Odd and Alone

sepia coloured images of a person walking on a deserted and dreary-looking road in a forest

Where I’m from people are generally friendly and I never noticed the significant oddities of my behaviour. In my mind I’ve only ever been a little strange. Now, in a new country with very different rules I am seeing a juxtaposition of self vs the mass, and there is nothing similar between us except that we are all human. I don’t understand the way they do, I don’t relate to others in the same way, I don’t express my emotions or thoughts in the same way. At home these were always different from the general mass but there were always pockets that I could fit into snugly. Here, there is no comforting place for me to hide, and for the moment I have failed to adequately find solutions through research (online).

When I was fifteen I was introduced to the internet on a one-on-one basis. And the internet became the home where I could be myself without apology or dilution. Shortly after finding a home I found a friend there. Almost eleven years later we are still friends (sharing our dilemmas, disasters, and joys). He was a little weird. It made getting acquainted significantly easier than ever before. But he was too similar to me. At times it felt as though he was telling me things I’d say and do.

But he couldn’t because we’d only met a short while before and there was no personal information of mine online. So I began to question him about these oddities of him that reflected me so well. He responded by explaining that these oddities of his had a name and were symptoms. I looked it up immediately after our conversation. I ran through the list and saw a number of symptoms which I had. Thankfully, I didn’t have many of them. Like my friend, my case was mild. It was an explanation about why it was so easy for us to relate, and also why I felt so different from others.

So know I could get help, right? Wrong. I rarely went to the doctor both then and now. But that isn’t the major reason. That resides with how people perceive things.

After building up enough courage and a lot of planning which included time (when), vocal inflection, and word choice. I spoke to my mother suggesting that I have this thing she replied: “Are you trying to say you are mildly retarded?” And there was no point in trying to explain or reword because that’s how persons on the farthest end are referred to “retards”.

I put this thought aside for the most part. But being aware that I was “mildly retarded” and that “retards” were able to adjust, adapt by copying. I began to watch persons a lot more. Now it wasn’t only for the purpose of analyzing how others interact, but to remember and replicate it. I’ve done it quite well I think…not perfectly but well enough to only be classed as a “little weird”.

After becoming an adult some of my oddities have become more pronounced. Thankfully, I thought at the time, there was a campaign for people to take note of children who are different. The campaign pushed for them to be respected and not be called “retarded”. It pushes (because they still run ads irregularly) for parents to be aware of the symptoms and of the fact that there is help and that it can get better.

In my haste I didn’t consider that they only spoke of persons who stood out to the extreme or that they only spoke of children. In the world beyond, people speak about the spectrum. But there are no specialists for adults. So my pleasure, though it wasn’t outed, it was dampened.

I tried locating a psychiatrist but there are so few on the island that it was impossible for me to sit with one as the shortage has created a patient overload as well. I developed a few physical problems unrelated to my symptoms and visited two doctors. The first seemed to think I was making it up. The second took me seriously, did general testing which return results saying that I am perfectly healthy.

The doctor informed me that if results from specific testing returned normal, he would suggest a psychiatrist because such results would mean that the main problem was not a physical one. I was scheduled to do specific testing but was unable to because I had to reroute monies to get ready to leave. (I’ve been coping with the physical symptoms. They are always ready to and do appear if I forget a step. So I try not to.)

Suppose you’re just a hypochondriac…I thought that too. But I’ve settled that I’m not, because you have to know the symptoms you need to replicate in order to do so. Based on the symptom list I perused recently I have forty-three of the fifty-six symptoms.

So I’m not a hypochondriac and the first problem which had become…more or less manageable is once again a problem and a major one. I haven’t simply moved to another country. I’ve switched hemispheres. And on this side of the world I must in addition to recalibrating my forever faulty geographical (not global) positioning system, learn a new language, a new way of existing and communicating in an environment the exact opposite of the one I’ve programmed myself to fit into.

I know. It sounds like what every Joe who moves has to do. But I am not every Joe. I don’t miss home. I don’t miss the heat. I don’t miss the sounds that I call home. I just miss feeling less weird than I do. I miss feeling the comfort of being myself with one or two people who accept me with warmth, sincerity, and a shared oddity or two.

