We are more similar than you think…

Since I came to Hong Kong, I usually found myself forming friendships or associations more with international people more than the local Chinese people. The reason behind this is mainly due to the language barrier, I do not speak a word of Cantonese and my attempt to learn Mandarin did not go very far.  I did try though and I wrote about it a while ago in this POST.

As a result, I do feel more at home with English-speakers. Usually, when we meet as friends or acquaintances in the places we work or socialise, we always find the common topics of discussion to be centred around our experiences of being here. It is not uncommon to hear complaints about how non-locals feel they are being treated by the locals or how this and that is difficult or how it would be different in other places. I guess that is the story of anyone living in a foreign land. 

I found myself in the least expected company the other day and the experience brought home this thought about how shared experiences can bring people together. There is a saying misery loves company which suggests that somehow people who are going through the same circumstance may find solace in their shared experience. So there I was, a female from Zimbabwe, seated with a guy whose heritage is mixed Indian and Russian (first time to ever meet someone with such an interesting heritage, massive conversation starter and he uses it to his advantage) and the other, more loud and confident, born and raised in Manila, Philippines. As the three of us sat at a table having dinner we suddenly found it funny that here we were, in Hong Kong, all three of us coming from completely different backgrounds, but we were speaking the same language, in the sense of having experienced some of the same things during our stay here. What are the chances that we would find similarities in each other’s stories? This blew my mind and immediately, I knew these two men would become my friends. One thing I totally forgot to do was to take a selfie, but next time I see them, I will remember to take one so I can share with you guys. 

We talked about, among other things, our different experiences of racism and discrimination, each of us having a story to share. I could write a book on this topic alone really. We also talked about our home countries and the concept of “home”. This is important to me because, at that moment, I realised that a lot of young adults are beginning to lose this concept of “home” as circumstances force them to leave the countries of their birth to seek greener pastures. However, each of us was so sure that there will be a day when we will all return back to our “home”. 

At that moment, we were so different yet so much alike. 

We also had a chance to relearn what we thought we knew about the other (black African, mixed Indian-Russian and South East-Asian) and filling in the blanks. This was such a beautiful learning moment and it made me realise that we are all HUMAN, period. Our differences make us who we are, but we can all find a place to meet as humans and find that we are not as different as the world makes us out to be. Stereotypes and prejudices are the things that separate people. 

At the end of the day…

Image result for say no to discrimination quotes

A cup of tea and the Holy Spirit

Enjoying a cup of honey rose tea

I have been a Christian for many years and I am still amazed by how much more there is to learn and know about God’s kingdom. I have been reading a book by Dave Roberson titled The Walk of the Spirit, The Walk of Power: The Vital Role of Praying in Tongues and I must tell you, this book has opened up a whole new realm of understanding about my relationship with the Holy Spirit.

I have always thought of the Holy Spirit as that quiet voice that tells me what is the right thing to do or that nudge that I get to wake up and pray. I have also experienced the Holy Spirit as a calming presence which usually manifests in tears falling down my cheeks for some reason when I am praying. However, the tears also bring an amazing sense of peace that embraces me ever so dearly, like a close friend. I also know that when I invite the Holy Spirit, He is always there.

While reading Roberson’s book, however, I am getting to learn of the Holy Spirit as a powerful mover and shaker, the force that can shake things around in the spirit realm, the supernatural power that can mean the difference between success and failure, breakthrough or downfall. I am also learning about the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the spiritual gift of tongues and the role that praying in tongues plays in a believer’s life. One thing that has stuck with me is the fact that praying in tongues allows the Holy Spirit to intercede on my behalf, and that it edifies my soul. That last bit is the one that made me go to get a cup of tea and take time to ponder what this all means.

edify

Play ed·i·fy

verb

To edify is defined as to instruct someone in a way that enlightens them or uplifts them morally, spiritually or intellectually.

This is so profound for me because I have seen the way my spirit can be lifted, my mood can be shifted and my hope can be renewed just by the power of prayer and the presence of the Holy Spirit. It also means the Holy Spirit can enlighten me by showing me things that I would not have seen otherwise or teach me new things. This makes me so glad to know that not only do I get a spiritual companion, I also get to improve myself and become a better version of myself just by spending more time communing with the Holy Spirit.

