Between The Lines

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by Corine La Font
June 17th 2021

Join me, Corine La Font, Host of Between The Lines with Paula Okonneh.    

Paula Okonneh is a woman in Tech leader and entrepreneur. As a self described Tech lover, this baby ... More

Yeah. Mhm. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. Mhm. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, mm hmm. Mhm. Yeah. Mhm Yeah. Hey everyone, this is Karina for your favorite radio, who is your only radio, who is our favorite girl of course, broadcasting to you from the lovely island of Trinidad and Tobago in the caribbean on between the lines and you know how we do it here in between the lines, always with gratitude and thankfulness. I am thankful, thankful, thankful to be grown to be here to just experience new things, new challenges and to learn okay while we're still breathing and walking on this earthly existence on this earth, we are supposed to be learning along the journey of life.

So thank you and I also want to thank Paula for being here. Let me try and pronounce her surname O'Connor. Did I get it? Hi, follow me. That's why I started laughing before you even mentioned it because I saw you hesitate and so I thought let me help her other Oh, call me Oh corny. I was close, I was close, Paula, I was close and we're going to explain, we're going to explain that name. You we will, we will. So let me tell persons what we're talking about the voices of the sisterhood and right now there are two sisterhood right here. Okay, Yeah, two sisters hanging out the voices of the sisterhood and why we are talking about voice of the sisterhood. We're going to get more into that in a bit. But let me tell you about Paula. Oh corny is a woman in tech leader, an entrepreneur as a self described tech lover, this baby boomer, She calls herself a baby boomer, which means she calls herself a baby.

Okay. She sees herself as an encouragement to other women especially season immigrant women who struggled to have a voice while at the same time they intimidated by technology as a teenager, Paula struggled with math who doesn't, but through the patient Children of an aunt was able to overcome that and went on to become a mathematician. Can you believe it? Anything is possible? People? This evolved into account and see the two things are really not into math and accountancy and later on into going back to school to study information systems as an entrepreneur polar, met and became friends, clients and worked with many small business owners locally, regionally and nationally fascinated with the story behind every business Polar research and learn the ins and outs of podcasting. She has her own podcast and I was on it just the other day, you need to check it out when it comes out, I'll share it. In 2015 she launched her first podcast chatting with the experts in which she interviewed local regional and international business owners. She is a horse of chatting with experts, the course of lady tech charm als and the co host of test Ox and Tesla is in the UK.

So welcome Paula O'Connor between the lines, thank you so much korean for having me here. Yes, it's a pleasure. So after I pronounce the name a few times. Did I get it right, Did I get it? Can I pass on Oakland, you know? Yeah, I just called me. Oh so tell us tell us a bit about that name. Oh Connie, what? You know Paula, we could deal with the polar bear. The O'Connor explained that. So uh oh corner is a Nigerian name. My husband is a Nigeria and I was a Nigerian. And of course what normally happens when you get married, you take your husband's last name or your surname as we say in some parts of the world. And so that's how a cockney has become my name my surname now? Nice. Nice. But you're originally from where? Because you're dealing with immigrants, but you're originally from where? So um I am multi ethnic. I would say my mom is from the caribbean. She's on Grenada. But my dad's from Nigeria.

Nice. So nice. So we have we have a blend of mix here. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So the sisterhood is stretching across lots of water, Caribbean, water atlantic ocean. We're reaching far and wide. Yes. Yes. All right, so voice is. Why do you think that you need to give sisters voices? Do you think that it has been? What do you say dumb down or there's a reason what made you feel that you you have to give a voice for them. All right, so I have to use it myself and um being that I came from two different cultures and lived in different countries for years. I mean I wasn't very comfortable with my voice and I wasn't always very comfortable in the countries that we lived in and that been so, you know, I struggled for years to fit in.

