I often get lots of questions about my hair and the hairstyles I do, so I will dedicate the next couple posts to highlighting some of my favorite natural hair styles.
The first style: THE CURLY PUFF
First and foremost, I cannot achieve this style when my hair is freshly washed, in its most natural state. This style came as a result of wearing my hair in braids for a few days and then taking the braids down.
If I were to pull my hair into a puff right after washing it, it would look like the picture below. I love both styles, but when I put my hair in a puff right after washing my hair, my tight little hair coils tangle around each other and I have to spend hours detangling them again and again. Not fun. So I mostly create styles that stretch out my natural hair texture to avoid tangles (I'll write more on this soon). I still love doing an occasional wash-n-go style but not very often.
So how did I get the non-tangly, curly puff in the first picture?
First I braided my hair in about 10 cornrow braids. Here is a GREAT instructional video on how to cornrow:
I could have stopped at this step, wearing the cornrows for a few days and then take them down to create the curly puff. However, I don't enjoy wearing cornrows outside of the house yet because I'm not so skilled at making them nice and neat (I'm still trying to inherit my mother's amazing braiding skills!), so I chose to cover up my cornrows by crocheting mambo-twist extensions into my hair. Check out the tutorial video below from a Natural Hair Youtube Channel I follow. I've used videos like the one below to learn how to crochet extensions into my hair, to give my natural hair a break from time to time.
Click Here to Watch one of my favorite YouTube tutorials on How to crochet extensions into cornrows/braids
Crochet braids are a great protective style! Natural afro-textured hair can be rather fragile and break easily, so wearing protective styles where you can tuck your hair away for a couple days is great for hair growth and length retention.
The twist extensions I purchased were super inexpensive at my local hair store. I do NOT like spending much money on my hair if at all possible, and I'm a huge fan of DIY natural hair care. I used the 1B (extremely dark brown) hair color, and added in a few burgundy-colored twists for a fun look.
When I finished crocheting the twists into my hair, this was the final result:
It looked so natural, and it gave me a HUGE break from doing my hair each day.
After wearing this style for about two weeks, I took the twist extensions out, and I was left with my cornrow braids underneath. I then un-braided my cornrows, which gave me a super curly fro like the one below.
Then I pulled my hair back with a silk hair scarf and tied it on the top of my head to achieve my favorite curly puff ever!
I wore this puff for three days and each day it became puffier and puffier until it was no longer a curly fro, but an awesome huge afro puff! I loved it, but it was time to tuck my ends away to protect my hair from wear and tear. So I took down the puff, detangled, washed, and deep conditioned my hair. (I'll write a post on my wash-day process soon!). Once my hair was freshly-washed again, I went on to try another protective style.
There are a lot of great protective styles that you can do using your own hair (without extensions), such as buns, mini twists, and much more!. Just type "protective styles for natural hair" into Youtube, find a Youtuber with a similar hair texture as yourself and have fun with trial and error. I'll try to write a blogpost soon showing some of my favorite protective hairstyles that I do using my own hair, which are the styles I usually wear 90% of the year. More on that coming soon!
Happy Monday! Just want to share a few updates on our time in Oxford.
Over the past few weeks, Liasor and I have been working on translating a few T’wampa songs that Wendy James collected when the Uduk people were in Bonga Refugee Camp in Ethiopia in 1994. Liasor has been doing the translating and I’ve been working on organizing and editing the translations once they're in English. It’s been fascinating work primarily because Liasor was living in Bonga Refugee Camp at that time, and he was super young then.
In addition to working on the songs, we've been looking through videos of Wendy’s time in Bonga Refugee Camp in 1994 and I got to see footage of Liasor’s preschool classroom. Liasor was definitely in that classroom, but neither of us could make him out because there were a lot of kids and the video was taken at a time when they were all playing, so we couldn’t nail down faces. It was so moving to see Liasor’s classroom and playground and get a glimpse of his life at five years old. I’m hoping to come across a video where we can see young Liasor up close. I also got to see Liasor's awesome preschool teacher from 1994. She’s an Uduk woman named Martha who has done many amazing things and currently helps run one of the refugee camps in Ethiopia where some Uduk people currently are. Maybe when we go to Ethiopia in the fall we’ll get to meet up with her. It's been a great pleasure working with Wendy to label and organize video clips like this one.
We got to meet a wonderful scholar who came into town to meet Wendy. He is a linguist studying the Koman language family, which T’wampa is a part of. He taught us a cool way for me to learn the tones in T’wampa (T’wampa is a tonal language so saying a word in different tones can completely change or obscure meaning). He showed Liasor a way to help me recognize the tones through whistling. It’s a very simple trick, but it has been incredibly helpful for me. Granted, we spend most of our lives speaking in English or occasionally Spanish, but I am determined to learn T’wampa too.
We also connected with a professor of international education and refugee issues through a chance meeting (we stumbled into an academic building and ended up explaining our interests to the staff at the main desk, and they set up a meeting with this professor!). She took us out to lunch and we talked at length about our interests and work and heard about her incredible work. She gave us advice, then she gave us access to one of the university libraries so we could look at relevant books. She also helped us do a little research on academic programs that might be of interest to us in the future. She was incredibly kind and helpful!!
