Can One Ever Really Go “Home”?

What Ghana is doing is admirable, but the invitation has been met with mixed reception from some in the diaspora and leads me to ask the question, can one ever truly go home?

Letter Posted at Badagry Slave Museum in Nigeria

This year the country of Ghana has implemented a dynamic initiative called “The Year of Return” in which the Ghanian government is encouraging blacks of the diaspora to travel to its land where they will be welcomed back “home”. Obviously, due to the Transatlantic Slave Trade where millions of Africans (12.5 million to be exact) were stolen and displaced from their homeland, there are millions of their descendants dispersed around the globe. What Ghana is doing is admirable, but the invitation has been met with mixed reception from some in the diaspora and leads me to ask the question, can one ever truly go home?

Continue reading “Can One Ever Really Go “Home”?”

Seeing the Pyramids in Egypt- Khufu, Khafre and Menkare

This past Spring Break the kiddo and I journeyed to Cairo, Egypt and Rome, Italy. And what a journey it was. We had no idea what to expect from Cairo, but I made sure to fit in as much as possible without overdoing it physically, as well as, financially. This was going to be a 12 day trip and I needed to make smart budget decisions so that we wouldn’t be in any kind of uncomfortable situations, you know…like unable to eat. Lol. Nonetheless, Cairo did not disappointment and we had a great time. Continue reading “Seeing the Pyramids in Egypt- Khufu, Khafre and Menkare”

How to Survive and Maybe Even Enjoy Road Trippin’ in Nigeria

I love a good road trip. Packing snacks, creating playlists, singing, taking pictures and just bonding (hopefully) with your road trip crew. I’m not a fan of driving mind you, but I absolutely love being a passenger on a good road trip. Of course, road trips in America are easy. There are certain things we don’t have to worry about, like military and police checkpoints, having to pay bribes to avoid an illegal search or asinine detainment, horrible roads just to name a few. But for me, that’s part of the adventure.  Yes, it’s annoying and if you’re not careful it can be dangerous especially if you encounter an aggressive officer, but mostly it’s a great way to see all the beautiful landscapes that Nigeria has to offer.

The first thing you want to do is let go of any and all expectations you could possibly have regarding the trip. Whether or not you think you’ve taken a comparable trip, it’s best to simply approach a road trip in Nigeria with no expectations – AT ALL. I made the mistake of expecting the highways to be paved, but soon learned that the government doesn’t seem to care much about maintaining paved roads. So trips usually take about two to three hours longer than they actually should. Here’s my videoed reaction to the “highway”:

“Highway” on the way to Enugu

The second thing is to make sure you’re embarking on the trip with someone you actually like. Trust me. Your road trip crew will make or break the experience. Perpetual complainers, worry-worts or chronically unhappy people would make it the trip from hell. This is not the kind of trip for them. This trip is for the glass half full kinda people. The laid-back and nonchalant folks who rarely get their feathers ruffled. Now, understand what I’m saying. YOU may very well be one of the former types of people I described, but you cannot, I repeat, CANNOT go on this kind of road trip with another one. You need someone to balance out that energy and influence your mood in a positive way. And the more of these types of people, the better. Their energy alone will make the challenges you encounter less of a big ordeal.

The third suggestion is take pictures and don’t be afraid to explore. Nigeria is much more mountainous than I would have ever thought. There are so many lush, open, green spaces, clear, blue skies and gorgeous, untainted hillsides. The unspoiled landscapes often look picture-perfect. And there are always tons of farm stands to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. You can buy anything from bananas to cocoa plants to rice. You could literally complete all of your unprocessed food shopping. And this is not a bad idea, because there are no fast food restaurants to make stops. Just pull your vehicle over and they’ll all run over with whatever they’re selling. Our last trip we purchased plantains, bananas, cocoa beans, snails, soursop, papayas and pineapples all from the roadside stands. Spending no more than $20 USD for it all.

