’t even imagine that in this short periode my mindset would be transformed drastically. I was in such a down mood at first because of this lock-down, my grandfather’s death, social distancing and this whole change of routine had so much effect on my mindset. During this whole challenge I was so surprised that I was able to reconnect with myself by doing some art activities combined with yoga, affirmations, gratitudes, journalling and meditation. It really helped me understand my emotions and feelings a bit more. Especially in life in general and the future.

Even though my artistic skills were not on point I have to say… but at least I still tried and executed my own art. It was very relaxing and fun to do! So I decided after the 5-day challenge to continue using some of the activities she proposed which really helped.

I’m usually not the type to go out for a walk all by myself, but I’ve started to do this often to take some fresh air and to sort out my thoughts. It really helped me feeling more relaxed and enjoying the moment. I’m so priviledged that we have a parc and a forest nearby. I’m not a jogging person, I rather go for a walk and do my workouts at home.

I think I need to do this more often even after the lockdown.

I have been coping with a lot of stress and anxiety for a period of time. I must say it’s not easy but I’m managing to do some extra relaxation. It’s an overwhelming process with all the sleepless nights… even though I have to admit I don’t always stick with my morning and night routines at times. I try to remind myself to do these things that are important for my mental wellbeing.

Writing poems has always been my thing. Nowadays I have been writing down poems for people who are very dear to me. I know I’m not the best at keeping contacts with people… But I do try my best keeping up with people closer to me. It’s refreshing and overwhelming to see how much support I’ve received from everyone. That’s why I want to give something back to them. It’s also a way to show them how much they mean to me. Willing to surprise them and empower them that way regardless of the distance is a reminder that they’re not being forgotten.

It’s strange after so many years not doing the things I used to love and going back to it again made me feel so nostalgic. Back in the days I had so much fun making poems for myself and writing down journals about my adventures in Cameroon and other places I travelled to…

It’s crazy how time flies so quickly. I’ve been really all over the place recently, I do have a chaotic mind so I really need structure to accomplish things that I need to do.

So don’t worry everyone, we all experience some setbacks and down moments. It’s a process that may take some time. It’s human to feel the way we feel, you’re not alone in this! I can reassure you that we’re all in this together and we can only move forward! 🙂

Yet I do feel like after this lockdown would be uplifted I hope to at least do some stuff that could benefit my research for my thesis and blog.

I really want to continue sharing some of the things I discover by going to events and workshops. Unfortunately it’s not yet guaranteed when the events will happen again.

For now I can only wait and see, safety goes first! This is going to take some time before things go back to normal again… We can only embrace the moment! ❤ 🙂

Family support and care

It’s been a difficult period for me and my whole family. On Monday the 6th of April, my grandfather passed away in an unexpected way. He was dealing with the virus for 2 weeks. My aunt and my two cousins who are living in his home, they have supported him a lot regarding his health, housechores and in the garden. They did a wonderful job to keep us updated about his condition. He was basically recovering until he relapsed. First we saw him recovering and moving around in his garden, he was looking a bit weak. The day after, on Monday, the unexpected news came, it happened in the morning…

At least he passed away in his own home in the arms of his daughter… Once we heard the news we immediately left to say our last goodbye to him before they took his body. It was a beautiful and an emotional moment with the whole family together. On the day of my grandfather’s death we even witnessed a beautiful rainbow very close to his home and there was no rain which is rare to find. This was the most memorable moment with everyone of us to see it from up-close. The beauty of this gave me a feeling of reassurance that my grandfather is in good hands up there.

The grief we’re dealing with has been very difficult at first. The days after his death we haven’t really been eating and drinking properly. After some time we regained our strength again, because in the midst of this crisis, we should prioritize our health, but at the same time we should also take care of our mental wellbeing.

