The Reminder I Don’t Need

In light of the recent events that have rocked my place of birth and propelled us into a territory of racial tension which has not (at least in my opinion) been seen in years, I’ve been reflecting on my experiences in the past ten years of domestic and international travel.  I continue to regard myself as blessed to have the opportunity and means to have traveled extensively around the world.  However, deep in the depths of my mind the thought of being looked at in complete disgust for simply being me still festers like a disease.  Traveling while black is not an imaginary tale, it is quite real.  The overwhelming majority of travel stories I hold close to me are positive.  Unfortunately, I have encountered a few incidents that no matter how hard I try to forget, I can’t.

On my Facebook page, my caption reads “They took this without me knowing, lol.”  I never revealed on my page the reason why I had such an expression.

The Look

Place: Sicily, Italy

As a flight crew, we were  enjoying a stroll down the streets of Sicily when two elderly women gave me what could possibly be the nastiest look I’ve ever seen.  

“Why are they looking at me like that?”

“Oh, they probably think you’re African.”

“Um, well I am African.”

“Oh.  Well they are mad because African immigrants are taking jobs.”

That makes it better.

When my co-worker replied that the reasoning behind this (as though there could even be a legit reason) was due to my perceived ethnic background, I remember a feeling of anger, bewilderment, and slight sadness.  I thought to myself what I may have done to get such a reaction.  Just then, I remembered.  I was black.

My sole crime was looking like what I was.  My crime was being a natural haired, black woman with a dark complexion.

While Sicily is beautiful in its architecture and history, it was that experience in which I cite when I explain why I do not wish to go back.  I never want to be looked at in that way again.

 

Doors Wide Shut

Place: Leipzig, Germany

During my many work trips to Leipzig in my tenure as a flight attendant, I often ventured out by myself into the city.  Going to the mall, restaurants, or wherever else my heart desired. I never experienced a moment where there was an attempt to make me feel lower as a black woman.  As a human being…until this particular day.

I just walked back to my hotel after taking a walk around the city.  I was in high spirits, especially after encountering some co-workers who just arrived (there would often be nearly two dozen employees in this particular hotel at any given time).  After waiting patiently, I get in the elevator.  Before the door can shut, a group of Lufthansa Flight Crew members walk in.  Although I tried my best ignore, I could not help but feel on their eyes on me.  There was no insecurity over my attire to be felt, as I was well dressed. Even so, it was hard to tune out my feelings of discomfort.

The elevator stops.  My floor is up.  I smile at one of the flight crew, and walk out. 

Just then, like a bully who found the perfect moment, lone male crew member says something in German.

The entire crew laughs.

Not giggle, laughs.

Hysterically.

Before I can get to the door to reopen it, the doors shut.  All I could do is walk to my room, and fight the tear that tried so desperately to leave my eye.

 

Bad for Business

Place: Pattaya, Thailand (Walking Street Bar)

In Pattaya, there are an array of bars, strip clubs, and other places where many acts of debauchery take place.  Many of the bars moonlight (or out in the light depending on you ask) as makeshift brothels where men interested in “indulging” meet up with women (or ladyboys) of the night.  Our crew stops at one inviting bar for a few drinks.

I’m in a very relaxed mood.  We are talking, laughing, and just having a great time.

That is until, we are asked to leave.

Of course, we wonder why.  The reasoning was ludicrous. 

She is hurting the business.”

She, as in me.

Apparently, an attractive black female can’t stay in a bar because she’ll attract the other patrons who are in a desperate search for hooker vagina.

I suppose some women would be flattered that there were considered to be so “exotic” looking (at that time, black female tourists were not a common sight) that they would attract the attention of men….but not me.  There I was.  A young woman with common West African features, being mistook for a prostitute.  It wasn’t the first time, and it wasn’t the last (it wasn’t even the last time on that trip).  Don’t believe me?  Take a look.

 

While looking for my co-workers by myself a few days later I was bombarded with stares, grunts, sly smiles, and even a greeting of “Umm Africa!”  I laughed it off for years, often repeating the story to friends and acquaintances.  In hindsight, the joke was on me.

In no way am I seeking any sort of sympathy.  My brief stories of prejudice pale in comparison to some of the disgusting things my brothers and sisters who look like me have endured.  I guess the reason why I am sharing this is because every once in awhile I get the sobering reminder that it doesn’t matter that I hold a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Science degree.  It doesn’t matter that I am long time educator who has helped countless children find the joy in learning about history.  History says to me that despite all of my accomplishments and triumphs, due to the color of my skin there are people out there who will always reduce me to a punchline.

