The Marianne Foundation

It is the second month of my seventeenth year, and this September I am supporting women and girls in rural Uganda with the Marianne Foundation.

Marianne empowers girls to empower the world. We take the lowest members of society – poor, rural, black, African girls – and give them jobs, support, and love.

We do this through fundraising and by increasing global awareness, for example through Facebook posts (I wrote this one).

I heard about Marianne from a friend. But I wanted to support Marianne because their cause is one that is important to me! I could not have put it more succinctly:

“Empower a woman, empower a nation.”

Marianne Foundation



Humanity & Anti-Racism

It’s difficult to know what to say in this post, maybe because it is so easy for a little white girl to say, “Black lives matter.” It’s easy but I am not black, heck, I don’t even live in the States. What right have I to say it? What can I say?

I do not know what it is to be black. I do not know what it is to be black in America. But I do know what it is to be human, and maybe some people have forgotten that.

In his book, Blood in My Eye, George Jackson said this:

“Freedom must then be interpreted a thousand separate ways, but it actually comes down to freedom for a few families and their friends—freedom to prey upon the world.”

George Jackson

In sociology class this week, we are learning about stratification. What determines the hierarchies of society? One such determiner is race.

“After the killing is done, the ruling class goes on about the business of making profits as usual.”

George Jackson

It is so easy to be one of the privileged. It is easy to pull an arbitrary trigger once or seven times or a hundred times, it is easy to for a sheriff to say they were past curfew, it’s easy for a little white girl in Africa to say black lives matter. It is easy to forget.

Revolution is aggressive, said George Jackson. Yes. The protesters in the streets and activists crying for change can attest to that. But revolution is also recognizing humanity. And we are all human. Said David Krieger,

“To be human is to recognise the cultural perspectives that bind us to a tribe, sect, religion, or nation, and to rise above them. […] It is to recognise good and evil, and to choose good. […] To be human is to be courageous. It is to choose the path of compassion, rather than the path of complacency. It is to break the silence, and to be an unrelenting advocate of human decency and dignity. It is to sacrifice for what is just.”

David Krieger

It’s been 36 weeks since the beginning of the year. And police have killed at least one black man or woman every week of this year.

Dreasjon “Sean Dadon” Reed.

Four victims were never identified.

George Floyd.

“That’s not a chip on my shoulder. That’s your foot on my neck.”

Malcolm X

Maybe there are better things to forget. David Krieger said it:

“To be human is to break the ties of cultural conformity and groupthink, and to use one’s own mind. It is to recognise good and evil, and to choose good. It is to consider with the heart. It is to act with conscience.”

David Krieger

Tomorrow, I will begin the next month of my seventeenth year. I will be officially supporting the Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA) and unofficially supporting the Marianne Foundation. But I am not moving on, because I cannot. I cannot forget.

Fifty-seven years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made this speech:

“I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

“Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. […] But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

In response to Mahalia Jackson’s cry, “Tell them about the dream, Martin!” he continued:

“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Finally, this from Ijeoma Oluo:

“The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward.”

Ijeoma Oluo



Enter Imogen (Scene One)

My name is Imogen Lee, and I can recite all of Macbeth by heart. See, this is because my grandmother, who raised me, is always saying bits of it, and when I got old enough to read she made me read the whole thing and then we performed it together, just the two of us. It is just the two of us. After I get home from school Grandma and I are together. She doesn’t work, But don’t worry: my dad let us plenty of money when he died. I was four. Mom died when I was zero, I suppose. It was when she was having me.

Oh, but I have to tell you my story! It all started a month ago when my teacher made a special announcement.

“Class before you go, I have a special announcement. Burgundy Elementary is going to be holding a Talent Chow! In honor of our student Beth, who won ‘America’s Got Talent’ last year, we will hold our show in the same way. Four judges. One winner.

“Anyone who wishes to compete should submit their name to me by the end of the week.”

Well, nobody could talk about anything else after that announcement. We were all so excited. We were all sure we were going to win.

When I got home I told Grandma all about the Burgundy Elementary Talent Show. She was nearly as excited as I was.

