I met up with Kemi at the Starbucks on Graham and Kennedy. We had texted via WhatsApp to make arrangements to meet up. We were meeting at 2pm and she jokingly told me via WhatsApp that she will walk towards the female who looked like my profile picture when she got to the Starbucks. I laughed at that. Via text, she came off as outgoing and friendly. I got to the Starbucks at 2:10pm and she was sitting to the back on the sofas available. I did not know what she looked like but I figured it was her and smiled at her. I started to walk towards her and she got up and had a huge smile on her face and introduced herself. Kemi was wearing blue skinny jeans, she had on a white tank top which she had a blue sweater over it. Her purse which was in the sofa was pink with gold accents.
We started talking immediately without getting any beverages. I told her it was great she recognized me since I think my picture on WhatsApp looks really different from my look especially since I had taken my weave out. Kemi then said when she saw my picture on WhatsApp she realised she had seen me somewhere before. I jokingly replied I hope I wasn’t doing anything bad. She said she had actually seen me at the bus stop quite a number of times. I told her I usually take the bus so that’s probably where she had seen me. I was about to ask her if she was originally from Kenya (as that was the only information I had been given about her) just before I was about to ask she told me she is actually from Togo. I was so surprised because I rarely meet anyone from Togo. I told her I was from Ghana and that my mother’s family is from the Volta Region. She excitedly said she knows how to speak Ewe. I then preceded to great her in the language. We both laughed at the fact that you have to ask how one’s kin members were doing and wait for a response for each kin member asked about.
Kemi then told me she had grown up in Nigeria although she is from Togo. She explained to me that even though she had been raised in Nigeria and she can speak Yoruba very well, she is Togolese. She explained that her dad never wanted them to learn Nigerian culture. Her dad did not like the Nigerian culture so he refused to allow them to learn it. She explained that Nigerian culture involves a lot of hustling and doing whatever one could to make money and to get ahead (so a lot of corruption and scams). She said not only did her dad try to maintain a Togolese culture for the children but that the Nigerians did not view them as Nigerians. She explained that when she was in school they called her foreigner even though she had grown up in Nigeria and speaks Yoruba like a native. She however went back to Togo once in a while and did not like the work ethic. She said they were so lax and did not put as much effort. She compared both Nigeria and Togo saying they were basically the opposite of each other. She said when she was in Ghana she loved it and that the people are nice. I told her that’s true but they turn to overdo it when you ask someone for directions. Instead of directing you they will leave what they are doing and take you there. She laughed and said that actually happened to them when they were in Ghana. They asked a guy for help who was manning a shop and he said he will take them instead. When they insisted on him not doing that he called his daughter over to look after the shop so he could take them to their destination. I laughed at that. She said had that been in Nigeria the guy will yell at them and told them to go away. Mostly because to the Nigerian, he is losing revenue by talking to you when he could be dealing with someone who actually wants to purchase. Which to me made sense but she noted that they do it very rudely.
I told her I had been to Togo when I was younger and my grandpa had made us come to Togo for a few days then we had driven to Benin. She explained that she also has family in Benin. She explained that it is difficult to cross the boarders and that sometimes you will have to be at the boarder for hours. I explained to her that we had just driven through mostly because of the diplomatic car we were in. I told her about all the things I had seen from street vendors to the market in Togo and the ocean and river which meet together but never mix.
I asked her about her experience in Ghana and she said it was great and that she and her dad had gone there to work on her visa for Canada. She said she had started the process in Nigeria but they had told her the deadline to apply in Nigeria had ended but since she is Togolese she can complete the process in Ghana since they had a different deadline and less people apply regularly so her chances of getting accepted was higher. Although the people were nice and attended to her they said she did not have a particular form so she had to go back to Nigeria and get in order to apply. Her dad then said they will just reapply in Nigeria.
She asked me what my project was about and I told her I was looking at how African Newcomer youth use social media to talk and to learn about sexuality in Winnipeg. She said that was very interesting. I asked her if she uses social media frequently and she said uses Twitter and WhatsApp. I asked her why she considers WhatsApp as a social media. She said because it is more social and it is not like regular texting. She pointed out that her friends and family change their profile pictures regularly and you can see them and that they also have pictures of their kids as profile pictures so she can see the children. She also noted that conversations flow more finely and you can see when someone has read your messages and when someone is typing a message to you. I said I also feel it is more social compared to regular texting as well.
