The King

You linger
in my thoughts
and in my habits.
I don’t know you anymore.

I don’t know that
the rain is sent from you
or that there is a hint
of your voice in thunder.

You are an idea
or worse…
something
someone that once lived
in my heart
and my writing
and my soul.

The rain just comes and goes
without reason
or sender.

Thunder booms
without majestic words.

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Staying current or staying sane?

My Facebook feed is home to a variety of perspectives; some of them I applaud, some of them I disagree with, some of them are full-on triggers for all things negative in my head and sometimes my heart.

Today someone posted an article about the rights of EU/UK citizens and Brexit, I read the article and then I read the comments section on the post. The person who posted enjoys discussing politics on Facebook and is rather good at it. One of the comments, however, displayed one of those opinions that trigger me. Out of respect, I cannot copy and paste it here but the contents of it essentially said that UK citizens in the EU contribute to the economy, whilst EU citizens in the UK are merely here for the money, competing for limited jobs and using the UK’s under-pressure public services.

Nobody replied to this person and I considered it for a moment but what do I say? How do I say it? Am I allowed to say it?

I don’t know how to engage in conversations about migration where people have opinions such as the one above. I haven’t learnt to distance myself from the issue – I cannot stand back and discuss like my acquaintance who posted the article. I just sat there and felt hurt. I told myself off for letting this person hurt me, this person who is a “friend of a friend” (on Facebook!). My insecurities, my identity issues rush to the surface when I read things like these.

You see, I want to be a well-informed, open-minded individual who is not afraid to hear other people’s opinions. I also think it’s important to challenge people’s views if you don’t agree but when it comes to migration, I am at a loss. I am a migrant, I will always be and when accusations of job-grabbing, public service-draining, etc. fly about, I feel like I am the one being accused. Now I know that people who know me don’t see me that way and I know that because some of them have told me. “No, it’s not you, it’s those other people.” And I know what they mean but it still pisses me off. It pisses me off because what they mean is: you look white, your accent is not that offensive to my ears, you have a job, you don’t dress a certain way (and by that they mean that I’m not a Muslim woman in visibly Muslim clothing), you don’t seem foreign (most of the time)…

Mental health and newsfeeds

When I talk about triggers I mean things that really hit me emotionally. I used to have depression and these days I feel fine but there’s always the chance that it could come back. I have the odd moment where I feel so overwhelmed that my heart starts racing and I just sob – like this morning at my desk. Winters are hard because of the lack of light. The referendum last year was hard because I felt like I wasn’t welcome. My newsfeed is hard because people say things about “the other” without thinking that someone in that group will read what they say. Do they say it to hurt? Do they want to offend people on the “other” side – that other religion, that other ethnic group, that other gender, that other sexual identity…

There are definitely people who make their points with a degree of decency and respect – they make me think and that’s good. But so much of our media, and that includes social media, is full of poison or what I perceive as poison. This is not about one comment on one post on Facebook. This is about what the most popular newspapers publish on their pages and websites every day. This is about the conversations I overhear on the bus. This is about hearing “for the many, not for the few” and having a suspicion that ultimately you’re not included.

Maybe I am too sensitive to certain things – I am sensitive when it comes to migration. I struggle to see where I belong in society because to some extent what defines who I am is that I migrated. The first few moves were out of my hands and then I made the decision to move here and I stayed.

So what do I do? Do I engage and challenge and argue? Do I read/listen to different perspectives on sensitive issues even though they might open up the gates to a place I don’t want to go? I am terrified of depression. It is the ugliest place I’ve ever been.

A road trip in pictures

Last September I went on a trip around some countries in Europe with my family. It’s been a while but I wanted to share some of the photos I took.

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“Peace” — Zaanse Schans, NL
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Zaanse Schans, Netherlands
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Friendship — Zaanse Schans, NL
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Reflections — Zaanse Schans, NL
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Reflections pt II — Zaanse Schans, NL
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Mystery — Giethoorn, NL
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Green — Giethoorn, NL
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Giethoorn, NL
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Volendam, NL
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Volendam, NL
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Red — Volendam, NL
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Brugge, Belgium
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Brugge, Belgium
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Brussels, Belgium
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Books — Brussels, Belgium
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Chambord, France
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Rooftops — Amboise, France
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River Loire, France
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Blois, France
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French cool — Blois, France
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Love ornate doors — Château de Chenonceau, France
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Château de Chenonceau, France
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Château de Chenonceau, France
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Château de Chenonceau, France
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Château de Chenonceau, France
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Château de Chenonceau, France
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Château de Chenonceau, France
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Soft — Château de Chenonceau, France
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Château de Chenonceau, France
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Caryatids — Château de Chenonceau, France
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Château de Chenonceau, France
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Rush — Château de Chenonceau, France
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Chilling in the shade — San Sebastián, Spain
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I’d love to live here — San Sebastián, Spain
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Early morning light — Dombellas, Spain
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Warmth — Dombellas, Spain
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Dombellas, Spain
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Cosy — Dombellas, Spain
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Los Sestiles, Dombellas, Spain
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Celtas — Ruinas de Numancia, Spain
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The road home — Dombellas, Spain
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Madrid, Spain
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Always miss these colourful walls — Madrid, Spain
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Callejeando — Madrid, Spain

 

The Good Immigrant: some thoughts on language and national identity.

