Travel Life

Living abroad taught me that my expectations of life were unrealistic

I can’t tell you exactly when I promised myself that I’d travel and live abroad, because it was too early to remember. It was just something that I’d always known I’d eventually do. So when I was 19 years old, only a few months before COVID-19 hit, I moved to Madrid, Spain, and traveled around Europe for five months.

Because of my life-long conviction to live internationally, I had ample time to douse my dreams in unattainable and idealized expectations. I imagined that my time abroad would be perfect – I’d make all sorts of multicultural friends, change up my style, and pretty much live out the entire plot of the Lizzie Mcguire Movie and Monte Carlo.


While I will forever be grateful for my time in Europe for being exactly the way that it was, it was anything but my perfect pre-departure daydreams. It didn’t take long for me to realize this either.

Upon first moving to Spain, I became wildly depressed, and it clouded the ways in which I saw the world and interacted with other people. It’s probably not of any surprise that a debilitating crash of my mental health was not in any part of the plan. There are a lot of countries and experiences that I struggle to remember due to the fact that everything I saw was grey. I also (shockingly) didn’t become a pop star in Italy and sing in front of a large crowd in sparkly silver pants with Paolo, and I wasn’t invited to any yacht parties off of the coast of France.

I, instead, learned how to pivot emotionally when life didn’t go according to plan.

This is why I’m grateful. Of course, I would have loved to spend my days frolicking in the streets of Madrid rather than locking myself in my bedroom, but sometimes things change. Sometimes, for good reasons or no reason at all, you can’t find the energy to get out of bed or talk to anyone. The timing may have not been ideal, but it taught me something valuable and vital for the future.

Through the difficult process, while living and traveling Europe, I learned what it truly meant to be alone and how to be comfortable with that. I no longer had my circle of support from my university to rely on, and the time difference made it nearly impossible to call my family. Not to mention the fact that I was stared at by locals almost everywhere and treated as an outsider due to my “exotic” Black skin, which, incidentally, made finding new friends that much more difficult. I quickly learned that my international life would only be with me, myself, and I.

With this, I traveled to a different European country almost every weekend and made experiences of my own, which is something that no one can ever take away from me. It was just me and my suitcase in Zurich, Switzerland for one weekend and Milan, Italy the next. For five months, I existed within my own thoughts, which at times drove me absolutely insane, but ultimately helped me develop a strong sense of self.


When I returned back to university in the United States, I had to confront people who hadn’t been through the same sort of life-changing experience that I had while living in Spain. I had to re-examine every single relationship in my life – I’m still figuring out what all of them mean to me.

Living and studying abroad was one of the hardest things that I’ve ever done, but it was necessary. I don’t even recognize the girl that I was before I embarked on that five-month journey. I’m still processing the lessons that I’ve learned from living abroad and the toll that it took on my mental health.

I don’t plan on doing it again anytime soon, but I’m grateful for the lessons that it taught me. I saw things and places that I’d dreamt about for years and was forced to have conversations within myself that changed me into the woman I am today.

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The Internet Style Fashion Beauty Lookbook

How TikTok’s #VogueChallenge became more than just a hashtag

Two months into quarantine, I reluctantly hopped onto the TikTok bandwagon and downloaded the app with hopes of curing my ‘bored in the house, in the house bored’ symptoms. I grew up in the era of Vine, a social networking short-form video platform where users shared six second-long, looping video clips. Originally, I had disregarded TikTok as I thought I was too old and wise to contribute to a culture dominated by bleach-haired Gen-Z teenagers desperately trying to become Internet famous, one Renegade dance at a time.  Soon enough I became addicted, going as far as learning how to channel my inner VSCO girl, discovering what a tennis bracelet meant and suffering many failed attempts of throwing it back. TikTok, an app with an audience of over 800 million users is not only known for their catchy dances but its plethora of challenges which have swept their feeds.

Most recently, the #VogueChallenge has risen in popularity among the latest trends, in which creators share a collage of pictures mimicking a model pose or artistic edits with the “Vogue” magazine title at the top. The mock editorial covers have now transitioned throughout Instagram and Twitter. Even major celebrities and public figures, from Lizzo to YouTube beauty guru James Charles, have created their own take on the challenge.

It makes us all wonder—what’s the point? What is everyone trying to express behind all of these covers?

My first impression was that it was a marketing tactic for influencers and aspiring models, to showcase their best pictures in an effort to try getting a foot in the door behind the world’s most renowned fashion magazine. In fact, fashion macro-influencers such as Chriselle Lim and Jamie Chua have thrown themselves into the trend, with their luxurious, professional blog photos closely mimicking Vogue’s past archives. This seems like a pretty valid argument because well, it’s unequivocally every one’s dream to be featured on the cover of Vogue once in her lifetime—right?

But I quickly learned that the #VogueChallenge is more than a hashtag.

The challenge has become more and more prevalent among members of minority and LGBTQ communities who are coming forward to share their perception of what Vogue covers should look like, along with the themes Vogue regularly fails to portray. Vogue has been a magazine championing white privilege throughout its countless editions, the glossy pages mostly featuring skinny, beautiful, Caucasian models. Anna Wintour, the famed Editor-in-Chief of American Vogue for the past 32 years, has been widely acclaimed for her impact on fashion influences across the nation. However, although she’s had the power to change inclusivity and diversity within the fashion runways and editorial spreads, she simply chose not to. She most recently made a public statement apologizing for any inadvertent promotion of racism, citing her commitment to providing more inclusivity and diversity within the Vogue offices and within the pages of her fashion encyclopedia. In a way, the #VogueChallenge promotes a continuous amplification of the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Many TikTok users aren’t simply posting with the hashtag for social media clout or to feature on the #fyp pages but rather, as a response to Anna Wintour’s ill-fated apology. It raises awareness that the world of print media publishing needs to modernize and change in response to the racial justice movements occurring across the country.

