Awareness of Self: The Death of My Ego

mind-sticky-notesMost of the time my brain feels like it’s a room covered in thousands of post-it notes filled with my thoughts. I’ve started to increase my awareness of the words written on those sticky notes and how they negatively impact my daily thoughts.

Okay, that sounded very philosophical. Let me break it down for you….

How It Started:

So there was this guy (yeah matters of the heart can always enlighten you) who I dated briefly. Having a keen sense of the type of guy that fits my personality and vision of life, I realized fairly quickly that he wasn’t my type. Nevertheless, I carried on ignoring the voice in my head that told me he wasn’t the one. The voice in my head told me that he checked all of my boxes and I was simply being my typical selective self. Despite the rational side of me trying to convince myself that he was a perfectly suitable guy, I just couldn’t feel the chemistry. Needless to say, my interactions with said guy unraveled and I was left feeling somewhat saddened, while my friends looked at me in complete confusion knowing what I failed to acknowledge until that point—I never liked the guy in the first place. but, how was I unable to see in myself what my friends were easily able to recognize? If you ask some of my friends, I just need to start smoking weed and be more chill.  Since that isn’t happening I searched for a more lasting solution, which I’ll expound on in a second. But first, let me explain further how my mind works.

The rational and academic side of my brain recognizes how blessed I am and how “accomplished” I appear to be by most standards. Yet, oftentimes I silently struggle with knowing what I think I need to feel happy, worthwhile and fulfilled. Sometimes, I think it’s having a successful career that feeds my passion, and other times I think it’s acquiring more wealth. Then there are moments when the need manifests itself in believing that my happiness and fulfillment will be achieved once I am married with children—until I speak to my friends who are married with kids. Although logically, I know that these desires will likely not cause me to reach the apex of happiness, it doesn’t stop the needs from creeping into my mind and lodging itself onto a permanent sticky note. This misperception was what precluded me from accepting that this guy was simply neither what I needed nor wanted.

So I decided to dig a little deeper. What was causing my unsettling feelings of dissatisfaction and uncertainty? I took the time to go into my head and consciously observe my daily thoughts. I focused on the sentences that replay in my mind while feeding my consciousness about who I am, what I want and how I approach the world. These were the subliminal reflections that penetrated my mind but were oftentimes not verbalized. I quickly realized that these thoughts were distinct from who I outwardly believed myself to be.

I perceive myself as a confident, self-assured woman; a person who not only knows what she wants out of life, but is well on her way to accomplishing it. I am smart, talented and sociable…I am blessed. So what is the problem? Why were my subconscious thoughts not always reflecting the Superwoman I felt I projected to the world? How could I rewire my mind to align itself with my outward beliefs?

The Realization:

I was determined to find the root of the problem. And after some reflection, I landed on three distinct letters that summed it up: E-G-O.

Our ego doesn’t only cause us to have an inflated sense of self. It can also cause us to create positive and negative mental distortions. Our emotions such as sadness, fear, anger, anxiety impatience and frustrations stem from our egos (I’m not that brilliant, this fact came from an Eckhart Tolle book I read).  I started to notice that my Ego (it’s capitalize because it has a life of its own) manifested itself in almost all of my thoughts. For example, sometimes I think exclusively about my shortcomings and overlook my positive qualities; this is a negative distortion caused by my Ego. Other times I disregard positive facts when they don’t align with my negative thought. For instance, when someone pays me a compliment—while I thank the person, I think to myself that he is only saying it to spit game. Or when I blame myself for something going wrong and ruminate on what I could have done better, while never fully recognizing that the real shortcoming was in the other person–like the guy I mentioned above.

So I finally recognize what needed to be done. It was time to rewrite some of those sticky notes in my head! But first I had to learn to separate my Ego from my true self.

Goodbye Ego:

I’m not going to profess that I have overcome the challenge of clearing the negative sticky notes from my mind, but at the very least, I am learning the importance of standing in my truth. I am becoming more cognizant of my feelings because most of them stem from my Ego, which is the driving force behind most of my perceptions.  It’s still a work in progress, and I haven’t conquered it, but I know that I am in complete control of my thoughts. Therefore, I am now able to decipher when my Ego is playing a role in how I am feeling at any given moment. 

