What Is My Limit?

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During my travels, I encounter many Pagan rituals and customs or other beliefs and religions that contradict my personal belief in one Deity.  In some of these circumstances, I am even urged to participate.  Now, I would like to say that one of the many reasons why I’m very passionate about travel is because I have an insatiable desire to learn everything I can about a country’s culture, society, and lifestyle in real time.  Therefore, sometimes it is I who seek out to learn more about a particular Pagan custom or ritual.  I am forever a student, constantly finding ways to quench my thirst for learning.  I can’t.  It’s insatiable.  Learning comes in many forms, and I enjoy it the MOST with ideas I can ponder on or be fascinated by.

This has led me to become an observer of many things I may not necessarily agree with.  However, I choose to understand their motivation and inspiration and subsequently,  how their beliefs shape society.

So, over the years, I have hiked mountains in Korea and Japan to reach ancient Buddhist temples, I have visited famous Hindu temples in Singapore, I have joined in an annual Hindi festival in Taiwan,  I have visited Shinto shrines in Japan and observed how they worship, I have lighted candles in many Catholic churches in Europe (I’m Protestant), I have drunk several bottles of Holy water outside of Mary’s house in Turkey (still Protestant), I have visited Muslim temples in Malaysia, Turkey and Morocco, I have climbed hundreds of steps to reach the Batu Caves/Temple of Malaysia, I have ridden very steep cable cars to visit to biggest Buddha I have ever seen perched on a mountaintop in Hong Kong.  And in each case, I was enthralled at the spectacular show they put on for their gods or their devotion to what they believe.  It showcased their culture in ways food or music cannot.  So, what is my limit?

Limit #1

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While on a trip to Osaka, Japan, I enjoyed a special Buddhist celebration/jazz festival with my local friend/tour guide, whom I’ll call Mr. Ben.  We ate expensive sushi at his request (over 100 USD),  listened to teens in concert, played a game where we had to catch tiny golden fish with a delicate paper net, and sweated our way thru the crowds in the buzzing night that promised a good time and delivered.

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However, at one particular moment, my friend wanted to pay respects to Buddha.  It was a Buddhist festival after all.   I watched from a few feet away to make room for other worshipers.

His ritual: alighting his incense and placing it next to the dozens of others that were perched and bent in the way that incense sticks do when they’re about to release their ash, then clasping his hands in devotion and bowing his head, then kneeling to the ground, then getting up with incredible ease for a 60+ year old, then bowing again, then kneeling again.  He did this several more times, he then filled a ladle with water and splashed it onto the smiling Buddha, as if refreshing him from the night’s humidity, before walking away and joining me. The whole experience lasted all of 30 seconds.   Now, Mr. Ben was a very generous Japanese man whom I met because I was lost in Osaka (more on this in a future post).  His generosity extended to him offering to pay for an incense stick for me so that I could have the pleasure of alighting my own incense stick for Buddha and bowing down to him in worship, then finally splashing him with cooling water.  Although drunk with happiness and giddy with joy at the incredible day I was having in one of my favorite countries, I promptly declined with a respectful customary bow and clasped hands.  If this offended him, he didn’t show it.  And for that I was relieved.  If this embarrassed him, that he did show. He laughed nervously and apologized when I explained I was a Christian.

So, while I have visited dozens of temples, shrines, churches and mosques, actually worshiping a deity that is not my own is my limit.  But I guess Mr. Ben had to ask.

Limit #2

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Another scenario took place in a different continent thousands of miles away from Japan, in Tanzania, Africa.  I was originally in this country to partake in a 5-week international medical elective in the city of Dar es Salaam, plus one week in the village of Melala with the UK based company “Work The World“.  It was an incredible 5 weeks thus far, and I was ending my last day in Africa learning all about witch doctors, an excursion arranged by my program.

