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Showing posts from 2011

The Proving Ground

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As the hourglass and her passage of time gently announced our last tournament of the season, the quality of the time we had spent together, like fine wine was measured in the moments (some clutch-worthy) of growth as a team.

In the end, we may not lay claim to the road having been as smooth as the curves of her glass, but we can certainly hold fast to the hope that we have in the future. For sure, there are qualities that are beyond measure at this time, subject to growth and development, subject to health and strength. Nevertheless the future is bright.

Witness our team's majestic win at ESPN's Disney Jr. Soccer Showcase over Thanksgiving Weekend!

As first time Team Manager of our U13 boys this season, I am proud - of the team, and of the parents, who have come a long way from Bellows of Madness.  We can now enjoy a short period of rest, before our Spring Season and all of its qualifiers commences in February 2012. Until then, I am going to be choosey with my time...write mo…

Bus Diary Entry: So Young.

She made her way to the rear of the bus, lithe and graceful, a freckle-faced girl with the stomach of a pregnant woman. So heavy with child I worried, and I noted the way her smooth arms draped around her protrusion, as if the life force within was vital to her existence. Purple colored fingernails in stark contrast to the lime green top stretched out across her belly.

“Honey,” the effeminate voice belonged to a man.

She paused and turned towards a stunted man at the fare box. His posture suggested confusion; his hands were sliding in and out of the empty pockets of his oversized tweed jacket and undersized khaki pants.

“Twenty cents,” he said, “what happened to the twenty cents?”

She retraced her steps to the front; the dignity in her bearing lent a feeling of compassion to the stuffy, stinky local bus. From my choice seat by the window (I had cracked it open), I saw the next boarding passenger drop some extra coins into the fare box.

“It’s ok,” he said, his hands expressive as he wa…

Swallow Me

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Swallow me whole
without sedation.

Sample the truth
my heart's vibration.

Limb by limb
take me in.

In every crevice
you will find
Hints
Teetering, dancing
around life's rim.

Swallow
lest the precipice
invites me in.

Swallow me whole
Smack your lips
Seal them with
my single wish

Brimful,
the Marrow Of My Love.

Mama Shujaa.

**First published on July 8, 2009**
Copyright © Mama Shujaa 2009. All Rights Reserved

Uganda in the Crossfire

Whatever the intentions of an action, everyone responds in their own way.

Recently President Barack Obama announced that 100 troops would be sent to assist the Ugandan government in its fight against the Lord's Resistance Army, a rebel group that has committed heinous crimes of murder, rape and the kidnapping of children for over two decades.

Invisible Children - History of the Conflict
Child Soldiers of the Lord's Resistance Army
Juxtapose this against a March 21, 2010 Economist article entitled "Uganda's Oil: A bonanza beckons. And the weakness that consumes America -Oil and Money - dramatically reveals itself.

Iraq Libya Now Uganda Elevated integral members of the oil family.
To the some it may represent a humanitarian effort, the benefactors being third world citizens. My questions with regard to Uganda: For how long has the LRA been around? When did the State Department discover the heinous crimes? Why are they acting now?
The March 2010 Economist article reports t…

The Politics of It

There is no room for interpretation
When dealing with parents of
talented 13-year-old soccer players.

Everything is bold and simple.

Play my kid and get team results.

The vigor and tension
With which this sentiment is communicated,
Exhausting.

"Talk to the coach," I advise softly.

Each parent has their own imaginative eye
As eloquent as the other
It moves beyond
the scope of their own
Inadequacies.

My boy is a natural this
A real that!
The composition of the team
Must inevitably emerge
as I see it.

It matters not what
germination and growth
occurs and
what the surrounding
fertility may have to offer.

Their appreciation
and interpretation
is limited to only what bears close affinity
to what is personally satisfying to them.

What an exposition,
frankly,
of individualistic machinations.

From,
One Tired Team Manager,
Mama Shujaa.

Nevertheless,
Bon Weekend.

Ignoramus

Characters -

BIG CAHUNA
FUMILAYO
VERA

Scene - office hallway containing cubicle stations. Fumilayo and Vera are neighbors, hunkered down behind computer screens.

(Enter Big Cahuna with a stack of college-ruled sheets ridden with his leisurely scrawl.)

"Fumi, I need to get this letter out ASAP!" his booming voice addresses the air.

Vera: "I can help. Give it to me."

Fumi (working on transcribing a deposition): "Thanks Vera."

(Exit Big Cahuna, face red.)

Vera:  "Don't know how you do it, Fumi. His writing is awful."

