Letter From the Editors

Dear Readers,

 Welcome to our eleventh issue of Voices & Visions. Our staff is excited to share this edition with you, and we hope you connect as deeply with the theme of “Home” as our contributors did. The issue explores the many meanings of “home,” expressed in poetry, prose, interviews, and photography. The authors and artists also come from all over the world, including Deli, India; Kigali, Rwanda; and New York City. 

 The idea of a home is often deeply personal. But “home” can also have communal meaning. It can refer to a family or a town or a country. We hope you enjoy the many ways in which the contributors to this issue–students studying at women’s colleges and high schools, globally– interpret the theme of home. 

Aviva Green
Editor-in-Chief

My Hometown Girl

By: Mary Adeline Imanirakiza
Akilah Institute, Kigali, Rwanda

My hometown girl is sad, she always sits in her own dimmy corner with a heavy heart. She is hurt, she is suffering a lot. I have been looking at her for a long time, her big brown eyes blinking the tears back and forward in her eyelids. Her face is always cold and her voice is soft as a feather of a peacock bird. The more I look at her, the most I realise her beauty. She is young, powerful woman. Although she tries to force a smile on her lips, I can see her real smile from a far.

One day, as I was having a simple tour around the village, I saw her in her corner. She was wearing a small sunny dress that reflects her beauty in the sunlight. I was planning to let her have her moment, but my heart said otherwise. “You have to talk to her. Say hi at least!”. Who would ever disobey her heart, when it is the only fuel source. That’s how my heart gave me the power to approach her.

 I can’t forget how the pupils in her eyes danced when she saw me, she was surprised. “Hmm, can I sit here for a while?” I weakly said, I was afraid that she would turn me down. I thought that I was invading her privacy. But she smiled, I think it was a real smile. “Feel comfortable!” she answered me with a happy voice.

 It was my turn to look like a lost puppy, I thought that I was going to help a sad, weak girl that always sits alone. I sat down on the coral stone. I didn’t know what to do, or what to say because she wasn’t looking at me. Her eyes and mind were somewhere else.

 “This place is beautiful.” I said to break the awkward silence that was eating me alive, again she smiled. “Yeah, I call this place my home.” she said. Home? I wanted to ask her how the trees, shrubs and the poor houses around us were her home. 

“I call this place home because it is where I was born, I breathed my first breath here, I was breastfed by this place, I play around this place, I saw the first person in this place. So whenever I look around, I feel my heart swelling because this place is falling apart,” she continued, with unshed tears in her eyes. I looked at her feeling the same pain in her chest. What she was telling me is true. Our hometown was falling apart. There is no youth, young girls are mothers, young men are drug dealers and the adults that we call uncles and aunties are the bosses that own and  purchase the drugs in our community.

 As I look at my hometown girl, I understood why she sits in that corner alone and cries. I blamed myself for being blind and selfish. I only cared about myself. I should have realised the problems in the community. 

“You don’t have to feel sad or blame yourself. We don’t choose the communities to be born in, but we have a mission to make the community better than we found it. Therefore it is our turn to rise and shine, it is our time to make a change.” I didn’t believe that those strong words were from her. For a few minutes that I have been with her, I have realised that she is strong, she is courageous, she is hard-working, and that is my hometown girl.

When Sole Meets Concrete

By: Hana Rivers
Barnard College, New York City NY, USA

The mesh slippers we call Asian house shoes seem to me rid of historical specificity, at least the kind I am searching for. They are sold cheaply by the masses. You can find them in Chinatown, in colorful stacks neatly wrapped in gleaming plastic, but also parts of Harlem, and, inexplicably, on Amazon. It is nearly impossible to garner any research on them besides the fact that they are a commodity, a fetish object. They come hand in hand with articles about 90s-style footwear and flash shots of white celebrities in cheongsams, hair held up by chopsticks. At a few dollars per pair, with a wholesale value as low as nine cents per shoe, they lack value, are all but valueless.

These slippers come in a variety of shades—flaming orange, garish purple, hot pink, red. The shoe itself consists of a flat foam sole cheaply rimmed with zigzagging thread; a half moon of crosshatched plastic strips covers the foot from bony middle to toe tip. All along this makeshift mesh are sewn clusters of small beads. Scattered here and there are larger iridescent clusters made up of individual sequins stacked and fanned into floral shapes. The whole thing shines, reflecting light and exuding a cheap opulence which collides with its object-hood, its identity as made up of a number of disposable materials. 

Central to these shoes is their ability to transgress vestibule, to step out of the house and onto the streets, to move seamlessly from linoleum kitchen floor stinking of rice to scorch-hot New York concrete. As they transgress, they erode—meant only for the indoors, a barrier between body-edge and the sacred sanctum of private carpet, pavement wears them down. Transgression goes hand in hand with self-erosion, with the gradual loss of the object itself. An impossible metaphor; a threshold-crossing.

They seem to me a millennial, plastic, disposable iteration of the house slippers many Asian grandmothers wear across East and Southeast Asia. The latter are usually more substantial, often made from woven leather. My grandmother used to wear them, while shuffling across the scuffed hardwood of my mother’s childhood home back in Lansdale, Pennsylvania. In contrast to leather, plastic erodes, like ocean erodes rocks eons old; yet, unlike rocks, these shoes lack a history.