Before I go on, a background story: although I am a Christian since birth, witch doctors are something I’ve heard many anecdotal tales about throughout my childhood in my family’s home country of Haiti. It is practically a religion called Voodoo, in Haiti.  However, all the anecdotes were negative, had a ring of the “boogey man” to them and therefore were incredibly scary for me till this day.  It took lots of maturity on my part to remain objective and receptive to learning about this witch doctor and his rituals in the middle of Africa.  I am a lifelong learner after all.

Upon meeting the village witch doctor for the first time, my heart immediately sank.  He was wearing my favorite color: red.  Since then, I’ve looked upon that color with a side-eye.   In fact, his whole garb left me with a sinking feeling.  He wore loose black linen cloth as a skirt, coupled with a black wife-beater and a red scarf wrapped around his neck.   His outfit was completed with his healing stick adorned with a tail made out of horse’s hair, possibly passed down from generations.

He showed us his make-shift hut, covered in the same black linen which covered his body, where he does his “magic,” on the front of which, lying on the ground, were jars of various sizes containing his nature-made concoctions.  Witch doctoring in Africa is a tradition that is passed down from generation to generation, as the necessary skills are not written down but rather taught orally to the next apprentice.  His next apprentice was nearby.

From the hut, he invited us into his 2-room cement home, not much bigger than the hut itself.  We had to remove our shoes, and bend our whole body to enter his abode.  I was instantly nervous as all the “boogey man voodoo” stories forced their way back into my head.  We sat on the ground in an 8×5 area, which was made smaller with his potions covering a third of the room.

Although the African heat radiated outside, a coolness was felt indoors as the witch doctor proceeded to teach me about his potions and what they were used for.  He had potions for every ailment you can think of: from arthritis to yellow fever, made of liquid, powder or clay-like material.  Each potion had their own special container and he invited me open and touch what was inside. They were all created from the elements of nature.  However, unlike a naturapathic doctor, the concoctions are not taken alone.  The spirits for the particular ailment/body system is summoned to aid in the healing process.  He even showed me a mirror in which a spirit can appear.  I respectfully declined the offer to hold it.

In a village where most people cannot afford nor do they trust allopathic medicine, the village witch doctor is the most common and accessible means of healthcare, sometimes with lines of patients wrapped around his house at all hours of the day.

I was satisfied, if only a bit wary, with his teaching methodology and just when I thought the lesson was over,  he proceeded to bring out all the bells and whistles for the participatory part of his lesson: “ancestral spirit summoning”.  If I were a cartoon, I would have been Speedy Gonzales at that moment.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t Speedy, and therefore I couldn’t get up fast enough from the tiny home and run as far away as possible. Instead, I waved my hand in “speedy” objection.  To which, Mr. Witch Doctor looked shocked.

“But why in the world not?” his look seemed to say.

“Um..because I’m Christian,and I don’t want any spirits summoned in my presence.  Thank you!” My look said back.

“Oh, it’s ok.  All the foreigners ask for it and they even help me with the chant”, he reassured via translation .

“Oh, that’s nice.  But I’m not all the foreigners.  And I say: NO! NO! NO!” No translation needed for my words, as I shook my hands and waved my arms in “speedy” protest.

This led to 10 minutes of back and forth objection/convincing, before it was decided that no spirits would be summoned that afternoon.  The witch doctor and his apprentice were incredulous and amused.  I was the FIRST foreigner to deny this experience.  Who would have thunk it?  Yes, not unsurprisingly, having spirits of ancestors willingly in my presence is my limit, no matter how educational. I thanked him for the lesson and crawled out of his home.

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So, there.  Those were my limits.  What about you? Do you have any limits when participating in rituals that you are not familiar with?

Hostels Are Scary Places! – part 2

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In my last post, I tried to dispel your fear of hostels.  I am fortunate that the movie, Hostel, didn’t come out prior to my stay in one.  What this movie did was create fear in something many Americans are ignorant of.  This kind of fear tends to linger unless you oust it with your own personal experiences.  This is why stereotypes and profiling exists.  We tend to believe what we hear or read which make blanket statements about things we know very little about, so that when we encounter them, we can voluntarily shield and protect ourselves.  It’s a defense mechanism.

