Is anybody home?

I know, it has been too long. I am sorry. But honestly, I have no idea where to begin. Too much has happened in such a short of period of time that I kind of let myself drown in. Maybe it was fear, maybe just an overall exhaustion of always trying to control things. So these past five months, I simply withdrew into myself and took life and events one day at a time.

I am not sure whether this post will make much sense but I will try. So what happened? I guess life would be the most appropriate and accurate word to describe the past months. A succession of feelings and emotions, coupled with the daily occupations and responsibilities. Quite an explosive cocktail, especially when overall, you feel like the spectator and no longer the actor.

I simply felt like I had lost control over everything – though I still feel the same. The worst part, there was never a pause button to catch a breath. That is not how things work in life. You get one test after another and, eventually have to make it work, to the greatest extent possible. And the truth is, I had absolutely no desire nor motivation to post content that did not feel authentic. I could even care less whether I was losing followers or viewers because “I was going through some s***t” and I still am.

I needed a break but I did not even get to have it. Life kept its course, I still had commitments to fulfill. So I shut down and escaped into my deepest parts. At least there, I could let out all the refrained emotions while I continued to act “normal” outside.

So this post is to remind myself that it is okay not to feel okay. That sometimes I need time off to focus on myself and,  figure s***t out. I could have deleted this blog but then I realized that it was also part of the coping process. I want to keep my promises and continue blogging to improve my writing. This time, I am not going to set unrealistic goals like “posting every monday and Wednesday” but something more on the lines of “stay true to yourself and do it when the time is right.”

Blurred-Heritage will be back. Stay tuned!

 

Intercultural Relationships: For Better AND For Worse

Dating and Relationships overall, are challenging experiences. It becomes even more complicated when you are involved with someone from a culture or race different from your own. I used to think that “sticking with my own kind” would ease my life decisions towards marriage, having and raising kids and, the place I would settle in. Well it was, until I realized that I was not the typical “Congolese” girl and, might have a hard time finding a man of my culture and race that could handle my outspoken, stubborn and independent self. Blame it on my father.

Expectations 

Like any teenage girl, I have had crushes, flings and flirts which allowed me to experience and venture out of my culture (ethnic group) and race. Even though my parents taught me cultural sensitivity and how to appreciate everybody to their true value, they never really believed nor imagined that I would marry a non-Congolese; while my brothers dated girls from everywhere. Well, my mother probably started having doubts after my last breakup, three years ago.

I gradually distanced myself from my “people” because of the hypocrisy, and the prevalent and obnoxious culture of recycling boyfriends. I never was the type to share a man so, settling for someone who couldn’t appreciate being solely with me, was a NO. Furthermore, I hated the idea that one day, I could be in a room full of women that had either slept or, been in a relationship with my husband. That was not for me. Overall, I was tired of the ethnocentric culture where a good wife/husband was determined by his/her regional affiliation. Nope, Nope, Nope.

Game Changer

Moving to New York was reality check. It changed my conception of relationships and marriage. While I did not agree with the U.S. “dating” idea, I loved the idea that here I could get a clean slate. I could finally get to really “know” a person without outside interference. I must admit I was scared, a lot, because that meant exposing myself to a stranger and, opening myself to a new culture and different traditions, with no guidelines.

However, Regardless of whom I married, I needed it to be someone who understood my special connection to Congo and Africa. Someone that would respect it because I cannot spend a whole year without flying back home. It is part of me. You can take the girl out of Africa but you can’t take Africa out of the girl!  

Language barrier

I was born and raised in Congo Brazzaville which makes French my first language. I also speak Lingala, a language we share with the DRC. Though I now am fluent in English, starting and building a relationship in a language that isn’t yours is difficult. There have been many instances where I couldn’t seem to find the right word or expression to describe  or express a feeling/situation. I get why people wouldn’t venture out of their circles because it is stressful and terrifying.

The main fear however was the difficulty to communicate with my family and friends. Expressing oneself in a foreign language is challenging, uncomfortable and sometimes discouraging, to a lot of my entourage because they don’t want to sound or look stupid. That also implied that a genuine conversation would always be ruined and altered by a third-party. It takes away the spontaneity and creates a disconnect between people. Plus, I hate translating. I get bored and tired after five minutes. It is annoying.

Tradition & Customs

Family always comes first, and sometimes, at the expense of everything else. That is something that almost all cultures share, especially African. My family and I are extremely close and stay connected regardless of our locations. That’s how we maintain our bond. I am a true African. My continent and country’s values run through my bloodstream. I will always have a pied-à-terre either in Congo or in Africa. And I cannot see my kids growing up without knowing nor having a connection to Congo or Africa.