So um when I came to the United States, that was another country to add to the list and I came as an adult and so I was an immigrant. I always remember the first time I called to make an appointment to doctor's office and somebody came on. The person who answered the phone asked if I needed an interpreter. I was shocked because I only speak english. And I thought I was being pretty clear. And so that was one of the many things uh you know, like Ma'am, do you need an interpreter? I was like, no, I only speak english and you know, we clear that that was the only language that was the language I was speaking. So with that being said, you know, I meant many years, you know go places and people would say her when I said something or you'd see that, you know, uh go into a place and they wouldn't quite know where I'm from until I spoke. And then you see all eyes turned to me and they're like, where are you from? And I always was like, you know, it doesn't matter where I'm from, it's what matter who I am.

You know, I have a very funny story when my Children were like three and six years old. You know, I'd go to the drive through with them and try to other things and I always get that look or the smile like I'm, you know, I'm going to drive because they're small and I didn't want to get them out of the car, bundle them up, it's just called and take them into the fast food restaurant. And what invariably would happen would be like, as I said, get to the drive through window uh, and try and order and they'd be like, Ma'am, what did you say I can't understand? And so I resorted to teaching them at a very early age to order their own food and like you want something and wherever it was, whether chick fil a or Mcdonald's or whatever fast food joint said at wind down the window and said order it on because I was tired of people always saying, huh, they repeat yourself etcetera. So with that big bad, that's why I said, you know, it's good to give a voice to immigrant women.

So it was, it was more of a language barrier because I mean, I went through that as well because I migrated to Jamaica. I lived here for 21 years. So persons who listen to the podcast and chatting with the experts with, with, learn a bit about me from, from talking with Paula and her podcast uh sons couldn't understand me initially. I like hold on, we're all speaking english. Yeah, right. But but some words they just couldn't understand and I understand that Trinidad you understand to speak very fast. We speak fast I guess the fastest in the caribbean, I don't know in terms of english speaking is what I understand and they just, I couldn't understand me and I'm like, what do you mean? I speak and I pronounce everything properly. So it I think it took time for them to understand, you know, when I speak on what I say and then there are certain terms that we may use that people may not understand, you know, but I see where you're coming from in terms of our language, but I want to get a little bit deeper in terms of, you know, being an immigrant in the country and having two navigate the culture, the life, the nuances of of another country, leaving what you are accustomed to, food, music, shopping, you know prices, you know, just just how people treat you on an everyday basis.

Look at you the color of your skin, your hair texture, how you dress. I mean even when you open your mod the way you may see things which we mentioned too, you know, but give me give me what you have experienced personally as well as other women may have experienced because this is about sisterhood, what they have experienced and how they navigated that well. Um I said I'm using myself as an example what I experienced as I said the first shocking thing was that someone asking me if I needed an interpreter. That was shocking at itself. Um I have to adjust the weather you know um I don't like cold and you know it is for the most part where I lived was cold, I was living in Chicago. Everybody knows when you hear although you know about cold. And so I had to quickly realize that look it's gonna going to be warm for about my estimate one month of the year.

And so for the rest of the time think about feeling you know cold and think about shopping for warm things. So you know I learned to the hardware that you don't stop in season you shop off season. So um if you needed to get something warm she and until it goes on sale, you know, you know. Um So that was one adjustment. Um The other adjustment was you know um The grocery shopping I was one of the things I had to learn, you know I didn't really have family where I lived and so I'd go to the grocery store goes by and I overwhelmed by all the things in the store, you know so many choices and nobody really to ask. Um That was an adjustment. I I learned to make friends with the people in my apartment and then of course I went, it not, of course you wouldn't know that, but I went a lot to the library and read books, you know, just to keep myself um uh um um Mhm another adjustment I made I had to make was, you know, learning to make friends.

Um I was a friendly person, but I realized that I was friendly because I tended to have relatives or close friends or around me, but when I was in a brand new culture, I had to make friends and that wasn't easy because, you know, adjusting to a new culture, you're young. I wasn't in school at that time, so it was difficult, it was difficult, but I determined that the best way to make friends was to be friendly. And so I started to be friendly. I started reaching out to women who were new coming into the community and that helped me immensely mention, because then I wasn't focusing on myself, I was focusing on others and what they needed and helping them to navigate the ropes and make things a little easier for them. You know, what I'm thinking? You know, as because we we share similar, you know, that that sort of immigration living in other countries and, you know, that type of thing.