My aunt, who’s a fascia therapist, decided to give a daily online meditation before sleep for 5 or 6 days a week with some of our family members. It’s the best way to deal with trauma, stress, grief etc. After doing these sessions I started to sleep better even though there were days I couldn’t sleep well. But most of the time, thanks to this session I was able to relax my mind before sleeping. What I love about this session is that after the meditation we take the time to express wat effect the meditation had on us and what differences we feel between before and after. Getting to hear everyone’s feelings and the experiences, mental and physical, really give us an insight.

I feel like this kind of activity really helps me understand my own body and mind, so I can really communicate within myself. It brings so much calm in my chaotic and stressful mind. I feel it’s important when you can have time and space to grieve with my family. My aunt keeps asking: how are you all doing? (before the meditation). Can you share us your experience during the meditation? What effect did it have on you? Do you feel any difference? It gives us an idea which excercises during the meditation helped us to relax.

I know in the moment of grief, trauma and depression are such a taboo topics to talk about. But what I love about my family of my mum’s side is that we’re very connected in an emotional way. The way we give each other space to express our feelings is the healthiest way to sort out feelings and thoughts running through our mind. I’m so thankful and grateful for having a loving family who are always available when you need them in the most difficult times. We’ve been lifting each other up. I’ve even called some of my family members to seek support, which I normally not do.

I have been dealing with anxiety for a little while. But thanks to my dear friend who’s been giving us a 5 -day Transformation Challenge, I’ve been including this with my other meditation, which helps me feeling better than the previous days. It’s a challenge that includes creative art, journalling, meditation, yoga and other activities to help reconnect the mind and body in our daily lifestyle. It helps me to relax during this whole pandemic crisis. Today I’m on my third day of the challenge. I’m feeling amazing when I do some of them, it brings out a lot of creativity within me. I’ll definitely try to keep it up since it benefits me to manage stress, anxiety and panic attacks.

The quarantine has been going for more than a month now. It’s a very weird, tough and heavy period for all of us. This virus has especially taught me how to spend my days with what I have with the privileges we have… compared to other people whom are suffering the most financially, mentally and physically… People fighting for their lives and with the hope to recover. The ones who do recover represent a sign of hope that we can still overcome this virus. All in all we’re all in this together.

I’m still hoping and praying that this whole lockdown would be lifted up soon and hopefully we get back to our normal routine. It’s a lesson learned for all of us that we can’t take things for granted.

Stay safe and protect yourself and others. I send everyone positive energy and love. Be patient and I’m staying hopeful for the positive outcome in the future! ❤

Life during the lockdown

Like we all know we’re going through a pandemic crisis at the moment. It’s a very weird moment for all of us globally. In Belgium the lockdown has started on Friday night the 13th of March. We have already been quarantined for more than three weeks… I know this is very unusual to live this kind of lifestyle, to do social distancing from friends and other family members. But this is something we need to learn to adapt ourselves.

Atleast this is also the moment that people or the community are showing solidarity all around the world with all the videos in social media that are going viral. It’s something that really helps us by feeling hopeful that this virus could be stopped as soon as possible as long that everyone works together. This is also the opportunity for families to be together, the moment to reflect, finding your own creativity and learning to self-care. But unfortuantely these kind of priviledges are not fit for everyone. There are people dealing with a lot of financial difficulties such as people owning their own restaurants, bars and other non-essential workplaces. Let’s not forget the homelessness, the asylum seekers, family problems, domestic violence etc. The lockdown effects a lot of people in a different way.

Refugees or asylum seekers and homeless people have more difficulties accessing to basic facilities. There’s a lot of uncertainties regarding this pandemic crisis. It affects so many organisations at the social sector.

On Monday the 16th of March, the Immigration Department decided to close its doors so there are no longer new asylum registers and no reception for new asylum seekers.

From the information I read and what I saw on TV got me a lump in the throat knowing that there are a lot of people suffering from this lockdown. It’s also important that the government should take action. They shouldn’t forget that there are people in need of help financially and a place to stay.

