16. Feb, 2022

The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl without a Window or Critical but Stable

I arrived in Ann Arbor after a circuitous route via New Jersey, Washington and Detroit, 10 days ago. Sure, I had some inkling that it would be rather chilly, but honestly I was not psychologically prepared for snow. How the chill would pinch me in my cheeks and thighs, a creepy stranger lusting after parts of me I never considered to keep sheltered from its sneaky grip. Today, it us -2 C, and I am shooketh: It's so cold in the D!

I wanted my first blog update to be more than a weather report, hunkered down in my bunker, but honestly the weather has been the most prominent character in my story thus far. I don't want to get too on the nose here using snow as a metaphor for the first 10 days: the overwhelming whiteness of it all, the cold as a metaphor initiation into A2 because that would be lazy and not wholly fair.

My home girl, Sadira has been the most amazing blessing. As I entered my university residence, I found a care package packed with an extra duvet, sheets, towels and badass snow-boots! This homie (weeps) has been the MVP! Bringing me a heater, coat hangers, humidifier and not least of all the comfort of an old friend in a new space. Its been over 10 years since we last saw each other in person and it feels like we are picking up just where we left off. It is beautiful to see her with her husband and daughter, listen to her wax lyrical about the politics of city planning committees and beam as she shows me around the stables. I marvel at how much our lives have changed in the last decade, feigning adulthood and doing a damn good job of it, if I say so myself.

These past 10 days feel a little of a blur. Its hard to pin down exactly what I have been up to. The weather, however, is a good touchstone to return to as I try track my movements. The first day: realizing one pair of leggings and thermal tights is wholly inadequate for the weather. Wearing a velour silver pleated skirt, to shelter my thighs from the incessant sharp pinches of the wind was an inspired move, but did NOTHING for my sense of fashUn and style. I would like to tell you that I have since gained a sense of winter fashUn and am now living my best winter wonderland style icon dream, but instead, I look like a haphazardly dressed toddler fidgeting with her mask, gloves, sunglasses (the glare is real) dragging her feet through the snow. Not feeling cute is a silly concern in the face of a prestigious academic programme, but I definitely underestimated how important it is to look and feel the part. Whenever I was feeling down and overwhelmed by adulting, Ma would say "dress sharp" or "don't look like your worries". I have taken these sentiments to heart, dressing up and adorning myself in fabulous jewelry has been a useful impression management strategy. It is very hard to make a good first impression when you don't "buy" the "lewk" you're serving. Its giving freezing-shapeless realness. Not my best work. Sure, I was sheltered from the cold as we toured through campus and downtown AA. Did I sweat my face off inside the grocery story, you bet your ass I did! It's the layers for me! It's the temperature control for me! How do I not look like a mad woman when I am peeling layers on and off every couple of minutes, while negotiating masks and remembering to roll my "r's" and repeating myself so servers can understand what I am saying: dignity, where art thou?!

I wish I could tell you my growing/adjustment pains are limited to the icy outside world. But, that wouldn't be any fun now would it? Its been 14 years since I last lived in a residence with other students. The housing unit we are staying in, houses 630 students. I am staying in a "suite" with 6 other students, sharing a common lounge, dinning area and kitchen. My bedroom has its own bathroom/shower, yay. Indoor gym, yes please. Its giving me, yes yes yes, except, I hate to mention it, but well, there is just one snag: apart from a glass panel above my bedroom door, my room doesn't have a window. Not just mine, none of the bedrooms have windows which face outside. Sure, I knew this coming here. My friends made jokes about me traveling across the world to be in solitary confinement, but seeing or rather experiencing is believing. Its wild. Jetlagged, dehydrated, tired me is finding it very difficult to get used to having to leave my room to see the outside. In Jozi, I routinely sleep with my windows and curtains open, so seeing the sun in the morning is embedded into my circadian rhythm. The first thing I do in the morning is turn my laptop on and play a Youtube video of birdsong and morning sounds. As far as a substitute for a window goes, this is a very poor replacement. I am very lucky to have the most delightful suite mates, so spending time in common areas is stress free and allows me much needed vitamin D and socializing. I am, however, still not used to socializing this much when I am at home. Two years of lock down and 5(ish) years of living alone, I am not used to having people around me all the time, but if I don't want to go stir-crazy, I need to leave my windowless room. I know this is precisely the objective of this building's design, but I cant help but wonder Carrie Bradshaw style, whether this kind of architectural intervention might have benefitted from some sociological and psychological design oversight? This is not really the post to wax lyrical about the adverse effects I am experiencing due to staying in a windowless room, especially because I have such bombdiggidy housemates. It is, however to say, MONEY MONEY MONEY is still not enough to garner all this kind authority over architectural choices for student residences.

I probably will write a post about what its like to start a fellowship programme, and maybe once I spend more time in AA, I can give first impressions replete with my hot take on the super bowl, currency conversion woes, library finds and making friends.

Ciao for now