And herein lies the catalyst which caused my “retardation” to be remembered. “I don’t know how to make friends”. This thought approached me silently as I search for a way to make friends. For some time I’ve been aware that I don’t have any friends here based on my definition of the word. But I was presented with this fact again when a Russian commented on the Western way of calling acquaintances “friends”.

Then it occurred to me that I’m not the only one who doesn’t think of others as friends. No one here is my friend and I am no one’s friend either. I have no one to call, or who will truly care when I am sad, angry, or hurt. I am just me…with no hand to hold, shoulder to cry on, or soul to share my emotions with.

I am alone.

grayscale image with young man standing very close to a brick wall with hands folded across chest, and a bright light being shown on his face be an unseen source

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The Next Step?

I’ve decide that I don’t want to date.
I refuse to compromise. So the only solution left is to walk my road, and to walk it alone. But I am lonely. I want someone who won’t just understand me but love me deeply. Of course I haven’t found that but I yearn for it: the look of longing that isn’t physical but emotional. I yearn to be missed for my intellect, for my passion, for my unique, my crass, my crude, my strong-will.

I want a companion whose dream is my own, whose desires are a reflection of my own without being identical. I want an individual who is individual.

I want the impossible it seems…so it’s good that I don’t want a companion, right? It’s good. It makes sense…but it just feels like it doesn’t. I keep feeling a desire to share my life with someone else. But I know my desire is entirely unrealistic. I know. But knowing doesn’t seem to help. Giving myself the facts, the downright truth isn’t being of much use to me. The numbers aren’t getting through. The words are falling on a mind that has long closed because it has realized that it’s desire to be two will never be realized. And though it knows that the greater desire will be realized because the lesser has been forsaken this mind has not rested. He still yearns for that creature that will bring a smile to the surface. He still yearns for a hand to hold, a mind to touch….a mind to share….a mind to push and pull, and be pushed and pulled by in return. He still yearns for a voice that connects. He still yearns. He still yearns for the whole that fits his own perfectly. He still hopes for synergy of mind, and body, of spirit. He still hopes. He still hopes…

I’ve decide that I don’t want to date.

The decision isn’t new but it has finally been settled in my bones that I don’t want a life companion and based on my religious beliefs sexual encounters are out of the picture.

But he(my mind) still hopes. I know finding the other whole is implausible…someone who puts up with my quirks, my anxiety, my highs, my lows, my extremes. Is my reflection really out there? If not then, I know it would be selfish to ask another human being to go on my journey. It would essentially mean leaving theirs, forsaking who they are for who I want to be. But what about that person what about their dreams, and wants, and deepest desires. Am I to steal another’s essence to preserve my own. Am I to inflict the pain I dread most on someone else…on someone I love? And if I compromise….what about me?

Getting to Russia: The Scholarship

How long did it take to get to Russia?

I truly don’t know. What I do know is that I flew on three planes, went through four timezones, and five airport to get here. Now I am in a timezone that is exactly twelve hours ahead of my home country.

The beginning.

But the airport wasn’t the beginning. The beginning sits in a cold office with a Russian Scholarship Application. I could skip this, but I think it’s important for those who exist on a plane of anxiety. I tried high and low to find the procedures from start to finish but I could only find the begin. I hope this helps.

Collect the Russian Scholarship Application from the relevant authority in your country (in Antigua/Barbuda that’s the Prime Minister’s Office in the Scholarship Department)
You may need to copy the three-page form if you did not receive three copies. In all that’s nine piece of paper, just so we are clear.

Fill out the form. Gather your birth certificate, educational certificates, and transcripts, as well as your high school diploma. Make three copies of your educational documents. Notarize ALL of the copies. Submit the addressed folder to the relevant authority in your country by the specified date (In Antigua/Barbuda that’s the PM’s office, and March 20, 2015.)
The transcripts must be the original. So there’s no need to have it notarized especially since it should be sealed in an envelope from your school. You can leave the slot for university choices blank. However, if you do fill it out, you can only list two universities per region, i.e three universities from one area is a no-no.

Go to your physician and request a medical certificate which gives you a clean bill of health when you are informed to do so. Included in your test should be an HIV/AIDS test. Take the doctor’s letter/certificate to the relevant authority. The HIV/AIDS test is mandatory.

