Friday, October 23, 2015


A long time ago,
Someone told me I had too much “empathy”,
“Empathy” I said, “you mean sympathy surely…”,
to be honest I had never really thought about the difference
Sympathy generally is to feel sorry for someone else’s misfortune
Empathy is to share someone else’s misfortune
I guess that is me,
I am incredibly Strong and yet can be emotional to the point of silliness when dealing with others experiences..
so many times.. in so many ways..
I feel that way every time I read about children being gunned down in the States or floods in Asia or Refugees dying crossing from North Africa..
I don’t just read and turn the page
I feel a deep loss ..
That feeling has been accumulating lately with the refugee situation from Syria literally stepping into our homes in Sweden,
It heightened when Racists burned the homes that were dedicated to these refugee children, not once nor twice..

Yesterday a Man walked into a school, with a sword, killed a teacher and someones’ baby.
Somewhere out there, I’m sure the mother heard, “Ahmed has been killed” and she said no “Ahmed is a common name it can’t be my Ahmed”.
I see her in my head saying good bye in the morning,
Planning his lunch,
Doing his laundry
And a Police man coming to the door instead of her son, yesterday afternoon.
That the media chose NOT to say it like it is
That they didn’t want to say that is was a Racist Hate crime
Fuels the flame
But what deepens my sadness is the lack of outrage again and again from the population at large.
This is everyone’s cause,
everyone kisses their son good bye as they go to school and everyone expects them home alive and in one piece,
The teacher who died aged 21,
he was a TA just like my little brother is right now, right here in Sweden.
Twenty- Friggin-One
If we don’t wake up from this numbness
Then next time ,
because there will be a next time,
it could be your son, or mine.
Today it isn’t mine,
But we owe those mothers the decency of mourning with them and raising our voices with them.

**Trollhättan is one of the ten worst performing Schools in Sweden
"Some international media have pointed to rising racial tensions in the area and police have confirmed that they are investigating reports that the suspect held far right beliefs."
- The Local Sweden "Gärningsmannen angrep inte de med ljus hy, berättar polisen på en presskonferens" "The perpetrator did not attack those with fair skin, reported by the police at a press conference" -SVD

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The response to that Post..

So my last blog post about finding a job in Sweden has now been spread further than I could ever have anticipated..
I put my opinions out there and let people have theirs.
I chose not to defend or comment at all but instead to listen
The response to my post has left me thinking again,

But first let me summarize them:
There were three types of responses
1, I got a lot of private messages, about how brave I was and that’s always nice

2, I got messages and comments from people saying that they identified with my experience.
This group of people were diverse..
Swedish people identified with it, those who were ethnic minorities in particular
Non Swedes in Sweden identified with it
Swedish people who didn’t have Swedish as a Mother tongue Identified with it
Many, Many, women of African heritage, in Sweden and abroad, identified with it

What really touched me, was that it wasn’t the ‘expat’ or recent migrants like me that were in the majority..
It was primarily the Afroswedish community.

3,The third group were just in shock,
they were surprised,
they couldn’t comprehend how this could be happening in Sweden.
perhaps its because my Swedish language skills wasn’t so good’
‘perhaps I didn’t have the sufficient qualifications’
‘perhaps I didn’t have Swedish qualifications’

For me the above is indicative of what I see reflected in society

That people in general can relate to my experiences, regardless of skin-color, is of no surprise,
That a section of Swedish People , in their own country are experiencing this is something else.

We are in Flux,
Politics and Society are in a game of tug and war to define what the ‘soul’ of this society will look like

Self preservation is now at risk when new players take their place; namely the Refugee situation and the Rising presence of the AfroSwedish population

I honestly feel we are split down the middle

we have people feeling they are being discriminated against, whilst they are not
people who feel they are inclusive, whilst they are not
people discriminating whilst empowering
and we have others who simple dont care to join the fray

It might get worse before it gets better,
But something is happening..isnt that better than nothing..?

