New season finally! Spring is upon us! My first Spring ever…
April brings with it Spring, which apparently started on the 20th of March, but I think the skies had missed that memo because it was still very chilly and very wet here in Orleans, France.
Day 33 of lock down in France. Now, locked inside our houses it may not feel much like Spring. However, as it is recommended by mental health authorities going out for a short walk will do each of us a world of wonders -it sure brightens up my day. And, you get to enjoy some of the Spring colours and sounds too.
For me this is incredible. Coming from Botswana, we only have two seasons (winter and summer) and I have never really experienced Spring in all its splendor. The sun is shining, clear blue skies and ALL flowers are in full bloom. It is truly a sight to take it.
Last weekend, as if on cue I even spotted a couple of rabbits playing in front of the library on Easter Sunday (see if you can spot them in the pictures below. Happy hunting). The following day a pair of peacocks also came to join in the fun.
What are your favourite Spring traditions/ dishes/ drinks? Are there any? Do you have any tips for what I should look out for that is unique to Spring?
Another week gone by, and another book read. This time I read Amongst Women by John McGahern.
Now I found this book in a ‘Boites-à-livres’ (book box, I believe) in my university. I am not sure if this is purely a French thing, or if it exists in other European countries too, but it is something I appreciate and adore seeing. I am one of those people who likes to believe that books are meant to be read and shared… not locked away in our secret libraries. Ps:except to people who don’t treat books with the love and respect they deserve. 🤓
Anyway, I am getting carried away… Amongst Women is centered around Michael Moran’s life and family: he a petty Irish widower, and former guerrilla leader who is a strict authoritarian in the home he shares with his three daughters and son. The family tiptoes around him; his word is law that should be respected and never questioned. As you read on you discover that his stern, uncompromising stance led to his older son Luke running away from home and as the old man grows old, he hopes to repair the torn bond with his son. But alas, pride! Or too much pain?!
I enjoyed reading the book a great deal. It starts off a bit slow, but as you read on you get drawn into the lyrical way it is written. Apparently it was adapted into a short film or series which I’ve personally never seen. I’m not sure I’d want to see that though; because the dark moods and outbreaks would be too much to witness on a screen. I cannot say I grew to like the protagonist. A part of me would have wanted to learn more about Luke.
Despite it all, I was drawn to the strong sense of family his children maintained throughout. The respect for family and strength in unity displayed by the children despite the harsh childhood they’d had at their father’s hand is comforting. Almost letting bygones be bygones, though old wounds still resurfaced during family gatherings especially with Sheila.
For the girls the regular comings and goings restored their superior sense of self, a superiority they had received intact from Moran and which was little acknowledged by the wide world in which they had to work and live. That unexplained notion of superiority was often badly shaken and in need of restoration by the time they came home
Over the weekend I finally finished reading The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. I have been saying how much I want to use my time under lock down to catch up on my reading and that has not quite turned out the way I planned. Albeit, now there is a sliver of hope. Ring the church bells. Layout the red carpet. Alert the paparazzi that a reader is re-born.
This book is about many things including poverty and a sense of self-worth (or lack thereof); but most striking to me was the aspect of beauty that the book tackles with young Pecola Breedlove. As the little dark-skinned girl prays daily for blue eyes to somehow give her some sense of beauty like the Shirley Temple dolls that kids received for Christmas. Having been labelled and repeatedly called by her own parents and society as ugly, Pecola wears the label as she does her own black skin – with a heavy, sad resignation. Reading it now, almost 50 years since it was first published, I must admit that I am struck by how relevant the book still is now. Today in 2020.
This book dares us – society – to look introspectively at the possible damage we have in our limiting labels and narrow definitions of what beauty is. Especially with regards to using these misconceived ideas of racial beauty on what Toni Morrison calls: “the most delicate member of society: a child; and the most vulnerable member: a female“. An excellent read that took me a while to get through because of the heartbreaking, and at times traumatic issues it tackles. It questions the reader on issues of beauty standards and the social ills inflicted on women. Definitely not a light read, but a necessary read in my opinion.
