R.I.P Aretha Franklin

As a young child growing up in the inner city, listening to R&B music was a staple in my household. My mother kept a collections of records in a crate, alphabetized I might add, stretching from the front door to the end of the hallway. While my siblings and I were not permitted to play with mothers prized possessions, we were however given the chance to listen as she played her favorite musical classics. It was something about this music that when played would cause the whole block to stop and rejoice. My mother wanted everybody to embrace in the soulful sounds of Marvin Gaye, The O’Jays, Patti Labelle and a plethora of others. There were many ballads I learned to sing as I listen sonically but later on I began to appreciate the lyrics. Of all the artists I was exposed to me through my mother’s weekly jam sessions, I gravitated to the lovely voice and soulful spike of Aretha Franklin. Aretha Franklin was an international diva who took me on a journey with her music without me having to leave my living room. I can remember reading about her in magazines, posters and on the back of album covers. Like many great individuals, she fought the good fight and lived her life to the fullest. She left a legacy of great hits to to be treasured for decades and beyond. While her music filled our hearts, her lyrics fed our soul, Rest In Paradise Queen Aretha.

Why didn’t anyone tell me about Kentucky?

A brief debate about boxing with my nephews combine with an urge to education led to a fun fact trip to Louisville, Kentucky. Just a few hours away from Chicago, a day trip to Kentucky is a must! One of the first item on my agenda was to expose and explore the brilliance of Muhammad Ali.

It’s safe to say that both Marcell and Tre enjoyed their time at the center as well as left with a different perspective of true champion and leader.

Just around around the corner from the center, we toured the Louisville Slugger Museum.

We got the opportunity to explore the slugger making process in the factory as well as explore the different selection of game winning bats from many historical baseball figures. While the trip was a success, I plan to do much more on my next visit!

From Day One to One Day

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I can remember the first day I was exposed me to the world of traveling abroad. My sixth grade teacher shared her summer vacation experiences traveling through Asia.  She brought in Polaroid (hand-held photos for you New Schoolers) pictures of her family in Japan, Vietnam and Hong Kong, which at the time seemed so weird to me and other classmates to learn of a black people traveling to a place so far away. During her presentation, she spoke of how she enjoyed the journey, learned to speak Mandarin, dine with the locals and even dressed in the traditional wear during her visit.  It would be years later that I would learn of another teacher that would experience going abroad, many classmates nor family never wanted embark on the challenge.  When asked by my international colleagues why many Americans never traveled, especially African-Americans, you’re bomb rushed with a plethora of reasons such as some not having the resources, poor decision-making early in life, illness, lack of knowledge and exposure can account for large amounts of individuals not experiencing a life time treasure.  While I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity the leave the United States, I often think of my community as I am now collecting my souvenirs and garments to share once I return back to my neighborhood one day.

I was 35  when I entered the globetrotting community and Asia was the first place I visited, who would have known!  I’ve grown so much as an educator and even discover outside of the beautiful monuments, art work and food tours, I grown to enjoy people-watching.  I admire large families who expose their children to the world of travel at such a young age.  Although they may be too young to realize it, later in life many go on to develop into global citizens, speak many languages either verbal both non-verbal which also prepare them for rewarding professional careers.   Being a realist, I know the thought of hopping on a plane and traveling across the globe for many young pupils in poverty-stricken communities are mere dreams but I strive to do my part by sharing and promoting the joy of travel with my old colleagues, students’ nieces and nephews.  I dedicated much of my summer vacation traveling through the states, taking them on trips outside of the community and when time permits, weekend road trips will soon become a staple.  I’m impressed with their language when they speak about our staycation in passing, I am certain they will develop the desire travel much sooner than later.

I met an avid traveler during one of my frequent  airport layovers that spoke about the best birthday present she had received was a passport application  along with a money order of the amount needed to complete the registration.  It’s a great idea I plan to adopt for my family members in the near future.   It’s as if history is repeating itself but with the help of technology and a more globalized society, dreamers are now becoming believers! If I could find that teacher, I would like to thank her for opening my eyes to a world outside of Chicago, Illinois, Midwest and the United States.  A place that once seemed so large to me as young student, has now become so small.  Yes, as clichéd as it sounds the sky’s the limit and it’s through the clouds you will begin to discovered that true learning comes from just observing the world, even if it through the experiences of others First!

