Thursday, August 30, 2012

On Travel, Religion, and God

For years I've been the first person to say "I'm not religious" it's been an entry point to many conversations. Travelling has actually intensified this. When you've broken bread at Hindu temples, been inside a Muslim country, and learned tantra from a buddhist your concept of spirituality definitely this space, I found God.

I've spent the past two weeks in more prayer than I've been in for a lifetime. From moments with complete strangers to intimate moments with my closest friends - God has spoken to me. When you come to a space when you can listen and not project, you hear but don't speak, you act without thought of anything but the voice of your are listening to your creator.

I still grapple with religion but I don't grapple with God. As humans we are incredibly too amazing to be of ourselves. I've spent a week with people who absolutely astound me. But the commonality was in God, a belief in a creator greater than ourselves. No matter the form, an understanding of this could be felt through the air. Man or woman, each person I had a moment with spoke of God and I get that this isn't by chance.

I share this because it is real to me, and I hope you are God-guided in all that you do.

Until next time.



Viva Espana: More Thoughts on Equatorial Guinea

I've traveled to 8 countries in Africa each with a unique culture, feel, andvibe but nothing could've prepared me for the culture shock that was EquatorialGuinea. I'd first learned of the country when deciding on what language to takein college. Friends who knew that I wanted to focus on Africa pushed me tostudy French but growing up in a Latino neighborhood meant that I could roll my"rr's" better than I could pronounce throaty French words. Afterdeciding to stick with Spanish I often shrugged, “at least I can move toEquatorial Guinea” knowing it was the only Spanish speaking country on thecontinent. At that time it was just a smart alec retort to people whoquestioned my lingual choice rather than an actual destination. Fast forward 8years and there I was boarding a plane to Malabo, Guinea Ecuatorial - look atGod!

After spending nearly two years in Mexico, hearing Spanish coming fromAfrican faces was a bit jarring at first. To complicate things people spokeSpanish with a Spanish accent but English with an African accent...I kind ofwanted to hear what Spanish with an African accent sounded like - better lucknext time. Downtown Malabo could easily be Puebla, Mexico or San Jose,Dominican Republic - the Spanish influence in the city is unmistakable. Theculture of the Spaniards is actually felt a bit stronger in Equatorial Guineathan in Latin America. The language is spoken much closer to the Queen's(Isabella) Spanish than the multi-faceted accents spread across Cuba, Colombia,Mexico and other former colonies. Perhaps the lack of Spanish colonialneighbors stunted that next phase of cultural development. I did notice thatthe word “Bano” didn’t translate which became a bit problematic in the weehours of the morning.

Beyond the architectural and historic references to the former colonialpower, present day connections to Hispanic culture were alive and well. On ourfirst night we went on a "beverage" run only to discover that ourside of the road vendor only sold Spanish spirits (bummer for Ciroc aficionadoslike me). Brandy, Gin, and an interesting pineapple drink (not juice) all madein Spain, we had never heard of any of them…but made do. Every nightclub had atleast one set of salsa, merengue, and you guessed it - Reggaeton. If I closedmy eyes for a moment, I could've easily transported myself to Mexico City,Veracruz, or Oaxaca with my ears.

When one of the drivers heard that I lived in Mexico heconfided that he wants a Mexican wife and asked if I could bring him one? Igave him the major side eye and told him he’d been watching way too manytelenovelas. At least ask me to bring you a Beyonce! Lol.

Saturday marks one week back from the adventure so staytuned for more recaps of my trip.



Wednesday, August 29, 2012

#chosein2012 : Cast your vote!

At the beginning of this year I jokingly made a pact with my single friends that we would get "chose" in 2012. Serial daters no more we would be rid of our situationships in exchange for booed up, FB profile sharing, movie nights at home, committed bliss.

As a passionate, travelling, dreamer I understood that this whole process would be an interesting road for me. I don't have enough characters to document this past year of dating. It has been ermmmm eventful. I thought the sun, moon, and stars had aligned around one person only to discover that we probably met so that I could befriend his friends smh. I've recycled old flames for companionship. I've met new folks who were epic fails, and some others who didn't feel my wavy awesomeness. I even had a fella tell me I was perfect for him but too risky to leave his comfy relationship.