As far as hostels go, the United States has so few of them that blanket statements made about them will be believable to this audience.  Fortunately, I have stayed in a plethora of hostels in many nations, and can say with confidence that the grim picture the movie paints is but a myth.

That being said, one tends have a few odd experiences when you’ve stayed in quite a few of them.  It’s unavoidable.

Brno, Czech Republic:

When I booked my flight to this city in Eastern Europe, I didn’t even know how to pronounce it.  Flying into Brno from London was a third cheaper than the popular city of Prague.  And so I went forth.  Because this city is not in the popular tourist circuit, hostels were very few and far between.  As I stated before, I choose my hostel based on location and ratings.  Still, there were so few reviews that I was taking a stab in the dark with this one.  Finding the hostel wasn’t too complicated from the airport.  A bus here, a tram there, and uphill walk to finish.  Actually, as usual, I did get lost.  This hostel was not easy to find once in the right neighborhood because it was unmarked, therefore, I kept passing it.  A local biking couple was kind enough to show me the way without my asking.

When I arrived, a group of three Belgian young guys, doing a road trip of Eastern Europe, arrived to the hostel at the exact same time.  An hour later, an Asian young man traveling alone checked in.  And that was it.  Myself, three Belgian guys, and an Asian man were the only guests that night.  (Now, get your head out the gutter.  It wasn’t that kind of awkward).

The hostel consisted of only two main dormitories, with about six beds each, with a courtesy curtain around each bunk.  A kitchenette, a toilet room, a shower room and a table full of excursion fliers lay close to the entrance.  Oh, and an empty private room was set in the back.  Luckily for me, I don’t mind sharing a dorm room with guys, so long as they don’t snore, and they usually do, so I’ve stopped sharing dorm rooms with guys.

However, this is the first time that I was the ONLY girl in a whole hostel.  This is also the first time that there were only 5 people in a hostel I stayed in. I don’t know too many women that would book a flight to an unknown, hard to pronounce city with few hostels and not mind bunking with a four men. But it was so.  And thanks to the Belgians, I didn’t even sleep in my bunk that night.  (Again, mind out the gutter please).

Who knew an unknown, hard to pronounce city with so few hostels and hostel tenants could prove to be such a great time?  I tagged along with the boys, eating great steak, walking around the city center, enjoying the Brno nightlife into daybreak, then getting lost and walking barefoot back to the empty hostel over the rising sun, where I finally got a few hours of sleep.  The Belgians moved on the next day and so did the quiet Asian guy.  And so, the very next night, I would be the ONLY guest.

The next day was a plethora of interesting experiences as I explored Brno on my own.  So after a day of outdoor café eating, camera breaking and new camera purchasing, clothes shopping, carnival exploring, rock concert listening, the best firework show witnessing, I was ready to return to my hostel for a goodnight sleep!

I vaguely remember the hostel staff mentioning in passing that the key to the front door was tricky and to open it like so.

I didn’t pay attention.

Surely, if I couldn’t open the door, the staff would do so for me, right? Wrong.

When I said I was the ONLY guest my second night, that also meant that I was the ONLY person in the WHOLE hostel.  No other guest, no other staff.

Dodging his many attempts to smooch, I finally said goodbye to Johnny, my new local Czech friend who accompanied me home, and whom was slightly obsessed with Black women and spoke great English, but which I later realized was slightly mentally retarded due to a history of spina bifida and locals laughing and pointing because of his excited volume when speaking to me.

It was closer to 1am than midnight, and I was anxious to get inside. Shaking off the chill that ran down my spine as I opened the front gate, I was acutely aware that my chill wasn’t due to the weather. It was fear.

This fear was due to an incident that occurred less than an hour before as I was waiting on my tram with Johnny in the city center.

How did I meet this Johnny, by the way?