I’ll just share one last point with you
On the nyheter website where my blog was published, they had this little tool where people could click whether they agreed with my article or not..
This is what it looked like

“Håller du med
The first hour : 18 röster JA 15 röster NEJ
The second day: 33 röster JA 29 röster NEJ
On Friday: 67 röster JA 62 röster NEJ
Today: 98 röster JA 95 röster NEJ
Think about that..

Monday, October 12, 2015

4 Years...The Long road to my dream job in Stockholm

I was sitting in London working as a Coordinator for an NGO when I decided to move to Stockholm,
Being pragmatic , I sent my CV to a couple of NGOs and schools as I’ve always had this dual love for Education and Development.
Much to my surprise I got called for an interview in Stockholm within 2 weeks and was offered a job , working a nursery/primary school
just like that moving to stockholm became more concrete.

At that time, I had a BA from UCL, a Masters from IOE and over 5yrs work experience doing project management for NGOs ,including working for the UN.
I spoke English, French, Wolof fluently and had passable Spanish so I figured, id move and within a year I would be sure to find a job in my field again..
we moved
we settled
we learnt Swedish
we started a family..

everything was going smoothly , except on the professional front.

Being the pedantic person that I am, I made an excel sheet of all NGOs I could find in Stockholm and made sure to get on mailing lists and newsletter lists etc
I knew I had to stay 'connected'
I applied for a job almost weekly
I called the ones I wasn’t successful with to get feedback on how to improve my application..
I networked
I attended conferences, all alone to meet people in the field
I created my own group on FB to link professionals (like me) in Sweden within in the Development field
I contacted strangers on linkedin to volunteer and asked for advice for getting access to the Industry from a Swedish Perspective
and still nothing.

I listened to advice from Swedish friends about wording and formatting of my applications
I considered picture on cv , or picture off
I considered changing my last name 'Joof' ( staunchly West African) to my husbands 'Campbell' ( wonderfully international)
but in the end I kept my Joof,
I didnt add a picture either..
I stuck to my formality

During all this time I was still teaching,
I contacted the employment agency, arbetsförmedligen to see if they could help me find the way back to roles that I am passionate and qualified for,
They informed that they could not help as I was not unemployed (this is true) and encouraged me to quit my job and then contact them!

By early this year my energy was running dry.
I still hadn’t managed a single interview in 4 years
All the HR people I spoke to, told me my application was flawless and just to keep trying
By this time I spoke almost fluent Swedish and so submitted my CV in the language that was required.
And yet, still nothing,
In the end, it was through a friend that I had met through teaching in schools, that I found a voluntary role,
I was incredibly grateful and I took the role on , in addition to my full time job.
It drove me insane, working long hours in the school,
running home to be a mum for the few hours that I could and then going out for the volunteering job again
However, the voluntary role paid off and almost led to a paid position.
It wasn’t exactly my field but it was something I was good at, with an NGO that I genuinely cared for.

Right when i was about to sign for that role I got called for an interview.
my first official interview in Sweden
My energy was literally at its lowest,
But I went anyway,
I gave it my all thinking to myself at least it will be real-life practice for the future

It had taken 210 applications,
literally ,
I kept count
I went to the interview feeling like my chances were zero but it was the Dream Job,so I did my best
Right after the interview, They offered me the job

To be honest , I had worked so hard that I couldnt feel that immediate satisfaction or happiness right away
something in my head wanted me to be cautious as it felt too good to be true

I did finally explode with joy on that first day of work 2 months later, standing in front of the mirror in the bathrooms! :)

I still reflect on my journey though
It is still inexplicable how i managed just one interview in 4years of active searching
I had applied for management roles,
lower management roles
admin roles
secretarial roles
and somehow my profile wasn’t suited for any of these..
Sadly, i know too many people who are going through the same situation right now in Sweden,

