Ghosting

Ghosts

Things fall apart

And people disappear

One minute they are there

And the next you are

drinking wine alone at the table

Or raking through 8 years

of memories captured in photographs

And it haunts me

August,

You bring some of the hottest days

of the year

And I returned to America

and fell deep into your fires

And it was pain

Not brief and biting

But long and lonely

But fires melt

Or they can mend

New

That’s what waits for me

as colours change and summer days

become fall’s love of difference

That’s what waits for me in September

Because that’s the only way forward

Even with scars in tow

Returning has always been hard

People move on with or without you

September will be better

“Two people who were once very close can without blame or grand betrayal become strangers. Perhaps this is the saddest thing in the world.” -Warsan Shire

Greece Days 6-9, Mykonos with my Woes

After Santorini took our breath away at multiple corners and left us with very full tummies from delectable meals, we took a fast ferry this time to our next and final stop, Mykonos. Now Mykonos is seen as one of the party islands of Greece, and especially of the Cyclades. There were a lot of people getting off the ferry at Mykonos. We had heard that it is hard to get around the island, so we decided to rent a vehicle for most of the time we were there. I did most of the driving for various reasons and it was quite the adventure driving this small white Fiat up the steep hills of Mykonos. There were a few times I did not think the little Fiat wanted to make the climb, but it always did. Driving took constant surveillance as there were stretches of the road that only one car could pass at a time, and I never wanted to come too close to the giant buses or the weaving in and out ATVs and scooters. The latter group constantly seemed like they wanted to die by recklessly driving all over the roads.

IMG_0088

Our hotel was situated atop a hill and down the hill was a beautiful beach that was not as touristy as many of the others on the island, which was perfect. It also had two cafes that–like everywhere else we went–had delicious food we could sink our teeth into throughout the day. What was crazy was the size of the cruise ships that would come and dock at Mykonos. They seemed larger than the island itself!

IMG_0074

My good friend Julia from undergrad joined us for 48 incredible hours. I love Julia’s spirit of adventure, as I can always count on her to be willing to share in the types of decisions that great stories are borne from. We went out the night she came in to one of the mega party beaches, Paradise Beach. Driving there was filled with windy roads and lots of climbing. When we got there, we joined the party, but were quickly turned off from it as it was filled with far gone drunk Italian men mainly, who could not keep their drunken, sloppy hands off of any woman for more than .3 seconds. We tried dancing on a table top to keep away, but they were there on the table, hands waiting and groping. I do not want to dwell on this encounter for too long, as it was greatly upsetting and some place I never want to be a part of, but I will say that I did not leave without getting a few good slaps in on some drunk surprised faces. Once we got away from that mess (which we had been warned about), we ended up spending the rest of the evening partying with some guys from Canada who were traveling around the world for the year. It was a classic party night, that I had not had in some time, which is always nice in doses.

11794169_10153409227910236_5351749293712671416_o

On Julia’s last night, we went to a gorgeous elevated, seaside restaurant, where I had the best salmon I have probably had in my life. The restaurant was in Mykonos Town, which is a quaint little town with beautiful intricate pedestrian streets and towering windmills. After scoops of decadent gelato, we finally made our way back to our hotel.

11782246_10206967176475470_4584241120375885929_o

While a lot of our time in Mykonos was spent laying on the beach and eating more amazing meals at beautiful restaurants, we did have two more adventures. Imogen and i did an afternoon trip to the island of Delos, which is not far from Mykonos. The ENTIRE island is filled with ruins, and it was at one point, the most important seaport in all of the Greek city-states. I love history and hearing the stories of how they built things on the island, and the stories of Apollo and Artemis’ birth by Leto, who gave birth on the island that was created as a safe haven for her from Zeus’ jealous wife Hera. Although it was the hottest I had been since getting to Greece because there is no shade on the island, it was a highlight of the trip.

IMG_0098

IMG_0123

IMG_0128

IMG_0100

On our last evening with our car, we drove it up to the northern side of the island to see more sites. We went to an abandoned lighthouse that gave us breathtaking views of the island. That evening, back in Mykonos Town one last time, I was able to meet up with my friend Kim, who I had not seen in two years. It was amazing to see her lovely face, and I am always astounded at meeting up with loved ones in far corners of the world.

IMG_0147

11822358_10204915764754019_2802885624871720856_n

I would not mind a house in Mykonos, and I saw some being built. It was sad preparing to leave after such a wonderful nine days of rest and relaxation and seeing places I had only previously dreamed of seeing. I had eaten to my hearts desire and drank in all the amazing views. And as I type this from my bedroom in Philadelphia, my wanderlust has already started creeping back up slowly. I cannot wait for the next travel adventure.

IMG_0131 IMG_0133

Greece Days 3-5, The Beauty of Santorini and #BlackGirlMagic

There is one place since childhood that I have seen photographs of and have just sat there staring. That place is the island of Santorini. I have always been drawn to the white buildings with blue domes overlooking the most mesmerizing of blue waters. So when Imogen and I were planning our trip to Greece, it topped my list of where I wanted to go.

