I’ve largely been silent on here because this past year at my place of employment has been pretty darn traumatic. From being the victim of racism (in Nigeria no less), to unsupportive colleagues and then being forced to work closely with and train a bully who consistently attempted to paint himself the victim and of course, others so readily believed and having to do it all with a “smile” pretty much muted and masked my true feelings. Needless to say, I couldn’t wait for the end of the school year and finally being rid of that very toxic environment. I’ll speak more about the mind-numbing ordeal this past school year has been in a different post. Continue reading “And so it begins…”
It’s All Greek to Me!
Yeah, yeah, corny I know, but I couldn’t help myself. So this year’s spring break was pretty doggone amazing and the first stop was Athens, Greece. I spent a total of 4 days and 3 nights in Athens. Two were spent at the beginning of the trip and one at the end. And I’m actually mad at myself for not spending more time. See, I chose the number of days based on the recommendations of others who stated that two days was all you really needed in Athens. Now, I’m wondering what on Earth those people were doing or not doing to think so little time is needed to enjoy the city and all it’s wonderful cultural offerings? Advice: Be prepared to be disappointed by other people’s suggestions. Always base how you navigate your travels on the kind of traveler you are. Continue reading “It’s All Greek to Me!”
Nigeria is Not for Tourists
Traveling to Nigeria is definitely not for the faint of heart. There should be no romantic notions of what visiting the country would be like and you should definitely be prepared for the unexpected. Yes, you may be hustled, you may be asked to pay a bribe and you may pay a foreign tax, but let’s not pretend that doesn’t happen (and far worse) in other countries. The bad rap that Nigeria and Nigerians constantly get is not deserved, no matter how many letters you’ve received from Nigerian scam artists. Continue reading “Nigeria is Not for Tourists”
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”:
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.
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.
Egg Foo Yung Please!
Call me ignorant if you choose, but I’ll be the first to admit that I miss with all of my heart American Chinese food. I would give anything for a simple order of shrimp fried rice or Singapore noodles with tofu or General Tso’s shrimp or even shrimp with broccoli. Oh how my mouth waters at the thought of egg foo yung and crab ragoon and chicken lo mein. Call me crazy for assuming that living in China would put me in close proximity to a limitless supply of those dishes I now long for. Imagine the shock and horror when I discovered that the Chinese food I loved is, in fact, not authentic Chinese food at all. For shame!
Don’t get me wrong, there are some dishes that are close to the ones I grew to love in America, but here in Foshan where Cantonese food reigns supreme, it is quite difficult to find Chinese dishes that make me crave the local cuisine. The lo mein or chao mein is probably the closest, but even that is prepared differently. Ginger and garlic are the go to spices for most local chefs. This leaves their food mildly seasoned and just lacking flavor. But hell, I’m no food critic; I just like to eat.
I’ve asked several of my Chinese colleagues about these dishes which I cannot and they often just give me a blank stare. They don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. However, I haven’t determined if it’s because most Chinese tend to eat the local food they grew up on or if it’s because American Chinese food really is solely an American thing.
There have been a few dishes which have tickled my taste buds like the sautéed squid rings, the grilled, garlicky oysters and the steamed scallops with rice sticks. Despite bemoaning the food, one of the things I absolutely love about living in Foshan has been the access to fresh and varied seafood. Nonetheless, ultimately, I am still in search of good, really, really good authentic Chinese food. In the meantime, I’ll take complete pleasure in the search.
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”
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””
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”
To Bangkok with Love (Pt. 1)
Thailand has been on my “list” since my first experience with Thai food at this cute, quaint Thai restaurant several years ago in Atlanta. I wish I could remember the name of the place, but it escapes me at this time. Nonetheless, I remember thinking to myself that if the food was this good here in Atlanta, then it would have to be 100 times better in the local area of Thailand. So…yes, food fueled my desire to get to Thailand and well, their epic Full Moon party, but that’s another story. Needless to say, the moment I confirmed that I would be living in China for the at least the next year I started planning our trip to Thailand. Initially, it was going to be our Christmas holiday trip, but when the Mid-Autumn Fall Break rolled around, I decided I couldn’t wait to find refuge in a different foreign land. And I desperately needed a place much different than my current country of residence. Bangkok gave me all that I needed and then some.
Familiarity and Nostalgia
Our first night there we discovered a comprehensive dining guide in our modern and well-appointed rental apartment which was located in Circle 12 Condominiums on Sukhumvit Soi 12. It wasn’t my intent to do much restaurant eating as I am a street food fanatic, but my daughter saw that there was a Krispy Kreme in the Emporium shopping center and, being the doughnut aficionado she is, nearly lost her mind. At that moment, our mission became to find the doughnuts, after eating dinner and getting massages of course. So we officially began our trip with dinner at Stable Lodge where indulged in traditional Thai fare, followed by two wonderful full body scrubs with massages from a little place on Soi 8 called Relax…and something else. Honestly, the name doesn’t matter much. It was the only place on the street that did full body scrubs. Now, as far as extras, I don’t know anything about that, but our place seemed legit and while it was a bit shabby, the body work was the bomb and the price was super cheap.
One of the great things we discovered, soon after arrival, is that navigating Bangkok was 10 times easier than navigating Foshan. We didn’t face the same language barriers, the public transportation system was easy to understand and use and there dozens of familiar shops and restaurants. Krispy Kreme just happened to be one of them. So after we bought the Krispy Kreme we explored the multitude of shops, restaurants and stalls in Emporium and Terminal 21. We saw everything from Louis Vuitton to Sephora to Payless Shoes to Wine Market and even a boutique grocery store in the mall. The food courts in these places were absolutely amazing. Fine dining to fast food to stalls that resembled those at the night markets were all there. It was shopping and foodie heaven!
But the thing that made us miss home the most, the thing that caused the throat knot and the misty eyes, was the sight of Krispy Kreme. I don’t know how the Creator knew that we needed that little piece of home, but it was right on time. Honestly, Bangkok was right on time in many more ways.