Monday, 1 June 2015

Tales of a Hopeless Romantic in Transit

There was something about the way we made eye contact. In those brief seconds, I felt myself become akin to this man, a man I didn't know. No longer were we strangers, as those seconds filled the distance and years that lead up to this moment. 
There wasn't anything particularly striking about him. His white skin and male privilege dressed him easily, and occasionally I would catch him cracking a smile as toddlers waddled by like penguins, barely able to keep themselves from tripping over their own two feet. Stubble sat on his chin, a deep brown like his smooth hair; that smooth hair that you just knew he ran a hand full of hairgel through after his morning shower. 
As I dosed off, I'd catch him peering over his shoulder in my direction. My mind told me it could be a number of things: he either didn't think I was pretty, or he though me to be incredbily so; I was drooling and he might have been entertaining himself by it, or he just couldn't take his eyes off my piercings, like most people. 
Speculation got me nowhere, so I didn't find out what it was about me that beckoned him to glance over every chance he got. But as I sat there, making a marvel of his porcelain face, I realized that this romanticized reality need not end, as it was the whipping of my own mind and with it I might run and play a fun game called happiness. I might imagine love and romance coming with me to the beach, holding one hand as the other held on to a melting cone of gelato while the Portuguese sun beat down on us. 
For a moment, a stranger gave me promise of a reality that, in some alternate universe, could have been the most beautiful romance of my life... But I watched him step off that plane without uttering a word. Sometimes our fantasies do exist only for our dreams, and like many others, I had to let this one go. 



Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Something strange happens when you're about to leave a place, 
Something about all the things that meant the world changes. 
It’s like being in the finale of your own grand scheme, 
For once feeling like you're on the winning team, 
Because you'll be going away and gone for a long while, 
Death as a destination could only make you smile, 
Something strange happens when you're about to leave a place. 
None of the love can save you anymore,
But you say all the words to save all your loves, 
Because you need them to know that it wasn't them, 
and that when you're gone you're never really gone. 
Something strange happens when you're about to leave a place
And all I can do is share fleeting moments with friends whose eyes hold tears as they try not to cry, 
Share the potions that clear my pain with them, 
and put on a brave face for them, 
because inside I'm really hurting and scared, 
But goddamnit I love the people here. 
And it makes me sad to go, 
But I know there’s not enough left for me.

Something strange happens when you're about to leave a place, 

Arlana Shikongo
November 16, 2014, 4:21pm
White lines, 

In line, 


With white lies. 

Saturday, 2 May 2015

To Redeem Ourselves

We are people who run too fast, 
Run fast into the arms of strangers, 
And leap before we know we'll be caught. 
We put our hearts in fragile hands, 
Trembling,
The brittle earth shaking beneath their feet. 
But we run and we jump and we throw,
As though it's the last redemption. 
Redemption, 
Redemption from what though? 
Redemption for enjoying the throws of passion, 
For craving the texture of moist, cracked lips
On bare skin, 
In and out of where my crevices begin. 
Redemption for being inlove with making love, 
So that even when we're fucking, 
We're making love. 
Because people like us need redemption. 
Redemption for loving too much. 
Redemption for making love, and making life 
Especially when the intention is neither. 
So we run too fast, 
Run, jump and throw

To redeem ourselves. 

Arlana Shikongo
May 2, 2015, 10:31am

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Day Break

I drown in your eyes, 
Those galaxies that consume me. 
So dark, so rich. 
Encompassing the whole night,
But giving me none of it; 
Because auburn begins to fill, 
My stomach begins to warm, 
And as the sun colours the horizon, 
As if the line is where daffodils and sunflowers grow, 
Day breaks and the blue exudes, 
Washing over me, 
And me, washing into you. 
And it is fresh, and brisk, 
This day break of love, 
Bursting through, 
Birthed anew, 

Day breaks as I break into you. 