So the feeling of sadness for said guy lasted very briefly when I thought about why I was sad.  It wasn’t because I actually liked him; my sadness was really driven by a deeper fear of being alone.  When I acknowledged that truth, I was able to rewire that distorted sticky note in my head and momentarily kill the Ego.  I am not alone. I have an amazing support system of special people in my life.  Therefore, the notion of loneliness was merely a negative distortion and not my reality. 

My Ego also tried to emerge one day while teaching a law school class. During the beginning of my lecture, the 30 blank faces staring at me caused my mind to start racing.  It was as if I was speaking to them in Arabic or some other foreign language they didn’t understand.  My (Ego’s) immediate thought was, this is my fault, I made this lecture too complicated for them.  I quickly retracted the distorted thought, took a deep breath and asked, “why am I seeing blank faces?”  A student quickly responded that the syllabus had stated that I was covering a different topic that day.  Crisis averted and Ego eliminated—my lecture wasn’t the problem! 

Lesson:

What I’ve learned from killing my Ego is your thoughts are way more powerful than what we verbalize.  They are like post-it notes permanently stuck to your mind.  When we allow our ego to manipulate and distort our thoughts, we give life to things unnecessarily.  Saying farewell to my Ego has been difficult–it was such an integral part of who I was.  It initially left me wondering how to fill its void.  But as I’ve cleared some of the distorted post-it notes from my mind, I’ve  acquired a sense of peace and comfort in learning who I really am and I’ve learned to stop taking myself and life so seriously. 

 

 

 

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A Letter to My 21-Year-Old Self

Dear 21-Year-Old Self:

I remember you like it was yesterday.  You were fresh out of college and ready to take on the world.  I must say, looking back, you have done a good great job!  I know at times it didn’t seem easy as you were growing into becoming your own, but knowing what I know now, there is so much I wish I could have said to you.  Before I start, let me just say that I’m still learning and the one thing I know for sure is that I’ve only reached the tip of the iceberg in what I have uncovered about life.  I have lots more to learn and will continue to share it along the way.  For now, here goes…


Life

Never live life as if you’re watching it from the sidelines—it will pass you by.  Don’t lose your passion and continue to chase your dreams—they will sustain you in times of uncertainty.  Trust what has helped to get you this far.  Remain vicariously happy and don’t worry about feeling like you must have it all together because you still won’t have life figured out in your thirties.  Yes, it’s possible for you to gain weight so continue to exercise and eat better.  Stop manipulating the texture of your hair–embrace every coily strand of it.  Make sure your graduate degree is worth it because those loans will be with you for a very loooong time.  Continue to feed your desire to see the world and all the beauty that it possess.  You’re a little uncertain right now, but your confidence will grow.  There will be additional moments of uncertainty but never let it rattle your confidence—you. are. smart. So far, you have lived your life like a textbook doing all the right things to become “successful” by your parents’ standards.  Let your hair down and become more of a risk-taker.   The moment you care less about what others think and stop worrying about missteps, the happier you’ll be.  Step out of your comfort zone.  What’s the worse that can happen?  It’s never too late to start over.  Every day you wake up gives you an opportunity to create a better you.  The more you practice being patient, uncomfortable and alone, the happier you will feel.  Stop thinking too much, the answers will come when you least expect it.  Your instinct will improve with age so never forget to trust your gut.  Surround yourself with people who enable you to laugh more; your demeanor will always be serious, but sometimes laughter will be the best way for you to get through.  Make peace with your past and when you feel lost, return to your center–meditate and pray.  Life is a beautiful challenge.

Family/Friends

Cherish your family, especially your parents—one day, you will look up and realize they are aging.  Remember that the aren’t going to be around forever.  You’ll start to sound more and more like your mother as you get older.  Don’t let it scare you because you will also have a greater appreciation for her wisdom.  At some point, you’ll stop saying that you do things to make your parents happy and will start to say you do it to make yourself happy.  It will be difficult at times for your parents and siblings to not view you as the baby–be patient with them and accept that in their hearts, you will always be the baby.  Never stop telling your loved ones that you love them.  Sometimes the lines between networking and creating genuine friendships become blurred.  As you grow and change you may lose a few friends—don’t be confused or disappointed. You will eventually learn that there’s a big difference between friends and people you merely know.   Don’t pay attention to the friends who mock you for not liking hard liquor, they will soon appreciate that your palate was built for wine.  It’s okay to not care about what everyone thinks of you—accept that you won’t be liked by everyone, but will be very loved by some.  Your family will always be your friends and some of your friends will feel like family.

