Meet Kandrisa in Morocco!

booooI’m a college graduate of St. John’s University, wearer of cute accessories, semi-decent speller, member of the Peace Corps, perfume enthusiast, budding feminist, Beyonce fan, proud owner of nothing because materialism is wack, art history lover, someone who is always trying to lose five pounds, a sister as well as a Sister as well as a sista, and to my utmost delight a black girl in the world.

1. What made you move to where you are today? Job? School? Adventure?        When I was young and even more naive than what I am now, I dreamed of becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer. I was fixated on the idea of being a world traveler and as I am now, completely aware of how broke I am. I knew that I would need help “getting out there” (there being some place beyond Wal-mart) and so I made a pact with myself that I would join the Peace Corps. In those days, the volunteerism was secondary. In this day in age were I am continuously confronted with social inequality and discriminatory acts of all sorts, I am humbled by my decision to join the Peace Corps and I only hope to continue my advocacy for change.

walk2. How did you prepare for the move? How did you find housing? Did you need to learn a new language? Etc.?

I totally did not prepare for moving to Morocco. I mean I brought a mini-skirt. My ideas about living in a Muslim country were completely unintelligible and ridiculously uninformed. I remember looking at the CIA’s country factbook twice and being overwhelmed by all the information both there and in the “Lonely Planet’s Guidebook for Morocco.” Still, I had made a mental–and contractual–commitment to serve the nation of Morocco and that’s what helps me power through.

As far as settling down for these twenty-seven months, I originally lived with a host family in Sefrou, Morocco. I stayed there for three months in which I did a dismal job of learning Darija (Moroccan Arabic). It was just so cold! And sometimes learning isn’t on my agenda. Afterwards, I moved to my final site, a medium sized village on the outskirts of Marrakesh. There I lived with another host family who drove me up the wall. It was all I could do to find my lovely one bedroom apartment with newish tile and the water closet outside the front door. That’s a longer story, but in summation, I’m in my first ever own home and as cheesy as this may sound, I think its really special that the address is in Morocco.

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3. Whats the most difficult thing about being a black woman where you are? Blatant racism? no black community? No hair stylist?!                                        Wow! This question is this question. I’ll just start with the easy stuff. To know me is to know that my hair is a mess. Plaits all day, every day. I had embarrassing amounts of stereotypical racism to work through when I first arrived in-country. I held a monolithic viewpoint in which the only countries that stood out were the ones that I had connection to on a personal level. Plus, I just made the very ethno-centric, neocolonist (I do not give myself any leeway for practicing racism) assumption that all black people were the same. We aren’t and its our diversity that makes all of humanity beautiful. So what I really struggled with is developing a multiplicity in my understanding of what it means to be black in general and especially outside of the American racial binary. In Morocco, yes there is colorism, yes there are people who question the authenticity of my American heritage because I’m black, yes there are super ignorant comments about “Morocco not being in Africa,” but there is also a trend to recognize the indigenous tribal culture, ShelHa, a greater cultural connection to the Middle East, and other influences that make being black something different here than what I experienced in America.

4. On the flip side, what do you LOVE about where you live?
Can I be sentimental? I love the personal growth that I’ve undergone. I love the way my mind deliberates over issues. I love knowing that my family is growing and become amazing people without me. I love the people that I’ve met and the stories that they share with me. I love it because it was my dream.

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5. How have your friends and family reacted to you moving abroad?                           I know some very complex people. Their responses have been all over the emotional wellness map. Originally, my family was very angry with me for leaving. These days, sure they want me to come home, but they want me to succeed more. My grandmother is immaculately invested in my happiness. My friends can’t wait for 2015 so we can party together again. The loves of my life are proud. In there own way, everyone I know is rooting for me and I am incredibly grateful to have an amazing network of friends and family.

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6. Whats next for you? Plans to move back home? More living abroad?
I’m that girl with a ten year plan. I am so excited for the next countries in my life! Recently, my dad suggested that I take year off and live in Japan with he and his family. Maybe I’ll go there and be a live-in babysitter and/or meet a super handsome Japanese man and errr…live happily ever after. All jokes aside, I have always wanted a doctoral degree. My plans include going back to university and being an adult student. I hope to pursue a degree museum studies and in’shallah (God Willing) do public relations for a fancy museum. Promotion of the arts is a career I feel like I can commit to for the rest of my life. If not there’s always another term in the Peace Corps or maybe an extended vacation in an exotic land some place south beyond the border. And if not that either than I guess I’ll become a cat lady.
Follow Kandrisa’s adventures at www.Kandrisa.blogspot.com 🙂

“Beyonce Makes me Want to Turn 30”

beySo, it’s early afternoon, I’m checking my work email, looking up some flights on Kayak, doing my usual, and BOOM. BOOOOOM. Beyoncé dropped an album on our asses. While we where all sleeping and watching TV, Beyoncé said “here is some holiday cheer for y’all fools…now gimme your last $16.” Well first, I didn’t know how to act so I just stood up in the middle of the office. Really, I just stood up and stared at the computer screen. And then I sat down and went to iTunes to begin downloading. And after 10 minutes of jumping up and down, (and professing my undying devotion to Beyoncé on all forms of social media) I began watching the videos. I began listening to her lyrics, I began understanding that she really is a GROWN ASS woman. A woman who seems transformed in these new music videos. She seems empowered, boasting a sexiness that screams indifference to the haters and an appreciation for the 32 years it took to get to this point in her life.

Beyoncé is making her 30’s look damn good, and if this is the kind of woman I could be in my 30’s, sign me up right now. Taking charge of my career, allowing my work to speak for its self, feeling confident in my abilities. This is a side of growing older that I sometimes miss while worrying about what my family thinks I should be doing with my life, or how I’m still single while apparently all of Facebook is getting engaged. Your 30’s always seemed like this peak that you reach, an age where you should have your things in order. But as I get closer to the big 3-0 I realize that, like Beyoncé, there is power in your personal growth. I mean so much had to come together for her to feel comfortable having her man hop on a track and tell us how he likes to push her panties to the side in their foyer. Even the juxtaposition of having a piece of Adiche’s “We Should all be Feminists” speech over a track that tells you bitches to bow down paints the picture of a woman who knows who she is, and enjoys confusing us all with her mélange of vulnerable, erotic, thug, feminist, art.

Isn’t that who we all are on the inside? Balls of inconsistencies and contradictions? I loudly declare myself a feminist while still being unable to fully define the term, all the while wondering if my desire to put on a freakum dress and drop it low to the new Juicy J joint will ruin my credibility in certain circles. What I think Beyoncé has showcased here is that we don’t need to define ourselves or our dreams, we just need to act on our visions and let that do the explaining. We can just be, we can just live, and move forward in the direction that feels right. Write a book, start a business, shit or don’t. Be free.

As I look to my 27th birthday in March, I think of how I still have very little figured out. How I think I may know what I like, what I want, what I envision for my future, but those ideas change everyday. Literally, everyday I am wondering what my next move will be in 2014. Should I go to law school? Move back to DC? Go be a vagabond in Europe? I don’t know, and for the first time in my life, I’m beginning to feel ok with the ambiguity of it all. I look forward to reaching my 30’s and having an even better understanding of the woman looking back at me. I look forward to feeling sexier, being more confident in my voice, arriving at a place of comfort for myself and no one else. Thanks Bey.