Arlana Shikongo
April 7, 2015, 10:31am

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Boundless

Pressure. 
Palms suffocating my mouth, 
Hands pushing down on my chest, 
Ribs, popping out at the seams. 
Hearing, my lungs 
Breathing, 
On their own, 
They've outgrown me. 
I'm sorry I couldn't stop
Black ashes from crowding your floors, 
Dusted core, 
Unhinged, a slightly fringed door
To a black hole, 
In which we sink, 
Quick, quickly, 
Quickening. 
Before I realize that you see me, 
You've seen me. 
Vulnerable; 
Discretion is lost. 
It is lost on me, 
But let me hold and, 
Host your body, 
Cradle me. 
Cradle me. 
Let me go. 
We were never here together. 

We were never here. 

Arlana Shikongo
April 5, 2015, 9:43pm

Underground Hip Hop in Amsterdam

The air that greeted me was thick with smoke; both nicotine and marijuana. Everyone was vibing to the tunes and the atmosphere was filled with genuine enjoyment. Sticky checked floors licked my soles, billiard balls clattered on a nearby pool table, and illuminated graffiti bouncing off the walls on the far right beckoned me to a corner where DJs, rappers and a rather solemn audience bobbed their heads to some seemingly complex verses. 
The underground Dutch Hip Hop scene was exactly as I imagined it would be. New school mixed with old skool, a rainbow of diversity embracing the spirit of music and liquor and marijuana flowing as loosely as the drug policy that allows the phenomenon to occur. 
The staring up to the slightly elevated stage, I push my way through the crowd and make it right up to the front. I swayed with the audience, memorizing then regurgitating words I didn't know just sing along to the choruses of some of these songs.  Once in awhile one of the free verses would be in English. I was very impressed by the Dutch people's ability to code switch between the two languages so fluidly. 
By the end of the night I was soaring. The company I'd come along with and the company I'd met offered my a new experience of hip hop and Amsterdam. 

Takeaway: attend an underground hip hop event in Amsterdam, because going underground is where hip hop is found.  

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Poetry Circle Nowhere - Amsterdam

Tonight I attended my first poetry event in Amsterdam. It was hosted by Poetry Circle Nowhere, an "ever growing group of young, passionate, writing performers that has its heart in Amsterdam, chapters in Eindhoven, Groningen, Rotterdam and Tilburg, but has the whole world as a playground", as they describe themselves. 
In a desperate attempt to find some sort of creative, open and spoken-word community, I went on to google 'Poetry in Amsterdam' to find this organization’s page and a few of their public events. 
I was nervous because of the obvious language barrier that might exist. Although I knew I could understand dutch, I anticipated that the language they used would be out of my range of understanding and I’d be stuck sitting like a headless chicken, lost in a haze of confusion. Instead, it was an amazing night with a beautiful mix of English, Dutch, singing, dancing and all around positive energy. Everyone was willing to share and open their arms to those of us that were new to their event or new to the world of spoken word. It was a quality I’d come to learn existed very much in these creative souls, which is why I found myself seeking them out and growing so fond of them.
I shared a poem tonight and the praises I got from these strangers played my heart like a Spanish guitar. I was impressed by their work as well, and gave credit where credit was due. 

It was a night of entertainment and inspiration. I have found my church again, and my soul is peaking.

Friday, 3 April 2015

You and...

Your hands on my skin, 
Wet nose on my chin. 
Reflections of your grin;
In glassy lakes we drive by,
Grass beneath your head as we gaze at the sky. 
Your tongue lapping up my tears as I cry, 
And I know the reasons,
The reasons why. 
Like a newborn, I'm a fetus of your soul, 
Connected to you by our umbilical cord.
Beyond who we are,
To be read in our stars.
I trust astronomy; 
Unconventionally we'll be, 
A fairy tale story.
What is, 

To shoot, and hit a par. 

Arlana Shikongo
April 3, 2015, 3:45pm

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Cascades

The Stars cascade

Tides pulling us in and out.

Licking the shore,

Then lapping it up again,

Toes buried in the sand.

The sky cascades,

Dark mass enveloping itself,

Me, myself.

Breathing it all in,

Cool and brisk.

