HOT in London!

One of the hottest days in London during my stay was Sunday, June 26th. Days before the main topic of conversation was the temperature — a whopping 28 degrees Celsius. Being a lover of nature, I was eager to visit grass and trees that day so we walked to Hampstead Heath Park from Camden Market What a BEAUTIFUL DAY!!

Noticed this guy outside the park - RELAX!!

Giraffe Restaurant - Smiling is infectious 🙂

Love - Eat - Live

And many thanks to Fola and Joel for great conversation and laughter. Happy Sunday!

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La La London!

Where to begin. Nearly twelve years ago, there were two cities on the re-location table: New York or London. My ex-dude and I decided we wanted more than what Philly had to offer and longed to try our luck in another part of the world. We booked a one week trip to London to get the feel of it. And, although the weather basically sucked, we had the most splendid of times, met the coolest people, danced in the best underground joints, yet made the decision to stay in the states since my father was ill at the time plus NYC was screaming loud and clear: Come here now!!!

Since then, I have visited the City of London 3 or 4 times. The last time being in the past two weeks. I had an amazing trip from start to finish! I also extended my stay by four days because my brother (Grey Reverend) had 2 shows nearby; I joined him for the one in Brighton.

Here are images from the first few days. I will share these in 3 or 4 blog posts because I’m photo-happy 🙂

Dalston, London - empty location of farmer's market

the Underground Tube

two guys at Ali Baba Turkish Takeaway - Dalston

stay tuned for artist's name

stay tuned for artist's name too

a view from a double decker bus

more art

Wahaca mexican restaruant in Soho

Wahaca mexican restaurant in Soho too

Afropolitan at the V&A - this model was ON every minute

music on Portobello Road

Dele Sosimi Afrobeat Jazz - incredible!

Dele Sosimi himself (i believe)

Mau Mau Bar - jazz re:freshed is the name of the night

A SUPER MEGA HUGE thank you to my hostesses, Stephanie B. and Elsa M! If they were any sweeter, I would have given them a kidney. And a quick shoutout to my very special, amazingly talented, inspiring, and generous friends, Fola, Alex, Angela, and Sam.

More photos to come, stay tuned!!

Cheers
*Lala*

nature’s way

the honeymoon continues in the bay area. i keep finding new things to love about this enchanted city.

as i grow older, i am becoming closer to nature, i.e. plants, trees, soil, and even animals. the last few days have involved helping to build a fence from chicken wire, walking in the woods, eating from my friends’ garden, and spending time with a tropical bird. Hi Kiwi! this afternoon was no different. we visited one of the best nurseries in the country, the Berkeley Horticulture Center.

this morning, when my mother told me that snow was expected in the east and my brother announced the freezing temperature just minutes after i phoned him, i simply gave thanks because at that very moment i was warm and feeling super awesome.

the awesome part surprises me since i have gone completely overboard in the eating department. i should know better but it tastes so good! so far, i’ve eaten at:

Prather’s Ranch Meat Co.
Tartine
Osha Thai
Zachary’s Pizza
Bi-rite Ice Creamery
Cafe GoLo
Pica Pica
Gracias Madre
Champa Garden
Brown Sugar Kitchen (beverage only)
Scream Sorbet
Gregoire
The Summit (beverage only)

I AM A LITTLE PIGLET !!!!

even though my belly is dancing with the stars right now, i am thankfully breathing through my nose — both nostrils. in New York, pizza alone ignites a sneezing fit and at least 36 hours of hampered nose breathing. in cali, i have been able to eat pizza and ice cream in the same day with no miserable consequences. now that’s worth me moving here in itself.

can you tell i’m having a fantastic stay in the Bay! that rhymed 🙂

oh a special HELLO to Hadley in Berkeley representing Home 101 – a terrific boutique that resembles a candy store but for adults with a sweet tooth for antiques and treasures for any cozy abode.

sending sunshine and warmth to you and your family! it’s the season for citrus. Vitamin C is our best friend during cold season so get your orange, grapefruit and lemon on!

this is a budding lemon tree!

and last but not least Happy 9th and 14th Birthday to my nephews – I love you both!

auntie *Lala*

left coast loving

yesterday in the bay, it rained and rained and rained some more but the temperature was a delightful 60 degrees Fahrenheit. i am loving the west coast or the left coast, a political expression that has been re-purposed in the art world on this side of america. it has everything to do with being in a new environment after nearly one year in NYC. what can i say, i am inspired by traveling and new experiences!

you ask, hey Lala! why do you love San Francisco so much?

