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Monthly Archives: June 2011

Eating alone

I live alone. Well when I am not in Florida with my parents. I like it. I have never been much of a roommate type person. People in my personal space tend to annoy me and of course I don’t like to wear clothes a lot. So living alone suits me fine and I feel like I am a pretty independent person. However, over the last year or so I have discovered something about myself- I hate eating solo. Hate it. I like cooking for others, hate putting forth the effort to cook if it’s only me. This is crazy coming from a girl who spent most major holidays eating in her room rather than eating with her family. I often skip meals or eat extra light since it’s only me. I find myself offering to pay for people food so I can have company. I tend to gain weight when I am home in Florida and lose weight when I am in AZ or someplace living/eating alone. My disdain for eating alone is precisely the reason I loved my time in Tactic so much. I never ate alone. Nabila’s parent’s house was a 4 min walk from her house. Her sister, Amanda lived within shouting distance. I would wake up in the morning- chill in Nabila’s house, read and listen to music. She would be at work and her daughter at school so I got my “personal” time. Then either walk to Nabila’s parents or sister house for breakfast. By lunchtime Anatye, Nabila’s daughter would be home from school and we would all eat lunch together. Some days I went to Coban and had lunch with Nabila while she was at work. I usually ate dinner at her parents’ house with the whole family. We would all walk back to our respective houses at the end of the night. I never had to eat a meal alone, which made me very happy. I spent the rest of my time on “excursions” with various members of her family, everyone wanted some “Tab time”. I went to a restaurant name Lo Ranch with her father, where the owner got camera happy with my camera and took about 40 photos of me “modeling”.

Then we hiked up to see the view at this man who house was in the hills above the restaurant.

I hiked to see the church on the hill with Nabila’s brother new wife Lili (7mths pregnant), Anayte (7)and David (3).  Anayte and David taught me how to pray to Jesus who was on a cross in the middle of the church with a really bad wig surrounded by flowers in a glass container. He had a little box for money behind him. They showed me how to give him the money and the Catholic way to make the cross after you pray.I suggest staying home and praying, a hour hike uphill is ridiculous. I am sure God understands.

I went shopping in Coban with Nabila, Amanda, Anayti and Amanda’s friend Nellie. I went walking around the stadium at 6:30 am with Nabila’s mother, Carmella and Amanda. They ran, I walked. It was a beautiful morning though. 

I also had a chance to visit the family I stayed with in Coban last year.

Oh and of course I spent too much time playing with David, Anayti and Christian, who thought I was the best playmate ever. I really enjoyed how close the family was. Since Nabila worked and Amanda did not, Amanda would clean up Nabila’s house and do her laundry for her. There was always some adult checking Anayti’s homework after school or picking her up from school. I couldn’t imagine cleaning my sister house for her, mostly because I don’t have a month to dedicate that process.

Everyone pretended to understand me and whatever language it was that I was speaking. I won’t disrespect the Spanish language and call what I was speaking Spanish. They really made me feel like I was part of their family. Just a bit taller and Black. Nabila’s mother told me I could come back anytime I wanted. I have my choice of houses to stay in. Hopefully, I can repay their hospitality when they come to the states.

Nabila walked me to the bus stop to head to Guatemala City. As we waited I felt something drop on my head, it had been raining a lot so I assume it was water and tried to brush it off. Nabila looked at me and asked what was in my hair. Turns out a bird took a crap on my head, which was now also on my hand. We clean my head and hand up the best we could with a combination of tissue, water and hand sanitizer, just in time to get picked up for the 4.5 hour bus ride. Once I arrived in Guatemala City I took a taxi to another bus station “Tica Bus” for my trip to El Salvador. We left at 1:30 ish and got to San Salvador at 7:30 pm. We spent about 2hrs doing immigration and getting our passport checked by Guatemalan and El Savadorian officials. Some people got their stuff searched; I guessed I did not look like a big enough threat to get harassed. I wrote letters as I waited. Remember, I still have the remnants of poop in my hair and I had been up since 5:30 am, I was tired and dirty when I arrived. It felt so good to see Carmen waving at me, ready with her car to pick me up.

