The What the Kou Experience: McDonald’s

Dear McDonald’s,

“Please, stop tryna play me. We was koo’ but YOU ARE DOING THE MOST!” (Emotional accent)

All I want is water to hydrate myself.

 

First Encounter:

I was feeling a bit parched as I drove to the drive-thru hoping that you would give me relief. Instead you shattered my heart and gave me water in a cup and charged me $1.08 for it. Did this water come from the tears of the great god of the Nile river, Sobek (to whom I read about on Google). Had it been filtered by the rays of the rising sun? Will it heal all my ailments and will my hair rise to touch the stars in the sky?

Was it the water which Jesus and Peter walked on or had it been pre-blessed? Was it the same water that Lapis Lazulis from Steven Universe tried to fly back to Homeworld with? Did it come from the beautiful shores of West Africa?

Second Encounter:

The other day, McDonald’s, I went to your store, again. My body yearned for hydration. One of your representatives informed me you only give out bottled water…

But McDonald’s, your water does do something miraculous. It transformed me, renewed me, and allowed me to be better than I was…

 

…it inspired me to carry around my own bottled water from home.

 

Love,

 

A Changed Woman,

 

Kou

 

Coffee in the Alternate Universe: Haley House Bakery Cafe

In the Summer of 2016 I ventured out for breakfast while in Boston.

Originally, I thought I was going to Dunkin Donuts, however, after misinterpreting a woman’s directions I found myself far from it. So, as any 20-something in 2016 would do, I turned to my GPS for guidance. I looked for a “mom and pop” shop unique to where I was. I clicked the name and I was well on my way.

I was impressed when I finally made it to Haley House Bakery Cafe. There was a large parking lot and plants were around the building.

The first thing I’ve noticed was that customer service started at the door. There was a woman sitting on the porch smoking a cigarette. She looked to be on break. She smiled, “Hello, how are you today?”

“I’m well,” I responded noticing how warm and contagious her smile was, “how are you?”

I walked into the coffee shop and took in the atmosphere. I’ve never been in a coffee shop where almost all the employees were people of color. This new world was filled with neo soul, posters of upcoming events, the aromas of coffee and pastries, and of course, overall good vibes.

I figured I could just get my personal favorites: a coffee cake muffin and a coffee.  It was my turn to order and the cashier was extremely polite. Before I requested my favorite breakfast item, I asked if anything contained nuts. The cashier warmed my heart by going to the back to speak with whoever prepared the food. She came back a few moments later to confirm that my coffee cake muffin was safe and another employee came to confirm. I ordered my breakfast in confidence. The coffee was nice, bold and flavorful- just how I like it.

Poetry Time: “Misty Eyes”

Eh Hem
Sorry I’m a little misty eyed
With a snotty nose
It’s this life that He chose
For me
Some days I feel like a can’t take it or will never make it
Sins on top of sin
Failings on top of failings
Some days it’s like I’m flying and sailing
But others
I’m just contemplating
Whether it is best to walk amongst the living
Or lay down and die
So I’m sorry
I’m a little misty eyed
With a snotty nose
It’s this life He chose
For me
The people I see
I think about them too much
GOD knows I’d rather not
Now with my nose full of snot
My mind fills with the beautiful memories
Which are nothing without the pain
I guess for everyone the story is the same
There’s the storms and hurricanes
Before the rainbows and the sunshines and the flowers
I guess its true
Everyone has their hour
When life, people, and world turns cold, mean and sour
And then that hour of love, life, laugher and joy comes
There remains the scar
Too fast, I say, the joy is gone too fast
That is why
I’m SO sorry I’m stand here misty eyed
With a snotty nose
It’s this life He chose
For me

Kou T. Nyan

$20 for a Small Pizza

I bubbled with excitement as I ran up to Anthony’s Coal Fire Pizza on Friday. It was extremely crowded when I entered the foyer. I stood with several other people who looked as though they’ve been waiting for a while. I saw a woman with a clipboard at the door. She looked, seemingly, over my head at the outer door and back at the clipboard. A couple walked in and strolled by me. She welcomed them warmly. I stormed pass the three of them to a man in a burgundy Anthony’s Coal Fire Shirt. Once he was through speaking with one of the guest I got his attention, “Do you do takeout?”