As someone who sells her body.

As a nuisance.

Trouble.

Angry and full of attitude.

My passport can’t save me from hate and bigotry.

At the end of the day, not only am I a traveler, I am a traveler with black skin.  Even though I hardly need a reminder, every once in awhile I get exactly that.

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How Aharen Beach satisfied a self-proclaimed beach snob

Working for a charter airline whose biggest client was the United States military definitely came with certain perks.  We flew our bravest to bases all over the world.  This included Okinawa, Japan.  Up until about two years ago, I had no idea that Okinawa had an abundance of beaches (a complete mental lapse on my end being that I knew Japan itself is an archipelago).  Accordingly, when I booked a trip to Japan for spring break, I knew a side trip to Okinawa was in order.  

As a self-professed beach snob, searching for a beach to rest my head proved to be a challenge.  For starters, I only had two days in Okinawa before heading back to mainland Japan.  Secondly, while beautiful, I wasn’t exactly blown away by the beaches in mainland Okinawa.  In the end, I decided I wanted to visit Aharen Beach on Tokashiki Island.  It was picturesque, and doable as a day trip (or so I read).

There was just one issue.

How the hell would I get there?

After some digging, I realized that getting there actually wasn’t difficult at all.  It did however, require some planning.

Getting to Aharen Beach would require leaving from Tomari Port, which is about a 20 min drive from Naha Airport.  Naha has a very efficient monorail system that is directly connected to the airport.  The closest train station to the port is Miebashi Station.

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Miebashi is station number 8 (you guessed it) on the line.

Accordingly, when choosing a hotel to stay in, I looked solely at its proximity to the port.  I chose Hotel Peace Land, which was literally a five minute walk away from the Port.  Now would I recommend Hotel Peace Land for hotel snobs?  No way.  However, It was clean and…yeah it was clean.  Straight out of 1987.  In great need of updating, but it was efficient and the staff was nice.

Tomari Port itself is tough to miss.

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To get to Aharen Beach, you have the choice of two ferries.  Option #1 (the slow ferry) takes about an hr and 10 mins.  Option #2 (the more expensive option), the Marine Liner will get you there in approximately 35 minutes.

Although I didn’t have a lot of time, I opted for the 10am slower ferry…because I am as my mother says, a “cheapo.”

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Buying tickets at the booth

You can buy tickets inside the port, but depending on the time of year (like Golden Week), it is STRONGLY advised that you don’t wait until the morning you want to go as tickets can sell out.  Most of the workers speak decent to perfect English, so you won’t have to worry about a language barrier. If you happen to have forgotten your swimwear, don’t fret.  There is a beach shop located inside the port.

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When you get your ticket, there are signs that point you in the right direction towards the ferry (nevermind the huge ferry that will probably already be docked).  Your ticket will be checked, and you can walk right on board.  The ride goes pretty swiftly if you occupy yourself with music, books, etc.

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As soon as your get off the ferry, there are shuttle buses that will take you to your desired beach at 400 yen each way.  It is about a 10 to 15 minute ride.  When you arrive, you are met with numerous beach rental merchants, restrooms, showers (surcharge) and a restaurant.

I walked to the beach to check out where I’d be spending the next few hours.

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Unfortunately, there were only a few breaks of sun.  However, believe me when I say the cloudy skies did not get in the way of Aharen’s beauty.  Aharen Beach is gorgeous.  My only complaint would be the abundance of rocks, but this isn’t an issue that slippers can’t rectify.  I spent the next few hours in and out of the water (COLD AT FIRST), sleeping, taking pictures, and listening to music in my lounge chair.

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Being the only black tourist at the beach, I was asked to join people in their pictures.  Usually this isn’t something I object to, as long as someone doesn’t try to sneak a picture (perhaps I can write about that another time).

Before I knew it, the 3pm shuttle bus to take us back to the 4pm ferry arrived and we were on our way.  Since I was a teacher on vacation, God decided to prank me by having hundreds of schoolkids on the same ferry.

Funny.

Nonetheless, the ride back to Naha went smoothly (even though it began to rain at this point) and we arrived back in Naha by 5:10pm.  I can say with full confidence that not only is Aharen Beach a feasible side day trip, it is also is a place that many would enjoy.

