Yesterday, I went on a visit to Google Chicago.  A friend of mine works there and we met for lunch and a quick convo.  giddiness doesn’t even describe a smidgen of how I felt.  At first glance, it’s a playground for adult-shaped children.  Speaking as one of those myself, I had no problem with that.

After our delicious lunch of flank steaks, mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus and mushrooms, and La Croix sparkling water, we embarked on a tour.  I could only take pictures on the outsides of locked doors. I get that. Things are private TOP SECRET. I only wish I could’ve taken pictures of some of the furniture.  Cool apple-shaped swings. Massage chairs and rooms for private sessions.  It presents like all the tech start-ups you see in movies; ping-pong tables, video games, coffee station, bean bag chairs, fun artwork, 80’s video games references and homages to ancestral times.  It was fun.  If I had to work in an office building, I’d love for that office building to be it.

Something struck me, however. There were these nooks with different design themes.  One, was designed to be like the outdoors.  There were beautiful green carpet patches mirroring grass, pastel colored benches, and flowers painted on walls. It was neat. Cute.  In remembrance, I chuckle.  While Google is creating makeshift spaces I’m working in the real ones.  Working for the National Outdoor Leadership School gives me the opportunity to work in beautiful outdoor spaces.

Spring 2009 Caving 149

Google is great. It’s fun. I just don’t want to work there. 😉

Here are some of the photos I was allowed to take:DSC_0206 DSC_0210 DSC_0215 DSC_0218

Update 10/28/13

I’m not as tired as I should be.  At 4:30 this morning I awoke in halves. One half wanting to pee and excited for the day. The second half, annoyed and leafing through her dreams for the bookmark.

The first half won.  I got dressed in my new favorite outfit — a black hoodie, camo pants, and red shoes — and went to The Commons for breakfast.  No one else was awake and so I had the place to myself.  Though I love my commune (it’s not a commune) mates, it’s nice to have a space to yourself no matter how occasionally.

I pulled up the draft for my play, Sala Kakuhle, Mama and started to type.  I played music from some of my favorite artists and began to sing.  I wrote verses, monologues, and felt the rhythm of my story deep inside my chest.  It was nice.  I wasn’t stopped up by hunger, stress, or whatever else sits at my feet on occasion.

Hours passed and eventually I fed myself, joked with my neighbors, played with dogs, took a  walk, exercised, went for a run, and watched tv on Hulu.  I had an impromptu meeting with my boss and he offered me the job I thought I was going to have to interview hardcore for.  This job is so perfect for me right now because it matches my love of food — preparing it for the masses — with my love of the outdoors. Gives me the autonomy I’ve always desired as well as the responsibility.  I have a place to live on the ranch, for free, year-round.  I’ll work 8 months a year. That’s it.  I get time off to do work for Earthseed, and to just play.  Or, I could guide for the summer.

This is good for me.  I’m nervous because that’s my go-to emotion when awesomeness happens. I know. I know.

So, I’m moving to Tucson for 8 months out of the year, and then I’ll be living in Seattle for the other 4.  What makes me happiest, is that those four months align perfectly with Seattle’s beautiful summers.  I’m lucky. I’m happy.

Wait, am I black?

I’m sitting on my bed one day before I find out about the NOLS Gateway Partnership freaking out.  I’m biting my nails–which totally isn’t my thing. I’m all gassed up–which totally is my thing, and I have butterflies in my entire torso. I also applied for a Fellowship and I found myself on their website again. I seriously can’t seem to stay off. Looking over the requirements brought me back to an issue that frequently pops up in the world of equity work; Ethnic vs. Racial Identity.  Let me be clear, I don’t have a problem with NOLS.  They’re great. My issue stems from the systemic oppression surrounding race and ethnicity in the United States of America. The Fellowship requirements are:

  • At least 21 years old, with some exceptions on a case-by-case basis
  • NOLS graduate
  • Clean driving record
  • U.S. citizen
  • Ethnically American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, Hispanic, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, or multiracial (categories defined by the EEOC, U.S. Census Bureau).
  • High level of initiative, attention to detail, flexibility, self-motivation, sense of humor and tolerance.
  • Punctual, dependable and excellent “expedition behavior” in a communal living environment.
  • Competence with Apple computers as well as MS Word and Excel.
  • Excellent critical thinking and communication skills
  • Ability to work well in a dynamic environment and adjust priorities quickly
  • Understanding and passion for the NOLS mission
  • Physically able to bend, stoop, crouch, lift (up to 40 lbs.), frequent walk, and stand for extended periods of time.

Here’s the thing. Though I often find myself living the African American Experience, I’m not African American. I am however, Black.  I refused to fill out the Census in 2010 because I problematized their adoption of “Negro” as an option.  I also problematized the Black OR African American word choices.  It’s not an either or situation.  It’s like saying are you Asian, or Pacific Islander, are you Tall, or a Woman, are you Eating, or are you digesting, are you a Rectangle, or a square.

One can be both.