I've often thought about why I never made it to interview
my background
my ethnicity
my non swedishness
My name
the sheer number of applicants
I guess i will never know,
but after all that , I was certain there was something about me , my profile, that they didn’t want, I know this for sure because during these years I have been invited 3 times for interviews with Large NGOs outside Sweden
How can my profile be desirable for International jobs and yet I cant get an interview as a receptionist in Sweden
If everyone else i knew was happily employed i would take it personally, but the opposite is infact true
I know too many proffesional international persons in Sweden who are experiencing the same
in a society strongly percived as embracing and open to diversity and other cultures the reality on the ground is rather surprising

During my search, I noticed the lack of Diversity over and over again..
at talks, conferences, or even just looking on office websites..
Stockholm society IS multicultural then why are we struggling to see diversity represented in the workplace
Im just going to leave that question there..

For those who are still job hunting;
volunteer, get a paid internship at Arbetsförmedligen, talk to people and dont give up and network, network, network.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Feeling beautiful

So,i started running three weeks ago..
I was so proud as this was literally the first form of exercise id done and maintained for forever   ...

Before I had a baby, i couldn't have cared less.

Ive always been curvy but i think i went out dancing so often  that it took care of the workout element in my lifestyle..

I had my lil girl via c section  pretty much 2 years ago and ive felt so guilty for being chubby and round..or i should say for not being like i was pre-pregnancy..
For having a round- beer -belly- look- alike even though i don't drink..
It constantly bothered me..

I see mummies  literally everywhere  with 2, 3 kids looking fantastically muscular and plain ole gorgeous!
I know some worked their asses off and others just have that awesome  genetic predesposition or metabolism that allows them to be trim and slim and baby belly free...

So i kept aiming to work out and then i finally made it! It felt good to be catching up..

And then i met my brothers new girlfriend..
Shes totally curvy and round. .and absolutely gorgeous too..
I scrolled on her instagram and saw the most confident and stunning  little person I've seen in a while..
Picture after picture
You could see..she felt beautiful.
She made me remember that i was that carefree once..
I realised  that yes, i may be running  but no, i should not be ashamed to have put on weight  because i carried a human being inside me.

I was blessed to be that vessel. .
That my body and organs had to make space for another little being is still quite amazing to me..

To expect my body to simply return to origin is just crazy..
Why did i feel that way
Why does anyone expect us to anyway..

I literally looked at my belly the other day and laughed ..
I have never measured my beauty based on others standards
There is absolutely no reason to start now..

There are some many gorgeous people out there who don't feel beautiful and I didn't even realise i was one of them..

People who haven't seen me for a while often said "oh you will be back to your old self soon..just wait till the baby phase is over"

I guess i believed  in those voices..
But really to return to life before my baby is to dull out the shine in my life.

Mummyhood is everything
Its her smile
Its my scar
Its us three..a family
It those lines across my hips
Its the way i see whats in her mind
And love every silly dance
Its my  little belly

When she's 18 and travelling far from me ..
My body will remind me of the brief moment in our lives when we were literally, one.
I will touch my scar and know..thats were i let her go .

Enjoy the photo, thick tighs, belly, no makeup, crazy face and all :D
No Filter..
the New ME :D

Friday, October 2, 2015

What Happened in Day Care

So our daycare journey has been a little turbulent to say the least.
my little one didnt get a place in a daycare in March as we had planned, so the council offered us a temporary daycare which turned out great but was only open for 4 months.
After the summer we got a place in a new one,a local swedish daycare, right across from our house which we excitedly visited ,

My first impressions were off,
The school itself looked great, wonderful yard, spacious and equipped,
but the 'vibe' was off
the teachers were subdued. In fact they were sitting on a bench when we walked in and no one rose up to show us around
The lady who finally did show us round, said the minimum to us.
The enthusiasm and energy I expect from teachers was non-existant.
I have worked in preschools myself,
my husband has as well so we know the drill..
something just didnt sit right

I always follow the warning signs in my head and so i immediately started looking for an alternative private daycare.
I got us registered and visited the place even before the end of the summer so that it was ready to go in case my gut feelings proved true.

