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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

IF I were Mandy Bjordal's relation in Norway, I would reach out to her, but Mandy accepts rejection. She wrote: Where do we belong?

Mandy Bjordal of the Ugandan royal family was snubbed by her relations in NorwayShe only wanted to greet them like we do in Afrika! Her father and sister died. She gave up her strong desire to see her people. She says 'blood is thicker than water' as we say at home!

  "Where do we Belong? is a story based on my young sister- Sylvia and myself. It is a story about our trials, our joys, our adventures, our challenges our experiences and our acceptance of life's many difficulties. The theme of this story is centred on our inter-racial, inter-cultural heritage as far back as our African grandfather Kabaka Mwanga II, our granduncle, Sir Daudi Chwa II, our grandmother Omumbejja Kajja- Obunaku, our uncle Prince Henry Kimera and Sir Edward Mutesa II, the Arab Muslim grandfather Mohammed Sief Narror, the European Christian father Harald Bjordal. The final chapter shows the tremendous courage and strength Sylvia had when she battled cancer."

Today I tell a story. One day long time ago, I met a princess from Uganda. She was in Nairobi. She wore a huge sunhat and was tall and beautiful. She told me that she is a kiwewesi. She is partly a princess but we decided to call her princess anyway. A princess of our own type. Graceful. She carried a lovely basket and drove a small car. But a princess of our own style in Africa. We laughed so much together when we she made fun of how her little car would get stuck on the way for lack of fuel. A princess. But she is one! And I had no car then. I was a freelance journalist with our best selling newspaper.

I sat with Mandy Bjordal- Louis, a writer with a new tittle Where do we Belong? Now I am a writer and I still wrote at that time precisely in 2000, but I had got some poems published in different anthologies. I loved seeing new writers and writing reviews. I also wrote good profile articles. I interviewed this princess for Lifestyle. She told me of her Norwegian father and Norwegian family in Norway. I had last heard of Norway in my school days and I only remembered the mountains and the salmon fish. Well, her other family was royal and directly related to Kabaka Mwanga. She writes in her book which is a biography about her father's  brother Svaren. I have an old copy of her book here in Oslo and am looking at it now .. she writes. "Father brought his brother Svaren, who lived in Norway, to join him as there was a fortune to be made. ... His brother came with his family- a wife and two daughters. The two young men were indistinguishable; everyone thought they were twins. But her parents separated. We spoke for long and I  published a long article in the paper I normally contributed to.

Mandy is a lovely person. We became friends after the article was published. She later left for Canada. Her book is dedicated to her sister Sylvia who died of cancer. It is a self published book and it is very interesting. I loved it. Where do we belong? Many of us can ask that question. Everyone can. Where do we belong? Where do we belong? Where do we belong? Where do we belong? Where do we belong? Where do we belong? What a lovely title. ( Thank goodness for blogs, my editor would have deleted the multiple question) but am asking it on purpose.)

The book is written in the first person. "Nava was the correct name of a daughter of a pricness" Mandy went into details to describe her royal family. It is a royal family. Now why am I telling this story like this?
I write to Mandy who now lives in Canada from time to time. She is still writing. She considers herself old in her 60s but I never believed it. She looks after her grandchildren in Canada and the USA sometimes and writes. I still call her Kiwewesi when I write to her from Oslo where I came to live in exile. I once asked her if she had finally reached her family in Norway or if she would look for them. She told me to forget it. Where do we belong? Especially those of us that people call half this or that? She had reached her step brothers who live in Norway. I think only by letter. And they told her that they did not wish to be in touch with her. She has written another book about that. Where do we belong?

I am not writing this so that someone can find Mandy. She has a lot out there. I am writing this to share that Mandy would have loved to reach other people not because she is a poor relation in Africa as our countries are often called, but because it is human to want to reach people who are part of family. It is not to blame anyone or claim anything. It was just that she so missed her sister Sylvia and would have loved to know more people of her family. She is like that. But she has learnt that it is hard to belong in Norway. For her, that is Norway. She will not even come to visit me in Norway.
I wonder about these things because I feel it is so important to be just. Especially here where human rights and values are 'sang'.  It is so good to be open to others even when they are not our relations. It is just human. That greeting that was writing itself on your lips and that you stopped was just what your neighbour needed. I am going general and with reason. How is it that we do not even greet our neighbours here? But no, Just a moment. I once came home late. Just opposite my door or a little bit above it a man who could have been Norwegian passed. It was on a day that we had had Anders Breivik very much in the media. I was a little afraid sometimes. But this gentleman had such an angelic smile I thought it was unbelievable. Clean smile.No words but just so effusive. I thought, this man might be Mandy's relation! Who knows. Maybe they smile at everyone else but are afraid of Afrika. Someone last month announced in a poetry meeting that he was afraid of Afrika and had flown over fearfully! Hmmm!