In light of their lack of historical specificity, I wear them outside, these markedly-inside shoes, abrading them on concrete and dampening them in the dirty puddles that line the curbs of New York streets. I do not feel I am scathing something sacred, even when the plastic upper disintegrates from the sole and the mesh lining sheds its iridescent flowers, loosely sewn, in a trail behind me. Shoes are meant to be a barrier between foot and world. What does it mean when we dispose of such a barrier?

These shoes are one of the few things I feel I can take with me, albeit in a different form and light, from my grandparents. Looking back at old photos of them, they have made themselves into style objects for a certain generation. The oldest photo I have of my grandmother is of her in the Manila airport in 1952, pictured with her mother, my great -grandmother, the last of the Bunyis. My grandmother’s mother wears a gauzy thing for a shirt, the butterfly sleeves like clouds dwarfing her thin brown arms, and a worried expression, the space between her eyebrows puckered with lines. My grandmother doesn’t seem to notice; she wears a stylish pair of sunglasses and a wry, coy smile that reminds me of my mother. In one, they stand, royal, at the edge of a pier in New Jersey, my grandmother looking like Jackie O in a long trench coat and sunglasses, my grandfather also wearing a trench coat, paired with loafers and a refined pair of reading glasses. In another, my grandmother is pictured on a boat, wearing a ruffly blue smock, as the sea boils behind her, whitecaps seeming to appear and disappear intermittently. The sea hems the sepia.

I overhear my mother and grandmother discussing the status of a piece of property back in the Philippines, one that my grandmother’s parents left to her and her siblings, an acre of land in Manila. My mother paces around the kitchen island as buttery light streams in from the back doors, her voice echoing through the hallway as she says, “I mean, I can’t, Mom. It wouldn’t make sense for me to have it. I’m so Americanized.”

And often, when overhearing her say this, I wonder: where does that leave me? Her daughter, doubly Americanized. The word “Americanized” compounded not only by my grandparent’s immigration here, their fierce attempts to speak only English, but also by the fact that their Philippines had always and already been a colonized entity. During the Japanese occupation, for example, the soldiers used my grandmother’s house as their headquarters. The family had to dress the oldest sister as an old lady, to dissuade the soldiers from raping her.

When I was small enough to sit in the folds of my grandmother’s skirt, she would bounce me up and down in a game we called “ping ping,” and her shrill laughter would permeate the humid rooms. As I grew older, I grew curious, and, sitting beside her on the scratchy plaid of that couch in the living room, I asked her to teach me some of her mother tongue, Tagalog, the language she never spoke. 

“Grandma, how do you say “hi” in Tagalog?” 

 “Oh. We just say ‘hi.’” 

When I looked up, her face was contorted into a pucker of shame. I dropped my gaze, fixating on her tiny feet in those brown leather house slippers. Over and over, I justify shoving myself into them, these Chinese discount store shoes, telling myself that I grew up on Clement street, took Mandarin lessons as a child, and even inherited my family home from a Chinese family. It would make sense to want to align myself with something that seems representative of a dominant Asian culture. What else am I meant to do, when I have nothing left of mine? When I have been made to inculcate myself into dominance my entire life, besides in the safe confines of my family home, the four of us trying to make our own community out of one we never had? What do I have left? Scraps maybe, but my grandfather died when I was fourteen, never having taught me how to make bibingka or oxtail stew or what we called ‘Grandpa stew,’ an umami-filled meld of potatoes, tender pork, and dark green leaves, whatever sort he had in his kitchen. 

The slipper: a cipher, then, for me, my grandparents’ granddaughter. Balenciaga made a pair once, in Fall 2016. Swathed in lace and Swarovski crystals, they retailed for one thousand, five hundred and forty-five dollars.

I wonder how the plastic these slippers are made from is produced, if the people inevitably exploited in their making are the same ones I think I’m carrying with me when I wear them. My grandfather’s cousin and mother’s childhood caregiver, Tita, still works in a factory to support her two grown children, having already paid their way through college. My mother was never allowed to have guests over growing up, because Tita was undocumented and the family was paranoid. She must be in her seventies, now, and still working. Until I see her, I always forget how thick her accent is, guttural to the point of near incomprehensibility. She is round, with a joyful smile and moles like stars dotting her dark face, and short enough that I could rest my elbow on the bun she wears at the top of her head. Nonstop toiling.

In my first two years at grade school in San Francisco I wrote haikus about koi fish and cherry blossoms, drew pictures of black-bunned, huge-headed girls wearing kimonos. I paid special attention to the eyelashes, slanting the eyes and drawing three distinct lines at their outermost edges, the lips a smacked triangle of red. Constantly, I would spar with Mariella Levy about whose drawings were better, and once I got in trouble for snatching back a drawing I had gifted her. I remember thinking that it was mine, the drawing, and that it was my best one yet, and that she shouldn’t have what I had worked so hard to perfect. She cried, Mariella Levy, the one other girl in my grade with a white dad and an Asian mom. In sixth grade, Daisy Batten, who was adopted, attended the Asian American Affinity club at our school, because she was the only girl in our grade with Mexican heritage, and so found solace in the small, rickety Language Learning room our meetings took place in. Me and the other girls who took Mandarin would always roll our eyes and laugh, but make space for her nonetheless.