Fumi: "What would I do without you?"

(Half an hour goes by, tempered by Vera's grunts and groans through the cubicle wall.)

Vera (walks into Big Cahuna's office): "Here is the letter. I hope I did not mess it up too bad...I could not read your writing."

Big Cahuna: "Couldn't read my writing??  Fumilayo is not even from this country, and she can read my writing!"

(Some time later. In the co…

You Write About My Country

I am unresolved about the article. Feelings of annoyance and guilt stir within; a tension stronger than my usual polite appreciation of such articles. As I write about it, I struggle, thoughts glued together, bound up as if in an outdated textbook.

The casual tone of the article irritates me.  Potential, Poverty, Politics & Parties: Why Kenya Attracts America's Best & Brightest Young Social Entrepreneurs makes comment on the development of my country as if it were just another accumulation of spectacles.

It starts with the dubbing of potential as "the people, not just their fellow expatriates, who seem to keep coming [to Nairobi from Wall Street, Harvard, Stanford and MIT] in droves...but the young Kenyans...craving something different."

It cites a slowly improving education system; an increasingly robust sector full of entrepreneurial ideas; Diasporans eager to be a part of Kenya's movement; and the budding microfinance institutions, M-Pesa, Ushahidi, M-Fa…

Savannah Blaze

Grand!
This feeling, a vital source of my being.
Warm orange and red beneath my mocha-toned skin
Coursing through.

His eyes
Deep pools flowing, irrigating my soul
Rich and fertile.

"Nawa for your ass," the text reads as I walk into the train station.
 "Lord do u," another text reads.
This no-rigmarole-kind-a-guy.

"U makin' me smile."
Swamped with love.
Elevated, stretched across the Atlas Mountains.
 My African Passport still rises.

Weekend njema!
Mama Shujaa.

Steady Does It

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Unbroken forests. Acres and acres, flowing across shores and national borders. Making every inch count. The sights and sounds of the U.S.A. Packed, everywhere. On shelves, on mannequins, hordes have migrated en masse. In search of new growth in lush pastures.

Under the lens. Every tag checked by the consumers' eyes. Made in Honduras. In Egypt. In Colombia. In Mexico. In Taiwan. In Guatemala. Landscapes beyond these eroded and depleted shores.

A mosaic of products that blend into each other, each with the rule, to explore the face of America.

"Have you bought any souvenirs?" I asked our Chinese students.

"No. Everything is made in China!" they laughed.

Siku Njema!
Mama Shujaa.

Place of Promise

It is Wednesday morning and my shoe box story still lives. In the universe of my imagination, with more people in it now.  New bosses, wayward soccer parents, egotistical 13 year old soccer stars, kind coworkers, court filing deadlines, to-do lists at home and abroad. All locked up together, teaming, screaming, bundled up life. And yet, I've been blogging less and writing more - in my head. Ideas running through, vibrant on the colorful stinky local bus, gigantic scoops of pot stirring ingredients, simmering on the stove that is my brain. Cook. Trace. Weave. My shoe box story, unedited. Rolling in a place of promise.

Cultural Awareness

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Continued from See The World No Visa Required

"I will miss you," he said as we stood in the awkward crack of dawn’s light, all four of us, whispering farewells; taking care not to wake the rest of the household. It was the last morning of our cultural exchange week. Daniel and Kame were leaving for Beijing.

I scanned the metal rims of the spectacles on Daniel’s face, weighing the four choppy syllables just delivered, studying the mechanics of his message, its verbal and nonverbal connotations. The deep resonance of his voice belied his thirteen years. The sophistication in his carriage reflected an expanse of knowledge borne out of the experience of travel I was sure. I had observed the same sense of self-sufficiency in Kame throughout their week’s stay.

“I will miss you.”

Was this his disciplined regurgitation of a guidebook phrase, an appropriate thing to say to a host family, upon departure?

Still, the phrase elicited feelings of happiness in me. Hence, I took the fre…

See the World, No Visa Required

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Early last month a friend sent me an email with the subject FW: Student Cultural Exchange.

"Exciting opportunity," the two words leaped at me as I slugged three short paragraphs to grasp the important details. Age range: 13-16, male or female. Commitment: 1 week, July 6th to 13th. I made note that only eight privileged friends were recipients of the message. Until I read the last sentence, "Feel free to share with others!" My friend is charming, but she is also practical.

