Justice League Of Avenging

So I’ve been preoccupied these past few days, but I have to alert you of something that I’ve noticed over the past two weeks.

Guys. Superheroes are real.

I’ve been watching the Olympics these past few weeks (while battling a serious case of writers block) and this is the only way I can rationalise the incredible feats of strength, agility and skill. I cheered, I laughed, I cried along with these athletes (while sitting on my butt at home at 2am) and was just blown away by every single display, regardless of medals won. As I watch the closing and thank the Lord for a chance to get a good night’s sleep before I become addicted to the Paralympics, I want to write about the superheroines of 2016.

Yes, I am aware of the male athletes of the Olympic. Yes I cheered them on, expecially my islanders, Team GB and anyone from the African diaspora, because I have my biases. I am happy to have been alive during the reign of Bolt and happy to be old enough to see him end his career on a high. I am so proud of Mo Farah and his mere existence that flies in the face of bigotry in the UK. The defeat of Phelps by Joseph Schooling, who was and probably still is his biggest fan had my jaw scraping the floor, and van Niekerk’s destruction of a 17 year long record was historical. But let’s talk about the Wonder Women, the Supergirls, the Black Widows and the Storms.

The powerful high-flying acrobat who has an entire move named after her. Her teammate who despite making history in the last games, was blasted by the media for irrelevant things, yet still shone in my eyes with her strength. The Fierce Five, the Final Five, the Fantastic Five. I salute you.

My incredibly gifted runner from the motherland of South Africa. She’s bee through so much since the discovery of her hyperandrogenism, the woman who just wants to run and run she did. Despite the SALTY negative comments made about her by fellow running-mates, certain officials and ignorant social-media couch-commentators, she rose above to comfortably win her gold medal. Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika was sung in our household. While on the subject of melanin goddesses, can we recognise the 12 beautiful black women on the 4 by 100m podium? My heart swells with the thought of all the young black girls around the world who saw this and thought “I could do that”.

But I’m not just here for the black girls. The hijabi girls who donned their scarves with their capes and stomped on the stereotypes had me riveted too.The Egyptian Beach Volleyball team who proudly chose to wear their hijabs and represent their country in the event for the first time ever incited debate, commentary and love. The bronze-medal winning Muslim-American fencer made strides not just for transatlantic Muslim women, but for Muslim women all over the world. The first Saudi Arabian woman to run the 100m ran this year, and an Afghani runner also competed, both in hijabs. The scarves were on full display and support poured in from all corners of the globe.

INDIA. Your first medal of Rio 2016 was earned by a female wrestler, who also has the distinction of being the first female wrestler from India to win a medal ever! Were you proud, because I was. She flipped her opponents like pancakes, man. She-Hulk but brown.You had an athlete like my South African, bringing awareness to the issues surrounding hyperandrogenism. I stand with you and hope you get to perform in every single race you train for. And China. Oh man, you gave us a swimming treasure. Her frankness and openness in discussing a subject that isn’t taboo but is treated as such, and her adorable surprise at winning that bronze medal made her an internet darling.

The spirit of togetherness came alive as it always does during the Olympics, which is one of my favourite parts about the event. The women who helped each other cross the line despite their injuries. The twins who crossed the finish line holding hands. The refugee women (and men!) from different countries who swam, ran and fought their way to the main stage. The camaraderie displayed was uplifting, especially in the times we live in now.

My own little island produced a team of 5, 3 of whom were women. I am so proud of them all. My heart was in my throat as I watched the women of St Lucia in their events represent us on the world stage. They have trained long and hard and did their best… and did our country proud. We have many more athletes to show the world, and the ones we showed this year aren’t done yet. Tokyo 2020 better prepare for Team 758!

I didn’t name the women I mentioned on purpose, nor did I link articles to them. As far as I’m concerned, they should be household names. These women who rose to the challenge and represented their nations are heroes, top of their field, and if you guys don’t know their names then you need to go learn them. Despite the many, many negative comments aimed towards not just the women I mentioned, but many others, they shone on the world stage. While I am by no means a sportswoman, their hard work and dedication left me inspired, as I’m sure they did millions of others. We have a long way to go before we achieve equality but we’re getting there thanks in part to our superheroines.

Obrigadas.