We understand that the government is taking drastic measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus and protect personnel. What we do not understand is the lack of additional measures to protect the most vulnerable and avoid a humanitarian disaster. We note that in these uncertain times our government is abandoning vulnerable people such as asylum seekers and the homeless, but we are calling on the population to show solidarity with each other,’ the organisations say.

(vluchtelingenwerk, 2020)

This brings to our attention, how grateful we are to have a roof over our heads. That we have more than enough food in stock. Atleast it’s a reassurance that we’re not short of anything.

We should definitely not only focus on the negativity but also the positivity. Scrolling down your features in social media, you come across so many videos of Chinese citizens at the beginning of the outbreak, singing songs to lift each other up by singing the national anthem or other songs. Italians, Spanish and many other countries singing, dancing, clapping for the healthcare and other essencial workers, together workouts, helping out neighbours for grocery shopping etc. these videos are the main reasons that we should hold onto hope. This is the opportunity to show solidarity to everyone in our community. It doesn’t matter which country, it’s also a moment to help one another.

As long as we all work in this together collectively by staying home/quarantined, social distancing or self-isolation… we can certainly help the physicians and other medical staff to limit the amount of patients hospitalized.

The message we should all be sending to each other is definitely stay healthy and hygienic as much as possible… Especially when you’re living with other family members… I know these are also moments of uncertainty especially when you’re showing from non to mild symptoms of potential COVID-19. At the moment everyone recovered from mild to severe symptoms… but we’re doing our outmost best to boost our immune system to tackle this virus. Thank God I finally recovered from a fever that lasted 6 days… I was the last one with the severe symptoms.

Thanks to the research I read the advice from doctors and other medical specialists we have been taking a lot of supplements, vitamin drinks, remedies etc to boost our immune system.

What I definitely want to recommend everyone (no symptoms to mild symptoms or if they live with someone who shows symptoms) thanks to the recommendation by doctors and my dear close friend who keeps following me up these remedies and other nutrients are effective to help boost your immune system especially most of these great sources of vitamin C, A, B, D and E. Zinc and selenium also play an important role to boost your immune system. Here are is a list of them we have been using over the whole periode:

  • Mix drink with hot water: Ingredients: 1 tbsp fresh grated Ginger, juice of 1/2 a lemon, 1 tbsp ground turmeric powder (or 1 tbsp fresh grated turmeric), 1 clove of garlic (grated), Freshly ground black pepper and 1 or 2 tbsp of raw honey. Directions: 1. Boil the water in a water kettle. (If you don’t have water kettle: combine turmeric, ginger, garlic, pepper and water in a pot on the stove. Gently bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and let simmer gently for 10-15 minutes). 2. combine turmeric, ginger, black pepper and garlic in a glass. After the water is boiled you pour it in the glass you leave it for 10 to 15 minutes (if you want to have a stronger raste leave it for 20 minutes). 3. After 5 minutes you add some lemon juice and 1 or 2 tbsp of raw honey. This type of tea is a very simple remedy to make. To boost my energy levels, especially when I feel exhausted and weak.
  • Daily Essential nutrients 360 capsules (given by my aunt who’s doctor herself). Advisable during breakfast, lunch and dinner : 1 x 3 capsules a day (if you’re not sick); 2 x 3 capsules a day (if you’re not feeling 100%); 3/4 x 3 capsules a day (if you’re feeling sick).
  • Hot Chilli Pepper: while it’s true that citrus fruit contains the highest source of vitamins C but apparently according to experts red hot chilli pepper contain three times the amount in oranges.
  • Fruitsalad: It has full of nutrients. It contains potassium, fiber, folate, and vitamin A, B, C, and D. These nutrients are essential for our health and reduce the risks of many diseases like diabetes, blood pressure, and heart diseases.
  • Citrus fruit: (Oranges, tangerine, grapefruit, lemon and lime) They’re excellent for its vitamin C immune-boosting system.
  • Vegetables: (Broccoli, Garlic, Spinach, cayenne pepper, chili pepper, potatoes etc.) They have high sources of vitamin C. Each one of them have a high potent of antioxident. They also have tons of benefits on the skin health and the immune system.
  • Almond nuts: The benefits of it is they have a massive amount of nutrients. It’s loaded with a lot of antioxidants. They’re high in vitamin E. It also contains healthy fats, fiber, protein and magnesium.
  • Yogurt: Contains many good nutrients, including protein, calcium and vitamins B12 and B2. It’s a great source of probiotics, they’re good bacteria which helps promote a healthy gut and immune system. I would definitely recommend plain yogurt (Greek yogurt, natural yogurt, etc). Recent studies have shown probiotics to be effective for fighting the common cold and influenza-like respiratory infections.
  • Echinacea (3×20 drops daily): The plant occurs naturally in North America. It was therefore the North American Indians who discovered the medicinal properties of the plant. They used the herb to treat all kinds of wounds such as snake bites and diseases. It’s one of our favorite medicine to use when we deal with colds and flu. It’s one of the most popular means to strengthening our natural resistance.
  • PHYT exponent: ingredients: Ethanol, Matricaria Chamonilla, Triticum repens, Echinacea purpurea, Allium sativum, Viola tricolor (3×20 drops daily) Dietary supplement based on plant extracts. Supports the natural defense mechanism. (made in Belgium)
  • Vita Boost drink: 100% natural; For the perfect immune boost; Contains vitamin C that contributes to the protection of cells against oxidative damage; Without added sugars