What would you have? What did you take from Nigeria, a Nigerian experience if you could recall that, or even your Grenadian experience, your culture, your your background, your upbringing too, the United States or places that you live, that helps you to cope and what, and let's look at the reverse, what would you take from the different places that you have lived or the United States right now? That helps you to hope? Okay, that's a good question. So, let's go to Nigeria. I think one of the lessons I learned in Nigeria was resilience. Um so many tones in Nigeria, I won't say they're tough, at least when I lived there, but people make things tough for you. And so when I got to Nigeria, um, I was probably 12 or 13. And one thing I realized that people were very competitive and the competition wasn't like, you know, um sports.

What? That was good. Not that I was good at sports, it was more academics and I was coming from a different culture because we had lived in Dianna for some time. And so it's coming from Guyana to Nigeria, and Diana had one of the highest educational systems at the time we lived there, but we got to Nigeria and we found that the educational system, there was even more um was even higher and to come to compound it. People were competitive. People judged you about how well you did in school, Oh, you know what grades you got and made it. Um, so such that, you know, when you got to your results, they were posted publicly. So people could see how well you did. So I learned from a pretty young age that wow if you needed to survive here, you've got to survive whether it meant staying up all night to study for a test, whether it meant, you know um sometimes you would sit down and study and I say we, because I have cousins there too and we will stay up at night instead of my cousins lived with me and we'd have like one ft in hot water or warm water and another foot in cold water just right to make sure that you are alert and you can study through the night so that the next day you could pass the test.

So Nigerians, Nigeria resilience, Nigeria told me the ability to survive no matter what the circumstances were because sometimes we had no electricity. So you learn to use a candle and study because you have that test to pass. And it was competitive. So from Nigeria I learned resilience from Grenada. I learned that you know life could be fun. Life didn't have to be as serious as it was made out to be in Nigeria, I learned that you can still do well. I learned that you know um um can still be a serious minded person and have fun. Um My relatives there every sunday they would come over and they have, you know have ice cream and cake and we would have, you know not uh we'll have like calypso playing just people having a good time. So from Grenada I learned how to relax and not be so uptight. My mom always said she wishes that there was a mixture between the two cultures.

You know just in between would be ideal ultra serious. But on the other hand not too playful. So I learned from Grenada to be you know as I said relax to take life a little easy. Um As I mentioned I lived in bionic one time. Diana was a country where we didn't have any relatives. And so we learned to survive for the first time without having any close relatives struggling to do well in school. Um learning to try and fit in and you know I'm surviving that I learned um for the first time. Well Ghana is considered it's even though it's in is the only english speaking country in South America it's multi ethnic and so there I learned how to survive with other ethnicities and be friendly with them. So I've learned you know living in different parts of the world I think has been very rewarding because it taught me how to be um you know a citizen of the world and that's what I consider myself to be or some awesome but how how let's look at the reverse now.

So that's taking Nigeria Guyana Grenada over to the U. S. Since you've been living there. What have you, how have you cooked? What are your coping mechanisms are taken from us to help you to cook. Yeah. Well the U. S. Is considered to be like one of the most capitalist societies in the world And what I. Um well you're asking how I cook. I hope you know I told me initially I decided to be the friend Iran. I decided that you know whatever community I lived in to make friends to go out and find out from whoever moved into the community. You know how to there'd assimilated how where to um find the stores where to the best schools are for your Children etcetera. Just to white people into their community. What I've learned in America is that you know um Excellent. All the tour well excellence and excellence. Sometimes in being yourself.

