#musicamondays #MUSICMONDAYS (22)

Welcome to the 22nd installation of #musicamondays #MusicMondays, which features music from around the globe. Each song is selected to start your week off on the good foot! One still in the bed and the other in another country…

Well these sweet sounds hail from none other than Damien Escobar of Queens, New York. He has been called the Hip Hop Violinist, but I’d just like to call “Freedom” an anthem for 2016. May you step out in power today.

#musicamondays #MusicMondays (21)

Welcome to the 21st installation of #musicamondays #MusicMondays, which features music from around the globe. Each song is selected to start your week off on the good foot! One still in the bed and the other in another country…

Less a song and more of an experience, this week’s selection is an excerpt from one of my favorite movies: Los Tarantos (Spain, 1963). This excerpt of the famous and talented Carmen Amaya, is just a snippet of the flamenco and gitano culture the film richly displays. She brings to life a rich subculture that has also married Arab, Spanish and Romani people. Amaya was born in Barcelona, but traveled the world including to Argentina and New York with her family and her dance company.

A B C s…

abc-award-1Be forewarned. This is cheesy. And it’s about 3 years old.  I stole this from a blogger [“The Curvy Spine”] who recently liked a post I did & is a fellow Jersey girl… and apparently, she got tagged by another blogger [“Nissi Knows”]… and I have nothing better to do on a weekend night, but relive my teenage years when Yahoo! chat rooms dominated my life and, on occasion, I’d get an email questionnaire that made me reflect about adulthood to come. Told you this would be cheesy!

The deal is that I’ve got to go through the alphabet talking about myself and biggin’ up other bloggers. This is, I can do…

If your blog is placed here, consider yourself awarded the ABC award. You can accept by copying the theme and passing this practice on.

Africa, my new continent of residence.

Bossip.com is my secret online tabloid vice. Maybe not so secret…

Canada is the first destination to which I took my eldest Godson for his annual birthday trip. It was my way of forcing him to get a passport and get on a plane.

Delhi is where I met my husband.

Elephants have been my favorite animal for a very long time.

Frankfurt is the city that my husband and I last visited together.

Geneva is the one place my grandma ever wanted to visit. We went over Christmas/New Years 2005-2006. I vowed never to take a winter vacation to a cold weather destination ever again.

Harlem is the only place in America where I would ever want to raise children. So much for that pipe dream now. Thanks, gentrification!

Isaacman is the author of the book I’m reading right now.

James Baldwin is one of my favorite writers and one of my historical muses.

Kinani means dance in Shangana & it’s come up as a possible baby name.

London is the only city I’ve wanted to live in that I haven’t yet lived in. Live long… it could happen.

Maboneng is my favorite neighborhood in Johannesburg and, hopefully, it’ll be home in 2017.

New York City is the only place on earth I feel at home, at peace, and inspired – at the same time.

Olympus is the brand of voice recorders I just bought. I bought 3 at one time and I’m so proud of myself for it. Who needs to rip the house apart trying to find the one voice recorder I have 10 minutes before I’ve scheduled an interview? Well, not this girl. Not anymore!

Photography has been in my family for generations. If I actually publish the travel photo book I’ve had in my head for the past few years, I would officially make the third generation of photographers on my dad’s side.

Quran is the religious holy book of Muslims (like yours truly). I have only read it once and I’m long overdue for a re-read.

Reading is my favorite activity, which is shared by fellow blogger Kinna: http://kinnareads.com

Strawberry shortcakes are my traditional birthday cakes. My mom has ensured that every birthday that we share together, there is a strawberry shortcake to celebrate the new year. American style too, none of that British with a biscuit fakery.

The Bitchin’ Dietitian is a blog i follow regularly, though I have to admit I’m a couch potato who has reconnected with my affinity for butter and salt. But, I do love to read it as if I have self-discipline and/or access to ingredients!

University of the Witwatersrand is where I’m studying to get a PhD. Proud Witsie over here!

