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”! 

A Pilgrimage to Paisley Park

Like many fair-weather Prince fans, I was shock when his death flash across the television as “Breaking News”.  I had just missed the opportunity to see him perform at the 2014 Essence Music Festival due to the untimely passing of my father.  However, memories of being introduced to royal one relished in my mind as my mother was one of the most loyal Prince fan’s I had ever come to know.  As a matter of fact, she was so loyal she even named our first family pet, a Doberman Pinscher after him.  I can remember going to see Purple Rain in elementary school, covering our eyes to the naughty parts, but watching as she jammed in her seat and later down the aisles as he electrified the screen with his awesome dance moves and signature splits in gem-studded four-inch heels.  Throughout the years, she would retreat to her red crates to play his albums and tapes on a boombox in the living room.  A few years ago she learned of an all Prince radio station on Pandora which was later downloaded and enjoyed from IPOD sound system.  It’s moments like these and my own personal love for his music, performances and persons, I fell in love with “The Artist”.  I watched on television as many began to crowd his property and placed items on a gate surrounding his home.  I wanted to be apart of that commemoration.

Not soon after viewing and listening to fans all over the world pay their last respects, I took the five-hour drive up to Minnesota, vowing to return, once his home became a museum. To my dismay, the decision to transform and open as a tourist attraction came six months later and in keeping with my promise, I set off on my pilgrimage to Paisley Park.

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Paisley Park is located in Chanhassen, Minnesota, surrounded by factories and industrial offices.  On the outside, the building looks like a marble pearl correctional facility, adding to the fact that Prince was truly original or just weird.  The museum offers four packages, ranging from $39.00 Standard to $160.00 VIP and can only be purchased online.  I scheduled my tour for the next day and decided to spend the rest of the evening exploring the city Prince had grown to love and refused to leave.

One of the first stops on my journey was to the legendary “1st Avenue” nightclub, 45 minutes away Chanhassen.  The area where the club is located just around the corner from the Minnesota Twins stadium.  There were countless sports bars, coffee shops and chic boutiques enough to satisfy the common tourist.

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Next stop was to two of the many eateries Prince loved to frequent, “World Street Kitchen”. An Asian fused vegan cafe primarily, but does accommodate non-vegans on special request.  The average check for two ranges between $27.00-$40.00, depending on which dish you choose. Just across the dining room, adjacent to WSK is Milk Jam Creamy. They actually offer a special “Raspberry Beret “ topping for sundaes, I opted for the deep down cocoa cone  instead.

The next day, I arrived for my tour, being greeted by a guard who lead me to a cue with the rest of the patrons waiting to start the excursion that last 90 minutes.  One of the greatest displeasure of this experience were the NO PHOTOS OR PHONES policy,  The clerks actually ask to remove any recording devices and have you placed them in a sealed security pouch until the end of the tour.

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Just through the foyer your greeted with the loving sounds of white doves accompany by Prince Ballads streaming through the surround sound system.  Our tour guide was awesome, she silenced the room as we were informed of Prince ashes encased just above our heads in an urn designed in a replica of his home.  This was very awkward for me, rarely had I ever came close to a celebrity alive or dead, but to pay respect to Prince ashes in his home was surreal.  Afterwards, we were led through picturesque rooms showcasing his artistic abilities and photogenic stances, all we’ve seen before if you followed his career.  What was not shown, at least not now, was memories of  his personal or home life.  Even in death, that part my remain a mystery to the masses.  All of his awards, costumes and instruments were encased and his restaurant styled kitchen glass doors were locked.  The upper living quarters were off-limits for viewing and the elevator where he died is closed off and covered up.  There is a huge face mural just across from the kitchen where two candles are resting on a holders, many on the tour suspected it to be the lift, of course the topic was never mentioned.  Approaching the leg of  the tour, I got a chance to stand in one of four recording studios and listen to an unnamed unreleased Jazz track Prince was working on before he died. Towards the end, we were walked briefly through his night club, where the likes of Lenny Kravitz and Madonna had once shared that space with him for midnight performances and lastly to the “WOW” room. This room consists of everything relating to Prince’s automobiles, clothing, theme staged setting and even the last piano he played before he passed away.  Although the gift shop offered very little for souvenir collecting, I managed to purchased a couple of bits before leaving the compound.  I enjoyed my journey to Minneapolis and my visit to Paisley Park.  I planned to return later on when his estate his finally settled and more items can become accessible so the public can learn more about the “Artist” we had all grown to love.