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Finally,  I will say make sure to bring along someone who knows how to navigate those Naija streets and drive an SUV if at all possible. Seriously. You need someone who can navigate the check points,  maybe even knows a better, more acceptable road for your destination and someone who can navigate the bad roads when there is no other choice. There is a lot of pothole dodging that has to be done and you want someone who is skilled enough to do this without damaging your vehicle. And most importantly, will allow you to just enjoy the ride.

 

You Are Welcome…Sort of.

When I first arrived in Abuja, I had been traveling for nearly 36 hours. My first flight out of BWI was canceled resulting in a rebooking directly to London. I arrived in London at 11 am the next day where I “enjoyed” an eleven hour layover before finally arriving in Abuja the following morning at 4:55 a.m. Needless to say, I was tired and in dire need of an attitude adjustment which was bound to happen as soon as I indulged in a hot shower and lots of sleep. After a long wait in customs, I arrived at baggage claim ready to grab my bags and leave for my new digs with the transportation sent by my new employer. Unfortunately, the baggage I hoped would have made it to Abuja, in fact, did not. And I quickly realized that the experience of lost or delayed baggage was my first lesson into how my expectations needed to drastically change…and fast for my peace of mind.

nnamdi-aziikiweee

The Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (ABV) is a very modest airport, so there isn’t a department or even a window to go to when your baggage doesn’t arrive with you. In fact, you’re lucky if the airline has a designated bag agent at the airport upon your arrival. Luckily, British Airways did have an agent there and I immediately filed my claim with him. Yay me! Right? Well, not so much. The agent proceeded to inform me that since I didn’t have one of my luggage stickers that they were not liable for that bag. Well, remember that attitude adjustment I mentioned I needed? Yeah. I pretty much lost it at this point. I was tired, hungry and frustrated and it all came out in that moment. Needless to say, it was not my finest or classiest moment. But the agent looked at me and began to lecture me about how the process worked. Needless to say, I ignored him. What energy I had left, I used fussing at him moments ago. I simply walked away and proceeded to leave with just one measly bag.

I called him everyday for about a week, inquiring about my bag. A few times he simply hung up on me after I asked him to double check that my bags had not shown up. After a week, I received one bag. And while I was happy to receive it, it wasn’t the bag that contained all of my clothes, so I still had to continue to call the agent daily. Of course, I filed reports with British Airways and American Airlines (that is with whom the ticket was purchased), but it was the agent who the gatekeeper to my bag. All calls returned to him. Finally, I decided it was time for me to breakdown the walls of Western expectations and add a lot of honey to the vinegar I was spewing. I took the time to talk to him and explain the importance of the lost baggage. I greeted him properly “Good afternoon” because greetings are VERY important here in Nigeria and while he responded rather nonchalantly he didn’t hang up on me this time and promised he would call as soon as it arrived. Two days later, I received the call that my baggage was available for pick up.

So far, Nigeria has demonstrated stark contradictions in culture, expectations and reality, but I quickly found that my Westerns ideals and expectations will either make this experience unbearable or grow me in ways I never imagined. And since it’s up to me, I choose the latter. Here’s to growth and evolution.

Reaction to the U.S. Presidential Election (WTF America?!!!)

Living abroad does not lessen the impact of government issues at home. In fact, I would venture to say that living abroad places those issues under a microscope of scrutiny and never-ending questions. This presidential election especially shone light on just how confusing Americans and their politics appear to the rest of the world. Countless times I’ve been forced, unwillingly, into conversations about the two presidential candidates, expected to weigh in on my choice and reasons behind it. This campaign season definitely contributed to sharpening my sidestepping and redirecting conversational skills. It has been utterly exhausting.

And now, while the election is over, the questions, confusion and bewilderment is not. My students look at me discontentedly and wonder what this means for them and their goals of higher education. Will it be safe for them to pursue their collegiate goals in America? Should they use the election results map to determine which college is better situated geographically to make them feel comfortable…welcome? And I honestly have no idea how exactly to respond, because much like them I, too, have questions.