I am going through a weird phase in my life where it seems to be all about learning and unlearning. I am becoming someone else and I feel like the Lord is redirecting me. It has not been easy, I am facing a lot of challenges, but hey, on the days when I choose to worship through the chaos, I see things moving on their own in my life. It is amazing and God is amazing.

What has been your experience with the Holy Spirit?

Boarding schools in crisis…my personal story

I had a conversation with my mother today that just brought back the motivation I had lost in the past couple of weeks. She brought back memories of a decision she once made about my education. Back in 2001 she decided, due to financial constraints to remove me from the boarding school where I had been since 1998. After I passed my O’Levels, I wanted to go further with A’ Level, but my single mother of four children sat me down to share how much she was struggling with the decision to remove me from boarding school, but the truth was that she just could not afford it anymore. For me, this was not a complicated decision at all, I told her that I can attend school anywhere and I will still do well, even the local school in our small town.  I remember her being so worried about that at the time. At the tender age of 16, I already knew that I was dedicated enough to study in any environment and make it.

I attended my A’ Levels at Mvurwi High school in Zimbabwe, which was pioneering A’ Levels that year. They had no library, no books, and a few experienced teachers to teach Advanced Level. This was the school my mother could afford because it was close to home and there would be no need for transport costs or monthly groceries and pocket money as I would have needed in boarding school. I went to this school and still passed with flying colours. My mother worried about what people would say and whether the quality of education would still be good enough for me to have a future. Our stream was the first A’ Level stream in 2001 and I am happy to say that we had good results, even with no library and books. I remember we used to have one book for History and another for Literature that we shared amongst ourselves. We used to share notes that our teachers were able to source from other schools. Our best student had 14 points and I got 13 points. This meant that we had more than enough points to get into the university.

Pupils suspended after bush sex
My local school Mvurwi High

 Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…Zechariah 4:10

I went on from that local school to be awarded the Zimbabwean Presidential Scholarship to study in South Africa for my Bachelors’ degree in Social Work. Later, I went on to get scholarships to study in Ireland and Hong Kong. I have become a beacon of hope in my community, to motivate other students and parents that they can dream big and they can succeed no matter the circumstances. Hearing my mother tell me that she was at a meeting where people in our local town discussed me as an example to advise other parents to not be afraid to remove their kids from boarding schools and allow them to attend local schools blew my mind (our town is that small, everyone knows what the other is up to, so when someone’s kids graduate or go overseas, everyone knows).

Getting this feedback is the essence of my educational experience and I honestly believe that stories and examples like these are the foundations that build legacies (there is an idea forming here).

At the moment, boarding schools in Zimbabwe are struggling to provide water and basic needs for students and a lot of parents are paying huge amounts of school fees, yet their children are going without basic needs.

Screenshot 2019-10-14 at 21.54.33
Image from iwpr.net

The economic situation in the country is dire and parents are facing the same tough decision that my mother faced years ago, to remove their children from prestigious boarding schools to local schools.

I realized today that I might think and feel that I am invisible, but the world sees me. I am a light in someone else’s life and that light can be used to fuel a young person’s dreams. I remembered 16-year-old me telling my mother not to worry, that I did not mind leaving boarding school. I can imagine the relief she felt as a parent at the time and also after watching me doing well in spite of it all. Hard work, dedication and a sense of purpose will always be rewarded. I have seen this in my lifetime and it shall forever be true.  To God be all the glory and honour!

I hope this encourages someone.

Confronting my ageism…

ageism
/ˈeɪdʒɪz(ə)m/
noun
  1. stereotyping, prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age. “ageism in recruitment is an increasing problem”

I am going to start with a few questions for you.

  • Is it always important for you to only hang out with people your own age?
  • Do you only consider dating in a certain age range and never step out of that range?
  • Do you only accept the views of people in your own age range and view others on the outside of that range to be “uninformed” about your experiences?