As television companies and musical artists have stood in solidarity with BLM, as well as to remove any derogatory implications targeted towards the Black community, magazines and digital social networking communities must commit to doing the same. In an industry where two of the largest publishers (Condé Nast and Hearst) are owned by prominent white male businessmen, the magazines with the biggest financial backing such as Vogue or Harper’s Baazar have been run by white women in executive roles, for decades. Although magazines catered to the minority class do exist, they rarely, if ever, receive the same financial backing as of Conde Nast and Hearst, or equal publicity.

Anna Wintour, among other privileged editors, must come together to change the historical stigmatization and underrepresentation of minority and LGBTQ communities. Change is happening around the world, and changes in print media need to happen right now. The #VogueChallenge is just the beginning.

Culture Life

The divide within the African diaspora won’t get us anywhere

When I was in elementary school,  another Black student told me that she and her family were simply ‘African’ and not ‘African American’ because her ancestors had never been enslaved. If you thought I, a fellow Black woman, was confused at that moment, imagine how puzzled our predominantly white classmates, who had already mentally grouped this Black girl and me as the same person, were.

I initially failed to understand what this student meant by her separation between recent African immigrants and North American Black descendants of the enslaved. But as I learned more about our history, over time, I began to comprehend what she meant. Throughout my life, this discourse would come up again and again.

Although we look the same in everyone else’s eyes, there’s still an “otherness” in our history and culture that, oftentimes, separates us.

I’ve been told by recent African immigrants that because I am a descendant of slavery, my ancestors and I are weak, whereas Africans are stronger because they had the choice to come to this country. I’ve heard Black slave descendants use coded language when referring to Africans, saying things that allude to them being “unkempt” and “savage”. I’ve seen them question recent immigrants’ intelligence, talk down to them, or insult their beauty.

I’ve felt this divide within our community and I’ve seen it with my own eyes.


But recently, the world has experienced a global reckoning that criticizes the ways in which we approach race, culture, and ethnicity. Since the inhumane death of George Floyd on Memorial Day of this year, industries across all boards have had their historic dirty laundry with racism, colorism, and sexism aired out for the world to see as the public has assertively held them more accountable than ever.

With this, I’ve taken the time to truly question my nationality within this country, and have further understood the power of unity within the African diaspora through identification.

First, it’s important to understand where the ill-feelings between us comes from. The tension and animosity between Africans and descendants of the enslaved in North America are traced back to both group’s individual experiences with migration, slavery, and colonialism. 


The Atlantic slave trade stripped enslaved Africans of our culture and left us to recreate a completely new one, which many present-day Black Americans identify with. And whether we understand it or not, American Black culture today has strong and direct influences from slavery that those who were never enslaved in America may not be familiar with.

African empires and kingdoms have had their own relationships with slavery but with completely different meanings. Writers Daivi Rodima-Taylor and Zadi Zokou describe it as “local socio-cultural patterns of clientage and adoptive kinship rather than a large-scale commercial enterprise.”

Africa, which is the second-largest and oldest continent in the world, has many different unique cultures within it too. Like anywhere, Africa’s complicated history has similarly been processed into a unique modern-day culture that African Americans just may not understand.

Our cultural differences are at the forefront when associating with each other. On both ends, there’s an attitude of othering and criticizing.

And despite completing an ancestry test that told me exactly where in Africa my ancestors are from, I still am confused culturally as to where and who I should identify with. It feels like a bridge that will never be crossed and something that slavery has taken from me forever.

If I’ve learned anything from the recent reignition of civil rights discussion though, it’s that the diaspora’s otherness won’t make us any better as we exist in this country together. When looking at each other internally, we may notice our differences, but to anyone else, we are simply Black.

It isn’t the slave descendants’ fault that they were forced to assimilate. But it also shouldn’t be pushed upon recent African immigrants to assimilate if they do not choose to. There is no blame to be given to those of us that are non-consensual foreigners to this land. We shouldn’t side-eye each other because we are unfamiliar with each other’s culture.

There’s no easy solution and even I don’t have the answers to this age-old discourse in the slightest. But in this introspective time for the world, I’ve rethought my identity and nationality.

For myself, as an American descendant of the enslaved, I hope to only be referred to as Black. I’ve made this decision because of the danger and separation that I think the identification of ‘African American’ holds within our community.

When we separate African Americans from African immigrants, we, in a way, recognize slavery as the qualification to be a *true* Black American. But slavery is not the sole definition of what makes me who I am. It creates a false qualification that is unattainable for African immigrants. ‘African American’ also does not include the entirety of the diaspora. I think of the term as a way to further push this “otherness” narrative and it can separate us from the diversity within our community, rather than embracing it.

So no, the other classmate in my elementary school may not have identified herself as African American, but now I don’t either. I’m Black (with a capital ‘B’) whose ancestors came from Africa. Slavery may have reinterpreted my culture, but it does not define the legitimacy of myself as a Black woman in America.