I like that in this country. People. Uh Hello everybody is an is an individualistic society. So you know if allowed. Well that's me. If I am quiet you have to accept me as me. I mean you look after but it's more than norm you know to be like to celebrate being you. It's not so much so in other cultures I lived in where uh encourage you to be why don't you be like this person or be like this other person. I'll be friendly. And if you're an introvert, well there's a group of community for introverts. If you I'm the world that's in between an introvert and an extrovert. There's a community for them as well. You know so this country has taught me to be comfortable in your own skin. So you know, even though I say that I still said I struggled as an immigrant. So um, yeah, yeah, yeah. You know what was running through my mind a couple of things. There is this guy used to work with help him in terms of the technology, he used to do a webinars life like discussions on experts, persons who will, you know, take up all that stuff and go to another country and leave their family or probably it might be them, you know, uh they just decide mostly time probably after retirement or during retirement or they decide when they want to retire early retirement, whatever it may be or they just want that difference in life.

You know, they tired of the rat race and they just go to the places. So he used to talk about certain countries in the world that would make really great places to settle and live based on what they were looking for and he would do similar to you, you know, talk about people's experiences what were the plus minus is but it was really a show for for a person to want to migrate and to help them to transition into that life, how to set up all the things you need to do pack up from, where you will currently living, you know, and to move to the host country, what you need to understand where there's crime, culture, housing taxes, you know, all the legal stuff back home in your own country, a whole lot of stuff. It was really interesting to learn that, you know, and and amazingly enough, follow people were doing that very young. A lot of young people when I say young, I mean, like in their twenties or in their teens would just would just say they want to just leave home, you know, and their parents were supported and go live in peru let's say, you know, and set up and and develop a life and this side, how it's like a journey.

It's like a journey that they took to understand and get to know, just like you said in lifestyle in the United States is one of individualistic they pack up and they and they go and they decide, I want to experience that I want to learn about me, I want to see new places and they might spend five years here, three years here to a sort of nomadic sort of life until they decide, you know, I'm in my thirties, forties, I could probably settle here, you know, in this particular country because I've done this, this, this and this and so on. And I'm gonna ask, you know, as somebody who has traveled, have a multi ethnic, multi cultural background, you know, talking to people who are immigrants as well, which is the same thing. You know, the experts kind of story. would you encourage persons to take that sort of leap to take that chance? 2021 going forward. Would you encourage that? And why would you encourage it? Okay, I think um, there many pluses to it, but as I said, as you point pointed out, most times it's the younger generation or the younger people that do that.

Um, and I say younger because my sister reminded, stop saying the young people that were still young. So the younger generation, um, I think travel educational, it opens up your mind to different experiences. It helps you to see that, you know, the world is not just made up of one set of people. People live in different parts of the world and they live successfully without living in the same exact way as, you know, somebody would live, let's say in Grenada or somebody will live in Nigeria, how somebody lives in the States. Um, and I feel because I lived in so many different countries, it opened up my mind to, you know, realizing that people are human beings. So I would encourage young people if they have the means. And if, you know, they are adventurous enough to do that, you know, go live among, I mean, and live among uh in another culture, another set of people in another country, be safe about it of course, because it makes you, it expands your mind, it makes you see that the world is made up of people who typically have the same outlook.

They really want peace. They want their family to do well, they want to make sure that, you know, they have a, you know, a they want to be safe. Um, they want to educate their Children. They, they mean the cultures are based on sometimes generations, generational things that have passed down through the ages that have worked for them and so when you come in with a different culture, it's not, I don't encourage people to go in there and say, you have to do it my way, but look and see how people are doing it, how people are living in another culture. And you know, you find out when you leave go back, if you go back to your home country, you go elsewhere, but you have a broader perspective, you, you see how people's foods may be different, smell different is different, but it's still food, you get to understand them, you know, you got to understand yourself even better and I think it makes you a better person on the whole. And that's why I consider myself an immigrant or a citizen of the world.