Love

I don’t have this love and marriage thing all figured out yet, but what I’ve learned thus far is: love is durable but trust is fragile.  Learn to trust others and live your life in a manner that others are always willing to trust you.  Most importantly, always love and trust yourself, especially when facing adversity—you will only attract the love you think you deserve.  Don’t expect to be married by 30–you simply aren’t ready.  Use these years to experience all that life has to offer and don’t hesitate in kissing a few frogs.  I know you wish you dated more and spent less of your years with the same guy, but I’m here to tell you there’s not much to look forward to dating in your thirties.  Bu at the very least, you’ll have a few more stories to laugh about.  When you meet “the one” your relationship will feel easy and almost effortless—relationship drama is for the birds.  Your heart is more resilient than you think, don’t be so afraid to give it to someone who seems willing to appreciate and respect it.  Don’t worry, he will love what you think are flaws in yourself.  When it happens—and it will happen—try to ignore the voices around you that ask you how you’re going to balance a successful legal career and a marriage. It will simply scare you into feeling like you have to choose.  Love is not what’s complicated, people are.

 

What advice do you have for your 21-year-old self?

 

Are We Banning the Wrong B Word?

If you haven’t already heard, Sheryl Sandberg and a few celebrities, well-known politicians (Condoleezza Rice, Beyoncé and Jennifer Garner to name a few) and organizations (Girls Scouts) are campaigning to ban the word bossy from our vocabulary. Sandberg, author of the book Lean In, which I’ve blogged about a few times, believes that girls are mislabeled bossy when they assert themselves as leaders. Whereas, boys who demonstrate bossy characteristics are heralded for their assertiveness.  The ban bossy website states that “by middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys — a trend that continues into adulthood.”  Are Sandberg and her supporters right?  Should we ban the usage of the word bossy?

Before I began penning this post, I vacillated on my position to this question. Were girls growing up to become women who hesitate in asserting themselves for fear of reprisal — being called bossy?  Even if that were true, banning the word isn’t the solution. Rather, we need to learn the true definition of the word bossy and teach others to use it in context. Whether you use the term, bossy, pushy, bully, overly aggressive, abrasive, etc., it all means the same thing.  I don’t think Sandberg is prepared to go on a crusade to overhaul Webster’s Dictionary.

Bossy became a word in the late 1800s as a derivation of the word boss. Let’s face it, we all know some bossy bosses who are male and female.  A bossy person is someone who orders others around with very little empathy toward those on the receiving end.  Whereas, a leader is someone who has mastered the fine art of asking others to do things, using a non-forceful or menacing tone.  This, in its simplest terms, is the distinction between being a leader and being bossy.  So what our children really need to learn is this distinction; no one likes a bossy person, irrespective of their gender.  Bossy people may get farther than those with demure personalities. However, an individual with great leadership skills will always get the farthest.  As parents, it is important to not limit your daughter’s assertiveness as long as she is being kind.  Oftentimes that tone is mimicked by what she hears from her parents. Similarly, boys should be scolded, rather than praised, when their tone becomes despotic. Children will understand the subtlety more easily if it is demonstrated by their parents.  The intonation that parents use with one another could eradicate bossy behavior while keeping the word in our lexicon to remind us how not to behave.  In other words, the manner in which we communicate could eradicate bossy behavior in our kids.

There are other derogatory B words that relate to women that Sandberg should consider eliminating.  For instance, we have turned the word “b!tch” on its head. Lil Kim made us all want to be a bad b!tch and a queen b!tch; and Kelis embraced her bossy demeanor by telling us she’s the “b!tch we love to hate,” and Beyoncé, one of the spokeswomen for the Ban Bossy campaign, sings “bow down b!tches.”  Meanwhile the woman who is disliked is referred to as the crazy b!tch.  More important than not being bossy, women don’t want to come across as being b!tchy (in the negative sense of the word).  Unlike the word b!tch, bossy is a well-defined term that hasn’t been turned on its head nor is it vastly embraced.  Even if we teach children the true meaning of the word bossy, the little girl who would have been called bossy in middle school will still be mischaracterized as a b!tch (or b!tchy) either by herself or by her peers when she becomes older.  So the real campaign should be to ban the use of the word b!tch.  There is nothing pleasant about the definition of the word b!tch, yet we (myself included at times) have embraced it, using it as a term of endearment as well as a way of demeaning other women.  So while Sheryl Sandberg is worried about having her leadership style misconstrued as bossy, she’s probably being called a b!tch by people who love and hate her.  This seems more problematic to the struggle for gender equality because the insecurity will continue only masked in a different term.  Although I respect Sandberg’s premise that words are a powerful tool and we should eliminate words that can harm us, banning the word bossy isn’t the approach that women should take if we truly seek to empower ourselves.  I admire her efforts but she chose the wrong B word. 

