Author Archives: Shirley Naa-kowaa Ama Martey

I Don’t Know What The Hell Comes Next..

I don’t know what the hell I’m doing…

I don’t know how things will turn out…because, this year, the universe has certainly been busy dealing with me and my stubbornness to stick to one plan.

I’ve come to truly believe that everything seems to happen for a reason. I believed it before…but not entirely, I suppose. I’d swear my life on that belief now. The universe doesn’t let me ease into anything…hits me in the face with something and says “Now adjust, fool!”

*shaking fist at the universe*

Kind of hilarious because many times this year, I’ve been brought back to that moment when I was in Dr. Singh’s office during my last year of college…and he told me that I am so razor sharp in what I want to do. I plot, scheme, and plan and not even a comet could take me off course. He used an example that had to do with football. He warned me that I need to learn to not view any opportunity that I haven’t specifically already made a part of my initial plan and mapped out as taking me off my path…that some opportunities actually strengthen what I had initially thought out.

Of course, at the time, I smiled and said “You’re right!” and he laughed.

Now I know he knew that I was GOING to understand and that I didn’t truly understand what he was saying in that moment.

When I plan…I am in my element. It’s like a challenge and I truly believe that nothing can stop me. Yes, I’ve felt those feelings of “Can I really do this…” but I’ve never accepted not attempting something, knowing deep down somewhere that I would be GOOD for this opportunity. The feeling of winning… was contagious, especially coupled with the skills that I had acquired throughout the process.

I determined that achieving success…material success…was all that mattered.

Well. I’ve been trying to open my mind.

Well, I’ve kind of been forced to…but I suppose that needed to happen for me to begin to willingly look at this a bit more openly.

People think I’ve got it all figured out… nope. They always say that…but…no.

LOL… as I conclude this, I’m chuckling because there was a time when I would have preferred to be burned at the stake than admit this publicly because 1.) I knew I’d figure something out so why speak about something that I know I’ll solve 2.) What is life when you have no direction? 3.) I didn’t need people judging me.

Well. I don’t care enough right now to be overly concerned with 1, 2, and 3 because, no, I don’t know if I will solve this and I’m tired trying to force things to settle as I want them to and they absolutely wilL NOT…been trying for damn year a year. What is life when you have no direction? More like…what is life when you think you’ve got everything figured out? As for people judging me… I don’t give a fuck.

I will allow myself to be uncertain any time that I feel…because I now have a bit of newfound respect for that needing to happen to truly attain an understanding of self, to truly attain a *healthy* belief in a person’s ability to be able to know when the next step is something that they can control and what it is something that they cannot.

I’ve learned that no matter how many times I’ve tried to resist the universe…it’s been – forcefully- pushing me in a certain direction. I don’t know what that is. All I know is that in May 2014, I had three different 5 year plans that I’ve *finally* tossed to the side.

They’re useless to me now. Or on a SERIOUS hold.

I am being pushed in a different direction…there have been clues all year that this might be the case…but I didn’t recognize or even acknowledge those clues until I was at my lowest. I was at a low, then I got lower, and then I hit my lowest, and have been slowly rising again.

I don’t know what the plan is…but I have been putting some different plans in place.

I’ll just wait…because if these plans pan out…then that will speak volumes to me, especially since they are plans that I’d never heavily considered or not at all until this year.

I’ve not been “myself”. I’ve actually been sitting here, for almost a year, wondering what is more important and what is necessary for *me* to do right now. As I’ve faced many unexpected and alarming things this year… I’ve questioned and I’ve criticized myself for not having it all figured out.

Yet…now…recently…I ask myself: “What happens next?”
– What the old Shirley would say: Full speed ahead on my career because nothing else matters: What the old Shirley would say
– This is what the new Shirley believes: Right now, tend to Shirley …in a way that I finally realize is not all about driving full speed ahead toward shaping my career. Tend to her now so that she can have a healthy balance of old and new Shirley.

The universe is trying to push me toward something that I need to be pushed toward…
I’ve accepted that.

