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.


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.


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.


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 🙂

A Black Girl in the Philippines: Meet Laura Wise!

What made you move to where you are today? 
I moved to the Philippines for a job and adventure. I’m a young adult missionary for the United Methodist Church. When I applied for the program I accepted having no idea where I was going. So my appetite for adventure definitely allowed me to be open enough to go where I was summoned. And viola..15 months later I’m here in the Philippines working for peace and justice with a local NGO.
 How did you prepare for the move? How did you find housing? Did you need to learn a new language? 
In my case I definitely over-prepared. Before moving I went through an intense 3 week training preparing my batch-mates and I to live and work internationally. The theme was: simple living, and I really took it to the extreme. I brought no cute clothes, no heels, none of my fabulous jewelry, minimal makeup…essentially the things that give me life. After arriving I quickly realized I took it way over board, and that simple living doesn’t mean I have to live in poverty or deprive myself of the things that I love. Looking back though, stripping myself of all of the ornaments that help to make me fabulous was a blessing. It really forced me to get in touch with myself in a new way. My organization provided me with housing, and I’m still trying to learn the language…Lord help me. It’s the first language I ever seriously tried to learn. I can understand a lot more than I can speak. I get by though 🙂
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Whats the most difficult thing about being a black woman where you are? Blatant racism? no black community? No hair stylist?!
All of the above! lol When I first arrived I was shocked and appalled at the booming skin whitening industry (I’m pointing at you P&G and Unilever). This is a country that was colonized for almost 400 years, so I find many people maybe subconsciously buy into the ‘white is right’ syndrome. I’ve had people joke about me being “dark.” And many people here don’t understand how I can be black and from the United States. I find myself giving a 5 minuet history lesson at least 3 times a week. People are really curious about my hair more than anything; how did I get it this way, do I comb it, do I wash it…with shampoo, etc. I’ve chosen to wear protective styles while here because It’s just easier for me. I stocked up on Shea Moisture products before I left and all is well! They have really great virgin coconut oil here. I’ve adopted it into my routine and will be smuggling a couple dozen bottles back to the States with me.
On the flip side, what do you LOVE about where you live?
I love the spirit of the people here, everyone is so warm and welcoming. I’ve experienced hospitality like never before. My work has allowed me to see and do things I could have never even dreamed that I would be able to experience, so I love every bit of living and learning in this new culture. My time here has really been defined by the amazingly strong women I’ve met here in the Philippines. I’m talking true feminist who might not necessarily identify with the term ‘feminist’. I’ve loved every conversation and all that I’ve learned from them.
 How have your friends and family reacted to you moving abroad?
Everyone has been really supportive. Since my life has taken a turn in this direction I can see how my friends and family are starting to take interest in some of the issues that I’ve become passionate about and that I’m working on here. It’s really cool.
 Whats next for you? Plans to move back home? More living abroad?
New York, New York is next for me. I will be moving there early spring 2014 where I will work with the communications team at the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church for the next year and a half. After that only God knows. I’ve always been a ‘go with the flow’ kind of gal, so I hope that life will take me abroad again. It’s really a life changing experience.

Find the amazing Laura online at…

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