Lawyers: Choose Your Clients Wisely

Before I delve into this topic, click here to listen to the clip of Senator Tom Harkin D-Iowa as he so eloquently voices to his fellow senators, a concern that should raise the eyebrows of all attorneys.

I often tell people there is nothing to really admire about lawyers–we come a dime a dozen.  You can find some of us chasing behind the ambulance that is taking your sick relative to the hospital, or convincing you to pay us for something that you could probably do yourself with basic reading comprehension skills and attention to detail.  But in reality, I love the practice of law! Being a lawyer is one of the most admirable professions despite the bad reputation that often accompanies us.  In order to practice law, an attorney must sit for and pass the bar exam (one of the most grueling tests that one will ever take in one’s entire academic life) of his respective state; an attorney is then sworn in to the bar and takes an oath that starts off similar to this:  “I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of …”  The most admirable lawyers are those who spend their time upholding our Sixth Amendment Constitutional rights by serving as counsel to indigent people who are accused of criminal offenses.

Debo AdegbileMany lawyers accept pro bono cases because we believe in the importance of providing our expertise to those who need it most.  As such, I am appalled at the Senate’s recent rejection of President Obama’s nomination of Debo Adegbile to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.  Their rejection of Mr. Adegbile is a subtle promulgation that attorneys should be mindful of who they choose as a client.  Before I go any further, let me provide a brief description of  Debo Adegbile. He was born to an Irish immigrant mother, who raised him as a single parent, and a Nigerian father.  After attending NYU law school he went on to work for one of the most prestigious law firms in the country. Seven years later, he left the firm to join the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.  As the litigation director, Mr. Adegbile participated in the preparation of a legal brief filed on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a journalist and convicted cop killer, which led to the reduction of Mr. Abu-Jamal’s sentence from death to life imprisonment. As stated by Dhalia Lithwick, “the historic mandate of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund—was to help ensure that the American criminal justice system, and especially the death penalty, is administered fairly and constitutionally. As a representative of an organization that is institutionally dedicated to ensuring that justice is administered fairly, [Adegbile] fought for fairness and…judges agreed that unfairness occurred.”  It is without a doubt that Debo Adegbile is one of the leading civil rights attorneys in the United States and was unquestionably very well suited to be at the helm of the civil rights division of the DOJ.

I am not going to debate whether the conviction of and appeals for Mr. Abu-Jamal are justified because it doesn’t change the fact that he deserves to be represented by counsel.  Our system was created to protect not only the innocent but those who are guilty, to ensure due process for ALL.  So much so that if your client tells you that he is guilty of a crime, you are still obligated to provide him with adequate representation.  However, I can’t help but wonder what if Mr. Adegbile wasn’t a black man defending Mr. Abu-Jamal? Actually, there is no need to wonder because Chief Justice Roberts once defended an unrepentant mass murderer who was recently executed. Yet, Chief Justice Roberts was never questioned, yet alone denied confirmation by the Senate. Nevertheless, Mr. Adegbile’s defense of Mr. Abu-Jamal caused the Senate to indirectly proclaim that Mr. Adegbile was guilty by association.  This Senate vote, and the power of police officers to influence politicians, speaks volumes and should be troubling for every single person in this country. The behavior of police officers has always been questionable as it relates to the black community.  With Mr. Adegbile at the helm of the DOJ Civil Rights Division, the community was certain to have a leader who is especially conscious of civil rights violations against the black community.  More importantly, any person who is ever accused of a heinous, high-profile crime should be concerned that some of the best attorneys in the country may shy away from defending their case.  The life of the accused may end up in the hands of ambulance chasers and attorneys with mediocre litigation skills.