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This is not a review. Just some thoughts on what struck me when reading this book. It brought up many memories of my own story and some thoughts that I would like to share.

First things first, if you don’t know about this book, go and check out their website at Unbound.

The Good Immigrant is a collection of essays by British black, Asian and minority ethnic writers, poets, journalists and artists. In this book, edited by Nikesh Shukla, they share some of their experiences of growing up in the UK, what it was like for them, the difficulties and joys they encountered and how they live now as British people with an immigrant background.

I found some of the stories very moving , like Kieran Yates’ On Going Home; stories of arrivals and departures always strike a cord with me. She also writes about language:

I know language can be painful, and so too do a generation of immigrants who have arrived here through different pathways. For them, language is the great battle to fight, and for many it’s a war you always feel like you’re losing. Even when you get the language, unless you shed your accent, you’re continually reminded of your difference.

Reading this brings up thoughts about my parents and the time we spent in the Netherlands when I was younger. I did not understand that it was harder for them to grasp the language than it was for my brother and I. I took to it with delight, I was excited to be able to communicate with people from so many different countries. My 11-year-old self thought Amsterdam was the best thing that had happened to me. Nowadays, I see how my parents suffered and I know that at least some of that was connected to language. Being able to communicate is essential when you’re an immigrant, especially when you’re an immigrant from the Global South in the Northern hemisphere.

For me, learning Dutch and English was the gateway to exploring ideas and ways of being in the world that my family perhaps did not understand or approved of. Above all, I saw language as a way of being accepted by the country where I thought I’d live indefinitely. Little did I know that we would all move to Spain, where my Latin American accent would stand out and where I’d be confronted with a people much more extroverted than I was comfortable with.

Being Latin American in Spain is an interesting thing, especially as an Ecuadorian. There are just so many of us! You’d think that’s a good thing but I hated my first few years in Spain. I hated that opening my mouth meant people would know I wasn’t from there. The few Latin American kids in my school disliked me and I must admit that it was my fault — I was judgemental and a bit of a snob. But language…language is still uncomfortable, painful sometimes. Spanish is uncomfortable even though it is my native language. I am not sure where it comes from but I always panic slightly when someone unexpectedly speaks Spanish to me. I have to mentally prepare myself for interactions when I’m on a plane on my way to Madrid. I have felt overwhelmed by emotion when listening to songs in Spanish, something that doesn’t happen at all when listening to music in any other language. Living life in English, including in my head, feels easier and safer somehow. Spanish feels like an earthquake.


There are other essays in The Good Immigrant that touch on the subject of language. In Namaste, Nikesh Shukla writes about his different voices. Reading his essay, I felt like he writes with a kind of assurance that I haven’t yet grasped. In fact, that is the feeling I got when reading many of the essays. I wonder if it is because many of the authors were born or grew up mostly in one country, whilst I lived in a few. Maybe it’s just my personality. In any case, I admire these writers’ honesty when sharing their stories. I admire their boldness. I sometimes wish that I could claim some kind of national identity — I was asked by one of my friends once whether I considered myself Spanish and I didn’t know what to say. All I could think is, what does that mean? The writers in this book mostly identify as British and even though it is an abstract, hard to define concept, I wish I could say it and for it to mean something to me.

I will leave you with some of the other essays that stood out to me:

A Guide to Being Black by Varaidzo
Kendo Nagasaki and Me by Daniel York Loh
Flags by Coco Khan
Shade by Salena Godden
The Ungrateful Country by Musa Okwonga

 

 

On the EU Referendum result

This would’ve been an essay but there is an abundance of political commentary out there. So I deleted my 1000+ word piece and wrote the following:

There is too much noise
for a small voice to be heard;
too much anger and bitterness
and gloating.
Too much division
for feelings of empathy

What do you do
when you are caught in a crossfire of accusations
and suffer the consequences
of a decision you weren’t allowed to make?

I am choosing to heed
words of wisdom
Be calm. Be still. Move on.

Often emotions don’t follow
and things fall apart
and it all seems pointless.

In the past few days,
I have felt anger
disillusionment
fear
and above all
uncertainty

It may not be for everyone
But even with emotions rattled
foundations shaken
and the crushing uncertainty…
Instead of casting blame,
I am choosing to look for wisdom.

 

Today I lost a poem

Today I lost a poem –
it might have gone down the drain in the shower
or alongside the dirty washing up water
Come to think of it, maybe it got thrown out
of my pocket along with old receipts…

There were some lines about longing
and England and the trees
and wondering where life is going
and whether calling myself a writer is suitable
or pretentious
or simply untrue
Because I don’t do it as often as I used to,
because the things I think about nowadays are hidden,
embarrassing even!
Because writing happened the most when I was unwell
and now that I’m better, is there anything left to say?

The poem might have escaped when I was busy at work
or maybe it just got tired of waiting.