All of our waste which we dumped on her and which she absorbed. And all of our beauty, which was hers first and which she gave to us. All of us – all who knew her – felt so wholesome after we cleaned ourselves on her. We were so beautiful when we stood astride her ugliness. Her simplicity decorated us, her guilt sanctified us, her pain made us glow with health, her awkwardness made us think we had a sense of humour. Her inarticulateness made us believe we were eloquent. Her poverty kept us generous…
Hope you are all keeping well in your respective homes – social distancing when outside; self isolating when feeling unwell and symptomatic and respecting your respective countries’ lockdowns wherever you may be in the world.
Reading this article has been a saving grace for me. There has been so much pressure to use up this time productively and I found myself falling into the same trap (or at least feeling guilty for my failure at productivity). The past 2 weeks I had my end of the semester exams and I was strangely motivated to study and prepare for the exams and assignments teachers sent. This week however has been the exact opposite. I sleep at 2am. Wake up at 8am only to roll back into bed for a reluctant 11h00 wake up. Then nap at 17h00. To say my sleep patterns and eating patterns are off is the understatement of the season.
So to read this article has been somewhat of a comfort for me. As a masters student, I currently have 4 research papers to write, each roughly 6 thousand words each. Despite the fact that most journal houses have given the world free access to various academic search engines, I have yet to take advantage of that. I have not yet become a master chef either. Nor an Instagram fitness trainer.
My little joy of the day is that I ensure I shower daily; brush my teeth and eat mostly home cooked food which is an improvement from the crisps and biscuits diet I was on 2 weeks ago. I crack open a window daily (which I might add I cleaned the other day for the first time since moving-in in September last year). I drink at least 2 litres of water daily. It doesn’t sound like much, but I will take my pleasures wherever I can right now. Here are the changes I will put into place over the next weeks to try re-cultivate some sense of productivity during confinement:
Create a schedule: So I have now created a timeline for myself, with room for failure on days I am unable to keep up with the routine. I hope to get into some kind of a routine from today onwards.
Go outside: I hope to get out for even just 20 minutes daily to get fresh air and change of environment.
Read a book: I finally started reading The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison which I have had since 2016 but have yet to read (don’t judge).
So for you what strategies have been working? What have you been able to keep up with during this time? I am welcome to any suggestions that will allows me to balance being productive in my academic research and the lows that are somewhat expected during this time.
Hope you are all doing well under the circumstances. I am also indeed happy to say I am well, despite my silence and absence this month.
The month of March has taken the world out of sorts. It seems the only thing any one of us is reading about daily is the CoVid-19. I am certainly also guilty of that. It’s been 2 weeks of confinement here in France and the government just announced that the initial 15 days lockdown will be extended for another 2 weeks. By now I think most of us expected it as the numbers are not looking good at the moment.
When it all started in January in Wuhan, it all seemed so far away. Happening in another continent definitely, but it felt like it was in another world. Then in Italy the headlines started; the death toll and new infections rapidly rising on a daily basis. Despite sharing a border with the country, life still seemed normal here in France. I even had a friend going to Italy the week before Italy closed its borders. Then like a game of dominoes country after country seemed to fall at the feet of the coronavirus.
People rushed to supermarkets. Empty shelves and long queues at supermarkets became a common sight as panic set in and people didn’t know what to expect.
However, as the month of March comes to an end, I will try to acknowledge the positives and little moments worth celebrating because if I do not, I fear going crazy living in my 9m2 apartment. So here goes nothing.
March in Optics
Celebrated a couple of birthdays 🎈🎂
Started the month with Tebo on the 5th; good friend and former collegue who loves laughing and cooking. Never a dull day with her
Then my sister’s birthday on the 12th. I wish I could have been home with her… and she looked especially radiant (as always).
And the 20th was extremely busy on WhatsApp with 3 birthdays to celebrate virtually with my friends.
Ona: I must say that 29 has never looked this good.
Benoît who goes by Morama since being baptised into Setswana culture by the Kalahari bushmen in the Kalahari Desert.
