Three Kenyan movies to watch this holiday season

my brother & I looking like movie stars, 2019

I would like to start this movie review by saying that people should seriously consider watching foreign films if they haven’t already. I love Indian movies particularly and of course, Kenyan movies make me feel like I am home. From the beautiful shots of the capital city Nairobi to the eye candy actors/actresses, the following Kenyan movies are Hollywood quality in my opinion. Maybe we need to coin a new term “Kenwood” or “Kenywood”. Anyway, while we keep brainstorming on a possible name, let me convince you why the following three movies are worth your time. Because as we know, time is money.

You again

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I just watched this captivating movie this December and it stars one of my favorite Kenyan actors: the oh-so-handsome and talented, Nick Mutuma. I am sure we will see Nick in Hollywood one day because he’s just that good and he is consistent in You Again where he plays a character who is unemployed due to being fired from his last job. Similarly, his ex-girlfriend from college finds herself looking for work. Coincidentally, they both found work at the same place. The problem is that they can’t stand each other’s gusts. As such, their attitudes towards each other may put their careers in jeopardy unless they resolve their issues. The ex-girlfriend role is played by newcomer Mimi Mars who does a great job executing the tom-boy role. She is also a woman of principle which is why the movie is not your typical romantic comedy. It touches on serious issues such as inequality in the workplace specifically how women are treated as wallflowers that are just supposed to sit there and look pretty. If I were to rate this movie, I would give it 4/5 stars as the supporting characters also did a wonderful job in adding humor and charm to the movie. It is also a family-friendly movie that could be watched with parents and children alike. So without further ado, please see the link below to watch this entertaining movie for free:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyNcdSPmkSo

Plan B

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As you can tell from the title Plan B, someone will be getting pregnant in this movie.  What I love most about this film is that it is pan-African with a Nigerian producer (Lowla-Dee) and while most of the actors are Kenyan, the male stare Daniel Etim Effiong is a very talented Nigerian actor. His character acts tough and dismissive until Sarah Hassan’s character softens him up. Again this story isn’t just a romantic comedy as it highlights legal issues such as paternity, single-parent upbringing, and child support. It also shows a bit of Kenya’s music scene and urban environment. I love the ending but of course, I won’t ruin it for you. From what I remember, the movie does not display nudity so I would give this movie a G-rating for family friendliness. This movie is also free so please check it out below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1Hii5thnhI

Disconnect

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This movie also stars Nick Mutuma but with a different love interest played by Brenda Wairimu. It explores such topics as the friend-zone, cheating, and depression. Nick is the ever supporting friend who exceedingly cares for his female best friend Brenda. Despite this seemingly predictable set-up of a romantic comedy, the ending of the movie is actually surprising. There is also some diversity as one of the characters in the film is of Indian descent as Kenya is actually habited by many different cultures. Also, Brenda’s character is a dentist and who doesn’t love beautiful independent women. In the spirit of independence and supporting actors, this movie is actually for rent on Vimeo for only $3.99. The movie does have some sexual references so keep that in mind if watching it with family. It might be better to host a movie night with friends so you just pay $3.99 and split between your friends. The rental allows viewing for 48 hours so no worries if you get distracted during a Vimeo and chill situation *wink*wink* Either way, please check it out below:

https://vimeo.com/ondemand/149469

 

“Happiest place on earth” – Disney World Review

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Orlando, FL. October 2019

 

I would like to start by saying thank you to my best friend for doing the most in planning her bachelorette week celebration in Orlando, Florida. My family and I went to Universal Studios and Sea World when I was a kid so I was mostly excited about Disney World. As the blog title suggests, Disney World is known as “the happiest place on earth”. It should also be known as one of the most expensive places on earth as a bottle of water is like $5 U.S. dollars but anyway it was worth it. The place is truly and utterly beautiful, especially the magic kingdom where the picture to the left is taken. On the first day, I dressed up in “Princess Jasmine” inspired attired with a matching crop top and pant set from Fashion Nova (I bought this last year so it may no longer be on their website). My second favorite place was Epcot which features several recreations of different cities around the world and world cuisine including Tusker from Kenya. Disclaimer: Epcot food can never live up to the original world cuisine but most of the curated items are tasty (see pic below).