If you have answered yes to one or both of these questions, you might be an ageist. Well, that might be a strong statement, so let me rephrase. You might have practiced ageism knowingly or unknowingly.  I recently had to admit that about myself and it was only after taking some time to reflect on it and research on what ageism is all about that I realised just how limiting this mindset can be. The extreme forms of ageism can lead to people being overlooked for job opportunities or being discriminated against in society. However, I am going to describe my own experience with ageism, from how I have come to understand it.

The first time I came face to face with my own prejudice related to age was a little while back when I went on the GPS Gateway Camp . This was the first time I admitted to having stereotyped people according to their age and I felt really ashamed to have done this. The funny thing is as I was busy making stereotypes about people based on their age, it did not occur to me that I was also making those same stereotypes about myself (judging myself as old).

Here is how it happened:

So, we arrived at the camp on the first day and it was a Monday afternoon. I registered as an individual camper which meant that I would be part of a team of people who will be meeting each other for the very first time, unlike those who registered as a group. So, you know how it goes when you have to make introductions… The conversation went like this:

“Hey, how are you? My name is ….and I am from (insert country of origin),  how old are you?”

I was fine answering the first part of the question, but the last part I found myself feeling oddly uncomfortable. For some reason, I felt uneasy answering the question about my age. The reason being that the people in my team looked really young. I immediately thought, OMG, I am in the wrong team. I am in my early 30s and most of the people in the camp looked like they were teenagers. My reaction was so immediate and sort of subconscious. I  had judged them based on their appearance and made the conclusion that they were young and therefore, I was in the wrong group/the wrong camp.

In hindsight, I am happy to know how wrong I was to have made that judgement because even though the people in my team were much younger, it was the right group for me. Their energy levels and stories made me reflect back on my days as a young adult and also gave me an opportunity to feel like an older sister. 

img_4202.jpg

These days I am learning to work on my prejudices. I am willing to befriend people outside of my age range and I honestly think that has widened my network a whole lot. I am finding that younger or older people also have a lot they can show and teach me. Even people ten years younger or older than me.  I also realised the importance of having a teachable spirit and not judging a book by its cover.  Funny story…none of the people in my team believed me when I told them my real age, so it goes to show that age is really just a number.

Have you confronted your ageism and in what instances? Drop me a message below, you know that I always love to hear from you.

 

 

 

Using art as storytelling -Art Women Hong Kong

I attended the Art Women event at the Social Room last Thursday and I was so inspired by the work the ladies are doing that I just had to share.

Art Women is a group of female asylum seekers with a passion for arts & crafts who came together to use their art as a way to deal with the experiences of being refugees and the trauma that came as a result of their experiences back in their home countries. Today, the group consists of women from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi, Egypt and Sri Lanka.

At the event, Clarisse, the founder of Art Women, spoke about her experiences with depression and how she started crocheting as a way of expressing herself. From there, she started making dresses, bags and jewellery. She also started learning English here in Hong Kong since she could only speak French when she arrived.

415c08df-0fe6-441b-a95c-4973c6246f8a
 Photo credit: Pitshu

She later joined with a group of other refugee women and together they are Art Women, and now they use their craft to spread awareness about the situation in their home countries while showcasing the beauty of African fabrics and vibrant colours.  They also prepared amazing food from Africa, the menu included plantain, sweet potato fries and a variety of other amazing Central African delicacies.

ae9f011c-337c-45a4-9d10-d7c256749495.jpg
Photo credit: Pitshu

 

It is not easy to be a refugee in Hong Kong, because they are not allowed to work. One of the ladies who was a nurse back home in the DRC now has a way to pass the hours in her days instead of sitting at home doing nothing. She stays so busy making several crafts, jackets and dresses that she said she and the ladies were running like a small factory. I hope this means they are getting lots of orders because their stuff is really amazing.

I was so inspired by the work these ladies are doing and by how they have managed to turn their traumatic stories into something beautiful. Their garments are so full of life and tell of the story of Africa that is so inspiring. What I learned from these women on this day is that where there is a will, there is always a way. The resilient spirit of African women to rise above all obstacles and strive to make something of their lives is something that should be celebrated.