But  I was so happy because I felt that that wa so human. He could have looked at me in a hostile way and (maybe he is not even Norwegian) and I say ... see the Norwegians. They do not... like to see us! We need to kill stereotypes of course and to tell stories that make us think. My story here is not meant to reinforce any stereotype. It i smeant to crush it. Of course it is not a must that we accept or smile at anyone but anyway it is always good to know that people are not saying something negative by looking at us negatively or without any expression.

This book is an important book. She narrates stories that are worth reading.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Kontroll! Kontroll you may control but no to violence

I had already been to town and back home by 9am to do some official business. It was fine morning. A friend greeted me on the bus. We were chatting. After a couple of stops the bus stopped and the uniformed control people came in. We were fine. We had our tickets but there is a woman who did not have hers. She talked back to the first control man and I could hear her saying that she forgot something. I have seen someone go up to them before and explain her situation, she looked and sounded Norwegian but how can you know these days, and she was fine. That morning the woman without a ticket said she had a kind of permit which she forgot at home. We were chatting and for a while I forgot who else was on the bus until suddenly I heard a commotion. Now in Nordic and even other cities in the South people in towns and cities people normally mind their own business. Well, they were doing just that but the control people were now pushing the woman quite hard because she wanted to alight. It was spontaneously that we reaacted. I remember only saying that all that could be done without any pushing or violence. It looked really ugly. Now the woman involved and the men were also trying to use phones to contact someone but really for a while the 27 to 50 kroners it costs to be on the bus for an hour seemed more important that all decency? I know it is a lot of money but we must reason before we can employ physical force. For me men on a woman's body in like that is a no go ... and I know why. Well, it was a moment in Oslo. A moment in which we did not allow the noise and the pushing to continue.

One of the control men was asking us not to say anything or to stop them but we made it quite clear that we are non violent and that between the ears there is something to be spoken to. The pushing stopped but I can just imagine what a start of the day. I know you cannot have police on buses but I have been on a bus where a man who was very high on something went right up to the driver to push him and hit him because he did not stop where there is no bus stop. All seems fine in Oslo until suddenly something like this happens. I know it for a fact because the man breathing hard and heavy passed over my shoulder not without some pushing and looked so angry that I started to shout "Stop it!" That day some passengers intervened but often people are quite indifferent. The man was overcome by the people and he came off the bus. The driver shook and was angry and wanted to beat to something to the man but then he parked and then had to move because it was Carl Berners busy roundabout. You see on that route Bus 33 which we were on stops on the upper side and the man had insisted that it stops on the first stop in CB plass on its way towards Rosenhof where we were going to school. Phew! That was a tough one. But the people told him to forget it he was drunk/high.

It was after the driver started the bus again that someone told him they thought hte man hurt some of us but he said that is why he had wanted to call the police.  Well, this is not the common thing but we began to say that we are concerned about safety on buses. What would have happened if that man hit the unsuspecting driver hard from behind? Probably he would have been so shocked as this place is rather always so safe that the bus would have ended up in an accident with other vehicles.

In most places I know, it is not enough to have one person on a big bus with only a camera to assist him when he can look at the back.  And yet, well, it is quite the normal thing and an efficient thing in Europe. Everything appears smart and sophisticated. Only the driver whom am sure will soon move out as we promote robots sits in a big tram and only the driver takes care of thebuses. Well. That is the way it is. I wondered what a lively and drunk little mob that was on the bus one Friday night would stop at. They were bullying a woman on other side. "Are you married? Do you have a child? Are you on fb?" The strange thing is that she decided to cope with them and even speak to them so that at the end of it all when they alighted form bus 37 on Arnes Borg plass? Ooops, near Deichmanske Library and next to the government buildings that were bombed, one of them shook her hand and told her , "Keep it real!" I thought this young woman should have protested the invasion of her space but she did not in this world of equality. I guess we all need to keep it real. Remember the old saying "In vini veritas?" Well, it has been said that the younger generation of Nordic women might not be too keen on their liberation as were women in the 80s and 90s. She did not keep it real by protesting. She kept mum. I say again we need to keep it real in Norway.

I am glad the young men remembered to mention the 22nd of July but I was not sure in what context as they drooled in Norsk, probably the fact that they were alighting there. Well, I have to tell you that very often young people are really drunk in the evenings here. But, hey, in the evenings and mostly after work. This is normal society... but what am not so used to is every now and then finding someone throwing up from drunkenness on any street you can name. This problem concerns us all. What shall we say when we drink where there is poverty and exceed where there is wealth?