There is a string that holds Mariella Levy, Daisy Batten and me in a taut line, the kind you hang your whites on to dry. The line sways slightly in a wind that ripples through long green grass. It speaks the languages of possession and dispossession, alignment and dis-alignment, but, most fluently, of something called in-disposability.

Again I ask myself: what does it mean to dispose of the barrier between foot and world? The distance between disappearance and disposal here is one mediated by residue: when you dispose of something, it does not immediately go away. For example, it takes one thousand years for plastic to biodegrade, one thousand years until the thing that was once the barrier immerses itself completely into the natural order of things.

Once, on Canal, while on my way to a yoga class, I came out of the subway and was immediately greeted by a frantic woman, her face lined and stricken. Green puffy jacket, white visor shadowing the eyes. It was one of those early summer days where the air was grey, the humidity placid, making everything feel fixed, immobile. The woman asked me something—in Cantonese, I think, the syllables too disparate and clanging for Mandarin—and searched my face for recognition. There was none; I couldn’t understand her. This mis-understandability, this failure of the residual, implanted something within me: a heavy stone, the kind that’s bad for skipping. Dark grey and slick with river moss, and stuck, suddenly, at the bottom of my throat. I mumbled an apology before dissipating into the herd.

I’m struck, often, by whatever it is within me that hopes for scraps like these. Like when I get a pedicure at the cheap place on 110th and Central park and the ladies there speak Mandarin instead of Vietnamese, and I am able to say, with a shaky voice, 请给我一点热水— please give me a little hot water. They’re happy to hear it, all of them jostling one other and giggling, as if it is something joyful that I can speak a small phrase of this language that is not mine, that was never even my grandparents’. I manage a meek smile, withdrawing, and make clumsy conversation with the woman scrubbing my feet. She has long dark hair pulled into a ponytail at the nape of her neck. Suddenly, I realize I do not know the word for lavender, so I say it in English— “Lavender, please”— and she takes the bottle from my hand.

Sometimes, my mother tries to recreate the adobo my grandmother would make when Jasmine and I were young. She does not use full-fat coconut milk. She simmers the meat in the instant pot and adds whatever greens have been left in the fridge for too long. The result tastes vaguely familiar, but the overwhelming effect is that of the Paleo recipe she used to make it. Filipino food isn’t healthy, she used to tell me when my grandmother would visit San Francisco and our family would go to Max’s in Daly City. My grandmother’s favorite thing to get there was the crispy pata, a thrice-fried mound of pork, a heart attack on a plate. “It’s a special occasion,” my grandmother would always say, stretching out the long a as if to plead. “Only a few times a year.” As children, Jasmine and I would always agree: “Yeah, mama, let’s get it,” we would chant. My father, ever the encourager of deviating from health, would nod excitedly. And we would, and my grandma would show me how to eat all of the meat off the bone so there wasn’t any remaining. I’ve always been good at that, at never leaving anything behind: at Thanh Long in San Francisco, that Vietnamese place with the garlic noodles and the crab where the waiters pull plastic bibs around your neck, I would crack the legs ferociously and let the drippings run down my face and soil the plastic. I would never leave a morsel untouched, and my parents would laugh at me, joking, “Its in your genes.”

It’s interesting to me, this intrepid desire to leave nothing behind, double edged in that the act in itself represents a fear of residue. What are the various manifestations of residue, in food versus in cultural longevity? For my ancestors in the Philippines, food must have, at many points, been a scarcity, the gnawed bones rooted in a compulsion originating in poverty; if not in my grandparents’ generation, then in generations before. In a country in which war has been imposed, transferred, carried across history like an impenetrable wind, it makes sense, the scarcity, makes sense, the lack of a residue, for all of that Spanish and Japanese and American influence must have erased most things of origin. Not my relishing of mango with sticky rice at cheap Thai restaurants; not the way my grandmother used to consistently get the gender of our old cat, Tang, confused, that remnant of a language barrier conjuring in the strangest of ways. The conjuring like a ghost in that it only ever appears when uncalled for. The language resurging in snippets of phone calls between my grandmother and her old classmates from back home. Who stays in touch with their friends from middle school at age eighty-six? Someone who fears leaving too much behind, I suppose. 

It’s easy to write in and around something without ever actually locating the subject. The subject evades. The subject has been made translucent by years of dispossession. An un-possessing of a place that was only ever possessed by its colonizers; language-imposers, rapists, pillagers. Recognizably this is an answerless task, to write about something that itself is not a subject. There is a filling in, though, the clotting of a wound, as with spiderwebs on fresh cuts. A swathing with stories, scabs, the parcels of memory wrapped in brown paper. But perhaps the answer is not the goal. Perhaps there is no goal except for the remembering itself. Re-member: to re-animate, to sew the limb back onto the body with a large needle. Skin and skin pulled together over absent, long-standing wound: voidful.

