A field trip in my Journey 2013
A new and very important part of the journey is about to unfold, renewing my hope, faith and long deferred dream…
I am going home!
Imagine, an eight hour plane ride and your in another world. A whole other place literally, another culture with all the nuances, customs and cornucopia of characters; human images of all shapes, sizes emoting energies.
This part of belonging that has been burning, in my conscious, semi-conscious mind from the very beginning of my being. A yearning that came from my displacement. A journey my soul had been waiting for. An aching deeply rooted in my inner identity, my true sense of being. Waiting for this moment. I am going home…
Leaving a small northern Scandinavian homogeneous village, contrasting tall skyscrapers, vast expansive freeways, bright lights and the big city. The fast 24/7 city that never sleeps: New York City with diversity galore!
Everything was fast, as if you were being blasted from a saturn rocket to some off world planet. These alien characters were of a potpourri of colours and speaking in tongues from all over the world. They were vividly alive energies vying for space in time, on this small 26 mile Manhattan Island.
Stunned, amazed, purely wowed at the enormous diversity of this so called idea, of what people interpret as democracy and freedom. This idea and expression comes in so many different norms and beliefs in America. One can observe these norms in the interpersonal relations of communication, of people, food, dialectic language, news, media, reality-tv and entertainment at large. The trend of celebrity popular culture combined with the influence of the Internet, has taken the Idea of Freedom and democracy to new extremes. Everybody is searching for their 15 minutes of fame, their moment in the limelight.
In the era of instagram, social media, youtube and other fast evolving, ever changing world of information technology(IFT) such genres depicts the norm. A notion emulating the New Idea of Freedom that from my point of view became an interesting sociological observation study. This matrix of the world wide web that we are trapped in requires an unbiased open minded observation, to see these connections between reality and fictional freedom. The internet has crossed over into the cultural divide, emulating American Freedom and Equality whereby freedom is the elusive reality of this vast perplex concept.
A flashback, a soft dream of what my soul yearns to make sense of: With outstretched arms, the smell of the red soil, the sounds of cool breeze blowing, trade winds move the trees in unison rhythmically, I sense the emotion of already being there. The hot unyielding sun, a blaze, an incessant raging heat burns my skin to a golden chocolate tan. The scent of the perfumed lush floral fauna, intoxicated my senses. I am home! Home.. Africa! This is where my origins, my roots, my essence have been calling me for so long now… Africa, is where I belong. In essence; Africa is in my equilibrium of soul, conscious and spirit. This beating heart yearns to learn, know and discover the imbalance out of that long disconnect . It is Africa, that I have been dreaming of, and had waited so long to realise a dream come true..
The excitement of this reunification are fraught with tears of joy, laugh to keep from crying. All these emotions are welled in my heart, and stuck in my throat. My dreams had come true.
Back on the plane, only a flight travel away either way, west or south, just a few hours in time and space
It took me half a lifetime to realize this long journey. Coming home would finalize all the disconcertment. All the chaos, the time deferred, the need to be complete. To find my identity and belonging, was finally coming to fruition.
From the Americas, to the shores of distant European lands, continents and countries I lived. I witnessed, observed, experienced the imity, cultures of homogeneous societies. From cultural nuances, languages, to customs filled with pride and national identity. All of which I did not belong to. It took me 20 years to understand the importance of inclusion, to find my place in the world of belonging…
The profound experience of living in another world, where kinship, and being an outsider enlightened me, irrevocably. With great tenacity and sacrifice, I was determined to endure and stay the course. Living in a life of codes. Stepping outside of those codes meant being excluded from the culture norm. Coming from the other side of the fence made it more difficult to be a part of any group or participate within its hidden norms and borders. While trying to fit in and make one owns worth questionable, losing your identity in the process. This struggle of inclusive vs. exclusive where a xenophobic state of mind, creates an atmosphere of exclusion, where culture and identity is synonymous with belonging and that keeps it together, thereby creating that bond of nationalism.
Understanding these layers of hidden obstacles and identity markers from a phenomenological perspective heightened my awareness coming from another society, still attempting to be an integral part in this reality. These marks of identity that bounds, unites and becomes the creed of that which makes ones collective conscious, transformed through shared sociological behavioural attitudes. These collusive common ideas about how others do not know best, believing that their customs were ideologically superior, through “The Law of Jante”. A phenomenon described by Aksel Sandemose in his book “ A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks”. In utter compliance you either adapt or you leave?