It’s uncomfortable for me to do but I’ll let myself be guided towards an “unknown” because I believe that when everything settles as they will, I’ll grit my teeth a bit but I’ll just *know* that this something is what I’m supposed to be doing for myself…not only for my future. When I am in this new situation…when I am finally IN it…I’ll realize that ” this is what was supposed to happen.”

I’ll take the risk.

I don’t know what the hell I’m doing…but my gut apparently does.
That’s something I can’t write down and plan out meticulously.

I’ve accepted that. I’ve resisted this understanding long enough.

I know.
Everyone is going to tell me what I’ve heard for years, “You can’t control everything.”

I know…but, hell, I’ve tried. I’ve been so successful in many things, things that people have admired me for…and with more success, the less room I’ve given myself to “not know”.

I felt that I should know.
Why the hell shouldn’t I?!?!

But – I am finally ready to try something different.

I don’t fucking know this time.
I don’t know what the Hell is coming next.
I have a little over a month left and I don’t know.

That’s ok.
Whatever happens…it will be about Shirley and it will be about my future.

It may come in a different package but it WILL be about Shirley and it WILL be about how Shirley moves forward for the future.

Right now, that is good enough.

The Universe


Day 1 of the Hostage Situation…

Or if I wanted to water down the reality, I’d label it “Day 1 of Final Exam Week.”

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 4.37.24 PMToday, is my 一对一课考试 (one-one-one class test). 我的一对一考试关于中非关系的意义方面。(My one-on-one test is in regards to the significance of the China-Africa relationship.)

Since midterms, I’ve focused my one-on-one study on learning vocabulary specific to and how to speak formerly about the China-Africa relationship.  I’ve already turned in my 2, 500 character essay on the significance of the relationship.

My hand was ready to fall off by the end of this!

My hand was ready to fall off by the end of this!

(Again, thank YOU Eddie Murphy for getting me through that!) Every single time, I watch Delirious… I spend some minutes just laughing at what the man is wearing! HAHA!!! eddie-murphy-delirious-80s-outfit As I said Monday night when it was 11 PM and I was still writing: “We all know what we need individually to survive in times of struggle. I need Eddie Murphy.” *NEEDED* him badly!

Tonight, I give a verbal report, in Mandarin, before the firing squad – I mean…a panel of teachers – for my final exam.


6 PM is when I give my report!

I *do* feel less nervous than I was during midterms when I had to do it on the China-U.S. relationship.

Even so, the struggle will be real. O_o


Tomorrow, I have my Chinese newspaper and Chinese Conversation class final exams! On Friday, I have my one-on-two final exam!

And on top of the other things that I must get done before Friday?
The word of the week is:

Gave my report, reviewed it flawlessly with my teacher beforehand…Then three minutes into a smooth report, the director of the program walks in like…随便!

The strug.

The strug. 继续奋斗。。。

Pollution: The Worst So Far!

Yesterday, the pollution was OUT. OF. CONTROL. The worst I’ve seen since being in China, period.

The index!

The index!

Out. OF. *****CONTROL******

Do you hear me?

Even the Messiah Himself could NOT have taken *A SINGLE BREATH* in that madness – no matter how anointed He may be.

My eyes kept watering, felt like someone had their hand around my throat, and was irritable beyond belief. I kept falling asleep in my One on TWO class…Yes. ONE ON TWO…meaning there was just me and one other student and ONE teacher… WATCHING me falling asleep. I have *NEVER* struggled so hard to stay awake. Every three things she said, I was *OUT*.

I’m surprised she didn’t just kick me out of the classroom. Later she and some other people told me that the pollution can make people extremely sleepy – especially when you’re not used to it. That would explain her patience with me. I apologized profusely anyway.

Now I’m sick, my throat feels jagged beyond belief, and I sound like Barry White again.

I ordered several masks.

This pollution will not have at me!

That aside… it is amazing the things that I have to think about now… buying face masks? May sound small and silly but it isn’t…it’s learning how to function in a different environment….particularly, how to live in one. O_OMASK

This photo doesn't do what I saw justice! One day, I'll get a good day!

