Travel Hangover.

My laundry needs doing, i’ve barely left my bed, and my one meal today consisted of an entire pepperoni pizza from the place up the block. Clearly, i am a class act after waking up at 6 for an early flight, ya’ll.

As much as i love traveling, there is nothing quite so satisfying as coming home to a total veg-out session. The kind of day where i allow myself to let the pile of essay-writing to sit, untouched, for a few more hours. I justify my half-unpacked bags with jet lag, and eat only the easiest-to-acquire food because i really need the downtime to, you know, decompress from all that walking and sightseeing and merriment. I call them my travel hangovers. Days recuperating from over-doing it on the fun.




The most satisfying thing about today, though, is not the devoured pizza or cozy duvet. It’s the real feeling of being home.

When we exited customs and caught the familiar sight of our bus back to town, i had this unmistakable feeling of place. We passed landmarks on the way that are increasingly more familiar to me, and when we caught sight of the castle i caught myself thinking: mmm, at last. Like the way i look for my old cul-de-sac in North Carolina, the castle was a landmark of the almost-there.

Some six weeks into my time here it’s deeply comforting to feel so settled. Being in Amsterdam was very much a “European Holiday.” The kind of trip where i only do the silly tourist-y things and gouge myself on red wine and most excellent cheeses. And yet i’m still in Europe, but without the one-suitcase camera-out-everywhere rules. It’s a small, poignant marker of belonging.

And being 4000 miles away from what has been me home for so long? Yeah, i’ll take the small victories.


of interest: i’ve a few blog posts queued up on the actual amsterdam adventure to be published over the next week, so stay tuned! (and in case you missed it, here’s a blog about biking in amsterdam!)

current jam: gregorian choir of paris, christmas mass on repeat.

best thing: pepperoni pizza.


Living in its Own History.

At orientation today, a series of photographs by former international students flashed across the introductory powerpoint. Each was accompanied by a quote about the photo – and all were something along the lines of “this encapsulates Edinburgh to me because…” One student, whose name i failed to jot down, commented that Edinburgh was a city “living in its own history.”

I find this to be tremendously true. Yesterday, in hot pursuit of an apple store (a pursuit that proved fruitless in the end), i made a gander down the main drags of town. Foregoing any desire to blend in (yet) i snapped photos every meter of the way.

There are all the quaint, tourist-y trappings of a Great Britain town; red phone booths, sprawling gothic churches and kirks, and plenty of weather that my orientation packet refers to as mingin‘ (meaning nasty, drab, and otherwise umbrella-and-overcoat-worthy).


The Royal Mile!

The Royal Mile!

St. Giles Kirk, former pulpit of John Knox.

St. Giles Kirk, former pulpit of John Knox.

But my stroll along the Royal Mile also meant i encountered some distinctly Scottish fare: a bagpiper with a cap out for change, stores advertising haggis, and more tartan stalls than i could count. My meander took me down to Princes Street, where i eventually located a SIM card for my mobile and, naturally, a plethora of postcards. (I have to continually remind myself not to purchase souvenirs just yet, since i’ve got another five months to stock up on post cards and the like.)


A view of Princes Street from the Royal Mile.

A view of Princes Street from the Royal Mile.


I made sure to pass New College, where i’ll be taking my courses (starting tomorrow! Eep!). Making my way up to Queen Street, i continued to stumble across more of what i think the student was referencing in her photograph. The city, though draped in the enchantment of dark bricks and antiquity, is very much alive and growing. The letterbox (below) was just around the corner from a TGI Fridays – and from the restaurant, there was a stunning view of Edinburgh castle. Talk about juxtapositions!







(New College is the double-spired building on the far left! And by New College, i mean Hogwarts...)

(New College is the double-spired building on the far left! And by New College, i mean Hogwarts…)

I wandered into St. John’s Episcopal church at the end of Princes Street, coming across nothing other than the Edinburgh Peace & Justice Centre. Naturally, i sat down for a chat with a lovely fellow and signed up for their newsletter and potential volunteering opportunities. (I’m sure most of you, dear readers, are utterly unsurprised by this!).