Interestingly, our thirteen-year-old conceded reluctantly to the novel idea of hosting a Chinese student for one week. My guess is that his regular summer routine - daily swim team practices, and swim meets every Thursday evening - causes little anxiety. In addition, sticking to his assigned school projects and reading lists, is easy and comfortable. Moreover, when we sat to discuss the opportunity that evening, he must have thought hard about the adjustments required, about coming out of a co…

Two Fine Songs

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A beautiful, breezy, sultry voice - Sara Tavares, from Cape Verde. All the elements of this video combine into a fluid and freeing sensuality - dynamic, playful. Reminding about balance in life.



African blues delivered straight from the heart of Malian guitarist and vocalist Vieux Farka Toure, combining with South African-born, Dave Matthews' flawless, melting vocal interpretation. A beautifully streamlined message.


Two fine songs that I hope you enjoy.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend. I might just eat a hot dog tomorrow for Fourth of July.

Mingi Love,

Mama Shujaa.

Wocalling Set To Thrill Europe

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Wocalling or Women Calling, an all-females ensemble that last year stole many hearts at Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA), is enthusiastic about its tour of Europe scheduled for July this year.

The ensemble, made of artists from Zimbabwe, United Kingdom, Norway, Israel, Canada and Germany, will perform at various arts festivals and venues in Germany and Norway.

On arrival in Bielefeld, Germany, on June 27, they will have a two-week rehearsal at Theaterlabor before holding school and university workshops.

Artistic director and founder of Wocalling, Cecilie Giskemo, said, “The group will rehearse previous and newly composed musical, poetic and choreography material with old and recent musicians from Zimbabwe, England and Norway.

She added that two specially invited female performers from Germany will take part in the rehearsals and following tour in the represented country.

On July 15, Wocalling will proceed to Norway where it is expected to have a workshop and conce…

"Here is $5. Take Care of My Tourist"

"The World Tourism Organisation argues that responsible tourism can play a significant role in eradicating poverty and meeting the millennium development goals. But is it right?"

"Kennedy Odede, originally from the Kibera slum, in Kenya, who is executive director of US-based charity Shining Hope for Communities, explains why tourist visits to slums are morally wrong."

Listen to the Guardian Focus podcast here. Kennedy Odede's portion begins at the 9:14 minute mark.

"Tourists taking pictures of people in desperately poor conditions. They romanticize poverty. They hold their noses with one hand, and their cameras in another. Tour operators hire inhabitants and pay them $5, order them 'to make sure you take care of my tourist, make sure they take the pictures that they want.' For example somebody took a picture of a poor woman giving birth. I think this is horrific. Oh my god, this place is smelling, they say. Yet you are walking into my home. You tak…

The Shady Taxi Driver

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I am very excited to share that my story The Shady Taxi Driver has been published in The StoryTime literary ezine, which showcases weekly new fiction by African writers. Click here to read the story.
Enjoy.

Mingi Love!

Eyes Don't Tell

I turned away from the manicurist and looked out at the throngs lined up at registers, cashing out groceries to the din of hundreds of shopping carts. The sprightly manicurist's pseudo-professional explanation was still ringing in my ears.

"Ma'am, I can fix only the two nails that are messed up bad, I am sorry," she had said. Her Daisy Duck voice grated my frayed nerves. I am never coming back to this nail salon, I vowed to myself, as I looked into her eyes, searching for the faintest hint of remorse. A tactic best used on my children, not on nail salon workers, not the ones in Walmart.

"Have a seat over there, ma'am and I'll take care of you in a few minutes," was how she rendered my pressing matter into an almost trivial request. So, while she tended to the redhead in a Waffle House uniform who had arrived before me, I sat in my assigned seat and fumed over why I did not have the gumption to make a real scene. I mulled over whether to take over a …

As quiet as it is kept, four

Pete weaves between the small round tables. There is a loose rhythm beneath his skin, waiting to release to the surface; when he is not thinking precisely, when the red wine (rocking and rolling in his glass) hits his palette, when he lets the blues pass through his body. And if the wine's viscosity provides good legs, the up-to-the-shoulders kind, like Ramona's, Pete will dance. Crisp black pants and shiny shoes compliment the night's pizazz. A black waistcoat, white shirt and black tie add a hint of gravitas, as his platypus feet step towards their table.

Guess Who Loves You More  is piping through the speakers. The singer's falsetto tracks a love lost then found; self-delusion at its worst.