After a mesmerizingly beautiful firework show on the lake on the outskirts of Brno, half the city rushed for the trams that ran every minute for this occasion. As usual, I was confused as to which tram I needed to take. Sure, there were conductors which I implored to help me.

Nyet! No English!

Fortunately for me, Johnny was within earshot and asked if I needed help. The exchanges were made in Czech and without an opportunity to protest, Johnny boy was to be my guide. Lucky for me! And lucky for him, he finally met his first Black chic, a source of his fantasies for years ( his own words).

So, here we stood in the city center, talking for over an hour, as tram after tram passed by, filled with the same group of animated youngsters I enjoyed the carnival and fireworks with just hours before.  In one particular tram, I heard shouting and chanting from young hippies, drunk with courage and purpose, which unbeknownst to me were racial epithets, when a short, punkish woman clad in dark lipstick, dark hair, dark eyeliner and dark attire, locked eyes with me as the tram slowly passed by.

To my horror, she boldly stuck her middle finger in my direction with vigor, while her comrades laughed and followed suit.  I stood poised, unable to move or even blink.

“Johnny, what were they chanting?” I pleaded several times when the tram passed as I regained my composure.

His kind heart would not repeat the chant.  He quickly blurted out that some Czechs didn’t like the dark-skinned gypsies and apologized and explained that not everyone was the same.  Poor Johnny was beet red with embarrassment.

Although slightly reassured, I suddenly felt cold and quickly realized that I was the only Black chick in the whole city center of Brno, which felt eerily quiet, with the exception of random teenagers walking by in groups.  Suddenly, mental images of an ensuing attack and subsequent headlines to the tune of: “American Woman Attacked in Hate Crime…” made me anxious to end my good-natured conversation with Johnny and get to my hostel quickly.

The earlier-in-the-day “protest fest” consisting hippies carrying signs of “white power” and cannabis, and the nervous waitress who wouldn’t translate their chant for me, made me realize that I need not be out at this hour in this strange land.

I locked the front gate behind me as Johnny sadly walked away, promising to email me, and in a frenzy, reached the front door of the hostel and sure enough, the front door was tricky to open.

I stood there with shaking hands, as if in a scary movie, trying the key in the lock every possible way with no result.  I banged and banged and banged on the front door and the windows and the walls for what felt like hours.  Surely, there must be SOMEONE else inside.  Nothing.  I went back into the street and waited for two ladies who passed by to help me with the lock.  As soon as I opened my mouth to plead for help, they shook their head “no” and walked faster. Wow!

Eventually, just when I thought I’d have to sleep right inside the front gate, one of the many maneuvers I tried on the stupid lock magically worked!  I heaved a sigh of relief and reveled in the silent, dark, all-to-myself hostel, but not without making sure the doors were tightly locked behind me.

The next day, I got the hell out of Dodge and went to Prague!

Budapest, Hungary:

Well, now that I think about it, this experience wasn’t so bad.  It was my fault, really.  I was excited about my trip to Budapest, as it was featured in one of my favorite movies: Before Sunrise, and as usual, I chose the highest rated, centrally located hostel.  In fact, this hostel won the “Best Hostel in the World” award a couple of years prior.

Unfortunately for me, it was a party hostel, which attracts me less and less in my late 20’s.  A mixed dorm is what I booked, to my chagrin.  Snorers and late night partiers abounded.  I now longed for a lower-rated, far out, petite hostel, which didn’t win some “Best of the Year” award.  I know this now.

At any rate, on one of the several nights that I tried to catch some Z’s (especially since I would be spelunking thru some challenging caves the next day), I was awakened in the wee hours of the morning by four Aussie gals and guys, stumbling into the room after a night of partying.  Light sleeper that I am, I waited out their routine so that I can drift back to sleep.  Unfortunately, sleep was not to happen that night.  Whilst one gal and one guy did go to sleep separately, the other couple decided that a room full of strangers was the perfect place to get it on.  I’ve heard of such stories.  I just never thought that people could be so bold.  Surely, they would use the showers or a closet or something?!?  I was turned facing them only a few feet away from the ” action”, and for fear of them realizing that I was wide-awake, I didn’t move a muscle until they “finished,” forcing me to become an unintended voyeur.