Tita’s kids, Nikki and Edwin, tell me this too. That there is never an origin point, a pure definition of this culture which evades. At the school Nikki advises at there is a Filipino heritage group whose only members have been pulled away from the geography of the place, who do not know about the insurrection or the tyranny, who are mixed. Placeless. In this way it is easy to think of the addition of whiteness as a dilution, as milk in blue liquor; whiteness creates further distance from whatever was once an origin, if there ever was one. And this mixing reinstates what was always the colonial problem: the pulling of people away from their origin stories. 

The slipper itself symbolizes a commercial exchange in which capitalism replaces culture, in which the dissipation of origin precipitates its transmutation into objects that mimic what once was, that provide those displaced from their cultures with a comic material object whose only role is, literally, to be degraded. Two summers ago, I would wear these Chinese discount store slippers all over the New York concrete. It was a stubborn, unreasonable act of defiance: against what, I do not know. All I know is that, by the end of August, the bottoms of the slippers had blackened with wear, having undergone an incessant process of gaining and losing: a gaining of whatever unsavory things resided in the folds of the sidewalk, a gradual losing of the shoe itself, the ridged plastic of the sole rubbing off in pieces against the ground. The grime, I took home with me: a different kind of remnant, I suppose.

My Home-Your Home- Our Home

By: Meeta Virmani
Lady Irwin College, New Delhi, India

This place where I live, I call my home,
The home as I know, leaves no one alone.

The home is my house, my community, my nation
The home is your house, your community, your nation.

When the home remains same for both me and you,
On what grounds then, are we divided in blues?

Why can’t my home be yours? Why can’t your mother be mine?
Why do we stay away? Between us, who drew this line?

This line which demarcates and differentiates your home from mine,
This line that is so destructive, so capable to obliterate the sublime.

Should we now pause for a cause, a pause to recreate the creation.
Which shuns away hatred, breaks away walls of discrimination!

I ask again, I request, if to you it seems fine.
Can my home be yours. Can your mother be mine?!

My True Home

By: Gentille Kampire Constance

Davis College, Akilah Campus Rwanda

 

The immaterial part of a human being

Which keeps all of us living

Where we find ourselves loving

With Limits or limitless

That’s what I call home.

My heart,

Origin of my personality,

Where I reflect with no one

Find reason for whole

That is my true home.

Where memories never fade

And passion keeps pushing.

Where all dreams come true

With strong feelings and emotions.

Where I can’t lie to myself

Show how special I am

That is my true home.

 

My Mother; My Home

By: Gentille Kampire Constance

Davis College, Akilah Campus Rwanda

 

“Why am I even alive?” I cried loudly covering my face with hands. “How can this happen to us? What wrong have we done to be punished with losing all of them?” I said with tears trickling around my cheeks. My mother smiled and bent over to me. She hugged me with one hand tapping my back and another hand holding me tight to her. 

“It will be okay, dear. I am here for you as I will always be.” I will never forget these words because everything has been okay from that day on.

She was a mother and a father, a friend and a sibling, a teacher and a counsellor. In her arms I find true love, happiness and empathy. In such moments, I feel secure and comfortable. As I listen to her heart beat, I wish I could stay forever in her arms. It was hard for both of us, my mother and I. I was only ten years old, in third grade. I needed school fees, school supplies, and money for shopping as my father had promised. On the other hand, we needed food to eat, water, electricity, and other groceries. My mother was unemployed with no education qualifications to apply for any decent job. My father was our breadwinner. He had a master’s degree in computer science and got a job to work in one of the tech companies in the city. We were not that rich, but life was comfortable for us. His income was enough for the family to meet our basic needs. Life was satisfactory.

Not one of us had dreamt about the accident, which caused us to lose our father and my two brothers. It was a car crash which left us alone in this world of pain and wounds of the soul which will never be healed. Maybe we should have stopped them from going to church that day or found other reasons for them to stay with us. They are no longer alive, they went home. However, I have never felt lonely since that day because my mother was there for me. She raised me lovingly. She opened my soul’s doors to happiness and blocked all the sad doors in my heart. With her around I am secure and comfortable. She never laughs at me or makes fun of me, instead she makes sure that I am doing well. I love her more than anything else. She is my home, my lovely shelter, and the greatest gift I have been given from the Lord.

Where I’m From

By: Andreea-Bianca Morecut

Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, United States

 

i am from sea and mountains and plains

and hills

i am from the weeping willow with its swinging tears from the warm, honeyed tea

and the ginger-mint lemonade

i am from beautiful landscapes

and cozy interiors

with fireplaces, porch swings

and soft classic rock notes sinking in the background

from the cautious sounds

of fingers flying across a keyboard

or the turn of the page, in which my whole universe lied

i am from the wind in the trees

and a full view of the milky way in the night sky

from day hikes and night camps

and picking mushrooms in the forests

i am from the fresh, cold smell of nature

and of the freshly baked bread

i am from the city, the hustle and bustle

of crowded trains and early school mornings

from cozy cafes

and silent libraries

i am from an ever busy city center

and a driven friend group

from weekly musings on philosophy, politics, and principles and heated debates about TV shows

from the silent nights in my room, alone

to outings with friends or game nights with my baby brother i am from rushed outings for bubble tea and sushi

and always sprinting home because of my curfew

from hurried writing sessions

and late-night reading ones

i am from the feeling of the book in my hand

and the wandering hands across the spines in my bookshelf the gentle, warm feeling of belonging 