“You’re going to enter, aren’t you, Im?”

“Um – well, I guess. I can do a play. It’ll be like Broadway!” My greatest dream is to be on Broadway. I’m already an actress. But I want everyone to know it.

“Let’s get you ready,” said Grandma, standing up and going over to the storage closet. “You’ll need a costume…”


Zeke Went Home (Part Four)

(Zeke’s story is in four parts. Don’t miss Part One, Part Two, or Part Three!)

They put him on medication. It would stop the ‘dreams’ as they called them until they figured out what was going on.

For Zeke this was it. They took Thando not once now but twice. Maybe they don’t understand that you are what makes me happy Thando. He did not eat. He hated sleeping: no Thando. Zeke was stuck in a dream with no end.

One day Aunt Emma had an idea. “My church should pray for the boy. We prayer warriors move mountains.” Zeke’s dad carried him thrashing from car to church. No miracle.

Then Zeke heard another conversation.

“James. We’ve made a mistake.”

“He was so much happier before.”

“Is it– is it too late to go back?”

“I don’t think we have a choice.”

“Zeke. How would you like to go to Africa?” He couldn’t stop crying.

They made Zeke eat first. he felt like normal again. Zeke was happy for the first time since Babe Lushaba had decided Thando must go.

Finally Zeke went home. Thando too returned. Boarding school was finished. Holidays were long. Maybe the mlungu isn’t so bad. There are schools all around us. Zeke was home and home to stay. His recovery could begin.

(Zeke’s story is done for now. Maybe some time he will once again join my cast. Until then, look out for Imogen Lee! She’s the newest fictional contributor to 13CK.)


Zeke Went Home (Part Three)

(Zeke’s story is in four parts. Don’t miss Part One, Part Two, or Part Four!)

Zeke had to wake up. He knew it was time. He could hear his mother’s voice in his ear. ‘Wake up. It’s morning and you need to get up. Her voice sounded a long way off through the happiness of his dream. He’d just scored a goal…

Zeke had to wake up. Thando can wait. I will come back my friend. We will play tomorrow. “I’m awake.”

“Well then get on out of bed. Today we are going to church. Our first time since we came back–“

“I know. I think I’ll be up in a second.” Her footsteps bounced down the hall. Thando I promise I’ll come back. Just need to finish this dream first.

Church. Then Zeke returned. In his dream they flew back home and Thando was waiting when they arrived. They danced together and built a town with sticks and plastics.

America was a dream. Swaziland was reality. Zeke woke up every day to find Thando again. He slept and dreamt of a life he did not recognize. In it were many faces. Places. Worried questions. “Is he okay?” “What’s wrong with my son?”

Once in a dream he told a woman about reality and how Thando was always there. A few days later Zeke didn’t wake up.


Ad Astrum

This is to a star. You know,
when stars die they call it supernova.
It’s an otherworldy summons of light,
but after supernova the light is gone.
After the majesty one star is no more.

One day, the sun perhaps will go supernova.
No one will sing a love song ad solis.
There are some things we can live through,
and others we can’t survive without.
There are some choices with only wrong answers.

Canamus solum ad astra cernamus;
parae resae ad mundus non communicamus.
We only sing to the stars we perceive;
we do not share the little things with the world.
No ballads were sung for a shipless Argonaut.

Baby stars are called protostars. They are formed
by the phantoms of star-death; brought forth
into nebula. When stars are born
do they know they will one day die?
Every star deserves a supernova devotion.


How I Saved the World (in only twenty minutes), Part Two

I knew one day I’d do something great! It was bigger than busting out the Quarters at midnight. Bigger even than rerouting the computer system to my Tumblr.

I think I saved the world.

It was a week ago, and the UN was holding a top-of-the-top meeting. Huge secret. Only the big leaders were there. ‘Cept one.

I had to see what was happening, so I used my trustiest way of eavesdropping on the conference quarters. Didn’t even take an invention; I just visited the Junior Negotiators loo directly above. It turns out a very important someone didn’t show. O, I’ll call her – I know who she is, but I’m not allowed to tell, so basically I’m saving the world every time I don’t say it.