This photo doesn’t do what I saw justice! One day, I’ll get a good photo…one day!

Wait, WHAT!?: “White on the Outside…but in My Heart, I am Black”

Saturday, October 18, 2014 11: 50 PM

Tonight,  羽莎 [Yu(3) sha(1)] , my roommate, says to me, “I have another American friend! He always says “it’s all good in the hood, yo!” *she added hand movements, pointing in the air in a way that I’ve noticed common to Chinese people when they imitate rappers***


The People’s Eyebrow had NOTHING on how high my eyebrow went up, I’m sure…

My eyebrow hit the skies in shock. She came out of nowhere with this!

Then…she symbolized someone giving someone else “dap” (a handshake). She said that when he would see her, he’d give her dap.

I just stared and nodded slowly. 我明白你。。。 [“I understand you…”]

Then….she threw up some gang signs.

My jaw dropped…and then I started laughing in disbelief!

I said, 真的吗!? [“Really?!”] to give my mind time to recover from the shock!
…and to figure out how I was going to respond to that.

She was grinning and laughing at my laughter and my repeated “真的吗?”s.

I finally recovered – a bit- and said, “你的朋友是美国人马?” [“Is your friend American?”] …even though…I really wanted to ask if this guy was black, but I was not about to confirm stereotypes by assuming he was black – at least NOT to her face. O_O I decided to just ask questions and wait for her to say it.

Nothing could prepare me for what came next.

他是美国人。他是白人 可是。。。”He is American. He is white, but…”

My eyebrows hit the skies again….and I bit back a 什么?!?[”WHAT!?”] response, thinking “he’s white?”

Then I heard the rest…

。。。可是他告诉我他的心是黑人“ [“…but he told me in his heart he is black.”] *she says with the BIGGEST grin on her face and laughing*

I stood there blinking stupidly…. And then I laughed! Unnaturally loud…partly because this was HILARIOUS, partly because I was in shock, partly because she was genuinely amused, partly because I couldn’t believe I never figured out how to say “What the hell!?” all this time I’ve been in and out of China.

…but the shock didn’t end there…I asked her…. 你说他是白人马? 。。。。为什么他告诉你他的心是黑人? [“You said he’s white?….why did he tell you that his heart is black?”]

我们一起看 The Wire. 我不知道 。。。* she threw up the gang signs and pointed around to symbolize rap music *** 可是我们一起 看 The Wire wire-poster然后我看 *pointing around and throwing up the gang signs* * 他告诉我那个意思”

(We watched The Wire. I didn’t know…. * she threw up the gang signs and pointed around to symbolized rap music* saying “It’s all good in the hood!” but we watched it together, then he told me the meaning of the show)

I blinked…Goodness! I wish someone had taken photos of my expressions.

I kept thinking “What the hell!?” in my mind but I felt like it was a GOOD thing that I didn’t know how to say that in Chinese.

I wasn’t angry though…I was just…shocked and amused ALL at the same time! Goodness!!! I could NOT stop laughing… haha. That maniacal laughter when you don’t know what else to do BUT laugh.

I explained to her that not all black people speak that way…and that I would love to meet her friend. In my head I was thinking… “Yes, I would sure love to meet this guy indeed…” Hahaha!!! I was AMUSED at the idea of an introduction…and I could tell him in Chinese that I’ve heard SO much about him…and if I could borrow his seasons of The Wire. HAH!!!!

She said he’s already gone back to the U.S.

“Of course he has….” To be honest, I felt a bit deflated at that news! I was ready to make fun of him a bit, hahaha!!!

BUT can we talk about the REAL issue here!?

Her introduction to black people was The Wire… no…not a good way to INTRODUCE. That show was AMAZING…but not sure if someone who thinks that he is black in his heart can explain to her….wisely…what she was looking at. Yes. That’s a nice way to articulate that bit… -_- O_O!!!