The highest of Highs

One of the greatest perks of traveling the US is the ability to cross state lines without the hassle of  having to obtain a visa or border stamp to get permission to explore other cities or towns. Living in the Midwest, many weekend getaways can be enjoyed just a few hours away from your front door by car or less than an hour away by flight.  However when planning to  travel further West, I would highly recommend visiting the State of Colorado.

I love hiking and the mountains in Denver defiantly didn’t disappoint this urban wanderer.  There are many hills as far as the eyes can see and I had the privilege to take a take a forty-five minute train ride 14,114 ft. to Pikes Peak.  When riding up, I completely forgot to pack my jacket and by the time we reached the top, I was literally frozen and stuck to my seat. The greatest benefit to that debacle was the opportunity to view some of mother’s nature most breath-taking creation.  The State of Colorado has also made news as being one of the first States to legalize recreational cannabis.

Being a city dweller, I’m no stranger to the substance but to I couldn’t resist the opportunity to visit the many weed shops while exploring all of what Denver had to offer.  It was quite interesting to walk out of the grocery store and go next door, not to the beauty supply but the Weed Supply. Choosing a souvenir for this trip was quite tricky but I was fortunate to receive help from many merry and jovial locals who had no problem with suggest choosing a gift from “The Green Solution”. The shop sold everything from the actual leaves of many potencies to drinks, edibles, candles, tee shirts, and cannabis coloring books.  Souvenir shopping in Denver is on a higher level, literally!

 

House of Amouage

The pillowing clouds of fresh peppercorn laced with vanilla hits your senses upon entry into the “Amouage” perfumery, located in a suburban neighborhood just 20 minutes outside of Muscat, Oman. (amouage meaning “wave” in Arabic). I wanted to venture into this establishment just to get an inside look at how perfumes are created from natural resources. Also, I wanted to chat with the tour guide on Arab women’s love for special made fragrances. I learned that the Middle Eastern culture is known to have the most fragrance obsessed individuals in the world, so it may not be uncommon to find a place like this in your neighborhood.  The history of the factory’s first scent was interesting, as the sweet smells was created by burning old date leaves in the hot desert sun and were later carried to the villagers homes to linger throughout the day. How refreshing!!

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From the Ghetto to the Gold Coast

“16 Shots! 16 Shots ! 16 Shots!”  Finally a protest that will not be ignored!! I’ve been glued to my PC since viewing the horrific killing of Laquan McDonald. A young African-American shot to death 16 times which was captured on a police dash camera.  The video, albeit being shown a year later, has shaken up the city at large and  upset the masses.  When the advertisements began posting to my Facebook timeline about a “Blackout” on “Black Friday” needless to say, I got excited.  I’ve watched  the protests in Ferguson, Baltimore and New York.  I’ve read  the stories, I harbor sympathy for the victims and families all effected by the current situations happening in urban communities across the United States.  Usually when we decide to protest, we stayed within our confines allowing our voices to only be heard within the corner blocks in the neighborhood.  This time, we decided to ventured outside and took the fight Downtown,  on the Gold Coast and the Magnificent Mile, where this protest wouldn’t surely be forgotten.  Enough is enough as cliche as that may sound!  Shot a kid sixteen times?  No I didn’t know him,  but I have researched his background and he defiantly didn’t deserved to die that way.  The videos, interviews, pictures and conversations about the unfortunate event are priceless!  Hopefully one lost soul would become enlightened by these recent catastrophes will get help educated.  To those who are educated and may have forgotten about hard times were tough for us coming up, especially during the crack era must now WAKE UP!!  What happened to Laquan, can happen to anybody.

