Monthly Archives: November 2011

5 Things That Surprise(d) Me In Japan

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1. Wearing of dust masks like an everyday accessory.

When I just got here I was very puzzled. Why the heck are these people walking around in dust masks (the type a doctor wears at the hospital)? I’d come to find out that they wear dust masks when they have a cold or the flu, or when they just want to shield themselves from the potential of developing one. On any given day I can count on at least five students to be rocking their dust masks.

2. Public teeth brushing.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen my boss, or my principals or so just casually brushing their teeth at their desks. They are all very into brushing the teeth after lunch which is good, but no-one goes to the bathroom to do it. They just pop the toothbrush out in the middle of the work area and start brushing. Very odd.

3. Toilets with buttons.

What do I press to flush?????

4. No touch face basins in public bathrooms.

For a germaphobe like me, this was HEAVEN.

5. Short shorts in winter.

I will never, ever, EVER understand why the women here wear short shorts, sometimes with tights, sometimes without, during winter. Up top is well layered, but their legs are so bare you’d think it’s the middle of summer. And then here is the thing, you see if this was say the US or Canada, I could understand. The west uses indoor heating. But Japan has NO indoor heating so however cold you are outside, chances are you will be just as cold inside, so there is no refuge for their poor feet. Me? I will wear my heat tech leggings, plus my regular leggings, plus my pants, thank you very much.

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Good Read

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I got home two Mondays ago to a treat in the mailbox. Finally my long anticipated copy of the book “Tried and True: Revelations of a Rebellious Youth” by Dutty Bookman had arrived. I won’t review the book because I think it is one of those works of art that people can take different things from. Furthermore, I don’t want to give too much away. A lot of topics are explored by the author and there are a lot more interpretations we can take from his writings. What I am left with at the end of my read are:

-The universe often presents us with signs. Pay attention.

To me this is particularly difficult because in order to appreciate the signs, you first need to know they exist, then how to identify them if you are to actually interpret them. But, how do you know when something is a sign and when you are just reading too much into things? I believe in signs, I often pray for them, now I will attempt to make a conscious effort to identify and pay attention to them.

-The best way to be of use to the world and to make a difference is to find something you’re good at, develop it (and in so doing, develop yourself) and use it.

Dutty is good at writing. Some people are good at cooking, others at dancing, singing, studying, speaking, cleaning, organizing, soothing, motivating, socializing…it goes on and on. Whatever it is that you like doing and are good at, so long as it is something positive, do it. Do it to bring fulfillment to your own life first, and you will see how well you can do it to also help others. Do it to be a positive force in this world. Just do it. We all have a role to play but we don’t all necessarily know what it is or how to go about playing it. So long as we use our own talents and interests for good, we will be doing something beneficial for humanity.

-You never know the influence your words, your presence, your actions and your ripples will have on others.

I say ripples meanings things that happen, that cause other things that happen, that eventually have an effect on someone. Dutty highlighted how someone’s words, followed by their death and the sermon given at their funeral stirred a change in him. Interestingly, that very same person’s death brought about a drastic yet entirely different change in my own life. I doubt that that person would ever have thought that his life and death could have sparked “newness” in two people, especially two that he was not particularly close to. Point is, you just never know.

– You are of no use to others if you don’t first sort out yourself.

I think this quote sums it up best: As a concerned human being who tries to do for others, it is important to remain true to oneself or otherwise risk being of no use to the revolution at all. (The stupid quotes wouldn’t work which is why there are no quotation marks…sorry). No further explanation necessary.

You can buy your own copy of the book here: https://www.createspace.com/3603858

Again, my lessons from the book could be completely different from yours. Shoot, they could be completely different from what Dutty intended them to be. I don’t know. Interpret it yourself.

Go ahead, buy it, read it, enjoy it…it’s worth it 🙂

Snip, snip and away…

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Before you go any further, grab yourself a glass of wine or go get a nice snack or something because this is gonna be a long one.

On Sunday, October 30 2011 I cut my hair. All of it. Well, all except 3 mm. There’s nothing to comb, nothing to brush, nothing to twist or twine, nothing to play in. It’s pretty low…

…and I love it!!!

From this (about an inch and a half to two inches of hair)

...to this! 3 mm of hair...excuse the screwed lips, that was me trying to put on some swag lol

My hair journey began the day I popped out of my mother with a full head of curly hair. As a child I had long, thick hair. It was what a lot of Jamaicans (and black people the world over) call “good hair”- a term I have come to dislike greatly. It is generally the title given to hair that is less kinky and coily, with a looser pattern. In my book, any hair has the potential to be “good hair” once it is well taken care of.   I hated my great head of hair. For me it was too long, too thick, just too much. I hated combing it, I hated washing it, I simply hated it. I remember the few times I would get it combed along with my other cousins in Port Royal in mini plaits and mini twists. Theirs would take maybe an hour to be done. Mine would take 3, maybe 4 hours. I would always ask my parents if I could cut it or relax it. They always said no. At one point I actually took up the scissors and cut it. I was about 5, 6 at most, and I wasn’t feeling it.

When I was about 10 years old my mother was out of my life physically for a few months. During that time, I had to do my own hair. When she returned, I continued doing my hair myself. By then it was part of my routine. I hated it even more.

At the age of 16 I underwent surgery on my spine. The recovery period was long, and recovery itself was tedious. I was on bed rest for two months. Two months without walking, two months with having everyone do everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING, for me, including my hair. I think it was then, after years and years of me nagging, years and years of me begging and years of years of saying no, that my mother decided to let me go ahead and relax it. I think she, having to deal with it for those two months, realized again how much of a pain it was. When I was younger part of her reason for saying no was simply that I was too young, but at 16, I was no longer young, and my natural hair really WAS difficult to deal with, so she gave in. I relaxed my hair two days into the new school year in 12th grade.