When you start taking them, make sure to do this daily. Even after the pandemic is done, it’s better to make sure your health to stay in tackt and never take your health for granted. Especially your immune system which protects you against the disease. For the once who may have the virus but the symptoms are not showing or showing mild symptoms you may have built immunity but it’s always better to boost your immune system.

What definitely helps if you have trouble breathing is a bowl of Eucalyptus oil steam which is beneficial for cold and respiratory relief. Doing this two times (morning and night) does wonders! That’s what we have been doing a lot. I still have some trouble breathing this really helps.

I know these are the advices you’ve heard multiple of times and you’re tired of reading them… It’s not bad to keep hearing them again… since that’s what I’m dealing with at the moment. We’re all in this together. According to specialists or experts they recommend us to wash your hands thoroughly (for at least 20 seconds).

If you don’t have soap, you can still use handsanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. I always take my handsanitizer with me when I or my siblings go out to do grocery shopping even though it’s not always necessary, because most marketplaces have them. But I still take it with me for a peace of mind…

For more guideline information go to this website https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fprepare%2Fprevention.html

Trust me I know it’s difficult and stressful to do all this while we’re dealing with a virus by protecting ourself and others by daily disinfecting surfaces, deepcleaning all areas that are dirty and cleaning yourself… It’s very exhausting, but this is the only way to prevent the virus to spread even more. Especially when you have a big household. It requires collaboration from others which is not always simple to do. I know there are times we tend to forget to do those important stuff daily. It really drains you out when there are a lot of housecores and working for school you’re feeling sick yourself and you need more rest yourself and self-isolating…

But don’t worry guys, I’m slowly feeling better. We have been staying at home for more than three weeks. It’s quite challenging but we’re going to get through this.

I have also been trying to stay active, working on my thesis, reading a book and trying to stay out of media, doing some meditation to allow myself have some peace of mind. I have also started writing down poems which help me sort out my feelings and thoughts on this crisis. For the ones who didn’t read this I hope you may like my poem (down below). Unfortunately I can’t do any workouts because I’m still dealing with a fever, I need time to rest before I can start my normal routine again. It’s very important keep your body active to help boost your immune system.

Please stay safe and hygienic. Follow the rules and the guidelines, that way we can resume our daily lives again as soon as possible… it’s not going to be the same anymore but the lessons we have learned from this crisis will definitely have a positive impact on us.