The rain was starting to snake down under my scarf, and it was due time i head back to my flat. With a few groceries freshly purchases tucked into my rucksack, i headed to my new home amidst a sunset Edinburgh. The sight was stunning – everything seems to really glow a bronze hue in the rare but beautiful sunshine here.



It was really a magical day. I was glad to explore on my own for a while, too, as it helped clear my head and restore a sense of independence – all while figuring out what the streets i’d committed to memory from my maps looked like in actuality. And this actuality is a living history – and one i grow more and more ecstatic to be a petite part of every day.



current jam: ‘grown ocean’ fleet foxes

best thing: facetime and a functioning mobile phone.

The Abominable Rick Perry and his Campaign for Hatred.

I know i’m not the first to say it, but:


Seriously; the new add, “Strong” is more than the usual spew of slanderous, disgusting bigotry rooted in some kind of money-lust. It is downright hatred, presented to you under the guise of someone fighting to “restore the roots of faith” (or whatever) in the United States. Rick Perry is excusing his fear, bitterness, and animosity towards millions of people by claiming it as a quest to “restore rights” to children “unable” to speak about Christmas in schools. He is doing what, to me, is the ultimate betrayal: he is utilizing a faith tradition rooted in Love for All Peoples to mask a vile agenda of utter and undeniable hatred.

I’m done trying to be moderate, trying to say that I think every voice is one meant to be heard in a democratic system. If you want to think someone is an abominations because they’re queer by choice or biology, fine. That’s your political right, and i don’t contest your right to say it. Really. Keep on spewing, that’s what democracy means. You’re just wrong.  I’m tired of tiptoeing around this: all people are, according to the real Christianity (not the one preached by idiots like Perry) are made in God’s image.

I don’t claim to be an expert on any religion (though it is, admittedly, one of my majors) nor do i claim to be able to speak for all people in the Christian faith. I generally try to stay away from professing what i believe on the internet (meaning: i’m not saying i am or am not a Christian (but i will say that i have profound respect for the Body and for the Bible)) mostly because i think religious discourse online tends to be, well, abysmal.

But this is just too far for me. Rick Perry not only is saying that people who identify on the spectrum of sexuality should not even be considered human beings (which is EXACTLY what some white men and women used to say, oh, fifty years ago about people of color (and some still today, unfortunately)), he is completely disregarding the pluralism that exists within the Christian tradition.

I know hundreds of people personally who follow the faith of Jesus Christ who are gay, lesbian, queer, transgendered, pansexual, and allies. And those are just the people i have met and encountered on a one-to-one level. In fact, i would be so bold as to say MOST Christians in the USA today are at least passively allies. It’s a minority of extremists like Perry who not only paint a bad portrait for such engaged people of faith, but also are the biggest threat to the tradition he claims to be so damn important. To say that he is both a Christian and profoundly homophobic in a manner that suggests he speaks for all people in the Christian tradition is like saying Muslim terrorists speak for the millions of peaceful practitioners of Islam. It’s just a fallacy.

This is ridiculous. No, rephrase: it is more than ridiculous. It is hurtful, painful, and so WRONG that Perry can say such wretched things about People with as much humanity as he and be a legitimate candidate for the US Presidency. He is even so bold to say that People – meaning openly gay members of the US Military – who are laying down their lives for this country do not have the right to (a) be who they authentically are with their comrades, (b) are wrong for being who they are, and (c) are the single greatest problem in a nation with an ever-rising poverty line next to institutionalized racism and sexism.

And it’s not just Perry – he is merely a figurehead for a movement grounded, ultimately, in fear of the unknown and the un-understanding. He is not alone in professing this cruel belief. What gives? Why have we, as a generation and as a nation, learned NOTHING from our history of violence and prejudice towards people different from a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant streamline assimilation theory?

for my thoughts on gay rights, click here for a video.

for a brilliant response to the rick perry shitwad, click here to see stephen colbert’s response (it’s literally genius)

Do They Know it’s Christmastime At All?

Tis the season, friends.

