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The 23 Hardest Things About Moving Home After Living Abroad

30 Oct

kylamckee:

…. Yep, definitely looking forward to these.

Originally posted on Thought Catalog:

1. Having dreams where you’re back in your old city, in your old apartment, and everything is exactly the way it way — and then waking up and realizing that, at least for now, that chapter of your life is closed.

2. Occasionally messing up your speech patterns and using strange syntax because your brain is, in many ways, still working in the second language and you don’t quite know how to change directions without throwing everything into reverse.

3. The three or four food items that — beyond just being the overall cuisine that you miss — had come to be your diet staples that you don’t really know how to live without anymore.

4. Trying to plan your trip back to go visit all of your friends and realizing that airplane tickets are just as expensive as ever, if not more so.

5. Having to factor in airplane…

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Homophobic Policies in Botswana

29 Oct

When I was living in Botswana, every citizen and expatriate knew the laws on homosexuality: it is illegal to have homosexual sex. This law was rarely enforced. 

Now, the government is calling for a campaign against gay men and sex workers in the country, in an attempt to curb the HIV infection rate. Suspected gay men and sex workers will now be arrested and detained, while foreigners of these groups can be detained and/or deported. Read the full story here

I am infuriated by this so-called “HIV prevention strategy.” I truly loved living in Botswana and was aware of many injustices and discriminatory policies, but this is the worst. Not only does this violate the Constitution of Botswana, but it is simply not a legitimate strategy for reducing the infection rates of HIV. While the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among sex workers is high, arresting them in certainly not the answer. Prostitution in Botswana is highest in the refugee camp and amongst the most vulnerable groups, and the government should be addressing the underlying issues that lead to prostitution – as well as the severe gender inequality that leads to women (especially sex workers) to be disempowered to insist on condom use. Furthermore, the prevalence rate among men who have sex with men is significantly lower than the national average (9% vs. 17.6%). 

I am absolutely disgusted by the government of Botswana right now. I urge everyone to oppose Member of Parliament John Toto who made an anti-gay speech last week, and to encourage human rights groups like Ditshwanelo and BONELA to stand against this campaign. 

Racism at Halloween

24 Oct

I am appalled that this needs to be explained, but taking a stereotype of a different culture or race and then dressing up as it for Halloween or a party is unacceptable. It is racist.

I saw this post on Buzzfeed the other day about a woman in Australia who had an “African” themed party – and her guests came dressed as animals, in “tribal” prints and in blackface – someone even came as a KKK member! Then the host posted an “apology” on Tumblr, saying that ” this was to celebrate the amazing country and people.”

After I got over my incredulity at all the glaring racism, I wanted to scream (for the second time this week) “Africa is NOT a country!” My Facebook friend posted a great link to her page the other day, about a campaign students in Ohio were running. The campaign We’re a Culture, not a Costume was run in 2011 with the tagline “This is NOT who I am, and this is NOT okay,” and in 2012 with the tagline “You wear the costume for ONE night, I wear the stigma for LIFE.” Each poster features the picture of a student as well as a picture of someone dressed as a stereotype from their culture or race.

It is a brilliant and powerful campaign, that is obviously necessary, because below is the thread of comments on my friend’s page. Pay special attention to the comments made by Red (I have colour-blocked everyone’s pictures and names for their privacy).

FacebookRacism

I honestly can’t believe the level of racism and ignorance that still exists in our society. It is abhorrent and unacceptable.

With Halloween approaching, I ask all my friends, family and readers to think about the costumes you wear, to call others out for the behaviour, and to spread the message of We’re a Culture, Not a Costume.

What the Internet Thinks of Women

23 Oct

There is a lot of hype surround UN Women’s new ad campaign. It utilizes Google Search’s autocomplete feature and takes a screenshot of what happens when you search “women cannot”, “women should”, “women shouldn’t” and “women need to”. They are very powerful images, and it places the screenshot of the search over a woman’s mouth.

Something to note is that Google Search has different results for different people – Google personalizes your search results based on web history.

So, I typed in the above searches for both men and women, and these were my results (click to image to view full-size).

women cannot

 Not only is this a brilliant ad campaign, but it shows just how entrenched patriarchy and sexism are in our society. When we do the same searches for men, we can see how patriarchy negatively affects men as well. “Men shouldn’t cry” and “men need to man up” are some examples of how patriarchy is a human problem, not a woman’s problem. “Men cannot be feminists” shows us how much we really need men in the feminist movement.

What happens when you do these searches? What are your reactions?

Modeling Consent

30 Sep

kylamckee:

“This is how much I have internalized rape culture. I expect men to challenge me when I lay down a sexual boundary.”

This is a great post about showing what consent culture is through modeling it.