I met Yulia….just last Thursday… but I can tell that we are going to get along EXTREMELY well. …ESPECIALLY after she told me that Marvel and DC are extremely popular in China and that she loves Batman.

I was like “WHAT!?” We excitedly talked about our similar interests in DeathNote and some other Japanese shows and manga. We talked about Collagewhat was popular in the US and in China. We are going to see Guardians of the Galaxy in Chinese soon! We decided that we would go comic book shopping together.

Did I already say that I loved this girl?!

What I do know…is I am going to be sure she doesn’t have a certain view of black people.

I can’t stop laughing in disbelief…The WIRE!?!? He started her off with The Wire. …and the person starting her off is white, from OREGON, teaching her how to say “It’s all good in the hood, yo!”, how to throw up gang signs, and saying that he may be white on the outside but in his heart, he is black??!?

Stop the madness. Goodness!

Her curiosity is so intense though…I’m going to cleanse her of the nonsense.

*face in palm*

The Wire!? Really???

The Wire!? Really???

Day 1 of Midterms Down!

Just gave a 7minute speech on China’s political structure in front of a panel of three Chinese teachers. After the speech, they each asked me questions.

It went well!

One of the questions: 你觉得美国能不能用中国政治的结构?”Do you think America would or would not be able to use China’s political structure?”

Had a good time answering that one…I gave a thorough answer about the differences between democracy and socialism and the nature of American people, how the State Council and the Congress differ. etc etc.

Day 1 down!

People Walk in, People Walk Out, Some People Remain

It is true that as you go through life, you reevaluate people. This is natural and it is necessary. Some people walk into and fall out of your life. Some people remain there.

Sometimes it isn’t as easy as walking in and falling out. It can be an emotionally draining process or something that can be easily done… Easy or difficult. It always depends.

As your interests change, as the life around you just changes, the people that you gravitate to can change. What you once didn’t value becomes one of the most important things to you.

The people who you didn’t notice to be significant become extremely significant. Some of the people who were once significant become less significant. You meet new people and you begin that process of getting to know someone and something new. That newness can be the most comforting breathe of fresh air. That newness can be challenging.

Sometimes those new people become the ones who get to know the person you’re becoming,  the new and improved version of you…while some of the people you knew simply do not get you anymore. Or do not seek to understand you any longer. Or maybe never did in the first place.

It is from that time, you start to notice the people who were always there and which ones, in particular, are keeping up to speed with your changes, adjustments,  and enlightenment with an open mind.

Because you’re in a time where so much – and everything – is changing  ALL at once for you…and  there are no pauses…and you are struggling to figure out how to balance it all…what to stand up against and what to just let flow even if it means some discomfort.  You thought you were in this new place for one purpose… Now there’s another purpose. It’s just one added thing…but that one added thing has several subsets. That one thing is extremely challenging and will inevitably define you.

You are on your way to becoming less of the person you once were…in some areas…and  you’re hoping that that is a good thing. You’re in this new place for one purpose. Or so you thought…now there are several other life changing reasons that you’ve left home on the list…and it’s like, “How the hell am I supposed to make all of this happen?”

And when the fog clears and everything sharpens…

….those who have always looked at you with an open-mind, who haven’t just said they see your growth but have allowed themselves the capacity to understand it…become some of THE most important people in your life. They likely already were, but a lot of the time you have to clear your own fog to see anything else.

This process…of people walking in and out, making new friends…it is  exciting but sometimes can be exhausting. It isn’t easy when the people you thought were the stable bits in your life become less of that or just are not that anymore… Sometimes it is easy getting to know new people who become the new stable bits in your life …and other times it isn’t. Other times it’s like “damn, I have to start from the beginning…”. Most times it’s like, “You’re all you’ve got.”

As draining as all of this can be, the exciting and unexpected parts of the process very rarely come with dull moments, that’s for sure. Those exciting and unexpected and maybe even galling parts of the process do not come without their lessons if you are willing to be perceptive enough to receive them.

The reasons why people walk in, walk out, and remain in your life can be exhausting to think about.