For holly, for blustery cold winds, for frantic trips to the mall to shower ourselves in consumerism, for cups of cocoa, and for lizzie to start blogging again.

Okay, i’m not really that much of a cynic when it comes to the month of December and all that unfolds with it. I adore It’s a Wonderful Life as much as the next sucker for Jimmy Stewart, will consume entirely too much eggnog on Christmas Eve, have spent hours laboriously selecting each Christmas/Hannukah present for my friends and family, and i’m known to covet the light-up snowman sweaters for sale across the mall (though, oddly enough, i don’t own an embarrassingly bad Christmas sweater (adds to the list)).

There is, however, one thing i cannot STAND about the month of December. It’s something that, for a long time, i totally lapped up and partook in. Now, however, that i’m a little older, my opinions on the subject have changed.

I cannot stand cheesy Christmas music.

I’m not talking about carols – i adore old hymns (particularly (yes, without irony) when sung by choirs), play Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby” on repeat, and even am known to dance around the house listening to Holiday Mixes while stringing the fake-greens around the banisters. So i guess saying that i don’t like cheesy Christmas music is a bit of a lie.

I shall rephrase: i am extraordinarily picky about my Christmas music.

I can’t stand Bing Crosby (no, really.), i’m of the opinion any beautiful composition can be ruined by too many sweeping violin lines, and if i hear one more country version of ‘Mary Did You Know’ i might puke up all those chesnuts cooked over an open fire.

Amidst all the roasting nuts, though, one particular tune stands out to me as something to be despised. No, rephrase: there is one particular ‘Holiday’ tune that i think transcends the level of a poorly digested Christmas Roast. It embodies everything despicable about post-colonialism and patronizing charity practices.

This tune is, as you’ve most likely inferred from the title, ‘Do They Know it’s Christmastime’ by Band Aid.

For those of you fortunate few to have never heard this tune, consider yourself hand-picked by Old Saint Nick as a lucky member of the Christmas Music Elite. While i appreciate that Band Aid was meant to raise money for people enduring a horrific famine in Ethiopia, the lyrics are just flat out disgusting.

For example, the first verse and chorus are as follows:

It’s Christmas time,
there’s no need to be afraid.
At Christmas time
we let in light and banish shade
And in our world of plenty
we can spread a smile of Joy
Throw your arms around the world
at Christmas time.

But say a prayer,
Pray for the other ones.
At Christmas time it’s hard
but when you’re having fun…
There’s a world outside your window
and it’s a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing is
the bitter sting of tears
Where the Christmas bells that are ringing
are the clanging chimes of Doom
Well, tonight thank God it’s them instead of you.

And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time
The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life.
Where nothing ever grows
No rain or rivers flow
Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?

Bells of Doom? Really? REALLY?

I’m sitting here, trying to find a place to commence my unpacking of this particular Christmas present, and my initial reaction is one of stunned disgust.

To begin with the obvious: my experiences in (THE WHOLE CONTINENT OF? REALLY PEOPLE?) Africa have shown me that there is a considerably higher population of church-attending Christians than in the United States. I did, after all, work for the Church of Uganda. And, sorry to sound like a proselytizing born-again (i’m not) but Christmas is, ultimately, a holiday in the Christian faith. I am aware it is strategically well-placed to coincide with the winter solstice and pagan traditions, but still. Just because some Ugandans (or Malawians, or residents of Côte d’Ivoire, or wherever) don’t worship consumerism and deck the halls the way Christmas is advertised in the States does not mean they don’t know WHAT IT IS.

So, yes. The People whom i’ve encountered, known, and befriended in AFRICA know what Christmas is, when it comes, and many celebrate it. There’s even snow year-round in the Rwenzori mountains, seasonally in South Africa. So for some people, there will be snow – snow that provides drinking water (not only the ‘bitter flow of tears’).

What gets to me the most about this song is the utter lack of realization that the people who face dire material poverty (which is not all of Africa, contrary to the suppositions made by this song) are, after all, people. People as complex and ridiculous and intelligent and beautiful as you. Some of the most incredible, inspiring, and self-motivated people i’ve met are African. Such a patronizing song diffuses all the work done in grassroots capacities all across this vast, vast continent. The words – and the broader mentality behind this song – encapsulate an attitude that gives no space for voice contrary to those in material power.