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Activism The World Inequality

Your racist statues are not worth more than Black Lives

On Wednesday morning of June 10, the statue of a confederate leader named Jefferson Davis stood tall in Richmond, VA as it had been for the past 113 years. But that night, the bronze figure lay face front on the ground at the hands of Black Lives Matter protesters who tore it down.

Davis’ statue is one of many racist monuments across the world that have either been vandalized, pulled down, or beheaded by demonstrators, but this controversy isn’t new. Since the American civil war, activists have urged their governments to change the names or reconsider figures that commemorate controversial individuals from history.

We saw this in 2015 when a John Calhoun statue was demanded to be taken down, following the Charleston, SC mass murder that was intended to provoke a race war by a white supremacist. More than 100 statues were removed after the attack, but many more still stand throughout the world today.

In countries like England, the discourse around statues and symbols runs even further back as a country notorious for imperialism and colonialism. Activists have called for the removal of statues like Edward Colston who was a slave trader, Cecil Rhodes who was a white supremacist in apartheid, and many more.

Most recently, this age-old conversation of monument preservation has been reignited following the unjust death of George Floyd. And although we’ve heard this debate time and time again, the difference now is that Floyd protesters who fight for Black lives have taken the issue within their own hands, and are tearing down statues without the permission from governments that have failed them.

“I finally feel like people are hearing that we’re really serious about this,” international relations scholar Alyssa Bailey told me. “We’re standing together and finally saying that this is unacceptable.”

She isn’t wrong. Since recent Black Lives Matter protests, NASCAR banned confederate flags from any of their events and HBO Max removed the classic American movie “Gone With the Wind” due to its racist themes. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has even called for statues of confederate soldiers to be removed from the U.S. capitol.

The debate prevails, though, as some oppose getting rid of statues, claiming that it alters history.

Political science and government scholar, Summer Boyd disagrees. She told me that people are fully capable of understanding history without commemorating offensive figures.

“You don’t see statues in Germany that worship Hitler,” Boyd said. “Everyone understands the history of what happened in Nazi Germany yet they don’t need statues of him.”

Boyd is from Charleston, SC, and said that she constantly has to look at statues, establishments, and streets that are named after racists. She told me the disrespect that these figures represent runs much deeper than just an old slab of stone.

“Black people, especially in this town, have such trauma, and to be reminded of it all the time is a major issue,” she told me.

Not to mention, these figures say a lot about what the government is willing to allow and protect. It raises the question of how far we as a country have actually come if we’re still honoring slavery supporters who lost a war.

Communications, law, economics, and government scholar Fatmata Kamara told me that these types of people are not anyone to admire and that societies should be embarrassed about their legacy instead.

“Statues should be made for someone who’s had a great impact or someone that we should look up to,” she said. “We all know what these people symbolize so by giving them statues it’s honestly not the full story.”

Kamara said that even if some of these figures did have some sort of impact during their lives, the implications of promoting slavery and racism that many of them supported are more important to recognize.

“It’s a slap in the face,” she said. “What credit can I give to these statues other than them killing Black people?”

Although it is important to reflect on history and understand the implications of it, we can’t gloss over the ugly parts. For example, the celebrated Christopher Columbus was responsible for the enslavement, genocide, and mutilation of Native Americans. He also spread deadly diseases, was denounced from certain countries, among many other crimes during his life, but many of us only remember him as a hero who paved the way for the United States of America.

We have to look at these statues with the same eyes of these affected communities. We have to separate ourselves from the symbols that this country has been indoctrinated to worship, like the American flag and the national anthem. When we put such weight on symbols and stone that represent oppression for certain communities, we bat an eye at the evils they’ve historically endured.

Consider how disrespectful it is to have an 80-foot statue of a slave-owner in a town where the descendants of slaves are forced to look upon and pass by daily. Consider how disrespectful it is for Native Americans to live next to the face of the very man who murdered their ancestors.

So whether or not protesters take these racist figures down or governments call to have them removed themselves, it’s time. It’s been time.

Enough is enough.

Education The World

It’s never too early to teach your kids about racism

In 1944, George Stinney Jr. was the youngest person executed for a crime that, 70 years later, would be proven he didn’t commit. It took ten minutes to convict him. He was fourteen years old.

In 2012, Tamir Rice was fatally shot by police officers while playing in the park with a toy gun. He was twelve years old.

In the same year, Trayvon Martin was walking home from a gas station when he was shot to death by a neighborhood patrol member. He was seventeen years old.

This year, Gianna Floyd lost her father to a police officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and forty-six seconds after he tried to pay for items at a grocery store. Gianna is six years old.

After Floyd’s death, Nickelodeon, and many other networks at Viacom, paid tribute by going off-air for the same amount of time that Floyd was strangled for. Nickelodeon also released a statement that explained their support of the Black Lives Matter movement in what was titled the “Declaration of Kids’ Rights.”

The statement read: “You have the right to be seen, heard, and respected as a citizen of the world. You have the right to a world that is peaceful. You have the right to be treated with equality, regardless of the color of your skin. You have the right to be protected from harm, injustice, and hatred. You have the right to an education that prepares you to run the world. You have the right to your opinions and feelings, even if others don’t agree with them.”

However, following the tribute, some parents expressed anger and disapproval on social media, claiming it was inappropriate for the children’s channel.