 

I Miss the Stars

By: Andreea-Bianca Morecut

Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, United States

 

i miss the stars

the night sky, riddled with glittering jewels

the wishes of children

and prayers of elders

i miss looking up, just two hours out of town

and not being able to see one truly dark spot in the sky

i miss the carelessly drawn swipe of watercolour

dashing across the sky

and using some no-name app on my dad’s phone

to find the names of constellations

at the side of my lil brother

“uite acolo! nu, acolo! cum de nu vezi?”

were nights spent out camping

in the fields

with spring water and running skies

i miss being able to see the sky moving

together with the earth

in a menacing swirl of no pollution and cutting, cold night air

feeling small and, at the same time, meaningful

i would sacrifice hot showers for the trip

all over again

who needs running water when you have 5-litre water bottles?

vorbind de dusuri

imi e dor de dusurile de stele cazatoare

si simplul act de uitat in sus si vazut un univers… mai multe? n-as putea zice i miss making up new constellations

and ‘that’s a shopping cart, not a bear’

and wondering what the night sky looks like someplace else

imi este dor de cerul de acasa

and it’s the first thing i’ll get a glimpse at

once i’m back 

 

Unpaid

By Pranchal Gupta

Indraprastha College for Women, University of Delhi, India

 

A service that remains unpaid,

A full-time job over the years.

Amazing profession, but without promotion,

Neither appreciation nor recognition.

Double work on holidays without any extra pay.

The lunch box is ready, packed with love.

Her whole day is full of work,

From washing the clothes to cleaning the floor.

After the restless day,

Dinner is ready on the table with the same love.

She wakes up the earliest and falls asleep last,

Although the next day,

She needs to repeat the whole task.

She is your mother or your sweetheart,

Whom you call a housewife,

Doing nothing, staying at home,

She is the one who works the whole day,

To make it a home sweet home.

Pistachio

By: Eliza Siegel

Barnard College, New York City, United States

 

in my empty summer bedroom

 

dreaming in blue

 

I cradle my stomach,  a hollow cavern

from which I cannot see the sky

 

seeking pleasure, or something stronger

than pleasure, I switch the fan on,

 

am hit not

with air but

                dust

 

tonight the house is damp with a desire affixed

 

to nothing.

I converse with the silence,

 

scratch my skin as if

to wriggle out,

 

I long to escape the butter-lamplight that

casts my freckles as frenzied ants

 

and mottles the bruises

madly dancing

down my calf

 

coalescing in a peninsular shadow

before scattering again, undone

 

how can I cry out when my mouth is full of moths?

 

stifled, giving in to the ecstasy of gnats

cresting my head

 

I forget I am alone,

cradled by a swarm of ghosts

 

quiet is unhooking each vertebra from the next

before sinking into bed. 

 

The Missing Pages of a Textbook

By Nandini Rawat

Indraprastha College for Women

textbooks tell every child

the difference

between a house and a home

but they don’t tell

what to do

when a house isn’t a home

 

shut yourself out and seek out books

read and pine for lives

that will never be yours

thick tomes dense with words

too heavy for young wrists

the label “gifted” a flimsy gauze

for your bleeding mind

 

stand under a showerhead, dry

don’t let the water wash away the grime

it is your shield

against large hands and hot exhales

against unyielding thighs and bony knees

or so you think but all it gets you

are isolated corners

and repulsed faces

 

when a house isn’t a home

but a building

where the air is too heavy

to pull into your lungs

and the exit disappears

behind you

and the walls keep coming

closer.

 

Home

By Cristella

Uwiringiyimana Davis College Akilah Campus Rwanda

Short but not too short

Small but not too small

Colorful but not too much

Home is my stronghold

 

Beautiful palace is where I belong

The heavenly gift is what I was given

Succulent is what I live with

Home is my stronghold

 

Rights to live in harmony

Rights to education

Rights to pray

Home is my stronghold

 

Bright as the moon

Sun as the shadow

Stellar as the stars

Home is my stronghold

 

Live to grow

Sleep to rest

Wake to rise

Home is my stronghold

The apple of my eye

The rollercoaster of my emotions

Whenever I think of my home, my mind fades away

Home is my stronghold

 

As quiet as the air

As white as the snow

As strong as a castle

Home is my stronghold

 

Lovely like baby born

Laughter is like my soul music

Surrounded like the watery cycle

Home is my stronghold

 

The Mystery of Home

By Gisele Abizeye

Davis College Akilah Campus Rwanda

Some say home is just a place,

And to others it is a cherished space,

contemplating a little,

Both of them get belittled.

 

The instance you are not safe,

In the place you call home,

Would it be cherished?

Or the risk you didn’t want to take?

 

Realize trafficking exists,

Wickedly thrusting you to an exit,

Your home dwells in your heart,

An emotion that stays hurtful.

 

 Orphans have it the hardest,

Invading their otherwise peaceful minds,

Is the traumatic thought of the least?

Scarcity of all the aspects of home belonging.

