VLOG THRU THE NOISE

I have been horrible. Not writing. Not dropping knowledge. Not sending you sweet little nothings on this beautiful blog of mine. But, have no fear. I haven’t forgotten about you, I’ve just been on the road to Greece, South Africa, USA, Frankfurt and back to my beloved Mozambique. So, let me try a different medium to share my life between the clouds and above the noise.

Live Music (If you only open one video, let this one be it!):

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Live Music:

Beach Life:

Sunset Zen:

The Southern Atlantic ocean in winter:

Performance outside Durban:

Enjoy the sights and sounds from around the world. Global people, you inspire!

The life and times… since my last post.

I have to apologize for having been away so long. Let me explain. My computer has been in a state of chronic disrepair and most weekends it decides to revolt whenever I even consider using it for longer than 30 minutes. I think it reads my mind like the kids in Village of the Damned, a horrible film that I watched on crappy cable television one day when my computer didn’t work. Anywho, there’s also this pesky recurring problem of work eating my real life, which makes late night blogging nearly impossible. At this point, my maid spends more hours in my house than I do and it’s sad. Last, I’ve been preparing to come back to the U.S. in full force. This means, I’ve etched out a travel itinerary and started telling friends to prepare for my imminent arrival. And, I’ve been working on my new pet project – clothing design – in full force. The hope is that when I come back to ‘Murica, I can shop it around, get some feedback, and be inspired for new wears. Aside from the former, I can say… all good things… but that’s no excuse not to write.

I had a friend and colleague in town from India for about 2 weeks. As the hubs and I say, “we fell in love in a hopeless place,” and she reminded us of every little detail. More so than anything else, she brought some much-needed familiarity and Indian cultural references back into our lives. So, we took her out to eat king prawns and she taught us how to make chole bhature at home – it took all of 30 minutes to make!  It went a little something like this:

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Shortly thereafter, I considered writing to you all about how awesome our Indo-African meal turned out, but then my computer revolted and I slipped into a food coma.

Over the weekend, I went to the Zouk festival in Maputo where I saw Kassav live and made it a point to dance like a fool to “zouk la se sel medikaman nou ni ,” because I didn’t know any of the other songs. Then I embarked on a series of South African travels, which landed me in Durban during the xenophobic riots (which I didn’t see at all) and Nelspruit just after the Mozambique – South Africa border re-opened. Let’s say, I was freaked out more by the reports than by anything else. I honestly didn’t see anything out of the ordinary in South Africa while I was there. Most of the violence took place in what seem to be townships and the protests against xenophobia seemed to be in the city center. I saw some of the latter, but it seemed peaceful and heavily policed. There certainly were lots of South Africans apologizing for the actions of the few. They kept asking if I was ok and saying things like “we’re not all like this” and “this gives South Africa a bad name.” I can imagine it’s how my fellow Black Americans feel now with the cop killings and the protests & riots thereafter. It’s a combo of ashamed and fed up, and not always at the people the media would make out to be ‘the bad guy.’ The parallels are abundant and the acts equally as senseless.

Back to South Africa – the people in Nelspruit depend on Mozambican clients to make their living, so they were all too happy to accommodate our needs. In fact, they wanted to show us that their town was safe and welcoming, so we could encourage more of our friends and family to return to the South African side (to spend some hard-earned Meticais). My primary need when traveling is food. So, this happened at Zest:

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I eventually came back to Maputo with work pressures at an all time high and nothing but thoughts of vacation on the brain. But, you know, it sucks to always consider that you’re not fully happy where you are. I felt that I’d been running away from Maputo every single weekend just to make it to vacation in the U.S. in July. That’s no way to live. So, when the hubs decided he’d have friends over for a lunch, I went all in. When a Mozambican says they’re inviting people for “lunch,” and those people are under the age of 40 years old, assume that those people will arrive at your house around American supper time. If they happen to arrive earlier, they will likely start drinking beer and liming, but they will not consume food. So, by midnight this is what my house looked like:

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Do  you see that? That’s what fun looks like! There was even a selfie extender stick involved, which spells success as far as I am concerned. Shortly after this picture was taken, I walked my exhausted self up the stairs to my bedroom and went to sleep. Yes, I left these lovely young people in my house to play their drinking games and fill the space with laughter and good cheer. Their vibes, followed by my disappearing act, took some of the edge off of the week ahead.

