Going for a Walk. In Somaliland.

Quick link: Walking in Somaliland

At EthnoTraveler I address, again, the perennial question for expatriates living in the Horn of Africa: Is it safe?

Short answer: What do you mean by safe?

Long answer: Read the essay.

Walking in Somaliland

Here’s an excerpt:

My husband and I went for a walk in Hargeisa, Somaliland. Before we left the house where we were staying with friends, the Somali woman employed there swore Hargeisa was peaceful. “There is no danger?” I asked. “No,” she said. “Only in Hamar.”

Hamar is the Somali word for the southern capital, Mogadishu. There may not have been any overt danger in Somaliland but there were checkpoints every few blocks and more visible weapons than I was used to across the border in Djibouti. I wasn’t supposed to go out walking alone. And after dark, my husband needed to ride in a car the two blocks between where he watched a football match and our guesthouse.

I wore baggy pants and a loose t-shirt covered by a shimmering blue floor-length robe. A tight cream scarf covered my hair and a tablecloth-sized scarf draped over my head, down past my shoulders to my fingertips. This was not a romantic stroll through a quaint foreign village. It was more of a sanity walk. I hadn’t left the walls of the compound in three days and needed to get outside. We didn’t hold hands. I walked nearly a foot behind. We barely spoke…

Click here to read the rest of Walking in Somaliland

The Whole30 in Africa: the Aftermath

When I finished the Whole30, I didn’t feel like much had changed about my eating habits or my attitudes toward food. This is because initially, nothing changed. After my reintroduction stage, in which I felt great (remember that run during which I had the superhero powers of bread?), I dove into a bag of Easter candy from my mom. I ate brownies and I licked the bowl. I ate chocolate muesli for breakfast (and as a late night snack). I ate bread and cheese and pizza and hamburgers (with the bun, no cheese, just tasted better that way). And I still felt great.

Whole30 Aftermath1

Until I stopped feeling great.

It wasn’t mostly physical. I don’t really feel much different, which confirmed what I thought – that most of this talk about food is a bunch of hoo-ha (for me, anyway). Unless you have an actual disease, eat bread. Otherwise, make wise choices and enjoy food.

It was that I missed the food.

I missed my morning egg pizza thingy and banana with pecans. I missed the date balls. And, holy heck, the food I was eating – that Easter candy and the pretzels – they didn’t even taste good. An apple flavored candy just didn’t taste as good as an apple.

Okay, the chocolate tasted great. But the jelly beans? And the pretzels without chocolate? Not good, more like cardboard.

Other things I was now eating – popcorn, gum, the muesli with yogurt – tasted great but I had to control myself or I would waaay overindulge. Like three bowls of muesli, please.

But other things just didn’t taste good anymore.

And then the light bulbs started going off.

If they don’t taste good…don’t eat them. Doesn’t mean they are bad or unclean, they just aren’t what I want to eat. So don’t.

I don’t need to redo the Whole30 or live that way, because I still want to eat bread before I run and I want to eat popcorn and I want to eat chocolate.

But the things I don’t want to eat? Just don’t eat them. It sounds so simple. And the things I do want to eat – eat them guilt free, fully aware that I am making a choice. I am in control. Not the food, not a food journalist, not an article about the latest food trend. Me.

After about 10 days totally off the Whole30, I made my egg pizza thingy and banana with pecan. I didn’t even want the muesli and yogurt I’d eaten every morning before the Whole30. But guess what? As I’m writing this blog post, I have a big bowl of muesli and yogurt in my lap.

They say knowledge is power, right? I’d add knowledge + experiential evidence + personal preference = power. I knew all this stuff before – that jellybeans won’t fuel a great run or that chocolate muesli is essentially starting the day with a big bowl of cookies. But now I had evidence of a changed palate and a changed attitude toward the food and could harness that into making choices I could feel good about. Not good or bad or clean or dirty choices, just choices that made me happy.

So. There you have it, my Whole30 journey. I’m now almost two months out and am still eating cocoa date balls, more salads, more vegetables, less junk food, less processed food, and am simply being more intentional. Nothing very radical but I do know my body better now so I fulfilled my personal goal for the month.

Anyone out there going to try the Whole30?

My other Whole30 posts:

The Whole30 and Privilege

A Runner’s Journey

Learning (again) to Cook

A Reluctant Food Post

What is the Whole30?

Pondering Privilege, a Book Review

Jody Fernando has written a beautiful, practical, and challenging book: Pondering Privilege: Toward a deeper understanding of whiteness, race, and faith.

Jody blogs at Between Worlds and if any Djibouti Jones readers have read When Rich Westerners Don’t Know They’re Being Rich Westerners, know that that blog post was inspired by Jody’s superb post When White People Don’t Know They’re Being White. That’s how I first met Jody, three years ago now and I continue to be challenged and inspired by her writing.

Pondering Privilege takes what Jody started with that viral post and deepens it. As a white woman in a brown family, her perspective is uniquely helpful to someone like me – a white woman in a white family, living in a brown country.