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peri peri skewered shrimp with rice on plate 1. curried beef on plate 2. Tusker Kenyan Beer in the lone cup.

The Magic Kingdom: A major part of what makes the magic kingdom so magical is the cinderella castle which is so captivating and which lights up at night. In addition, there is a fireworks show surrounding the castle at 9pm every night. And this is a fireworks show that you can actually write home about (case in point, this blog). I also loved pretending that I was Princess Jasmine when we found a bazaar that resembled those in the movie. (See pics below).

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Finally, let’s not forget the main event which was my best friend’s bachelorette celebration. I had a really fun time being around her and the other bridesmaids. Disney has a lot to offer although their rides are not really scary. I can’t wait to continue the celebration at the wedding in less than 30 days. Woohoo! Cheers to the soon to be newlyweds! 🙂 ❤

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Epcot, Disney World, October 2019

Thanks for reading and Happy Thanksgiving! ❤

 

Deal Breaker vs Red Flags: how much is too much?

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To the left is a picture of me and my brother on the New Orleans Ferry from Algiers to the Riverwalk which I highly recommend as you can avoid being a victim of crazy driving (which is a red-flag for me). Disclaimer: I am going to make a pretty controversial statement in the next sentence. I think that we all settle in some way when choosing the person to marry or even just be in a relationship with (platonic or not). To circumvent this, some people write down lists of their deal-breakers and potential red flags. We all know deal breakers are more of a non-issue because as soon as you see that quality in the person, you say “NEXT!” However, red flags are more tricky because in most cases, they mean that you would not stop a relationship just because of a little red flag. Let’s say the red flag in your potential mate is that they don’t know how to cook, you are kind of willing to let that go especially in the age of food delivery services. But how about if I add on doesn’t like animals and has terrible grammar to the list? These three little red flags can turn into a total deal-breaker. So my question is when do you know when enough is enough?

Some people might say three red flags is enough to say goodbye to the person they are dating but sometimes, you can be so blinded by love that you let so many red flags continue to pile on without addressing them. And in the end, we end up resenting the other person for being so different from what we want when the person is just being themselves. I truly do not believe that any human should try to change another human. Change should come from within. So although I have been told we cannot quantify human beings into bad or good since we are so complex, maybe we should always keep in mind how much we are compromising to be with the person we are dating. This can be applied to friendships and workplaces as well but I think we are usually more critical about platonic relationships as compared to romantic ones.

As I stated in the beginning, I think we all settle in some way but settling too much can breed resentment and unhappiness. Knowing your worth, your values, and how much you are willing to put up with is key. And since I just recently watched Spiderman: Into the Spider-verse last night, I will say that trusting your spidey-sense or gut will lead you to make the right decision most of the time. I feel like our spirit and soul know a lot more than our mind when it comes to relationships, so don’t kill your brain trying to do crazy algorithms when you can just tap into your spiritual energy. Because only you can know how much is too much for you. 🙂 ❤

The power of love

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July 2019

This past weekend I had the pleasure of witnessing a beautiful wedding in the breathtaking location of Boothbay Harbor, Maine (Congrats again to the newly wedded couple). It feels like forever since I attended a wedding but it’s only been like 2 years haha. My first career in life was being a flower girl. In fact, some brides were begging my mom for me to be in their wedding but at some point, she had to say no because attending multiple weddings in a year can really deplete your pocket. My cousin tells me that I wasn’t very good at being a flower girl since I did not smile a lot but I guess I was cute enough to be marketable. We were both flower girls at her parents’ wedding and I can tell you she did a way better job than me. There’s photo evidence to prove that I was “stone face” instead of radiating with smiles like she was. Fast forward, years later and I am supposed to be the maid of honor in my best friend’s wedding so I guess that is kind of a promotion. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure to smile from ear to ear even if I get lock-jaw.