"Good evening, ladies," his greeting is met with still air, the dead calm before the descent of dark funnel clouds of a tornado. All five feet and nine inches of Ramona is stretched taut, beyond irritation. Moments ago, she and Amani had succumbed to giggles over three…

Culture and Compassion

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On Thursday last week, my husband drove me to our primary care physician and I got the diagnosis and some medicine: I have the flu. Earlier in the week, I had begun my fight against what I thought was a common cold, as I wondered why the extra vitamin supplements I had been taking were not upholding my immunity.

However, when I considered recent on-the-job-stress, the departure of several attorneys and the attendant staff lay-offs to preserve the firm's bottom line, I attributed my debilitated immune system to the pain shared for coworker friends and their new plight, job-hunting in a tough economy.

I am recovering in the three days since I started the meds, thankfully and rightfully, considering the cost of the Tamiflu alone, $75.00 for ten capsules! But, according to a kind notification in my Personal Prescription Booklet, my insurance saved me $38.99. I am thankful for employment and for medical insurance.

I am also thankful for the small amount of energy I have today, to sit …

As quiet as it is kept, three

For first two installments click 1 and 2.

Ramona is particular about the pronunciation of her last name. Moreover, she is selective in educating coworkers and the umpteen late bloomers she has met in Atlanta’s social settings. Not every moron who mistakes her for a slender Mexican gets details of her mixed heritage. Atlanta is a city with a deeply historic eighty-twenty percent cultural more that recalls segregation. On a given evening, nightclubs hosting at least eighty percent African-American clientele will balance out with twenty percent Caucasian clientele; flip numbers, race, and the same is true. It is boring, and Ramona’s cosmopolitan nature struggles to stay afloat. In her view, the so-called ‘Little Apple’ she relocated to must grow in leaps to the multiculturalism of her tri-state New York-New Jersey-Connecticut stomping grounds.

Fortunately, the workforce has provided some solace; because when she felt the stirring recognition of a fellow multiculti’s sensibility, she latc…

As quiet as it is kept, two

“Big plans this weekend, Larry?” She forced herself out of her reverie with a rote question void of sincerity, and prepared herself for his legendary preview of a football viewing booze filled weekend.
“Sure do,” he said boastfully, “unlike you, Amani, I have plans. Matter of fact, you are welcome to join me and my boys at our get-together; bring your own beer!”

“Thanks for the invitation, but I have stuff to do.” She preferred her mind-numbing chores to potentially tedious hours with her amply endowed cube-mate Larry and his bruisers; and their mouths, vessels of slipshod utterances passing from one to the other like an award winning ping pong competition.

“You guys have fun,” she said merrily, returning to her cubicle, certain she would be regaled with the events of the weekend the following Monday. In the meantime, Ramona, the new secretary was on her mind. And the ‘idiot’ attorney Pete, who by chance walked by her cubicle at the exact moment he crossed her mind.

He appeared les…

As quiet as it is kept

She hastened the clatter of her fingers on the keyboard. Like most people, she detested eavesdroppers. Yet, given the cloistered confines of their workspace, who could fault her for learning of his dreadful connections?

"You are not a materialistic person," she overheard his affirmation to the caller, and she angled her head further towards the cubicle partition, fingers arrested mid-air. His unusual positive message was a sharp contrast to his habitual excuse-filled avoidance of tasks-at-hand, petulant complaints and nagging criticism of office policies.

"But, what you need to do is put your foot on his back and kick him to the concrete, that's what you need to do," he continued.

Her memory of the rumor-mongering lesson she learned as a teen was as fresh as the dewdrops on the banana leaves in Bibi’s* plantation. Nobody would ever finger her as feeder of the office beast.

"If that doesn't work, we'll wait and see," he continued, "you kno…

On This Day of Resolve

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On this day, I resolve to increase the quality, balance the thinking, report the strengths, resolve the weaknesses. Ah-ha!

On this day, I resolve to build on the harvest of 2010. Match its yields ounce for ounce, without sacrificing the depths of growth. Eh-he!


On this day, I resolve to love and create with abandon my mistresspieces of passion. Build on the learning richesses of mwaka jana [last year]. Ah-ha!


I resolve to tune out anxiety-ridden chitchat and tune in to uber-positive resources. Awaken the Utu upya [self renewal]. Eh-he!


On this day of resolve, I fuel the free spirit, increase the trust in instinct, speak it and prepare for that next giant step. Oh-ho!

Kweli on this day of resolve, I continue with more of the same; armed with escalated increments of ushujaa. [courage]. Eh-he!

Thank you for sharing my resolve on this day and on days to come. Ah-ha!

Heri ya Mwaka Mpya, Happy New Year!

Mingi love,

Mama Shujaa.