The next day, I realized it was a one-night stand, judging from the awkward looks and conversation betwixt them.

Well, as it turned out, the Aussie “one-night-stand” gal was a cool chick, and I invited her and her more conservative friend to go spelunking with me, her being none the wiser to what I witnessed the night before.

Moral of the story is, hostels are cool, memorable, not usually scary, and a must-do at least once in your life!

How about you? Do you have a strange hostel experience that you’d like to share? Comment below!

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Hostels Are Scary Places!

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Imagine with me:

You are excited about your very first trip abroad to Europe for two weeks.  You have saved up for six months to afford this trip.  And since you know the opportunity to travel to Europe doesn’t come very often, due to your gruesome schedule and financial responsibilities, you decided the best way to make the most out of your trip is to see at least 5 countries in those two weeks, using the Eurorail pass.  You are also very nervous, but after poring thru countless websites, blogs, vlogs, and online forums, you are relieved to hear success stories of the many 20-somethings that have done this before you.  In fact, they offer loads of advice on what to see and what to skip, as well as places to eat, sleep, and party!

You can barely sleep the night before your flight: you made sure all your electronics are charged and that you have packed your brand new universal adapter, you check and recheck your carry-on to make sure you have not packed liquids or gels over 3 oz, nor accidentally placed a nail clipper or razors in any of the pockets, you check-in your flight online and realize there’s one last thing left to do: print out the reservations and directions of your hostel.  Speaking of which…

You ponder on all the comments you have received from well-meaning friends and family members the minute you told them you were traveling alone to Europe, as if the United States were made of milk and honey with nether a crime in sight.  Their eyes widened even further when you also mentioned that you’d be staying in hostels to maximize your allotted savings for this trip.  Although they themselves have never experienced staying in hostels or only stayed in posh hotels in Europe on business, they were liberal in their unwanted advice.  To appease them, you registered your travel at the U.S Embassy.  You roll your eyes at them now, thinking how close-minded Americans can be.  You fold your warm, freshly printed hostel reservations into your passport, and satisfied with your preparations, you close your eyes for a much needed rest before your 10 hour flight to Slovakia!!!

Many of you have seen or at least heard of the movie Hostel.  In fact, there are three installments for your pleasure.  Always one for emboldened imagery, the picture the director paints of hostels, especially of the post-Communist Eastern European variety, has definitely left many Westerners more than a bit wary about staying in hostels of any kind.

Since the first movie came out, I’ve been told a few times that I am brave for staying in hostels.  Several times, I’ve had to dispel the fear of hostels to a few of my friends.  And now, I will try to dispel it on a much wider scale.

Over the last 5-6 years, I have stayed in over 100 hostels on 4 Continents.  I don’t know the exact number and this is a wild guess, but I stay in approximately 2-3 hostels a trip, and I traveled at least 40 times to 34 countries.  In almost all of those hostels, I have made reservations ahead of time, mostly on http://www.hostelworld.com but also a few times on http://www.hostelbookers.com.  The advantage is that everywhere I have wanted to go, someone has been there before me.  And therefore, I am able to read reviews and ratings on the hostel before I choose one.  I always choose the top rated hostels and the priority for me is a central location.  The few times where I didn’t book ahead of time, I wasn’t traveling alone, and I don’t mind an adventure in looking for accommodation whilst with company.  I don’t even mind getting lost with company.