O was missing, and the big leaders were worried. Apparently their relations were a little unstable and the meeting was supposed to solidify their cause. Yeah, and the safety of the world. O had bombs. Not the nitrate-and-sugar kind, either.

While I was listening, the big leaders got a call from O. I can only assume it was a video call on a wall-sized screen, like in the movies. Turns out she didn’t want stability, and she’d prefer to blow half the world if she didn’t get what she wanted. One hour. Three demands. I won’t tell you want they were.

Well the meeting exploded. We are going to die, we should tell the citizens, we should give her what she wants, we can’t possibly meet all the demands, we need to get into her computer system and freeze everything.

I only heard the last part. Hey, I could do that. I did that at the Quarters about once a month, just for kicks and bargaining power. Sprinting past a squadron of bodyguards and down the stairs, I headed for the conference quarters.

Before I reached the door I thought better of it. Last year two big leaders had threatened my life if I dared enter the room again, much less transform their Slack icons to the Simpsons. Besides, the hustle inside would sooner knock me out than give me a chance. I changed direction and reached my room in a matter of seconds. I think I left 8-foot skid marks, too.

I opened my laptop, put on my glasses, and set up an algorithm I had written. Twenty minutes later I was in and O was out. Spiderman couldn’t have been any more exhilarated when he saved that trolleyful of kids and Penny.

I raced back down the hall to the conference quarters, wriggled past the guards, and busted into the meeting room with my laptop. The big leaders had just brought in a scared-looking Junior Programmer and were all explaining the problem at once.

I went straight to my dad. “Dad, I did it!”

“Darrell, did what, not a good time, blow up?”

“Dad, dad, I got into her system. O’s. I froze her. We’re not going to blow up!”

“What…” Dad glanced at me and my laptop. “Darrell, if you messed with the system again you’re in for it.”

“No, dad, I did it. I. Hacked. O’s. System.”

My dad freezes. (Like the system.) “You did it.” I nod. “Come here. To Ariel.”

Ariel is the Defense Councillor. I call her, ‘Ms. World Peace.’ She knows nothing about programming but she’s in charge of this situation. My dad hustles me over to her.

“Ariel. Ariel! Darrell did it! She’s in! She froze the system!”

She grabs my laptop, examines it as if she knows what she’s looking at. “Arthur, he’s what, fourteen? It’s a joke.” She hands back my laptop and returns to the Junior Programmer.

But one of the bodyguards steps in front of her. “Darrell is a kid. The most annoying kid I’ve ever seen – and I would know. I have to babysit her every day. But the kid has talent, ma’am, and if she says she’s done it, she’s done it.”

Ariel is bewildered. But the Junior Programmer leans around her and takes the laptop from my hands. My expression becomes a smirk as his becomes shock. “She’s done it!” shouts Eric. The room goes quiet. All the big leaders look at him, then me. I nod.

After the relief and a few drinks – one for me, too! – people start asking questions. I remind them that they must be glad they didn’t kill me. Reporters come, too. I am a genius, they say. The world deserves to know.

So that’s how I finally did something great. My face is all over the web and now I have more bodyguards than ever. Doesn’t matter: I understand the safety thing now. We all have to do our part to keep everyone safe and save the world however we can.


How I Saved the World (in only twenty minutes), Part One

I was on the carousel when they found me. For three bodyguards with the ever-constrictive tracking device, I’d say the 15 minutes of freedom I stole were quite satisfying. Only I wish they’d let me finish my ride.

Back at the Quarters, where my dad lives, I got the typical thirty-minute lecture on personal safety in a foreign environment. I recited most of it with him: “Immediate evacuation is a possibility at any time;” “Loss of enjoyment is preferable to loss of life;” “Meager temporary consequences obscure overwhelming permanent misfortunes.” I think this means he could lose his job if I cause too much trouble.

My dad has a pretty sweet job. I hate it because it’s the reason mum’s gone, but it also bought us the Quarters: 50,000 square feet of tastefully decorated luxury. I’d rather have mum, but dad’s happy. He works as a foreign affairs chief for the UN. I think this means he tells the people who work for him to talk countries out of blowing up other countries.