Violence eradication is the purpose of this blog that I follow: http://understandingviolence.org 

Wife. The newest of my many hats. Dare I say, the title is starting to grow on me.

Xenophobia is a term that I’d never heard of until about a year ago. I’ve learned a lot more about it this past year traversing South east Africa.

Yebo! means yes in Zulu.

Zanzibar is the latest trip plan I’ve made to come together with my ‘Mixed Masala Marriage’ crew. We came started earlier this year in Dubai because we’re all in intercultural marriages and trying to find balance. Next year, Zanzibar!

The End.

The editorial value of code switching?

When I first picked up Americanah over a year ago, I put it back down after page 10. It was yet another African turning on Black Americans by pretending to both know and despise Black America. When my book club picked it last month, I was more curious this time around. As a Black American in Africa, maybe I wanted to find hints for how to navigate the reverse world. Alas, I found no hints. And I really didn’t find many bursts of wisdom, just a strong  sense that Ngozi was telling us all that where we are from is truly where we belong – no matter how many lives we wreck in the going and coming. I disagree with that sense (which may be more strongly felt because I absolutely disagree with extramarital affairs). But, when I picked up Autobiography of an ex-Colored Man, I realized that becoming what you aren’t to become who you think you deserve to be is a timeless human challenge.

The 1912 book by James Weldon Johnson focuses on a mulatto who spends his whole life wondering which color is more advantageous to him – Black or White. When it is in his best interest, he code switches. He plays that part and lives that side of life’s dream, until it no longer becomes the winning card. He trades all that Blackness has to offer, by using remnants of Black music to make a living entertaining Whites all over the world. He eventually marries a White woman who, after some shock and horror, accepts that he is of Black heritage. While I was pretty disgusted with the book’s content, it took me back to an America that’s only 100 years gone from today. It was an America where the popularity of the Cotton Club co-existed with the highest rates of lynching of Black men in history.

It brought me back to the counterintuitive-ness of today, where similar extremes seem to be so ever-present. Where our Black president ground-breakingly declares immigration reform and gives us December 26th off AND a laundry list of young Black males are gunned down with impunity by police. There is no ‘but’ here… this is not abnormal and this is not an aberration. These things co-exist and make code-switching both necessary and useless. Our times have always been odd. And that oddity has always made me seek the shores of elsewhere, where the odd isn’t for lack of giving a damn about another person’s life. But, it’s deeper. It’s older.

Difference and hatred can be a colonial and aristocratic being. That being is a being I understand. I can see how centuries of human chattel and land grab combine to create indivisible barriers between people. And I can also see how those who experience it in vastly different places can be brought together by the similarity of that experience. So, when I grabbed Half A Life, by V.S. Naipul, it was finally a text I could understand. The code switching Indian who traveled the world reinventing himself to escape his farce of a family, finds himself in a new country. This unnamed place must be the country in which I reside today. He speaks of living someone else’s life – the life of his wife who was born in what is clearly Mozambique. Their initial attraction was born out of recognizing the code-switching in one another and finding relief in no longer having to pretend. Better yet, they don’t even feel the burden of admitting which parts of themselves are lies – old and new. This brings them together and it is what tears them apart decades later. One day he wakes up and feels that he hasn’t really been living a life of his choosing. But, if not his, then whose?

These three texts brought me full circle to wondering what wandering is all about. Has my life been a long tale of serial code switching – becoming someone who everyone believes you already are? And if so, why? For me, it’s about finding a place where I’m comfortable being uncomfortable. There are situations of discomfort that we can tolerate and others that we can’t. I’ve never been able to tolerate code switching close to home. It’s why I don’t take photographs of New York City and very rarely, if ever, in my hometown. It’s why I don’t stop cursing when I go work. It’s why I wore a kurta in India for all of 5 times in 2 years.  Take me far, far away from what matters to me and I’ll be whomever I must, but get within 10 feet of something that matters to me and I must be myself. It is an automatic and involuntary reality.