We got to Santorini by way of a slow ferry that took around 8 hours to reach there. It by far had the worst food of the journey–as every other place was filled with amazing food. We tried to sleep a good bit of it, and I ended up running through books I had brought quickly because of it. But it was all worth it as we caught our first glimpse of the beauty of Santorini.

IMG_0008

 

IMG_0020

 

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

 

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

The roads on the islands are steep without much of a guard rail, if any. We stayed on the eastern side of the island, which is famous for its black sand beaches. It was a perfect place to get in a lot of beach time. The black sand was scaldingly hot, but everything was perfect. We had our beachside cafe that we loved that we could always count on to whip up crepes that were out of this world delicious, as well as fresh smoothies. Everything we had from the crepes to the daily caught fish we ate in the evenings was so fresh, it was hard to go back to eating not-so fresh food once we returned to Cambridge. There was even a lovely vegetarian spot we went to on our second night, which had a great Caribbean vibe and salads that were big enough to feed someone for days. Soaking up the sun was exactly what we needed after days of finishing up theses. On our first evening there, we went parasailing at sunset. I don’t really like heights, so I was nervous to do it, but Imogen assured me nothing would go wrong and it was breathtaking seeing the sunset from above such beautiful water. It was definitely a highlight of the trip.

DSC_0069

IMG_20150817_115923

What I had been waiting for, however, was going to Oia, which is the classic beauty of Santorini, and where most of the photos one sees from the island are taken. Oia is famous for its sunset too, and hundreds of tourists come a day to stand at specific spots to capture it. We did not want to fight tourist elbows, however, and opted to see the famosu Oia sunset from the top of one of Oia’s finest rooftop restaurants, 1800, and enjoy some of the best food I have had in a long time and the sunset that was indeed like nothing I had ever seen before in the world. It was simple yet magestic, all at once. Before the sunset, we spent the day wandering through the myriad of streets in Oia, reveling in each turn revealing striking scenery of the city. I know one day if I ever have a lot of money, I would like to return and stay in a cliffside villa in Oia. We meandered down the 300 steps to the harbour and then scaled along the side of the island, jumping from rock to rock, to get a closer look at the turquoise waters as they met the edges of the island. Going back up the 300 steps was a testament of will though in the blistering heat. I felt my asthma of days gone by, clutching at my lungs with each step, and I was grateful for shade in souvenir shopping at the top. I had to keep pinching myself in my mind the entire day, though, as this was one place that I could not believe I was so blessed to be able to see in person. No photograph can truly capture its beauty.

2015-08-17 12.46.54

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset

IMG_0028

IMG_9934

There’s a photo I love that I have seen on Facebook and Instagram a few times of hands filled with glitter and it says something along the lines of what happens when you touch a black girl because of #Blackgirlmagic. There was a moment as we were walking along the shoreline that I lifted my arms in the air for a photo, and as I did I looked around me at the vast beauty that was not just the beauty of Santorini, but also what I had exuded as my own #Blackgirlmagic during my time in Europe. My beauty, wit, style, and boldness of life that had been fully unleashed over the last years felt shockingly at the tips of my fingers. It’s always there. Sometimes it just needs a bit of reminding and revitalizing.

Processed with VSCOcam with kk2 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset

Choice Revisited: A Black Woman Reflects on Alice Walker and Returning Home

This was the first time that I did not begin a new journey with time spent reflecting in the Town Where Time Does Not Reside. I boarded my flight in London and came straight to this new beginning in Philadelphia, the weight of time zones and memories jarring the journey.

There was a moment on my celebratory vacation of finishing my MPhil in Greece, that I was standing on a rocky hill by a lighthouse on the island of Mykonos with a breathtaking view of the sea in all it’s blue-green majesty. In that moment I closed my eyes and felt the weight and wonder of the end of one journey and the beginning of the next wash over me. And in that moment I simultaneously wanted to cry, laugh, sigh, and rejoice for everything that was and was about to be. As I let myself feel all of these emotions swirl in me at once, I thought of what it has meant for me to be a black woman living abroad and what it would mean to return home to America. Again.

America is not my homeland of birth, as I often explain to people. It is my homeland by the choice of my parents to make it our homeland, as they believed it to be the place where their children–especially their daughters–would be able to realise things about themselves and become everything they wanted. Long ago too, however, my ancestors came across oceans. Some as indentured servants from India, some slaves from the Gold Coast of Africa, and others still the explorers who first cast the stones of ‘difference’ towards the other parts of me. I am all of those stories in one, and while much of my childhood was marked by those who wished to convince me I was the ‘exception’ of my people, if my time in America has shed light on one truth it is that there are no exceptions when it comes to black bodies that assert their right of humanity through the means they themselves deem fit. While I could sit in a room and smile and make conversation with those who did not look like me, I was all the while “black girl dangerous.”