Wait, who is Carmen? According to her profile she is a World Language teacher and a vegetarian. There were other things but that’s all that I remember. But most importantly according to her messages she was down to let me stay with her while I was in San Salvador. Couchsurfing is a website where travelers from all over the world can find people who open their homes to traveling strangers to crash for a couple of nights. When I first heard of this, I thought it was crazy and only for white people or people who wanted to get killed/robbed by strangers. It is actually pretty cool. A lot of the time you don’t sleep on people couches, it can be a floor or a private bedroom. I have my own room and bathroom at Carmen’s house. As well as access to her computer, kitchen or whatever else she has in her house. Oh did I mention this all for the free, it is supposed to offer some sort of cultural exchange. Last night she took me to dinner, I got some “authentic El Salvadoran” food- pupusa’s.Today, I went with her to work and will be exploring the city solo. Tonight I am going to a party with her and some of her friends. So far so good. I am not dead yet. And I am not eating alone.

~Just Tab

Randomly:  I have gotten quite used to “chicken buses” and being crammed in a mini-van with 50 people. I have also gotten quite used to people breastfeeding in front of me. I was totally ok with Yohana feeding her baby in front of me when I visited her in Coban. One night on the way back from Coban we were extra packed on this bus, a man’s crotch was 3.5 inches from my face. I could not even reach in my pocket to pay for the trip. To my right was a lady and her baby, the baby was fascinated with me- ok my earrings from the moment they sat down. The baby would grab my hand and try to reach for my earrings. The baby was probably about 5-7mths but I am not a good guesser when it comes to baby ages and it was a really big baby. The mother proceeded to take out a breast (of course the one closest to me) to feed the baby …I promise you I could literally smell the milk coming from this woman’s breast and the whole time her child yanked on my hand. Considering I never plan to have a creature come out of me, this is the closest I will ever be to breastfeeding a child. 

 

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One way.

My mother dropped me off at the Ft. Lauderdale airport on Sunday morning. We were running a bit late due to a couple last minute stops, but I was still on track to check-in. I had about 15 minutes until the90 minute cut off for international flights. As I approach the area to check-in a man approached me

Man: Where are you flying today?

Me: Guatemala.

Man: Oh ok, You are flying roundtrip to Guatamala?

Me: No, one-way.

Man: Do you live in Guatemala?

Me: No.

Man: Are you a US citizen.

Me: Yes.

Man: Guatemala does not allow non-residents to fly one-way to their country without proof of a departure.

Me: But I am leaving Guatemala, on a bus in like 5 days. I promise.

Man: You need a proof, a ticket. You can not fly on a one-way ticket with us today, mam. You need to buy another ticket with us or another airline.

At this point I was thinking the why did they allow me to buy a one way ticket, when I couldn’t fly on a one-way ticket. I was on the phone with the airline that morning, no one said anything about my one-way ticket. As the cut off time approached I figured I had to act fast. As the man pointed me in the direction to buy another ticket I called the airline to check the price, since there is no internet in this airport to check flights on other airlines. My plan was to buy my ticket home later. I have commitment issues and I did not want to commit to a date to come back. What if I ran out of money? Or was bored with traveling? Or wanted to spend more time in El Salvador or Honduras? Or I fell in love with a Honduran hunk and decided I was never coming back? I wanted the flexibility to leave when I wanted to. That is no longer a possibility- I must make it to Nicaragua by July 17th to fly home. Anyway lesson learn, you can’t buy one-way tickets internationally. They will think you are never going home or some sort of terrorist.

I landed in Guatemala City, Guatemala took a cab to the bus station and rode 5 hours to Tactic, Guatemala. Coincidently my 15min cab ride cost more than my 5 hour bus ticket. I am staying with Nabila, my former Spanish teacher who is no longer a Spanish teacher. When I arrived we went to someone’s baby shower. Where after I told Nabila I saw my husband (her brother Sebastion) she pointed me in the direction of Sebastien’s wife. Apparently, he met, married and impregnanted a woman named Lili in the last year. She was very nice as I explained to her I was his first wife and she was number two.