“Of course we do,” his genuine excitement brought me back to a better mood, “Please, follow me!”

Sliding through the tight crowd of guests and employees he lead me to the back where they took takeout orders. The waitress who took my order was kind, patient and meant business. Not understanding the menu, I requested a small chicken and pepperoni pizza. It couldn’t be expensive could it?

“Twenty five, fifty,” she told me.

Twenty? I gave her my card in hopes that they would bring out a large pizza and I could say, “I actually ordered a small.”

I stood against the wall with other people who were waiting. The smell of alcohol mixed with, what I would guess, burning dough filled the air.

A young waitress walked up to us, the people waiting for their orders, and asked if we wanted water. She walked to the back and returned with glasses of ice water and straws. I was impressed. I knew that it had to be a long wait and I was in love with the idea that we were treated with the same hospitality as those who dined in.

Yet, I was still concerned about the price. I texted my friend who waited outside. He suggested that perhaps they were creating two pizzas instead of one. I marched right up to the takeout counter and asked for an itemized version of my receipt. I learned that it was “part specialized”, plus state and county tax.

I finally received my small box of pizza and met my friend in the car. When we opened the box we saw pepperoni thrown on on the flattened bread with bits of chicken here and there slapped with some grease and sauce. We took our slices. Parts of our crust were burnt and the chicken was unseasoned. Disappointed, I learned that store bought pizza was definitely better.

Overall, the service was good but the pizza- at least the one I had, was not worth the hype…but ESPECIALLY not the price.

Communities Beyond the Screen: “Movements Can Change the World”

The room flooded with applause as over 200 people rose to show homage to civil rights activist Dr. Angela Y. Davis. On Friday, February 10th, Dr. Davis spoke at Brown University Salomon Center for Teaching in the DeCiccio Family Auditorium. Her presentation, entitled “Freedom is a Constant Struggle,” was hosted by the Brown Center for Students of Color, as an installment of the Black, Asian American, Latinx, Multiracial, Native American, and Southwest Asian/North African Heritage Series. She helped the audience to understand that it’s not a single act of voting for one person or the congress that makes significant changes but movements.

She began the evening by commending Brown University for recognizing October 12th as Indigenous People’s Day, and, in turn, she encouraged the audience to stand in solidarity with Standing Rock.

She acknowledged that in this current period, “We are discovering something new about the collective psyche of our country.” Although the last election appeared to be a turn back to a season when white supremacy was predominate, she recognized that consciousness arrived in surges after. She explained that consciousness became visible in the Women’s Solidarity March that took place the day after President Donald J. Trump’s auguration.

Dr. Davis said, “[there is] No such thing as race blind,” and asked, “What if the issue has little to do with white people?” She said that the Women’s March was meant to show women will no longer be forced into the margin. Women of Color and Trans Women were more visible while historically the face of the women’s movement has been white women. One example was how the Suffrage Movement lead to all women’s right to vote in 1920 however, the south made laws that were difficult for black women to vote until 1965.

Dr. Davis mentioned how many people protested the travel band of seven predominantly muslim countries established by the Trump Administration. She acknowledged these protests as another form consciousness surging as a result of the election. Some movements began before the election such as the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement (BDS) which according to their website, BDSMovement.net, “Works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law.”

She reflected on the previous eight years. Some people believed that since there was a black man in the white house, racism had been conquered, “We’ve been saying ‘all lives matter forever,” said Dr. Davis, “When black lives are truly made to matter than truly all lives are made to matter.”

She briefly discussed police brutality towards people of color. She also spoke about the Prison Industrial Complex and its foundation in racism and legacy of slavery. Capitalism, according to Dr. Davis, had always been racial and in the case of the Prison Industrial Complex, racism is used for profit both directly and indirectly. She said prisons become profitable but do not help to rehabilitate.

Dr. Davis pointed out that issues and struggles even beyond racism are intersectional meaning problems are mixed with all disenfranchised groups. She concluded that she understands that this is a dangerous period but wanted the audience to, “believe that something better is possible. Act as if our actions can push us in the direction of freedom.” She said that all should imagine themselves greater than themselves. All are connected to those before and those to come after.