You can check out Art Women and their merchandise on their website HERE.

 

 

Three ways to beat the trap of comparison…

Image result for comparison is the thief of joy quote

We live in a world where there is stiff competition in every aspect of our lives. There is always someone who is doing the things we want to do and from our limited perspective, they look like they are doing it better than us.  So often, we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves with our peers. We are always on a clock that is socially constructed and we compare ourselves with each other based on this social timeline. It is a mental trap because it is the thought in our heads whenever we see someone else doing what we wish we could be doing, and it can be toxic if uncontrolled. It can turn into jealousy, low self-esteem, self-hate and even depression.

In the world of academia, this often leads to a phenomenon called imposter syndrome:

impostor syndrome
noun
noun: imposter syndrome
  1. the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.
    “people suffering from impostor syndrome may be at increased risk of anxiety”

When I was in grad school, I got caught up in the cycle of comparison and it often made me feel like an imposter.  Even now post-PhD, I find myself looking at my peers and it looks like they are doing better than I am doing. I even caught myself comparing myself with students who are just beginning their academic journey and feeling like they were better off because they seem to have more support than I ever did. The truth is this comparison is not helpful or productive, but it is also human nature. So, I don’t beat myself up about it. However, I do want to view myself in a way that is actually beneficial and not detrimental to my mental health, and comparing myself with others is not the way to do it.

Here are three of the ways to beat the comparison trap:

  • To celebrate others.

I want to try this instead of comparing myself with anyone. When you celebrate others, you are saying that “we all have different talents and it’s this person’s turn to shine so I am going to celebrate them without looking at my own circumstance.”  That reframes the narrative. I believe we all want to be surrounded by people who celebrate us and not compete with us. If one of us has a victory, we are all winning.

  •  Limiting social media

Social media is the best place to fall into the comparison trap, particularly Instagram where everyone is portraying their best lives and Twitter, where everyone is self-promoting. Limiting your time on these platforms might be one of the ways to stay grounded in your own reality and not allowing people (often strangers) to dictate how your life should look, where you should be and how you should be living.  If scrolling on social media for hours on end leaves you feeling drained, you are probably falling into the comparison trap. I recently looked at the type of people I follow because I realised this was also important. What is your timeline feeding you? Are you following people who live realistic lives, who post motivating stuff or it is the opposite? Some people feed off the “glamorous” lives posted on social media, but how real is it really?

  • Seeing myself the way God sees me,

That means that there is no way I can think of myself as less than capable. The word of God tells me that I am created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) and that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). God sees me as an amazing and talented individual, so that is who I am. It is all about FAITH and you can believe that too. The next time I am tempted to compare myself with someone else, I just have to remind myself that I am capable of doing all that I set my mind to. This may not be my time, but in due season, I will shine as I am meant to shine.

I only wrote about three ways but I am sure there are many more ways to stop comparing ourselves with others. Let me know some of the ways that work for you down below.

Happy Monday!!

Back to where it all started…

The image of that morning after stands out everytime I try and think of what happened. It has been over seven years since the switch went off. When I try and imagine how I started building the walls, that image of me lying down on the floor; worn out, defeated, depleted, comes to mind. I remember what was going on in my mind was “How could this happen to me? To us?” I cried my first and last tears over the relationship that had ended in such a crazy way. The attempted suicide, the manipulation, the blood on my floor and walls where it splattered, the pieces of glass all around the room when I came back from the hospital. That was the day I picked up the first brick and started building the wall that has now become so thick on my heart.

You cannot break down the walls until you know what materials were used to build it.

So, I am going back to where it all started. I refused to give it any other thought after I cried about it that morning after. I hardened my heart and told myself to be strong and move forward. My strength just continued over time and became yet another set of bricks and cement to add to the wall. It soon became impenetrable and in my defence, I was protecting myself. No one has been allowed to enter since, not completely anyway.

But Jesus is knocking down the walls. I’m going back to where it all started so that I can get back to being vulnerable, softer, trusting.

Don’t be too afraid of pain that you numb yourself completely, because that shuts out all the other feelings. You cannot experience joy without pain!