Me, I’m Darrell, and most times I’d rather be in the flat where I was born, running around with my mates. Aiden and Luca and I were just kids when I moved and mum stayed. I haven’t heard from any of them since. So I run off like today and ride carousels. Visit asylums. Spy on the UN meetings.

Someday I’m going to do something great. I’m just not sure what yet. But I don’t want to end up like my mum or dad. My role model is Charles Babbage. Oh, that’s right – I invent things. I forgot to mention it because everybody else already knows. They find it quite annoying.

Today I made a duplicate of the ever-constrictive tracker. I hacked the original (it’s an ankle bracelet – kidnappers are less likely to check legs than arms for these things) and wired the bodyguards to the duplicate. I threw it in a cotton candy machine at the carnival. I’m sure it went haywire. Bodyguards don’t panic. They go superman. My head is still ringing from that tackle.

As the bodyguards escort me to my room, I plan my next escape. Maybe I could bust the alarm system. But I’d still need a glass cutter to get out my window.

(I will publish Part Two of this story tomorrow, Tuesday.)


Story of My Life

I am a writer. My words form the map of the places I’ve been and the places in which I remain. My stories carry lifetimes beyond my own.

I am a global citizen; home at once everywhere and nowhere; traveling continent to continent and knowing world upon world.

I am a woman: a girl, a bearer of a better future with my strong heart and will. Never forgotten am I, women, in the upward diaspora of pain and hope.

I am a reader, a deposit of words. Ideas fill me and I only wish they were mine. I’ve been through history and past the present and deeper than the center of the earth.

I am the bridge between worlds: the observer of culture, the mender of the disconnected, the transportation of humankind. I lessen distance. I am the middlewoman. I translate the words of the speechless.

I am a human; I am a feeling-creature; I am a fellow-creature. I am the product of chance and a message. I am the carrier of comfort, the passion for change, the city on a hill.

I am not alone because I am of the world and have seen its masterpiece.


Zeke Went Home (Part Two)

(Zeke’s story is in four parts. Don’t miss Part One, Part Three, or Part Four!)

Zeke woke only a moment later but the town had changed. Gone was the smell of maize over a fire and the line for the ATM. Instead his parents were with him in a tiny room. Doctors Without Borders read the wall behind them. Zeke’s parents were so relieved to see him well again.

Later at home Zeke lay in bed listening to his parents talk in the kitchen.

“We’ve made a mistake.”

“Zeke is lonely. He’s depressed. But they told us if we give him attention and time to recover he will be just fine.”

“James. We need to go home.”

They went home. Zeke watched Frozen 2 on the plane and he remembered every detail. Everything before and after that flight was a blur.

He and his family rented an apartment in a strange city in a strange country. Zeke was lonely. His cousins came to visit and they were scared because he was silent and carried Africa with him. He was afraid too.

Doctor after doctor said Zeke would be fine. They tried medication. They tried talking. Zeke thought of Thando every day. He forgot where he was.

One night Zeke went home in a dream. He was back at the compound with bare feet. Thando was there. Boarding school was finished; they were together. Zeke and Thando played football till sundown.


The Plane Feeling

I get this feeling every time I board a plane like maybe I forgot something;
something I need;
something I’ll be devastated to find myself without when I reach
my destination.
I unpack my backpack in a panic, searching for answers,
but all my possessions are there
— book, notebook, stuffed animal —
I know there’s something I’ve mistakenly
left behind.
I retrace my last steps through the empty house to the packed car but nothing
is displaced.
The fear holds onto me until we reach the hotel and then I realize what I
left behind.
It’s. . . me.


Rock, Paper, Scissors…Shoot!?

(This post was written by my TCK friend. Thanks, mgani!)

Rock, Paper, Scissors: a game of total domination and control. This ultimate game of war features three immortal stars; each returning to the battlefield  with a taste of vengeance in hand. (Ha ha, get it?) There is Rock. Unmovable, unchanging, grounded, and solid– but quickly blinded by Paper. An opponent fueled through technique and style– but in its hubris, falls to the quick and keen Scissors. A warrior known for speed and direction– however, lacks the foresight to anticipate the crushing blows of Rock. Constantly dueling in this ring of resurrection, only to be slain again and again and again. The inhabitants of a cruel Osoborous.