In other personal updates, I had a wonderful birthday two and a half weeks ago. At first it started out as a rainy day, but rain begets cozy moments so it was all good. Liasor and I went to a couple amazing restaurants and we also went to Liasor’s favorite bookstore, Blackwell. We looked through some great literature on education and ESOL and Ph.D programs and bought a few books. It was perfect, in the nerdiest sort of way. We ended the evening punting on the Cherwell River with amazing views of the University Parks. I didn’t know what punting was before coming to Oxford, but essentially it’s boating in a flat-bottomed boat called a punt and using a pole to push against the riverbed to propel the boat forward. It’s very physical work, but lucky for me Liasor did all of the punting. It was very beautiful, sweet, and quite romantic!
Another MAJOR update: We finally made it to the church that I researched a few months back. It’s called Trinity Church Oxford and it’s a very multicultural, multi-national, gospel-centered community. And it’s a small church, where people really get to know each other. After attending last week's service for the first time, we were already invited to dinner with other awesome couples and were invited to upcoming events. We felt so welcomed and I’m excited to get to know the members there. Yesterday we went back to the church, and the warm welcome continued. Everyone we met so far has an awesome story, and many are doing inspiring work or research connected to the University of Oxford or other amazing organizations.
We also made it to the Ashmolean Museum of Oxford where there was a special exhibition showcasing the drawings of Raphael, brought together from various international collections. We also got to visit the Ancient Egypt/Ancient Sudan/Nubia exhibit which was wonderful. I’ve begun dreaming of one day seeing the Nubian Pyramids of Sudan in person.
The past few weeks have had many highs, but there were also some low points. I mentioned last post that our family has experienced loss related to violence in Doro Refugee Camp in South Sudan. We are continuing to pray for that situation and for our family. I'm continuing to pray about how to help Liasor through that grief.
I've also been tempted a lot lately to compare my life to others' and to the photos I see or to articles I read that tell me where I should be in life by age X. I know full well that I should pay no serious attention to these things, and I know we only see snapshots of each other's lives and often life is much messier than what we portray, but sometimes I'm surprised by how easy it can be to measure my life by human standards instead of by God's standards. I'm challenging myself - like I did last summer - to search for moments of thankfulness and to celebrate the moments that do feel picture perfect, while also being open and honest about the not so beautiful moments with those who care, giving thanks even in pain. And I'm striving to keep my eyes fixed on Christ and what He says, and not on what the social sphere will inundate me with. I got really stuck in a rut yesterday, worrying about what jobs we'll have when we get back to Rochester in December and wondering about future career choices and where we'll live and blah blah blah. Then right when I needed it most, God gave me a great reminder in church yesterday about not giving in to my worries. He has provided everything we need, and not only that, He has given us jobs right now in a different country with the amazing opportunity to work and travel. How do I so quickly leave the wonder of the here and now and fly away to some land of overwhelming anxieties? So last night I updated my list of 1000 gifts, gifts for which I am thankful. I felt so much peace and I was reminded not to compare and covet, but rather to trust. And to give thanks with however much or little I have. Today I am thankful for:
-the simplicity and comfort of clothes drying on a line
-a mild summer that allows me to wear my favorite layers
-a great start to my 26th year of life with Liasor by my side
-our cozy family of two figuring out the routines of life together
- Sainsbury's Spanish Honey and Ginger yogurt
-finally submitting edits for our wedding video
-finding a gym, a Zumba class, and a hip hop dance class nearby
-the smell of fresh rosemary while cooking
-dreaming big dreams of potential endeavors that I hope to undertake in 2018
-the existence of Uduk Hope which serves as a medium to support our family in refugee camps
-video chatting with family
The verse that was highlighted during Sunday service was Matthew 6:25-27, 33-34:
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
As I mentioned in the last post, you've heard a lot from me. Below you can hear Liasor's thoughts and heart regarding the last four weeks.
It has been about a month now since my wife and I left Rochester by way of Cleveland, Ohio for this part of our adventure. To me it still feels like just a couple of days ago. In the time that we have been here, a lot has happened. I am still hard at work for Dr. James (Wendy) translating her research, as Christine mentioned in an earlier post. Christine has been offered work by Dr. James as well to help type up many of the things that I am translating and the old notes that Dr. James never got a chance to type up herself. We received news of the passing of my mother’s brother, my uncle, and are learning a lot about leading an organization like Uduk Hope Inc. remotely. We recently celebrated Christine’s birthday and are now in the process of finalizing our plans for weekend trips to Ireland, Germany and to our honeymoon vacation to Spain before heading to Ethiopia. So yes, a lot has happened and it has been and continues to be an emotional rollercoaster but also a learning experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
My Job: Translations
I am hearing first-hand accounts from multiple people, from the 1960s to the year 2000, about life in Sudan and constant forced migration of the Uduk people due to civil war. These individual accounts tell of how the Sudan government sent soldiers to the Blue Nile, home of the Uduk, to destroy every part of their life and livelihoods. Dr. James' research is particularly interesting, because it was done in interview format. The most interesting part of it all is the fact that Uduk people in many different places tell a similar story without her having to guide the questions. In many of the tapes, she would just turn on the camera and record as people had their natural conversations, then if she did not understand something, she would follow up with questions. For me, it is like having found a treasure map where X has been marked and I know exactly how to get there. I am on my way to that X which is fully understanding the breadth of my people’s history more in depth than I could at any graduate institution.