If you included your email address, you may receive an email requesting confirmation of your email address. Upon confirmation of your email address you should receive another email with a code that allows you to see the status of your scholarship application.
This email may inform you of your acceptance sometime before the authority in your country receives the necessary documentation to begin the process of applying for your visa.

Take your passport and go to the office when you are informed to do so. You will be filling out the online Russian visa application, printing, signing, and handing it over to the authority along with your passport. There you should be given a copy of the invitation which will state which university you will be attending for your degree, and also where you’ll be studying the language. You should also receive another three-page document which includes the approximate period in which you should arrive in Russia, and what you’ll need to bring to Russia in terms of documentation (which is all of the documentation you gave to the authority, and also the certified translation of those documents which will be given to you by the same authority). In all that’s four pieces of paper, unless they are printed back and front. Keep the mentioned pages above. If a university official says they didn’t know that you were coming or that you don’t belong there, that is your proof and your pass.

You will now wait for your visa to be processed and for your passport to be returned to you. The time attached to this process varies.

After your passport returns adorned with its new Russian visa you’ll book a flight to Russia. Remember to collect all of your documentation from the authority you gave it to. These education related documents are for your second university i.e. where you’ll obtain your degree. (Yes, you’ll be attending two universities. The first will be referred to as a preparatory school, where you will study the language for one year. The second university is where you will earn your degree.)

In some countries students are given monthly/yearly stipends by their government in addition to having their tuition and accommodation paid by the Russian government. In other countries the student is left to pay for the ticket, food, and everything else. For this information you will have to communicate with someone within your territory.

The above is my experience. It may vary for others, but based on information gained through Russian-scholarship students from other territories the information above is the general procedure. You also may or may not receive a call/email from the Russian Embassy inquiring about your medical certificate if it is late.

Feel free to peruse these links for further information about universities to which the Russian scholarships are linked, and other general information.

Racism in Russia?

Initially my intent was to procure a Korean scholarship. I love Korea you see. I love the culture, the language, the quirks, the peculiarities. I love it all. However, I didn’t get one. Instead I am now the recipient of a Russian scholarship. When this shift from Korean to Russian first came into view I did some research on the country itself because almost everything I had heard about Russia was negative, and the bits that weren’t negative weren’t really positive either. But that’s just in the mainstream media. So I went looking where people like you and me would speak about our own perspectives. Here, I most now note that I am of African descent, and that it is obvious once you see me. (Let’s be clear, I am not African. I am an Antiguan. My ancestors left Africa 300 years ago.) For this reason I was a little more concerned than some might be because I’d also been fed that Russians are racist. Thankfully, the good people of Netville dispelled this myth (for me). I went looking for first-hand accounts of what blacks had undergone on trips to Russia. I was amazed.

The accounts of people who had actually been to Russia were not negative they were closer to being neutral. They mentioned strange stares on the street, and persons feeling threatened but not being harmed. That is perfectly okay for me. I am strange enough so I get stared at and I’ve grown quite accustomed to it. So the real issue here is feeling threatened. The story that goes along with this was a second-hand account of a black Russian (they exist) who in a bar one day saw a man standing outside of the bar with a club. Apparently it was communicated that he was waiting for her. After a few hours he left. The storyteller was keen to mention that the reaction to blacks in Russia varies depending on whether you’re closer to the capital or farther away. To be honest, that bar story frazzled me a bit. What balanced it for me was the introduction of a black man married to a Russian woman. Let me also inform you that I take more away from the exception than from the norm. If one black man has been living in a rural area in Russia with a Russian woman for several years and he is still alive and unharmed how much do I need to fear? So, yes, there are many videos with persons saying it’s bad in Russia. But it’s the other side that drew me.

I mean really? Of course, one will still have doubts but I thought that was a rather important issue. And I stopped my research after finding the account of a black female who had been to Russia. I wasn’t afraid anymore. This might not seem like the smartest move, but it’s exactly what I did. For me the major aspects that seemed to bother people is explained by the fact that blacks aren’t a commonality in Russia and similar areas of the world. Their ‘racism’ isn’t “I hate you because you aren’t worthy”. If we can truly call it racism then it should be classed under “I am threatened by this change.” Aren’t we all threatened by change? Is it not our habit, our tradition, our way of life to revolt against change.