The U.S. Senate has blocked more Obama nominees than all other presidents combined; but the most recent rejection of the President’s nomination of Debo Adegbile should send a chilling message to lawyers throughout the country to choose their clients wisely.

Do Black Lives Matter in America?

America is racist. But you didn’t need me to tell you that. Voting for a Black president has not transcended us to a post-racial society. We continually observe (and believe) that the value of a Black life is inferior to that of a white person’s.

I was not born in the United States. The majority of the people who live in the island in which I hail from are Black. One’s race is rarely a factor. Beauty is measured by the lightness of one’s complexion; lack of such beauty and the benefits accompanying it can be overcome by wealth. In other words, classism supersedes racism where I come from. So when I arrived in the United States over 27 years ago, I didn’t know the first thing about racism.  What I have learned since then is that Black lives don’t matter.

Racism throughout history has shaped our thoughts

Over time, I’ve experienced the subtle and not so subtle illustrations of racist America. I have come to understand that the inequities perpetrated by whites against blacks for centuries is now engrained into the subconscious of all of us. The pervasiveness of inequality stems from Black people’s fight to survive, coupled with a sense of powerlessness, acceptance of our place in society and complacency based on an illusory belief that Blacks are better off than we were 200 years ago. It is this reality that causes us to accept slave masters raping women, or to overlook the subtleties of depicting a Black man as barbaric. It has been engrained in us that if you come from a two-parent household, don’t sag your pants and you are articulate, then you will be accepted in society and won’t face the same obstacles as other Blacks. Or, because America was courageous enough to place a Black man at the helm of leading our country, then all of us should believe that we are now living in a post-racial society. It is also the subtle manner in which whites have caused Blacks to turn on each other by berating one another and becoming a divisive group.

Subtlety of racism in our laws

What makes Michael Dunn pull a gun on four unarmed young teens? Because our society has proven he can get away with murder. History has devalued the lives of Black males. As Thomas Jefferson once stated in 1820,”I consider a woman who brings a child every two years as more profitable than the best man of the farm.  What she produces is an addition to the capital, while his labors disappear in mere consumption.”  In 1955 Mississippi, Emmett Till’s alleged whistling at a white lady was grounds for beating him to death and being acquitted for his murder. In 2013 Florida, Trayvon Martin was gunned down because he appeared suspicious while walking through a neighborhood holding candy and a drink with a hood on his head. His perpetrator was also acquitted.

This isn’t a sensationalization of these events.  Just as we had laws endorsing slavery, we now have laws that circumvent the value of a Black person’s life.  Raising the defense that you had to protect yourself from the Black aggressor who you believe to want to harm you is sufficient to acquit a non-Black person for killing a Black man. Although George Zimmerman did not invoke the “Stand Your Ground” defense, this law is currently on the books in 16 states while 19 other states across the U.S. have some variation of the law. This means that white people like Michael Dunn no longer have to cross the street in fear of the unarmed Black man walking toward them, nor ignore the loud “thug” music coming from a Black person’s car. Rather, a white person can simply stand his ground and use deadly force if he believes a Black person is threatening his life.  It appears that Dunn’s only mistake on that day at the gas station was leaving three of the four boys alive.

This isn’t a southern problem. Racism and the lack of value placed on the lives of Black men is America’s problem.  We want to believe that justice is applied equally when in reality our crime prevention and enforcement laws and policies disproportionately target people of color.  Statistically, most murders are intra-racial. In other words, most white homicides are perpetrated by white offenders. Yet, the media only emphasizes that “black on black” crime is the primary cause of the deaths of Black men.  In a 2012 Urban Institute study, killings of Black people by whites were far more likely to be considered justified than killings of white people by Blacks.  When PBS Frontline asked the analyst of the study to make a comparison between states with and without Stand Your Ground laws, he observed that in most states, whites who kill Blacks were 250 percent more likely to be found justified than whites who kill other whites. In states with Stand Your Ground laws however, that statistic jumps to 354 percent.  With these types of data, one should understand the righteous indignation by many Blacks at the fact that a jury could not determine whether Michael Dunn was guilty of murdering Jordan Davis.  As is often said, justice is never applied equally–especially when the victim is black.

How to combat the problem?