Norway is a beautiful world. Every country has its beauty. Remember reporting for inside Africa on BBC and also African Voices on CNN every week? We need to report from Inside Europe about the beauty of the wildlife here. Norway is strangely not as much in international news as it should be unless something dramatic happens. Neither is the rest of the Nordic countries. You see they do not have a major channel for themselves. They rely on America and England to give the news to the world I think. There are many programs from Americ on TV here. And the Norwegian local channels have an intense internal focus.  We are used to being reported by others in Africa so we like to seand we furiously report the world in our countries at least in Kenya. At the universities too 99% of quotes are from European sources in many cases. What do you expect, we speak and teach in European languages in our continent. It is the way the world has gone. You can read more about Norway here however, someone does some reporting on nature and other things from time to time

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sweet moment! It was amazing

Sunday we commemorated the people who were killed by the 22 July 2011 bomb in Oslo in a very special way.  One theme won the day. Love and more love. Norway has dealt with this case of the bombing in an unexpected way and I feel great respect. I am writing more than a week after the event because it has refused to wear off. The country has its eye trained on justice in a very humane way.

The sombre tone of the rainy day remained. But the repeated message was that darkness has been defeated by the light. The presence still of masses of people with flowers. The visit to the island of Utøya by so many youths and politicians was great. The fact that policians did not use this event to be too frontline was also remarkable. It was wonderful to hear the young ones express their thoughts on all what had happened and their determination to carry on in love.

When in the afternoon the concert was finally over with godnatt kjære Oslo still ringing as it does in my ears, my two Norwegian friends turned around and very naturally we had a group hug... Black Huldra was there and smiling. All day long and always we were mourning and listening to stories of wonderful people who were killed by one selfish man. May we truly look at each other in the eye as we promised, and take each others hand in ours and learn.

31st August 2012

But when the verdict on the case of Anders Breivik was read and he was delcared normal and sentence to 21 years of imprisonment and some said people were happy, a new realisation had taken place. This loving way is the world as we would like to see it. But the world is not like this right now. As Jon Egeland and some judges told the BBC that day, there are people who are convinced of the opposite. Convinced that multiculturalism is a danger to their society. And we have to listen to this side of the debate. We saw Anders Breivik salute us again like Hitler used to be saluted and heard the very, very  hard words.... that he regrets he did not kill enough people. I am still thinking about this. It is not easy to just sit and pretend I did not hear it. I heard it. I heard it.

Harry Belafonte reminded us in Oslo that we all can suffer the same challenges. he was referring to the 22nd of July 2011. You can read this link

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Ett øyeblikk! there was a lion, Simba, at Siba shop in Oslo. Is this a race you find hard to serve?

And this branch moved out of town... before I was eve invited back. Let's face it!
Moments in Oslo, paying for no service!

At a service counter, This "Ett øyeblikk!" was meant to say, "Don't you disturb me!" 

When some of these nasty things happen to me in Oslo, I say, "Ett øyeblikk!" Then with some pained joy, I remember some good things. Something like a story... or a fisherman I met. A story. Hakuna matata. Simba's face in the sky and reflected in the water...good feelings. But now this blog is dedicated to these unexpected things.

Well, a week was not over after that evening with an ambassador who had just finished her tour- of- duty at Hotel G, which I write about below. At Siba in Oslo, formerly, Siba kielland hus in Aleksander Kielland's plass I was wholly inaudible. I should be invisible then. 

I was there at 19.30. I left at 20: 08. I was asking why I was told by someone on duty said "ett øyeblikk!" meaning he would serve promptly, left me standing alone in the rear part of the shop and never returned. When I found him sitting and chatting away, he said  that it was someone else who was serving me when in fact it was him. I hesitated as he pointed ahead and indeed there was no other man in the shop at the time. That is what the person I went to told me and it was true. 

This is clearly wrong so I asked him again as the other person walked down with me if there really was someone else but him who left me waiting. He would not hear of it. I was wasting his time, now. I wanted him to acknowledge his mistake and that was all. No, he wanted to throw me out and that was IT! What? for what?

I went back to the shop the day after, with a name. I asked for him. The person I spoke to told me he was in management and  promised an phone call for a meeting the next day. He would be in that meeting, he went on to say. But to this day, never called. I wish I were wrong. 

But now am getting more wary. You see, even before that I was standing under the counter that says "Hvitevarer", "White goods" and the young lady,busy, served and left me there. 