1. FOOD – healthy, whole and heavenly. today we had lunch at Gracias Madre, an organic vegan Mexican restaurant in the Mission district. i nearly broke down and cried. yum yum! 3 words: Butternut Squash Quesadillas (with pumpkin seed salsa)

2. PEOPLE – easy, breezy, and friendly. many people greet each other on the street and everyone has been super helpful when approached (i’ve gotten lost a few times already 🙂

3. WEATHER – it’s not hot or even warm but it’s not freezing 🙂 need i say more?

4. LANDSCAPE – breathtakingly (is that a word?) gorgeous!! the architecture and surrounding mountains lift my spirit and my calves.

5. CLEANLINESS – i looked up in the subway station and was not horrified plus my allergic reaction to cheese pizza is non-existent here.

6. NATURE-ORIENTED – aren’t most Californians?

7. INTELLIGENT – in quoting the NY Times, San Francisco ranked in the top 3 of book sales around the country in 2009. reading is fundamental. i visited 4 or 5 bookstores within blocks of each other today and to my surprise, each were bustling with curious readers.

8. ARTSY – this post pays homage to the amazing 3 day art festival art called, Left Coast Leaning. my hosts, bryant and jidan got tickets for saturday night’s performance. each piece was engaging, meaningful and vibrant. this event was held at the Yerba Bueno Center for the Arts. a lovely evening which began with another fantastic meal at Osha, a thai restaurant owned by two sisters.

9. GREEN – there are recycle bins everywhere and reminders to conserve too.

10. ENTREPRENEURIAL – San Fran is a city full of boutiques, thrift shops, cafes and bars run by young, progressive types.

this is not a “dis” against NYC, my hometown. my love for the Big Apple is deep and undeniable. however, i can see san fran in my near future.

i should really go to bed now. i trust that you are keeping warm, drinking loads of herbal tea and eating hearty and whole food! winter is right around the corner!

love and light and more love

*Lala*

san fran man

i’m in love again.

with san francisco, that is. it’s only been 3 days since we reunited but i remember its touch as if it were yesterday. since i have limited time to write or edit my writing, here are a few images that will give you a glimpse of Day 2 in the foggy city. later this afternoon, i will journey to oakland for the first time ever. i have a feeling my stay will become more colorful moving forward. considering i worked for most of the day yesterday, i am going to the hot springs in japantown for a morning of peace and relaxation. it’s always about balance 🙂

had a lovely breakfast at Cafe GoLo (corner of Gough and Lombard)

i am weak for french toast - this was delicious

John, owner of Cafe GoLo, very accommodating

time to get to work at the ferry building - got some good interviews

famer's market - one of the best on saturdays, i hear

it's chilly by the wharf, needed to warm up with hot chocolate - Blue Bottle style

you can park your bike in the subway - yay!!

made it to the Mission District but was too full to enjoy tacos 😦 but next time!

super dope music at Revolution Cafe - thanks to Sam for the recommendation

thrift shopping in the Mission - had to buy gloves

more thrift shopping, but now in the Haight - hi Austin from L.A.

ended the evening with a film, Wasteland about artist, Vik Muniz. great story.

remember to EAT YOUR GREENS!!!

hugs and love from the Bay!

*Lala*

Cuba: an interview with Kendra, a solar-powered dancer

Hola! October is almost here but the sun is still shining 🙂 I met this lovely woman at my buddy, Shane’s, Birthday BBQ a few weeks ago.  That afternoon, we talked at length about our travel experiences. I asked her to share some details from her most recent stay in Cuba with us!
Where were you born and where do you live now?
I was born in Detroit, MI and now I live in Brooklyn, NY

Are you under 30 years of age or older?

No, 25

When did you first leave your country and describe that experience?
Well, Detroit is 10 min from Canada, and my parents used to travel there often to shop (when the USD was double the Canadian dollar) but I don’t really count that.

I really left when I was 12 years old going to Cuba.  I went with my dance teacher whom I had been studying Afro-Cuban dance with for a year and a half.  It was amazing.  I remember everything being so beautiful to me.  It was my first time in the Caribbean and I was fascinated by all the bright colors.  The houses were yellow, pink, turquoise.  The cars were old, like I had seen in history books and just as colorful.  And the people exuded as much brilliance and color as the atmosphere.  They were warm and welcoming, but still full of fire.  I had my first kiss there in Cuba!