Code switching is a survival tool, not a way of life. It isn’t sustainable over the long-term. In fact, over the long-term, it is parasitic. It eats away at the soul, casting doubt and promoting amnesia. What being in Mozambique has brought me is an undying sense of self. So far from what I know, I find the familiar in me – even when I am not looking for it. The routines come back. The fish and grits on weekends. And the soul music on Saturdays. They say you can run, but you can’t hide. I disagree. I think that’s only true if who you’re running from is you.

From others, you can live a series of lifetimes playing the part that curries the most favor.

Whether it be a Nigerian woman in 2013, an African-American man in 1912, or an Indo-Trinidadian in 2001, great writers seem to cling to that conundrum. They do more than explore it, they dissect it – as if trying write an obituary for someone who they met a lifetime ago and only now realize that they’ve never really known.

 

From LA to L.A. in 30 days

From this blog you might get the impression that I am a world traveler. This is only partially true. I am often on planes traveling to obscure corners of the world and griping about the lack of vegetarian food along way. But, the map of my travels would show that I’ve done the bulk of my globe trotting around the Atlantic Ocean. In reality, there are huge swaths of my own country that I haven’t seen. Every election year, I’m dumbfounded by just what’s going on in the middle of the country. I completed Buzzfeed’s ‘What city should you actually live in’ poll and I got Portland. I had to google where Portland was. Sad, but true.

I’ll have you know, though, that I do not take lightly gaps in my travel portfolio. So, I spent the last month visiting friends and family in the United States. Only the United States. No going a’foreign for me! In that four weeks, I covered from sea to shining sea, literally. Most of these cities I had been to before, but that’s beside the point. Making the deliberate choice to stay within the confines of the 48 contiguous was huge for me. And since it had been years since I’d traveled to some of these destinations, it was like discovering them all over again.  You’ll remember my last trip to New Orleans was over two years ago. And though I’m a frequent visitor in New York City, I fail to blog-scrutinize it as if it were a ‘destination.’  Well gone are the days when I undervalue all things domestic. I’m going to hit you with the highlights of my month of American couchsurfing.

Newark (2014)Destination 1: Newark, NJ, Last visit: October 2012, Highlight: Family time! Down side: Chris Christie’s political career imploded. Sights worth seeing: Newark Museum

 

Destination 2: New York City, NY, Last visit: October 2012, Highlight: Having post-birthday celebrations with CharlieDown side: Didn’t get to make it to Harlem. Sights worth seeing: The Whitney

IMG_0091Destination 3: Washington, DCLast visit: October 2012, Highlight: Brunch! Down side: Most of my friends who like to party have moved. Sights worth seeing: Rock Creek Park

 

 

Destination 4: New Orleans, LALast visit: July 2011, Highlight: Reunion with Alyson & Chlovah! Down side: It was friggin’ freezing. Sights worth seeing: Antique Bookstores

DSCF3001Destination 5: Los Angeles, CALast visit: December 2008, Highlight: A day at Matador beach in Malibu with Leah! Down side: I’m convinced that most people in L.A. are delusional. Sights worth seeing: Cirque de Soleil

 

Destination 6: Arlington, VA, Last visit: October 2012, Highlight: I have my own apartment and my dog is here too! Down side: I live with my co-workers. Think: bad episode of “Real World – Federal Employees” Sights worth seeing: Pentagon Row

54 Books beyond Bombay

Stack-Of-Books-BigThe year before last, I could only manage to read 48 books. Not even one book a week! #epicfailforanerd But this year, I was determined that I would finally read 52 books and Nikki would not beat me this time. Once again, I set her in my sights and she – clearly – didn’t even know it. Surely, I’d blow her book goals right out of the water. Right?