A box of hair relaxer

Before going any further, it is important to understand what the term “natural hair” means. “Natural hair” is a term black people use to describe their hair in the state it grows out of their heads, without chemical alteration. Many of us use chemicals every 4-12 weeks or so (on average) to straighten our hair permanently. It’s a popular practice, quite “normal” nowadays. It makes dealing with our kinky hair a lot easier and many people enjoy the sleek style of straight hair.

I enjoyed my relaxed hair for a while. It was so much easier. No more long detangling sessions. No more “oh what do I do with this?” moments. I could simply let it out or put it in a ponytail and be out the door in 5 minutes. But then, I started noticing some things I didn’t like. It was very thin, often very limp and I realized that I was getting it cut very often because of split ends, though I never had that problem with my natural hair. At one point or another, about two years into the relaxed journey, I starting exploring the option of going back natural. I decided to do it. I loved the looks I was seeing. There were so many options. There was so much information on how to keep natural hair healthy; information that I had no knowledge of in my 16 years of natural hair before I relaxed it. I also loved the sense of awareness in relation to my race…my hair was another physical attribute that tied me to my race, and though I am not one big on racial issues, I enjoyed the idea of consciously putting aside the desire for attributes resembling another race and embracing that of my own.

I put extensions in to “transition”- a term used to describe the gradual movement from relaxed to natural hair, where the natural hair grows in and the relaxed ends are slowly cut off. I tried simply growing it out without extensions. All these efforts failed. Eventually I wouldn’t like having to deal with two textures, for styling or aesthetic purposes, and would relax again. One Christmas holiday I put in a weave with the same intention of transitioning. The boyfriend hated it. He hated all the fake hair, and he asked me one day why I simply didn’t cut it. So…I did. I went to the hairdresser, took out the weave, and told them to cut off all my hair. I left the salon that day with about an inch and a half of hair. That was in January 2009, after 4 years of having it relaxed.

For the last two and a half years I’ve rocked it natural. My hair grew a whole heck of a lot in those two years. I used all the avenues provided on the internet to gather my information. There are soooooooo many sites out there. So many. After coming to Japan I decided to cut off my hair again. My ends were splitting and I felt I wasn’t doing “it” right, so I decided to start over. Same person that told me to cut it the first time helped me to cut it this time. I did that in August of this year. Not long after that I thought, well, if I have it this short, why not go shorter? Why not grow my hair from the shortest it can possibly be? Why not just try it once? So after some contemplation and sought inspiration, I asked that same person, once again, to help me out. And he cut my hair even lower.

I am not a nappy nazi. I believe that anyone can and should do anything they want to THEIR hair. What I do NOT agree with, however, is people relaxing children’s hair. I just feel like they should be able to enjoy and learn about their hair in that time, then when they get older they can make the decision to do whatever they want with it as well. Though not a nappy nazi, I am very much a big supporter of natural hair, but I am also quick to point out that I don’t think natural black hair is any better than relaxed black hair, or natural white hair, or Asian hair. I simply think natural hair can be and is beautiful. Sure, not all styles look good. Sure, some people’s hair just looks JACKED UP, but we all, as black people, have the potential to have a beautiful head of hair. We just need to make good decisions and take care of it well. I believe, unlike many others, that it can look professional, mature, sophisticated, sexy. Easy, however, is one thing that I don’t think it is, unless it is very short. But it can be manageable and beautiful, provided you LEARN what to do with it.

I would love to see the day when we embrace our hair and all it’s capabilities, or at least, I would love to see a day when, if we decide to relax, it is not because we think our hair is ugly, or can’t grow, or is not as nice as white and asian hair, but that our reason is simply something along the lines of ease and manageability, or that we simply like the look of straight hair, and don’t think our hair is in any way inferior to others’. I would love to see a day when even if someone decides to switch it up and relax, they could just as well see themselves switching it up and embracing their natural hair; a day when having a relaxer or a weave or extensions is not a MUST and the thought of not having one does not bring fear and anger.

That is what I would love, but until then, I will simply enjoy and embrace my head of hair. Right now it’s short. Totally and completely care and worry free.

If you are contemplating going natural, but don’t know what to do, or where to start, or what the future holds, or if you are natural and just want to learn some new stuff, check out the following places:

Youtube. My favourite channels are kimmaytube, taren916, naptural85, bambiix2 and nikkimae2003. They all have different textures, something’s there for everyone.

Also, check out http://www.nappturality.com It’s a forum for natural haired women. There is a wealth of information there.

Also (lol) check out curlynikki.com and collegecurlies.blogspot.com

Believe me….the internet is a godsend for natural hair wearers.

Maybe I’ll cut my hair again in the next few weeks and keep it like this for a while. Maybe I’ll grow it out. I don’t know…what I do know is that right now I am LOVING this style, and I wonder all the time why I never did it before. My hair is one of those places where I am not afraid to experiment a little. I feel brave and bold with this style, particularly because so many women, relaxed and natural, are deathly afraid of short hair on themselves. I think it’s sort of funny, and sort of sad, that some people just cannot and would not even envision themselves with shorter hair. I don’t even mean this short, I just mean short enough where it can’t be held in place by a clip. I love that I am doing something a little but different and that it looks damn good (if I may so so myself). Uh huh…I’m digging it.  😀

All Smiles