Because I look like this:Image

I have encountered the same racial inequalities as someone who identifies as an African American. But, I’m West Indian. My mother is from The Virgin Islands and my father is from Jamaica. Like born and raised there, from there. They came to the states for college. My brother and I were born here.  I identify as Black because of the way the world treats me as a result of how I look.  An old woman in a care unit where I worked when I was 18 tried to kick me in the face and call me a nigger no more than 5 hours after I signed the new employee paperwork.  People making off-handed, not all disparaging, references to my ethnicity ALWAYS allocate my existence into the African American box, initially.  It’s not until after I correct them and explain that they understand the difference.

My battle against the homogenization of the African Diaspora is important to me because it’s the root cellar where my good childhood memories live.  I remember living in Jamaica. When I return to that home I can see images of my childhood painted on my surroundings like holographic images.  Ackee and sal’fish, green banana, breadfruit, yellow yam, jerk chicken, curry goat, curry chicken…all of it resonates inside me like a tympani drum.  I spoke Patois fluently in my youth. I stopped when the kids, of all races and ethnic identities here in the States, made fun of me and pointed out that I was different.  When I discarded my language I shaved off an identifier.  When I went to boarding school, I stepped into another realm. It wasn’t until my twenties that I realized how much of myself was tied up in my ethnic culture.  I’d soaked in the acid of American assimilation and became, through visual identification African American. I’d lost myself.

I don’t mind being connected with my genetically, tinted brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles.  We are connected, regardless, because we live in a society that has colonized us. My visit to the Virgin Islands at 21 taught me that all of U.S.V.I. was purchased by the US government for 25 million dollars. Our economy is fully reliant upon tourism… upon the extravagant expenditures of the privileged. We share a common bond in that tint of our skin and the pain of our experience.  We are united in the endeavor to celebrate our intelligence, talent, and resiliency. My desire to own my ethnicity and resist the convenient markings of the Census Bureau is oppositional by action and not intent. I am merely showing you that your antiquated boxes based on convenient observations have no place in my world.  I am Black, but I am not African American. I am West Indian.

Related: I had no idea this was happening, but it sure as hell is related
The First African-American Spokeswoman for DNC Isn’t Black Enough, Says Idiot White Guy


I’ve seen the phrase “NaPoWriMo” often, but didn’t know what it meant. Usually, when that’s the case, I Google it, but I haven’t had the time or desire to satisfy my curiosity. While cruising the Help section of WordPress I stumbled across this post on spacing. It offered great advice on spacing for poetry which is great. Now I can go back fix my old posts of poetry, of which there aren’t many.

I wanted to write something today, but it’s raining. I haven’t taken my vitamins in weeks. My body chemistry feels a bit off and so I need to get on that. Let’s just say I’m feeling pretty defeatist and like an imposter. It probably has something to do with this line in the NOLS Gateway Partnership Scholarship Application: ” Notify you by April 10, 2013 whether your students are accepted in to the program.” If you can’t tell, I haven’t heard anything from anyone yet and so I’m assuming the worst. Granted, I didn’t apply through my old organization as much as I did as a result of them. My old boss, and friend, sent me the app and told me I should apply. I did.

In the seventh grade, someone told me this wretched phrase, “No news is good news” Bump that. I just want some kind of news so I can move on. All this trepidation is killing my mojo.

Related Posts:

Preparing for that which I cannot control
So you want to go camping but you’re bleeding from your vagina
Black People Don’t Swim
Rock Climbing


Preparing for that which I cannot control

The possibility of taking a 23-day NOLS course this fall is the first thing to excite me in years.  I’m responsible for at least 50 visits to the NOLS website over the last few weeks.  I’m not really worried (maybe a little) about my mental capacity to handle the backpacking. I’ve hiked from 2-14 miles in a day in the past and handled it well. I’m used to spending time in the backcountry for long periods while covering long distances and tackling rolling terrain.  This is not to say that I’m under some foolish impression that any part of my NOLS course will be easy. It won’t be.  Many of the difficulties I may have I cannot prepare myself for.

What I can do is address the physical aspect to being on course.  I started jogging again when I was in Georgia and the weather was nice.  I tried to keep it up when I got to Chicago, but couldn’t. The temperatures aggravated my asthma and I was a complete shit show. I don’t have insurance so me going to the emergency room isn’t something I can afford.  So, I started with P90X again and get outside when I can.  Additionally, I started another fast. I’m on Day 4/Day 2 (depends on who you ask) and I feel great.  I’ve been moderately active and I haven’t been able to complete my P90X workouts. I also haven’t forced myself to, either.  This fast is about resetting my system and trying to reprogram old habits.