This very week was filled with plans for seeing my mom and my niece in ‘Murica, as well as the possibility to help out family friends – one who recently divorced and another who recently graduated from college. So many changes, so many opportunities. Oh, and while cleaning out my closet, I found these:

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If you don’t know what these are, you better ask somebody!

No, really, you should, because a simple google search won’t help very much. First, Frank T is a classic spanish rap artist. By classic, I mean horrendous. The title of this album was so bad that we had to buy it for fear that we’d miss out on this train wreck (“Los pajaros no pueden vivir en el agua porque no son peces” – seriously?!). My friend Kelly and I bought it in FNAC when we lived in Spain 15 years ago and every few years we send it back to one another to remind each other of our crazy times. I miss my girl from Oklahoma and as a sign of our never-ending friendship, she will get this crappy cd in the mail once again! Oh and to the left, what’s that? Again, I have no idea, but it was something free that I got at Guerlain 2 years ago when I bought a horribly overpriced lipstick that I’ve only worn once. Anyways, this golden flecked situation is called L’Or and I plan to use it sometime in the next month. I have no place classy to wear it and I don’t know how to use it properly. So, be prepared for a story as I make up my own excuse to wear expensive, probably useless, make-up that I haven’t used in 2 years. It’ll be fun!

Anyways, my work week ended with a networking lunch at Zambi’s that concluded with 3 spoons and this dessert:

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In case you’re wondering that’s raspberry swirl, amarula ice cream, chocolate biscotti and a dark chocolate cake. Yup… pretty much a foodgasm on a plate and you should be jealous.

I ended the week with a sunset at a Maputo mainstay that I had not yet visited: the Naval Club.

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Who knows what the next weeks will bring, aside from the Azgo festival and Bushfire in Swazi? Hope to write more soon and to have new adventures to share!

Cheers to my freakin’ weekend (in fotos)!

I had the craziest weekend in South Africa, so I figured I’d take crappy phone pics and try to retell the happenings…

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Friday afternoon I arrive at my hotel in Jo’burg and they’re shooting a movie next door. You can’t see it but the set is staged to look like a street scene in China.

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Each floor in the hotel imparts some wisdom about a famous South African cultural icon. This floor? Writer, Lionel Abrahams.

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Ground floor? The novelist, Phaswane Mpe, who died at the tender age of 34.

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I try to check out an artsy bookstore near my hotel. It says it is open til 4pm. I get there are 3:15. No, it is (not). But it looks cool from the outside.

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I settle in for a bunnychow at R. Janas. Good decision: http://www.braamfontein.org.za/directory/view/r-janas

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I think maybe I should just stay in and sleep early. I turn on the TV and the artist formerly known as Prince beckons me out.

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FB soon reveals to my surprise that my girl Emme from NYC is in Jozi. We link for drinks, but it quickly turns into a 5am night between the Bannister & the Kitchener in Braamfontein.

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We gnom McDonalds and have the night guard get us wine. I crash at 6am…. trying to act my age, not my shoe size is starting to hurt.

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I wake up… over hung… at 8am for a 9am seminar.

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I invest in a big ass cup of coffee from Motherland Coffee.

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This campus has thought of everything. I feel like I benefited from the caution of drivers… b/c I couldn’t see anything straight. Hangovers hurt.

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As the day progresses, I sober up. My hair stops smelling like an ash tray and I get to enjoy JG Strijdom Tower from afar.

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The seminar ends and I go design store shopping.

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I take in the town before night falls.

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I end up in Melville’s hotspot Lucky Bean for an extended dinner with Jozi based friends and Emme.

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Sunday morning I decide to try to catch the Gautrain to the airport, so I can spare myself the cab fare. But the connections are too far apart and I end up in a cab anyway in a mad dash to NOT miss my flight.         

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I manage to make it to O.R. Tambo airport exactly one hour before my flight only to find that it has been delayed by 30 minutes. I have breakfast at an airport pub and it feels good.

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One whole hour later, I land. My bags arrive safely and I’m excited to see Durbz again.

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Hotel check in and my weekend is officially over.

Minus work, my life is balanced…

Kiss Him, Johannesburg (2015)

Kiss Him, Johannesburg (2015)

Since the clock struck 12, just 25 days ago, much has happened. Yet for weeks, I’ve felt that not so much of it has been worth writing about. I went to Joburg for my poor, poor friend’s wedding (you remember her, right?). I went to Durban to celebrate my birthday. One of my very best friends came to town to enjoy it all. I went to work a lot. I met exciting new people for my research. I made a few new friends. I bought the Minaj’s album (as well as that of Mafikizolo, Chris Brown, Drake and Liquideep). I even made my first donation, as promised, to the Whitman Walker Clinic. All  great things…I tell you. And none of that has seemed worth writing about.