For the last year I have felt a revolution boiling. A revolution against me and my hair. A revolution led by own people. Oddly this revolution isn’t just against me. It is against every kinky-haired individual who decides to embrace the naturalness of their hair. Does that sound odd to you? If a black person’s hair is straightened to resemble that of other races they have a better chance of being taken seriously, of being hired. This is comment includes but isn’t focused on managers of other races. It is about black managers who consider natural hair to be a sign that the person beneath the hair is unkempt, uncouth, unbusiness-like, and unfit for any position be it an auxiliary worker or anything else.

The first image below is a photo of me one of approximately twelve occasion on which attention was actually paid to my hair. The rest of the eight years I did as little as is humanly possible to my hair. Very few people complained. The next image, is more recent. Approximately one year after cutting my hair people doubt my ability, and when it is found that I am efficient at what I do…they suggest I change my hair.

Straightened hair
Straightened hair
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Natural kinky hair

Oddly, I take more care of my natural hair in one month than I ever did  in the eight years I was straightening my hair. Every time I do my natural hair I ensure it is done exactly how I want it to look: polished. I never cared with my straightened hair. But that isn’t anyone’s concern. Their concern is that this hair is different, a change and hence it should be shunned by all means humanly possible. This not only includes looking at kinky-haired persons with eyes that suggest ill intent, but also withholding jobs, at times, segregation. I remember an incident where a group of students belittled a woman because of her hair. After being told she was a talented and accomplished writer, they were appalled. They were not sorry. They were appalled and they promptly dismissed her.

Shortly after I cut my hair, and before it began trending people would stare at me in that strange way that people do as if to make one feel less human. I have yet to see Russian eyes give me that look. I have only seen curiosity, and for me curiosity is exactly the brand of racism I like…the kind that observes, and questions, and accepts. Come along with me. Experience Russia and its people through my eyes, black eyes, the eyes of a kinky-haired girl.

Links I viewed while adjusting to the idea of going to Russia as it pertains to being Black:
  1. I watched less than a minute, then read the comments (from about a year ago) which I completely agreed with.
  2. This is from the same person in #1 with a guy married to a Russian
  3. Again same person from 1 and 2, in which advice and explanation is given about Russian culture on the street
  4. A black woman who visited Russia, and her experience

And a link I’ve just found that gives a more open-minded feel to it all. Two American basketballers in Krasnodar, Russia

After doing the same search I am amazed at how much more negative things I’m seeing that were online long before my initial search. Nonetheless, I am pleased with my finds, and decision.

Do share your thoughts, views, and questions.

My Ideal Writing Space

Writing is fun and frustrating and exhilarating and excruciating. A lot of things go into making the writing experience. The biggest one for my is the space I’m writing in. I’ve been writing at home lately and in order to ensure that I keep motivated I’ve been moving around the house writing in the kitchen, bedrooms, living room, and outside and in different areas of each of these spaces. You can find me moving between a few or all of these on some days. Though they work sometimes none of them are my ideal.

Curtains blowing in the wind with backdrop of trees
Credit: http://manolohome.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/sheer-curtains-breeze.jpg

Quaint and Quiet.

My ideal space would be in a forest near a stream, and on a slope. I wouldn’t have any neighbours. But there would be a village within walking distance. This space would be a wooden structure that would be varnished instead of being painted. I love the smell of wood. The windows would be big to allow a lot of light. The interior would only posses that which was necessary and nothing more.

Quaint, quiet, and closer to reality.

If I had to come closer to home I would say my yard. It has several tree in and around it which create a feeling of being surrounded and in the open. The atmosphere is usually just right. The noise factor is only bothersome during the summer vacation. I think my biggest issue with the yard is my having to transfer and set up my “office” space out there. Outside of that fact, I think it is perfect.

Comfort spaces?

Since I spoke of comfort books last week I think it’s quite okay for me to mention comfort spaces. Libraries, are perfect. It’s like having a crowd with you but they wont say anything to you unless you approach them. And all the while, even when they are speaking, they are silent. It’s perfect. Being around books gives me a calm like nothing else. And that is fantastic for writing..

What’s your comfort/ideal space writing or otherwise?

Comfort Books

Books piled high

The topic of “comfort books” was listed on a site which I don’t remember at the moment. However, I found the concept interesting so I’ll take a shot at it.