Smiley or not, witnessing the union of two people is a blessing. Weddings are always a reminder of the power of love. Love is one of the few forces that can transcend race, class, education, and even politics. Also, it is a force that can grow exponentially. At the wedding I attended this weekend, one of the speakers remarked that how greatly the bride loves her groom now will grow even more with time. Often we love someone so much that we cannot imagine loving them more but wait until they are the mother or father to your children. My father spoke at the rehearsal dinner and revisited his tested and true theory that “love is taking care” (now that I think about it, the children’s book Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) also has this central theme). To summarize, don’t just tell someone you love them when showing them love actually means more. Other married couples, came up to my dad to show appreciation for his message so I think my dad is on to something.

To reference Le Petit Prince a little bit, love is like a flower. It is undeniably beautiful but you have to handle it with care. You cannot give it too little or too much water. You have to protect it from the elements such as wind. And people say when you talk to plants, they grow better so communication is key in gardening just like in love. Also if you do your gardening right, one plant can bloom many flowers and even help the ecosystem by helping produce pollen for the bees. Bees then pollinate the world further and increase the number of plants in the world so that we have enough oxygen being released in the air. Similarly, one love story can inspire more love in the world and I think weddings provide a great forum for just that. I am sure every married couple that goes to a wedding gets inspired to love their spouse more while every single person gets inspired to prioritize love in their life. So yes love is truly powerful. May we vow to treat it as the precious force that it has the power to be. 🙂 ❤

Half year Gratitude list

June 2019

With half a year officially gone, I would like to remind you that you are amazing for sticking through this thing we call life. Many people wanted to be here today and some did not make it so you definitely have something to be grateful for. I personally challenged myself to write 10 things that make me #blessed. Here we go:

1. That I have survived, may I say I have even thrived, in the first half of the year. All praise to the most high.

2. My niece can actually speak whole sentences now and it quite an intelligent little girl.

3. My brother has now been in the professional work force for a whole year. Congrats little bro.

4. My family has overcome challenges that life has thrown at us and it always makes us even stronger when we’re together

5. I started the year off in the motherland facing Mt. Kenya and on the equator line.

6. The tennis league that I am a part of qualified to the state championships where I won 2 matches and lost one.

7. I have been able to balance both my work and personal life.

8. I have had this blog for about 2.5 years now.

9. I got a pedicure this weekend and decided to be more adventurous so I got hot pink instead of my usual lilac color.

10. I bought some jeans online and when they came in the mail I was expecting to be disappointed. But to my surprise, they fit perfectly; even better than the ones I’ve bought in a walk-in store.

And with that, I hope my jean story inspires you to take more risk. FYI I bought a size up so in case they didn’t fit, I could gift them to my friend so maybe also karma rewards us when we think of others. Happy rest of 2019 😊❤️

How to ENRICH your LIFE: La Joie de Vivre

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In summer of 2012, I interned at the Institute of Primate Research in Nairobi, Kenya where they conduct very groundbreaking research especially on tropical diseases (and before you ask, yes they conduct ethically sound research that follows World of Health Animal Research Protocols). My favorite part of the internship was the enrichment project where select staff, such as myself, played with the monkeys, chimps, and other primates for at least an hour a day. This enrichment project was created under the reason that the primates should still have a life with some daily fun even though they were being used for research. I was reflecting upon this experience recently and I realized that even humans are primates so we have to remember to always create some joy in our lives. The word enrichment is befitting because it enhances the value and quality of our lives. Another phrase that I love is “la joie de vivre” which is French for “joy of life”.

I personally find my joie de vivre in three things: art, food, and music. I just recently had a quick vacation to Houston that encompassed those three things so let me highlight them below in picture format.

ART (all pictures taken at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX)

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FOOD

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The Savoy Restaurant is definitely a must-visit spot for Indo-Pakistani food. At the bottom left of the photo, you can see green specks in the naan which are cilantro and Jalapeno peppers. As such, this naan is called “the bullet” naan. This was my first time having it and now I am obsessed. Also, tried goat brain masala which was better than one could expect. My favorite, of course, was the goat biryani.

MUSIC

The main person that inspired my recent trip to Houston is Lauryn Hill as she had a concert lined up on Thursday, May the 9th. Despite bad weather and flash flood warning, we showed up and luckily, she did too. Her performance was amazing and she delivered considering 20 plus years have passed since the release of her album, The MisEducation of Lauryn Hill. Her guitarists and backup singers were on point too. Please watch the clip below for a morsel of her performance.