Seriously. This song seems to paint a picture for me of a pot-bellied, snot-running-down-her-face little  baby girl in the dirt, looking totally helpless at the camera. The lyrics literally say “the other ones,” making the establishment of the ‘us’ and the (poor, incapable) ‘them’ as distinctive as can be. Every facet of post-colonialist, “let’s help make those people better by giving them more money” mentality is so succinct in this work of deliciously politically incorrect piece of music. There is no motion to see what can be learned from people who live with AIDS, much less any kind of indication that the voices of the people the song is meant to ‘help’ are being given agency. It’s a song meant to make people who donate money to charity feel good, pat themselves on the back, and live into the cheer of the holidays.

I’m not trying to dissuade anyone from donating to NGOs or purchase fair trade products (etc). It’s not the cause – it’s the attitude. And i know, i know, this song is not meant to be anything profound. I’m also aware it was written in 1984, but the fact that it is still so widely played on holiday music stations speaks to its continued cultural significance. The song was written so a bunch of celebrities could tell you to take a second to think about someone beyond your social network in the midst of a season of giving. And maybe to give a few bucks to the cause. I know. In many ways, this song has the best of intentions.

But lyrics like “it’s a world of dread and fear” only enhance this falsified idea of what AFRICA looks like. My personal experiences (which, let’s be perfectly clear, i may have lived in Uganda for a summer, but this by no means makes me any kind of expert) have been that people are resilient and willing to overcome extreme odds. Not everyone – not every story is one that will make the headline news of CNN. But such sweeping statements about what life is like “in AFRICA” perpetuates an incredibly skewed perception of poverty, globalization, aid, and the USA’s role in empowering communities to empower themselves – on their own terms.

Okay, rant over. Back to the Cadbury Cocoa and ring-a-lings of bells.

If, however, you’re anything like me and you’re seeking an alternative to the little Drummer Boys, the Band Aids, or just an excuse to sneak away from Aunt Petunia and her tasteless Christmas pies, i have a solution for you!

Next week, from 4 to 6 PM EST, i’m thrilled to announce that Juxtaposition’s Second Annual Alternative Christmas Music Special will be airing live! You can listen locally at 91.5 FM WMHC South Hadley, or globally by clicking here. There will be the slightly irreverent, the quirky, the outright bizarre, the underplayed but beautiful, and the special guest of Alex Day! There only thing there won’t be is Bing Crosby. (There is more information on the Juxtaposition Website).

yeah. you want to be there.

So i’ll see you then, folks. Happy Holidays, and stuff.

current jam: ‘you’re the voice’ john farnham (yes, still….)

best thing in my life right now: hermione granger. and the above picture.

The NC House of Representatives has Voted for Legal Homophobia.

When I first created my Ten Things List as a blog theme, the listing of “voting in local North Carolina elections” held little significance to me. Well, perhaps that’s a bit of an understatement- allow me to clarify. Last year when elections first came around for this newly-legally-aged citizen, my absentee ballot arrived too late for me to actually vote. It was a bit of bummer, as I had marched all around campus declaring that my right to vote was one women had been imprisoned, tortured, marginalized, and otherwise harmed for me to have. Regardless of the fact that I was not particularly invested in last year’s candidates, my right to vote was a right I had fully intended to act upon. Snail mail and poor planning, however, prevented this.

Thus, when brainstorming activities appropriate for me to complete before the conclusion of 2011 it seemed only natural to include voting in the local NC elections. I had an elaborate post planned in my mind that entailed references to Susan B. Anthony and Iron Jawed Angels, a publication praising the road feminism has bravely trod thus far and what joy (even in the smallest and seemingly unimportant choices) I should take in using my political voice because of the sacrifices made by my foremothers. And while this all remains ringingly true, something occurred yesterday in the North Carolina House of Representatives that has both infuriated me as an active supporter of universal human rights and a legal, registered voter in North Carolina.