So far I have just been hanging out with Nabila’s family. Since Nabila works in Coban during the day I am usually with her parents, Lili, her nephew David and her daughter Anayti. Her mother was in Arizona last time I was here, so it was nice to finally see her. Her mother is trying to convince me to go walking with her at 6:30 in the morning. I think I prefer my sleep. I am spending a lot of time playing games, kids tend to remember the adults who play kids games. I am pretty sure they think I am 9. Anayti (Nabila’s daughter) really like the High School Musical Doll I brought her, the power of Disney works in every country. Oh and my Spanish kind of sucks. I am working on it. I understand about 60-70% of what they say. When I don’t understand I just nod my head and say “bueno” or “Si”.

I will be here until Saturday morning, then off to San Salvador, El Salvador.

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2011 in Guatemala, Learning bout Tab!, summer, Travel

 

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The Story of Us.

I have had two great loves in my life, two great loves that I have never physically met but have touched and influence my life innumerable ways. They are Tupac Amaru Shakur and Oprah Gail Winfrey. The significance of Tupac on my development is a story for another day, but suffice to say obsessed is a term that was often use to describe my respect for this man. My focus today is on Oprah, or more specifically The Oprah Winfrey Show.

I remember being in Mrs. Williams (very white & Greek) costume class towards the end of my 9th grade year. For some reason my spoiled, middle class Black body which attended one of the most prestigious high schools in the country and who was raised in a two parent Christian home decided that I was a revolutionary.

Although at that time I would have not used that word, I was down with the movement- whatever that said movement was. Evidence of my downness was my decision at 13 years old not to get any more perms “I do not want to be a slave to the white man’s definition of beauty,” this is what I told anyone who questioned my disdain for the lye. On this particular day in class I was “educating”, perhaps a better word would be ranting on Oprah Winfrey being a pawn of white women/society and how she is just a sellout, etc. Mrs. Williams ask me was I serious…of course I was- I was Blacker than Black. (SN: I had just read a book about the Black Panthers and I have a tendency to embody books that I read). She explained to me how significant and remarkable Oprah was to all women and especially to Black women. I was half listening because, who was this white woman trying to tell me about Oprah and who should be significant to me as a Black woman!

She must have had some impact because that summer I happen to watch Oprah, probably for the first time ever.  Let’s just say I fell in love over that summer in 2001. I had a standing date with Oprah at 4 o’clock every weekday since. I wonder how different I might have been from who I am now if some white lady didn’t take the time to call me on my B.S. and encourage me to watch Oprah. Thankful I will never have to know.

It does not take much more than a short conversation with me to know that I love Oprah perhaps just a little bit more than most people. I have raced home to watch Oprah since the day I got my own car. I brought a VCR just to record Oprah in college. I have dropped classes or didn’t take classes that interfered with Oprah. As recently as this fall in grad school, I would wake up at midnight no matter how tired I was to catch the 2nd showing of Oprah because I did not have a DVR. Thankfully, I upgraded my cable this spring so I did not have to do that this past semester. The major reason I upgraded my cable is because the package I had did not include the Oprah Winfrey Network. In undergrad I was known as the girl with all those names, with a crazy fro, or the girl obsessed with Oprah. Professors used to ask me what was on Oprah that day, knowing I watched. My parents and friends understand that between 4-5pm I was not going to answer my phone- Oprah was on. I have a hard time talking about anything without saying “There was this episode of Oprah…” this is how much she has impacted my life over the past 10 years.

With this being said I do not worship or follow Oprah blindly. She is not my savior. In my head we are equals.She calls me Tabby, I call her Oppie. There are plenty of things that she does that I do not agree with including her love for Tyler Perry. I actually disagree with her a lot but my respect for her is endless. I imagine us lying in bed reading books or debating how harmful Tyler Perry is to the Black people as our dogs sleep at our feet. With Stedman bringing us tea.