My experiences in those hostels are foggy at best because in all four continents, they are more or less the same.  Just last week, I read an article on the 12 types of people you will meet in every hostel.  I smiled. I laughed. I nodded.  Because there was some truth to it.  I’ve come to realize that, no matter the city, hostels can be comforting if only because the types of people you will meet are pretty much predictable, with few exeptions.  It doesn’t take away from the excitement of meeting them, of course, because they each add their own flair.  Regardless if it’s the always drunk Aussies traveling for months on end, the loud Americans perpetuating the myths, the Asians that keep to themselves and take pictures of everything in sight, the cute Israeli guys, the observant, more mature Dutch couple, or the hippie dread-locked stoned guy who’s practically a tenant, they all have interesting stories to tell to keep you entertained for days.

Alas, there were 2 particular hostel experiences that stand out in my mind because of the unique situations I was placed in.  But of course there has to be a couple of those stories.  One doesn’t stay at over 100 hostels on 4 continents, sharing tight living quarters with people from all over the world in every conceivable climate and not have interesting stories to tell, besides the loud snorers and the late night partiers disturbing your sleep.

I was being cheeky earlier when I alluded a “scary hostel” situation that may occur in Slovakia: the setting of the scary movie, Hostel.  However, not surprisingly, both of my interesting hostel stories occur in Eastern Europe: Brno, Czech Republic and Budapest, Hungary.

Stay tuned!

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Souls!

Indeed there are some native tribes who believe that having one’s picture taken steals your soul.

I found this out the hard way:

In 2009, I traveled to Taiwan.  I flew into Taipei, however, whenever I can, I try to venture out into the countryside of whichever country I visit (if time permits).  Although the details of a trip I’ve taken four years ago can be fuzzy, certain scenarios have burned themselves into my memory for years to come.

One such scenario was when I decided to visit a tiny, mountainous aboriginal village called Wulai only an hour bus ride from the bustling metropolis of Tapei.  I traveled by myself to Taiwan.  However, I met a nice bloke in my hostel who volunteered himself to come with me to this little town for a day’s venturing.  So off we went!

The word Wulai actually means “hot and poisonous.” Not one to easily be scared away by unusual sounding customs, I went forth anyway.  Upon arriving, we were greeted with a lovely, hilly town, full of open air markets selling spices and foods, their aromas wafting the air, greeting you as you walk by.  Less than a half hour walk later, we heard the familiar sounds of a waterfall and pepped our step just a little to receive some of its cooling mists.  As it was, the weather was heavy with humidity and our uphill walk left my little purple dress soaking in places I wish it weren’t.  Not to mention my relaxed hair at the time getting frizzy by the minute.  The path leading to the waterfall is aptly called: Lover’s Path, with its waters leading to an aquamarine river gorge below.  Not surprisingly, we ran into two lovers who wanted their pictures taken, and based on their giddiness at meeting us, probably assumed that my new friend and I were also lovers.

After relaxing by the waterfall for a few minutes, we ventured further uphill until we reached the tiniest train station I’ve ever seen.  We noticed a “chu-chu” train going up and down the mountain and thought it was just a tourist attraction model.  As it turned out, it was a real train called the Gondola, with the shortest train route in the world, presumably.

On our way up an even steeper hill, we ran into the first aboriginals of the day.  They were working in an empty cafe on top of the hill and stopped dead in their tracks upon seeing us.  I smiled and nodded my way to the surprised looks, laughter, pointing and poking, as did my new friend.  They saw the camera around my neck, and like schoolchildren, demanded we take pictures with them.  Again, I was burning hot, sweating and out of breath from the hilly climb.  The last thing I wanted to be was the inevitable tourist attraction.  But I complied, and my friend clicked away.

I must insert a sidebar here: as it seemed, the excited aboriginals were only interested in having their pictures taken with me, while my friend acted as the polite and patient photographer, and had I not lived in Asia for almost two years at this point, this may have seemed strange.  We were both foreigners, after all.  However, we couldn’t have looked more different.  He, a tall milky white Caucasian man and me, a not-so-short Black woman.  I learned later that they hadn’t seen a Black woman in their village in over 25 years, and she was from Congo.  I was the first Black American they’ve ever met.  So I willingly acted as their guinea pig.  One thing I didn’t understand, however, was why during our picture taking sessions, they hugged me tightly and one lady even cupping my bum as if it were the normal thing do while taking pictures.  I had to stop her hands from going for my chest, because that is just too far.