I flew from Europe crossing the Atlantic, to the U.S. on that eight hour KLM flight, to JFK. From that very moment of boarding that international flight, you were totally out of control in this artificial environment 38 000 ft up, in the hands of a team of professional pilots and crew. These unknown souls all heading for the promised land, the land of the free, home of the brave.
Like sardines packed in a bulging aluminum can, everyone strapped to their seats. Hold on we are about to blast off into this technological time machine, suddenly we lifted off into another dimension, a world of contrasting ideals. Freedom was the next stop! This is the notion of the “American Dream”, what makes America the place of where everything is big, where the impossible becomes possible, and dreams come true…Yes! Yes this is the place of my origin.
I have been missing in action from the world of the creative artist, where my creativity, education, knowledge and skills had been deferred, while I’ve been living as an expatriate. Living between these two very different worlds, struggling to hold on to what is left of my own culture identity.
My friends, old acquaintances and even family detected my edginess, something was wrong. The irony of living abroad was surfacing. I learned to transform or assimilate to different social codes unconsciously to fit in society.
I’m in the New York subway system train, down in the bowels, the guts, the nerve center, the coursing heart and soul of the city..This vast complex artery that spans across hundreds of miles deep down in the depths underground, like some great big octopus whose tentacles extended reaching far and wide from Manhattan, Queens Brooklyn, and the Bronx. A few stops and your downtown. I clearly could see that I had transformed into this thing, the rush hour. There I was standing with all these souls patiently waiting for the train to transport us from one station to the next. What I noticed most was that everyone was looking around acutely awake. No time for docility or naivety. Everything and everyone was alive with high speed energy, roaming around in robotic data like procession. Processing every nano second in this overcharged environment. Information overload!
I was back from that small place where crossing in a crosswalk you did not need to look, because you knew it was you’re right, that the driver had to stop; it`s the law.
I have transformed in many different levels. I guess its all part of living in a foreign country for so many years. When I try to hold onto my identity, it is all that I have which is left.
In my circumstance belonging becomes who you are and what you are. In my consciousness, kinship living in a homogeneous place like Scandinavia, I found the juxtaposition of holding onto my identity. This became my quest for expanding my intellectual knowledge to understand this phenomena of culture, identity and belonging. I have been living in social codes and context where the ability to shift in and out of the different levels of ideologies, became a way of surviving.
I have four sons in Scandinavia and it has been a great learning experience of being the outsider for the past 20 years. There has been no other challenge as this one, that I have committed to be the best father I could, a father who had an integral part in his childrens life and upbringing
With many failures and passage of time, through the harsh reality of the inclusive vs. exclusive, of identity and culture; I learned and found out belonging means everything.
These differences has been made in a host and various everyday experiences for the past 20 years.. language, opportunities, tone, attitude, colour
The fact that I have been living under these circumstances. It became brutally truthful, and even at times painful, that my goals of being a loving, caring and supporting father was taken away from me in an instant. As if our kids had no right be with their father or I had no right to be there for them. Suddenly it seemed to be I was not good enough to raise them to their “Norwegian” standard? She said I could not win, if I tried taking it to the court system, to get equal parenting rights so they could get the best of both worlds.
Being an immigrant I felt marginalized and dismissed, when this discourse becomes intellectualised or justified through political ideological pathos.
Unwritten norms and their own understanding of equality, becomes hidden laws, that supercede International laws and regulations. An example of this is the significance of the unwritten norm of “Mothers Law” a tradition belonging in another medieval century. Are these rules under other guises of human rights?
Here, back in N.Y.C.
I was like a alien from outer space, from some offworld experiencing, learning, understanding what belonging meant with all its challenges of being just that. An alien, a foreigner, a new immigrant? I had been abducted by some fairy, lotus flower, swept away by its external essence, the beauty of what like that of a dream in the night, they came while asleep, a woman.
Whatever, I had this incredible awaking after four sons. I knew I had to find my way back to my place of true origin.
When I found out 82 percent of my DNA test told me I was of Ghanaian origin Africa, I knew I had to go home. Ironically I had to have this Journey through Europe to meet my cousins, from the motherland, here in Scandinavia. It has been an amazing journey, and coming back to New York City. I could see the confusion in myself, that I had understood all of this on a very deep personal and spiritual level.