In a deleted Twitter post, from deleted user @geigtm wrote: “Ok, I’m PISSED! Why is this s*** just popping up on Nickelodeon while my kid is watching a show?!!!! My eight year old is scared to death!!! F*** YOU MEDIA!!! F*** YOU!!! U are DONE!”

Others on Twitter shared similar concerns for appropriateness following Nickelodeon’s statement.

But for many Black children in America, death, reality, and police brutality is systemically “pushed” onto us before we can even write or tie our shoes. Many kids are “scared to death” when people that look like them are murdered in cold blood on the television screen every day for doing some of the same innocent things that they do, like playing in the park or buying groceries.


According to the Economic Policy Institute, “Black children are more likely than white children to be exposed to frightening or threatening experiences” due to a variety of different systemic factors. This puts Black kids at higher risks to suffer from academic, health, and behavioral problems.

So why is it that some children and families get to opt-out? How come my mother had to prepare me for the racism that I’d inevitably face when I was only a child hoping to play? I’m sure that the kids of my second-grade class who solely referred to me as “Black girl” understood what racism was. Why were the other children afforded their own names? I’m almost positive that when they bullied me for being too dark, they knew exactly what they were doing.

Too many parents want to teach their kids a “color-blind” mentality. The reality for people of color, though, is that race isn’t something that can just be swept under the rug. Not when our country is still pungent from the racist remnants of Jim Crow, 9/11, and even the pandemic right now. When you say that you “don’t see color”, you also say that you don’t acknowledge oppression and issues like police brutality, although they ravage communities like my own. To be “color-blind” is to willingly choose ignorance.


There are many ways to appropriately approach these types of uncomfortable topics for nearly every age. In fact, experts even say that toddlers as young as two years old are ready to have age-appropriate conversations about race and racism. Children’s media has been recommended as a good way to help families navigate, and books like ‘A is for Activist‘ by Innosanto Nagara and graphic novels like ‘New Kid‘ by Jerry Craft are good places to start. And similar to Nickelodeon, other children’s programming like Sesame Street have recently included race into their show’s conversation as well. More resources can be found here.

It is never too early to speak to your children about racism. I’m sure that your kids are probably already well aware of it anyways. To deny your child conversations about race – or to lash out – because a corporation was mature enough to do so instead, serves you both a major disservice in the changing world that we live in today.

Health Science Now + Beyond

Why does society keep dismissing female pain?

The other day, I came across an article in The Atlantic that was published five years ago on female pain. Joe Fassler, the writer, described his wife’s traumatic experience in an emergency room where her unbearable pain was dismissed for 14-and-a-half hours. The woman in question, Rachel, had PCOS. As a result, an ovarian cyst grew undetected for so long that it caused her fallopian tube to twist. This is called ovarian torsion which was mistaken for kidney stones under a male doctor who barely took the time to do a physical exam on his female patient.

Disbelief of female pain is rampant.

Rachel withered in pain, knuckles white and face scrunched, for hours on end while nurses patted her head condescendingly, patients slept peacefully next to her, and doctors fluttered around attending to patients in order of arrival rather than the severity of symptoms. All while Rachel’s ovary was dying.

My heart ached for Rachel and I am grateful to say that I have yet to share in her trauma. The day I was diagnosed with PCOS, I woke up with sharp pains in my abdomen that radiated down to my toes. I was seventeen years old and my dad had to drag my weak body to the car. I barely remember the drive to my family doctor or what he had said to me up until the ultrasound occurred. But when it did, up popped up a blurry spot on my left ovary. The source of all my trouble was approximately 4cm in diameter, weighing down on my ovary, and caused a debilitating pain that is exclusive to this condition.

The dismissal and disbelief of female pain are rampant in the medical field. There is case piled upon case of how doctors tend to categorize the pain of women as “all in their head”. PMS and reproductive health have been longstanding points of debacle in the history of disbelieving female pain. PMS was originally (and still to this day by those who cringe at the word “vagina”) thought to only exist in the imagination of women as an excuse to mood swings or irritation. In my experience, any form of emotional showcase boils down to, “Is it that time of the month for you?”

Our pain is not worthy of concern – not even from ourselves.

Female hysteria dates back to 1900 BC in which ancient Egypt attributed the ‘disorder’ to “spontaneous uterus movement within the female body”. In the Greek world, hysteria was also tied back to the uterus. Hippocrates believed that due to an inadequate sex life, the uterus “not only [produced] toxic fumes but also [took] to wandering around the body, causing various kinds of disorders such as anxiety and a sense of suffocation.” I don’t know about you, but I tend to experience PMS regardless of whether I am actively having sex or not.

These ideologies may have been done away with, however, the gender bias still exists.

In a 2001 study titled “The Girl Who Cried Pain, A Bias Against Women in the Treatment of Pain,” it was seen that women are “more likely to be treated less aggressively in their initial encounters with the health-care system until they ‘prove that they are as sick as male patients’.” This is known, in the medical community, as ‘Yentl Syndrome’.

In Gabrielle Jackson’s book Pain and Prejudice, the endometriosis patient highlights that “women wait longer for pain medication than men, wait longer to be diagnosed with cancer, are more likely to have their physical symptoms ascribed to mental health issues, are more likely to have their heart disease misdiagnosed or to become disabled after a stroke, and are more likely to suffer illnesses ignored or denied by the medical profession.”