 

I hope you enjoyed this post and that you take time to reflect on how you can or will continue to ENRICH your LIFE. Thanks for reading 🙂 ❤

Boston Review: Resident & Tourist view

 

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March 2019

Some of you may know that I spent a little over half a decade (six years) in Boston, Massachusetts. So this is a review where I can delve both into being a resident and a tourist of the city. My first trip to Boston was in 2010 with my mom before the start of my senior year of high school to look at different universities in the area (Harvard, MIT, Boston University, and my alma mater of Northeastern University). The one campus that truly captured my eye and heart was Northeastern’s as it was right in the heart of Boston but still managed to be centralized; so you could feel like you were in your own world and still be in the mix of the city within less than a 5-minute walk.   I liked being in a worldly diverse school with students from all over the map and being in a city where all these cultures participated, especially in food.

Food. My favorite restaurant in Boston is actually a Senegalese restaurant called Teranga. It is a small place with a cozy vibe as the owner is super friendly and makes sure to talk to every table when he is around. One of my favorite quotes of his is “We are all African” which actually describes my experience in Boston because I made friends with Africans from other countries such as Nigeria and Somalia. I also loved the Boston Shawarma restaurant that I was on Huntington Avenue where my alma mater is located. I also loved eating really delicious Vietnamese soup called pho (thanks to my best friend’s mom for introducing this to me as her homemade pho is still the best in my book) at a restaurant called Pho & I which was also down the street from my school. I also loved samosas and biryani from an Indian restaurant called the Dosa Factory (I actually gave them my email one time to be contacted in case they were hiring). The China town in Boston is actually pretty legitimate and has very authentic Chinese food (sometimes so authentic that it doesn’t match your palette depending on which restaurant you frequent). My favorite is Gourmet Dumpling House which has a really nice pancake dish and obviously amazing dumplings. For brunch though, my favorite restaurant is Darryl’s Corner Bar and Kitchen which has a soul/jazzy vibe with live music and a buffet brunch option. On my recent one-day trip to Boston, I actually did not eat out as my friend cooked shrimp & chicken Jollof for me which filled me up for the whole day (see picture below). It was actually the best Jollof I’ve ever had so shout out to Chef Ola.

 

 

Tourist Attractions. A lot of films are actually filmed in Boston so you should already know that it is beautiful (especially in the summer because snow can become a pain after a while). My favorite spot is the Boston Gardens which are right at the end of Newbury St where you can shop from various high-end stores like Gucci and even low-end stores like Forever 21. My friend and I went there to chill before heading to Macy’s which is within walking distance. We actually ended up climbing a tree together (mainly him climbing the tree and helping me up). After Macy’s, we went to the Charles River Esplanade which is another tourist attraction where you can watch sailboat races or just a beautiful sunset. There is also a little park by the banks of the river which I love to visit from time to time mainly for the monkey bars where I like to hang upside down like the primate that I am (every so often I like to do this just to make sure that I haven’t lost this skill yet haha). If you want a great view of Boston (no upside hanging involved), the Top of the Hub Restaurant which is at the top of the Prudential Building (also known as The Pru) is a great place to go especially during a clear day. If you are a museum enthusiast like myself, both the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) and the Isabella Stewart Gardner (ISG) Museum are a must-see.

Nightlife. One of my favorite places to chill and listen to good music is the W Hotel in Boston. It never disappoints and the African City party this year was held in the hotel so I was excited to attend. My friend and I got there an hour and a half late but the party still had not started. When it did start around an hour later, it was actually a great party with a great DJ playing music from all over Africa (not just Nigerian and Ghanaian music). When he played Yvonne Chaka Chaka’s Umqombothi song that was when I knew he was the real deal. Unfortunately, clubs and bars close at 2am in Boston as it was/still is a Puritan city. This used to really frustrate me when I was in college but now that I am old, sleep is life so I do not mind the 2am curfew at all. Most of the time people have house parties afterward so there are ways to work around it which brings me to my next topic about accommodation.

