Kanika: Poet. Lover of Words. One who tells the stories of the mundane and inanimate. Bearer of Light, Water, and Sky.
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My niece once confessed that she thought me to be somewhat impulsive. She thought I just decided I wanted to go somewhere so I packed up my stuff and left. Knowing the truth, I thought that to be hilarious! I'm a very spiritual person. Most of my major moves involve intense prayer and meditation. I've learned over the years that most people talk about this process but don't truly engage in it. It sounds good, in theory, to tell someone that you meditated about something but meditation is a work of diligence. Before I moved to Virginia, I prayed and meditated about that move for the entire 2 years I was in graduate school. I actually had two locations in mind. By the close of my final semester I was pretty clear. When I got to Virginia, I began another cycle of prayer. I knew the type of work I wanted to do and the conditions that I wanted to do it. And since 2011, that has always been my process.
Dream. Pray. Prepare. Move.
In ten days, the last two years of my life will rise to an amazing climax. Imagine having your dreams unfold before your eyes. Imagine truly living out your destiny. It's a surreal feeling! I've read numerous blogs. I've talked to people that have done it and those that are doing it and I've concluded that nothing can truly prepare you to travel from Mississippi to The Gambia. As happy as I am, things are not exactly ideal. I have family members that are ill and friends that are enduring painful life changes. How does one find balance? I'm relying heavily on the tools I gained in therapy to maintain my well being. I now know that my journey to better self care was divinely destined. Without therapy, I imagine that I would be completely overwhelmed with the desire to take care of everyone else while trying to prepare for my biggest move yet. Instead, I've completely let go of the need to fix anyone or anything but the few things within my control.
My plan moving forward, is to be mindful and present and to use my creative gifts to positively impact the lives of others. In living out my dreams, I hope to inspire others to make sacrifices, to take risks, to pray, to meditate, and to lend themselves over to God's divine design for their life. To anyone reading, may you be fulfilled by this process of self-love and may you experience a true sense of peace, happiness, and freedom.
I'll be maintaining my site as best I can while abroad.
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I had an interesting conversation yesterday with a young black man from New York. He's in Paris working on a fashion line, spending his days mostly in the library studying and walking through any of beautiful parks here in Paris for inspiration. He said that abroad he felt as though race didn't matter as much; that people saw his humanity and not just his skin color. He wondered why we (black folks) can't just do something without race attached. These comments were in reference to the #blackgirlmagic and #blackgurltravel hashtags.
I've been traveling abroad for the last few weeks. This entire experience has been eye opening, life changing, and still there's a part of it that's very ordinary. I shared these thoughts with him, adding that as I post photos on social media, for this trip I hadn't felt the need to add a plethora of "hashtag affirmations" because I'm just living my life.
My intent is not to come off as privaleged an oblivious to the various circumstances that prevent others from traveling. The idea is to be a part of the movement to change the narrative about what is an isn't possible for any person like me. So although yes, I am Black, the last few weeks I've just been a woman. Just Kanika, experiencing the world at her own pace and from her own Southern point of view.
No hashtags needed.
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When I travel, I'm always looking to connect with People of Color. I enjoy meeting Africans throughout the diaspora and learning more about their culture and ways of living. In January, I traveled to Oslo, Norway. Prior to going, I did several internet searches to see what I could find about Black people living in Norway. I couldn’t find anything substantial. This slightly reinforced my belief that there were no black people in Norway. Foolish, I know.
When I finally arrived to Olso it was about 5am. The first wave of people headed off to work were departing the train station. As I observed these early morning commuters it was not long before I spotted more than a few people with African features. My first few hours in the country confirmed that I was wrong. There are, in fact, Black people in Oslo.
Over the next few days I would discover not only a community of African people but a very diverse Oslo that eluded my Google search. The entire experience was so exciting and inspiring that there's no way I could cover it all in one blog. So, I'll be writing my first blog series, "Black Oslo", as seen by me, your southern tour guide to the world!
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After a two day delay, and the most epic turn of events, I finally made it to Oslo, Norway. I plan to post a more in depth blog soon but I wanted to share my observations from my first 24hrs in Oslo while they were still fresh on my mind.
• Oslo in winter is actually bearable. There are tons of things to do as the city tries to combat the depressive quality of extreme cold by encouraging people to go out, be active, ice skate, and have some Gelato.
• Oslo is pretty ethnically diverse and you never really know where people are from. I met two southerners at the bus stop yesterday. One young lady was from South Carolina, lived in Oslo and was a federal employee, if I remember correctly. The other young man was a contract electrical worker from Alabama. Crazy random that we all three ended up at the same bus stop in Oslo. I saw all types of people yesterday. This also leads me to my next observation...
