My visit to Martha’s Vineyard

I’ve always wanted to visit Martha’s Vineyard, an island known to be the relaxation retreat for the rich, powerful and upper echelon in the US.  I figured since I was only a ferry ride away with some time to explore, why not embark on the opportunity! I had recently visited the Smithsonian African-American History Museum in Washington D.C. and learned of the first black family to settle in the Oak’s Bluff community, which later became the summer haven for the African-American elite.  I found the stone that honored the indentured servants and later the home that was surprisingly still intent well enough for a quick photo.  I traveled down tree-lined roads of bright-colored homes with unique designs, sampled chocolate at a local home-made make shift kitchen, visited the lighthouses that happened to be closed for the season and was fortunate to  catch the sunset on the beach.  My dinner for the evening consist of a freshly caught thirty pound lobster  and  a warm fixing of Barack Obama’s favorite dessert, the homemade straight out of the oven baked apple fritter!!  Martha’s Vineyard is defiantly an island worth visiting if you have a few hours to spare!!

 

 

 

From Day One to One Day

shutterstock_259324292

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!

Surviving Hurricane Nicole

shutterstock_721939864

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.

img_8870-1

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.

img_8872-1
The calm after the storm!

 

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.

IMG_8650

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.

IMG_8567

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.

IMG_8656

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.

Urban Eatery: Batter & Berries

One of my favorite pastime when traveling is the opportunity to dine-out at some of the popular hot spots in that City.  Yesterday a friend and I decided to have brunch at the popular Batter & Berries restaurant. Occasionally, I will visit local eateries provided if I felt it was safe to do so and in many cities across the globe there are a few.   This restaurant received so many rave reviews that I had to give it a try. It’s located right in heart of Lincoln Park and just short two miles from Old Town. We were seated rather quickly, although I read from many blogs that the wait could easily stretch past an hour. The dining area is small, but I’ve experience dining a restaurants that seated less than twenty.  I ordered the Shrimp & Scampi Omelet (an odd combination but one nonetheless) and my friend a BLT.  Our waiter was extremely nice and the service was good.  We were seated next to a large party having a B & B fest, consist of those famous French Toasts that I would most defiantly try on my next visit there.

IMG_8666

While I didn’t care much for the loud music so early in the morning, the vibe around the restaurant was real. Everyone there seem like frequent visitors, I was probably the only newbie taking on the experience for the first time.  I’m guilty of taking food pics because I’ve and seen some strange and yet delicious dishes in my travels.  This day, I dove in before taking a photo, just to see what the hype was all about. While my friend complained about his sandwich, I on the other hand  sampled my omelet which was good.  We both agreed that on our next visit we will start off with the fan favorite, The French Toast Flight!

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!

 

The Sinkhole

By taking a nice scenic drive along the desert mountains, just about an hour away from Al Seeb, you can journey off the Hawiyat Park to take a dip in Bimmah Sink Hole.  The park is just a few kilometers away from the Arabian Peninsula and is one of the most interesting tourist attractions in Oman.

IMG_4450
A great place to camp and cool off!
IMG_4451
The view from up top is breathtaking!
IMG_4432
I was even treated to fish nibbling pedicure.

As I venture out more, I’m starting to realize that Oman may have some

of the greenest cities in the Middle East.

The Mandawa Village

This spring, I toured India and visited a town five hours away from New Delhi called Mandawa.  The town is best known for their famous medieval themed Havelis, a term used for a building of personal residence.

 The streets were busy with merchants, vendors and children, playing with it seemed to be was hide and seek, but I’m pretty sure they had another name for it.  Today most of the Havelis were empty and had deteriorated throughout the years.  The town Mandawa has no electricity, so students have very little time to complete their homework, have dinner and go out and play.  Although they seemed a bit winded, they were very welcoming when I introduced myself.  They asked questions about the States, touched my hair and beg for money.  I didn’t give money, but I did donate a couple bucks to a family who had allowed me to tour the inside of their residence.