I am fiercely protective of her. You want to annoy me…tell me Oprah does not believe in God and she is the anti-Christ or that she is secretly a lesbian.  I know way too much about this woman from her bra size to her shoe size. I know more about her than my own mother.

Here are 3 ah-ha moments (of many) that I learned from watching the Oprah Winfrey Show

The quote that remains with me:

  • November 2006 I was watching the show and Oprah said:“You are not your past. You are what is possible for you. Own this truth and move forward in your life. Forgive yourself, and others will be able to forgive you.”  In my head there are so many things that I feel like I have moved on from in my past but they keep coming back because I have not them go or forgiven myself for those thing occurring. How can I expect others to forgive me when I have not forgiven myself. This quote is a great reminder that my future is not defined by my past. I own my truth. I move forward.

The book that enlightened me:

  • March 2009, Oprah did a show called “Living without labels” on the show she featured a book by Lisa Diamond titled Sexual Fluidity. The book was about the fluctuation in sexual desire specifically in women. This further help informed what I was already coming to know that sexuality is more of a continuum than a binary. Those who know me, know that I do not do labels of any kind.

The show that change my perspective:

  • August 2004, Oprah did a show on transgender children. While there was someone at my high school who was transgender. I was really did not get it or think much about. I still don’t really get it but it’s not for me to get. Watching this little boy cry about not being able to play with Barbies or wear a dress and his mother telling him he couldn’t play with them because he was a boy. She explained boys have penises, the little boy told his mother he hated his penis and wanted it to fall off. Watching this boy and his parents struggle to keep him in his “proper” gender assignment when everything inside of him was telling him that this gender did not fit the person he was, made me rethink how I looked at gender.

But enough of this. The last episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show aired May 25, 2011, 2 weeks ago. I started writing this a while ago, but I never finished. Perhaps I did not want to deal with the end of an era. The morning of May 25th, I decided not to work- I had to get prepared. I got a haircut and ran my errands. Came home, showered and picked out my outfit. I even wore a bra for this momentous occasion. I had the house to myself; I pour my glass of wine and got out my tissues. Turned off the cell phone and computer- I was ready to focus on my Oprah.

I had been rather underwhelmed with the previous 2 final episodes, so I was not sure what to expect. Oprah did not disappoint. I would give you highlights but they would probably bore you and I rather tell you what the final show meant for me.

  1. I am 24 years old. Young. Perhaps naïve and idealistic. I will give you that. However at this young age I refuse to believe that I can’t have and be whatever it is that I want to. Oprah talked to about finding your passion, the thing that lights you up. The people in my program look at me like I am crazy because I don’t want to go on the tenure track or even desire a job in the traditional manner. I want to follow my passion. I want to do whatever makes me happy. That is success for me. I am chasing passion not paper. I look at my professors and they seem miserable. There is no way in the world I want to do that. When I explain to people all that I am going to accomplish in this world and they brush me off because I am young and idealistic, I know that because my goal is to give more than I take, learn as well as educate- I am going to be ok. Oprah taught me that.
  2. The other part of the final show that I am going to keep with me is being responsible for the energy you bring with you. This could be in a relationship or any physical space. This little nugget caused me to examine the energy I was bringing into relationships both platonic and romantic. While in my head I believe that I know I am worthy of love and awesome friendships, my actions don’t indicate this. People tell me that they love me, but in head I am constantly thinking why this is not true. They only love the funny Tab, or the smart Tab or the goofy Tab. Or they just think they love me. There was a point where I would constantly ask my mother what did I have to do to for her not to love me anymore. This concept of unconditional love seemed unfathomable to me. While I can see myself loving someone unconditionally, I can’t see that love being returned unconditionally. I find myself not envisioning relationships forever, because people always leave. I don’t really envision anyone in my future, but myself. These thoughts manifest themselves into actuality and people do leave my life. This only confirms my thoughts of people not really loving me and always leaving, perpetuating this negative cycle. Oprah reminded me on the last show that I need to take responsibility for my energy. That I alone am worthy. Not funny Tab, not pretty Tab, not crazy Tab…just Tab is worthy of love. This is easier said than done, but I am now more consciously on path to embrace and know my worth.