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Hot Sex on a Passport??? Part III: The Survey

A few weeks ago, I created a survey regarding people who have engaged in sexual activity while on vacation.  I was curious to find out the circumstances behind these encounters, and I received a small amount of responses.  I have not conducted extensive research analysis since my Thesis and since I neither want or need a reminder of those days, I will just post the responses and provide general thoughts.

 

Survey question 1

As you can see, most of the respondents were over the age of over 25 when they had their encounter.  I found this interesting as I assumed that sex on vacation is something that you do during your wild spring break college years.  I suppose with age comes a willingness to let your sexual “guard down” so to speak.

 

Survey question 2

The responses were almost evenly split between the encounter taking place in another country (6) to another state (5).  I’m willing to bet at least one person got it in in Miami.

survey question 3

The majority heated up their hotel room (while making prudes like myself lose sleep or giggle outside their door).  For the four people who apparently got it on in public, I wonder how many were on a beach.  I’ll be honest, I always wanted to do that and I will one day…

 

Survey question 4

For the one person who obviously regrets their encounter, my apologies boo.

survey question 5

This wasn’t surprising.  Had I gone through with my thoughts (see part II) my response to this question would have definitely been between “the mood was right” or “he was fine!”

survey questions 6

Boy oh boy…you guys are brave.  Like I said in part I and II…everybody has Herpes to me.  I will ever get over this hangup?  Honestly speaking I don’t know.

survey question 7

It better have been.

survey question 8

I’m surprised the majority said that once was enough.  I would have thought once that cherry was popped (cue drums) it wouldn’t be an issue anymore.

survey question 9

All nine people who answered this question believe that some people have no problems with sex on vacation because they are “sexually liberated.”  Sex without guilt, second thoughts, or shame.  However, I do wonder.  Is there a line in the sand?  Is someone who had an encounter just once looked at in a a better light than someone who partakes in such encounters fairly frequently?

survey question 10

Twice as many respondents stated that people should try it at least once.   I found that interesting because I was expecting most to state that they felt it should be up to the individual.  

We all have different mindsets when it comes to sex.  While it is a big deal to some, it merely a common occurrence- a fact of life if you will, to others.  Sex is a part of life.  An important part of life.  Despite my own hesitations, I totally get it.  You could be in a magical city or a warm, tropical place.  Ocean breeze hitting, waves crashing, and two consenting adults decide they are going to express their desires (if only temporary) in the physical sense.  While it may not be for me at this point in my life (or perhaps ever), who am I to judge?

I will say this.  It is my hope that if one decides to have hot sex on a passport….

 

Make sure that passport is covered.

 

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Hot sex on a Passport? (Part II: Hot and not so Bothered in Negril)

“Tucker, we’re going to the store.  Wanna come?”

“Is he going?”

“Yeah.”

“Then I’m going.  Come on.”

*Stunned stares*

It was Memorial Day Weekend 2007.  After the debauchery of Memorial Day Weekend in Miami the previous year (perhaps I’ll make a post about it…besides, it was my first trip after all) I decided I wanted a more low-key destination.  A few friends decided on Jamaica, and I agreed.  We spent a few days in Montego Bay before voting to head down to Negril for the day.  I suppose it was fate, but we literally chose the first hotel that looked pretty nice.

Good choice indeed.

The owner was an older, Jamaican gentlemen, who then introduced us his sons.  All accomplished.  All handsome.

Especially the youngest.

I won’t reveal his name out of respect (I’ll just call him “Crush”), but I must say that I found myself instantly attracted to him.  Tall, nice smile, caramel complexion, a very good combination.  As a bonus, I found him to be very friendly and welcoming.   It was official.  I had a vacation crush (which I suppose now in 2016 this would be known as a potential mini-Baecation).  As he spoke about his life and goals all I could do is sit and stare, trying desperately not to look so obvious.  If the smirks from my friends were any indication, I was failing miserably.  Back then I was hardly what anyone would refer to as a “bold” woman, but when I was asked about going to the store I had to make my dorky flirtatious move.  He seemed taken aback by the statement, but at least he didn’t show visible disgust (I mean, das good rite?)

Later on that night, we all packed into a van to attend a weekly outdoor event known as “Happy Mondays.”  For those who are not at least somewhat familiar with Jamaican dancehall culture, Happy Mondays is modeled after “Passa Passa,” an outdoor party that lasts throughout the night and can get quite wild.  None of us were in the mood to stay too long, but wanted to at least enjoy a little music.

There was no way that I was going to ask to dance with Crush, so I elected to merely stand beside him and enjoy the music.  Imagine my surprise and excitement when he grabs me, pulls me in, and asks, “where are you going” while I attempted to walk away for something to drink.