Books that are well written leave readers with a lasting connection and nostalgic memories long after the books has been read. For some these books can be read over and over and over and over again. I am not one of those persons.

I’m just a little too…emotionally-centred.

When I was about ten years old I read Poor Little Rich Girl by Katie Flynn. It was a book I felt safe with. It was a safe haven for me. It covers being loved as child to being loved as a woman without any indecency. It tackled disappointment, hope, determination. It compared a family that worked and one that didn’t. To make it even better, the story was set in England. I’ve always wanted to go there and this book took me to various parts of it. For years I wished to reread the book to get that enjoy the feelings I’d had the first time.

Several years later, I began rereading it, the same copy from my first read. I didn’t make it to half of the book, or a quarter, or an eighth, or the second page. The writing, based on my memory, was still up to par. However, I had changed. First of all there were my expectations. I was read for mind-blowing stuff from the start. Second, but still very important, was my mood. Just as in writing, my reading depends heavily on my mood.

To write or read I must be at a certain level of calm. However, writing on a specific emotion requires for the emotion to be conjured. I believe that no emotion can be conjured twice. You can be sad multiple times but you won’t feel the exact sadness you felt before because you firstly have experience that class and possibly the same height of emotion before, so your expectancies of the emotion changes how you experience it, and therein the exact state of the emotion changes.

When I attempted to reread A Poor Little Rich Girl I was met with this dilemma. Firstly, I was anticipating the emotion. Secondly, I had already experienced the book and the emotions I felt the first time could not be duplicated. This doesn’t mean that I can’t reread a book. It just means I won’t unless the first reading was mediocre, or worst, or if I was unable to grasp the message it was delivering.

So what about comfort books?

The term “comfort books” much like comfort food refers to the re-use of the particular thing in times of your down period. For me, it’s better to speak of my comfort genre. And that is much easier to answer. My mind is soothed whenever I have a decently written thriller, suspense, or detective novel. Of course this means that my mind is turning over and chasing clues, and therefore quite busy which is exactly what I like. These books ability to completely engage me emotionally while keeping me intellectually invested in the stories is super. And that experience is the peak of my comfort.

Novels in the mentioned genres allow a reader to have a heated argument with the author while the investigation is ongoing. Oddly enough this is why I don’t fancy the Sherlock Holmes series. I was never able to pick up on clues that were mysteriously revealed later. It always felt as though the writer was trying t rub in my face how much better Sherlock was than me. But I read to test and stretch my mental faculties (that’s my comfort), so that just doesn’t get me. When reading I occasionally put the book down for a few moments to align my ducks, and ensure that I’ve assessed them properly. This is for novels with a large pool of suspects and/or extreme twists.

What are you comfort books/genres?

My Latest Read: The Man from St. Petersburg

I don’t know why but I found The Man From St. Petersburg to be quite dleicous. Note, I did read it while watching Angry Mom, a 2015 Korean drama which was this year’s winner of the MBC contest. And this might have stunted my ability to adequately assess the book’s content, though I don’t really think it did. Either way, I liked it.

So as not to spoil the story if you intend to read it, I’ll simply say that I wish that Feliks and all that he was had been real. (You’ll understand once you get to the end of the book). This book was rahter a good mix of a lot of elements, all of which were very well portioned. Despite my lack of abilty in the visual department I enjoyed the visual elements quite a lot, I was able to make the comparisons and note the stark contrast between the classes and their lifestyles and dress. It was beautiful and disgusting at the same time to see how to peoples cold live side by side and yet so far apart.

I know the novel wasn’t about an assassination. And yet I don’t know what exactly it was about. I feel as though it may have been speaking to the changes which affect who we are and how we are. But I may be wrong, and I will need time to mull over the happenings of book and its characters, all clean and filthy simultaneous, all tattered, and broken, and whole and polished…Maybe that’s what the book is about…the duality of man…or is it something else entirely…?

All in all I quite enjoyed the novel, and I can’t wait to be enticed by another story. I’ve just began A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton. The story seems interesting but I’m not being drawn to her visual elements. But I’ll tell you all about it after I’ve completed the book.

Have you read The Man From St. Petersburg by Ken Follet? What did you think of it? Was it worthwhile? What do you think the book was about? What it just about the story it unfolded? Or is there something beneath the visual words?