Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Season for Giving Thanks

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving the official start of the holiday season.  Holidays are always hard for those who've lost loved ones but this year with the economy and unemployment at an all-time high, Thanksgiving is going to be an even more difficult time for many people.

Despite the dismal circumstances, we must continue to be thankful for all that we do have.  The other day my dad said something to me and my response was "Hey, times are hard." I didn't say it intentionally to be negative, it was just the first thing that came out of my mouth.  He quickly chastised me for saying that and it's quickly reminded me that I shouldn't put that type of energy out there.

It's so easy to think about the negatives and what's not going right in our lives but we must continue to remind ourselves, it could always be worse.  You may not like your job or your boss, but at least you're employed.  You may not like your living situation, but at least you're not homeless.  You may not be where you thought you'd be at a certain age, but at least you're alive and have time to work on improving yourself. 

When I think of everything that could possibly be wrong in my life, I remember how blessed and fortunate I am.  Whenever a complaint starts to form in my mind, I ignore it.  This Thanksgiving, like always, when I'm with my family I will verbalize everything positive that's happening in my life because I have so much to be thankful for.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Black People Don't Travel

Before you get upset at the title of my blog post please let me explain. I hate to generalize and say that all Black people, specifically African-Americans (AAs), do not travel because I know that's not true. It's just that AAs tend to shy away from traveling abroad for some reason. I haven't figured out whether it's because of financial reasons, a lack of interest in the culture and history of other places, or a combination of both.

The idea that black people don't travel came up in conversation recently with a guy I'd just met. We were discussing the places that we've traveled outside of the United States. I started talking to him about my recent trip to Egypt and how the people there seemed to love us. I told him how it seemed like the people in my party were a hot commodity. The people there wanted to know where we were from and showered us with attention. They were genuinely excited to see us.

I began to notice our group was the only group of African-Americans any place that we went. In fact, the entire time we were there we did not see more than 5 AAs. We knew they were AAs because we made it a point to speak to everyone with brown skin who did not appear to be Egyptian just out of curiosity.

I've been to the Dominican Republic a few times and everytime I go there I rarely see anyone there who looks like me that speaks English. In Europe same thing. You'll see more people of color but they either live there or they're from other countries than the US.

I love to travel and recently when I was going to Egypt, I told several people I was going on vacation there. The responses I received from my AA counterparts seemed to greatly differ from that received from everyone else. The response I often heard from AAs was "Why are you going there?" While everyone else said, "That's exciting, I've always wanted to go there" or "You should go to this place when you get there."

It just saddens me that AAs don't seem to understand the importance or the value of traveling abroad. Trust me, I am by no means rich and have to work for everything I have but I much rather sacrifice for a year to take a once in a lifetime trip then to take smaller trips here and there to places like Miami or Vegas.
It still amazes me that I know people from my generation who have never been on a plane. The United States is great and all but there's only so much you can see driving from point A to point B. I wish more AAs would expand their horizons and look beyond their comfort zone, it's so worth it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Speed Dating in DC

Earlier this week I decided to try my hand at Speed Dating. I'm sure everyone's heard about speed dating. It's when there are a group of men and a group of women who have a limited amount of time to get to know one another.

I heard about the event through one of the Meet-Up groups I belong to and thought it sounded interesting besides I've never done it and heard it could be fun. Also, it was touted as being for Young, Black Professionals between the ages of 27-39, my ideal range, so I figured why not.

It was held at a chill spot,
JoJo's Restaurant & Bar on U Street in DC. They usually have a live jazz band during the evenings and the drinks are pretty good so I figured if speed dating was a bust, the night wouldn't be lost. The event was scheduled to begin at 7:15. Me being the prompt, anti-CP time, person that I am I arrived at 7. There were about 4 others there when I got there. The early arrivals weren't lookers so I prayed that some more suitable candidates would be coming soon and they did.

The Speed Dating hostess handed me my name tag and with a number on it that corresponded to the table I was to sit at for the evening. She also handed me a sheet with the rules and a list of sample questions (I decided I wouldn't rely on them and would see how the conversations evolved). On the back was a space to write the other person's name along with comments and whether they were a yes or no.