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Travel & Accommodation. I won’t even try to sugarcoat it; Boston can be a little bit racist (I even talked to a white person who lived in Boston who stated this). I will say that I did experience some racism when trying to secure an Airbnb during my last year of school. For example, some prospective hosts will not even message you back based on skin color or will pretend that the dates are actually booked when they are not. Therefore, a hotel is probably the best option if you have a short stay (I guess unless you get lucky with Airbnb). If you are planning to stay in Boston long term, do bear in mind that rent is pretty expensive. You can live further out of the city for cheaper accommodation but if you do not have a car, the commute can be long by train or bus. I chose to stay close to campus because my major required long nights at the library and I wanted to be safe going home. Also, commuting during the winter can be hell with snow covered streets. In general, buy good shoes because the city of Boston requires a lot of walking and if you are a lady, the cobblestone will most likely ruin your stilettos. But one thing that makes Boston stand out from the rest is that it is a very clean city, your shoes will probably still be squeaky clean at the end of the day.

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New York City Trip Review

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March 2019, Brooklyn Bridge

I would like to start by sharing a quote that I read on a billboard while walking around New York City that stated that “NYC is like a pretty woman smoking a cigar”. It is kind of rough around the edges and definitely not everyone can survive living there. But they also say “if you can make it in NYC, you can make it everywhere”. I am fortunate to say that I have two friends who I grew up with in Alabama who are making it in NYC and I enjoyed hanging out with them. This was not my first time in NYC but 2015 was the last time I was there so a trip was long overdue. My review of the city starts with a food review because NYC is truly a melting pot where you can find cuisine from all over the world.

Food. I have never had a bad meal in NYC. This time around I was mostly looking forward to trying Peruvian food because my best friend is always talking about it. So when I saw a Peruvian restaurant in Queens called Jora, I was excited to try it out. My best friend recommended Ceviche which is raw seafood marinated with lime and onions. I am not a fan of raw fish, to be honest, but they also served a complimentary snack of banana chips with avocado/lime sauce which was so delicious that I have to try to recreate it at home. My friend also took me to a Greek restaurant called Taverna Kyclades which was great for me because I had been craving calamari that week. With calamari as the appetizer, I ordered lamb chops and lemon potatoes. The food was decent but my friend claims that the Taverna Kyclades in Queens is better than the one we went to. The best restaurant we experienced was Soco in Brooklyn which is black-owned and soul food/creole inspired. I had previously frequented this restaurant in 2015 with some college friends for brunch and I loved their fried chicken with red velvet waffles. Yes! Red Velvet waffles! My friend ordered the gumbo and we both enjoyed it. This time around I did not eat any street food but make sure to check out the halal food trucks if you’re ever in NYC.

 

Tourist attractions. NYC has a lot of tourist attractions but I am not really drawn to a lot of them such as the Statue of Liberty. My favorite attraction is the Brooklyn Bridge because the lower part of the bridge is for cars and the upper part is for pedestrians where you can walk while getting an amazing view of the NYC skyline. I also love Central Park just because it is so huge and is usually a great place to people watch. My friend and I also went to the top of the empire state building which had a great view of the skyline at night with all the lights all over the city. Surprisingly, we went on a Thursday and there were a lot of tourists there especially from France. I joked to my friend that French people view NYC the way American people view Paris: full of romance, class, and adventure. So Paris 2020 anyone?

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Night Life. On this trip, I was really looking to find a club that plays African music because that is something I do not get to experience where I live down South. I found an event in Brooklyn hosted by an African DJ in a lounge. My friend and I showed up an hour late to the event but we ended up being among the first 5 people there including the DJ. While we waited for more people to show up, I took the chance to play the DJ’s electronic drums which was actually pretty fun as you can see in the video below (sorry for the horrible quality).  By the end of the night, only 20 people had shown up but we still enjoyed as the DJ was on fire playing all the Afrobeats bangers. On my previous trips to NYC, I have gone to American clubs which are all over the place and can get really packed. That was a while back though so I won’t give any recommendations because things might have changed. But NYC still remains as the city that never sleeps so don’t sleep on it.