 

Call not home a comfort zone,

Because you might end without one,

Some would live without a sense of safeness,

Since they have never had that zone.

 

Literally home is merely a perception,

For it’s dependent on your definition,

Some feel homeless with just the place,

Yet others have it all and still feel homeless.

 

Decidedly, safety is my perspective,

As I don’t need to feel forced admitting,

That I feel safe away from some relatives,

I could have otherwise viewed as my safetynet.

 

Sadly many homeless are  unaware,

They have believed the wrong definition,

That shallowly covers only the surface,

And heavily rejects the whole introduction,

 

Find your home and live in it,

It is  just a unit,

That is missing in your perception,

To fill out the whole definition.

Generations

By: Moe Hay Kaung

Mills College, Oakland CA, USA

A single room. Colliding perspectives. Three generations of women: a 81-year-old who peacefully watches Chinese dramas after a troubling past, a 49-year-old who obtained an international relations degree while facing the 88 Uprising, and a 18-year-old who would soon cross oceans to pursue her studies. Prior to this very encounter, my family rarely mentioned what happened in their past. They have been so fixated on new beginnings that they have felt that it’s unnecessary to mention any final endings. That’s where I disagree and believe that a little discussion about the past can go a long way towards the future, so I gathered all our perspectives into one room.

How was the rule of law during your generation different from now?

Grandmother: I believe that the rule of law during my time involved a lot more threats towards the citizens’ safety than our current one. Nowadays, life is peaceful with a government that dedicates itself to their citizens’ well-being. During my day, citizens were much more careful with their way of expressing themselves. Because of the former government limiting their free speech, they most likely felt vulnerable and terrified of speaking up. They kept to themselves and this, in turn, did not benefit anyone in the country. I am grateful for living on to witness how this all changed.

Mother: The rule of law under the socialist party involved a lot more censorship than the democratic party we have today. They restricted their citizens from speaking out against ideals, and arrested those who did. It’s much more pleasant now that the government lets us voice our opinions. I remember the drastic currency changes and inflation of prices that led to the student protests. These paved the path for a democratic government. But, you should know that democracy wasn’t easy to restore. Looking back, I believe that we’ve come so far and I hope none of us are forced to fight for our rights anymore.

Daughter: I was part of the 53 million Myanmar citizens who witnessed Aung San Suu Kyi gain her freedom after 15 years of house arrest. It was a highly-anticipated moment that soon led to her election as president. In the present day, we have finally re-established our ties with other countries and promoted innovation throughout the country. Meritocracy is gradually increasing in politics, education, and business. Censorship has faded into oblivion. Overall, the transition from 1989 (the year of Daw Su’s house arrest) to 2018 showcases undeniable changes that led to our revival.

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What was a significant event that occurred during your time and what impact does it have on our present?

Grandmother: Before the uprisings, the government unfairly raised the value of currencies and took advantage of the citizens’ belongings. As a result, our economy was unstable and the future of our country was uncertain. When our hard-earned money repeatedly went into their pockets, we knew it was time for a revolution. The rebellions against our former government, without a doubt, had an impact on our present. I am against what the government did, but it did drive the citizens to fight for reform, so I no longer complain about it as much.

Mother: The student protests inspired the 8888 Uprising. The struggle for democracy was no longer limited to just students—everyone in our country was involved in this. I wasn’t part of this struggle because of my fear of being arrested. Regardless, it was empowering to see everyone gather together to create change. These uprisings gradually led to our present-day democratic victory. When Daw Suu returned to visit her mother in Myanmar, she witnessed the uprisings and decided to help citizens fight against injustice. When the time came for elections, the majority believed that Aung San Suu Kyi must reign in order for democracy to become a reality in Myanmar.

Daughter: When Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar, it killed tens of thousands of people and left over a million homeless. The current government at that point had no choice but to put their egos aside and allow the UN and aid agencies to assist them. This event is still strongly remembered by present-day citizens, as the government initially rejected the offers made by those willing to help. I believe this is just a fraction of the series of events that rallied and influenced the citizens to vote for Aung San Suu Kyi.

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What was the situation for Myanmar women and how is it different for them now?

Grandmother: There wasn’t a role for women outside of their households back then. Only if a woman received a great deal of education, then would she get to secure a respectable role in society. If not, women spent the duration of their lives maintaining their households. These days, the doors have opened for women to seize educational opportunities. With these newfound opportunities, they have proven themselves to be equal to or even better than men in classrooms and in the workplace. 

Mother: The parents during my generation believed that education was important in their daughters’ lives, but should be set aside when it’s time for them to get married. The majority of society used to believe that women should focus on household duties and family matters. These days, women are breaking past traditions and venturing into the working world. There is much more freedom for women to follow their passions and dominate in their desired fields. I wish it was the same for our generation. If it were, Myanmar would no doubt be much more developed by now.

Daughter: The majority of Myanmar women used to sacrifice their dreams for the sake of starting a family. A positive aspect of change is that women are now more encouraged to assume leadership positions in any field of their interest. Esther Htusan, a female journalist from Myanmar, was the first in our country to win a Pulitzer Prize. Aung San Suu Kyi is now in charge of decisions in our country. Powerful women like them prove that we can accomplish anything we set our minds to. Nowadays, I see more women working nine-to-five while maintaining healthy relationships as well. However, it is important to mention that other than Daw Suu, there are not many signs of influential women in politics and other male-dominated settings. I have confidence in my own abilities to defy this and I hope I see more women doing so as well.