I am speaking, naturally, of the Referendum passed by the House actively banning the natural human right for same-sex couples to wed.

The first amendment in the North Carolina Constitution that would restrict, inhibit, and otherwise encroach upon human liberty. While state law already deems that marriage is defined as a legal union between a man and a woman, amending the founding legal document to the state utilizing this homophobic, irrational, and bigoted language to cement an already legalized violation of principle human rights is disgusting. The referendum, passed by an overwhelming majority in the Republican-dominated House, went on to the Senate today where the referendum was, yet again, overwhelmingly passed.

This means that, come May of 2012, North Carolina voters will choose on the ballots whether or not the state constitution should be amended to legally define marriage as a union between a heterosexual couple, thus banning gay marriage. North Carolina currently is the only state in the southeast of the United States to not have a legal ban on gay marriage.

I am repulsed. I understand that according to the laws of democracy, the majority vote is deemed the most important and applicable to the people. I get this. But when the majority stomps out the minority’s opinion an opinion not to be invalidated simply by the incomparable numbers the foundational principles of democracy itself are jeopardized. Democracy is meant to ensure liberty for all of its participants, and an amendment that deliberately seeks to undermine and exclude members of this legal social contract ensuring those very people’s right to freedom is an abhorrent disgrace and blatantly disregards the foundational principles of the government. And when these pillars of the fundamental social contract by which all American citizens abide begin to crumble, the government no longer is doing its job.

If you don’t like gay marriage, THEN DON’T GET ONE. The right to marry someone of the same sex whom one Loves does not encroach upon your liberty. Seriously. And to those who claim being gay, lesbian, queer, transgendered, or otherwise identifying as something other than a Kinsey 0 on the spectrum of sexuality is something sinful ,I have three words: The Establishment Clause. Your beliefs of what defines the parameters of “sin” (which, by the way, aren’t we all sinners according to the Bible, ye fundamentalist Christians?) are religious, and the people who wrote the Constitution of the United States made it explicitly clear that religion and politics are to remain in separate spheres. I simply cannot fathom how you explain to yourself the legality of banning a human right.

And by the way, nowhere in the Constitution does it say that marriage is only for a man and a woman. In fact, it does not mention marriage at all. This is the document that governs our nation, not the Bible, or the Qur’an, or the Bhagavad Gita, or any other sacred text.

So needless to say, members of the House and Senate who voted to put this on the ballots of my home state, come May I will be voting against this amendment, and come your next run for office I will not be voting for you.

current jam: ‘fly’ rihanna & nicki minaj

jumping the pond.

It has nearly been forty-eight hours since I touched down in the Philadelphia International Airport; almost three days since my flight departed from Entebbe, and about thirty hours since my long-awaited, scarfed-down Greek Grilled Cheese with Chicken from Elmo’s (God’s feasting joint among mortals).

In eight days time I will turn nineteen, and in twenty-one days I move back to my beloved Mount Holyoke College.

Needless to say, I’m still jet-lagged and continually in shock. But I am here, safe and unscathed. My flights were filled with unprecendentedly nosy and chatty neighbors, much to my chagrin- one gentlemen in particular wanted my opinions on ‘the political crisis in AFRICA’ after decidedly giving me his very-informed-because-he’s-read-King-Leopold’s-Ghost opinion. This, after I’d already been awake for nearly twenty-four hours most of which was spent in half-sleep irritation. I perhaps was less patient with his rather intrusive inquiries than Gandhi would have liked me to be, but there was the Bossypants audiobook waiting for me.

At any rate, upon arrival my ruffled feathers were quelled by the enormous hugs given so freely by the McMizzie crew. After a day of hibernation, I took this morning to make my first foray, since landing, back into American culture: I went to church. It was an out-of-body experience to be in a worship service entirely in American English that wrapped up neatly after one hour. No four hours of song, dance, scripture, and offering. Women and men were in denim trousers and shorts, and the front two rows were not filled with children in their vibrantly-colored uniforms.