There seems to an unspoken agreement that female pain is either imagined or exaggerated. Even women themselves hesitate to go to an emergency room when in pain in fear of making a mountain out of a molehill. We are taught that our pain is normal and therefore not worthy of concern – not even from our ourselves.

These disparities in health treatment go even further. Studies show that if you aren’t wealthy, white, or heterosexual then you are less likely to be given the same quality of treatment than if you were.

Better to be wrong than dead.

Doctors downplaying or outright denying pain experienced by a female or pain exclusive to females is undeniably an issue that needs to be rectified in fears of it being fatal. If it, unfortunately, does happen to you, however, Dr. Tia Powell, a bioethicist and a professor of clinical epidemiology and population health, suggests three things to do: ask your doctor for guidelines on their recommendation; be direct with your doctor and make your concern for their dismissal known; check your own bias towards your pain – you would rather be wrong than dead.

In some ways, I am lucky to have a father who did not hesitate to believe my pain on the day I was diagnosed with PCOS. In more ways, I am angry at myself and the world to have to consider my position of having a male believe me as “lucky” when it should, in fact, be a norm. Rachel still relives that traumatic day through nightmares. However, she is alive and well… some women aren’t as lucky.

Coronavirus Science Now + Beyond

Here’s everything you need to know about COVID-19

As the world adjusts to its ‘new normal’ of fighting over toilet paper, uploading dance videos to Tik Tok, and partaking in an infinite number of Zoom calls during this pandemic, it’s easy enough to be distracted from the key information being shared around COVID-19.

And it’s just as easy to get lost in the chaos of information surrounding the pandemic as well. Here’s everything you need to know about COVID-19 – a virus that has infected 3.94 million people and taken the lives of near 300,000 – from where it originated, what it is, how it’s transmitted, its symptoms, and where the world stands in terms of a cure.

What is a coronavirus?

It’s infected 3.94 million people and taken the lives of near 300,000.

Coronaviruses are not a new phenomenon in our world. They have been a source of contention throughout our history and are a large family of viruses which may cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Corona (not the Mexican-heritage beer) is Latin for ‘crown’ and refers to the crown-like spikes on the virus’s surface when viewed under an electron microscope. Sometimes coronaviruses infecting animals can evolve to cause disease in humans and become a new (novel) coronavirus for humans which is the case with COVID-19 (Corona Virus Disease 2019, the year referring to when the first case was found).

Where did the virus originate?

It originated in bats and then jumped to humans.

The virus was first reported in Wuhan, China in late December of 2019. The majority of the case-patients initially identified were dealers and vendors at a seafood, poultry and live wildlife market in Jianghan District of Hubei Province, leading to the argument that the virus has a zoonotic (a disease that normally exists in animals but can infect humans) origin. Scientists have since determined that the likeliest scenario is for COVID-19 to have originated in bats and then jumped to humans, similar to hows the SARS epidemic spread in early 2000s.

So, as much as Trump wishes us to believe that COVID-19 escaped from a lab in Wuhan, there is simply no evidence to this claim, and the origins of the virus remain to be a contested and controversial topic. Some theories (that have since been proved false) include that the virus was part of a Chinese “covert biological weapons programme” or that a Canadian-Chinese spy team had sent it to Wuhan.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

COVID-19 can affect people in different ways; however, the most common symptoms appear to be a fever, dry cough and tiredness, which can take anywhere from five to 14 days to appear.

Less common symptoms include aches and pains, sore throat, diarrhea, conjunctivitis, headache, loss of taste or smell, a rash on the skin, or discolouration of fingers or toes.

Symptoms can take anywhere from five to 14 days to appear.

According to the World Health Organization, serious symptoms include difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure and loss of speech or movement. You should immediately seek medical attention if you present serious symptoms but always call before visiting your doctor or nearest medical facility.

What happens when COVID-19 enters the body?

Transmission of the virus occurs when droplets of water containing the virus are expelled by an infected person in a cough or sneeze. If COVID-19 were to successfully enter the human body (through the eyes, nose, or mouth), it would immediately aim for the lungs.

Once on the epithelial cells lining the lungs, the virus would attach to a receptor (ACE2 in the case of COVID-19) to impart its genetic material into the cell. The cell then carries out the virus’s instructions; multiplying the virus within itself. At a certain point, the cell disintegrates, allowing for the multiplied particles of the virus to roam freely out and attack neighboring cells. After a few days, the number of infected cells has grown exponentially within the lungs allowing for outward symptoms to appear on a human infected with COVID-19.

How does one prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Stay at home, wash your hands, and social distance! Avoid touching the eyes, mouth, and nose especially.

Put simply, the virus spreads more easily when people are in close proximity to one another. If you cough and sneeze in a large crowd, it is very likely that those water droplets landed onto someone else. If you are around no one, if those water droplets land onto a surface (such as a doorknob) and another person touches it, then they now have those germs on their skin.

If you do have to leave the house, take the necessary precautions such as wearing a face mask and standing at least 1 metre away from other people in the vicinity.

Washing your hands with soap and water is also very important. COVID-19 is encased in a lipid or fat. Soap destroys this fat, causing the virus to be unable to sustain itself.

Is there any cure, vaccine or treatment for COVID-19?

Right now – no.

So be aware of fake or misleading cures circulating social media. One such claim – shared 16,000 times on Facebook – advises users in the Philippines to “keep your throat moist”, avoid spicy food, and load up on vitamin C in order to prevent the disease. The information is said to be from the country’s Department of Health but it does not match the advice on the DOH website or its official press releases on the outbreak.