The book could be a quick read but Jody raises such important issues and asks such challenging questions that it is a book one could sit with for weeks. It will make readers uncomfortable and this is a good thing – anyone who wants to grow in their ability to communicate about race, to understand, to seek forgiveness, and to deepen community and move toward healing, should read this book.

Jody takes concepts like ‘cultural competency’ and replaces them with ‘cultural humility,’ examines privilege, and calls out white people for our ignorant ways of thinking and acting as well as addressing the issue of entire systems of privilege. She will not let us sit in complacency.

Each chapter ends with questions to ponder, which makes this an excellent book club choice for people who are ready and willing to wrestle, to be brutally honest with themselves and others, and who want to grow.

For me, the best part of Jody’s book is the utterly practical but radically transformative 21-Day Race Challenge. This alone makes buying the book well worth it because, if you take her up on the challenge, you will be changed. This isn’t a book to read and put away on the shelf, it is a book that can, if you let it, seep into your life and actually change things for the better.

*I received an ARC (advanced reader copy) of this book for review.

What is Success for a TCK?

Quick link: Parents of Third Culture Kids, Failure, and Redefining Success

TCKs, Failure, and Success

Today I’m writing at A Life Overseas, a revised version of a blog post from four years ago. The sentiments still stand. What does success look like for Third Culture Kids? At least for mine, it doesn’t look like preschool graduation parties or sports trophies for all the kids just for showing up. It doesn’t always translate well onto Instagram or Facebook and it might not feel like success at first.

What kind of parent cries, and not in a happy way, when their child tests into a gifted and talent program? What do those confused tears mean? It took a lot of wrestling for me to understand, at least for myself, what was happening in that moment. This essay tries to capture a bit of that. Not sure I succeeded in communicating it well, but I took a risk and I tried tackling a topic that is a little challenging. I guess that’s kind of the point.

Click here to read Parents of Third Culture Kids, Failure, and Redefining Success

*image via Flickr

The Whole30 in Africa and Privilege

I could say that doing the Whole30 reeks of privilege. Because it does. Kale, avocado, salmon, organic, local, free-range, coconut oil…this stuff is expensive and inaccessible not just to me in Djibouti but to people who live in ‘food deserts’ in the US or who don’t have margins in their budgets. People who can only get to the corner store where everything is overpriced and over-processed.

But you know what? Almost every meal I ate before the Whole30 reeked of privilege when I compare it to what many in Djibouti eat. This is something I wrestle with a lot.

My running clothes, ancient iPod, armband, headphones, and my shoes cost more than many of the people I run past will earn in months. I eat three meals a day. I live inside a house and it has walls and a roof and locks on the doors and screens on the windows. I have running water and electricity and a car and a computer.

This is abundance. Nothing, not one single thing about the Whole30 forced me to acknowledge my wealth any more than I am forced to acknowledge it every day. I could eat avocados or rice and beans until camels fly and it wouldn’t change one thing about the reality that the gap between me and someone living on the street is nearly infinite.

I’m not going to pretend that a month of eating this way changed how I think about food, community, or wealth and poverty and privilege. It simply gave me yet another opportunity to reflect on something I reflect on a lot.

Getting all high and mighty and condemning people who whine about how hard it is to drink coffee black while there is a homeless man on my street who has worn the same cast on his leg for months and months and months and who cries when I give him bananas would be manipulative and, ultimately, dishonest.

The Whole30 and Privilege1

I could say I felt so guilty eating my swiss chard nutrient dense salads or that I struggled with the reality that while some people have to fight to lose weight, other people in the world are dying from not having enough to eat. That would be the whole ‘eat your carrots because there are kids starving in Africa’ argument.

But the truth? I didn’t feel guilty eating swiss chard. I just ate it and felt thankful. And dropped bananas by the homeless man’s head while he slept in the shade. And felt thankful.

Another, contradictory truth? I feel guilty all the time, at least when I let myself wander down that path. Too many calories consumed – guilt. A non-generous response to a beggar – guilt. A new (used) iPod – guilt. A friend who can’t pay her daughter’s school fees – guilt.

My guilt or not guilt had nothing to do with the Whole30. It has everything to do with my plenty. No – my abundance, and what I do with it.

But I can’t live in that place all the time. I want to be aware and sensitive and generous and wise. But I also want to feel gratitude and joy.

Here is something I already knew but doing the Whole30 helped me think about how to apply it to food:

Intention is key. Living, and eating, with intention is something I increasingly value. Instead of running willy-nilly through my days and decisions, I want to be more reflective, more purposeful, more filled with intention with what I do and what I eat. For me, that might mean buying an extra kilo of bananas or keeping a package of dates in the car to hand to hungry people. It might mean biking more instead of driving or taking the time to help a friend move. It might mean speaking up about injustice – not on Twitter but in real life, when I see it in front of me. And it might mean choosing, intentionally, to eat certain foods with gratitude.

My point is that the Whole30 shouldn’t make anyone feel guilty. Going on this food cleanse does nothing to change your status or position in society.

But if it makes you more aware, if it makes you more grateful, if it makes you more generous, excellent.


My other Whole30 posts:

A Runner’s Journey

Learning (again) to Cook

A Reluctant Food Post

What is the Whole30?