Monday, September 26, 2022

Being the Other: My Trip to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

                                                             All Eyes on Me- 2Pac

This Summer, I had the honor and privilege to travel to Central Asia to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, a country formerly in the Soviet Union/USSR for those of you who are 80s babies, scholars, World Travelers, or World History Buffs. As a traveler and Professor, I honestly had no clue about this country, customs, and culture until I did my research, put on my big girl panties, and prepared for the 16 hours (yes 16 hours) flight to Bishkek with a layover in Istanbul, Turkey. S/O to Turkish Airlines for a comfortable, smooth flight. 

When we arrived in Bishkek, I had no idea what to expect. Being jet lag, fatigued, delirious, and all the above, I felt as if I landed in USSR, getting ready to fight Ivan Drago like Rocky did to get revenge on what Ivan Drago did to Apollo Creed. This may go over some of your all heads, especially if you aren't a Rocky fan. When I got off the flight and into the van, everything was in Russian or Kyrgyz. Kyrgyzstan is the land of the Kyrgyz (stan means the land of). Mongolia invaded and conquered this land in the 13th century, followed by Moscow in the early 1900s hence why the beloved Krygz speaks Russian and Kyrgyz but looks Asian (Mongolian and Chinese). This country is also North of China as well. So you all are getting a quick history lesson.

The reason for my travel to Bishkek was due to my University being selected to be part of the OSUN, Get Engage conference, in which our students had the chance to learn about civic engagement, present their civic engagement projects, network with other like-minded students around the World, and enhance their international scope of work. I also co-facilitated a self-care workshop for the participants so I could add an International speaker title to my CV. Major S/O to my co-facilitator, Maria from Columbia. 

Being the Other in another country is an exciting experience. As Black women, that was one out of 10; we experienced being the other in a homogeneous nation. We didn't know the language, so we had to rely on Google translate. We had numerous (100+ people) come up to us with families and cameras out wanting to take photos as if some may have never seen Black folks before up close and personal. People stopped, stared, took pictures, and kept it moving everywhere we traveled. As someone who has traveled internationally to other countries, I didn't have a problem with being the other because I have witnessed this behavior from different cultures before. Still, my students grew tired and frustrated because they felt they were displayed, singled out, and damn near harassed due to the constant nonconsent photo snapping and gazing. 

Traveling outside of the states for Black People can be pretty isolating daunting, exhausting, exciting, or confusing, especially when you go to a homogenous country. The Natives may lack cultural competence or humility and are different from your homeland. You have experienced subtle or overt racism like we do in the states. You will experience being the "only one or the other" while visiting these countries, and you will feel uncomfortable when folks stop and stare as if you are a celebrity. Customs, laws, food, language, culture, and mindsets are entirely different, but you must adjust for survival and growth. For instance, in Central Asia, their bathrooms are similar but different depending on how remote and non-conforming the area is. You must pop a squat to use the restroom to have strong knees and squads. You will also throw away the used toilet paper in the trash rather than flush it down the toilet due to the lack of a quality sewerage system in the US. 

Traveling to these countries where many Black people don't travel to gives you a different perspective on navigating life outside your everyday life. You learn how to adapt, adopt certain customs, immerse yourself with the people of the land, and truly realize that we have plenty of similarities and differences. Hopefully, you learn the difference quickly so you will not end up on Lockup Abroad.

During my travels to Bishkek, I enjoyed the mountainous areas, visiting Issyk Kul (the largest lake in the World by volume and the second-largest saline lake after the Caspian Sea.), going to a karaoke bar to hear the Kyrgyzs sing melancholy Russian music that rocked us to sleep or tears, meeting students, their advisors, and Professors from different parts of the World and creating lasting partnerships, learning more about Bishekek by visiting their museums, and learning about their way of life, and trying their food which I thoroughly enjoyed breakfast but lunch and dinner not so much. Listen, I remember getting excited about eating crispy stir fry chicken and being highly disappointed because it was very bland. I even tried KFC, y'all, and that was a dub, except for the fries. I don't eat KFC in the states, but your girl was desperate Chile! Once KFC didn't satisfy my food cravings, I made a list of all the foods I would cook or order once I returned to American soil. 

Overall, I enjoyed my travel to Bishkek. I would even travel back there and stay at Issyk Kul longer because the lake was majestic, the snowcap mountains were postcard perfect, and the serene feel fulfilled my soul. Everyone should travel internationally once in their life. Life is grand. Life is beyond your hometown, neighborhood, block you grew up on, and city you were raised in. I am thankful to have the opportunity to experience life beyond the States. I am also grateful we can take our HBCU students to various countries so they can see beyond their metropolis and experience life beyond being Black in America. 

Words of Wisdom to students and faculty members: If your University or organization offers you a fully funded, expense-paid educational trip somewhere, please consider taking that trip. Research and read about the country, culture, food, laws, American Embassy, visa and passport policies, and GO! Even some Universities provide you with free access. You cannot beat that. So go and explore the World and enjoy! You can pay for stuff, but life experiences trump everything. No one cannot take your life experiences away from you. 

Peace, Love, and Light,

Professor Drea

Thursday, August 4, 2022

What are your intentions?

Remember these definitions before actively pursuing someone for anything. Ask yourself and ask others, “What are your intentions?” before moving forward with anything.
Do their words and actions align?
You need to have a clear understanding of the goal, purpose, or plan. Folks on the receiving end, please don't just settle for aimless, unclear, and let's just go with the flow rhetoric due to loneliness or desperation.
Playtime is over. It's time to build, elevate and ascend to the next level. Stop allowing purposeless people to have accessibility to you, your time, your peace, and your energy.

Welcome the Blessings

Everything you prayed for is coming but you have to be ready to openly receive the blessings! Are you ready? You deserve the abundance, peace, love, and blessings coming your way!

Privacy Is Power

Privacy is power! You have to be careful who you share intimate details with. Everyone isn't rooting for you, and some people will weaponize you with the information you shared. 2 Thessalonians 3:11-13: We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. In other words, get busy, focus on your purpose, and stay in your lane.

Get Well, Flyness: Saturday Self-Care Edition

We have to stop being our biggest critics while navigating critical and disempowered people on a daily basis. There's a difference between criticism and feedback. Negativity begets negativity

I want you to practice speaking, thinking, and treating yourself with care and love.

Take pride in your appearance, hygiene, and overall grooming. Sit down today and write down the last time you went to the doctor, dentist, or specialist. Don't like your body, write down what you are going to work on feeling good, looking good, and being good by working on your mind, body, and spirit.

If you want to make a change, you have to change your attitude and perspective on life and do the inner work. No shortcuts or tapping out during difficult times. It builds your character and resilience.

Small steps will help you to conquer the major steps. While you're conquering baby steps, I want you to unlearn and dismantle that inner critic within yourself. It's not going to be an overnight process, it might be a lifelong journey but it's worth it.

Think highly about yourself. Treat yourself with the utmost respect and be the blueprint of how others treat you and yourself. Speak to yourself in the most empowering and uplifting manner


Brown Girl Joy

Joy is a great feeling of pleasure and happiness. 
Joy is a choice. 
Joy is living life on your terms. 
Joy is leaving relationships and environments that are toxic and bad for our overall health. 
Joy is knowing and getting everything you deserve. 
Joy is living a life full of purpose, ease, luxury, and love Joy is contagious. 
Joy is liberating. Joy is peaceful and committing to inner peace even in the midst of chaos. 
Joy is able to get back up without aches and pains from doing this Fly Girl pose without assistance.
Joy is our birthright! To experience joy, please commit to doing your inner work. Commit to doing less and experience the joyful life you deserve.