Air.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

What is not....Life

It is not a sequence of days,
Building up one by one to be called a living.
Nor is it feeling the sun on your skin,
When the skies are grey and crying.
It isn't capturing moments on an iPhone,
Making the ordinary surreal,
So that to some body else it might seem,
Like you've got it all together.
It is not the moments in which you realize the little things,
And transcend your knowledge,
Your ideas of the meaning of being.
It is short,
It is simple,
It is sweet.
It is not a sequence of days,
Building up one by one to be called a living.
It is life;
It's a real thing,
...and it's happening to you as we speak.

Arlana Shikongo
April 1, 2015 4:57pm

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Rainy Afternoon Epiphanies

It was a rainy afternoon and I was hungry, so I walked into this dingy little place I saw from across the road as I cycled home along a canal. It was called "DeWerf" and the first thing you'd notice looking into it was the bar and its shelves of liquor. None the less, the little board outside read "DeWerf Eatery". I was already parked and standing in front of the door, so I decided to head inside. 
It smelled musky, much like you'd associate with the antique-y pieces that furnished it. There were 3 men sitting at the bar and an older women serving. She looked like someone who had a good time in her day. 
I sat down, ordered a Heineken and went with the soup of the door for my lunch. It was a lobster soup, which I could only hope would be fresh and sanitarily prepared. 
Rainy days in Amsterdam were never dull. I've had low moments during them, but overall, they were a pleasantry that nudged me into random little spots on random streets to experience random things. Who would have thought I would find myself in a dimly lit, orange ambiance little restaurant listening to what I could only imagine my dad might listen to every now and again, while drinking a Heineken on my own. 
It occurred to me right there and then that we never quite know the experiences we can have or are going to have; and I think that's the only real driving force of life. We need to keep living in the hope of seeing what is to come. Perhaps things will get better, perhaps I will prosper, perhaps I will matter. It is all about that great perhaps. Possibility. Those things drive hope, and thus hope drives life. That aids in explaining why faith is something people kneel to the ground for. Faith keeps hope alive. Faith re pumps the fuel that lets hope run rampant. 

....and for the sake of hope, I will walk into random bars, cafes and restaurant time and time again hoping to run into the awe that inspire and awakens the most dormant corners of my soul.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

How do you say "Belgian Waffles" in French?

We got off a bus and took a right, and around that corner we were greeted by an outstanding, enormous cathedral; we were in Brussels. 
The air was cool, but warmer than it had been in Amsterdam. With my backpack hanging heavily behind me and a small luggage bag in my grips we marched to Brussels' tourist square. 
The first order of business was food. Of Belgium, we knew a couple of things were imperative: Belgian fries, Belgian waffles and Belgian chocolate. I ordered a burger that was much bigger than my fist, and hence, my stomach. I ate half of it, accompanied by fries drenched in a Hollandase sauce. For breakfast I indulged in a waffle overflowing with chocolate sauce and strawberries. One thing was for sure, Belgians loved their sweet things. 
A sweet scent filled the air. My nose was being greeted by sweet aromas from dusk till dawn, and my tastebuds knew they too, would soon experience the pleasure of Belgian delicatessen. 

Not only that but they'd also be entertained by a variety of brews. Europeans are famous for their beer thirst and Belgium did not lack in living up to that identity. I remember asking the concierge for directions to the nearest liquor store once we got to our hostel, to which he responded, "There's a grocery store across the road. Here, there aren't specific liquor stores. They all just kind of sell all alcohol," and that was the essence of the Belgian lifestyle. 

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Seeing Old Faces in New Places

The air hit my face as I waited. Orange lights lit up the info signs and "IJburg 4min" was reading on this platform. I waited, taking in the air that smelled lightly like cigarette smoke. One train came and another left, but I sat tight, waiting for my friend to arrive. 
When she did I was sitting at the top of the stairs with the Lloyd Hotel shining brightly at me in red.

She ascended the stairs as I began to light a cigarette. Momentarily, my heart stopped and heat rushed into my ears. We yelled and hugged. I was finally seeing one of the best human being I knew once more, after an excruciating stretched out year and a half of having oceans between us. 