I think the absolute worse part, is that I am expected to speak on behalf of the American people. I am expected to provide answers to the unanswerable when the truth is I have no idea how we knowingly elected a bigot, xenophobe, misogynist and just all around “mean” man as one student put it. What does it say about us, Americans, that we elected someone who spewed divisive rhetoric from the very beginning to the end of his campaign? What does it say? And I think that’s the scary part. It says a hell of a lot.

Those of us who didn’t vote for him can attempt to detach from the election results and even the president elect by saying we didn’t vote for him, but at the end of the day, does that matter? Does it matter to people abroad? When I navigate this globe, I do so as an American and I am, therefore, judged as such. Does it matter that I didn’t vote for him? I don’t think so. I think ultimately people will expect me to give them insight into what the hell happened in my country on November 8, 2016 and they’ll want answers. But where do I even begin? Because the truth is, a response to that question requires historical context that can’t be explained in a quick conversation and I don’t know that I would even want to do there in the first place. You know…there. Nah, I’ll pass. So for now, my response is simply, well, America can’t hide who and what it truly is any longer. The proof is in the pudding and will shortly be in the White House as well.

 

Interview: Marjorie Jean Explores Guadalupe

For the passionate traveler, traveling is more about the journey than the actual destination.  In this interview with healthcare professional and travel lover, Marjorie Jean, we discuss why she traveled to her latest destination and the lessons learned during the experience. Continue reading “Interview: Marjorie Jean Explores Guadalupe”

3 countries, 2 weeks, 2 people, less than 2k TOTAL. Bam!

Don’t you hate when you read a title or headline of a blog or article telling you how they did this amazing thing for just a little bit of money? And so you go on to read the article or blog expecting to learn all of these fabulous tips about how you too can have this fabulous experience for a only one dollar and you find that the author has used ridiculous or unrealistic (for you) ways to have said fabulous experience. Well, I hate that too. And with that being said, I’m going to tell you upfront that had I started this journey from the United States instead of China, the title would probably read “3 countries, 2 weeks, 2 people, less than 4k total.” Now, if there are two people splitting the cost that’s still pretty darn good, but when it’s a single parent footing the bill, less is best. So, I’m going to do something I don’t usually do and be completely transparent about the amount of money I spent to have this fabulous, yet budget friendly experience with my mini me. Continue reading “3 countries, 2 weeks, 2 people, less than 2k TOTAL. Bam!”

Teenager Abroad Segment: “Another Chapter”

One of the most important factors that I have to consider when traveling or living abroad is my quiet, reserved, yet very opinionated teenage daughter. Adjusting to living abroad is one thing when you’re solo, but when you’re a parent, and especially of a teenager, it adds an extra layer to the already challenging dynamic. My precious one agreed, albeit somewhat begrudgingly, to go on this journey with me. I thought the least I could do was give her a platform to share her thoughts. These are her words, raw and uncensored.

Continue reading “Teenager Abroad Segment: “Another Chapter””

Dude, Where’s My Mail?

Forgive my reference to the tacky, yet hilarious, 2000 movie staring Aston Kutcher. But just like the movie, my search for and expectation to receive packages sent from the U.S. are both futile and absolutely comedic. First, in order to get anything done in China, you MUST speak the language. There is simply no way around it. Well, I don’t speak the language. Therefore, I have to garner the assistance of Chinese work colleagues to assist me with things as simple as tracking down my packages. Continue reading “Dude, Where’s My Mail?”

To Bangkok with Love Part 2- A Happy Surprise

I remember asking some people how much time one should plan to spend in Bangkok and being told two days max. Admittedly, my perspective of Bangkok was a bit skewed due in part to the stories and feedback of others’ and largely the Hangover movie. I had a picture in my mind of a place with tons of garbage and grunge and lady boys and lots of sex for sale wherever you turned. I got the impression that absolutely anything goes and that two days was more than I could take in a place that offered up cheap booty and anal invasions even to those who weren’t the least bit interested. Needless to say, I was wrong and hella glad of it. Continue reading “To Bangkok with Love Part 2- A Happy Surprise”

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