Everything was neatly arranged and I appreciated the order, because I can't stand disorganized events. As for the set-up there were 12 stations set-up. The event was meant to be intimate as the hostess informed me so it was limited to 12 women and 12 men, 1 of the men didn't show up. The women was seated on the inside while the guys sat in the outside chair and rotated in order.

At first, I was thinking what am I getting myself into then my strawberry margarita kicked in and I was ready for the games to begin. The hostess called the start and we had 5 minutes per person. Some of the guys were extra animated, some were very laid back. Some acted young while other seemed like they should be my Father's friends, I swore two of them lied about their age and were over 40. We chatted about the basics like where are you from, what do you do (the typical DC question that I HATE), have you done this before, what do you like to do. Some noticed the cartouche necklace I was wearing from my recent trip to Egypt and inquired about it. One asked me if I had any kids and acted shocked when I said no. The conversations were pretty surface nothing too deep. One guy thought he was being creative and asked me "MAC or PC" when I answered "umm I guess PC" he excitedly high-fived me. In my mind, I immediately check "No" and was thinking NEXT.

After the event, the hostess sent us a link where we could go and check yes or no next to the person's name and number. From there you can decide if you want to connect with them. I'm looking at my notes from that night and I ended up saying "Yes" for 3 out of 11 (one was a maybe but there's only yes or no, so I figured I'd make him a yes), as of now, 9 out of the 11 guys have said "Yes" for me. We'll see if this brings forth any potentials. All in all, it was fun and I would definitely do it again.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Cultural Differences

While I was on vacation in Egypt, I enjoyed seeing the vast treasures of the ancient world including the Great Pyramids, the Sphinx, The Temple at Karnak, and The Valley of the Kings. I had heard of most of the places we visited because I've always studied art and architecture, specifically Egyptian. What I wasn't expecting was how a place so rich in history, could be so poor. For some reason it never dawned on me that Egypt is a third-world country.

While visiting all these places, we were often encountered by the local people who were there selling their wares to the tourists. Some places the people grabbed you. On more than one occasion I was groped by someone standing way too close, maybe they thought I wouldn't notice. I was kissed on the cheek several times. It made me wonder did they feel comfortable doing this because they feel Americans are more free with our bodies because we aren't as conservative or covered us as their women or was it just a cultural difference, they are more expressive of their emotions.

I'd done a lot of research before going and made it a point to be a conservative as possible by wearing long sleeves and long pants when in public, only thing I didn't wear was the headdress. I made sure that no cleavage was exposed, which is hard because I live in wrap tops and dresses and v-necks. But I still felt uncomfortable in the way the local approached me. They'd also make comments to my Father or other men I was with asking, "How many camels?" At first, I was like what the hell, but later figured out what they were talking about. It goes back to the old days when families paid a dowry and apparently in Egypt it's their way of saying how much for your daughter.

Other places we went people yelled out "My Cousin" and "Obama" because clearly they knew we were Black Americans. It was refreshing to see how excited they were to see us. In America, there still seems to be a love-hate relationship between Blacks and Africans who've come to America. I remember having Africans, mainly Nigerians, say all types of negative things to me. In Egypt, there wasn't any of that. Maybe there was, but since I don't speak Arabic I didn't know what they were really saying about us. I just had the feeling they were more accepting and genuinely happy to see us.

Part of our nine day excursion, was a 4 day cruise down the Nile. We ported each day and went to different parts of Egypt to see the historical sites. The second day there I noticed something strange, there were no women working on the boat, even when we began our tours you never saw women working in the shops. I know that it's a mostly (70%) Muslim country but it amazes me that many of the women don't work. From the looks of it, with many of the locals on the streets, smoking hookahs, hanging out outside, I seems like a majority of them do not work. I wonder what the unemployment rate is there.

Going to Egypt was definitely an experience I will never forget. Next time I go, yes I will be going back, I plan to spend some time in southern Egypt in Aswan which is the home of the Nubians, or the brown people.

Here are just a few of my pictures.

Temple of Isis

The Great Pyramids of Giza. Giza is about 15 miles outside of Cairo. It took 45 years to built the largest one.

My Aunt and I with a camel. We did get to ride one, it was definitely an experience.