There is no cure yet but a vaccine is being worked on.

Another unsubstantiated claim shared online suggests avoiding cold or preserved food and drinks, such as ice cream and milkshakes, for “at least 90 days”. Others are peddling “plague protection kits” which claims to shield people from the virus and some scammers are asking for credit card details to be uploaded onto websites promising a COVID-19 cure.

The search for a cure that will put an end to it all is a long and difficult one and many countries are partaking in the search for a possible vaccine – to teach people’s immune systems to recognize and fend off the virus before an infection can take hold – for the virus, each with their own budgets and timelines of when a viable one can be released to the public.

Oxford University’s Jenner Institute is comparatively close to a vaccine as they have already acquired safety data from human trials of similar vaccines for the related coronavirus that causes MERS. The European Union’s research commissioner, Mariya Gabriel, is positive that there will be a vaccine by the end of 2020.

Several companies are developing or testing antivirals against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Antivirals target the virus in people who already have an infection. They work in different ways, sometimes preventing the virus from replicating, other times blocking it from infecting cells.

New information is always coming out concerning the virus and the pandemic. For now, however, this is the information we have – so let’s stay at home, wash our hands and focus on our next Tik Tok dance challenge.

Culture Gender & Identity Life

My name is not difficult to pronounce

“Okay guys, listen. I don’t mean to make anyone uncomfortable since I have brought this up before, but you’ve kind of been mispronouncing my name this whole time. It’s Kajal (car-jill). Not ‘kah-jaal’,” I said with my heart in my throat. The friends of my now ex-boyfriend stared blankly back at me. “Oh sorry,” one of them finally said, “we’ll say it correctly from now onwards.” Needless to say – they did not.

People’s names are their identity.

Tchaikovsky. Beethoven. Benedict Cumberbatch. Timothy Chalamet. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. Arnold Schwarzenegger. These are all names that appear very complex, yet so many people can accurately pronounce them. Considering that these people are famous, I’m sure their names have been said out loud too many times to count, which almost definitely helped. However, I’ve come to learn that no matter how many times you tell people your name out loud, they will mispronounce it if they lack the decency and respect.

My grandfather gave me my name. He had apparently become obsessed with it the second he came to know that my mother was pregnant. And having grown up in a pretty non-diverse Indian town, everyone could correctly pronounce one another’s names – something I took for granted until I moved away.

University came with all kinds of different people. People of different races, ages, nationalities, and religions. People with different music tastes, idols, political beliefs, and names. I too struggled with pronouncing the names of others correctly. Certain isiXhosa names require a sound that comes from the clicking of the tongue on the roof of your mouth. Certain Afrikaans names require a sound that comes with tightening your throat. However, I never once brushed off someone’s name as simply too difficult. I always tried.

The constant mispronunciation of one’s name can lead to a weakened sense of self-worth.

I am grateful to the people who make an effort. Some get it right after the first time I correct them, others ask for guidance when they get stuck on certain syllables or forget it altogether. This call for the correct pronunciation of my name is not for them. It’s for the majority of the people I have encountered in my time at university who simply do not care to try.

As an 18-year-old, fresh-faced, and new to the world, I was complacent in this matter. People mispronounced my name and I seldom corrected them. In fact, in a way, I actually encouraged them. “Call me whatever you want!” I feel that this is a burden many people of color take on – adjusting your own identity for the convenience of others.

The act of renaming is not a new concept for South Africa. Like so many other things, the mispronunciation of names is rooted in colonization. Through white supremacy, the renaming of slaves was a convenience for colonizers, which stripped victims of their history and identity.

Nelson Mandela’s first name was not Nelson. It was Rolihlahla. The name ‘Nelson’ was his Christian name (but really, I mean English) given to him by his teacher. Under apartheid law, this was a common practice. However, that did not make it right. One cannot deny that the underlying reason for this change was merely because the pronunciation of ‘Rolihlahla’ was just something European colonizers could not be bothered with. In 2020, I guarantee that Mandela would have been faced with, “Uh, that’s kind of difficult…I’ll just call you ‘Ro’.”

I feel that this is a burden many people of color take on – adjusting your own identity for the convenience of others.

What may seem like a meaningless act to some, is actually an identity-shifting discourse for others. The constant mispronunciation of one’s name can lead to a weakened sense of self-worth. Every time I let someone get away with mispronouncing my name, I felt like I betrayed both my Indian heritage and my grandfather. I have recently made the decision to actively correct people. This does not make me irritating or difficult. By owning my name, I am standing up against a vehicle of racism.

It’s been almost three years and the best friend of my ex still calls me ‘Kah-jaal’. Hasan Minhaj had to give Ellen DeGeneres a crash course on how to correctly pronounce his name. Lupita Nyong’o made a tutorial on how to pronounce her name in different accents. And my Chinese friend’s mum still insists on being called by her ‘Western name’ in public to make assimilation easier.

People’s names are their identity. Regardless of your intention, when you don’t make the effort to learn how to pronounce someone’s name, you’re basically telling them that because their name is “different” it is unworthy of the minimal added effort to get it right.