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Writer’s Block

I have the worst writer’s block right now.

It’s not like I don’t have any idea as to what to write about, I’ve got loads of ideas. I’m neck-deep in ideas. Ideas are pouring out of my ears.

Just… y’know, they’re not pouring onto the page.

I… I’ve tried everything. I have immersed myself into different forms of creative media (read: I watched Bob’s Burgers and looked up a way to make Louise’s hat). I have read a variety of different forms of text (does Reddit count?). I partook in arts and crafts to get the juices a-flowin’ (and got tangled in my yarn). I even tried exercise (died halfway round my park, saw my life flash before my eyes, felt supremely embarrassed at my teenage self).

All to no avail.

Is this what impotence feels like? Has my brain, however briefly, become an 80 year old man and if so where is my little blue pill to get the blood flowing? Should I get a fluffer? Are there pumps I can use to at least look like I’m at half-mast? Silicon injections? Or is the last one too extreme?

Maybe it’s because of the change in scenery (I moved again, long story). What’s more, the duvet I’ve been cocooned in since January has been put into storage due to an unBritishly warm summer, warm even for me, who finds 20 degrees chilly. Perhaps…my duvet is where my ideas come from. You know like how dough needs to be put in a warm place so the yeast can activate? Maybe that’s what I need.

The worst part isn’t that I have no ideas. I’ve got plenty of post ideas. I just can’t flesh them out. I keep staring gormlessly at the titles I’ve written, knowing what the overall theme is that I want to write but being completely unable to finish. I know I can fit in another erectile dysfunction pun here but I can’t even think of that. Ugh.

I’m gonna try to stay optimistic here. Frank Ocean had what must have been the mother of all writer’s block before gracing us with 2 albums and a magazine, and I’m pretty sure the thing he was building in the video was a new shelf for all the awards he’s going to get for it. I guess I just gotta wait for my Blond(e) moment too, right?

My brain is noping out of here.

 

I Am Not My Hair

I always find it weird when people go on about black women’s “obsession” with their hair. For one thing, you’d be pretty attached to something that could easily take ten hours to complete. Some people are obsessed with football and that only takes, what 90minutes per match? I often cannot leave my house because it’s Wash Day and it will take every second of my waking hours to go from short and puffy to waist length and synthetic. No one makes fun of sports fans for their rabid obsession, why do people go on about black women who, along with undertaking a fairly necessary task, are not even rioting when the outcome is less than palatable?

That being said, I’ve never cared much about my hair. In fact, I kinda wish I had a fantastic hair journey. I know it sounds a little silly, but I read a lot of black girl magic blogs and everyone seems to have had this epiphany where they realised that their natural hair is powerful and incredible and life-giving and with a majestic howl they rid their hair of the creamy crack and never looked back. This moment of self-actualisation frames a lot of narratives and I am here for it… but I’m not included in it.

I guess it’s because I’ve never really had a problem with my hair, wished for good hair, or wanted to be able to flip it. Everything I’ve done to my hair has been largely based on accessibility to skilled hairdressers and money. When I was a kid, my neighbour-aunties (because everyone older than you that loves you is your aunty or uncle, whether they’re related or not) used to do my hair. Tight cornrows that pulled my eyebrows up to my hairline and lasted a fortnight, baubles that could do some damage if repurposed as a weapon, beads that alerted people to my whereabouts like plastic cowbells… The whole shebang. But then I got older and we moved and my mother, who has been given manageable hair by Divine Intervention, had no clue what to do with my hair. And so she slathered my hair with the Creamy Crack.

This business

My hair never did look like it did on the box. In fact, the first ever “professional” hairdresser I went to who relaxed my hair used so much that my scalp burnt and the back fell out. I had to have some crazy combo of haircuts, more creamy crack and some foul smelling treatments that more than once resulted in me looking like a low-rent copy of Rihanna’s iconic hairstyles through the ages. I had the bob from Shut Up And Drive, the pixie cut from S&M, all without specifially asking for it. It was a hair assault. Good thing I actually like Rihanna.

But then I moved to the UK and no amount of treatments, masks, prayers or holy water would stop my hair from breaking. The super fantastic hairdresser I went to (Jamaican. Always find the Caribbean people to do your hair, no matter what your ethnicity is) tutted.