Shortly after, we make our way back to the hotel.  Crush tells us that he is just going to stay downstairs and we head to our room.

(Pardon the language)

 

 

 

 

(PLEASE pardon the language)

 

 

“BITCH!  GO BACK DOWNSTAIRS!”

“Why?”

“He is down there!  This is your chance to go make it happen!”

“Make what happen?”

“You know what you DUMMY!  Get outta here!”

Honestly speaking, I didn’t even think about making anything “happen” with Crush before, but I would be lying if at that very moment, for the very first time in my life, I didn’t give “making it happen” some serious thought.  I mean, why should I have been worried about what he would think of me?  Besides, I’d never see him again right?  Then doubt creeps in.  What if he turned me down flat?  I’ve never been able to handle rejection well.

I was tempted to at least see if I could get a kiss out of him, but alas fear prevailed in the end.  Fear of the unknown.  Fear of rejection.  Fear of Herpes.

Yes, the same hangups I have about sexually transmitted infections now  (which I briefly discussed in part I) I held back then.  I just couldn’t imagine myself going through with it.  I was, and still am very scared of catching something I cannot throw back.  What did transpire that night was four girls and one guy in one hotel room having the most absurdly hilarious conversation deep into the night.  I never talked so much trash about what I was going to do if I had the chance (except I actually had the chance and didn’t capitalize).

Whenever I have to defend myself against accusations of being prudish or having draconian ideas regarding sexuality, deep in the back of mind I think of this experience.  Although I do have normal sexual thoughts as  a woman who is 30+, it has always been difficult for me to imagine having sexual intercourse with someone I just met.  There are plenty of people who would not have thought twice about “making it happen” (more on that in part III).   The weather was beautiful, the vibe was cool, and the attraction was there.

I was hot, but not so bothered.

Enough at least.

 

Have you ever had a sexual encounter while on vacation?  Please take the ANONYMOUS survey here Sexy Time on Vacation and rest assured that I will not know who responded…

 

 

 

 

 

 

You free spirited whores ( just kidding 😀 ).

 

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Hot sex on a…Passport? Part I

Let me preface this entry by stating that it will be rather short and serve as a background to Part II, which will delve deeper into the dynamics of sexual activity with people you are unfamiliar with while away on vacation…. by way of survey and Q&A (since I can assure you I know nothing about it personally).

Picture it.

Miami Beach, 2014.

Like every other time I’m in South Beach, I rented a bike to go for a ride.  On 17th and Collins, I took a brief break (after nearly falling on my ass) when two women approach me.  As I pivot to get back to my ride, one of them turn ever so slightly to say…

“Can you ride me?”

Nonetheless, I smile, laugh, and continue on my bike ride.  Unbeknownst to me, I happen to be in the area during Pride weekend (not that it matters, but still).

And no, I did not take her up on her offer.  Can’t blame homegirl for trying though…I was looking cute.

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I experienced another example of sexual innuendo and folly in Nairobi at a club.  I was with two friends I made (see “No Sleep in Nairobi Part I“) just listening to music and talking when a rather, “strong” looking woman approached us.  I don’t recall her name, but she was plump and intimidating.  She looked as though she could be a Bertha, so I’m gonna call her Bertha.  Yep.  Her name was Bertha.

Standing nearly between my male friend’s legs, she asks whether we are enjoying ourselves.  We respond that we were, then in turn ask her the same.  She turns to me, rubs my back a little, and says 

“Waiting for the kids to leave.”  

Looking around nervously, we reply “well what happens then?”

“The adults will play.”

 

 

 

I was afraid to ask what she meant by such a statement, and I’m afraid to even think of what it means now.  In case you have your doubts as to the validity of this story, I present exhibit A…or should I say, S.E.X.  I am in constant contact with my friends while on vacation and I informed them of this little conversation.

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There was no need to pray for forgiveness as we hightailed it outta there before “playtime” commenced.  

So why bring up these encounters?  The answer is simple.

People like getting it in.  Apparently, a good portion of those people like to either get in while on vacation, or get it in with people they know are on vacation.  

I want to discuss it.

As a former flight attendant, I have been propositioned by men, women, straight women with a little alcohol in their system, co-workers, you name it. I’ve been invited to watch um, activities, and I’ve even been mistaken for a prostitute in Thailand.

Don’t ask.  Some other time.