Knowing that movements can change the world, she said, people ought to create and build a community beyond online and know that the work communities do now does matter.

“Let us always remember freedom is a constant struggle.”

Chatting Away: Response to “Chit Chat”

I wish there was a mountain on top of my heart where my soul can scream  FDR famous words, “There’s nothing to fear but fear itself.” My soul’s voice would echo throughout my body; my heart would earthquake, my mind would shine, and every part of me would be ready to do the work.

 

About a week ago, I watched “Chit Chat: Dream vs Mommyhood, Shonda Rhimes & More” from the YouTuber BronzeGoddess01(Shawnda Patterson, but for the sake of this post, I will stick to her YouTube name). I’ve been pushing myself to try to listen to sermons and motivational videos in the morning but this particular video caught my attention. Now, I’m not a mother and honestly, I didn’t think it would relate to me because of the title (although she clearly stated, “Whether you’re a mother or not I think you can still resonate with the overall message…”).

 

There was a lot of things that were said in the video that touched me but what stood out to me the most was when BronzeGoddess01 mentioned her how her oldest daughter carries around a journal and said she wanted to be a writer “just like mommy.” I realized how many excuses I’ve made to not do things that I dreamed of-yet afraid of. I also thought about how I tried to motivate myself saying, “I’m single and have no children so I really don’t have an excuse….” yet still nothing. How ignorant am I to ignore the mothers who chased their dreams for them and their children? How ignorant am I not to think that I can do the same?

 

I reflect on the things holding me back. I think in my heart, “What if it’s not in God’s will?” But through my mouth I tell people, “You know, you can’t put God in a box like that! Remember, Romans 8:28, ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose’(NIV)!” My body says, “I worked all day and I’m DRAINED! I don’t want to be drained tomorrow so…I’ll do it all later.” My mind believes, “I NEVER HAVE TIME!” As I scroll to Facebook or daydream of…if my life ONLY gets better I can do this or that! Sometimes my mind enters those dark spaces that nurtures past failures, feeds on pessimism and starves hopes and dreams. So, with all that is at work, I automatically say “no” to or avoid everything that I might like.
So, here’s my challenge. I will pursue those goals, not just daydream, not yet listen to people talk about them- I. WILL. PURSUE. THEM.

Panera Bread and a Starbucks, Please!

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A mini adventure to Panera deserves a treat

The past few days I’ve been thinking about how much some of my family members make me laugh. As I write, I’m sitting in Panera Bread enjoying this fabulous free wifi. I was really hungry and I currently “don’t know what to do with my life”. As much as I fronted in all my meetings today it became more than obvious that this young woman is extremely promising but she is still looking for direction.

But as I watched YouTube videos of how people planned their big dreams and ideas I felt the inspiration to write- just because someone wrote to me saying that they loved my blog posts. Immediately, I looked around and my youngest niece popped into my mind.

This summer a friend of mine and my niece were in the car. My friend tells her that he imagines me meeting my husband at Starbucks. He described him to be a white poet trying to pay for grad school. I laugh because he would not let this image go! I call out to my niece to ask her what she thinks.

She says she’s not sure but imagines that I would meet my future husband at a place I don’t often go.

“But Kou doesn’t normally go to Starbucks,” my friend said still sold on the white poet idea.

“I do,” I protested. I mention about how I normally go to places like Starbucks and Panera to have a little space to do my job search, career planning, etc. “I just try not to buy food from those places.”

“See Kou,” my niece began after a quick pause, “Would only buy something if she had to.” She began to pretend to be me in a situation where I’m enjoying the free wifi and suddenly told by one of the employees that I needed to make a purchase. She started to mutter under her breath and pretended to shuffle through her pockets and purse, then grunts (I guess as she was giving the cashier the money and taking the item).

I laughed hard. I could imagine myself behaving in that way and justifying my attitude with, “’cause times is hahd.”

So the next time you’re in a funk at Panera or Starbucks, think of how you look when you are forced to buy something in order to enjoy a “free” bathroom or wifi.