And we just kinda play it for fun, I guess? To see who gets the last ice cream cone? Whose turn it is on the iPad? Because there’s nothing better to do? Yup. Me and my family just play it in public– only, after being born in Japan and that being my parents’ second home, we play the Japanese version. We play Janken. In a hot fury of sound, all joining together in the great summoning of these heroes –amidst the chaos of the American mall– “SAISHO WA GUU, JANKEN PON!” Some of us win, some of us lose. We’re all getting ice cream regardless. But then, we feel the prickling feeling that we’re being watched by someone. We all look around: nevermind, no one’s watching us. That’s because everyone is watching us!

I guess that’s the price to pay for Janken. Oh yeah, and the constant conjuring and killing of Rock, Paper, and Scissors…Shoot!?


Zeke Went Home (Part One)

(Zeke’s story is in four parts. Don’t miss Part Two, Part Three, or Part Four!)

As he watched the kombi drive away Zeke knew he would never be happy again. Without Thando what would he do? Who would he play with? Who would climb trees with him to pick mangoes or play football from morning to night? Nothing would ever be the same now that Thando was gone. The complex would be quiet and lonely.

On the walk back to the house the tears came. He’d known they would. Goodbyes always made him cry. Why must Thando leave? Boarding school? There are schools all around us my friend. Zeke knew Thando hadn’t made the choice. Thando had cried too. It was Thando’s father who had sent him away. Babe Lushaba wanted Thando to learn his native culture with other Swati boys instead of “wasting time running around with that white boy.”

Nobody else wanted to play with the white boy either.

Zeke reached the house but did not go inside. He crouched on the grass and dug a hole in the soil with a stick.

He would make a new friend.

But two months later Zeke was still alone. He’d tried to make friends but the little ones ran from the mlungu in fright and the older ones already had their friends and hangouts. Even Spek the dog had left. Every day while Zeke’s parents worked at the mission Zeke sat alone in the house. Every day he grew sadder and more lonely. He wrote to Thando and Thando did not reply. He wrote to Thando’s father and Babe Lushaba replied and said Thando could not receive mail except once a month. Two months passed and still Thando did not write. Zeke decided to forget about Thando and stop caring about friends. But he found that he still remembered. He still cared.

Zeke needed Thando. He decided since Thando was not coming back he’d better go find Thando himself.

It wasn’t hard to begin. Zeke started walking. He knew where Thando’s boarding school was because it was big and they drove past it on the way to the airport. But after some time Zeke got scared. This was when he remembered the stories of the old python that lived on the road and the thieves who sometimes attacked people. When he reached the paved road through the township Zeke felt better. That’s when he got tired. His legs kept moving though. Thando is more important than my painful legs.

For hours he walked until he reached town. There between a stall of maize and a barbershop Zeke fell down quietly.

(Part Two is coming soon.)


Places I’ve Been and Places I’m Going

I’ve been a lot of places in sixteen years! The purple pins are the places I have been. The blue pins are the places I am going.

'm Going.
Places I’ve Been and Places I’m Going.

Places I’ve Been

Matsapha, Inkhundla Kwaluseni, Manzini, M202, Swaziland;
Houston, Harris County, Texas, United States of America;
Abilene, Taylor County, Texas, United States of America;
Dallas, Dallas County, Texas, United States of America;
Austin, Travis County, Texas, United States of America;
Edmond, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, United States of America;
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, United States of America;
Paris, Henry County, Tennessee, 38242, United States of America;
Oregon, United States of America;
Washington D.C., Washington, Washington, D.C., 20500, United States of America;
Maryland, United States of America;
Virginia, United States of America;
California, United States of America;
Kentucky, United States of America;
Washington D.C., Washington, Washington, D.C., 20500, United States of America;
North Carolina, United States of America;
Panama, Distrito Panamá, Panamá, 0833-0293, Panama;
London, Greater London, England, SW1A 2DX, United Kingdom;
Paris, Ile-de-France, Metropolitan France, France;
Rome, Roma Capitale, Italy;
Venice, Venezia, Veneto, Italy;
Florence, Metropolitan City of Florence, Tuscany, Italy;
Doha, 15054, Qatar;
Durban, eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality, KwaZulu-Natal, 4057, South Africa;
Pretoria, City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality, Gauteng, 0001, South Africa;
Cape Town, City of Cape Town, Western Cape, 8001, South Africa;
Johannesburg, City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality, Gauteng, 2001, South Africa;
Orlando, Orange County, Florida, United States of America;
Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia, United States of America