I’ve been asked more than once whether or not I have ever taken anyone up on their offer.  To answer it frankly, HELL NO.  I mean, I have encountered plenty of people that I found very attractive (and while I’m not a lesbian, I can appreciate a nice booty and/or pretty face). However, I just never had it in me to be so intimate with someone I didn’t know in any capacity, or just met days ago.  Perhaps I’m missing out, I’m not sure.  I’ll tell you what though.  I’d like to pick the brains of some people who have “participated.”  Please stay tuned for Part II

 

 

Sorry if you thought this post would be about me and my “sexcapades” btw.  No such thing for me, being that I assume that everyone has Herpes…and not the kind of almost everyone does have either.

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No Sleep in Nairobi Part III: An unconventional beauty

For some reason, there are a lot of people who roll with the narrative that teachers have it disgustingly easy. People think of the vacations, the “summers off” and assume that we have the smoothest gig known to man. While I will admit that summers are nice (I refuse to work summer school, the rest and free time are more important than an extra check), a lot of people have no idea the amount of time that goes into ensuring a successful school year. A teacher who truly cares and takes their job seriously goes through so much stress. There is a reason why 50% of people who enter the teaching profession quit within five years.

Why am I discussing this? Well for starters, as I previously mentioned I am a teacher and it is a major part of my life. Perhaps most importantly, I want to discuss some amazing people I met my last day in Nairobi. The day before leaving for Tanzania, I visited the Cheery Children Education Centre in the Kibera section of Nairobi.  Unfortunately, Kibera is the largest slum on the entire continent of Africa.
Getting to the school was a bit of a hassle, mostly due to traffic and location. It is difficult to find. Naviating through the dirt streets brought a sadness over me. Despite visiting my parent’s homeland of Sierra Leone (where poverty is rampant), I was ill prepared to see the sheer magnitude and size of the slum.

We finally arrive and I’m welcomed by one of the supervisors as I’m led through the alleyway. I meet some of the people I’ve been hanging out with for the past few days. I find myself in a very small room full of bright eyed children. The number could not have been less than thirty. Thirty students in a room that is not much larger than a walk-in closet.  I’m told that this is “Class 5.” *Note* What we know as “grades” are usually referred to as “Classes” throughout Africa. This class housed students from ages 10-13.
I introduce myself, and the students marvel (and giggle a bit) at my name. I’m not offended by this as many children in Kenya have English names whereas I do not. As a formal hello, the students sang their National Anthem for myself and Brian, one of my new travel friends.

 

The Q&A part of the visit was interesting to say the least. We were asked the usual

“Who is your favorite singer?”
“What is your favorite sport?”
“Who is your hero?”

Not suprisingly, the children expressed their love for “futbol.”
There I was, thinking this was a cinch.  Then I told them I was a teacher.  From there the questions took a bit of a turn.
“What is a government?”
“How do you choose your President?”
Then we were asked some sort of math question.

 


These kids were trying to stump us and I found it absolutely adorable.
We then asked the students what they wanted to be as adults. What followed was a slew of “I want to be a doctor” “I want to be a teacher” and “I want to be an engineer” with a few “I want to be a pilot” and “journalist” sprinkled in. My heart melted at these dreams and aspirations. We asked them what they can do to make sure they become who they want to be.
“Study, work hard, and pray.”
Lawd.  The tears were so ready.

The teachers called a few students to demonstrate some vocabulary games they usually play.

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Then we had a series of races to see who could spell out a word the fastest.  The best word I could think of was “America.”

 

I introduced the kids to the game of hangman and tic tac toe (they seemed to really enjoy the latter) and played quite a few rounds.  Soon enough, it was time for the older kids to go outside and play.  I spent some time in a classroom for younger children, who were in the middle of a reading session and happened to be some of the most adorable kids I have ever seen.  This was a class that had at least 70 kids.  After being asked to take pictures (actually, it was more like a sweet demand) it was unfortunately time to go.  Mind you, the entire time I was struggling to hold back the tears. The kids sang a wonderful “goodbye song” and walked us to our car.  My dude Brian took a wonderful picture of some of the girls helping me down the path.

It was difficult saying goodbye to those kids.

On the drive back into the main city, I felt a bit of anger.  Anger at our system, and yes…even some anger at a number of my students through the years.  I just spent time with children who literally have no one else but their teachers and each other, woefully in need of supplies, but still have a joy for learning and a desire to succeed.  The enthusiasm towards learning new things is one that made me a bit jealous.  Now don’t get me wrong, I do have some lovely students.  However, I also have many students (too many) who have everything they need and want yet could not care any less about getting an education.   Each day, I witness too many students demonstrate a sheer disrespect and in some cases utter contempt for their teachers.  The respect the children at Cheery showed their teachers was something to behold.  I have a great amount of respect for the teachers there.  They accomplish so much with so little.