I am really glad to be back to see my family, but I find myself missing Kotido and Kampala and Gulu in strange ways. It’s not like I’m looking out for bodas on street corners to carry me to my destinations, but I find myself wishing for a motorcycle ride simply for the exhiliration. Having milk in the fridge is fabulous, but I had to stop myself from checking the inverter to see if I could plug the appliance in. Duh, self, we’re not running on solar. And there’s no unreliable UMEME to worry about.

Thus, being in denial and shock, I’ve tended to my wounds like any self-respecting escapist would: I’ve caught up on Doctor Who (obviously). No spoilers here (remember how that is my number one pet peeve of all time?), but I will say it is deliciously abundant in excellent plot twists and witty dialogue. Enough to get a girl through half-misisng basin baths and mooning over all the cheese selections now available to her.

So I must beg your indulgence today while I go off in the TARDIS and snuggle with my kitties. Tomorrow I begin to tackle the editing and posting of photos and videos- starting with my first allmadeofawesome video since May!

current jam: ‘the river’ anathallo

best thing in my life right now: purring picasso and sleeping stella.

thoughts in my head: a time for leaving.

It is no longer possible for me to avoid stating the obvious: my time in Uganda is drawing to an end. According to the countdown widget on my Mac, I have precisely 3 days, 10 hours, and 46 minutes until my plane takes off from Entebbe International Airport, commencing the twenty-four-hours-plus journey back to the states.

Clearly, as I have avoided blogging about my departure, I have some mixed emotions about leaving. This summer has been profoundly awakening and incredibly difficult; I don’t want to leave Uganda, but concurrently I am seriously craving an enormous, greeny salad and to have time to cuddle with my kittens and share space and love with my family. And, as I may have mentioned, this is my first summer away from my college friends. While emails and facebook messages make me abundantly grateful for the internet (no matter the speed), I have really been homesick for Mount Holyoke and all the wonderful, wonderful women I feel I’ve known for a lifetime already.

So, I have hot showers and Elmo’s Diner Greek Grilled Cheese with Chicken sandwiches and skype and riding my bike to the movie theatre to look forward to. But I also will be missing chappati cooking lessons with Rhoda, taking boda-bodas to craft markets and eating delicious cuisines of all kind. I will no longer wake up every day to see the gorgeous, boundless Ugandan sky, no more basin baths or mosquito nets or cups of tea shared with the Sisters or Bishop. Time will shift; appointments will be kept to the minute, meals held earlier in the day, and the Slowness and steeping of moments like strong tea will begin to dissipate as I hurry to buy textbooks and pack up my postcard collection, scurrying to ready myself for a new semester.

It’s a bricolage of senses, of moments, of feelings. Having time and space to be alone will be most welcome; a spell for thinking and processing (and let’s be real, editing the hours upon hours of footage I’ve taken) will be healthy and renewing. Transitioning is not going to be easy. I wrote here, long ago, that my biggest fear for this summer was not contracting some horrendous tropical disease (been there, done that…sort of), bodily harm, or being homesick. My greatest fear was feeling like a stranger in my own skin upon my return to the US. Being so changed, so molded and formed I no longer fit anywhere- a child of two homes, two hearts. Forgive my clichés, but the worry is still knotted, contracting and pulling and I’m doing my best to quell, to que sera, to c’est la vie.

A friend and mentor of mine, a woman who knows more intimately than I the difficulty of living in two places in your heart, once gave me some very practical advice pertaining to traveling in Uganda: put yourself in the hands of someone you trust, and let go of your own agenda. They will take you where you need to be, when you need to be there.

As in many gifts given so freely to me here, this piece of wisdom is one I treasure. It is applicable beyond the realm of the pragmatic, and in this vein I can only hope and pray that in my letting go all will be okay- lost at sea or up in the clouds, wherever the road my lead.

current jam: ‘turn, turn, turn’ the byrds

best thing in my life right now: chappati lessons! rhoda has been teaching me, and as i video’d the whole thing (like you’re surprised!) i am fairly certain i shall be able to make a decent ugandan chappati once back in the states! a taste of home at home.

fantas: 20