But… maybe, sometimes, there isn’t anything to think about to the extent that we do…

Because it’s natural. This will always happen… but the frequency at which it happens, I believe,  changes as you become more and more sure of what you wholeheartedly NEED in people in order for them to be as close to you as you allow them to be.

These past two years have probably revealed the harsher lessons on this topic… This year, in particular, has been the biggest struggle…because I am particularly facing these growing pains while I’ve been stuck in a different country.  Or on my way to the airport.  Unsure about the standing of certain people who I value highly in my life while surrounded by the unfamiliar.

As always, when something becomes so personal, the answers are hard to see even if they’re in front of you…and other times the answers are right there but because things are so personal, you don’t even know what you’re going to do with the answer in front of you….

(I am perceptive. Always have been. I always know what I am supposed to do…I just don’t find it exciting actually doing that something depending on the situation.)

Every choice has consequences. Every single one of ’em.


“What to do?”

Because something must be done.

Inventing All Sorts of Excuses: “Cultural Differences” and Letting the Lesson – Finally – Marinate

Sunday, September 28, 2014 8:11 P.M.

Cultural Differences.

…. must be one of the most overused phrases to excuse bad behavior.

All these random things about what is so different between this foreigner and this native person are used to try and smooth over what is clearly complete nonsense.

It is always important to be mindful of the cultural differences that may factor into the decisions that people make. Yet, those factors shouldn’t prevent you from standing up for yourself when you do not like what is taking place…particularly if it already has and can become even more of an inconvenience.

This is not my first rodeo facing this sort of thing abroad…but even so, there is definitely something I am learning about myself that hasn’t really marinated until that specific thing was called attention to earlier today – by someone who doesn’t even know me at all, at that.

I tend to explain my perspective over and over again.…as though the other person doesn’t understand. But they do. I allow myself to be distracted by the fifty reasons a person might be giving for why they did something and waste my time responding to each one. I recognize the excuses but I have a habit of automatically starting to explain my side with more detail…as if the detail even matters. It takes me a while, after I’ve wasted my breath, to finally reaffirm what I already knew to myself (likely because I don’t feel like talking to the person anymore): “This person knows that they did something wrong. This person is trying to get out of getting into trouble by changing your mind.”

I do know myself and I do know this is a problem that I need to change.

Now. Not later. Right now.

It’s a lesson that I keep noticing as a problem for me AFTER THE FACT…and it’s like, “No. Shirley. Just stop doing it because you already know you’re not supposed to be doing it. Just stop. That’s all. Save your damn breath!”

I know it won’t happen again… know why? Because my first round of making that mistake abroad…was way too much culture shock and so much at once. I remember what it did to me. I remember how I internalized it. While I eventually started making heads roll hard…took way too long, way too much pent up, “how dare …blah blah blah” before I started to handle my business.

This situation right now allows me to recognize what COULD have happened if someone else hadn’t said, “…uh why are you even doing that? Why are you even a, b, and c? Why? You had that conversation for an hour? Why.” This situation allows me to recognize the problem in the fact that I wasn’t able to call myself  out. On my own.

So. Ok.

That forces me to think about it all in a different way. Truly forces me…in a way that will ensure that this lesson MARINATES.

Time to handle my business and move on…so many other things to do than to put up with this nonsense for an extensive period of time.

I don’t have the time.

Going abroad, living in a different culture and wishing to respect it should never ever mean that you disrespect yourself in the process.

I bet it might have taken me a bit longer (another decade…let’s be real) to fully realize this bad habit if I hadn’t been faced with reasons to face it while in unfamiliar surroundings. Under these circumstances, I HAVE to think about what I do automatically that might be detrimental to me within unfamiliar confines. And I HAVE to think about the thoughts that I already have in terms of problem solving that will be extremely useful to me. What you learn while surrounded by the unfamiliar can definitely be a great help when things get really familiar again.

So… I suppose this is not only about other people making excuses to me. It is also about Shirley not making anymore excuses to herself.