I am still struggling to understand.  Why the contrast?  Why are so many schools in America struggling with behavior, motivation, and achievement (from students and teachers alike)?

I suppose I’ll always struggle to understand the questions that run through my mind, but nonetheless I have to say that my experience at Cheery Children  was wonderful, heartbreaking, and heartwarming all at the same time.  Despite the poor conditions that surround Kibera and the children of Cheery, I saw a beauty that is rare. The type of beauty that you are grateful to have the opportunity to witness.  The beauty of living…the beauty of hope and determination.

A beauty that is quite unconventional, but very real.

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If you would like to donate to Cheery Children Education Centre, please visit http://cheerycentre.org/donations

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No Sleep in Nairobi (Part II)

I don’t suppose I’ve been much of a “nature” fan. I’ve turned down invites to hike, camp, etc. Half the time I don’t even like walking in dirt and grass. However, I firmly believe that Africa features a different kind of nature. My next adventure in Nairobi involved a brief romance between myself and the land.

The night before, a few of us enjoyed a great meal at Ocean Basket Restaurant (the glazed salmon with veggies and rice was gllllllorrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiious). Another dinner accompanied by good conversation with great people (including a young woman who made the leap to move to Africa).

Around noon, we went to visit some monkeys that reside in a neighborhood park. We bought some peanuts to entice our nimble friends to come out of the trees and into our space. We were warned not to have the peanuts visible, as we ran the risk of getting “got” for our peanut stash.

Robbed by a monkey.

Much to our delight, their fingers are much like a human’s, but without the fingernails. So yeah, my eyes weren’t going to be scratched out. Game on.

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We then made our way to Lake Naivasha, a large freshwater Lake in the outskirts of Nairobi.  We left one of the crew at the gas station by accident but that is neither here nor there (we got her back).

The drive towards Lake Naivasha was simply beautiful. From the low lying plains to the high mountains, I felt myself taking in all that the surroundings offered me.

We stopped to take some photographs at a point in the Great Rift Valley. Unfortunately, I do have a fear of heights, so getting close the edge was a bit of a task. After I felt a bit more comfortable, I just took some deep breaths and enjoyed the fresh air of the Valley.which was a spectacular sight.

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As we make our way to the lake, we pass by a series of small towns and villages. I found it fascinating to look at the people living their everyday lives, as simple as it may seem to us. I loved looking at the animals, the small shops, the cell phone towers and modern gas stations. It was like witnessing a merger between two worlds.

Two worlds that seem to be living in harmony with one another, for better or worse.

I am ashamed to admit that at first I felt underwhelmed when we arrived at the lake. By all means, from a distance it appeared to be unremarkable. I believed the boat ride we were about to take would be just something to do.

I could not have been more wrong. What a magnificent experience. We climbed into our small little boat and went on our way. Lake Naivasha is beautifully peculiar. Weird looking in the most glamorous way. I was excited to see the plant life, birds, hippos, and gasped when we saw a zebra. I have never seen a Zebra in person (in hindsight, I find it both funny and odd to see just how excited I was).

As usual when I am in a scenic environment, I played my favorite jazz songs and let the music serve as a soundtrack to all the beauty.

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I think a lot of people get so caught up in the cosmopolitan nature of large, developed African cities (because Africa isn’t supposed to be developed… *sarcasm*) that they forget that the best part of Africa is exploring the land in its purest, kindest, and most excellent form. With every bird that took flight, every animal that walked so gracefully, and every cloud that moved, I felt a bit more blissful and in tune with what was around me.

Maybe I can get into this nature thing.

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Lake Naivasha

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No Sleep in Nairobi (Part I)

This is Part I of a three part series on my time in Nairobi, Kenya.

In April 2015, I found a $400 fare to Nairobi, Kenya.  As usual when I come across an extremely low fare, I contact my friends.  Most cannot take advantage for a variety of reasons.  One in particular, cited recent terrorist attacks as a reason to avoid the city.  It wasn’t a sentiment without merit, but living in New York as well as visiting countries in the Middle East during times of war had me a bit accustomed to being consistently under threat.

I copped..