I’m jaded.

IMG_1541I’ve always been a bit of an Eeyore, i.e. the cynic (borderline pessimist) who never understands what the big deal is about things that other people considered big deals. But the problem now is that I feel like I’m doing so much that I just don’t get a chance to stop and smell whatever this flower is called, much less appreciate it enough to write about it. My whole life my parents have reminded me that I’m “never satisfied.” No matter how much they tried to make me smile or enjoy a good day, I was always looking for more of a good thing, so much so that it negated their efforts in the moment. And what’s worse, I think I’ve lost the ability to understand how stressful chasing the next satisfaction really is on me and the people I love.

What most might call “a first world problem,” has followed me wherever I’ve lived, wherever I’ve gone, no matter how much I try to run away from responsibilities. So, maybe it’s just a character flaw? I don’t know how to relax. I never have. Is it possible that I never will?

I’ve spent much of my adult life talking with counselors and therapists, friends and people who probably didn’t really care enough to listen with both ears, simply trying to find outlets to vent. But it has occurred to me now that talking about all the things I do, rather than actually limiting those things, will not offer much relief. I watched a really great Ted Talk on ‘work/ life balance’ a few weeks back and I thought “shit, so a gym membership won’t fix this?” (Nigel Marsh: How to make work-life balance work).

When I originally heard the term back in 2009, I was a skeptic of the value of ‘work/life balance’ debates. First, I didn’t have much of a family and I’d just started my job, so work was still exciting for me. Almost 6 years down the line, I’m figuring at this rate either my body or my brains will fight against any willful efforts at procreation, so there’s nothing to balance there. According to the IRS, my husband and I make a family. That should be enough to tear me away from my office, except my sense of work ethic keeps me attached to my seat complaining about people I don’t particularly like and work I don’t find particularly meaningful. Not to mention that at this very moment, my work eats a piece of brain and two pieces of my soul on a daily basis.

My poorly thought out solution was to chase my dream of completing a PhD.  But, there’s a fundamental problem here. I didn’t actually quit my job. How many more hours of the day did I gain by pretending that work isn’t the real focal point of my life? Negative 8 hours.

I genuinely feel like out of a 9 hour work day, when I add the time I spend without my spouse and the time I should be working on my PhD, and divide that by the time I spend complaining, I end up losing 8 hours of life energy per day. The 1 hour retained was lunch.

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So, of all the awesome things I’ve done in the past few weeks to take my mind off things and to relax, much of it – like my PhD – seemed to be fulfilling, but still stress-inducing.  I made work out of relaxing and certainly didn’t take the time to stop and enjoy each moment.

Nigel Marsh says that even adding a gym work out to the mix won’t help me be more balanced, just more fit. And I’m inclined to believe him. It’s already one more thing on my lengthy and never-ending to do list… just above “read.”

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Obviously, for me the question isn’t so much about the tension between work and life, but finding value in both accomplishments and happiness. Being a glutton for work punishment may be an outgrowth of my own inability to separate the two. My own personal sense of achievement comes from seeing something through from start to finish. I value measurable accomplishments. Taking the time to live out my own happiness is hard thing to step back and admire. I’m not sure how to celebrate my days spent at the pool. But, it sure makes me feel energized for the days ahead and it just feels good.

Perhaps 2015 is the year to figure it all out…

The (Seaside) Road Less Traveled

A few weeks ago, I had the awesome honor of creating a document that would guide a Q&A for former Secretary Madeleine K. Albright.  I mean, what kind of task was that, really? …Considering my feeble little mind couldn’t possibly throw her off with some new trick question she hadn’t already been asked in her… uhh… oh, I don’t know… three decades of being awesomely famous, clearly I was writing more for my own satisfaction rather than for her preparation. But, one question struck me as particularly simple and brilliant, if I may say so myself. And, I do. (I do. I doo oohhh.)

In some sick twist of fate, I ended up traveling when she actually spoke, so I didn’t get the satisfaction of hearing her answer my really good question.  So, I was left with a mean question hangover that kept me up at night.  I think this kind of persistent pondering, my friends, can only be soothed by answering my favorite question myself.  Here goes.

“Is there a place in the world that you have not yet visited that you would like to?  If so, where and why?” (Yes, I know I ended that question with a preposition – don’t judge me.)