• There are black people in Oslo. I repeat, there are black people in Oslo. I don't know what biased media propaganda led me to believe that Oslo was as white as the snow that covers it most of the winter, but I was wrong. My first 24 hours here I saw Black/African people everywhere, doing everything that people do when they live somewhere. You know, going to work, crossing the street, shopping. I found this very comforting, as I tend to judge how well I like a place by whether or not I feel like I'd fit in there.
Who has been to Oslo, Norway? Comment below and tell me what you observed. I'd love to hear it!
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My time in Accra was bittersweet for so many reasons. Lets start with the sweet.
People have asked me, "How was your trip? Tell me everything!" It's impossible. I don't know if I could ever accurately articulate everything that happened (both bitter and sweet) or every emotion I experienced. My reply is generally, "It was amazing!"
I recognize that I hold a very glamorized version of Africa in my head. This is mostly due to the quest to create and hold on to an African identity that was stolen from me. Though I have only been to Africa twice, on two very short trips, I still feel freer there. I am more relaxed and more at peace within my body. I am not thinking about all of my never-ending thoughts. No thoughts about what to eat and when, or getting to work. So many thoughts about work! I've yearned to connect with Africa so badly that it's slightly confusing for me to meet people of African descent that do not share my feelings. So being in Africa will always be sweet even when things or a particular situation is less than desirable.
Accra has a culture. Everything about it feels like another country. I often found myself feeling invisible, but in a good way. It was like I had been picked up and placed in another world and there I was standing there while this world was buzzing all around me. Everything I observed was beautiful to me and again I was amazed by the color of everything. All the colors seemed to be in high definition, saturated with life. I enjoyed hearing the language and trying to see if my sprit could translate. African people throughout the Diaspora are so expressive. Even though I did not speak Fanti or Twi, I generally understood tone and emotions of the conversations being spoken around me.
The food was also really good! I got to try several local dishes. Staples like fufu and palm nut soup, banku, and kenkey were in heavy rotation on my plate! There was very little that I just didn't like and there is nothing, nothing, as good in the states as the fresh plantain chips they sell roadside! I came home and bought some from my local grocery store only to be hugely disappointed. They tasted like cardboard!
So the culture of Accra was amazing. The people, the language, the food. I realize I could go on but this would be a very long blog post!
The bitter part of my trip, largely revolved around a severed friendship and the fact that I didn't want to leave. I cried like a baby in the airport because I just didn't want to come back. It's like a bit of depression began to creep in the Saturday before I left. I shed a few tears on the plane and managed not to have a full out breakdown but by the time I made it to New York I couldn't hold it anymore. See living abroad is one of my lifelong dreams. I've never felt so close to actualizing it and to feel so close, yet so far away can be frustrating. So I felt a deep sadness because my life is not yet doing what I want it to do. I'm learning to be patient with God's timing and to trust Spirit's design for my life. In the meantime, I'll be continuing to job search and put things in motion for this vision to manifest.
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I was blessed to land a very affordable ticket to Johanesburg, South Africa this year. Though my trip was very short my experience was life changing. I had the opportunity to encourage teachers and students of Willow Cresent Highschool and speak my truth on a local radio station! This was my first trip to Africa and in an amazing turn of events, I'll be visiting Ghana, West Africa in a few days! Here are a few photos from my trip. They don't fully capture the essence of the people or the smell of the air but I hope you can see the color. Everything vibrated at such high frequency. Colors seemed more saturated and vibrant. Even in the townships that were surrounded by trash and dirt, I was overwhelmed by the color of it all.
I left a piece of my heart with the children of Willow Crescent High school. I so desperately want to get back to them and help them accomplish their dreams. I don't quite know how Spirit will manifest that desire but I truly feel I'll know the answer soon. Willow Crescent High School sits in the midst of a neighborhood of Johannesburg known as Eldorado Park. Once the crown jewel of the area, it now wears the scars of neglect. There is hope for Willow Crescent however. The alumni of the school have made it their business to restore the school to its previous state. Measures have been taken replace broken windows and doors, complete landscaping, and now, with the assistance of the One Love Trust and Romal Tune, they are building a kitchen. Currently the students, refered to as learners, attend a full school day and receive no meals. The learning environment that I observed requires focus and I can only imagine how difficult that must be for some students that are not fortunate enough to pack a lunch and snack. I'll be posting more photos soon. Enjoy!
All Photos © 2015 Kanika J. Welch. All Rights Reserved.