Finally, as a much needed reprieve from the heat, humidity, and molestation, we arrived to the main reason for our trip: natural hot springs.  At this point, I realized that I didn’t meet any other Western foreigners.  I’m not sure if it was a low season or if this little town wasn’t popular with them, but I didn’t mind one bit.  When we arrived to the springs, we noticed only older locals, soaking away their day’s work.  I innocently started clicking away, impressed at some of the shots I was getting, when a man proceeded to run towards me, yelling “No photos! No photos!” while blocking my viewfinder with his hands.  I was shocked as his demeanor.  I don’t remember our exact conversation, but he proceeded to tell me that his village believes that having their pictures taken will steal their soul.

My mouth was gaping wide.  Not so much at what he told me, because I vaguely remember hearing this elsewhere.  I was shocked because for the first time since arriving in this little town, here stood a local aboriginal, sans shirt or footwear, sporting only Hawaiian shorts and an erudite facial expression, speaking in perfect English and introducing himself as CIA! Where do they do that at?!?

  What followed after meeting CIA alone made this trip to Taiwan worth it.

After my faux-pas and subsequent apology at stealing his villagers’ souls, he showed us the proper way to prepare our soak into the hot springs.  We promptly changed and soaked away, amid the many stares.  He then proceeded to show us his favorite restaurant on top of yet another large hill.  At this point I didn’t mind.  He was the most interesting person I have met so far, so we gladly went forth.  When we reached the restaurant, the views of the foliage covered mountains, whose tops were covered in misty clouds felt like being on top of the world.  CIA, who refused to tell us his real name, ordered some of the most delectable aboriginal specialty dishes for our pleasure: wild mountain boar, mussels, chicken, bamboo tube rice, pasta, a selection of tropical fruits, including papaya, pomegranate and star fruits.  And to top it all off? A bottle of millet wine, which tasted sweet, smooth and left a satisfying buzz.  I remembered sitting back, like a satisfied glutton, saying the words: “Life is good.”  And it really was good, sitting in this restaurant, on top of a mountain, in the middle of an aboriginal village, in the middle of Asia, with CIA and my new friend.

I’ll never forget crazy CIA, and I’m sure he’ll never forget the innocent Black girl who stole the souls of his villagers.

How about you? Have you ever committed a cultural faux-pas that led to unexpected results? Share your story in the comments!

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Never Too Late!

East Africa!

East Africa!

I am angry with myself.

I am angry because at 29, with 34 countries under my belt, this is my first time documenting it for the world.   Perhaps my obsession with privacy has gotten the best of me.  However, the paragraph-long descriptions of almost every pic I post of my travels on Facebook proves that I have got something to say.

I am also upset with myself for not documenting sooner, because as humans inevitably do: I forget.  I forget the details that I wish I remembered: the names of the many people I met along the way, the names of the unique streets, sites, and foods that I’ve come across, the details of an excursion, the expressions of a foreign face, the feelings that certain smells (good and bad) evoked.

My mind is a tricky thing.  Unfortunately, as much as I try to retain those wonderful memories, my memory is selective at best.  Evidently, every once in a while, a memory pops up as a surprise and I smile.  I smile broadly.

In creating this blog, it is as much for me as it is for the vicarious soul out there.  I say vicarious, but I do hope that this once vicarious traveler will one day make their own adventures a reality, if only thru my inspiration.

Which brings me to my intended audience: Traveling as a solo.black.female can bring its own unique moments, adjustments, challenges (and advantages!), and I hope to dispel any wariness that black people anywhere have when it comes to traveling while black, or solo or as a female.  In three words: It is awesome! –> only if you’re open-minded.

My travel lore has come thru some well earned experiences, but I am no expert.  I learn as I go.  Keep learning with me as I indite on old and new adventures, alike.

Bon Voyage!