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Another day in Amsterdam

We cycled 20 minutes to get to Centraal Station. Today, we were taking a ferry to the biggest flea market that existed in Europe: the 'IJ Hallen', and boy was it huge.
The city was windy today, but that isn't rare. I've experienced four seasons of weather on repeat in one day. That means to say it went from hailing to rain, to terrible wind to sunshine and then back to windy in a span of 20 minutes, repeatedly. 
Today wasn't that extreme, but the wind does make it hard to cycle up little hills when it's pushing against you, and with my knees, that's sort of painful. 
None the less, I tried to take it all in. It seemed to be a newer part of the city seeing as the architecture was very modern.
Despite my eyes watering and as a result making it appear as though I was crying, I was enjoying the sway of the water as we drove over in the ferry. The sun would peek out from between the clouds every now and again and blanket my face so comfortably. 
I spent about 17euros during this day, including paying a 5 dollar entrance fee for the flea market and a sandwich lunch right after. I acquired a new brown leather book bag, brown booties, a few scarves, a coat, a down vest and gloves. I was amazed. 
Much else than that the day was uneventful. The sandwich I ate was  mouthwatering, granted I was also on a cloud. 

More than anything I wanted to talk to friends and family and feel less alone despite constantly being around all these people. But, time does not work like that. Some how we've complicated it even further. 

Read more on the Ij Hallen here: 
http://ijhallen.nl/

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Missing Opportunities on Train Tracks

The white blanket that covered the earth was swooshing by. Trains moving past each other ricochet wind in a manner that made you know two trains were passing each other, even when your eyes couldn't quite grasp it. 
"Do you read?" he asked me, handing me a Time Magazine. He was an older man and I just happened to sit next to him on a train from Rotterdam to Amsterdam. 
"Née, dankje," I responded. 
For some reason, even this small gesture surprised me. He was a Caucasian man, drenched in all his privilege, if I were to judge the book by its cover. He wore dark jeans that seemed to be suit pants at first glance, but in fact not, on further inspection. 
He wore a button down shirt dressed in a blue sweater that I assumed he layered with a down coat given the weather. 
I did not get much more than that. Eyes, hair, facial construction; it swept past me or rather, I failed to observe it. 
...and there in lies the trouble of assumptions. The opportunity resulted in missing out on getting to know someone that my destiny had brought me elbow distance with. One could say that every human encounter is not always one that necessitates exploring, but with the amount of people that remain to be met and learned from, I cannot continue to sleep on the opportunity. 

I have had the opportunity to meet strangers that have changed my life, altered my perspective and completely hurdled me to places that might otherwise never have been reached, and such is the beauty of strangers and my encounters with them. More valuable than any possession or any materialist experience, is the experience granted to you from befriending a stranger. 

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Ready, Set ... Bike!

The Dutch are cyclists, so as per the travelers traditional, I had to cycle around the old city in a similar way. 
I rented a bike for the semester, which meant I'd have to get acquainted with everything around me sooner rather than later. Cycling back from the store was a mission to figure out in its own right. A route that was supposed to take 10-15 minutes took closer to an hour and a half. It was cold but I wasn't complaining. I just wanted to get home with my bike, limbs and bones in tact. 

Here and there a cyclist had to scuffle me out of their way, and although the bike bells scared me momentarily, soon their frantic ring was no longer something that caused me to jump aside in alarm. 

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Utrecht

We entered Utrecht pacing in quickly with the Saturday bustle. Cities closed down early here, just like home. So, similarly to home, Saturday was a big shopping day. Well, that's what I took from today. 
I ate a ham pancake to start off, and with a tickled tummy I was ready to go exploring this little city. We were in the heart of the shopping district and everyone was moving quickly to catch the sales. The air was filled with aromas because the open air market was also held that day, right in the heart of the town. There was fresh fish, 1 euro coffee, affordable clothes and right next to it: a mall and the central station. Utrecht was quaint and it pleased me in that manner. 