Cheers ❤

Ps. With sad news I would like to announce that my grandfather passed away on Monday not really due to the virus itself but the virus made him weaker and died of cardiac attack… He remains in our hearts and memories for the rest of our lives. It’s a very difficult time but we’re going to get through this together and it’s not going to stop me from blogging ❤

Bibliography

Black History Month – Ubuntu and in search of identity

I was reading this book called ‘Everyday Ubuntu: Living better together, the African way’ (the English version) written by Mungi Ngomane the granddaughter of Archbischop Desmond Tutu. The version I was reading is in Dutch it’s called ‘De Lessen van Ubuntu: De Afrikaanse filosofie voor een gelukkig leven’, while reading this book and especially in the month of March I’ve been feeling hopeful and optimistic about the awareness that minorities or people from diverse backgrounds have struggled to be accepted in the society. The reason I want to share this book with you is because the content contains a lot of life lessons we can learn from the concept of Ubuntu. Especially in diverse communities it could be essential to integrate such life lessons in daily life. What makes this book intriguing is that it is written by a South African woman who has gotten this knowledge from her grandfather who has lived through Apartheid in South Africa.

When I first started reading this book I was immediately attracted to the meaning behind Ubuntu. How much it has an impact on the way I see myself when I interact with a stranger. The book really helped me to become more aware of myself as a person. I learned a lot from it about how I stand up to others as a human being. It gave me a lot of depth on certain life changes that I can make use of in my daily life.

I’m sure some of you guys are wondering what Ubuntu means.

Ubuntu comes from a South African philosophy and includes all our ideals about how we can live a good life together. We experience it when we make contact with other people and see the human in the other. Or when we listen attentively to someone and a deep bond develops. And when we treat ourselves and others with the respect that we and they deserve.

-Mungi Ngomane-

Ubuntu is a word from the Xhosa language and it means that everyone is connected to each other: ‘I am because you are’ (Ngomane, 2019). Like how it’s described in the quote written by Mungi Ngomane, I do see the importance of treating each other with respect regardless of the differences. To connect with someone gives the opportunity for the person to feel accepted in the community where he or she feels an outsider. We humans are social species, we are not meant to be isolated. In the period of so much division, seeking connection, being part of a community and caring are one of the main important factors to being human.

I would like to point out some of the different lessons from the book that I personally feel are important in life (Ngomane, 2019):

  • Lesson 1: See yourself in others
  • Lesson 3: Put yourself in another
  • Lesson 4: Choose for a broader perspective
  • Lesson 5: Be worthy and respectful of yourself and others
  • Lesson 6: See the good in everyone
  • Lesson 10: Be open to Diversity

These lessons were brought to my attention especially for Black History Month. There are few lessons I can integrate in what I have discovered during the event I went to. This is important because they give me a different perspective on how you deal with yourself and others. How you face challenges in a state of turmoil during your younger years.

This month is Black History Month here in Belgium. It’s about reflecting Black community’s culture, history and various forms of heritage. I want to link Ubuntu with what I have discovered during the event this weekend in Antwerp. It was organised by RZM (Rwanda en Zo Veel Meer; English: Rwanda and So Much More). The organisation was founded in 2012 by and for Rwandan adoptees in Flanders. It’s an exhibition that’s called ‘Blend-ID’. They show portrait pictures, images and shows. Each of these pictures represent a story about the life of an adopted Rwandan child in a white community Belgium. It’s free entrance.

While I was reading these short stories with each portrait, I could relate to some parts, especially when it comes to acceptance, fitting in, finding your identity. To be able to understand their stories, I was invited to discover their point of view as an adopted child.

I must say it was pretty confronting at times especially when they share their personal stories. What is it like to be the only person of color in a white environment? One of the adopted Rwandans used to live in the countryside. I live in the countryside myself. When I was young I was selfconscious too about the color of my skin because people tend to look at me in a certain way. It felt uncomfortable at times.

Down below I have selected two stories that touched me and I definitely want to share them with you.