 Marriage

I believe in monogamy. While Congo allows two different status of marriage – monogamy and polygamy, I could never see myself build a life nor bring my child in a different environment. A relationship is hard enough in itself to bring multiple actors into it.

I don’t believe in divorce. As a Christian, marriage is a life commitment and, I strongly believe in “till death do us part.” While it is easy to call it quit in a relationship when one of the partner is unfaithful, in marriage, there is only one option plausible: working it through.

Reality

With all that being said, I ended up falling in love for someone who had always considered “dating” the norm. He was raised in a polygamous family and envisioned his life the same way. When we met, he was still “talking” to other girls and, had no desire to learn or speak French.

This was probably the greatest of life lessons. You see, God has a way to force you to grow by sending your way, situations and people who will have you question yourself. My husband definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone. I was his first African girlfriend and he, my first African-American babe.

He is the demonstrative and touchy-feely type, I am not. At least, not in public. He believed in polygamy, I did not; which became our #1 argument. He is first generation American, of Ghanaian descent, but born and raised in the Bronx. I am from Congo, lived in Paris and settled in New York. That however, didn’t stop us from falling hard for each others and, tying the knot.

Step by Step

I never had that “simple” type of love where you just take it one day at a time. Our story should have ended after a couple of months but we are now going towards our 3rd year together. He taught me how to be patient and how to trust men again. Though I disagree of his “friendly” manners, he is the cutest and most annoying human being ever. Well, my most annoying human being.

I don’t think people see how difficult and pressured intercultural relationships are. Adjusting to one another while remaining “yourself” is the greatest of challenges. You both want to fit in each other’s worlds but at the same time, fight that natural instinct to “colonize” the other. Learning and embracing someone else’s culture are two things that require time, patience and a strong commitment to your partner.

The stereotypes also seem stronger and harder to overcome. Although we might both be Africans, there is a huuuuuge gap between Central and West Africa that goes beyond the language barrier. The Francophone and Anglophone Africa had different experiences through and post-colonization and, that in itself, greatly influenced their people and culture.

For Better AND for Worse

Just like any relationships, there is a lot of work required, even more in an intercultural one. Spending time together, mingling with each other’s family and friends was crucial to understand each others. Until you have seen your partner in his/her natural habitat, you cannot really see their true self, without inhibitions.

We are lucky to be both Africans because our eating habits are very similar. That makes it easier for me since “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” I do plan on learning and speaking his language (Twi) and his, mine (French and Lingala). When? At some point. But definitely before our traditional wedding. Once we have kids, we will definitely emphasize on their rich cultural background. We want them to have a solid understanding and a strong love of their ancestry. Who doesn’t love a polyglot child?

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Health and Fitness: One month strong

Guys, I made it! lol! It has officially been a month since I jumped back on the fitness and healthy bandwagon and I feel great! Sore, most of the time but still very much happy. Overall it has been a challenging yet very satisfying journey, as I notice my body gradually transforming. As promised, I will break down for you my workout routine and diet plan so that you can get an idea of where to start off if you’re not a gym rat!

First, my workout routine focuses on three major things: endurance, strength and flexibility.  For that reason, I have broken it down into 3 days of gym workouts and 1 day of yoga. The combination of the 4 days allows me to engage my full body in a variety of exercises that will help me gradually lower body fat, increase overall energy and build lean and strong muscles.

Monday – Lower body aka leg day

  • 20mn treadmill run (5.5 speed) with zero pause until time is complete.
  • 4 core strengthening exercise:
    • Sit-ups w/ 16lbs medicine ball (15 rep)
    • Russian twists w/ 16lbs medicine ball (15 rep)
    • Leg raises (15 rep)
    • Planks – front and sides (30sec hold)

This serve as a warmup. Then I start working on my legs. I take my time in every reps so that I actually feel the burn. The goal is not to get through the routine as fast as possible but to keep the muscles engaged throughout the workout. Use this as an indication because you might not be comfortable with my weight resistance.

  • Leg curl – start at 50lbs and increase each set (3 sets – 10 rep)
  • Leg extensions – start at 60lbs then increase the weight each set (3 sets – 10 reps)
  • Leg press – start at 60lbs then increase the weight each set (3 sets – 12 reps)
  • Hip abduction and adductor machines – start at 50lbs then increased the weight each set (3 sets – 10 reps)

I end my workout session with stretching using yoga positions and a foam roll. Then I do a “core blast” with the Ab cruncher (500).

