Vignettes (About Leaving Home)

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In 2013, Obama visited Dar es Salaam, Tanzania for talks of “Africa as the next global economic success.” He only stayed for a couple of hours, and President Kikwete named an entire road after him. This road in particular used to be called Ocean Road, where the Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI) is located. It is the only specialized cancer hospital in the entire country.

kukuchips
chickenfries stained your fingernails yellow
you tore meat apart like “i will be a vegetarian in california”
your parents invited the entire family for dinner on a saturday night,
filling indian restaurants with
brown families smelling like imported perfume
doused in happy good family vibes:
flammable
Aunty smilingly reverently to herself for
giving “the maid the weekend off” for Eid

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upendo
lion king music
the first time you heard swahili in a movie
in an american accent, curved vowels and t’s ignored
you had yet to realize ‘simba’ doesn’t mean ‘lion’ everywhere
upendo (n. love, charity) — you didn’t learn that word until you were 15
because no one said they love you in swahili
mimi nakupenda is too many syllables, and charity a rich man’s pursuit,
so love is shown by adding extra kachumbari in your chipsimaiai
or when hadija cried when you left for college

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kichwamaji
literal translation: headwater
used as an insult, wewe kichwamaji
because some insults just make sense
when they come from a different country,
like the insult of visa requirements to visit this one,
or how they made your country bleed its resources for decades,
then made you pay for the water to wash their hands white again,
but god, do you know how much it hurts
to be mad at this country that lets you be you more than home could?

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Fatima Zehra is the Deputy Editor of Kajal Magazine. She owns too many red lipsticks. Bother her on Twitter @zebrazehra and Instagram @fatimazehral.

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