And so come august,we started the Swedish Local Day care full of anxiety and happy anticipation.
my daughter was then almost 2 , she shrugged off her shy reservedness and took to the school with curiosity and openness.
she visited all the rooms and inter acted with the children and teachers,
well she tried...
there was no one to help negotiate the new relationship between her and the other children
and the staff only initiated one activity with her..a puzzle
In addition, the staff were constantly sitting and barely gave us any information like where to sign in when we drop her in the morning,
where they change diapers,
what activities they do each day..
nothing but the bare minimum..

I feel the worst was the lack of interaction with the children,
i noticed one or two teachers who actually played with the children
when the kids argued over sharing , i was the one who finally stepped in twice..
they didn’t do any normal activities either, no singing, drawing, dancing, painting, circle time, nothing..
we sat at the same lunch table with another child and a teacher and she said a total of 5 words to us the entire time.

it was clear to see the 2 staff who had been there the longest and also the newer staff who seemed eager to do something but needed guidance.
we wish they could all share her enthusiasm.

I basically left after the 2nd day feeling ignored and underwhelmed but my daughter was making the best of it ..
the third day a little boy in the playground referred to my husband as a chocolate ball ..and wanting to eat him up ( there is a popular swedish dessert that has been source of much controversy as it was originally called the n*** ball)
so my husband told him, its not really nice to want to eat anyone up.
to this the little one screamed
" everyone in this daycare should kill this man"
and then nothing happened...
I mean the staff or adults around , no one reacted
my husband packed up, dressed our daughter and came home..

Naturally, I gave all the Heads a piece of my mind on the following Monday and we started the new 'back up' daycare within a few days.
On our last day there, as i walked to drop off my girl with my heart in a knot, i saw the one teacher playing football with the kids and the rest of the teachers ,sitting on the stairs drinking tea/coffee from their mugs..

I should add that during our brief time there, I saw the little ones ignored ,again and again,
I saw girls being mean and no one being around to negotiate the situations
I spoke to other parents about feeling ignored and i was told more than once that "that’s just the way it is, and i gets better"
She spent about 5 days in that school and perhaps only did circle time twice AFTER I had yelled at the Head and that’s it , nothing more..

I realize we took a risk putting her in a 'regular local' school in an area that isnt that multicultural but i always have faith that adults will protect and stand up for her.
I realize racism and cultural misunderstandings will be a part of her existence but i am determined to delay it as long as humanly possible.

In this new school which is Swedish speaking but private, I see a welcome smile every morning when I drop her sniffling and crying..
They comfort and hug her,
She learns something new everyday

I think back to when I worked in pre school , I remember feeling like an extra parent, I taught them how to wait, how to eat with a fork, how to count, how to hold a pen, I sang them to sleep and changed their diapers, I negotiated anger tantrums and danced to Justin Bieber with them. I applauded every painting and encouraged their growth
To be honest I loved my kids dearly
Its therefore doubly important to me , to know that she is loved for those 7 hours ,everyday she spends in the care of her teachers.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Refugees: What Happens Next?

I have neglected the blog for a while..
new job,
new daycare,
lots of emotions and i havent made time to empty my head of words
lots of half composed texts running through my mind from..
when she turned two
when she hung out with the grandparents and cousins this summer
when we started daycare and were royally ignored

but all of that will have to keep swimming in my head because this one post has to be written now..
its about migrants..refugees..
The people that Sweden is welcoming
everyday they arrive and I see the general population mobilizing,
putting their best foot forward
people spending their time, money and energy to translate, welcome, alleviate
some the suffering from these refugees

I've been reading and keeping up to date,
once more my jaw hitting the ground,
I guess some peoples pain hit us harder because migrants dying from the African continent rarely get this much understanding let alone discussion
but thats not the reason why I write