Yeah, yeah, you're a global citizen collar, just like, you know, all of us who have done it and you mentioned the word education and you're absolutely right. It is an educational journey, um, because you know, you know what came to me and no long ago when your parents or your mother is teaching you to do something in the kitchen and she would say, okay, you do this this and you put it in the oven and that's always done and you might ask mama grandma, why are you doing this this way? And you know the tradition and you just do when you travel and wayne and you're like, whoa, I never knew you could add, er I never knew you could prepare it this way and you come back home to grandma, you come back home to grandma said grandma, you know, I was in Nigeria and I saw them doing it this way and she'd be like, hello, hello, that is the way to do it. And you have learned a totally other way that brought more juiciness flavor, a different approach. I could shorten the cooking span, you know, but but the traditionalist home in the caribbean and the parents of yesterday would not have it, you know, so it's a so it requires a sort of mindset polar, don't you think for persons to take up themselves and step out of their comfort zone, because there are some people who will not even step out of their house of community to move to another community in the same country, much less to pack bags and go a in another country.

It takes a certain type of individual to do that. What, what are your thoughts on that as we're wrapping up? I agree. 100%. I think sometimes it's driven by fear, you know, fear of the unknown. You don't know what, you don't know and you don't know what's out there. So you know, adventuring out there into the unknown is scary. You know? Um it's easier to stay within your comfort zone. It's easier to do the things that you're comfortable with. It's easier to be around the same type of people that you've always seen. But when you do make that leap of faith, you'll be amazed at, you know at what you learned and what you see and what you experience and as you said, um korean, you know about recipes using that as an example. There's so many things that you know you eat in one place or have been prepared in a certain way and somebody you go elsewhere, you see they're doing the same thing using the same ingredients, but we're paying it in another way and it's sometimes there's better, you know so much better. Like I say that I love pepper, but in Nigeria we tend to blend the pepper into the food for and it depends to Nigeria, the different ethnic groups we call them tribes and then Grenada at least I know pepe added as a pepper sauce and you know when I went back, I was looking at the ways it's still pepper, but you know the flavor is different in banana, they add like, you know, they were at like vinegar and mustard and they lined up the sweet peppers and the hot pepper and you get that flavorful thing, you know, pepper sauce and then Nigeria has done a, you know, I love it.

I just love exploring and finding new things and discovering a new wheel and you're like, whoa, it blows your mind and you're so excited to come back and share or tell your family and, and and they're like, no, no, no, no, no, no. We're looking at your website here. No Paula chatting with the expos, looking so beautiful. I love the green and the black and white. I can see you're probably Jamaica and there for a moment. But here you are with your podcast, Is there anything that you would want to share with you stand here on your website guide me? Well, I'm just looking at it and I realized I haven't updated something I said um this revamped podcast was to reach and empowered women from Nigeria and Ghana and the caribbean and now I've expanded that to see women from Africa and the caribbean and you know, that's a wide fair um that's I mean I love speaking to people from these two parts because it's so amazing. I mean Africa has so many countries with different cultures.

I mean if I just talk about about Nigeria, there's so many ethnic groups, there's so many tracks that even they cooked foods differently and then when we come to the caribbean, there's so many islands and we do things differently And you know, I smiled. I think it was you and I was interviewing you are my podcast. I talked about, you know, the big islands and the small islands and you know, different ways of approaching things. But primarily this is all this revamped podcast. I mean I started my podcast in 2013 or 14. I never remember which date it was. And then I was spoken to speaking to local business and with this and then 2020 I wanted to change it around. I wanted to speak to women, women like me, women who came to the states who felt sometimes uncomfortable and marginalized. You know, and I said, you know, I didn't like public speaker or podcast and gave me an opportunity to speak and and now I can do a show like that.

Really nobody could tell that. Nobody could tell that. Please don't lie to the people we know differently. You're a natural you're a speaker. Nobody could tell I verified of speaking of I would spot bullets like as I told somebody. I'd rather jump out of a plane podcasting has helped me. You know, the boy do something will come to table. You become and so that's me. That's my story. You have a esa this is a Desa. I know what she's a sweetheart. Oh my God. You know what I love about. Yeah. You know what I love about it. As I'm scrolling through. I'm saying well I think these are the first light skinned people I've seen but I just saw yes there's a lot of melanin and it's just so beautiful. You know I mean I thought she was black to for a moment you know but but this is so good.