More than a few times I heard "your lifestyle can't accommodate a relationship" from the guys I've talked to and even from the very same friends I made the pact with. What part of the game is this?! I thought the plan was to get chose?????

I learned a valuable lesson over the past few weeks - getting "chose" is indeed about choice and also about chase and pursuit. As smart, independent women it is easy to forget these simple principles. If he wants you, he will seek you. No complicated interpretations, no excuses, no room for wonder. Investing too much energy in a fleeting moment of infatuation will end up reversing the roles and have you feeling all sorts of misplaced rejection.

Be clear about your goals for yourself, focus on them, and have faith that the right person will not make you wonder, negotiate, or chase. It's the end of August and I've got a few months to go...perhaps I need to run again next year! #chosein2013?



Monday, August 27, 2012

First Thoughts: A Journey With The Lights Off – Equatorial Guinea

Africa is many things. It’s a continent, it’s 54 nations, it’s oppression, it’s freedom, it’s rich, and it’s poor. It’s poorly governed nations, it’s a rising global powerhouse, it’s conservative, it’s liberal, it’s music, it’s silence, it’s in me and it’s not me - all at the same time.

It is this understanding that led me and a close friend of mine to bring a dynamic group of young professionals from the United States to the continent to experience it under an unlikely scenario. “The Afripolitans”, a final group of 80 artists,media moguls, scientists, technologists, strategists, fundraisers, and non-profiteers, went to the continent against a media onslaught, to define Africa for themselves, many for the very first time.

For me, this trip was about connecting people to our continent of origin in a way that we haven’t seen since the end of Apartheid. At its height, African-American engagement on the continent was very much focused on one common “oppressor”. Civil rights and the struggle for freedom was something we could all identify with. Since then we’ve seen a sputtering of interest in the continent that has pretty much dried up in the generation oft he “millenials”. Non-profit and plain form development people aside, the conversation on African Affairs has emerged to something most people don’t find tangible.  It involves rightfully complex issues, and situations which the everyday person can’t relate to.  Beyond this, the picture of Africa in most people’s minds remains a dated one, “raw” is how one person put it on Facebook.The beautiful skylines, the rich music, the burgeoning economies, the talented creatives,and the intellect are almost always missing from the conversation.

When I think about these characterizations, none of them reflect my experiences on the continent. I’ve toasted champagne with filmmakers in Nairobi, debated politics in Ethiopia over buna in a village, I’ve partied the night away in Sierra Leone, waking up the next day to talk about maternal health with a First Lady. This dynamic experience is not only my Africa but a reflection of me; A very real representation of a continent that I am very much connected to.

Some would argue that we shouldn’t have gone; others would focus so much on the political, ethical, and human rights record of our host country, Equatorial Guinea, that they would take the entire experience away.Others will smirk at the thought of African-Americans wanting to set foot on the “motherland” for a spiritual renewal and connection as a trivial thought and sentiment. I’m ok with all of that. Our experience, while not at all whatwe expected was everything this set of 20 and 30 something’s needed at this particular point in their lives. We strengthened this experience by moving beyond ourselves and including the children of African immigrants as those interested in community and it's reflection in African lives.

We came with the intent on participating in the Leon H.Sullivan Summit, delays, cancellations and other items forced us to design our own agenda. We made a pact among ourselves to harness our collective energy,make connections with local Equatoguineans by exploring Malabo beyond the conference center and hotel, and connect with our ancestors in some way before we left. I am proud and happy to say we did all three and came away with an overwhelming sense of pride in ourselves as a collective and an interest in looking strategically at our strengths to find out what we had to offer the continent and what it had to offer us. Being able to simplify, and engage at this level will help us build support, interest, and engagement on the continent that is left out of the twitter debates and headlines.

If I learned nothing else from my week in Equatorial Guinea, I learned who I am and who I am not in the space of people concerned with the prosperity of Africa and its diaspora across the globe. I also learned lots about spirituality, self-respect, rejection, disappointment, trust, and leadership. It was a transformational experience for me that in some ways was very personal and in others was very much a group exercise. I’m excited about what’s ahead for “The Afripolitans” and continuing this organic journey on our own terms.  I’ll go into specific details on different aspects of the trip throughout the week - in the meantime check out the pics of some of our Afripolitans on the journey over.

As always….ciao!