Wednesday – Upper body (Arms,Shoulders and Back) 

  • 20mn treadmill run (5.5 speed)
  • 4 core strengthening exercise:
    • Sit-ups w/ 16lbs medicine ball (15 rep)
    • Russian twists w/ 16lbs medicine ball (15 rep)
    • Leg raises (15 rep)
    • Planks – front and sides (30sec hold)
  • Close-Grip Front Lat Pulldown – start at 40lbs then increase each set (3 sets – 10 reps)
  • Tricep dip machine – start at 40lbs then increase each set (3 sets – 10 reps)
  • Machine Biceps Curls – start at 30lbs then increase each set (3 sets – 10 reps)
  • Shoulder Lateral Raise Machine – start at 20lbs then increase each set (3 sets – 10 reps)
  • Core blast (500 reps) + stretch

Friday – Full body workout 

  • 20mn treadmill run (5.5 speed)
  • 4 core strengthening exercise:
    • Planks – front and sides (30sec hold)
    • Russian twists w/ 16lbs medicine ball (15 reps)
    • Exercise Ball Crunch (30 reps)
    • Knee/Hip Raise On Parallel Bars (15 reps)
    • Weight Plate Side bend – using a 25lbs plate (3 sets – 12 reps on each side)
  • Bench Dip – 3 sets (10 reps)
  • Biceps Curls with a 15lbs Body Bar (3 sets – 10 reps)
  • Behind-the-neck Shoulder Press with 15lbs Body Bar (3 sets – 10 reps)
  • Front Raise with a 15lbs Body Bar (3 sets – 10 reps)
  • Leg curl – start at 50lbs and increase each set (3 sets – 10 rep)
  • Leg extensions – start at 60lbs then increase the weight each set (3 sets – 10 reps)
  • Hip abduction and adduction machines – start at 50lbs then increased the weight each set (3 sets – 10 reps)
  • Back Squat with Fixed Weight Barbell (30lbs) – 2 sets of 10 reps regular + 1 set 12 reps in sumo squat
  • Seated Back Extension – start at 40lbs then increase each set (3 sets – 10 reps)
  • Cable Row with Static Squat using a close grip (V-shape) handle – start at 50lbs then increase each set (3 sets – 10 reps)
    • Set the pulley at waist height. Grab the handle and take a few steps back and lower into squat position. Hold the squat position as you pull the handle towards your navel; at the end, your elbows should be tucked close to the sides of your body. Slowly extend your arms to return to the start, keeping your core tight and chest lifted to prevent the weight from pulling you forward.
  • Ab Crunch Machine – start at 40lbs then increase each set (3 sets of 12 reps)
  • 15-30mn sauna session (depending on how much time I have left on my schedule)

Sunday – Yoga

I go to Yoga to the People every sunday morning. My friend Alicia took me to my first class five years ago at their East Village location (St Marks Place) and I fell in love with their Power Vinyasa Flow class. The teachers are very welcoming and do their best to make everybody feel comfortable. The classes which last 1h, are opened to every level and really focus on personal experience. I tried their Hot Vinyasa class at the Midtown location but it was more challenging (90 mins) as I just got back to practice after a loooooong time off.

That’s it for the workout routine.  Now let’s talk about my diet!

Three weeks ago I started the Atkins 40 diet to better achieve my weight goal and get rid of stubborn fat. Although I am confident that my active lifestyle is healthy, I felt the need to add a “kick” to it and went for a low carb diet. I heard a lot of positive things about Atkins and decided to give it a try. So basically the diet consists of consuming only 40 grams of Net Carbs of carbohydrates a day.

The Net Carbs of any whole food item are calculated this way: Total Carbohydrates – (Minus) Dietary Fiber. This diet, while very challenging (because I have to weigh my food  to make sure I am eating the right quantity), still allows me to enjoy a full range of food options from every food group—carbohydrates, protein and fats—while still losing weight. Plus, they have a free carb tracking app that helps a lot because it has a large variety of products that we use daily and their carb information. You can also scan the barcode of products not available in their database or simply type their nutrition info manually.

With this diet, I am supposed to lose an average of 2lbs/week! This is great for people who are trying to reach lose weight before the summer! For my part, it’s not the case. I have so far lost 5lbs (2lbs before Atkins and 3lbs while on it) and now have 15 more to drop. My ideal weight would be to get back to 143.3lbs (65kgs) but I am not rushing to get there. I must admit that the carb tracking is frustrating as I cannot enjoy my wine, Chai Tea Latte nor my homemade pastries. Plus, my husband is not a fan but, he supports me regardless. Who knows, I might end up settling for a different weight once I achieve a body form and shape that I love and am proud of.

