Man did I have a crazy last 30 days of life.

March 29th, 2018 → Leave a comment

In the last month I’ve been scrubbed down in public baths in Istanbul and Koreatown, made my debut on Nigerian TV, filmed music videos in Uganda, gave a out Gold Record award in a rural village in Uganda, then performed in the mountains of Wyoming before running around with drag queens for a 24 hour show in Los Angeles.

Now I’m in the first slow week since I’ve returned and pretty freaking depressed.   I’m currently wrapped in a blanket at home trying to understand what life is and how to continue the frenzy of the last month.  My colleagues say I should use the time to “rest and reflect” and to that I say HELL NO!  I want to continue a crazy schedule that prevents me from thinking about the agony of life!

One month ago, I left Los Angeles for Nigeria. I was representing America in the Lagos Theater Festival.  That’s right.  I, Kristina Wong, was REPRESENTING AMERICA in Africa.  The day before I left, I debated a dog in my first mock debate… you see, I’m running for Public Office next year and as part of my preparation, I am working on my mock debate skills.

I won by a vote of 24 to 6.

And this was perhaps the most mundane thing that happened in the last month.

 

The first stop before Nigeria was in Istanbul for a 20 hour layover.  I was traveling with Molly, my technician who ran the show in Portland.  Any Asian American will tell you that traveling to non-Asian countries abroad usually means having China! Japan! Korea! screamed at you ad nauseum.  My last trip to Istanbul was characterized by a lot of verbal harassment in the streets.  In a few situations, men would actually follow me or sit next to me when I was trying to get a moment alone.  But this time around, the experience was the opposite.  Nobody screamed at me in the street.  People were very friendly.  I think traveling with a white person in the tourist off season had to do with it.

It was only inside the Turkish bath that I got separated from Molly and lumped in with a group of tourists from China.  The Turkish women working there who don’t know any English would call to me “China!” to tell me it was my time to get scrubbed.  But it was kind of funny.

 Highlights from Nigeria:

  1. I was on Nigeria’s version of “The Daily Show”!  THE OTHER NEWS.

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This New Yorker article about Nigeria’s first news satire show had come out before I arrived in Nigeria.  I had no idea that I’d be a guest on the show with only a day’s notice.  I was happy just to meet the team that puts the show together.  The staff writers were so cool.

  1. I met famous freaking Nigerians at a reception that the US Consulate held for me.

    When the US Consulate in Lagos asks local celebrities to show up for a reception… oh man, do they show up.  I met female comedians who do a show called “Ladies of Laughter.”  I met famous music artists like Tuface and Korede Bello.  I met famous comedians like BasketMouth and Ali Baba.  I also have a ton of pics with famous Nigerians, some of them I’m not even sure who they are. 

  2. I was taken around in an armored vehicle.  Sometimes with an armed guard with a bigass gun!

    In Los Angeles, I walk around vulnerable.  Just yesterday a block from my home I got one of the longest catcalls from a moving car in recent memory.  It was like this guy was reading a half page description of my butt to me from his car.  But in Nigeria, because I was a guest of the US Consulate, Molly and I were ushered at all times in an armored vehicle. We had staff at the consulate escort us everywhere.  We didn’t have walk more than a block as the car had to drop us off directly in front of where we needed to go at all times.  We were literally moving in a bubble of privilege.

    In fact the only time we attempted to travel alone was when we cross the street from our hotel to see if this souvenir stand was open (it was closed).  Victoria Island really isn’t much of a walking culture.  Most of the architecture was like fortress after security armed fortress.  If we were driving to an area outside of the “Green Zone” then a guard with a giant rifle would travel with us.  This sounds crazier and more dangerous than it actually was out there.  It’s this weird thing that being a guest of the US Consulate makes you a target, and yet only the US Consulate can provide this insanely high level of security.

  1. I did the sweatiest most difficult show in my life.  I got through it.

    The entire country of Nigeria runs on half the electricity of North Korea.  This means that me doing the kind of heavy tech video show that I do requires a space to have generators that power all the lights, sound, and air conditioning of a space.  That means tech can get sweaty. This means shows are sweatier.  And sometimes, during tech, we would be sitting in the dark waiting for the power to be turned on.

    Also, Nigerian audiences watch theater differently than my audiences at home.  They get up in the middle of the show, talk to someone else, take photos, text— it’s hella distracting.  And yet after, they all asked to take pics with me.  Weird.

  2. I met amazing inspiring women and young girls.

    One event that the consulate had me do was a discussion at “Lady Labs”– a space where young girls are learning how to code. But also at that meeting were women who had started organizations to raise awareness around gender based violence.  It took all of two seconds upon my arrival to realize that I had nothing to teach them, and instead, opted to facilitate a conversation between these women (many who live in the same city but have never met before) to discuss what resources they have to share and what work it is that they are doing.  My jaw dropped at how well spoken the 13 year old girls were.  One girl was describing an app she was creating to end genital mutilation.

  3. I was on the My Africa podcast.

    I was on one of the best podcasts coming out of Nigeria.  I talked a lot about the similarities between Chinese Americans and Nigerians. Osagie who interviewed me, did better research than most Americans who interview me.
    LISTEN TO IT HERE.