You’ve heard the stories, all of them and even studied them, though distorted and exploited in its context, the history is controversial in its truths. From the first Europeans settlers from as far as Scandinavia escaping the terrible famine and diseases, and the overcrowding of people in these nations who could not feed their own. To the Italians, Irish, and of course the first African Americans that came with the first European settlers. These stories being told back then when I grew up and for many decades it was what we only were taught. Stories we should have been told that was kept away or hidden in the dark corners of the library or in the archives, these lessons needs to be learned, but most importantly revised today, so we can get to know the truth. American school system conveniently deleted great parts of Black history that was very adjunct to its historical rich development. Great Black intellectuals such as W.E.B. Dubois, Frederick Douglas, men like Marcus Garvey, and Booker T . Washington.. Have you ever heard about them, if not, why not?
These great men had held significant civic and intellectual power in the cultural development of the rise of Black prominence from America’s ugly history of enslavement. These men change the discourse of Black pride and cultural awareness, something that other groups coming from Europe automatically enjoyed being a part or kin.
One can never know or understand, what America is unless one experiences it, just as one can not get to know Europe if one does not travel to that destination. Then one can learn and understand the ideology of cultures vast complex ideas, concepts, languages and customs. Travel expands your mind set, but living in another culture encourages one to develop, through one’s experience with all the challenges positive and negative, you grow as a human being.
For the past 2 decades I have been living on the fringes of two cultures, learning a new one and holding, what little I can, of my own identity and cultural background. Living in these two worlds, this enormous experience has challenged my perspective of life and need to tolerate the significant difference of living in another culture or society. Yet, in the same breath afforded me the opportunity to research as well as appreciate more about my cultural truth, that was denied during my early years and later of higher education.
Living in a foreign land made me realize and understand the meaning of belonging. As every group or culture has its own identity, that which is belonging to a nation, that makes them a collective unified cohesive entity. It was here the truth and appreciation of my identity and culture took on its own reality metamorphosis, a
transformation. It was here that I finally knew and understood the meaning of belonging. The most interesting revelation from my research and studies was I knew had to undertake the ultimate trip that which I’m about to embark on. I had to go home, not to America, but to where I truly belong, and need to experience, see, smell , learn and explore Africa.
This trip back to America, was that reflection, and I knew my journey home was just around the corner. Africa is waiting for me. And I am waiting to return to where my journey really began…
So I went back to The U.S. and I was a witness to all these diverse souls which makes up this sociological melting pot, still deceived by struggles of class of the have and have nots. A place where a lucky ticket of millions of dollars, can make you a millionaire overnight, a life changing encounter of another kind. From the everyday hustle and bustle of a 9 to 5 grind, or whatever one does to make it, in this frenetic pace of insanity up and down. The subways with massive crowds vying for a space on the train platform, fighting for a seat as the train comes into the crowded 42nd street Grand central station station.
This is culture, this is freedom in the 21st century. This is the big city, the Big Apple, just waiting to take you away, to take a bite out of your ass, your soul or whatever is left after you have bitten into your share of the allure, the hype of bright lights, tall skyscrapers, the hip sushi bars, the late night entertainment the endless indulges of unlimited beauty, destitute combined with stress, and yeah! The endless demand to be up on top of your game with the hope that one day you’ll be sitting pretty on top of the world. Get Rich or Die Trying.
This is that culture and idea which is identified as the American dream…
Multitudes of faces lost in the crowd, holding onto this idea of the American dream is witnessed, right here, down in the bowels of the new York City Transit system…This is where I came from! This was the first part of my life.
Well yes, maybe it sounds all so romantically cynical . But even way back then in my early years I knew there was another world another place, and I had to search to come so far from the madding crowd to find my way to Africa…Belonging is so important and so real..for it was then and now more than ever.
Well fast forward backward!
It was and is reality that keeps us in check. Like the prince that went on the journey to find the beautiful woman that lost her shoe. Time had run out, the escapade of going home as the hour glass strikes, the plane is about to board. Once again the faces morphed back into, aliens of another world with languages of nordic voices. Time is up!, time to return
I am back. Stay tuned.. for another off world experience.