I read many articles on these topics and often share in the anger and frustration exhibited by the authors. However, rarely do those articles provide a means or ways that its readers can effect change.  Although this isn’t an exhaustive list of solutions, here are a few: (1) we need to start educating ourselves on our rights as citizens and ensure that we are reaching young black boys and girls; (2) read and stay abreast of laws that are created in your state as well as federal laws; (3) understand the implications that the laws have on your daily life. Perform your civic duties: (4) Vote for every elected official that will have an influence on creating and enforcing the laws of your country, state, city, county, etc.–these laws aren’t magically appearing on the books; and (5) show up for jury duty. Emmett Till’s assailants had an all-white jury. George Zimmerman had no black members on his jury.

I hope there will come a time in the future when our great great grandchildren can look back on today and genuinely recognize that there has been a drastic change in the manner in which Blacks are treated in the U.S., and racism and injustices against Blacks will become less prevalent. I hope there will come a time when Blacks can say America was racist. But you didn’t need me to tell you that.

TAP TAKES C.A.S.H. ON THE ROAD

I am always amazed by the manner in which young people are at the helm of shaping the next generation.  Some, like Mark Zuckerberg have had a world impact.  Others, like the young man I refer to as my “little brother”, are changing the lives of kids, one person at a time.  Chris, founder of Together Assisting People (TAP), has an amazing story of struggle and transcendence (which I will save for another post).  And through his experiences, he is educating youths primarily in urban areas.  I am posting this article to highlight one of his most well-received educational series:

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TAP brought its Financial Literacy series to the City of Atlanta last Sunday, where Morehouse College played host to a number of top high school athletes seeking to hear more about the financial pitfalls of professional athletes and how students could avoid those pitfalls.

photo (5)TAP partnered with Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.’s Pi Chapter of Morehouse College to present the C.A.S.H. (Changing Athletes’ Spending Habits) Symposium—which focused on financial literacy and career planning. The forum featured a number of participants including TAP Founder and former University of Alabama National Champion, Chris Rogers; premier high school athlete trainer and founder of I-DareU, Glenn Ford; and keynote speaker and CEO of Champion Automotive Group, Knowledge DeRamus.

When asked what was the most important message to relay to the students, Ford said, “I thought it was important to stress to these guys that hard work and discipline are important to both success on the field and long lasting financial success off of the field.”

DeRamus, who has over 10 years of experience in automobile sales, broke down the process of automobile purchasing, including how to evaluate affordability and a prospective buyer’s buying power.

“Just because you have the money doesn’t mean you can afford it.” DeRamus told the crowd, stressing the importance of spending wisely.

photo (2)Rogers spoke about the importance of balancing academics and athletics. Rogers, who graduated with his Masters and a 3.9 GPA, while playing for Alabama and pledging Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, gave personal examples of balancing academic life with athletic and Greek life. Rogers attended Alabama on an athletic scholarship. He explained to the young men how he utilized all available academic resources afforded to him as a college student.

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Rogers supplied the student athletes with information about planning for life without or after athletics. He planted the seed of setting long term career goals that reach far beyond the confines of their chosen sport. TAP concluded the symposium by supplying each student athlete with a tie that could be worn to a job interview or to receive an award. “I want these young athletes to strive for academic scholarships because of the uncertainty associated with playing sports.” Rogers said. “In addition to a degree, I can definitely testify to the importance of having and maintaining good credit, as well as how attaining high quality careers will often require having credit in good standing.”

We have to ensure that we support young people like Chris and others who are working to shape the lives of our youths. Some may never realize how to creatively make a small difference in the life of someone else.  Chris has not only figured it out, but he is leading the charge in grooming young athletes to become better adults.  For a recap of the symposium given in December, watch the video below:

South Africa Adventures–The Art of Negotiating and Robben Island

After a long and relaxing day on the beach, we realized we only had a few more days left in Cape Town and hadn’t done much shopping.  Therefore, we woke up early and headed over to Green Market Square to haggle with vendors.  I didn’t bring my camera to take any pictures because we could not appear to be tourists.  But it didn’t matter because mom was a walking “I have money” target.  I tried to give her a few phrases that she could use so that she did not have to be a dead giveaway that she was American.  I told her should could say sawubona (hello) and unjani (how are you) which is the isiZulu greeting.  After that, nothing else should be said until negotiating the price of an item.  Mom refused to cooperate with me on this.  As we approached the first vendor he greeted us with a deep African accent, “hello mama, hello sista.”  Mom responded with a smile, saying “hello”.  His next question was “where are you from?” Before I could reply, mom quickly interjected “the United States.”  There goes my plan.  I bowed my head an walked away, afraid of what was going to happen next.  A few minutes later I saw him showing mom some artwork.  I hurried over before she pulled out any money and made a greater mistake.  “How much?” I asked. “For you and mama, I give special price,” he replied.  Yeah right, special American price.  Then he quoted her ZAR450. Wait, come again! Did he….huh….yes…I did just say 450 Rand.  “What?!” I responded.  “You want her to pay ZAR450?! Eish man! Cha!”  Cha is “no” in isiZulu.  As we walked away we could hear him saying “come back sistah; what price you want to pay?”  In that moment, mom realized that every price for goods in Green Market Square was negotiable and if she wanted something it was important for them to think we were non-American.  A few minutes later, I walked over to another vendor and was able to negotiate a “local” price of ZAR125 for a similar artwork (this is still overpriced, but not price gouging like the other vendor).

imageAfter haggling and purchasing up a few souvenirs in Green Market Square, we headed back to the waterfront to have lunch and embark on the ferry journey over to Robben Island.  The current was strong so at times the trip felt like a roller coaster ride at sea.  Mom was fascinated to learn about where Nelson Mandela spent the majority of his imprisonment.  Kjotso, a former political prisoner led a portion of our tour.  He described what life was like for many of those who were imprisoned on Robben Island.  The very first time I visited Robben Island, it was a very somber place.  However, this tour seemed like more of a tourist attraction.  There were portions of the prison that visitors could no longer get close to based on orders of the South Africa Minister of Arts and Culture (according to our tour guide).  Due to the holiday season, our tour was three times as large as my previous tour.  Mom and I took pictures and explored the grounds for a while, causing us to miss our ferry back to the waterfront.  As a result, we had to wait for the next ferry.  The driver of the this ferry must have been a speed boat racer because he was speeding through the water causing mom to become fearful.  Mom was practically squeezing the life out of the four-year-old little girl who sat next to her.  Her parents were very friendly and understanding.  We chatted with them briefly–they were from Pretoria (near Johannesburg) and came to Cape Town for holiday.  The mother asked us how our stay in the country had been thus far.  I explained that we were having a great time.  She remarked that she was sure South Africans didn’t know what to make of us.  This was the first person to understand what our experience has been like when interacting with locals.  Most often, mom and I are two of a handful of black people dining in the restaurant (the majority of the wait staff are usually black).  When we frequent areas where there are black locals, we also stand out.  Oftentimes, they  stare at us in bewilderment.  Maybe it’s because we smile and say hello to everyone we see.  Most people we encountered were friendly so standing out didn’t affect us.

On our drive back to the flat after leaving Robben Island, mom asked whether Table Mountain was on our itinerary.  Table Mountain is a prominent Cape Town landmark and a beautiful backdrop to the city.  It is approximately 3,558 feet and as I mentioned in a previous post, mom is deathly afraid of heights.  So I immediately responded by telling her that Table Mountain was not a planned stop.  She insisted that she wanted to overcome her fear of heights so we too a detour and I drove to the mountain.  As we ascended to the base of the mountain from the city (approximately 15 minute drive), mom repeated in a heavier than usual Jamaican accent, “LIST tek yuh time!”  I was barely driving 20 mph on a 60 mph road! there was no way we would make it to the top of the mountain at this rate. Mom’s palms were sweating and the mood in the car became very somber. As we turned into the entry for Table Mountain she started to let out large sighing sounds. We arrived in the parking area. Mom was frozen and did not want to exit the car. “Mom we have to get a ticket for the cable car,” I repeated twice before mom responded. “I can’t do it,” she said. Sigh.. I wasn’t going to force her because if it were up to me, we would not have gone because I know the depth of her fear of heights. I tried to convince her to at least come out of the car and take a picture at the base of the mountain which still provided a great view of the city. Once she refused, I came out to take a picture of the view for her then we slowly made our way down the base of the mountain and back to the flat.

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We had dinner at Baia and that was probably the best dinner I had during our stay.  I tried to keep up with Ace by clearing my plate.  By the time the meal was over I was so stuffed I didn’t feel well for the remainder of the night as I walked around with a belly that appeared to look 5 months pregnant.  We tried to walk it off to no avail.  Looking back, I don’t regret it. 🙂

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