Fast forward to Feb 2016.  A trip that seemed so far away was now within days.  A friend of mine and former classmate would be arriving shortly before me.  Accordingly, we planned to be roommates, as we were both slightly nervous about going to Africa as solo travelers.  We would for sure find lots of things to get into.

Orrrrrrrrrrrr maybe not.

Unfortunately for reasons I would rather not get into (and I’m sure my friend would appreciate that), she could not make it on the trip.  Great.  All alone again.

Orrrrrrrrrrr maybe not.

I previously joined a facebook group for travelers heading to Kenya.  That day, a fellow traveler inquired about creating a group to coordinate meetups.  I decided to take on the responsibility (a job my friend previously volunteered for) of putting the group together.

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To my delight, I received responses.  The ball was now rolling for the beginning of our WhatsApp group, aptly titled, “Kenya Link Up.” 

Despite the unfortunate circumstance of no wifi (I wasn’t amused by the “at least there are plenty of James Bond movies” quip from the gate agent), the flight to Abu Dhabi (where I had a 13 hr layover) was relatively painless.  From the recommendation of one of our group members, I attended a festival in the city center.  I chose this as the perfect time to test out my selfie stick.

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I made my way back to the hotel (I stayed at the Premier Inn adjacent to one of the terminals) and called it a night due to my early morning flight.

Turns out, one of the first people to respond to my Facebook message was on both my flights (even sat in front of me on the Nairobi flight).  I just didn’t realize it at the time.  The flight to Nairobi was fine, and going through immigration was painless. *Note* Kenya now uses an eVisa system.  You MUST apply for receive your Visa online or run the serious risk of being denied entry upon arrival.  Most people are approved (assuming you filled out everything correctly) within two days.  I presented my visa through my phone.

Being the internet junkie I am, I immediately set up my roaming.  For Sprint users who set up global roaming, data roaming is free of charge in Kenya.

Yes ma’am.

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In the taxi…

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I head to my hotel…..

 

Hold up.  Stop the presses.  There is one thing you need to know.  Nairobi traffic is HORRENDOUS.  Fortunately, Uber is an excellent service which I strongly encourage.  Ok, back to the program.

I head to my hotel and enjoyed the sights and the people I passed by.  I missed the opportunity to take a picture of this beautiful graffiti mural of Lupita Nyong’o which upset me badly.  I reached my hotel and after about 20 mins of trying to find my reservation, I was finally in my room.

 

As much as I wanted to head out immediately upon reaching my hotel, I knew I needed some rest.

I love being over 30 I promise.

After a much needed rest, the Kenya Link Up group decided to have dinner at Amaica restaurant.  We enjoy our meal while talking about everything from local customs (apparently, it is not “manly” to eat chicken wings) to clubs.

Nice meal, nice conversation.

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Right outside the restaurant

Afterwards, we “pregame” at this nice beautiful apartment before heading to a club.  A nice club with cool décor, food, and drinks. Unfortunately, the name escapes me (my bad folks)

There are two things I learned that night. 

  1. There are quite a few handsome Kenyan men.
  2. Kenyan women have no qualms about caressing your head to show that they like your haircut.

 

Approx hours of sleep: 3

A few hours later we head to see orphaned baby elephants and full grown giraffes….and almost witnessed an act of love.

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46 hours in Zanzibar

Let me preface by stating that this post should have been up days ago.  I’m not usually one to be jetlagged, but my body has been FEELING it for the past week.

I spent some time in Nairobi, Kenya (more on that in a later post) and Zanzibar, Tanzania over mid-winter recess, and let us just say I’m not too pleased about waking up back in the Bronx.

It wasn’t in the original plan to go to Zanzibar, but being that it is only an hr flight from Nairobi I couldn’t resist.

I decided to go with Kenya Airways. *Tip* book as far in advance as possible, as fares will always go up close to your departure.  Unfortunately, for such a short ride airfare is not cheap (I’ve never seen direct fares from Nairobi to Zanzibar below $200).

Alternatively, you could try your hand at getting a cheap fare from Nairobi to Dar Es Salaam (mainland Tanzania), then from Dar Es Salaam to Zanzibar.  Unfortunately, my schedule wouldn’t allow this as an option.

I booked a resort in the Kendwa area, which is a popular resort town.  Kendwa is a long drive from the airport, so I arranged for a taxi prior to arrival (THIS IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  YOU WILL SAVE $$).  For an island with few main roads, traffic was for the most part smooth and trouble-free (be diligent at night however, as outside of the main city Stonetown, there are virtually no road lights).  I found the hour ride to from the airport to Kendwa scenic.  There is lush greenery that seems to go on and on.