Doing this work is helping Christine, Dr. James, and I have a deeper relationship. We spend many hours watching videos, sorting out titles and learning the language through conversation and recorded songs. About two weeks ago, we met a gentleman from the West Coast of the United States who came to stay with Wendy so that I can help him with a few grammar points for his Ph.D. in Linguistics. His research was the most interesting thing that I have personally seen. He is comparing the language family called the Koman languages of which the Uduk language (T’wampa) is a part. We saw and discussed many similarities between these languages. His theory is that the Koman languages all came from one original language, and by understanding the similarities between today's few Koman languages, we can reconstruct the original language. It is so interesting that I have asked him for a copy of his book once he publishes it next year. We are very grateful for the opportunity to be here with Wendy and to meet many awesome people in academia.
Sad News from Doro Refugee Camp.
As many of you may know from an Uduk Hope newsletter update, there has been continuous violence in and around Doro Refugee Camp which we visited last summer. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), the army that fights against Sudan to see the Uduks and many others return to the Blue Nile region, had a major disagreement in the structure of their leadership. The SPLM-N declared that their leader and his immediate commanders are no longer representing the interest of the people because they are turning down several peace deals. As a result, they forced the leader Malik Agar out of power. This caused widespread violence in many refugee camps where supporters of Malik Agar attacked anyone they thought was responsible for this. My mother’s brother was in his plantation farming with his son (my cousin) on a regular day as he has always done since the people fled from the Blue Nile. As they were farming, a group of soldiers attacked them. To save his son’s life, he distracted the soldiers as my cousin ran away. My cousin later confirmed that his father died, but before the family found out I received a call with the news. I knew that this would be hard on my mother because she had just lost one of her best friends to this same violence two weeks prior. I called my mother and let her know.
There isn’t a single Uduk family in the United States, Canada, Australia or in East Africa that hasn’t personally experienced this kind of pain, dating back to the 1960s. In my lifetime, the people have been forcefully displaced at least 6 times, meaning on any random day bombs start to fall and many people run their own way to save their lives. These are the stories that I am currently translating, of how people are burned alive in their homes and churches, of how children are left behind, of how hunger and war continue to leave people without families. Some 60 years later, the same pattern continues to emerge. I feel the sadness of my people’s story and experiencing how it has affected my own family, someone ought to do something about it. The argument is that the SPLM-N is that someone. I leave for God what is God’s. Despite all this pain, I continue to translate for my own understanding with the shared hope of Dr. James that the younger generation will not forget where they came from.
Christine’s Birthday and the Future
It hasn’t been all sad though. Oxfordshire is one of my favorite places in Europe. On Wednesdays and Sundays, there are many open markets across town. An open market is a public market that is outside where there are many things to buy. We found a gym and signed up for it so that we could exercise and feel good about our health. But to be honest, we haven’t been going that much. Hopefully that changes soon. It was Christine’s birthday not too long ago. Birthdays are usually easier to plan in a city or town that you know like the back of your hand. Though I have been to Oxford before in 2012, I had no idea what we were going to do for her birthday. Christine, being the smart one, knew this. She was a champ about it. We started out going to the city center (downtown) where we bought some things and had a great lunch. We spent a lot of quality time together in a bookstore getting excited about our knowledge base and research. Then later that day, we went to a boat house where I attempted to guide the boat on a tour. It was cute, but I wouldn’t do it again just for the fun of it. That proved to be more of a workout than 3 visits to the gym. Christine really enjoyed it and for me that is all that matters. Now that we have settled in, we are thinking about our near future goals.
Currently we are trying to figure out dates for our trip to Germany and to Spain. We intend to visit family in Germany for a weekend and spend a week in Spain celebrating our marriage where we first met. Before all this, we are thinking of a weekend trip to Dublin, which is not very expensive. We only wish the other two trips would be the same but going to Spain is very expensive so we are saving money for it properly. I am most excited about Germany because I have not been there yet. Christine will be the veteran this time around. We also found an awesome church family in Oxford which reminds me a lot of Heart and Soul Church, our home church in Rochester. The sermons are powerful, the community is diverse, and people are really interested in making a global impact through prayer and deeds. The most wonderful part of traveling worldwide is connecting with God’s holy church and the body of Christ. His love is not limited to one geographic location and we are experiencing that now in hard times and in good times. I miss having a guitar readily available like I did in Rochester, but YouTube worship is good so I am thankful for having access to internet and for being able to easily communicate with family in the United States and in South Sudan. In the next blog, I'll share a little bit about our Ethiopia plans and give further updates on our life here in Oxford.
I pray blessings on you and your family as you read this update.