Little Rock Arkansas: Retracing the steps of “The Little Rock Nine”

Nearly 5 years ago, I decided to explore my options, take a risk to travel across the globe to teach abroad in the Middle East.   At that time, the state of education had

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A collection of items donated from each of the students to the museum that was built to honor their legacy.
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These shoes belong to Elizabeth Eckford, a young  women who was brazen enough to withstand the anger, yelling and rage from segregationists when she made attempt to enter school.
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I had to capture this moment as I truly admire these unsung heroes of the Civil Rights Movement.
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A portrait created a art student from Little Rock High School.

it’s troubles but I learned to adapt and persevere to become a passionate Special Needs Educator. I took for granted the restorative natural of travel and how easy it is to explore the United States without a passport or visa.  That’s why every Summer I create an agenda and go on a road trip to visit places and/or states I’ve never seen.  This year, one of the many places I traveled to  was Little Rock, Arkansas. I had the liberty of walking the same route nine students took nearly 60 years ago to force their way into high school to get the educated.
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The Little Rock Nine were a group of nine African American students enrolled in Little Rock Central High School in 1957. Their enrollment was followed by the Little Rock Crisis, in which the students were initially prevented from entering the racially segregated school by Orval Faubus, the Governor of Arkansas.

Sweet February featuring “Miss Sharifa”

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Miss Sharifa is a student at United Arab Emirates University majoring in Primary Education. U.A.E. University is one of the largest educational institutions in the Middle East.

Since starting my blog over a year ago, I’ve been fortunate to have visited and experience places around the world I’ve only read about in magazines and history books as a child. I also manage to take the time to speak to the local residents, who are quite friendly, to learn more about their culture and experiences.  A great meeting could start with a short tour around the villages, to studying different art pieces and clothing and ending with an opportunity to sample great food items happily prepared by a member of a family. In my short time here in the United Arab Emirates, I’ve met many interesting people and learned more the history of Dubai from listening to their stories than from visiting the museum.  Being the cultural junkie I am, I enjoy sharing my addiction and decided that outside of sharing the amazing photos of different places, it’s now time to share their stories.  Just off the brink of winning the Expo 2020, the city of Dubai, as well as other neighboring emirates, celebrated with a spectacular fireworks show and displays that let up the skies to let the world, WE HAVE ARRIVED!!  I was very excited for the city and hope to be around to enjoy the experience, but I know the feeling of the local residents were much more exuberant. I love chatting with many of my local friends here in Dubai when I’m out for coffee or strolling along the creek. To began my conversation series with these “Special Gems”on the rise, I decided to have a quick chat with my colleague Miss Sharifa, a future educator born and raised here in Dubai:

What brought you to the field of Education?

I enjoy teaching and like to help people. I want to become a part of a team of looking to help the education systems in the U.A.E. I am also working to build a strong career for myself by focusing on gaining knowledge and climbing high on the academic ladder to achieve a Phd.

Give me 2 words that describe you.

Friendly and Tenacious

What was your most memorable moment in Dubai.

I remember when my organization won the reward as the best medical institute in the Middle East, it was a great accomplishment for my city and we were all very proud.

What is you favorite place to visit in the U.A.E.? Why?

The Al Ain Zoo. You have to visit this place to understand that it’s not just a zoo but a wild life resort.

If you were to give advice to someone visiting the U.A.E. for the first 1st time, what would it be?

My advice would be to explore the Old Town part of the city before enjoying the nightlife and malls.  If you are here for a short time, visit some of the cafes to have tea and dates and chat the people in the community.

How do you plan to prepare for the Dubai 2020 Expo?

I am thinking of starting my own business, so it could grow internally and I could promote it internationally at the expo.

Good luck to you Miss Sharifa, we at Sandy Treasures are wishing you all the best!!