“Yuh wastin’ your money, chile. Either yuh shave yuh ‘ead or ya get a weave.”

I got a weave.

Pat them tracks, girl

I wore weaves constantly for a few years. It was far cheaper in the long run, and I was a broke university student with limited hairstyling ability. My flatmate did my weaves for free during term time and my mum paid for me to get a weave during the holidays (so that I could look presentable in her presence). But one day, after a particularly long stretch of not doing my hair, I took off my weave and an afro popped out. I hadn’t seen my actual hair in a decade and it jut decided to show up unannounced, soft and fluffy like unexpected snowfall, and darker than pitch. My reaction was somewhere between “Sweet!” and “HA. Copy this, Rihanna!”

Were my hair a person…

So now I’m natural. Most of the time I wear braids because they’re £4 per packet at my local hairshop and I can’t be bothered to watch ten youtube videos in order to learn a complicated new style. I cover it in oil once in a while, wrap it in a scarf and let curious non-black people touch it if they ask nicely. I love my hair, but I’ve always loved my hair no matter what it was doing. I’m not sure if it’s good hair or bad hair, but it’s on my head and I like it so who cares? When asked by Chris Rock, Maya Angelou said “I would say that hair is a woman’s glory and that you share that glory with your family. And they get to see you braiding it and they get to see you washing it. But it is not a bad thing or a good thing, it’s hair.”It is our pride, it is our heritage and our biology, and some day I’ll write about how I feel about the discussion around the cultural appropriation of hairstyles.

But today is not that day.

Today is Wash day.

See you in a few days.

Night Nurse: General Wards and You

Despite my years of being an HCA, I’ve never been on a general paediatric ward until I started this course. Someday I’ll go into the weird and wonderful experiences I had when I worked in a paediatric hospital, but today I’m gonna talk about my experience in a “normal” children’s ward.

Think this but with more IVs

 

You may think that children’s wards may be less complex as they cover a smaller space of time (0-18 versus adult services which covers 18 to, um, dead), but in case you’ve not noticed, there’s a big difference between a pooping baby and a spotty teen, so it’s actually pretty varied. And if you’re sitting here thinking “WTF, why would anyone think that paediatrics is simple?” congrats on being quicker on the uptake than a lot of trusts who routinely lack stuff (machines, medicine, trained staff) for a lot of paeds departments. But that’s a bugbear for another day.

General wards can be a little crazy. For example, the time I was there coincided with a bronchiolitis outbreak. I had never heard of it until I walked in and was confronted with a snot-nosed 3 month old baby with the tiniest nasal cannula I’d ever seen taped to her face with a teddy bear sticker. Bronchi babies need to be isolated from everyone else so at one point in my 4-week stay, we had a bay full of sneezing babies and adults tiptoeing in and out so that they’d sleep well. Never had breathing difficulties been so adorable.

Awwww

Speaking of breathing difficulties, a lotta kids have asthma. Normally diagnosed round 5 and up, there’s a considerable amount of kids who show up because their lungs decided to do the thing where they decide that breathing is optional. I was told to admit a little boy who was sitting in our playroom looking a little pale. Mum was sitting next to him, looking tired and worried.

“He had an asthma attack and I don’t think his inhaler is working! He just went very grey and he’s not himself and and and…” Mum was a little teary. Understandable, but it’s good to remember that parents overexaggerate sometimes, so the discerning nurse-in-training should always ask the kid how they are, if possible. I turn to the little man, who was attached to an oxygen cylinder bigger than he was.

“You aite dude?” I asked. He took a deep breath.

“I’M… FINE… REALLY. NO NEED TO… WORRY… MUMMEH…” he wheezed, going sweaty with the effort. I backed away slowly.

“I’ll… just see if a bed’s free. You’re gonna need a bigger inhaler, bro.”

Seriously. Kids have bigger inhalers.

Most kids are so chill about the whole “being in hospital” thing. I’m not sure if it’s to do with ignorance (if you don’t know about complications how are you meant to worry about them?) or if they just wanna get on with life (this whole “emergency operation” thing is interrupting Peppa Pig time), but honestly, most of them take it way better than adults do, especially once they’ve had some painkillers. Parents on the other hand don’t stop worrying until at least 2 weeks post-discharge. We had a mum who was discharged rush back to us in a panic, certain her child was having a series of seizures. We stared at the laughing, smiling toddler.