Places I’m Going

Mexico City, Cuauhtémoc, Mexico City, 06060, Mexico;
Buganda, Cibitoke, Burundi;
Norway, Namsos, Trøndelag, Norway;
New York, United States of America;
Massachusetts, United States of America;

(It’s an incomplete list.)


Welcome to Earth: It’s Big.

When I was five or so my aunt called from California and said I had a ‘twang.’ I guess that’s what you get when you’re born in Abilene, Texas. Ten years later I went back to Abilene and was told, “You have a strange accent. Where are you from?”

Africa, I said: eSwatini-formerly-Swaziland. After all, I’ve grown up there and hardly remember the land of my birth.

It began when my grandparents decided to come home. They lived at African Christian College as long as I have, but “home” was the States because that is where their children and grandchildren were. My family flew across the ocean to see them. It was my first time outside the country.

My family – me, my two younger sisters, and my parents – loved our stay on the campus. We made friends. My dad taught a class.

But boy was I surprised when six months later they sat me down as said, “Ellianna, how would you like to move to Africa?” Well I’d never moved before, only read about it, but it didn’t sound too hard. Turns out it was.

I had a life in Abilene, little though it was, and I missed it. I wonder now what my life would be like if we’d stayed. I might go to public school, have a driver’s license, date someone. But in all that time my life would be so much smaller than it is. I wouldn’t have flown for 17 hours or eaten NikNaks or gathered friends from six different continents. (Twenty countries. I counted.)

I’m glad I made that trip.

Now I fly back and forth year after year. My dad’s job takes us from one side of the world to another. To me, they’re two different planets. There’s even two different Elliannas! But you can’t tell the difference unless you know them both. And that’s only me.

I’ve learned to blend in anywhere and where I can’t blend in, stand out in the best way I can. I’ve learned to make friends no matter what. I’ve learned the importance of hugs when you say goodbye. I’ve learned that not everyone is like me and that’s okay. I’ve learned that what’s strange to me is normal to others, and I’m pretty strange myself.

I’ve learned that people are… people, pretty much everywhere. (Well, at least in twenty countries.)


After the Last Day

It is evening, and it is the Last Day. Our suitcases stand in a row by the door. In groups come uncles who are not my mother’s brothers, aunties who are not my father’s sisters, passing in and out to wish us safe journeys.

I don’t want to live the Last Day.

I don’t want to wake up to No Day tomorrow or begin the First Day someplace hat isn’t home. But it is the Last Day.

“Hannah, it’s bedtime. Sleep well. Tomorrow we go home.” But before I fall asleep I draw a picture of my special mango tree and hide it under my mattress. I hope someone else will find it, someone else who can call this place home.

On the Last Day, I do not say goodbye. I remember when I said goodbye to my cousins and my real uncles and aunts on another Last Day, and I cried. I don’t want to cry and ruin the Last Day at home. Instead I take two Stock sweets and hide one in my secret box in my special mango tree. I give the other sweet to my best friend Themusa.

“I will come back, my friend. We will see each other soon.”

“We will meet, sister,” she says.

The States is big and loud and greasy and scary. People I don’t know smile at me and people I do know will not greet me when we cross paths. There is no shima here, my mother says, but I can’t imagine how that could be true because the grocery stores are so big. People are always talking on their phones. Sometimes they wear tiny white things in their ears and talk on the phone that way and it looks like they are talking to themselves. I thought they were like Uncle Fana, but my mother showed me the little white earpieces and explained them to me.