In my youth I felt very much protected, but at the same time I felt shielded. Protected from anything that could be used against me as a person of color, but at the same time shielded from my own culture. Western culture enveloped itself like a cocoon around me. I lost a lot of my African individuality. As I got older I began to realize that I felt more connected to the African culture. My cocoon began to burst and made way for the proud woman I am now.

Model: Saar N.

I want to link this experience with what I have read in the Book about Ubuntu, especially when it comes to identity, respecting yourself and others. How much it can affect your self dignity as a person. You want to get out of this vicious circle when you have no clear answer on where you stand. Especially when you look at yourself you don’t really fit in either community, black or white. Of course I can’t speak for them, since their stories are what they have personally experienced and bringing exposure to vulnerability. I think it’s strong that they want to share their experiences with us.

To read the stories that come from Rwandan adoptees’ perspective gave me this feeling that they’ve experienced struggles. It’s something that I’ve struggled with in search of my own identity. I don’t know which of both cultures (African or European) I feel more connected to and where I belong.

In my teens and certainly also in my twenties I had a very difficult time with the image I saw in the mirror. I was proud to be an African woman, surrounded by African friends and wanted to learn more about my Rwandan roots. I found being African so beautiful with others, but not with myself. Often I dreamed of different hair, different skin color, different face,…

Model: Uwera

The last story gave me a feeling of how much we look at ourselves as different from our brothers and sisters from the same community. How can we embrace the color of our skin and see others as beautiful and not ourselves? It’s a very complicated topic to talk about especially when I used to have the same thoughts back during the days I was young. The experience is totally diferent since I’m not adopted, as a person of mixed-color (white mother and black father). I always felt proud to be African more than being European. Even though I felt this, I still didn’t feel enough confidence to say it out loud because of the color of my skin (I’m light brown and not black). When I lived in Cameroon I used to be called a lot ‘white girl’ and in Belgium I’m called ‘black’. It’s not wrong since I consider myself black and white. Sometimes it left me with confusion considering my identity and racial inclusion.

It goes to show how much the environment where we grew up has a huge impact on our self-image. I can link this with the theory of ‘Looking-glass self’ created by Charles Horton Cooley in 1902. According to Cooley it’s a social psychological concept that states people shaping their identity based on the perception of others, which leads the people to reinforce other people’s perspectives on themselves. People shape themselves based on what other people perceive and confirm other people’s opinion of themselves (Rousseau, 2002). These stories and portraits help us reflect on how much people of color have to go through in a community that’s different. The perception and opinions of others have a huge influence on the idea we have about ourselves. That can lead to negative self-image which in turn can have an impact on our mental wellbeing in longer term.

Ubuntu helped me putting some elements into perspective on how I look at myself and embrace myself of who I really am and how I look at others. There’s this part about Ubuntu that’s called ‘you are enough’.

According to Ngomane: ‘we aspire not to be unduly influenced by others when we form our thoughts and feelings, but we also acknowledge everyone who has helped us to become who we are. The parents who give us space and freedom to experiment with our lives, the teachers and mentors who offer their wisdom for our journeys, the friends who encourage us, or the family members who might have loaned us money. We feel grateful for where we are, right here and right now, as ubuntu teaches us we are enough. We don’t need to compare our lives to others’ and what they may or may not have in them. Instead, we can be grateful for other people’s contributions to ours’.

I would really recommend this book (Everyday Ubuntu: Living better together, the African way). It’s an inspiring read during your break with a cup of tea/coffee and cake. Especially in these corona times…

It’s better to read the original version, I bought mine in Dutch. Unfortunately other upcoming events are cancelled because of the Coronavirus.. It’s a pity I’m not going to to be able to share more stories about BHM during the whole month of March. I understand the decision, better stay safe than sorry! ❤

It’s a privilege I was able to attend this event which was worth visiting ❤

Still doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be other interesting topics to talk about. 😉