I hope this helps whoever is trying to find some motivation! The only piece of advice I can give is follow your guts. No one except for yourself can and will find the strength to engage in such a journey. I am proud that I have not fallen off the wagon and definitely look forward to seeing more results!

Cul-de-sac

For the past couple of weeks, I have experienced lots of stress and frustration. The reason is: I feel stuck and, this is no new feeling. I have actually been feeling that way  for the past three years. So this is something I am familiar with, except that it has become unbearable lately because I’m starting to doubt myself.

My frustration stems from my inability to secure a job. It just seems like things are “blocked” for me – like my opportunities are benefitting someone else. Although I have always been successful in my studies, I never seemed able to fully transform that potential into a full-time job. Watching all my friends around me succeed and gradually building their careers is definitely not helping. Don’t get me wrong: I AM ABSOLUTELY HAPPY for them but at the same time, it leaves me wondering when will be my time.I am a human being and jealousy is a natural feeling.

While I am still a full-time graduate student, I had hoped that my first two degrees would have been enough to demonstrate my qualities and potential in the marketplace. Maybe I just have no idea how to sell or brand myself? Maybe I need to be more patient? Maybe you’re not all that special Isis and you need to face it? This frustration has become so invasive that it is starting to impact my relationship. While it is all happening in my head, my body as well is starting to feel it and this is not a good sign.

So today, more than any other days, I finally found the strength to voice my feelings – something that I still struggle with. (Mother Nature might have helped a little here) At 25, I have a bachelor and a masters’ degrees but still no job. My biological clock is starting to tick which only adds fuel to the fire. I am no longer sure whether I want to have a baby now or wait until I have secured a job. Why should I have to choose? Why can’t I simply have both? Why does it always have to be so complicated? I mean, I got to be good at something else than studying right?

Although I have received many words of encouragement from my family, friends and professors to trust the process and be more patient, I am starting to doubt that “my time will come.” And this is unacceptable as a Christian because I know God has a plan for everybody. I’m simply asking for a sign. I know I promised to be more positive and to only see the positive but it is hard. I know I am capable of doing it but right now, I just feel like I have reached a dead-end and it is quite discouraging.

I pray that God gives me the strength to keep up with my job search. I have never been the type to give up anyways. I guess this is just another lesson that life is teaching me and that I should be working harder on my patience. Alas, they don’t call it the mother of virtues for no reason. What I know for sure is that the wait has significantly humbled me.

A girl’s best friend

Ladies, ladies, ladies: raise your hand if you have way too many bags than room in your closet and, money in your bank account! ✋🏾🙋🏾 (I raised both hands) Now that that is established, let’s talk purses.👜👜

In my last post, I opened up about my obsession for bodysuits but unfortunately, it is not the only addiction that I cultivate. What would probably come first on my list is bags! I love them, I breathe and dream about them at every time of the day. It is a vice that I got from my mom and that I sadly and proudly carried on and, will pass on to my daughters because, they are simply too beautiful.

As the only girl in the family, it was only right that I inherited the singular passion for all things girlyish. My mom has always been my model and style inspiration. She has that timeless and effortless classy aura and taste that will make anybody want to know more about her. This is something that I have always hoped and worked hard on to channel, even to this day. However, if there is one thing that I definitely assimilated is her taste for bags.

I probably got my first designer bag when I was in Middle School or High School. I am not sure, it was a long time ago. Why so long though? Because my parents believed and raised us to always be grateful and worthy of anything that was given to us. My dad, a very loving but still very strict man, never refused me a thing but, made sure to instigate in me the values of merit. In other words, you can get anything in life, as long as you work hard for it and prove that you deserve it – henceforth I always excelled throughout my education. So, just as my parents started giving me more responsibilities, they introduced me to the designer world.

I bought my first bag in 2011, the Noé Louis Vuitton bag (LR) on Vestiaire Collective. That was my first experience buying a second-hand bag and I must admit I was a little bit freaked out. My sister-in-law who was using the website at the time, referred me and shared her positive experience with them, which helped me a little into trying it out. After I received my bag, I was so in love with it. I was so proud, cause I bought it with my own money for once and I loved the feeling of owning my own sh*t. 👸🏾

After that, I moved to New York and things went south. My addiction reached new highs and became severe. I discovered outlets, warehouse sales, designer sales and what I like to refer to as the devil 😱😈: Century 21, TJ Maxx and Marshalls. My collection went from Gérard Darel, Lancel and Longchamp to CélineSaint LaurentDior, Chanel, Fendi, Ferragamo, Prada and Givenchy, to name only a few. As of today, I own close to 30 designer bags, which is not negligible for someone this young. I look at them like long-term investments that I will be happy to pass down to my daughters and theirs afterwards. This is why I look forward to get a hold of my mom’s collection – even though we have an agreement that I can “borrow” an item per trip back home and, return it the next time I visit.😏