We stay with my grandmother for a few days. She is very happy to see us and she takes me to buy new clothes because mine are too dirty and full of holes. I am happy to get new clothes but I don’t like it when she takes away most of my old ones. I won’t let her take my Spiderman shirt, though. She says I can wear it to bed. But I take it off as soon as I lay down on the soft lumpy air mattress. My bed at home is perfect: hard and flat, not rounded like hills of beans. I miss home.

My father makes many phone calls. The First Day didn’t go as he planned. Eventually he decides we will go back to Abilene, where I was born. Maybe he can get his job back.

In Abilene, we stay with Mr. Baird. At first I would forget and call him Uncle Bird, which confused him the first time but then my parents explained it to him and now he just laughs. But I have to practice calling men “Mr.” because I only have two uncles now and they are my mother’s brothers. Mr. Baird has a beard and he talks like everyone else here in the States: he says vowels all wrong and drags out words in strange places. A sales clerk once asked my grandmother if I was adopted. She said I talk weird. I said, “No, you talk weird!” My grandmother told me to hush and explained, “She lives in Africa.” The clerk didn’t believe her.

I am very lonely in Abilene. My parents say I will start school in August. Till then, I read books from the library. There are so many books but they are about people who live in the States and talk like Mr. Baird. When I get tired of reading, I write letters to Themusa. I know they will take months to arrive. Once my grandmother sent a Valentine’s card and we didn’t get it till May.

Every day is the same.

In July, we move into our own house.

In August, I start school. But I already know what the teacher teaches and the other kids bully me, so that doesn’t last long. My parents take me to a doctor and she says keep reading, so I read.

I read stories like Little House on the Prairie. I read history books. Indaba, My Children is a beautiful book and its words sound like home. My mother says it is too old for me but it makes me happy so my father says, “Let her read.” I read. I finish it too soon.

We go to Tennessee for Christmas. My cousins don’t remember me, but I remember them. They watch a lot of TV and talk to their friends on their iPhones. They have hoverboards and a big house and dogs. They have a swimming pool.

At last I get a letter from Themusa. “I miss you Hannah,” she says. “I told my new best friend Hope all about you.”


What Am I Doing Here?

Where am I, again?

Oh, yeah. Lockdown. I’m home.

If covid hadn’t paused the world, I’d be bouncing through the States right now, waking up on a different air mattress every other week and opening my eyes to ask, “Where am I?”

But I’m home: eSwatini.

Well, I guess I’m home. I’m an American-Swati and “home” depends on who you ask. My America parents call the States “home” and my sisters and I insist that this is “home.” My friends call me an African girl and then ask when I am going “home” and what will I bring them.

So I’m a little bit of a mashup, and that’s cool, that’s fine when it’s not giving me problems. I’m a TCK and proud to be one.

(A TCK, or Third Culture Kid, is typically a kid born to parents of one culture and raised in a different culture. The kid forms their own, third culture; hence the name.)

That’s what this blog is all about! It’s about embracing the variety of my culture and experiencing the joy and pain that comes with growing up a TCK.

I hope my fellow TCKs can relate and find solace in my words.

Lots and lots of books

Happy new year, y’all!

Way back when it was still 2020, I actually managed to keep track of (almost) all the books I read, and like always I’ve made lists and awards! I have my Top 6 Books list, my Honorable Mentions list, and my Old Favorites list. None of these are in any particular order.

So, I read 128 books this year, 40% of which were books I’d never read. Yes, I have too much time on my hands. What can I do? Here’s the complete list.

And now for the awards!

First, Old Favorites:

  1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  2. Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortuante Events
  3. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  4. Rick Riordan
  5. The Hunger Games trilogy

Honorable Mentions go to

  1. At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald. Fiction.
  2. A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali by Gil Courtemanche. Fiction.
  3. Fall and Rise: The Story of 9/11 by Mitchell Zuckoff. Nonfiction.
  4. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L Sanchez. Fiction.
  5. Taduno’s Song by Odafe Atogun. Fiction.
  6. Thank You for Arguing by Jay Heinrichs. Nonfiction.
  7. All Rivers Run to the Sea by Elie Wiesel. Nonfiction.
  8. A Human Being Died That Night by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela. Nonfiction.
  9. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald. Fiction.
  10. My Traitor’s Heart by Rian Malan. Nonfiction.