Bibliography

  1. Ngomane, M. (2019). De Lessen van Ubuntu: De Afrikaanse filosofie voor een gelukkige leven. Amsterdam: HarperCollins Holland.
  2. Ngomane, M. (2019). Everyday Ubuntu: Living better together, the African way. United Kingdom: Transworld Publ. Ltd.
  3. RZM (2020), Blend-id. [Event]. Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/events/1916202505180705/
  4. Rousseau, N. (2002). Charles Horton Cooley: The concept of the Looking Glass Self. http://www.csun.edu/~hbsoc126/soc1/Charles%20Horton%20Cooley.pd

Multicultural celebration

At my volunteer working place (Dutch: ‘Moeder-taal’; English: ‘Mother Language’), I’ve experienced a surprise celebration for the teacher who was 30 years together with her husband on Monday (10th of February) and the next day was the day she got married. As it was a special day for her, her students decided to throw a surprise party in class which has left her speechless.

First of all before I go further I want to explain a little about the work I do as a volunteer. The school where I work for is called ‘Moeder-taal’. It’s a project where they offer Dutch lessons for non-Dutch-speaking young mothers who have young children in their care (-3 years) who cannot participate in regular Dutch lessons. It’s for this reason that mothers follow lessons with their children. Within the same building where lessons take place, there are two classes that are taught seperately, while volunteers take care of babysitting.

The lessons are taught every Monday and Tuesday. I volunteer every Monday from 9:30am to 12:30pm.

So back to it.. on that day there were no lessons but instead the teacher took the chance to practice speaking in Dutch about the food each of them made, so they explained the recipe and how they celebrate their weddings in their country of origin. While I was taking care of the young children, I was also listening to their stories. It was very exciting to hear what they had to share.

It’s a unique way of sharing their traditions at moments of celebration and how we can learn from each other’s cultures. I observed their behaviour when they were telling their stories, I felt their excitement when they were giving a dancing and singing performance. Some of them from other countries participated to show respect. Even the ones who had been listening attentively, really showed curiousity by asking multiple questions. They had all the time and space to explain in Dutch without being interrupted.

At the end I was able to taste all the different types of food and complimented them for their effort and taste. To me this was a short and very tasty representation of diversity…

Communication is the key (non-violent/connecting)

Hello guys! This is my first blog… so bear with me, it’s not going to be perfect in the beginning… but I’ll certainly improve gradually over the years. There’s one interesting experience I had that I wanted to share with you guys. Since this is my first blog, I want to take this opportunity!

During the weekend of 25th- 26th of January my family and I were invited to this workshop session which was taught by a family friend, it’s about non-violent communication or communicating connectively. It was a two-day workshop. It’s very intense but interesting to learn the ‘know-how’ to react in certain circumstances or situations you’re in, it doesn’t matter if it’s in your workplace, school or in a relationship. I love the fact that there was no only theory but also the practical part added to it. We’ve been taught all types of methodologies to use to integrate in our daily lives. It helped us to be aware of our feelings and needs, so we can be able to respond or react in a composed and empathic way when we’re confronted with remarks from people in general. It gave me another look at myself… I’m usually not always open about my feelings and not always aware of my needs. Especially in the world we live in we tend to reply in an aggressive or straightforward way without taking the time to think before we reply.

At the end of this session each one of us had to explain what we did learn from this workshop and share each other’s needs and explain why we find these needs very important to us. The one important need I chose was ‘inspiration’. The reason why I chose it is because this session has inspired me to use this methodology: non-violent communication to integrate in my thesis or in my practical field as a volunteer. Especially for interaction between people with migration background and the local people. I found it interesting to know our boundaries and how to accept differences without judgement. We all have the same needs, but it’s not always easy to know what need each person experience at present. Communicating while respecting each other’s needs and feelings can have an impact on how we look at strangers. We tend to judge easily, that’s why this workshop is very useful to learn how to manage our way of communicating and go beyond our judgements.

I have to admit it was very intense and quite challenging but it was worth the try. 😀 🙂

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