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What is the most valuable lesson that your generation has taught you?

Grandmother: Before the government interfered, people were able to run their businesses without any difficulties. Because of this, their children were able to stand on their own. I only hope that this mentality continues so that Myanmar’s current generation can sustain future ones as well.

Mother: When you’re passionate about a certain skill or craft, you have to continuously hone it despite the obstacles that come with it. As soon as you are capable, you can use your influence to help change the world.

Daughter: As part of today’s youth, I have a responsibility to advocate not only for myself, but also for social, political, and moral issues that deserve a platform as well.

Following this meaningful reflection on the past, all three generations of women in my family concluded the interview as a tremendous success. Despite our different values and perspectives, we share the same love for our country and its inhabitants. Our personal views on feminism do vary, yet we support outspoken females who know what they want in life. The events that we view as significant may not have a specific correlation, but they were all part of a chain reaction that led to us living on to tell the tale today. The moral of the story (or in this case, interview) is to be open to change. Even if you’re not fortunate enough to initiate it, become an open supporter of those who are bold enough to question the status quo. Better yet, break the mold and become that voice of your generation.

Many Faces

By Odile Uwimphwe

Davis College Akilah Campus Rwanda

People come by it diversely.

When it comes to home, people would give different definitions.

A shelter, a peaceful and calm place in their minds, some would surprise you.

As for some after a long day of work

A bed for the night will do to make the whole description.

 

Confused is the five year old

Trying in vain to understand how and exactly why

The one place that brings joy, happiness, comfort, and familiar faces

The same in which;

He experiences anxiety, panic, and sometimes, if he is not lucky, beatings.

All in one place he calls home “Mama’s home” or “Daddy’s home”.

With one stride of action, with one leg carried in a wrong direction

Joy, happiness turns into terror and the smiling faces turns into dark ones.

Then confused is his mind when he thinks of home as one would be if a mirror gave

A different reflection of the face he was viewing.

As he would be if that mirror was two faced or should I say many faced.

 

Single minded is the worker who, leaving his workplace tired

Exhausted, spent and drained of energy with one destination in mind: home.

A place with a warm, comfortable bed. The warmer and wider the better.

Nonetheless after waking up thinking of the face in the other part of the house, either

His wife or child, he remembers his problems, his money problems and last night’s conflict;

Home is no longer so safe and comfortable.

People cannot be blamed of being logical, can they? It’s no wonder whomever has no place to sleep is called homeless.

As if in a room with mirrored walls, each side gives its own reflection and so does home. So will a person get different answers if he asks a hall full of people: “What is home to you.”

Astonished he would think: “many answers as if many faced!” That is how he will go home with a new realization.

 

My Home is My Foundation

By: Mutoni Oliva

Davis College Akilah Campus, Akilah, Rwanda

 

Here I am standing strong

Holding hands of my own

Feeling loved and united

Screaming loud with my voice

This is what I came to tell

My choice, chance, family

All rolled into one

My home is my foundation.

 

I remember the day I was born

Too young to see the danger

Too blind to see the evil

fear making me run away

From those who loved me

Pushing me down into the vanity,

blindfolding me from every reality

The walls of my foundation protected me

From outside forces

Made me stand tall and never let fall.

 

They removed me from dark zone raising me to a comfort zone

Desperate for their love

Encouraging me to win not to lose

They trusted me when others doubted me

Every time I fell they pushed me up

Even shedding tears never let me drop one

Their support is till the end as always in the start.

 

My home dragged me through hard days

Brought a smile on my face that stays

What would I do without you dear home?

Your love and care stays in my heart

Beautiful sealed with a ribbon of trust

Soft and tender it’s warm and calm

Peacefully resting in my treasured mind.

 

The epitome of sacrifice, kindness of your heart

Taught me the value of the right start

The many compromises which you made for me

No one could see but I had to see

A perfect role that you played in my life

Helped me with my struggle and strive.

 

                        My home,

You are someone who loved me no matter who I was

Someone who cared for me no matter what happens

Someone who understands the deepest of my feelings

Someone who shares the best trust i have ever found

Someone who never change even if the whole world does

That someone it is my first love well known as my home, my foundation my entire world.

 

 

Your reflection is enough for me to know

Your laughter feels my heart with joy

Your love is silent when you show the many things that you do for me

When I close my eyes and I don’t see you I feel that I have lost in all

Your my light at the end of the tunnel

Today is because of your love that makes me stand tall

 

 

My home, your love and longing in life it’s the thing that I want all mine

Promise me that it will never change but will remain the same in hue

My home, your foundation is an inspiration for my life

I am blessed to belong to this sunshine that shines every day

I am not shy to say that with you I am only surviving and destined to fly

You are a home and without I would be homeless.