Colorism in South Africa tore away at my self-esteem

In 2019, Oscar-winning actress, Lupita Nyong’o, referred to colorism as the “daughter of racism”. With this simple but poignant statement, Nyong’o summarized an often overlooked form of discrimination: darker people in many racial and ethnic groups are seen as lesser than their lighter counterparts. Her particular use of the word ‘daughter’ could allude to the idea that women suffer from this discrimination more than men – a notion I agree with.

The closer you are to whiteness, the better.

The word ‘colorism’ was first publicly used by author and activist Alice Walker. She defined it as, “prejudicial or preferential treatment of same-race people based solely on their color.” Its roots are widely agreed upon: colonization and white supremacy. These led to the introduction and adoption of a Eurocentric beauty hegemony by communities of color; the closer you are to whiteness, whether it be having straighter hair, lighter eyes, or fairer skin, the better.

As a South African Indian who was raised in an Indian community, I have had my fair share of encounters with colorism. A country previously colonized by Europeans, South Africa has a long and sordid relationship with racism. Hence, other forms of bigotry were sidelined in popular discussion.  But being brought up in a same-race community, racism was never really the issue. Instead of judging me for my race, people took to judging me for my skin tone.

In my little brown bubble of Tongaat, a town that was built by the first Indian settlers who were brought to work in the sugarcane plantations, colorism was a subtle tool used to oppress the dark and glorify the fair. In my experience, the main perpetrators of this form of discrimination were older women or ‘Indian aunties’ as the stereotype calls for. I was constantly told (by women I barely knew) to use fairness creams or to avoid staying in the sun for too long. Ironically, many of these women were also considered dark-skinned women.

European “norms” have lingered in our societies and have taken away from various cultures’ own values of beauty for far too long.

The Association of Black Psychologists has labeled colorism as a form of internalized racism, the process whereby ethnic minorities absorb the racism of dominant ethnic groups to their own detriment. This phenomenon of internalization was clearly present here.  Reinforced over generations, it was now a part of the social lenses we viewed our world through.

What made it worse was having an older sister who was taller, thinner, and lighter than me – a direct (and personal) point of comparison. People in our age range were not largely complicit in such discrimination, but when they were, it was blatant. In high school, my sister and I had an unwanted joint nickname, “Top Deck”, referring to a Cadbury chocolate which had a bottom layer of milk chocolate and a top layer of white chocolate.

[Image description: Two girls, the one on the left with a darker skin tone than the one on the right, sit smiling together.]

Older people were more subtle in their deliveries. “You’re very beautiful,” my grandmother would say to my sister. “So slim and tall, and such fair skin. ..You’re pretty too!”, she’d say as I walked past. There was no escaping it – I was objectively shorter, fatter, and darker than my sister. It dawned on me that to many, I was automatically less attractive than my sister due to those factors. And because they thought it, they thought that I thought it too. But I didn’t…until then.

Colorism can largely be considered a feminist issue in the wider context of our patriarchal world. Women already have certain beauty standards forced upon them – shave your entire body but have voluminous hair on your head and wear makeup to “enhance your natural beauty” – but not too much or you are “falsely advertising”! Even my sister, praised for being tall, was often told not to get too tall “or else boys will feel intimidated and won’t marry you”.

Colorism is only one example from a very long list of criticisms allocated to the female body. Through arbitrary social constructs, women are conditioned to tie their self-worth to their level of attractiveness. What I saw occur in my town were efforts to become lighter (an attribute synonymous to being more sexually desirable) in the hopes of one day having a man choose you as a wife.

European “norms” have lingered in our societies and have taken away from various cultures’ own values of beauty for far too long. I have not been back to my home town for three years now. I can only hope that some progress has been made and that women are allowed to feel comfortable in their skin, no matter the shade.

Culture Life

Even a pandemic cannot stop hustle culture

It started at the beginning of the year. I had made list upon list about what I wanted to achieve in 2020. Getting my driver’s license, going for a jog EVERY morning and saving enough money to go to Cape Town for my best friend’s graduation ceremony were a few of them. Then the pandemic hit, and things had to change. But instead of simply postponing certain goals, I felt an overbearing urge to replace them with new ones.

The concept of people, both young and old, striving to better themselves, be it academically, physically, professionally, or socially is not a new one. It is very normal for people to want to create a better life for themselves and their families. In the 21st century, however, this ‘want/need’ has become, in many ways, unhealthy. Stress, fatigue and burnout are direct results of ‘hustle culture’- a phenomenon promoting one-dimensional productivity in which people find it admirable to devote as much of their day as possible to “getting things done.”

Social media plays a huge part in all of this. It allows people to broadcast the best of themselves, like getting a promotion, looking picture perfect or reaching a personal goal – a highlight reel that makes their lives seem practically perfect. Even if you aren’t compelled to showcase your achievements, your friends showcasing theirs may lead to a sense of failure on your part. This constant comparison and competition feeds into the propagation of toxic hustle culture and begs the question of whether we really do things because we want to or whether it’s all just for show.

In the wake of COVID-19, hustle culture is more alive than ever.

We are literally in the midst of a global pandemic, yet people are still prioritizing, not only their job, but their side hustle, and even taking on learning new skills. While some may find this to be both doable and commendable no matter the circumstances, there seems to be a more profound collective pressure to do something ‘productive’ during this time. Many have taken on the burden of signing up for extra online classes, learning how to cook gourmet French cuisine and committing to losing those last stubborn  5lbs.