Originally posted on Disrupting Dinner Parties:

This guest post is written by Rebecca Flin

So we know what “rape-culture” is at this point, right? Thank god we finally have a word for it! Like the emergence of the term, “sexual harassment” in the 1970s, the recent addition of the term “rape culture” to our everyday lexicon has given us a way to describe what used to be called “just the way it is” or “life”. Therefore, we are now able to see and discuss it. And I don’t know about you guys, but I see it everywhere: movies, the news, music, child-raising, the subway, you name it. Rape culture is our culture. But now that we see it, we can start changing it right?

So tell me, what can I do to move away from rape culture? There’s certainly a lot of discussion out there about what NOT to do –aka what rape culture looks like…

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Where’s the line on street harassment?

30 Sep

kylamckee:

Women face street harassment all the time – even on a daily basis. So, where’s the line?

Originally posted on Feminist Philosophers:

Soraya Chemaly argues that violence is a natural end-result of the same principles which operate in what we ordinarily refer to as street harassment:

Earlier this week a man in a car pulled up next to a 14-year old girl on a street in Florida and offered to pay her $200 to have sex with him.  [. . .] The girl said no. So what does this guy do? He reaches out, drags her, by her hair, into his car, chokes her until she blacks out, tosses her out of the car and then, not done yet, he runs her over several times.  Bystanders watched the entire episode in shock. He almost killed her, but she lived and ID’d him in a line up and he’s been arrested and charged with Attempted Murder, Aggravated Battery with a Deadly Weapon and False Imprisonment.  What was the Deadly Weapon referred to in the…

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Another Day in My Life

23 Sep

So I’m slightly over half done my stay here, and I think it’s about time for another update on my day-to-day life.

I am now pretty comfortable in the city and for the most part, I can find m way around. I use the mini-busses when I know exactly where I’m going, but otherwise I use a contract taxi. The mini-busses are super cheap (usually just a few birr, a matter of cents), but you have to listen as the attendant hangs out the window and yells out where it is going. Then you need to know where you want to get off since there are no appointed stops – luckily I learned how to say “stop here” in Amharic pretty early on in my stay! The contract taxis are nice since they will drop you off exactly where you want, but they can also be a hassle. I have a few drivers in my neighbourhood that I like and trust, but otherwise it is a huge pain in the butt to negotiate the price. Some drivers are honest about the pricing, but a lot of them initially try to way overcharge (especially foreigners). Knowing a little Amharic helps a bit, and using some Amharic and making a joke about “forengi prices” usually helps me to drive the price down.

However, my Amharic is still very limited. I know the basics and can even have a short conversation, but usually I run out of Amharic and end up staring blankly as the person I’m speaking with overestimates my abilities. The kids in my neighbourhood are actually my best teachers though! They are also very sweet. One of them even invited me to her home for New Years dinner! Since it was so special, I have written a separate post about it.

I am still very much in love with the food and coffee here. In fact, here are some things I have learned about food in Ethiopia:

  1. Get over trying to ever look cute or nice while eating with your hands.
  2. Food WILL get caked into your nail beds.
  3. If you are a sectional eater like me, get over it. You can’t do that here.
  4. Food is for sharing. The portion sizes are for sharing, everyone eats family style and even if you think you ordered your own dish – you didn’t.
  5. You should eat A LOT. And if the people you’re with don’t think you are eating enough… well, it’s not unusual for them to just feed you. And when someone does this, it is very rude to reject it.

Overall, my experience here has been quite wonderful. I think it might be time for me to spend some time in Canada when I get back, but I wouldn’t hesitate to come back here if the opportunity presented itself.

Ethiopian New Years

23 Sep

First things first: for those of you that don’t know, Ethiopia has its own calendar. The Ethiopian calendar has 13 months (12 of 30 days each, and 1 with either 5 or 6 days, depending on if it is a leap year or not). The calender is seven to eight years behind the Gregorian calendar, because of different calculations of the date of the annunciation of the birth of Jesus. So, this year on September 11 we celebrated the coming of year 2006.

Since New Years Day fell on a Wednesday, and Wednesday is a fasting day for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians (they eat entirely vegan on fasting days), the real celebration for many was on Thursday. My neighbours invited me to their home to eat with them on this day. For any of you that have ever been in a foreign country or alone for a holiday, you understand how special it is when a family opens their home to you on special holidays.

As a thanks (and with the knowledge to never show up empty-handed) for hosting, I brought a card, a box of chocolates and a bouquet of roses for the family. They were very excited to have me, and as soon as I came in they sat me down and served me popcorn and tella (sort of like a home-made sweet beer). Then they brought me a Fanta.  Then a glass of wine. Then came the food – so much food!!

The typical New Years dish is called doro wot (doro meaning chicken and wot meaning sauce) and it is so delicious – especially when it is homemade by an amazing Ethiopian woman. Then there was the lamb. Then two different goat dishes. All served with a huge amount of injera. The doro wot was fantastic, but by the end I had had wayyyy too much meat. Ethiopians are very hospitable and want you to be full and satisfied, so my hosts kept piling the food on me. By the end, I thought that if I had even one more bite of goat then I would be sick – thankfully that didn’t happen.