Accommodation & Transport. Ubers can be a pretty expensive way to travel since the city is so expansive. It is a necessary evil though mainly for airport trips and when you’ve exhausted all your energy by dancing all night. However, the train system in NYC is world class. Usually, it will take about the same travel time as a car to take the train as train stops are everywhere and the wait times are short. Also, NYC trains are known to have talented individuals displaying their talents in hopes of being discovered and making a bit of money. And of course trains and buses are much cheaper than Ubers. For accommodation, there are usually deals on Groupon especially during the offseason (Spring and Fall). I chose to stay at a hotel in Queens because LaGuardia Airport is in Queens and I did not want to be late to the airport as usual. Also, I have always wanted to stay in Queens after watching Coming to America with Eddie Murphy and Yes, I ❤ NY.

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Thanks for reading! 🙂

Near death experiences: fresh perspective on life

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August 2012

I like to regard myself as sort of a dare devil. I loved jumping from trees and was not really afraid of heights as a kid. Now I am bit more reserved since I really do not want to die a stupid death, especially after watching 1,000 ways to die with my dad and brothers growing up. But despite my reservations, I have still experienced at least 3 near death experiences (that I know about). I’ll start with the least frightening to the most:

  1. When I was born and still in the hospital with my mom, she fell off the hospital bed and fortunately she was not holding me and luckily, I was lying on the side facing the wall so I did not fall with her. Obviously this is not an experience that I remember but when my mom told me about it, I realized how fortunate I am to have been spared from the numerous infant mortalities that happen on a daily basis. They say that when a woman is pregnant, she is between life and death because of how dangerous pregnancy can be at times. Childbirth still scares me to this day but I guess if others have done it, so can I.
  2. In 2005, my mom and I went to Kenya to visit for the summer. While there, we went to a place known as Eastleigh in Nairobi where the place is surrounded by vendors all over the streets and malls filled with more vendors. I was about 12 years old so I shopping trip with my mom and aunt was a little bit boring for me because they were talking about grown up stuff that I knew nothing about. Anyway at some point, I bent down to tie my shoe and didn’t say anything because I did not want to interrupt my mom and aunt. Next thing I knew, I was essentially lost as I could not find them at all. Now picture me as an innocent looking girl all along in a street filled with people and chaos. The female vendors were looking at me like, “be careful” and they kept telling me “fungua macho” which means “open your eyes”. Since I was young, I didn’t realize they were saying this because they wanted me to look at their products. Instead I thought they knew that I was lost and were warning me of danger. So during these period of being lost, my mind went to dark places as I started imagining myself kidnapped and used as a child slave. Fortunately, that did not happen, as my intuition led me to a three-story mall and I walked through all the booths until I heard the sound of my mom and aunt’s voice. Remember this was the age where kids didn’t have cell phones and Eastleigh was so far from where he stayed that I might have been really doomed if I did not find them.
  3. If none of the previous stories scared you, this is the one that probably will. So this probably happened when I was about 19 years of age. I was home for the summer from college and my older brother had just bought a motorcycle. So me being the dare devil, I decided that I could convince him to let me park it for him in the garage. Somehow he agreed and gave me a quick tutorial on how to press the gas and the break. I guess in my excitement, I got the gas and break confused so I quickly pressed the gas thinking it was the break and the motorcycle (with me on it) sped off so fast that even my neighbors who were outside ran to our garage to see what was going on. Fortunately, our garage had a door to the backyard so I did not crash into the concrete walls of our garage. Next problem was that there were huge oak trees in the backyard that I could crash into and break my head in two as I was not wearing a helmet. Fortunately, I steered left and hit one of the bushes adjacent to the house. The motorbike fell on me and scratched my lower leg a little, which to me was a miracle considering how bad that situation could have been. Like everyone involved in this situation, especially me and my older brother were in shock. It took a while for my heart to stop racing and when we told our dad about it, he was not very happy. However, my brother still kept riding his bike and I decided to just be happy with being his passenger. By the way, the featured picture above was taken about a week or two before my doom while posing with my brother’s bike that was parked in the garage at the time. Little did I know what was to come lol.