We walked, cyclists shuffling us out of their way. Although bustling, it was quite obviously evident that we were not in a big, crowded city. Cyclists seemed more patient and the amount of tourists were fewer. 
It was a slow day, which was necessary with the hurried pace this journey seemed to be taking on. By the end of it, I was able to enjoy a local beer in a small bar while watching people stroll by. 

The Air Under My Feet

The air dripped out of my feet
I was lifted with it,
as it filled my lungs,
then emptied it
In gray, heavy swirls
That heaved up and kissed my lips,
A body calling out
For the chemicals I faltered to.
The city with it all was no help,
Green herbs kissing my tongue
Often,
Canal waters washing the guilt
And cyclists echoing the call for health.
But the neon lights called to me
Blinking rhythmically
So I could not believe,
What my eyes had just seen.
I walk in for a coffee,
Order creative names instead;
And by the gram I measure my poison,

I want the earth to be swept from under me.

Friday, 30 January 2015

First Impressions

They say they give you the stars when you're in Amsterdam. Well, atleast I wish that's what they said. I came to realize it was true. All of the good things came in abundances and sometimes I guilted myself with thoughts of how selfish I am for being able to be here. 
My eyes stung, and I was either always in a food coma, amnesia haze or some orientation program. 

The air in central Amsterdam is blanketed in a light stench of cannabis. Tourists walk and take over old Amsterdam overwhelmingly; standing out like sore thumbs, and quite unapologetically so. The annoyance was obvious in the face of the locals, but understandably so. The driving and navigation was miserable and traffic didn't seem fun at that point. But we walked, our feet scuttling on the bumping sidewalks. 
I observed the amount of cheese houses, coffeeshops and souvenir shops that littered these allies, and the figured overwhelmed me. I watched tourists swarm between the three, experimenting excitedly with what their own countries' call and an illicit drug, and then savouring the beautiful flavours of skunky cheese to alleviate "the munchies", followed by souvenir shopping to fully encapsulate the entire experience. 
I smiled thinking of the few days they probably had to spend in Amsterdam. I smiled because I knew that this was simply the beginning of a 4 month journey in a city with more to offer than I could fathom. I smiled because I stumbled onto a playground I thought perfectly suitable for myself. I smiled, because a 5 month journey, in which I would be brimming in all these pleasantries and more, was about to begin. 

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Welkom Bij Amsterdam

There was a bustle, but it tickled the air subtly. The nippy air bit at my skin as the winter coat I had brought across waters attempted to do its job. I was unfazed. Having earlier been bathed in the Dutch rains as I attempted to find the building I was to call home for the next few months, the cold had already given me a rude welcoming to the Dutch lands.

I was in the bicycle capital of the world, yet somehow I was still surprised by how many bicycles littered the streets. Families were transported in these things. Children were diligently following their parents on them, or sometimes they'd be loosely left in a crate type of basket attached to the front…and as a result, few cars dressed the roads. It was very unlike the American way of life; definitely healthier for your body and your pocket.

Having flown in that day and then bombarded with information regarding banks and city councils, the obvious choice was to go home and get ready for bed once the orientation dinner was over. It was a pizza party. European pizza, though smaller, trumps American pizza by yards. None the less, I decided to go on a little adventure with a girl I had just met. Given that our cellphones were not yet set up as we might have liked, we had no GPS to aid with the navigation so we figured we’d do it ourselves. We were looking for a coffeeshop so it couldn't be all that difficult. We ought to have known better.

Before long, we found ourselves in an illuminated part of the city, where lights dressed trees and bridges; and before I knew it, the lavender that kissed my lips left me in a haze which amounted to excitement and paranoia. You can imagine the adrenaline rush.