Historic Town of St. George’s B & W Photo Diary

St. George’s was the original capital of Bermuda and is one of the few communities on the island that cater to residents and tourists interested in learning more about the island’s history. Stories about Bermuda’s early years can be heard around lunch tables, during short chats in the souvenir shops and most famously, in a reenactment of 18th Century Trial by the St, Georges Town Crier in King’s Square. To explore more about the latter years of the culture requires several bus rides across the island, where on any given day you will discover chunks of its culture hidden behind the beautiful pastels homes and picturesque walking trails.  Since I’m still at the start of my cultural quest, I learned the best place to start should be on the North side of the island.  I thought to snap some pictures of St. Georges during a time and day when the community seemed to be at peace.

 

Surviving Hurricane Nicole

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The pictures are surreal and the stories, heartbreaking! Like many who were fortunate to not have suffered through the horrific Hurricanes that caused havoc and destruction in the Caribbean and in the Southern US states these past couple of months, I nearly escaped this dilemma just a year ago. In October of 2016, I had just began to settle into my new environment, when I received an email at work that quickly force me to adapt to my new reality.  The email was an alert from the Bermuda Weather Service and the Ministry of Education informing the residents about “hurricane Nicole”, a category three storm set to hit the island in just short of 72 hours.  The email was also accompanied by a  “Hurricane Preparedness’ attachment, instructing residents on how to get ready for what was thought to be the second largest storm to hit the island dead on.  Immediately after learning of the news, the Government responded quickly by closing schools, while most businesses began their “Hurricane Nicky” sales of food, supplies, gasoline, water, wood for boarding and everything you needed to get ready for the storm.  My view out the window on the ride home were of families nailing down shutters, boarding windows and doors, pre-filling generators and unloading the trunk of perishable goods to store as the countdown continues on with Nicole fastly approaching.   Living in the Midwest all my life, I was accustomed to heavy winds, freezing temperatures and snow. Finding myself in a crunch, preparing for a Hurricane shook a fear into me as I could only reflect on images I’ve seen on television about places that had suffered through these storms, the lives that were lost and the spirits broken.  I would never forget the images of Hurricane Katrina and ironically learning of the news about this storm forced me to act quickly so that I wouldn’t end up like most of those poor people.  Having no means to travel by car, nor by flight I was force to wait out the storm.

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With fear settling in, I had already began to leave messages in my DM  and Skype family members until I was unable to do so, as the island would later shut down the telecommunication towers and which left me without power for a few days.  While I completed my most of my shopping, ran enough water in my bathtub for sanitary use, grab cash from the ATM to make emergency purchases, pre-cooked some items to eat, the downpour was just beginning.  Having to commute mostly by public transportation, I made it to the library just in time to get some novels and to send my mind into another space reading the works from my favorite author by flashlight.   On day three, while less than 100 miles off the coast, the storm was downgraded to a category one but the rain and winds caused large amounts of damage to the exterior of homes, lawns, roads and businesses in town.  I set out with my landlady to take pictures of the destruction and to check on my elderly neighbors.

With only suffering through not having power for a few days and a few broken tree limbs, I have officially survived my first tropical cyclone  Not to sound joyful, but grateful as I now can see the trauma  a strong storm can cause reflecting on the Caribbean, Houston, Florida and now Puerto Rico. I have since began volunteering in the outreach programs supporting the victims of these natural disasters, the thought will never escape me that this has now become my new normal.   I have discovered the Summer and Spring months can be quite relaxing on an island,  but truthfully, assimilating into the Hurricane seasons in the Fall is very unnerving and quite timorous.

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The calm after the storm!

 

WTF? (Where’s The (cheap) Fruit?)

Shopping on any given day  quickly reminds me of the small things I took for granted back home. Just today, my cravings for any summertime delights were stifled when I stumbled across this barrel of Watermelons. Fresh produce are considered precious commodities on an island, I have to keep reminding myself that. Just in case I forget, the hot pink stamps will make sure the price is highly visible! To have to spend this amount of money to indulge, your truly “0ne in a Melon”! 

Footprints in the Pink Sand

It’s been a year since I moved to Bermuda, an experience that has changed my perspectives on life, education and culture.  While I can easily adapt to new environments, being a newbie to the island lifestyle can pose a huge challenge for a city dweller.