She asked if she had answered my question about social media and I told her not really. I explained to her what my project was about and that I have a list of questions which I would ask her. She said she had time so we could have the interview. I had not anticipated doing the interview today. But luckily I had brought a consent form. I had not brought the IPOD. I asked her if she wanted to grab a beverage since we had been talking over an hour and still hadn’t gotten a drink from Starbucks. We both decided to get a beverage I got tea and she got a latte which I had to keep her from paying as she insisted on paying for it. Once we got our beverage, I gave her the consent form to go through while I took out the list of questions I normally have in my computer case. I took my note book and pen out ready to write as much as possible to remember whatever Kemi tells me.
Kemi is a 30 year old female from Togo who grew up in Nigeria and speaks Yoruba as well as other Togolese languages. Although Togo is a francophone speaking country Kemi does not speak French a testament to where she grew up and the languages she was exposed to. Kemi has been in Canada for about 8 years and she lives on Langside in the West Broadway neighborhood of Winnipeg. She came to Canada as an international student to study Business at the University of Winnipeg. She decided to change her field of study to Human Resources and transferred to University of Manitoba. She however did not complete that degree and has now decided to go back and to complete a degree in dental hygiene at the University of Manitoba. Kemi has a twin brother who was going to be coming to University of Winnipeg as well but had issues with his admission and just went to a University in Benin which is an international University. She also has an older sister and a younger brother.
I asked her what she would like to use as her pseudonym and she decided on Kemi Jacobs.
What social media do you use?
She uses Twitter and WhatsApp.
She explained that WhatsApp is very social in that it also has group chat applications. She told me that her friend who is a model is part of a WhatsApp group chat made of models from different parts of the country and if someone is trying to be nice, they post job applications on the group chats so other models could be aware of casting callings.
How do you access the internet?
She uses her own phone which has a data plan. She has internet at home so she also uses her tablet to access the internet.
So what are the opportunities with respect to sex and sexuality do you find using the types of social media you use?
She responded by noting that she does not see herself as a very social person but she can be friendly. She started to talk about how she is not seen as a social person at work or talkative which is interpreted as being shy but rather if she doesn’t find the conversations stimulating she doesn’t feel like talking. She noted that when she meets people in person she can access who they are then she can get along well with them. But when it comes to online, she doesn’t think she can date anyone online or sign up for any dating websites. She would not go on twitter and add a male she found attractive or think the guy would text her if she adds him. She also noted that she has been dating for 3years so she doesn’t see the appeal. She has added people who are not directly friends to her but are friends of a friend and that’s pretty much the extent to her meeting people online.
So tell me about your identity as a woman in using social media?
She said she does not post pictures on social media after I had explained to her that it could be how she expresses her beauty via pictures she posts online. Once in a while she posts pictures for family but what she mainly post online are positive messages because “there is so much nagging and people are always complaining about the weather”. But she tries to be “a positive woman for the world”. She doesn’t want to post any negative messages out there for the world or make any comments out there or anything negative overall because she wants to maintain a “positive image”. She doesn’t comment on posts which she finds offensive either. She goes on people’s pictures and would like them. She does however use Twitter a lot to follow Big Brother. She re-twits or favorites twits on Twitter.
Are there any sexual health risks or any other risks you find with using Social Media?