When I remember any of these near-death experiences, I realize that I would already be dead by now if I was not meant to be alive at this point in time. There has to be reason that none of those moments were not my time to go meet my maker or just turn into dust. Therefore, they keep me motivated to make good use of my time here on earth. We really never will know when we are going to die, even some people who attempt suicide end up surviving their self-injuries so you never really know. To end on a lighter note: here is a new fun fact that I learned recently. For those who participate in the U.S. daylight savings time, what is the longest month of the year? If you guessed October that is the correct answer as the 10th month has 31 days and because of the extra one hour gained during daylight savings time, it surpasses the other 31 day long months.  🙂 ❤

5 things learned ft “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

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February 2019

For a book that is only 150 pages long, it captures so much of America that is typically left unsaid. In his book, Coates writes a well-articulated letter to his son about the journey of being Black in America. The journey is described historically, emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually as Coates tries to come to terms with losing a fellow school mate to police violence.  Despite this book being short, it took me a while to read because it covers a very heavy subject matter and can leave you feeling a bit sad at times. But this sadness is truly the reality of what it means to be Black in America (just watch the news). I would venture to say that this book should be required reading for all Americans but clearly I am not the president. So here are the five things I learned from reading this thoughtful book:

  1. Howard University may be the mecca of black intellectual thought and black higher learning. The author of the book, Coates, is an alumni of Howard University along with his wife and his murdered college mate. As such, the book might as well be a marketing scheme for Howard University but to be honest, it seems the author is just sharing his honest experience at the institution. I attended a predominantly white institution (PWI) for college so clearly I cannot speak much about historically black college and universities (HBCUs). I think part of why I never applied to one is because I never felt “black” enough in high school and what I was looking for in a university, was a great global representation. However, it was refreshing to learn about Howard University in the book as the author refers to it as the Mecca and rightfully so as many great Black American thinkers such as Thurgood Marshall and Toni Morrison graduated from Howard University. Fun fact: Taraji P. Henson and Mr. Black Panther himself, Chadwick Boseman, are also Howard alumni.
  2. “They made us into a race. We made ourselves into a people.” Black history is full of rich stories of struggles, greatness, and humanity. As much as oppressors have tried to bury our history, our language, our culture, we must persist to remember our journey. Our journey is what makes us black people. When you don’t know where you come from, you can never fully imagine where you can go. So make it an effort to read up on black history as most schools definitely do not teach us enough of it.
  3. Double consciousness plays a big role in Black America. The theory of double consciousness was coined by W.E.B. Dubois in his book The Souls of Black Folks and it basically describes how Black Americans have to view themselves from both white and black eyes. Society views Black people one way and therefore, we have to understand how we are viewed and reconcile that with how we view ourselves. For example, if a black person is seen in a predominantly white neighborhood, he or she might be stopped by the cops because it is assumed that a black person would not be able to afford to live among white people. Therefore, as much as society can view Black people incorrectly, we should be aware of it but not let it define us which is an act of double consciousness.
  4. Raising a black child in America is probably one of the hardest things to do. When his school mate is murdered via police violence, Coates visits the school mate’s mom and interviews her about how she feels. The victim’s mom speaks of how she afforded her children the best education, trips abroad, and nice cars; and despite all this, she still could not protect her son from police brutality. This makes the writer very vulnerable as he has a young son and realizes that could be his own fate. As such, this experience inspires this book which is essentially a letter to his son forewarning him about such situations and how to cope with life as a black body in America.
  5. Traveling opens one’s eyes a bit more about who you are. I think this is because you are fed with propaganda wherever you grow up and seeing how other cultures perceive you, can show you the biases of your own self-perception. When the author travels to France in his adulthood, he realizes that he could have grown up with a different childhood if he was not born in the ghettos of Baltimore, Maryland where he was constantly afraid for his life. He was also able to let his guard down as he realized what made him stand out was not the color of his skin but his poor French language skills.

Trust me when I say that this review does not do the book justice. It is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read in my entire life. At times, I had to re-read a whole paragraph over again because it is higher level reading written with the vocabulary of a true scholar. It definitely was a challenge from my typical light autobiographical reads such as that by Kevin Hart (link to my review of his book). Despite the challenge, I truly enjoyed every second of it and my mouth often gaped at the intelligent construction of the author’s words.  I hope you do too 🙂 ❤