My Instagram feed is currently littered with pandemic-themed posts on how people are using this time to organize their pantry, start weightlifting or get an extra qualification. I constantly see articles suggesting how one can effectively work from home, do a full workout routine indoors, or take up hobbies like knitting or learning a new language to pass the time. Their intentions may be good, it’s no secret that productivity is healthy. However, when the world is in literal chaos, it is okay to do nothing but be okay.

I’m guilty of it too. When I first found out that my source of income as a bartender was being put on hold, I immediately started brainstorming ways I could fill that time. I had around 30 webpages regarding different online courses or transcribing jobs bookmarked for me to browse through when I felt like taking on a new project. I realized, however, that (as a tutor, full-time student, and now an editorial fellow) taking on more is not only irresponsible, its also a betrayal to myself.

As much as learning new things and stepping up your exercise game may be of help to your state of mind, simply remaining calm and resisting the urge to “do more” may be equally (if not more) beneficial. Though exhaustion has become a status symbol of sorts, your self-care should take precedence over ticking something off a to-do list. This is a pandemic, not a productivity contest. 

Press Pop Culture

Best of The Tempest 2018: 9 Stories from Pop Culture

It’s been a peculiar year in the realm of entertainment. We’ve had such big, progressive victories and such big setbacks and anachronisms in terms of representation, transparency, and inclusivity. Many LGBTQ+ artists thrived, and 2018 was dubbed 20GAYTEEN by singer Hayley Kiyoko. It was the year of Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians, and yet big name studios are still out there producing films that are imbued with racism, sexism, homophobia, and fatphobia as well as often promoting rape and hate.

We’re still light years away from consuming the egalitarian entertainment we deserve. I knew that very well when I became Pop Culture Editor at The Tempest. I understood that I would have to look closely at many media products that would make me mad, which I would rather ignore and avoid at all costs, but I gladly accepted the challenge. I believe our mission is to shed light on everything that is going on, and that includes denouncing the many injustices that occur in the entertainment industry. We can’t possibly stay silent about the things we deem wrong, because silence is complicity.

But we also don’t like to only see the glass half empty, and we love to admit that there are many things to praise and to celebrate. Without further ado, I present to you 9 of my favorite Pop Culture stories we published in 2018, a mix of the good and the bad.

1. Why are blockbuster films pretending that lesbians and bisexuals don’t exist?

Why are blockbuster films pretending that lesbians and bisexuals don’t exist?

Despite the good representation that television and the music industry gifted us with this year, blockbusters are still actively promoting the erasure of female queerness as well as employing queer bait. This is a trend that needs to stay in 2018.

2. What time is it, Hollywood?

What time is it, Hollywood?

What about what happens behind the camera? This article explores some trends of the entertainment industry from the inside out, because actresses are not the only people we need to protect. Let’s say #TimesUp to all kinds of discrimination.

3. Dislikeable female characters aren’t inherently feminist – but that’s okay

Dislikeable female characters aren’t inherently feminist – but that’s okay

There is a big misconception in fiction and in critique: that a female character who dares be different and dislikable is automatically a great feminist heroine. She’s not, and that’s okay.

4. Why I’m boycotting J.K. Rowling and her “Fantastic Beasts”

Why I’m boycotting J.K. Rowling and her “Fantastic Beasts”

We are tired of people giving J.K. Rowling a free pass for everything just because she wrote a beautiful book series 20 years ago. For a while now, she has been twisting things to appear “woke” instead of honestly admitting that as the times progressed, she also wants to be more inclusive. There is no need to say that she was planning plot twists all along when in reality the implications of that make her way more problematic. Read why in this piece!

5. Bollywood item numbers are more dangerous than we think

Bollywood item numbers are more dangerous than we think

If you don’t know what an item number is, you need to read this piece. If you do know, you need to read this piece. It’s eye-opening and I will never look at a Bollywood film the same way again.

6. This director’s approach to diverse female characters completely changed my movie-watching experience

This director’s approach to diverse female characters completely changed my movie-watching experience

Contrary to what some haters will have you believe about feminists, we do celebrate the accomplishments and achievements of men, when they deserve it. This article is a clap on the back of an Oscar-winning director for an amazing film that contributed to making 2018 better.

7. Yes, The Bold Type is unrealistic… just not for the reasons you think

Yes, The Bold Type is unrealistic… just not for the reasons you think 

You may or may not know this show, which was a true revelation for its honest representation of working (and woke!) millennial women. However, the show has been accused of portraying a utopistic world of equality (but it really doesn’t, the protagonists deal with misogyny, racism and homophobia every day). This article cleverly responds to that claim, contextualizing it particularly within the journalism world (where the main characters spend most of their time) that we know too well.

8. Karma has finally come for Chris Brown, and we can thank women for that

Karma has finally come for Chris Brown, and we can thank women for that

Abusers deserve to be held accountable for their actions. After the tidal wave that was the #MeToo movement, it’s good to see that celebrities are still being taken down after abusive behavior.

9. My mind tells me to read, but my body is overwhelmed and overworked

My mind tells me to read, but my body is overwhelmed and overworked

A constant struggle in the transition to adulthood is that we are burdened with too many responsibilities and we have too little time to do the things we actually want to do out of sheer pleasure, like reading. It does not help that books have gained a very strong competitor for our time and attention, the “monster” that are streaming services.

We’re ready to kiss 2018 goodbye. In the hope that 2019 will be a more satisfying year for women, people of color, and all oppressed minorities, happy new year from the staff of The Tempest!