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For instance, my introduction to the island culture was quite brief while living in Asia I toured Thailand.  A very tourist and popular destination with a host events to keep you entertained during your stay.  While I haven’t had a chance yet to tour the Caribbean, I was fortunate to land a job on the beautiful North Atlantic gem to get me started.img_6528-1

Bermuda sits just east of Florida and only a couple of hours away from the mainland.  A beautiful relaxing paradise that ironically never comes up in international conversations.  During my research, I learned of the expensive urbanity, everything from the six-dollar loaves of bread, to the one dollar apples and fifteen hundred-dollar studio apartment rentals were mind boggling. I learned very quickly, networking here is mandatory and not optional especially if your seeking to land a job and are contracted to stay for a while. While on the tailend of settling, I struggled with the stagnated and snaillike demeanor which can easily be misunderstood for laziness.  I learned the greatest  asset this country have is the warm invitation from the local community.  I was able to make connections via social media and email quickly and soon found a cheap apartment, furniture and learned of the best places to shop for food. Visitings websites such as www.nothingtodoinbermuda.com and www.emoo.bm and the The People’s List  page on Facebook opened the door to monthly calendar events which provided more of social life as the environment is very family oriented.

While quite beautiful, it’s very small, 22 miles long to be exact!  In most cases in the US it would be considered a neighborhood. The island consists of nine parishes (or communities) all are easily accessible by boat, bike, car or bus.  There’s a railroad trail converted into a walking path, great for late evening and afternoon cool downs.

In my short time, I complete The End 2 End Marathon, (for which I walked), attended my first Carnival and Soca Parade and  the international sailing competition the America’s Cup, for which America lost. In total, the experience was priceless.

While I  have yet to find a great eatery, I have sampled their signature dishes, which are the The Traditional Fish Sandwich and Fish Chowder and was given more suggestions about others spots that I plan to write about in later posts.

With so much more to unravel about this gem and the infamous “Bermuda Triangle”, I can honestly state that my time thus far has been notable.  I plan to continue to stroll the shoreline of these pink sand beaches to explore more about this unique peninsular otherwise known as Bermuda. 

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On top of the rocks at Horseshoe Bay! Have a Bermudaful Day!!

 

New Orleans at a glance

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On of my favorite US cities to visit anytime of the year is New Orleans, Louisiana.  Best known for having the most loyal football fans and home to the most delicious Cajun cuisines ever prepared, I sought off to explore more of what this place has to offer.   Many high ticketed events take place in New Orleans such as the Mardi Gras, the Essence Music festival, the Superbowl, a host of marathons and the list can go, but even without attending those events, you can still make the most of your visit here

Most hotels offer brochures for Swamp Tours for the brave heart explorers and I would recommend taking a drift along the Bayou just once. The drive to the site is just 30 minutes out the city and the tour is about an hour.  It took fifteen minutes to reach the middle of the swamp on a turbo speed boat and less than five before the alligators began poking their eyes above the water lines. We were told by our guides that we were visiting the friendliest batch of alligators in the batch, of course its part of the pitch and to my surprise many spectators on the boat wanted to reach down and pat one on the head. On this one I will pass! Holding the new baby gator being prepared for the wild was as far as was willing to ventured.

Strolling through the French Quarters is common for the new city tourist and just off the paths nearby you will discover  a number of Voodoo and Occult shops, selling everything form oils, to candles, dolls and Tarot Reading Spiritual Leaders.  On a whim, I wanted to have my palm read( for fun of course)  and learned that most shops were full and being adding to a waitlist was the norm. In some cases, it seems that this ritual has become very commercialized, but after speaking with some of the locals the “VooDoo Culture” is very real in New Orleans. So real in fact there is a museum, spiritual tours and rituals all created to foster and maintain their lifestyle and spiritual movement.

Since traveling and dining go hand in hand, I love to ask about the best local spots to check out. While sampling  jambalaya and dirty rice is so traditional and popular amongst tourists, I decided to try something different and send my tastes bud bustling.

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Oysters Slessinger and Homemade Crab Cakes at Katies’s Restaurant.
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The famous Chargrilled Oysters at Neyow’s Cafe.

The final stretch of my foodie excursion is the to the Cafe Du Monde French Market Coffee Stand for a freshly prepared warm Benyas.  A square piece of dough, fried and covered in powered sugar and serve with a small cup French Java.

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I got my Benyas!

Unlike the traditional tourist, I go searching for the local talents in many artistic forms and New Orleans never disappoint. While in the past few weeks there has been reports of robbery and attacks on tourists, a level of caution must be taken when wandering in unfamiliar tourist spots. While it’s a fact that many urban cities are being gentrified, this city managed to protect and market their local artists in the “Back of the Yards” community near the French Quarters.

A visit to the Bayou state is a trip worth making.