Wrong! Once again, Nikki is not even thinking about me! While I went above and beyond, tallying 54 books this year, she’s off dressing up her daughter as a lion and going on African safaris. Sometimes, she and her husband even stage a safari in their backyard and pose their costumed daughter as the lion cub that they’re spotting in the wild. I mean, it’s pretty darn cute. And creative.  Damn you Nikki! I can’t win with you…

Alas, in 2013 I spent most of my time researching Indian culture and folklore, so a lot of last year’s books were academic in nature and/or Indian in authorship. Not all, but most. So, without further ado or more Nikki acclaim, here are my top 5 books of 2013:

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Maximum City Bombay Lost and Found is my favorite book of last year. And the irony here is that it was the very first book I read. So, it was downhill from there. But, talk about dissecting a city from its inside out! This book is a literary feat. It is a page turner that’s true to the city it preaches to know. There’s drama and sex and love and violence – all representative of a city that’s meant so much to me. I can’t recommend this book enough for those of us who have been to and enjoyed today’s Mumbai.

shantaramShantaram is Maximum City’s whorish twin sister, in book terms of course. It’s the tale of an escaped convict from Australia making his way in the Mumbai underworld. It speaks of the Nigerians and Afghanis. Drug dealers in plain sight at Cafe Mondegar. And foreigners with fake passports and friends in rat infested slums. The author claims the story is all fiction, but it’s rumored to be a memoir. I can’t imagine how anyone could make up 963 pages of this stuff without some serious life experience for inspiration.

 

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The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is the unsung story of Black motherhood – its efforts and short comings. The stories touched me on a personal level, as I felt familiar with the post-Great Migration characters and the inner city family drama. I don’t say that lightly though, because in my opinion contemporary Black protagonists often come off as overdramatized caricatures or underwhelmingly kitsch. Let’s be honest, we’re living in Tyler Perry’s wake. These historically accurate representations through Ayana Mathis’ words are long overdue, however.

 

Unknown

The Lonely Londoners is a short and easy read, but rich with texture and spirited characters. I came across it when researching the Indian Diaspora in literature. I read it not really expecting what I found. The author explores the recent immigrant experience in London, but not only from the Indian perspective. In fact, it’s primary characters are Caribbean immigrants. Like Mathis’ depiction, Sam Selvon gives short snippets of just how hard life can be for people who are trying really hard to make a dollar out of fifteen cents. Its characters are in a silent struggle, not in vocal rebellion. This read left me with a softer heart.

facesinthewater

Faces in the Water is where magical realism meets the unfortunate reality of female infanticide in contemporary India. The premise is that a little boy spends a summer at his family’s ancestral farm and discovers the water well that supplies the home. In it, he sees faces – female faces. More than one. You’d have to read the book to figure out who these girls are and how he resolves knowing how they got there. I loved this book not just because it tackles an issue that most people won’t even acknowledge, but it highlights that it’s not a practice that only occurs among the poor. And, more importantly, it empowers a male character – a young boy – to take action against injustice, to be a women’s rights activist, to be a better man than his own father.

2013 dud reads:

The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud: Where to begin? Maybe I’m just sad that this book is a book. It’s about a bunch of rich New Yorkers making asses of themselves and each other. It’s a New York reality – unfortunately – but the story doesn’t scream book worthy to me. And, I just found out that the author is a fellow alum of my high school, so I’m even more disappointed. The writing was convoluted and full of misplaced modifiers. If there’s one thing a Mustang can’t stand, it’s a misplaced modifier.

Arranged Love by Parul Mittal: Woe, the days of my life that I can’t get back! Maybe I need to have grown up on the Indian subcontinent to understand why this is supposed to be a love story, but this book is weird and lame. There are much better stories of arranged-come-love marriages. Read the Namesake and don’t waste your money or life minutes on this book!

Confession of a Buddhist Atheist by Stephen Batchelor: Some memoirs are just journal entries that people should later burn. This book is one. Buddhism isn’t a religion, so…. what’s this atheism schtick?  Hence, there are fundamental problems with this book and it’s premise. Sigh…

Food Mubarak!