Bruno- silly kind hearted Bruno who once tried to turn me into a lean, mean machine (maybe later in life)
4. Gabriela, rounded up the March birthdays this past Sunday and celebrated in style after her safe return to Romania. An isolation party of one was the only thing on the menu for her this year.
The tinge of silver lining we grasped to so as not to feel it’s was all bleak… as Mother Nature slowly heals itself while countries do their best to heal their ailing populations and protect those not yet infected living under quarantine. I am embracing the idea that hope is central in times like these and doing my best to remain positive more especially now.
I had to say goodbye to a close friend who had to return home in the thick of the pandemic because she needed to be home with family. In the short space of time I have known her, she has grown so much on me and feels like more like a sister. I will miss her dearly, but will always be a text/ WhatsApp call away. I will miss you dearly Gabriela.
So as I say goodbye to March, I want you all out there to take care of yourselves and families. I will, implore you to STAY AT HOME so you don’t expose yourself unnecessarily risk.
Day 29 was written on the first of February (and re-edited many times a day before going live…). It was the easiest and hardest piece to write because what can you say to someone who knows what you are about to say even before you say it. So once I gave up trying to come up with words to express my gratitude to God and the Universe for all the blessings (and challenges) that overflow in my life, it became somewhat futile to continue.
We all have different names for Him or Her. Something more powerful than each of us here on Earth. Something to explain away the miracles that we encounter daily in our lives: the sunrise and sunset; the moon in its many faces, the secrets of the oceans and deserts, the creation of life… I was personally raised in a Christian family, so God comes more naturally to me.
Growing up without a father, He became the only father I needed. Thank you for the past 29 years. Thank you for the next 29 years. Thank you for the memories; the people who have walked with me in life and the those I am yet to meet. Thank you for yesterday, tomorrow and today.
As the month of February winds down, so am I for my birthday gratitude challenge. It has been a long and short month for me, and I have enjoyed talking about the people I cherish and adore in my life. I have had a wonderful time of looking through dusty old photo albums and dusting off memories I hadn’t thought about in a long time.
In true Kagiso style, I have decided to keep him last. He is definitely not the least as he himself would be too glad to inform you. He is often loud where he should be quiet, and louder than he needs to be. I have come to love him especially for his exuberance and confidence that knows no bounds and no limits. He is the opposite of subtle. He almost defies his name – Kagiso – which means peace. A loving soul, anyone who meets Kagiso wants to keep him forever after the initial shock of him wears off. His laughter is infectious, and I have often laughed not at the joke but at the laughter that thunders and feels like medicine for the soul. His laughter is honest and the pill that make me forget I was supposed to be in a bad mood.
Setswana sa re, moja morago ke kgosi… and king he is.
It is hard to believe that I have barely known Kagiso for no more than 6 years. It feels like I have known him all my life. He is the little brother I always wanted and never thought I would have. Like brother and sister, we fight like cats and dogs…but should anyone say anything about him in my presence, I would fight tooth and nail for him, as I know he does too. He is mine to torture and protect, though despite he being younger often thinks he is the protector in the family.
Kagiso is one of the most hardworking, determined young men I know and is a constant source of inspiration and motivation for me in life. Never before have I met a more focused young human being who knows what he wants more than he, more so given his age. He is wise beyond his years though somehow still holding on to the innocence of his age. 2020 is your year Kagi. Go show them who you truly are. Bigger and better things are coming for you. Words fall short of describing what a treasure you are in my life. Instead, I will just say: Thank you for being the pebble in my shoe.
One of the most important gifts one can give themselves is taking the time to be fully present in our lives and in the world around us. This has been particularly evident this month throughout my #GratitudeChallenge which has allowed me to look inwards and reflect a bit on life and what I have (or may not have). I recently stumbled upon an interview about an author who mentioned something that struck me and has stuck with me until now. He asked,
Which friends do you have – weekday friends or weekend friends?