What does Amsterdam have to offer so far? Sights for sore eyes: not limited to but including beautiful Graffiti, beautiful men and beautiful coffee shops.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

In Retrospect

One of my first memories of 2014 entails having a gun pointed at my face while being patted down for money, a phone, or really, whatever they could find. That cold day in Memphis, TN I was seated next to an individual who I had come to learn would be a lifelong friend. I knew this because our friendship had evolved and strengthened rather than faltered after months of fighting and then moving to different places for college. 
Next, a young girl in the little know-one-know-all community we'd created back home in Windhoek committed suicide. I didn't know her well, but I knew that that occurrence shook the earth under the feet of the teenagers who were close to her. I liked to call them the "BB's of our little community" because they were about  two to three years younger than me. I guess we're never too young to experience the tragedies of death and sadness.
A couple of weeks followed and then I got the news that my aunt had died. She was ill. No one had told me. I cried, and then I moved on. 
The year opened up as a mecca of misfortune and pain, and in all honesty, it is likely to end that way too. None the less, this is not a post about my sadness and the things that make me cry at night, it is an avenue for me to explore the positive experiences and greatest moments of my year. 
This year saw the majority of my growth, it saw me come into my maturity, and it encaptured the process of me becoming fully and unapologetically myself. 
2k14 blessed me with friends who loved me enough to entertain the idea of making a whole week out of my birthday. It introduced me to individuals I did not initially approach because of my bad habit of casting a judgement on a book based on its cover. I can only thank them for being the part of my life that entertained and joined in on my craziness. They have been my rock, helped save me from myself; and helped me understand what it means to live, to persevere and to know that a good outcome is always in the distance. 
The year blessed me with the courage and self-assurance to put myself forth to people rather than coup myself up in my own shell. It allowed for a spontaneous Facebook post about Spring break, that resulted in a spontaneous trip to Chicago; the city that I've come to adore and intend on spending a good portion of my life in. That led to a relationship developing between individuals who I know are my soul sisters and a "Tribe" I will forever belong to. These people helped me learn to be comfortable with myself, see the beauty in myself and keep my head up. Thank you for letting me know that when it comes to my feelings and emotions, it's ok to dive into the deep end and perhaps have abit of a hard time keeping my head above the water. The most important thing is that I keep trying to keep my head above the water, and with friends like you, swimming out to the shore for Corona's on the beach becomes easy to do. That Chicago trip taught me a lesson about putting myself out there, approaching people and capitalizing on my spontaneity. It taught me that there are people on the same wavelength as myself, and it brought me to them. 
The individuals I've met have taught me lessons on being a strong, independent and persevering woman and every day that I was surrounded by them was a new learning curve. They've opened my eyes up to the reality of what I am and what I experience and they've helped me learn how to harness my strength, despite how little it might be sometimes, and turn that into dynamite; a force to be reckoned with. 
A huge part of that dynamite also includes being able to let go of people's judgement of me or the ideas they conjure when they judge my cover before they've read my pages. This group of people have helped me learn to go forth as I am, and that those who matter will be around when they need to be. I never knew that I could be so certain that my one call from jail will never go unanswered despite where in the world I'm calling from, if that call is made to them.
It took me nineteen years to find a tribe of people that have undoubtedly made me feel like I was part of a truly loving, judgement free and supportive group of friends. So much so that each and every one of them have become family and interacted quite personally with my nuclear family despite meeting them via a computer screen while sitting in a dorm room 7 270 miles away. 
Between Illinois and Wisconsin for spring break; lake house shenanigans and Jewish frat party mishaps, and a 9mm gun pointed at my face in Tennessee, so many extraordinary memories have been made during this year. From high times in California to low times in New York; I wouldn't change a day in the face of 2k14. 
All I can do now is let go and let love. The next year will be one continued to be filled with growth, adventure and new journeys. I want to enter it with an open heart and the courage to realize that the inevitability of change is a matter that should no longer make me cry. I move forth, letting go of those whose paths have gone completely perpendicular of mine, and keeping close to my heart those who are on their paths and their journeys parallel to mine, separated only by a brief amount of distance. With energy being everything, I can only hope that mine is granted positivity and strength to carry me threw the tides of the new journey I am about to embark on, 
....and for you, I hope positivity, prosperity and genuine joy; even if it comes momentarily, even if it comes fleeting. Live your life to be entertained by even the smallest, most insignificant moments of joy as those are seemingly becoming more and more rare.