Where I Am From

By Peris Mwangi

Smith College

I am from the brick and tin-roofed house 

From the thickly carpeted living room floor

I am from the cold, red concrete floor of my bedroom 

From the soapy water and scented cleaning detergent

I am from the ancient creaky oakwood bed

From the possession of a duvet I’ve adored for years

I am from the tiny framed portraits hanging from my wall

From the 14-year-old picture album of my family on my dresser

I am from the pictures of daddy’s well-combed afro 

From mummy’s loosely fitting bell-bottoms

I am from the childhood memories of weekends spent at public parks 

From the lakeside camps and bonfires and road trips

I am from the evening painting lessons with mama 

From the sum solving sessions with daddy

I am from the pillow fights and real fights with my sisters 

From the nights we fell asleep in each other’s arms

I am from the dim lights at the fireplace 

From the bright light at my study table

I am from the big bowls of soup and potatoes at dinner 

From the house where candy and cookies are forbidden

 

But now I’m here. 

 

Awakening of a Warrior

By Yvette Dusabimana

Davis College Akilah Campus, Akilah, Rwanda

Nothing can stop her to believe,

Every morning is her new day to dream

Smile on her face, making herself and winding her waist;

She doesn’t know when, or how it will all end

The pain she gains, the scars all over her body

But she doesn’t care, she will rise again.

 

And rise she did, all her pain forgotten

Her tears wiped, her scars healed,

Her wings unfolded, and flies towards the sun,

Darkness behind her, she will never fall again.

 

Home

By Elizabeth Wayua Ndinda

Davis College Akilah Campus, Akilah, Rwanda

In a sleepy hilly village in Nyanza lies the home of Biage (her name means a granary). It is a compound of low roofed houses for each of his sons and grandsons. Each son also has a little grass thatched hut for all of their daughters. By the standards of Randani, (which is corrupted from London; maybe most of the villagers who live abroad end up in London and not Texas or Minnesota as I have always believed) this is a prosperous compound. There are cars parked in four of the compounds, motorcycles in some and even terrazzo pavements in one compound. The number of compounds in Biage’s homestead cannot be counted. It is a taboo to give a number to one’s children. This compound is fenced by the most prestigious plant in the region; bananas.

This is actually the banana republic. Welcome to Kisii County where bananas reign supreme. We do not only eat the sweet bananas but sell them for a living. Bananas are some of the county’s cash crops. Tea and avocado are the others. So too is sugarcane. These bananas are not only exported to Nairobi, but also to other countries of the world. Curiously, we never eat plantains. It is food for the weak. We, the people who call the banana county home, prefer millet ugali or the maize one if millet is scarce. West Africans call our ugali fufu.

Bananas also serve as a transport system for our famous night runners. They are believed to fly with the leaves at night. There are very potent concoctions on clumps of bananas. One is advised not to spend too long a lingering moment near any. The village rises and falls with the health of banana plants. That is why Biage made reference to this plant when she paid a rather surprise call to the home of his first born son one Friday morning.

You see, Biage had heard that his great grandson had been brought home from another Nyanza looking place called Rwanda. As was the tradition, the child had to get a ride on her back to be accepted into the clan. The little boy, unaware of the tradition, declined the offer. The confusion that ensued cannot be explained in words. Biage had left her warm bed at the crack of dawn to brace the dew and drizzle on a motorcycle to fulfill this tradition. She had travelled all the way from Randani to Magena (which can mean eggs or stones depending on the context). She had stilled her cracking bones with each bump on the ride. Her face had been beaming with a smile on this journey despite her circumstances, as this was a chance to bless the third generation of the great Nyatangi clan.

On inquiring why the boy had refused to climb on her back, “She is an old woman, it is disrespectful to make her carry a load as heavy as me.” Any persuasion did not dissuade him.

Now was Biage’s turn to take matters in her own hands literally. Her time was running out.

There is a banana tree outside this gate (pointing at the nearest one) Can that tree bear any bananas without the other lifeless tree supporting it? 

No

The boy’s older siblings replied

Which of these is alive, the banana tree or the other stick supporting it.

The banana tree of course.

While this story was being narrated, the little boy was resting easy on Biage’s back. He had no idea how he got there. Who in this great family had surprised the boy in to obedience without resistance?

 

Home

By: Malaika Kironde

Smith College, Northampton, MA, United States

 

I am from cement floors,

From vast spaces of farmland

And packed, stuffy traffic.

 

I am from goats and cows that roam where their ropes allow them to go,

And chickens that roam freely.

 

I am from kungu FM,

The station that is the primary source of news, gospel and local hits.

 

I am from meat that boils from dawn to noon,

And smells up the whole house.

How else would we make it soft?

 

I am from jiko’s and sigiri’s,

From food flavoured in banana leaves:

matooke nne ebigendareko.

I am from a dining table that is never big enough.

 

I am from gomesi’s, muchanana’s and kanzu’s.

 

I am from the heat.

I was born there and would like to die there.

 

I am from distant relatives, who I seldom know,

And functions that I always go.

 

I am from feeding the goats,

Putting down the mosquito nets,

And boiling water to bathe.

 

From the fresh air, but also the polluted air,

From the view of the lake that provides us with fresh fish.

 

I am from fighting over who eats the eye,

And buying nsenene by the road side.

 

I am from family and love.