It was something I had never thought about before. We all have collegues – be it at work or school – but when the weekend comes, who still calls on you for a drink or a walk around the river? Who do you still call during the weekend and holidays for talk about more than just school or work stuff? In Botswana I know I have these weekend friends, but I am happy to have met people I can call my weekend friends in the short time I have been here as well.
For today, Day 27 I will celebrate my friendship with Vai. She is a kindred spirit and I knew, not on the first day I met her, but on the second day. She had a little fire and childlike excitement that made me feel like I was looking into the mirror. I remember my heart doing cartwheels when she echoed my thoughts to visit ALL the stalls during our Campus Day. When everyone else thought it silly, we both still felt content indulging those childish whims. She is a little powerhouse in her own right; sticks out like a sore thumb in any room she is in, especially when she decides to make her thoughts known to the world. Thanks for being my weekend friend Vaibhavi.
Day 26 of 29 will be spent celebrating a woman who has proved that parenthood requires only LOVE ❣️… DNA is just a bonus to those who do have it.
In Botswana, like in most cultures across the world, when a young woman turns a certain age, her mother or grandmother often start asking her, “So… when are you getting married?” Or, “So… when are you going to have a child?” I doubt anyone loves hearing these questions because they perpetuate societal pressure that a woman is only complete when she has a child and a man by her side. Before passing away, my grandmother, I called her Mme had already started this – bless her soul. I was doing my undergrad at the time, but Mme just wanted to see me tick off a milestone in being a woman and change my babies’ diapers.
I have never thought I wanted to have kids before. We live in such a bad world filled with terrible people I never wanted to bring another human being to go through it. However, not having anyone bug me with this question bugged me. It is ridiculous. Not having my options challenged nor be able to defend my point to my mother made me feel like I was missing something key in my young adult life.
I don’t know when exactly I met Joyce. She has been around for as long as I can remember. She is my best and childhood friend’s mother. But more than that, she is a woman who has provided a warm nest for me to turn to in life. She has taken to introducing me to anyone we meet as her daughter – which touches me to the core. She has completely embraced and adopted me as her own to join her own little squad. She is kind. She is selfless. She is a giver, who though she has so little herself shares it with anyone who needs it. She embodies the Setswana saying “bana ba motho ba kgaogana tlhogwana ya ntsi“… which directly translates to siblings share a fly’s head. This just means that however little you may have, one must share it with their family…. in Joyce’s case, she shares it with anyone in need.
Thank you mo ‘Jo for not only opening your home to me, but your heart too. Thank you for asking me to have children soon so you can take care of them while you are still alive. If it ever happens, I can rest easy knowing I have a mother in you to hold my hand through the journey. You are the Godmother the universe saw fit for me, and for which I am eternally grateful and feel blessed.
Wow, it is Day 25 of the 29 days Gratitude Challenge I took on for February this year. I must admit that I did not think I would make it this far, and I am super proud of this on my part. The countdown begins…4 more days.
For today, I would like to give thanks to a woman I shall call The Beginning, because in my eyes it all began with her. She is the woman who gave birth to my mother who later gave birth to me. She is the woman with whom I lived with when doing Standard 1; the woman who taught me how to cook when I was barely six. She instilled a huge sense of cleanliness of oneself and my surrounds when all I wanted was to play with dolls and run around outside. A strict yet soft spoken woman she was, and always making us laugh. Your giving had no limits.
It seems unfair that I am writing this piece in English, because you didn’t speak nor understand English. It seems unfair that I am even typing this because you could neither read nor write, so will this piece will forever remain far from your reach. It seems unfair that I can not even share this with you in person because you have gone to be with the Lord, but as you often said to me, “motho go swa mmele, mowa ga o swe…”. Though I can never share this with you, even in our mother tongue Setswana, I know your soul lives on and watches over us your grandchildren and your children as you so often taught me after the passing of my mother.
“Ke a leboga Mme.”
I am eternally grateful I had you as my grandmother. What I will miss most are the pearls of wisdom you shared with me; the stories and little secrets of life (and the family) you revealed to me. You will always be loved beyond measure, and I will treasure our memories till the day I take my last breathe.