Oprah saying goodbye

The show itself exceeded all of my expectations and was a perfect ending to The Oprah Winfrey Show. No worries, ya’ll I am not suicidal. I have been coping just fine with the end of the show. In the end what I am taking from the 10 years I spent watching her almost daily is the motivation to live my best life ever. A lot of people don’t get Oprah’s appeal, it’s not for you to get. Just know that if a lil colored girl from Kosciusko, Mississippi can achieve all that Oprah has…why can’t this little black girl from West Palm Beach achieve all her dreams and more?

~Just Tab

I apologize for the length…but this Oprah I am talking about.

 

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Practice what you preach…

I tend to post a lot of things about HIV/AIDS on my FaceBook page or even here. It’s a topic that is important to me. Maybe this is because I was a HIV/AIDS peer educator in high school. Or because I know people living with HIV/AIDS. Perhaps its because too many talented people died because of AIDS. Or that I know my friends are not practicing safe sex. Or because 1 in 5 people with HIV/AIDS or aware of their status. HIV/AIDS affects me.

June 5th marked 30 years since the first confirmed AIDS case. Thankfully, HIV/AIDS is not a death sentence anymore.

I been stepping up my posting HIV/AIDS posting game on FB. Yesterday,  I posted things about Sylvester James a music icon who died of AIDS.

I started thinking- I hope people don’t think I have HIV/AIDS since I post these things. I remember going through anxiety over whether or not I should “like” the FB pages for Greater than AIDS or The Black AIDS Institute, not wanting people to think that because I am interested in HIV/AIDS activism that I am infected. Typically when I start worrying about what others will think, that’s a sign for me to do it anyway. Which is why i “liked” Trans Queer: A Trans Fag Sex Journal on FB last week. I like to think that I am not afraid to talk about anything. This internal conflict in my head shows how strong the stigma is around HIV/AIDS. Not even wanting to be associated with it because of the fear that people might think I have it. It should not even really be about whether one is positive or negative, more about knowing your status. So I posted about HIV/AIDS online yesterday and I realized that I haven’t been tested since October. Generally people should be tested every 3-6 months. But since I don’t “really” have sex, I don’t really think about getting tested. I guess its my Christian background which gives me the tendency to not practice what I preach. I remember how difficult it was last time I was home in WPB to find a place that did HIV/STD testing, especially after 5:30 when people who work are free. I really do understand why some people don’t get tested, you would think the process would be easier with the rates of STD’s here in Florida. Getting tested even when you are pretty sure that you are negative is extremely stressful. In my head I replay all these redicouclous ways that I could have gotten infected. Like…the time I got a paper cut…who knows what bodily fluids was on that piece of paper or some other highly improbable way. So I went to www.hivtest.org to look up free places that did the rapid testing last night and planned to go today. Later that night I came across this video. The guy is hillarous but still addresses a lot the issues that one goes through when they get tested for HIV.

So I got tested this morning. In this random community/faith based testing facility. It was small and had bible quotes all over the place. The test was easy enough, a prick on the finger for blood. Then I was asked questions about my sexual history. The norm. Of course, I was sweating bullets as I waited for the results even though I don’t “really” have sex. I got my results back…negative AND they gave me a free $10  giftcard to Publix just for getting tested. That is motivation to take a HIV/AIDS test everyday…food is expensive.  Even though I was not really worried about being infected it felt good to have my negative status confirmed. Knowing is truly beautiful. Talking about it helps remove the stigma.

In other news I have this great post about me and Oprah that I started writing on May 20th and have yet to finish. No worries I am getting my life together and I will finish that within the next 2 days. In the meantime I will be leaving the country to begin my summer travels on June 19th. This year I am going back to Guatemala, as well as visiting El Salvador, Honduras and El Salvador. I am planning to be away for about 5 weeks.

Be Safe.

~Just Tab

 
 

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