Is it love and admiration if they only love and admire you within a particular lens? Or only when you stay inside the boxes they created, the spaces that they have named? Though America is the site of some of my most painful memories, it is also the site of many of my greatest triumphs. While I was in many ways forged by its fires, and spat out with a new “birth certificate” in hand, I often felt anxious, as if surrounded by walls that were closing in. I wanted and needed to see what lay beyond this country, what different ways of being and currencies in life were sought and fought for on other lands. I think that’s why I love the red dirt of Ghana so much. I feel the centuries of feet clamboring across the land, the strength of women carrying physical and emotional weights of home and family. My first time, though, leaving the country after my family’s first arrival, was when I was 17. I spent a summer at Cambridge, the very place I am not returning from. I had received a spot at a summer program that was designed for children of wealth. Upon gaining access I explained to them my financial situation, and they offered me a partial scholarship. I told them I still could not afford to attend, and they then offered me a full scholarship. I used the money I had earned from my after-school job to pay for my food and activities while I was there, and I spent the summer pretending to be just like all the other kids. For a moment I wanted to forget free lunches and the necessity for bargain shopping. That summer, I was not Delia the working class black girl who shocks everyone in her community by being intelligent. I was just Delia the summer program attendee who was a great dancer and had a knack for making up funny poems. There was one moment when one of the RAs almost blew my cover by commenting on my scholarship, and my eyes pleaded with her to not break the illusion. I have come to love travel for so many different reasons and have since put years behind me of masking my humble background, but in that moment my love of travel was borne out of something I reflect on still: the ability to view my life from the outside looking in. It gave me clarity to see what it was that made me unique and the spaces I was crafting in my life on a daily basis. I was hooked on travel from the moment I set foot back in America.

We often romantacize leaving. We label those with the wanderlust and means of taking a plane ride across oceans to countries others only dream and read about. We imagine them escaping the racism and emotional and mental turmoil of being black in smoke-filled cafes with a drink in one hand and a pen in the other, writing pages of prose about their epiphanies abroad. However, we forget about those who leave with just the money they have in pocket, or those who take on financial burden for the sake of finding out what else lies beyond the confines of the New Jim Crow and pre-determined narratives.

Sometimes leaving is about not being able to breathe. Beau Taplin on love wrote, ““No, I do not want to be loved unconditionally. I want to be shown when I am treating you less than you deserve. I want you to leave if I ever start making you promises I do not see through. Love me for my flaws, yes, but don’t you dare ever allow them to hurt you.” As black people, we carry the burden of the effect of years of blank checks and psychological warfare. We have allowed such hurt to cloud our vision toward thriving, and we cannot remember if we love or hate this land. As a black woman, love often comes in the form of a radical journey. Journeying to find love of ourselves–our bodies, our hair, the way we carry ourselves when no one’s ill will is watching–and searching for love from our black men, and seeking love from those who do not look like us around us. Loving the land is no difference. In her essay “Choice,” a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Alice Walker recounts the history of dispossession that black people have endured in America. Such dispossession she writes leads to people leaving the land of their birth in order to preserve the good memories they have of it. But for Walker, land belongs to thsoe who have buried the dead there over and over again. While such land is sacred to families, land and space should also belong to those who live it, whose bodies shape its existence and who have been shaped by it as well. Walker thanks Dr. King for the return of the skies and smells of her homeland, and the ability to invite family members to visit and stay, and moreoever, stay herself. She wrote that the only ones who had previously stayed were those who could not afford to leave or those too stubborn to be run out. While more and more people are returning to their roots, to sow seeds they had previously taken elsewhere, there are those who go and return, and go and return, in cycles that allow the passage of air to flow through the lungs more easily.

Alice Walker wrote that our (black) mothers and grandmothers more often than not handed on the creative spark that was like a sealed letter they could not read, what they hoped for but often did not get to see. My mother loves to read, and she reads about places and their history. She has a list of places she hopes to one day travel to, and when I travel I think about how I am an extension of those dreams. She is always the first I tell about my journeys. I think about her own journey as a mother, and the home she asserted her right to create for herself and her family. In the midst of everything that tried to claim this power from me, I had the spaces my mother formed to forge an identity of my own creation. It is the type of space and identity that I can carry with me to other lands and other countries.

Blackness abroad is in itself a counternarrative. I have often been in circles of other women of colour while we discuss what it has meant and means for women of colour to assert their existence at places such as Cambridge. But to me, even more than the importance of existing in spaces that have typically not seen the existence of those like myself, is the ability to choose my own spaces of existence–those created for me in order to sustain me, where my creativity flourishes without being in direct relation as ‘the other’ or forcibly creating an ‘other.’ Alice Walker spoke of the choice Dr. King gave black people to remain in the South and return home. I revisit choice as this: the ability for home to not be just one space, but rather a myriad of real and imaginary spaces of creations. The type of radical spaces my mother created that allow me to return home. For there is no continuity of place without continuity of the body and mind. It is with those that we make and remake the spaces of our existence. We cannot have place, we cannot have home, without space. We cannot ask for it, nor can we spend our lives preoccupied with the need for others to acknowledge us and those spaces.

I am choosing to create. I am choosing to exist for my own love and my own well being, and to see that love spill over. I am welcomed home because I have named it so.