“Um, she looks ok” my nurse-for-the-day told mum. Mum spluttered.

“NO SHE SERIOUSLY IS SICK!!” She protested. “You’re just not around to see it!”

“Ok why don’t you record her every time you think she’s having one, and show us the video if we miss it?” the nurse responded.

I guess it was the feeling of having some kind of control over her daughter’s illness. Or maybe just taking a few seconds to look at her daughter through her phone made her realise that her child was actually well. Either way, she and her kid were discharged (again) an hour later.

In case it’s not apparent, I enjoyed my placement in a general ward wayyy more than I did in the community. The variety, the stories, the care – it’s definitely more my kind of thing. Mind you, 12hr shifts are a killer compared to 9-5, but I guess if you’re doing something you feel is fulfilling, it’s definitely not so bad. Plus it means I got 3 or 4 days off a week!

You know I’m just gonna sleep all day

Geography 101

Did you know that the Caribbean is a region comprising of 30 countries? Also known as the West Indies (because some European idiot in a boat thought he was sailing to India, realised he wasn’t in India because he went west instead of east, and decided to profit from his L), they are generally divided into the Greater and Lesser Antilles and a few mainland territories on the South American continent. While these countries are united by a common history, they have their own political leaders, dialects, cuisine and topography. Also 29 out of 30 of them don’t start with J and end with Amaica.

Yeah I said it.

I didn’t realise how few people knew this until I left St. Lucia. Call it innocence, I call it expectation. See, we had to learn world geography as a part of our syllabus, and I expected kids in bigger countries, in countries with better access to resources and with televisions with more than 43 channels would at the very least know what I knew. Granted, I did Geography until the end of secondary school, but I developed a vague idea of what was where around the age of 13.. surely they did the same?

I was wrong.

“Your English is so good,” people in my classes gushed. I stared at them, confused. It sounded like a complimented but it felt like an insult.

“Why wouldn’t it be?”

“Well… y’know… you’re from the Caribbean…”

“Yeah, St Lucia. Our national language is English… what did you think I spoke?”

I never got an answer to that question, which is what bothered me the most. See if someone had said “Oh I know some islands speak French so I assumed you did the same, despite not having a French accent” or “Well the Caribbean is close to South America, so I thought maybe Spanish or Portuguese” then I wouldn’t have been so irate. But no one ever had an answer for me. It was as if they thought I spoke some sort of Caribbeanese, a foreign dialect unknown to most people, something that sat between African (also not a language) and whatever the hell it is Sean Paul sang in. I had an accent ergo I spoke Foreign. My mastery of the English language was therefore something to be amazed by and complimented. Never mind that the majority of the countries that formerly belonged to England have English as their first language.

Do we have to have a history lesson too?

I think I was a major disappointment to a lot of people in my school. I didn’t sound as “Caribbean” as I think a lot of people expected. I didn’t say mon, or whagwan, or call children pickney dem. I didn’t sound like Bob Marley or Sean Paul. I didn’t say bacon like beercan, nor was I aware that some people did. When I pointed out that I was from a completely different country, reactions ranged from embarrassment (“oh I’m so sorry, I didn’t know there was a difference”) to outright rudeness (well, I thought it was rude to say “aren’t you guys all the same anyway?”). Me being “rude gyal Caribbean” bluntly asked if Bangladesh, Pakistan and India were the same, or if I should start saying England, Ireland and France were all the same, waited until the outrage from my peers died down, then let my point sink in: that being in the same region didn’t mean that we would all be the same. I took a “take no prisoners” approach to educating the masses.

I don’t think it’s much to ask for everyone to have a basic knowledge of the world, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. I’ve had the same experience when talking about my mother and her South African background (My mother did NOT LIVE IN A HUT WITH THE LIONS), and seen my friends have the same conversation regarding Japan, South Korea and China (They’re not the same country and don’t have the same language). Maybe everyone should have a world map or a globe in their home, they’re not especially expensive. Alternatively, just listen to the Animaniacs’ World Song a few times. Even if they don’t mention St Lucia either, it’s a start.

LEARN THIS NOW.