And just when I thought I had consumed all I could possibly consume, they brought out cake and started a coffee ceremony! So, after three cups of coffee (the proper amount for a coffee ceremony), I got to really talking to my hosts. Honey, a nine-year old girl, was the one who first took a liking to me and invited me over. Honey has two older sisters (17 and 20) and an older brother, although I did not get his age. Her father works as a taxi driver and her mother works at home. Her 17 year-old sister, Madina, spoke the best English and her and I get along very well. After a while we got onto the topic of football (it is very exciting that Ethiopia has made it to the next round of the world cup qualifiers). We were talking about the players, and I asked Honey who her favourite was, and this is where the conversation got interesting.

Honey said, or rather yelled, “All the Ethiopian players! Just not the Africans, I hate Africans!” (Side note: many Ethiopians do not identify as African, and are proud to be Habesha as a separate identity.) Madina looked shocked and embarrassed, and I don’t think her parents understood. So I asked Honey why she said that, and she said because she only liked Ethiopians. So obviously my next question was “But I’m not Ethiopian and we’re friends.”

And she said, “Yes, because you are nice.”

I said, “So what if you meet an African and she is nice?”

“Then I would love her, but if she is bad then I will hate her.”

“So Honey, why don’t you do the same with everyone you meet? When you know them then you can know if they are nice or not.”

We ended up talking in circles for a while, with Madina trying to explain in Amharic what I was saying. In the end, we got her to agree that the heart is more important than skin, so hopefully we got through to her. I don’t think I entirely convinced her though. Madina seems like a really great role model for her, so hopefully she continues to learn from her big sister. I hope that I can find another way to talk to her about this, although it is already a difficult topic for a 9-year old, even without language barriers.

After all this it was getting quite late, so I said my thanks and goodbyes.

It was a memorable evening and I am so thankful to have amazing neighbours that welcome me into their homes.

Happy 2006 everyone!

Feminism Isn’t Working and I Give Up

12 Sep

More Than Just a White Girl

28 Aug

I had a really hurtful incident happen to me Saturday. I process things and organize my thoughts best when I write them down, so I decided to write about it. I was unsure about whether or not I wanted to publish this, but a friend of mine told me that I write about hard things well and it is an important topic, so I have decided to share it.

One of my closest Ethiopian friends sent me this text message Saturday evening:

“Sorry Kyla, I can’t see you anymore because I don’t want to hang out with white girls for next eight months.”

My heart jumped to my throat and I immediately started to cry. For those of you that know me personally, you know that I do not cry often or easily, but I just couldn’t even process those words when I read them.

When living abroad it can be hard to find new friends, especially friends with whom you can be completely comfortable. This is especially true since sometimes there is the opposite of this text message – there are some who befriend foreigners because of perceived status. But I truly thought that I had found a good, genuine friend who liked me for me. We would spend lots of time together, he understood my sense of humour and he would even call me for support when he was having troubles in his personal life.

I am flawed, but I do think that I am a good person and a good friend – and I am DEFINITELY more than my skin colour or my gender. I am more than just a “white girl” and like everyone else, I have a dynamic and unique personality. There are definitely reasons why some people won’t like me. Don’t like me because I’m super sarcastic, or because you hate my politics, or because I tend to talk a lot and sometimes overshare; I’m a big girl  woman and I can handle (and even expect) that.

But I try very hard to educate myself about issues of gender, race, and other types of discrimination, and try even harder to only judge people on their ideas, their actions and the way they treat others. To have someone I care about tell me they don’t want to hang out with me anymore because I am a “white girl” was one of the most hurtful things anyone has ever said.

I am hesitant to call it racism, but I don’t know what else to call it. I am a firm believer in not blaming the oppressed for their oppression (e.g. not blaming women for a system of patriarchy), but the truth is that I personally experience prejudice every day here for being a “white girl.” Sometimes it works in my favour (such as security not being suspicious of me in the supermarket) and sometimes it makes my life more difficult (such as being yelled at on the streets and being given unfair prices). But these are all things I take in stride from strangers that only know me as a “white girl.” My friend knew my personality, my goals, my humour and my secrets, yet still chose to exclude me from his life because I am a “white girl.” It hurts my heart.

There is a chance that the man that said this to me will read this and I hope he does. After I received that message I asked him to explain but he did not reply. He wouldn’t take any of my calls. But he should know how he made me feel.

I am confident in myself and I know that I am more than what he sees. If he can’t see that then I feel sorry for him because he is missing out on some really great people by excluding all “white girls” from his life.

Forgiveness has been the hardest lesson that my faith has taught me, and I am struggling with it now. The wounds are little too raw for me to forgive right now, but I will forgive him. I will forgive him and I hope he finds the strength to apologize to me and to overcome his prejudice.

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