Aminatou Sow is the co-host of the popular podcast Call Your Girlfriend; the co-founder of Tech Lady Mafia, a group that’s devoted to women who work in and around the internet; and is generally a badass lady of the highest order. The Guinean-Almost-American Mash-Up is also a political asylee in the United States who has lived in multiple countries and whose family is currently living in political exile in Belgium. She is, she says, a nomad.
So where does Aminatou Sow feel most at home? Wherever she is in the moment. Here are her tips for making the place you’re in — be it a strange country, a city, or an apartment — your own.
It’s spelled A-m-i-n-a-t-o-u, guys. Listen to our interview!
1. Embrace the weird.
I came to college in the U.S. I went to the University of Texas at Austin — hook ’em horns! — and had that fantasy movie college experience and learned so much about America. So many of my friends were hard core Texans, and so Texas for me is forever my America home. I just love how kooky Texans can be in general, and how much pride they have for their state.
2. Get a nickname.
Amina was Prophet Muhammad’s mother, but every country has a spin on the name. In Senegal, it’s Aminata. When I meet other people from West Africa, they’ll want to call me Aminata and it drives me nuts, because I’m like, “No, my name is Aminatou.” If somebody calls me Amina, they’re probably my American friends. If it’s Aminatou, they’re a friend from back home, or somebody who knew me in high school, or a friend from Belgium. My family has a diminutive for me that’s just Ami. It’s interesting for me what people call me as my first name, because for me, it places them in a different place in my life.
3. Stay curious.
Growing up, I didn’t have any Jewish friends really or know any Jewish families. When I moved to the United States and started meeting Jewish people, I felt so connected with them because I was like, “This is the first time I’ve met white people who have culture” and it was not mainstream whiteness. I was like, “Oh, this is really rad. They have their own food and everything!” My Jewish friends make fun of me to no end for it, because I’m so fascinated by it. I’m like, “No, you guys have a really cool identity.” They’re like, “Stop talking now.”
4. Connect your devices.
On Call Your Girlfriend, we always say that home is where the wifi connects automatically.
5. Put out your Quran. Or mezuzah. Or whatever delights you.
I always used to put up our family Quran on the highest shelf in my house because that’s what you’re supposed to do, even though I don’t believe in it at all. But that Quran’s been in storage for four years. RIP. A couple of years ago, my friend’s mom gave me a mezuzah. It was kind of a joke, but I always put one up now, in every apartment I live in. It makes me so delighted.
6. Be present.
Home is where I’m at currently. I try not to be nostalgic, because that gets really hard.
7. Stock your pantry.
My medium comfort food, if I’m having a very hard day, and this is such a weird Texas pickup, is a flour tortilla and honey. That’s all I want, and it takes me back to this place of being 19 years old in Austin. If I am very, very, very, very homesick, I will try to locate an African market. All I want to make is the peanut stew from Guinea, and rice. That’s all I want to eat, and it’s always a production, because there’s so many ingredients that you have to hunt down. But I always have flour tortillas and honey in my kitchen, for the aforementioned snack.