This had been my first stop and I imagined she was coming back. At least she did not "ett øyeblikk!" to me, as she shared light moments with her customer regarding Sweden and Norway...Oh, yes, I know that white goods are more expensive than other color goods, and not only black. I heard that was scientific and hardly took notice. Something about production? I bought a helmet to save my head and it could not be a white one, far too expensive. In that sports shop, however, all colors were on display together. 

We should have money sorted out in colors? Money is not racial or tribal. Oh yeah, the wider picture, black markets and black books and blacklists... those are just fine, you can add blacksheep...Ooops, I know it hasn't got a thing to do with black people... I can hear you laughing. But honestly, you can think what you will about people if you must but a service is part of the bargain along with the goods. A service is a service is a service and it must be part of trade. It is actually the thing we cannot quite buy  or quantify in cash. But I want to say this again, that it never would have been the same for other people I know.

I had then moved to that non-serviam counter in another queue. By the way, before you say it, I know the shops close at 20 00hrs and I was there half an hour before. 

In anycase, when I surfaced from where I was waiting after being told.. "Ett øyeblikk!" ("Just a moment!" ) even though I had seen him serve someone else in Norsk as he packaged some goods, there was no rush to close. There was only a rush after I made my point heard and demanded it be taken notice of by the man who now sent me off saying, to go to the blonde... hmm. I do state it as it should be and that is 'acultural' in Norway.

I insisted something was wrong... He went off completely, saying.."I will throw you out... out because you are...!" 

Were great words to hear! 
"I am. What?"
"Because you are...!"
"I am, what?" I asked again.
"He is not saying because you are black..." his colleague, a girl said nervously. "It is a misunderstanding!"
But well, why would he not say it himself? And throw me out for what? I asked him to try and do it. Now he says am rude. Heard that before when I speak out and all the best things you ever saw are on my school reports. I won't list them here but politeness is overdone. Anyway, if people are polite because they whisper about danger, and are never angry about what they perceive as evil, count me out. And indeed I have missed many opportunities for being loud and bold! Not new.

Remember I had waited as told... for that famous instance which turned out to be minutes... and then five and then six, and then, I left and found the man conversing and he acted like he was not the one. .. and now the small explosion... I have seen worse. But this is really what was so annoying... What was wrong with saying, "I am sorry, I forgot you were there?" Instead he draws the person he was talking to (a customer?), into it. Simply incredible. But so common in developed countries! 

 When he served someone else in Norwegian and left, I assumed he thought I did not understand Norwegian, so my simple request was relegated to a non starter and then he disappeared. 

So I am repeating that five minutes or more later, sorry it now sounds like a market, I come out of the "ytrest hørnet", rear corner like a startled gazelle and I see a man seated on some boxes chatting peacefully. So, I politely say, "Excuse me.. Unnskylld... kan du.. (å ja!) jeg lurer på om...There was a gentleman serving there and he told me to wait..." ( at this point he points further on and tells me to ask for the blonde... head.. point taken there is recognition of colours here.) 

It gets not uncomfy but ugly,  when things go like this. But there are days when things like this all come alive. 

I had a fantastic day shopping a cheap used bike that day and a super ride up tram 12 to Holtet... The only thing that got me on to bus 54 to town is that I had forgotten to take a visa photograph. I then remembered that I needed a Scan disk and decided to pick it up where I saved and bought some electronics from... I have to think about something better than this. But actually Siba, STOP this! Not acceptable! And yes, when I came back I told you I could take this forward.

And am not one of those who think that own race cannot be more racial.  I do not like talking racism but I have had to, being in Europe. It is dangerous to be too aware of this and yet it is important. When you make it your business to shout out what someone else thinks you cannot verify, here you get a huge label! But no matter... 

And the fisherman? He was at a dinner in a beautiful home in Nesodden a few weeks ago. I liked his Norwegian because it made me think if I could understand that, then I had made a good effort to learn. Gjort innsats! 

The fisherman read some complex things. First we thought he had memorised them. Then after a while we saw that he was staring somewhere at the rim of the table directly below the table cloth above his lap, the way a fisherman looks keenly at a fishing rod that begins to shake. He was pressing something. Oddvar began to laugh a little. 

In Norway, like everywhere else, you find sayings that make sense..
Betre å li for sanning enn å få lønn for løgn
Better to suffer for truth than to get paid for lying... 

The fisherman's stuff was even strong! . like the one about the white cloth on a dead person.. which is always placed on every circumstance... to whiten it... I will find them Norwegian. Trying always to make a good impression. The stuff was heavy even for the locals. Let us get lighter.