While these days I have slowed down my compulsive shopping, I still have a number of pieces in my wish lists on Vestiaire Collective, Net-à-Porter and C21. When seasonal sales hit, my taping game knows no limit: add to basket & purchase lol. (Don’t tell my husband) There are pieces that I however keep on the fantasy side and try not feed into too much, for fear of losing my mind: Constance & Kelly by Hermes, Peekaboo by Fendi and Miss Dior by Dior.😣😢 Those will only become realities when I am financially established aka I own a house and have savings secured for my kids’ future. Let’s be clear, just because I love luxury pieces, does not mean that I would forget about my priorities – my parents taught me better.

May your collection grow and your bank account flourish! 😅💵💳💰

I Am… Sasha Fierce

The month of love is here with its famous celebration, Valentine’s Day! This is even more special as we will celebrate our sixth month marriage anniversary and, our second year of dating! It is exciting and definitely one of those times where I want to surprise and spoil my man.

For the first time, I can freely unleash my Sasha Fierce and what better occasion than love season. If you know me, I outdo myself when it comes to showing and expressing my love and care when in a relationship. From time to time, I like to switch up things and make sure that we do not fall into the ‘boring couple’ category. I don’t like basic. Never have and never will. Therefore, I make sure to spice it up when necessary, sometimes just because.

So what’s the plan for V-day this year: I have no clue, as usual. lol, I just let my man handle that day. However, I surely have a few tricks up my sleeve, to make sure that I am always ready at all times. Like every woman, I absolutely love feeling and looking sexy & attractive, for myself and for my man. There is no better feeling than that look your bae gives you when you’re smoking hot! Lust and passion are definitely two necessary spices to keep a healthy and exciting relationship.

In order to properly prepare for the occasion, I went ahead to my wax lady last weekend  to handle my business and got a fresh mani-pedi. Another thing that is absolutely important is lingerie. I love it, well actually I am obsessed with lingerie. I like looking good underneath my clothes but above all, I want my man to feel like he’s unwrapping a gift every time he undresses me so I always look for the cute and inciting sets. I have a thing for boudoir lingerie and a clear obsession with lace and bodysuits. My favorite brands are L’Agent by Agent Provocateur, Fleur du Mal and of course Victoria’s Secret, to only name a few.

While lingerie plays a major role this season, I am very excited about Fifty Shades Darker. I devoured the trilogy in two weeks when it came out four years ago and was extremely pleased to see that the movie remained as faithful as possible to the books. Like last year, I managed to get advance tickets for 2/9 except this time, I will be treating bae to diner. From time to time, it is good to show him how much he is appreciated and what better occasion than NYC Restaurant Week. I look forward to it because it will give us an opportunity to take a break from New York fast life and, focus on each others.

Until then, ‘Laters, baby.’

Back on Tracks

Last week marked the beginning of two important things: my 3rd semester in my PR program at NYU and, my return to the GYM. While the first happened quite smoothly, I must admit the comeback to the latter was not so easy and that is all my fault.

I had been slacking from my almost religious workout routine since October so it is only fair that I would be struggling after three months or so. As part of my resolution to become the best version of myself this year, I want to get my sh*t together and get back on tracks with my weight and fitness goals: losing 10 lbs/5 kgs & toning up my body.

With a fully loaded semester – 4 full-time classes – I am aware that it will be challenging and that I might want to give up on multiple occasions but, I will just have to work harder. Fitness helped me overcome and alleviate a lot of the pain and stress I faced last year after losing my best friend and, I do hope to integrate it fully to my routine this time. This time, I am lucky to have the guidance and tips from my hubby who will be extremely resourceful  into meeting my goals. He’s going to be a real a** but that will be necessary cause I need a pusher to get me started.

Here is what my new routine will consist of:

  • 3 workouts per week targeting
    • endurance/cardio
    • legs
    • upper body
    • core
  • 1 yoga session to improve my flexibility and alleviate the soreness from my workouts

Meanwhile, I have slowly started reducing my calories intake, focusing on lean proteins, lots of fruits and veggies (which are already part of my diet) and, consuming more water. Let’s be clear, Rome was not built in one day so I am not rushing myself into it. I want to enjoy every step of the process while making sure I do not lose my husband when he becomes a bully at the gym (sigh).

I will be posting updates soon about my exact routine and diet but you can check my Instagram story for the latest news. Wish me luck, I will need it!

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