Since, I’m not famous and I haven’t been traveling that long – comparatively speaking – I have a laundry list:

  1. Where: Milan, Italy Why:  Because I have expensive taste. As I am on the curvier side of shapely, I’ve always admired the Italian taste for accentuating the positive.  For reasons related to a $4,000 Dolce & Gabbana dress I once tried on at the Mall at Short Hills, I am convinced that I am meant to wear Italian crafted mid calf dresses.  Paid for by?  Some unnamed, as yet unknown, poor sucker.  The curves? Well, those are all (African) American.  Call me global #shouldershrug.
  2. Where:  Curaçao Why:  Why not?  A beautiful blue drink has been named after this place, which means the country must share some of this alcoholic beverage’s positive attributes.  The only other country I’ve been to of Dutch patronage is Suriname and I absolutely loved that place.  So, Curaçao can’t fail.  Unless, of course, I have to speak Dutch.
  3. Where: Durban, South Africa Why: I like to read near the beach.  I’ve always been fascinated by Africa, but the longer I studied race and national identity the more interested I became in southern Africa, as a whole, and South Africa, in particular.  Since, I’m demanding enough to want to study culture beachside, Durban just feels right.
  4. Where: São Tomé and Príncipe Why:  Because I would tell the best stories at cocktail parties.  “Hellooooww dahleeng, where ever did you go during your summer holiday?” “Oh just boring ole’ Paris. You know that’s where Frank and I PACSed.” “And you, Sugar Plum, where ever did you go?” “ I went to São Tomé and Príncipe and had a jolly ole time out there frolicking with our dear friends on the beach.  One year, we will have to take you and Frank with us, dahleeng.” Yup, that’s pretty much how I expect the banter at every work cocktail party to go after I come back from one of the most isolated and obscure island nations of the world.  Beat that Pitcairn Islands!
  5. Where: Andaman Islands, India Why? Because I stole this from someone.  This one is a bit of a cheat, but hear me out.  So, a woman arrived here just a few months back and told me about the Jarawa people of the Andaman islands.  I definitely know of the Siddi or Siddhi populations throughout India, but I have only recently learned about the endangered people that are the Jarawa.  Now, I do understand that my visiting them on their native islands (that and in-breeding) may in fact lead to their extinction.  So, we’ll see how long it takes me to get a permit to visit.  Perhaps, by then I may change my mind and go to the Maldives before they sink into the sea.
  6. Where: Swains Island, U.S. Why? I’m convinced this place doesn’t actually exist.  I won’t go into great detail about the lengthy exchange that led to my discovery of this island. “Is a green card holder a U.S. national? What about some one from Guam? Northern Mariana Islands, no? Oh, shizznit! That’s right, Gilligan’s Island was based on Swains Island. Troo dat! Thanks for schooling me, son son. DYNOMIIITTE!” It didn’t quite go like that, but I’ll leave it to you to determine which parts are fiction, including whether or not Swains actually exists.
  7. Where: Monaco Why?  I’m bourgie.  I didn’t realize how stoosh Europe could be until I went to the Arab funded south of Spain and got a whiff of the perfumed exhaust fumes of Mazaratis in Puerto Banus.  I’m expecting Monaco to top that, and that’s a whole lotta toppa topping.
  8. Where: Panama Why?  Honestly? Because I heard reggaeton started there and the country looks really beautiful in pictures.  That is all. (Drop the mic and walk offstage)
  9. Where: Oaxaca, Mexico Why?  I’ve been to the annexed territory of Oaxaca that is Brooklyn, and I’m dying to get to the mother ship!  I’ve never been to Mexico – partially because I’m pretty picky about the Iberian descendant countries I frequent.  I’m not sure of my internal criteria, but I do know I have some kind of criteria floating around in there.  Needless to say, once I realized that Cali Mexicans were not actually from the same part of Mexico (a DUH!) as my hometown NYC/NJ Mexicans, I grew a curiosity to get to the root of what I know to be Mexican culture.  And I’d also like to cook better tacos in the future.
  10. Where: Laos  Why? A friend of a friend in college was a hot Laotian guy who apparently could cook very well.  And one thing I like about as much as clothing I don’t pay for is food!  I’m told Laos is less a planned zen tourist attraction than Cambodia, less developed than Vietnam, and so – overall – more “me” than other South East Asian countries.  Did I mention that I heard that their hot guys cook great food?

Now that I’ve spilled my guts, I’m wondering…what about you?