Something Borrowed, Something New and Something Familiar

This weekend kicks off our 2012 wedding season with the nuptials of my best friend from high school  --she's Nigerian (Yoruba), he's Ghanian (Ashanti I think?) and I was there the (prom) night they met!

I consider it my duty to give my husband a little "pep talk" before these type of functions so this past weekend I clued him in to what he could expect: "It'll kind of be like a high school reunion, with lots of underlying 'Ghana vs. Nigeria' tension so watch out on the dance floor," I tell him.

But while nodding off on the couch during my post-church-lunch nap this past Sunday, I came across the PBS special, Lidia Celebrates America Weddings: Something Borrowed, Something New.  The host, Lidia Bastianich--one of my many chef crushes--profiles four very different and yet very American weddings: a Nigerian-American wedding in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; an Irish and Italian-American wedding where the bride happens to be Lidia's niece and goddaughter; a Sri Lakan and Indian-American wedding combining both Catholic and Hindu ceremonies in Chicagor; and a Korean-American wedding in Queens, New York, home to half of New York City's Korean population.

What I loved about Lidia in this special was that she doesn't just chill in the background saying, "Oh, how nice.  Isn't this nice? What a lovely couple."

Um, no.

Lidia's got outfits, she's getting schooled on the cuisine, she's getting henna, second lining, and homegirl is owning the dance floor.  I got a real kick watching her spray the couple in the Nigerian American wedding.  She had me screaming at the television like "GET IT LIDIA! YOU BETTA GET IT GURL!"

And what struck me the most were the subtle, little pockets of similarity among non-Western weddings and weddings in general, or as Lidia put it:
"There's a big difference between different ethnic weddings.  Customs, protocol, especially the color...the music.  And yet, there seems to be an underlying common denominator: that there's two families, bringing their children together.  And helping and steering and giving the support to those two children to start a new life and continue and multiply."

If you get a chance to watch, let me know what you think!

Boston Marathoners See The Darndest Things!

Even after four months of training, I'm not sure anything could quite prepare me for what I saw and experienced while running in the 2012 Boston Marathon this past Monday.

Going into this weekend I was well aware that we were in for warmer weather on marathon day but like many, I think I totally underestimated how warm it would feel.  This photo from the front page of yesterday's Wall Street Journal just about sums it up:

It was HOT.

Over the weekend, the Boston Athletic Association began sending out cryptic emails strongly discouraging anyone who hasn't won a gold medal in the last two Summer Olympics from running in the marathon and to defer to 2013 (I'm pretty sure their attorneys drafted those).  But Coach Rick encouraged those of us who felt able to take the appropriate precautions and run.  So for me it was a no-brainer, I was running.

Arriving at Athlete's Village -the pre-race staging area--was pretty amazing.  I found the port-o-potty experience slightly traumatic and saw things in the toilet bowl that I'd rather forget, but otherwise, had a great time.

While walking around I noticed a large group of Korean runners taking a photo with the Korean flag.  I walked up to the group and asked, "Can I take a photo with you?"  The (Korean) photographer looked me up and down and said, "Do you know what flag that is?" "Of course!" I replied "Korea!" Geez, did she just assume I thought they were Chinese?!

Me infiltrating the Korean Dance Circle
One of the sights that surprised me the most along the Marathon route were the many, many, many interracial families.  Not so much that I saw them but where I saw them Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham.  I was like "Wow! Who knew?"  I think I saw more along the Marathon route in the suburbs than in the city.  Challenge the assumptions!

So aside from the Kenyans and Ethiopians, the most popular runner yesterday--hands down--was Flo Allen-Hopson, a.k.a. "Momma Allen," the mother of Boston Celtics shooting guard Ray Allen.  We were actually keeping pace with each other for a couple of miles (yes, before she smoked me, but it's Momma Allen so that's okay), and it was so fun seeing people realize who she was after she passed them.  They'd invariably start screaming "Oh my gosh! That's Momma Allen! MOMMA ALLEN! I LOVE YOUR SON! I LOVE YOUR SON!"  And she would just give a little wave and keep it moving.  She is the first woman I've even seen run a marathon with perfectly coiffed hair.  And this year was her third Boston Marathon.

New Englanders get a bad wrap when it comes to friendliness and hospitality, but all I know is I couldn't have made it without them: the passerby reminding me just how far I'd come and how little I had to go; the other runners who came up beside me shouting "Looking good! You're doing great!"; the kids standing on the side of the road holding out handfuls of quickly melting ice and saying "Good job!"; the tailgating, Newton suburbanites who went to great lengths to give me ice and water; the people screaming from the windows of their apartments for me to "KEEP GOING!"; and yes, even the inebriated student in front of Boston College who tried to hug me.  To the countless, anonymous faces that helped me make it across the finish line, THANK YOU.  I couldn't have done it without you.

Me crossing the finish line :)

My 2012 Boston Marathon Prediction: Africans vs. MARATHON Africans

I'm not a betting a woman, but I predict someone of African descent will win the Boston Marathon on Monday and I will not be that person.

This weekend I have family, friends and loved ones descending upon our humble abode, here to cheer me on as I run the Boston Marathon this Monday, April 16th, as a charity runner for Boston Partners in Education.

When I've mentioned the marathon to people while I was training I heard a few comments that made my pause like, "Oh, you're African, you'll be fine. YOU CAN WIN!"

First, let's just say I have an "interesting" runner's build.  My dad is over 6 feet tall and my mom is 4'11.  So inherited my dad's height but my mom's tiny feet.

Second, let's be clear, when it comes to the Boston Marathon, EAST Africans have it on lock, so much so that I wonder if anyone from the Boston Athletic Association has considered renaming it the "Kenyan-Ethopian Marathon in Boston."  

Us West Africans, we'll stick to, those sports that give us a minute to take a break and catch our breath.  Although at one point during our training long runs, I was a bit concerned spectators were beginning to think I was Kenyan because of my coach's tendency to yell: "Like a Kenyan baby! Like a Kenyan!" while watching me run.

But on a serious note, I've been truly humbled and amazed through the entire experience of training for the Boston Marathon and raising money for my charity.  This past week while doing my last, short training runs by the Charles River, I caught some of these elite Kenyan and Ethiopian runners also doing runs.  "Wow,"I whispered to myself, "those aren't just Africans, those are marathon Africans."

For those of you interested in keeping abreast of my progress on marathon day you can sign up for the AT&T Athlete Alert.  My bib number is: 24925

Smashing Eggs: Easter 2012

If you've come across the new JCPenny catalog recently, then you may have gotten a glimpse into how we'll be spending part of our Easter Sunday:

Yes, we will be smashing eggshells filled with confetti on the heads of complete strangers.

For years I've heard friends, colleagues, and acquaintances speak about "Easter at Maria's" like folklore or legend: only happens once a year, tons of people, lots of food (even lobster?!), but most importantly: cascarones -- egg shells that have been emptied, washed, dried, (sometimes dyed), and then filled with confetti. 

Here's a video of my friend Maria providing her explanation of the Easter tradition (that's also her and her family in the JCPenny spread above -- she's one of the few people I know that could make separating eggs look that glamorous).  

Judging by Maria's comment, "So on Easter, I put my tequila in a sippy-cup," it sounds like things get pretty messy:

I must admit, I'm a little concerned about my hair.  Just a little.