Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Africa in Portland

A full day.

I got to take an elder to the Humane Society for their Tuesday "free pet" day for seniors.  She picked out a 9-year-old white with orange splotches cat named Lola who had been given up by her previous people for pissing and pooping with wild abandon.  The intake paperwork actually said "I'm at my breaking point."  My client is not functionally literate, so I made sure to explain this to her.  She's willing to take Lola on.  Lola sorta stunk of piss.

At work, a young woman from Gambia who volunteers at reception gave me a full home-cooked by her traditional Gambian dinner, enough to feed my whole family.  This evening, I opened the two containers to find some foods I'd never seen before but happily tried.  A whole fish, cut in three parts. Head, middle, tail.  Alongside it, two carrots, a white tubular root, a boiled okra, a long purple vegetable (I think an eggplant), and the hottest little orange pepper I ever did try.  My mouth burned for half an hour from one nibble from the end.  Another container of spiced rice, I'm guessing that was cooked in the fish broth.  A small container of spicy, vinegary, green sauce to put on it all.

An elder from Somalia brought his nephew to see where he spends his Tuesdays.  His nephew lives in South Dakota, and I got to tell him about how respected his uncle is, how funny and mischevious, how everyone likes him, everyone.  This elder had wrapped up in a plastic grocery bag a container of six muffins to take home for my children.  He passes on gum, candy, granola bars for them at times.  They each ate one tonight after the Gambian dinner. (to be honest, the kids tried the Gambian food but were a bit put off by the fish head in it so they ate mostly Christmas Eve leftovers and quesadillas they made for themselves).

My daughter had her first real haircut and flat-iron tonight.  It was a Christmas gift.  While we definitely make sure she knows how much her naturally curly hair is a beautiful wonder capable of braids and twists, she had been longing to experience straight hair for the first time in her life, if for nothing else to see how long her hair had grown since it was shaved off when she was four years old (almost five probably).  The stylist I had hoped to get was overbooked so we were given another one I didn't know anything about.  As we were chatting about the history of my daughter's hair, and Ethiopia came up, the stylist turned and said, "I'm from there!"  I had no idea.  She's from Shashamene where many of my clients are from.  Turns out her best friend's grandmother is one of my clients that I had just spent time with today. She also goes to the same church as my most favorite coworker, a dear friend I say I wish were my life coach.  Truly.  Small world.

My daughter has worn the following: free afro, yarn twists, box braids, flat twists, box rope twists, box braids with extensions, cornrows with extentions.  These were all beautiful and all had her looking like a little girl.  But today as her flat-iron started to take shape, I looked at her in the mirror and saw her as a teenager, and I was not ready.  I had to choke back tears.  I had to look away.  I was not ready for her to be this beautifully grown-up.  For now, this style makes her happy. She swings her hair around.  She protects her head so vigilantly from even a drop of rain, knowing it would ruin the flat-iron. She will take care of this style to hold it as long as possible.

  I love seeing her so happy, and I also look forward to taking her for cornrows in a couple weeks.  I'll do the beads myself.