Fasting has a way of resurrecting old foodgasms. I find myself thinking about iftar very early on in the day. Often I oscillate between wondering how I can avoid spending my whole paycheck on a fancy dinner and wondering how fast I can make microwaveable oatmeal. But there are glimpses in the middle of great food experiences of yesteryear, which then lead me to wonder where I should go to break my fast. There are many places to choose from, but I’m drawn to locales where the food is delicious, the prices are decent, and the portion sizes are disciplined.

Today’s musing led me to list my favorite restaurants from around the world. I’ve tried to be as inclusive as possible of all my travels but, so as not to taint your experience in any way and also not to get too hungry too early in my fast, I’ll give you recommendations and reviews from others. Happy global hunger hunting!

chefette

Barbados: 10 Best says “Chefette is a small fast food chain, and there are 14 locations all over the island. It’s not particularly fast, but the prices are reasonable and the food is quite good. Tasty chicken and chips is the staple offering, but the “broasted” chicken sandwich and the various rotis are also satisfying. Several locations have drive-throughs and playgrounds for the kids, and some also serve pizza, barbecue or ice cream.”

framboise

France: Creperie Framboise in Paris really got me to appreciate crepes for their decadence. Before this they were just thin pancakes with nutella inside:  -_- (boring face). After Framboise, I see crepes and I smile. 

escale caraibe

L’escale Caraibe on Rue de Guerre was a delightful treat for me, someone who believes I know Caribbean food. Trying the cuisine of Martinique & Guadeloupe was a culinary pleasure of awesome proportions. Yum Yum!

el perro

Germany: Leave it to me to find an awesome Spanish restaurant in the middle of Munich. But, hey, que será será. El Perro y El Griego is as good as I say it is.

 

 

grenada-chocolate1

Grenada: This isn’t a restaurant review. Grenada produces two good food items – nutmeg (who uses nutmeg though, really?) and thee best chocolate I’ve had in all the world. Don’t take my word for it!

 

 

sanchos logoIndiaSancho’s is in Mumbai, and here’s what the good folks at Zomato have to say: “Bandra rather Mumbai has its fair share of Mexican restaurants, but not an overwhelming amount, fading in comparison to the number of Chinese, Sports Bars and Sea Food institutions in town. Broadly speaking, Sancho’s falls firmly in the “Awesome” category. More specifically, the food is “Delicious,” albeit generally a bit too hyped given the prices.”

sant lucias

Santa Lucia is in Fort Aguada, Goa and my mouth is watering just thinking of their Goan fish curry. Check out the reviews here.

 

 

mashua

Netherlands: Mashua in Amsterdam has me reeling from great cocktails to Quinoa Risotto. Oy vey! Gianguido says, “It is Peruvian fusion food. The menu is quite short, which I actually like it. Ample choice of whine.. which I also like 🙂 I went for Ceviche as starter… it was nicely prepared with all the whistles and bells…. I could feel a bit too much the lemon for my personal taste, but over all well done. My main course was a great boneless chicken leg prepared with cumin crust/sauce with wild spinach and young potatoes. it was really delish!” Need I say more?

 


tongue thaiThailand:  Tongue Thai in Bangkok had me with the vintage pics, the jazz music and the authentic food. I went back twice in three days.

 

 

The Corson Building picnic

United States: The Corson Building in Seattle is exactly how I’d want to run a restaurant, if ever I wanted to run a restaurant. Read up for yourself. And here’s what 50 Shades of Delicious has got to say…

 


sala 1 9

Sala One Nine is my favorite restaurant in New York City, which means its probably my favorite restaurant in the whole wide world. Zagat says 90% of people like the restaurant.

 

 

And with that, I’m famished. It’s time to head off to the Blue Nile for some injera stuffed goodness. Ramzan Mubarak!

Social consciousness disclaimer: Everything I’ve had to say about Trayvon Martin trial/fiasco has already been said.