I write because I still haven't seen The Plan
perhaps I just haven't found it and its out there..
i dont mean how these 120,000 will be split across the EU,
I mean how will they integrate society..
What is The Plan
i'm still waiting to hear from the powers at be that they have consulted with the kommuns and the cities..
that they have checked where there is housing and health
where jobs are to be found and schools with room for more
i am listening for the plan on regrouping and supporting in finding family members
for centers where psychological support will be available
for discussions about curriculums there and how they children will bridge the gap BEFORE they are placed in Swedish schools

I wonder if someone knows where everyone is going
as they board trains and move on from capital city to newer cities
do they know how many engineers, artists and nurses are walking through those borders and where can we use their skills..

I can't find anything
instead i hear about their poverty not their capabilities
their right to live here permanently, when really, what do we know about what they actually want?
have we asked?
I hear about children arriving and then vanishing in city centers and I pray..
i hear of childrens homes , where some are placed receiving hate mail and abuse
beneath the exterior of kindness and acceptance
is an underlying discourse of otherness left unsaid

I know this country is capable of so much good,
when disaster strikes anywhere in the world the Swedish expertise and professionals are welcomed with open arms
where are those people now

I never underestimate our willingness and capacity to do good ,
but when i spend one Saturday volunteering , i go home and that person is still here..
without a system ..what happens next..
when the next bandwagon comes along..
what happens next..
in five years when these children are struggling in schools
what happens next
society's fabric of integration is currently being ripped and Sweden knows it hasn't got that right yet
Are they planning for what happens next?

I am still listening out for the young people and children's perspective
but I guess its a voice that's rarely heard in post conflict situations,..
at this point i would like to hear any voice that could simply tell me
What will happen Next

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Seeing the world through eyes of colour

I am being racialised..
im not sure if that is a legit word but it works for what i'm feeling..
for the first time i'm living in a city thats not big and international,
one where multicultural doesn't mean the same thing as it would, say, in my last home;London

i have to say this isn't an anti sweden rant..
in fact unlike most people that moved here,
i chose to be here because i loved Sweden
i love the seasons, including the winter
i love the green parks everywhere
i love the pastry
i loved the islands
i love the feminism that exists here in a real way
i love that sports newscasters can all be women and thats normal
i love that pregnant women can still be tv presenters with their tummys so big theyre ready to pop
i love the constant hot water pressure and functioning indoor heating
i love that my husband is equal to me as a parent in the eyes of the law and society
i love that i got one year parental leave as a mum
i love that my husband gets one year parental leave as a dad
i love the working healthcare and public transport
gosh i love it here

now after 4 years , im finally seeing myself in sweden
and i dont like what i see
I may not look like a minority but i feel like one here
Because really i meet swedes everyday who look like me. .
i  looked for work for 4 years in my field and didnt manage a single interview
i see colour within a stratosphere of power plays that i do not appreciate
the questions and looks make me feel different in a way that is unappreciated.
in london being different is the norm, in sweden being different is not
Instead, to get ahead one must
Confrom ,conform,conform

I worry not at being a curiosity, but that my daughter will be one,
that her skin will be questioned
that her hair will be touched
that she will one day say 'I am swedish' and society will give her a questioning look

That she would then turn to her parents  roots for acceptance  and find she doesnt quite fit there either..

when i gave her daycare teacher a pot of sheabutter for her on the first day,
i was ready for the explanations necessary, i know they think it odd,
but there you go ,thier education begins just like hers
but you have to wonder how long we are willing and ready to ' educate ' those around us
because if we're being honest there are other places in the world albeit filled with problems of thier owns but at least i can get my hair conditioner from the regular local store like a normal person.
And i guess that  is what it boils down to..
I want to be in a place where it is normal  to look brown,speak italian and be Indonesian. .
I dont want people to see me or my family and be surprised that we speak three languages
That we have  an education
That we are kind..
Or simply  that we now speak swedish

In  a place which  seems so inclusive from the exterior  there seems to be intrinsic discrimination once a layer is peeled  back..