She said she does because sometimes people get carried away. She noted that it is different when you are older but for the younger generation who come here when they are young and they are exposed to the internet and they may decide to go on Instant messaging and Twitter to post nudes. She continued by noting that they may meet someone online in person and something may transpire between them. She noted that she knows for a fact someone who meets people online for the fun of it. She continued by stating that a female friend of hers meets men online just for the fun of it. She explained that the female friend will meet men out of town who like her twits or pictures and that her friend knows they are not meeting just to hang out but more transpires. I asked if her friend was African and she said yes. She then said the female friend also uses Plenty of Fish. She continued by noting that her friend told her that a guy liked her picture on Twitter and he told her he was coming to town. She continued by telling me that they decided to spend the day together and they hooked up. They are not dating but they hooked up and it started from him liking her picture then continued by requesting her to send him nudes and he also sent her nudes and the relationship continued from there. Kemi noted that she does not like to get into other people’s situations but she asked if they used protection or if she got tested afterwards. She thought it was weird but she said her friend was bored and her friend noted that the guy seemed like a nice person. She noted that people are different and that when it comes to sexuality they do not really care. And they just want to feel good about themselves in that moment. She continued by stating that it is about body image and it is about being happy in that moment so they do anything. The conversation shifted a little bit towards long distance relationships and social media. She pointed out that in her experience, those involved in long distance relationships are the ones that she finds tend to send nude pictures to each other. She pointed out that she has a friend involved in a long distance relationship and she tells her friend to better hope he is not cheating.
I asked her if her partner is in Winnipeg or if she was in a long distance relationship.
She pointed out that her partner was in Winnipeg as well. They have been together for 3 years and he is Nigerian. He has been in Canada for 10 years and he is in Canada with his family where as she is in Canada by herself. She told me he is at the University of Manitoba and said I probably know him. When I told her I did not know him and that I did not know a lot of people from the University of Manitoba she proceeded to ask me if I knew any Africans at all. I told her I did know a few but I do not know a lot. She told me she doesn’t go to the Togolese association socials because they gossip a lot and that it’s too much trouble.
As we were talking about sexual health risks I asked her if she believes partners share their statuses with each other.
She noted that she doubts that. I therefore continued by asking her how she and her partner discussed protections and sexual risks.
She noted that they have not discussed it. She said they just assumed that since they had to be checked before coming to Canada they are in the clear. And that they have not been with anyone since being checked so their chances of acquiring anything are slim. I did not entirely understand her so I asked her if she meant that she believed that in his 10 years of being in Canada he had not been with anyone and he also believed she had not been with anyone. She said yeah they believed each other. I was still not clear but since it was my first meeting with her I did not want to push it.
I continued the interview by asking her why she thinks they never discussed it.
Kemi pointed that they have discussed the fact that they had to get tested before coming to Canada which was her first reason why they have not really discussed it. She also noted that the other reason is that they are not sexually active yet with each other. They have decided to wait till they are ready to be intimate with each other at which point they will talk about it. This explained my earlier confusion. She continued by noting that when they did get to that moment when they were ready to be intimate with each other, they will cross that bridge. She continued by explaining to me that she was his first girlfriend and that he is the second guy she has dated since being in Canada and that she was never sexually intimate with her former boyfriend. She continued telling me that both their orientations are different in that they “grew up in Christian homes and that sex is something bad even though you grow up being curious”. But they just want to take her time and get to know each other. Even though the longer you are with someone it gets harder. She continued by telling me that it is really personal and that she doesn’t like sharing that with people because they think it is weird that she decides not to be sexually active. She then said that at this point, if she and her boyfriend were ready to be intimate she doubts she will ask him to get tested since she just trusts him that much.
After she had finished, I told her that actually Canadian Immigration laws allow for people with HIV/AIDS to get Visas. She said she did not that (Which I also was unaware of till I joined this project). I then explained that it is a fairly recent law and that the immigrant has to accept to submit his/her information to the province in order to be granted a Visa (I had learned this from Daniel). She said she thought if one found out they had HIV/AIDS in Canada then they could get medical care. Her next question to me was that, “But.. is that safe though?” I told her that I think it is safe in that you have to accept to submit your information before you can get a Visa to come to Canada and then you are connected to health agencies which provide medication and services so technically if you disagree to allow for your information to be given you will be denied a Visa.
She noted that she had to go get tested a year and half ago when she was applying for her Permanent Residency. I asked her why. She said the law requires for her to go through the whole medical processes she had to go through in Togo to get here so she knows for certain she is clear. She said it was scary though in that she had to wait for the results.
She noted that she is really concerned about meeting someone online and that she does not think she can meet anyone and date them off online. She said “you can’t just take someone’s word at face value”.
This interview ended on a high note and I asked her if she is available to meet either that weekend or sometime during the week. She let me know she will get back to me when she would be available for a meeting.