And the Top 6 Books of 2020 are…

  1. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
  2. A Separate Peace by John Knowles. Fiction.
  3. The Outsiders by SJ Hinton. Fiction.
  4. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Fiction.
  5. Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dreyer. Nonfiction.
  6. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Fiction.

These are all really awesome books! Enjoy, and comment below with recommendations for my 2021 book list!


August’s Closing Remarks

It is the end of my birthday month. Now I am old enough to drive and date a 19-year-old (well, legally).

This month, I

  • began my seventeenth year,
  • applied for nearly 40 scholarships,
  • published a course on Udemy,
  • began my active support of BLM,
  • completely neglected my blog, and
  • lived my fifth month in lockdown.

Next month, I plan to

  • keep up with my blog with a reasonable goal of two posts per week,
  • keep exercising and learning tai chi,
  • prepare for a concert with my band, Disaster, and
  • try to get a job.

I also plan to finish Imogen’s story, which I haven’t forgotten about. Yet.

I might write a book, too. You know, in my spare time.

At the beginning of every month, I like to plan what I’m going to do. It helps me accomplish things.

What are you planning to accomplish this September? Comment and let me know.


Bold Scholarships

Here’s what we call a win/win situation: I write about finding scholarships on Bold.org, a scholarship website, and I win some Bold Points. You read about my search for scholarships on Bold.org, and you hear about another item on my Seventeenth Year list! It’s a win for both of us!

Here is an item on my Seventeenth Year list:

  • Apply for at least one scholarship per week

This is for when I go to college in 2022. Anyway, I found this website called Bold.org, where I created my account and began applying for scholarships, all the while accumulating Bold points so I will be most likely to win.

I can also get nominated for scholarships, so go ahead and nominate me if you have an account or if this brilliant post inspired you to create one.

In the past month or so, I have found a lot of scholarship websites. I’ll have to admit (and seriously, I’m not even advertising), Bold is the easiest to use and maybe the most fun. Scholarship technology needs some graphic design help, for the most part.

So far I haven’t won anything, but I’m just following my list. Guess I’ll see where this rabbit trail leads me!

Seventeenth Year & BLM

Hey, it’s been too long.

Well, here goes: Two days before my birthday on the 12th I woke from my half-sleep with an idea: Why not make a list of all the things I want to achieve during my 17th year? I pulled out a notebook and scribbled down a list some two pages long. On the list were things like

  • Exercise regularly
  • Decide on a major (and minor)
  • Get a job

But the most relevant point on the list was this one:

  • Support one cause or organization every month

As my Seventeenth Year list dictates, I am going to spend the next year (from August 2020 to August 2021) supporting a cause or organization with everything I can, one per month. This may look like

  • Writing articles for my blog or for an organization’s website
  • Donating money
  • Signing petitions
  • Changing my lifestyle to be more sustainable, healthy, or beneficial to others
  • Emailing to ask what I can do to help

A few of the causes and organizations I plan to support in the coming months are

This month, I am supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. I chose this cause because I get emails from them with lsits of things I can do to help, and I get emails from them because I know their cause is a worthy one.

These are the things I am doing to support Black Lives Matter:

  • Reading Blood in My Eye by George L. Jackson, as are other BLM supporters around the world
  • Fasting from sunup to sundown in solidarity with imprisoned African Americans during COVID-19 (I did this for a week and just finished.)
  • Having conversations with friends and classmates about Black Lives Matter
  • Posting on my blog (obviously)
  • Signing petitions
  • Reading and learning more about this movement every day

I plan to post again this month about BLM, since this was more of an explanation of my Seventeenth Year project. Till then, feel free to support, criticize, suggest, insult, and argue at your leisure.

Love and strength from eSwatini,

Ellianna Elizabeth

PS Don’t worry, I’m still focusing on TCKs. I haven’t converted this blog to politics.

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