Yes it is so good. Go ahead. Yeah. Yeah she is. Yeah she is her paternal one set of grandparents are from um from Jamaica and um another center from Mexico. And but there's a whole mix mix up to stay in the caribbean. You know Jamaica and african american and then mexican with Scottish. But listen li listen listen to me Paula. I want to say something and interrupt you here. You see what you're talking about here. I hear this all the time. I mean we know this this is not a secret. You don't need to do research or do any scientific theory. All of us are mixed in some form of fashion. It could be black, white chinese, indian red, orange green, all different culture. You realize your father from who was a chinese at this data anglo Saxon a french this what all my wood and I am saying to myself we you mentioned it before.

You are global citizen. You even a global person. You're a multi ethnic, multicultural, multi, multi multi just like the food that we multi multi just like how you would cook the food. And you're putting all the different ingredients. That's what we are, is a lot of different ingredients that come into making us. I'm giving us the flavor isn't it awesome? Giving us the flavor polar that we are walking this earth. We are flavorful. And I'm saying that my, what's up with this thing called racism? What's up with this thing called discrimination? How is that possible? Oh is that how does that even exist? Who is pushing this agenda? Because the same person who is pushing or people who are pushing our community or group, I don't know who you are. What you all are Also makes you all are flavored. You might not look like your flavored in terms of the colored melanin in your skin. What you are packed with flavor.

So so what what is all of that about? Let's round up let's finish off this on a bank Paula. What are your thoughts on that? I agree. 100%. I was listening to a program. I think there's also been a podcast and they were talking to people who had you know done there. Um you know this what's it 21 me 23 me, you know what you do your tests you check out your DNA. You see. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I was like yes. And you know the feedback was a lot of people were shocked. You know there's some of them were looked outward yes caucasian but they had african blood in them and there were many who looked african and they had caucasian blood in them and you know and those who lived India had some other blood in them. I mean we are all next you know and at the end of the day my point so what's up with the racism? What's up?

What's up with that? So there you were you coming from with that you know? Right. And so once we understand that we are all God's Children and we all have this you know you got all of us we all you know blood the same red blood that will that flows in our veins. This is it you cut you with blood flowing out it's the same it's the same. Okay. No one is better than a telecom. Like a recipe like a dish. We are all different dishes. They're different ingredients parked in me. They're different ingredients park with Paula has some Nigerian seasoning with some Grenadian spice and you understand. Yeah. Okay that's what's happening there with that's why she looks that way. Okay I have a bit of some indian spice. Okay with some black spice. Okay some some pimentos and some black people or anything like that and and and you put in some nice little sauces and they understood that up with some love spring because I love I don't I don't understand.

I don't understand. Okay so this is this is what is at Kohler. We are we are all dishes beautifully blended tasteful. You know and we should be able to appreciate each other and no matter where we go in the world, we should be able to navigate that. Yes, we bring who we are to the environment, the environment brings itself to us and we strike a balance. And I want to thank you for for being a voice for sisters and sisters, not only black sisters, not only melanin sister, but sisters just sisters and a whole because we are all sisters. Thank you so much chatting with the experts. You're doing a fabulous job. What are your final words before you go paul. Um we I'm going to just echo what you said. We are all sisters. It doesn't matter what part of the world we are. We are all global citizens and you know, once we start understanding that and then the divide breaks down and we realize we have one purpose and especially as women, you know, we are nurturers.

Let me teach our Children. Love love love, love conquers a multitude of things. You know, love people for who they are. I learned that along the way. Yeah, that's right. I love yourself. I love you, love yourself, love yourself for who you are. Yeah, love yourself, thank you so much for being on the line. Thank you for having me. Thank you so much. Thank you. I enjoyed it too. Thank you. Mhm Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Mm hmm. Yeah. Yeah. No.

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