I have a pretty fucked up relationship with food at times.  Before you start thinking I eat 4 supersized meals and a small kitten for breakfast, that’s not the case.  I love vegetables and the cooking kale for breakfast is a common occurrence.  I was a vegetarian for almost a decade then I started adding fish to my diet.  In fact, I’m more vegetarian than pescetarian.  Soda is rarely my go to beverage and hasn’t been for about 2 years.  I make fresh juices with my juicer and drink homemade teas and lemonade flavored with stevia when I have a hankering for something sweet.  My problem isn’t often with food choices. Mostly it’s about quantity. When it isn’t about quantity it’s about choice in a big way. Go big or go home, right? *She shakes her head* I’ve used food as a coping mechanism for a long time. Probably ever since I was able to control what I ate which hasn’t been long. Let me explain.

My parents divorced when I was five and we didn’t have much. My mother did what she could, but I spent a lot of time feeling hungry.  She was from the islands and fed us the rural island version of cuisine.  Well, at least what was available here in the states. That was probably fine, but we were in America and when my brother and I hung out with friends, McDonald’s was a go to. She worked something like 4 jobs and we were left to our own devices often. We’d steal money from her coin jar and go to the baseball field, or corner store and buy candy until our faces exploded.  Fast forward six years and I was sent to a boarding school for financially needy and social orphans called Milton Hershey School (MHS). At The Milt, we had access to plenty of food, but I’ll be damned if it was good for us.  We’re talking Pennsylvania Dutch style cooking.  We ate casseroles, potatoes, cream chipped beef, bullseyes (the breakfast egg dish not the seeing orb of a bull), sugar coated french toast, and their nutritionally deficient cousins. Everything  came in the big box truck known as the meal bus.  Not only was the food for shit (props to the ladies in the Central Kitchen even though it was nutritional shit is was pretty tasty… those birthday cakes and cookies?! I still dream about those) it was also controlled by someone who wasn’t me. I did not grow up learning about the food around me. I just remember we had to set the tables with meat first, starch second, and then the vegetables.  Our portions were controlled. If we wanted more it was kinda a no go. If we wanted less, or none we couldn’t.  We had one “No Eat” food and that was it. Because my mom didn’t want me eating pork, that was my “No Eat” food. Everything else, I had to ingest.

That was middle school. High school was a bit different, but not much. The atmosphere of the school changed and we started shopping more often at the local Giant Food store.  Nonetheless, my education did not include food.

In college, I became a vegetarian.  I don’t remember when or why, I just did.  The cessation of meat consumption didn’t really, at least I don’t think, come with knowledge about healthy eating.  It wasn’t until I went to work for Milton Hershey School full-time at Springboard Academy that I began to teach myself about nutrition.  I’d began some studying in Chicago, but I made pennies and couldn’t afford healthy shit anyway.  When I got to Springboard I made enough money that I could live alone AND afford healthy food items.  Hell. Yes. When I learned about quinoa I damn near lost my shit. Stevia? Hell, that knowledge pretty much gave me an aneurysm. Even then, I was in a SUPER toxic relationship with someone who had CF.  You may not know, but people with CF need to consume large amounts of fat.  People with ADPKD like I have don’t. So with this toxic relationship not only was I not strong enough to set healthy boundaries for myself, the person I was with had the exact opposite dietary needs as I had.

Moving to Seattle is what did it for me. I was working as an Outdoor Educator and physical activity was my life.  When I started with Seattle Public Schools, I had enough money, again, to afford the food we all deserve.  My apartment was across the street from a Jewel Osco, and few blocks from Trader Joe’s, and the Central Co-o: Madison Market — my favorite place in Seattle. I spent so much time at the co-op learning about vegetables, buying fresh breads and cheeses, selecting kombucha, and focusing on my overall well-being. This was two years ago. I’m twenty-nine years old and my healthy relationship with food and nutrition just started. I’m still a baby.

My hope is that my fast will tune my brain and my heart to the key of my stomach. I don’t want to eat when I’m not hungry. I want to remember what hunger feels like and associate that with goodness. Like it’s a message from my body that reads,

Hey, thanks so much for that last meal. We’ve sent it on to do great things and are looking forward to more. ”

Instead of,

Holy shit we’re hungry. We’re hungry. Fuck, when’re we going to eat again? Are we going to eat again? Who remembers how to make biscuits?! Flour’s cheap. We can use water instead of milk. That’ll keep us from dying, right?! Right?!

Two very different messages. I’m tired of teaching my body that panic is a good way to approach meeting its needs.

This NOLS course will test me physically, mentally, emotionally, and professionally. I’m worried about meeting my cohort and being the only  Brown person. Worse yet, would be finding out I’m the only Brown person with no White allies.  My standard for interacting with Whiteness is pretty concrete. I’m not going to sacrifice my wellness because of ignorance. I will not allow someone to learn off of my back. My story is not a novelty it’s my life. I don’t know how I can/would/should respond to racist shit that occurs Outside in this situation.  Actually, I don’t want to deal with it all I just want to fucking play outside because it’s my favorite thing to do.

What I can do is prepare (as much as possible) my body for the physical challenges that are certain. Cause NOLS is hard, y’all. I can sharpen my mind and clear out space for frequent visits. Other than that, I can only rely on the me that’s been alive this long and has not gone to prison for reacting to hate — purposeful, or accidental.