  1. I was a little riot on late night TV in Nigeria.

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    Ali Baba is Nigeria’s FIRST stand-up comedian.  He started doing stand-up when there were no venues for it.  He studied American comics on VHS.  And now younger comics LITERALLY bow to him.  Not only did Ali Baba come to my comedy workshop, he had me on his late night comedy show.  We were a hoot.

    Here is Ali Baba in my comedy workshop held at the City Hall building in Lagos.

  2. I really got to meet the locals at the New Africa Shrine.

    Check this out.  The US Consulate has so much pull in Lagos, that they actually got Femi Kuti (son of Fela Kuti) to perform early for us.  Femi Kuti is such a legend that when they tell you that you aren’t allowed to film, people actually adhere to the rule (unlike my shows in Lagos which were totally being filmed without my permission).  Also, Femi Kuti touched my finger!!!

    So the guy in the above picture literally was holding a joint and waved us over to sit with him.  I think his girlfriend was at the table too, but he was like “she’s just my friend”.  I don’t think so.  She just looked into the distance when we sat down and ignored us.  I’m pretty sure she pissed that he invited us to disrupt their date.

  3. A college literally stopped classes for a day to put a show on for us.Check out the image they have projected:  “US Embassy Stand-up Comedy Workshop with Kristina Wong.”  Because it’s so difficult to explain WTF it is I actually do, the wonderful PEFTI Film Institute billed me as a premiere American stand-up comedian and announced that I was hosting “stand-up comedy tryouts.”

    I felt like a low rent Margaret Thatcher as I sat in a front row easy chair next to Molly and we were treated to performances of African pop songs.  They take American ambassadors super seriously!!  They also played the American national anthem.  And everything about their rendition pretty much sums up how I feel about 2018….

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    10.  I got a peek at Chinatown in Lagos:

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Chinese people in Africa.  Yeah, I’m not the only one!  And a lot are coming from China to Nigeria because of the oil economy.  I had heard that there was a Chinatown in Lagos and wanted to see exactly how that all works.  There were actually very few Chinese people.  They speak a different dialect than the one I barely have a grasp of.  But I did get a peek of how one restaurant owner works with her Nigerian staff despite not knowing English.  It was super fascinating.  And yes… I have spy video….

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From Uganda….

 11. I got to see Nerio Badman after five years!

After five years of telling audiences all over the world about this producer dude I met one night, and how both our lives changed forever when we recorded a rap album together, I got to see him again.  And this time we went to visit his family’s village.  The family welcomed me, fed me, milked their cow and gave me the milk within minutes of the extraction.  It made me realize that both me and Nerio have roots in farm towns (I just visited my grandfather’s birth village last year and it was po’dunk!) and now pursue big city dreams.

12. I visited Nerio’s home village and presented him with a Gold Record Award!
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My friend Andy at Gold LP.com hooked up the greatest gift ever– a CUSTOMIZED GOLD RECORD AWARD!  Andy is the only American manufacturer of gold records and makes them for all the big music people.

13. I rode on the back of a motorcycle!  In a music video!!

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Here is a behind the scenes video from “Mzungu Price”. 

As part of the business relationship I share with Nerio, I set aside a royalty each time I perform The Wong Street Journal.  It took a while to figure out the best way to continue a supportive relationship after I left Uganda.  But looking at microloans as an example of how to invest in self determination of people, I realized that it made more sense to have working relationships with people in the “developing” world versus charitable ones where I just give out money outright. Specifically, I used the royalties he was owed on the shows to pick up equipment that he can’t access in Uganda.

We shot three music videos while in Gulu using the new equipment I brought them with their royalties.

14. I got to be the hot girl in the music video.  Check the world premiere of BOSS LADY.

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All I can say is, it’s never too late to be anything.

15.  I got to see the progress of my friends at VACNET!

If you’ve been to The Wong Street Journal in the last few years, you may have noticed that I sell items for the microloan organization that I volunteered with during my first trip to Uganda.  I’m proud to say that the show has helped raise THOUSANDS of dollars for microloans.  And now, dozens of women have been taken off the waiting list.  VACNET has expanded to a a second solar powered building that does computer literacy training and also provides meeting space for womens groups.  I’m incredibly proud of Bukenya Muusa for his work and so happy to support his vision.

16.  We recorded another hit song.  In Nerio’s new studio… Empire Records Uganda.

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I haven’t released it yet. But the first night back in Gulu, we recorded a hit single called “Nigerian Prince.”  It’s inspired by all the hot dudes I met in Nigeria, but it’s a funny song about an American woman who falls in love with an email scammer who identifies himself as a Nigerian Prince.

17.  Home cooked Ugandan food!


I’m not a big fan of Ugandan food, especially out of the Northern region of Gulu.  It’s not awful. It’s just nothing I crave. But I will say that Nerio’s family made me food and it was delicious!  The starch called “kalor” is really tasty when mixed with the protein.  In this case, fresh fish.  There is a dry fish I’ve had in Gulu which I have a very difficult time getting any flesh off of.  It was really cool that his family pulled out all the stops, down to chopping the wood for the fire to cook this welcoming meal for me.

 And then I came speeding back in LA to be in Taylor Mac’s show…

And between show weeks, I went to Wyoming to do an excerpt of The Wong Street Journal….

Wyoming has only 570,000 people and one four year university sponsored by the state.  So it was amazing that I got the invitation to perform.  I bought a skunk pelt.

Ok, I’m tired of blogging and will add to this later.

 

 

Category: Blog

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