But I prefer to remember, only sometimes, fairy tales.. like- 
"A .... a long time ago.. there was a huldra...  And in the end, the Norwegian way, no Scandinavian.. no... even German too, at some stage? Just say, snipp, snapp, snute! These are the words that  end a sweet or a bad tale. Siba, snipp, snapp, snute, Simba!

In Norway, in Oslo, I expect better standards and this is because the nation is held in high esteem. There are things cannot just be neatly ended as snip, snapp, snutte! 

I take great exception to the fact that I sat with an outgoing South African ambassador at the cafe in the G Hotel long after we had asked for service. The place was not crowded. It was a real pity that reference had to be made to apartheid days. These small terrors which no no law has been strong against in the world. In driving, either you obey the rules or you get off the road. If you stay you stay on kill also children.

 I keep saying to myself, is this real or are you crazy, all this time, oh poet! 
 But then people wake me up with nastier stories! I have not even started...I really am fed up with the 'G' class at Katedralskole and so are the teachers, so is the kommune, so are the parents, so why is it on? Thank you bureaucracy!

The ambassador... here everyone is equal so titles do not matter...  we sat on and had our little talk. We admired Ibsen's corner presence in that art work. I will have to go back and see it again to see who it is by. Bet it is on the internet. Yes, this is where Ibsen had his coffee punctually so that you saw him and you saw the time. 

I am having an aside with Ibsen. So what are the times like in Norway today, Ibsen? I was asking him when no one could hear.  You see, we have equality and we do not use our titles to get anything. At 14 years you came to Oslo to look for work. There were no classes of the rich and the poor... did they come and then go away? Nobody wants to know, and just as well, who one really is because everyone is equal. And I have been asking where you are rested for some years now. They say it is better to remember you on Carl Johann and in Doll's House. Yes, your footsteps are big letters... but I yearned to hear you speak today. Would I understand your Norsk? I think a little, but sure your message is relevant even in China. They act your plays there.  OK, that is over, back to reality. It is on precious land we step on and live in. I know that Norway's nature... mother nature is open to peace.

Ambassador? Thank you Norway titles here do not matter. Apart from the long wait, to be seen, all was fine at the hotel. And of course the gracious lady would just be a lady and not bother complaining much, but she took in every detail. She knows of Norwegians who gave almost their all for apartheid to die and that is great. She knows of hundreds who are doing remarkable things for people of all races and that is brilliant. But there are many who do not seem to be aware at all that they owe this country a better service even if they were born here. Many who come here will only have impressions made in public places to count on. Don't now say, H .... it does not matter we are the world's best country to live in... no you have to be better than the best.

 Many forget, that they owe Norway their best even if they were not born here but are Norwegians. 
"Have a good evening all the same!" shouted Johanna

I remember my swim in Drammen with my happy Pakistani friend. It was back in 2010. My first spring.  Wow! Hoosh! I beat my Afrikan drum and later I shall strum that guitar! 

Only this morning as I jog around a happy park. Every step here means something to me. Exile has its ways.   

To leave the known and to be where sometimes it is so hard to reach out or see anything familiar. And to find indifference. For if one cries foul at least they must be heard. Why did Siba turn a deaf ear? I gave Siba my card, I got none in return, I asked for a number and name and was not given any. I am not for this kind of 'politeness'! I love to hear...I am listening.

Today I have heard birds form my flat almost all day long and for the first time from down in the basement! It is July, and a Norwegian summer. The summer and the bird, I think keep saying.. "I may not be here for long! Enjoy me now!"

 Back to the park, the doves that normally twitter around the lovely, even though artificial, pond there do not run away when I jog through their flock. They will only do that if you raise your arms... I go gently and they are my friends. Sometimes there is a child with two open arms. Now the palms of the child come together and the child laughs as she ... often she, realises that she cannot catch the dove in her hands. Children want to catch doves. I love it. 

Norway... nobody I know goes round saying am Dr. so and so... in mail. The reason is we expect to be treated equal even when we are decorated. But still please, when some black women walk into a cafe or a shop, I am almost certain now for some strange reason their dark color is invisible! 

Invisible?  Black Huldra this time! The title of my next book...The life of Simba and Black Huldra. In Norwegian folktales a huldra is a fairy creature. Beautiful one with long light hair, remember I am happy to be exceedingly black. She lives in the forests or under the mountains. She changes from fancy beauty if things are nasty... If she is shortchanged by the one she loves. I want to believe nobody can kill my love for the whole world. I look forward to the day black people can walk without remembering that they are black. I know at home we have tribalism and racism and I am so glad we make a big fuss about both of them because this is a wonderful sign, beautiful. 

It is a sign that we have not accepted and never will... Yes, one little boy tells me it will never be over and I tell him, in that case, too never one should standing up against it be over...