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                                  Zebu Cattle…so interesting looking.

 

For months now I’ve heard about the beaches of Zanzibar and how they are top notch.  Driving to my resort, I did see flashes of the beach that made me go “whoa.” The excitement was definitely building.  Only to get to the hotel and be told that there are no rooms available.

 

Really?

 

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that these things happen.  However, I was exhausted.  Really exhausted.  I had very little sleep in Nairobi (a good thing, trust me) and as anxious as I was to get in the water, I really need to get in a bed first.

Anyway, you need to know that outside of the reception and bar area, the wifi SUCKS.  For a lot of travelers it is no big deal.  Me on the other hand?  I need my innanets like I need my shrimp.  What could I do at that point?  My room was finally ready and I wanted to knock out.

Which I did.

A few hours later, I got myself together to head to the beach….only to be told there was no beach towel available.  I can feel the annoyance creeping up in the depths of my soul.  Did I make the wrong decision by coming here?  Let me give you the answer.

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                                       Kendwa Beach (where have you been all my life)

This is probably the best beach view I have ever seen (and I have had the privilege of seeing some GLORIOUS beaches).  To say my breath was taken away is an understatement.

 

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                                             Trying to be cute.

 

After some time in the water, I was ready for an activity.  The resort has a company on the premises that specializes in this sort of thing, but of course I skipped it.  The resort had a sunset cruise, but I opted for a local connect instead which saved me about $25.  This cruise was very no frills (bring your own snacks, drinks, etc.)  The selling point was mainly the scenery, which totally became worth it when I climbed up the ladder to the top deck.

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                              The sun soothing my skin and jazz soothing my ears.

We arrived back at the resort in time for dinner.  I opted for the pesto pasta with shrimp.

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                Good, but not mind-blowing.

 

I decided to use the lack of reliable room wifi as an opportunity to REALLY sleep.   I made sure to wake up early the next morning for breakfast.  Despite the pancakes, the breakfast was absolutely NOTHING to write about (I mean, yeah I know I’m writing about it…).

Oh, and they were trying to pass off hot dogs as sausage.  No Ma’am.

I met up with the same local connect to go on a snorkeling excursion.  Let me be clear, I haven’t had swimming lessons since I was 13.  Although I can wade in shallow water with little problems, jumping into the middle of the ocean was another issue.  Nonetheless, I decided to at least try.  I was given a lifevest which turned out to be woefully inadequate.  A nice traveler from Denmark coached me (along with the local guide) to get in the water.

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                                                My sad pitiful attempt at snorkeling

 

Although I didn’t leave the boat, I did peek into the water with the gear a few times and was able to view the really cool marine life.

Upon our return to the resort, I had a nice small chat with a fellow teacher named Diane.  I found her backstory particularly interesting.  Originally from “very white” (her words) Croatia, she currently teaches in Uganda but calls a Rastafarian community in New Zealand home.  I asked if I could take a pic of her and she happily obliged.

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She (like many others) encouraged me to leave the comforts of home to explore the world (but that is for another post).

That afternoon, I went on an excursion to one of the famous sandbanks in the middle of the Indian Ocean.  Although certainly not cheap, I thoroughly enjoyed my journey and time there.

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                                On the boat headed to the bank
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                                     My guide cutting up fresh fruit

 

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                                                      Putting my tripod to great use.
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                                                                 Back in Stonetown

We arrived back at the resort around 8pm.  Not in the mood for resort food, I was happy to spot a restaurant only steps from the entrance gates.

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I highly recommend Kiriku Happy Restaurant if you are ever in Kendwa.  The food was delicious, the service was prompt, the people were friendly….and they have wifi (so you KNOW I was happy).

After my meal, I went to the resort lounge to check out the party.

The non-existent party.

Feeling a bit tired anyway, I decided to browse the internet for a bit longer then go back to the room to pack up (I had a 9:30 am flight).

My taxi came for me at 6 am and just as fast as I had arrived, I was on my way back home.  Not nearly enough time, but ecstatic for the time I did have.

One thing that I would like to note is that Zanzibar is a warm, inviting place with beautiful people, food, and nature.  I do wish that more people of color would discover this place.  I certainly do not have an issue with all of the Italian tourists, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t feel a bit odd to be one of only a few (very few) black tourists on the island.  I truly believe that this needs to change.  The people of Zanzibar want to meet us.

I will certainly find my way back to them.

 

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