Do you have any fears? If so, please describe.
I have fear of failure.  I come from a community of unfulfilled dreams.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, because me and my personality were developed as a result.  However, I never want to have to say, I once wanted to do _____ and not be able to do it.

Although things have not been as expedient as I would have liked, I have been pretty good at accomplishing the things I have wanted to do. Dance and Travel have been the top two, and 2010 has been fruitful for both!

How do you spend most of your days? Working? Studying? Etc?
I spend my days either working like crazy or having nothing to do.  That’s been a semi-personal choice and I enjoy it sometimes.  I am in the nothing to do phase and I wish I was working more.  When I am in one state I always seem to crave the other.

How was your last trip funded?
By myself.  I work as a teaching artist and I worked my ass off last school year to pay for my trip and be able to not work for the summer.  I am also blessed by God and the financial angel that when I need it, it always comes from somewhere and right on time

Why do you travel? What do you enjoy most about it?
I mostly travel to dance.  I love dance, and I am committed to learning as much about dance as possible.  I may travel for other reasons superficial, but I’m always looking for dance where ever I go.

But along with dance I love to learn about other ways of life.  Art and culture and reflections of each other, and if you can engage someone through art, specifically dance for me, I can often get them to open up about culture and the reality of how they live.

So I enjoy seeing the beautiful works of nature and culture in the places I go and exploring how people really live; in my mind, I always juxtapose it to how I live in the US.

How many languages do you speak? or do you plan to speak?
Now I speak english and pretty good spanish, not quite fluent, but getting there.  I want to learn portuguese and possibly french and creole.

List 5 things you MUST bring with you when you travel.

1. Book to write in (even if I don’t use it)
2. A nice dress
3. Money
4. Open mind, eyes, and heart
5. Bug repellent

What is your earliest memory of traveling?
Driving to Florida from Detroit, MI in my Dad’s black Explorer. It was a 17 hours drive and I slept 11 hours.  I went to visit my grandmother who is one of the lights of my life, so I was excited.  I spent the time laughing and joking with her, shopping, and bowling with my family. Heaven for a 9 year old.

Tell me about your last trip. Where did you go, how long did you stay and what was the purpose of your trip?
I went to Cuba.  I stayed 38 days total, I was in Havana for 1 day, Mantanzas 1 day, Traveled by bus for 1 day, then stayed 28 days in Santiago de Cuba, and 7 more days in Havana.  I went to Cuba to study dance.
During this trip, tell us about your most memorable conversation and with whom?
I had a conversation with a woman and her daughter whom I had met a bar with live music the night before.  Funny story, I had in mind that this woman was a jinetera, Cubans who seek out tourists to hang out with while the tourist is in town with hopes the tourist would take them out to restaurants and buy them things.  I was supposed to meet the woman in a plaza, but decided I didn’t want to meet her to I went to a store a few blocks away to try to avoid the area we were to meet.  And  ran smack dab into her! Destiny.

Anyway, to my surprise, I ended up having a conversation about life in Cuba and the health care system.  She is a dance teacher just like me, and she was describing how on her salary, it is impossible to care for her two daughters (without help of their father, also one who had chronic asthma) so she had to do hair and nails, and sell knick knacks, and other hussles to survive.  We talked about the inaccessibility of medicines in the free clinic and how people had to pay a whole month’s salary for medicine in the international clinic.  We talked about the lack of means to show any dissent to the government policies and what was happening in the country.  We tried to explain to her the concept of health insurance and how for the poor in the US, out situation was not much different from those of Cubans, and in some cases worse.  I ended up buying her sodas and chips and went along my way with a wealth of new information.
What did you learn during this last experience or stay?
I kind of answered this question in the previous question, but in summary, I learned about Cuban dance and historical culture, which I already knew something about, but I newly learned about the reality about life in Cuba.  In the program I attended, I got to see the hospitality and good side of Cuban life.  But staying longer and really sitting down to have conversations with people, I learned about how it is to really live there.  I got the good and the bad.  I went to people’s homes, with 5 or 6 people living in house with 4 small rooms.  I visited a home with more space but with a dirt floor and roosters running through the house (but still had the latest jams bumping from the dvd player and tv).  I used to wish I was Cuban.  I now appreciate being American a bit more, but still have gained a desire to learn even more about Cuban culture.
Would you return? and why?
YES! I am trying to figure out how and when I can return now.  I need to learn more.  I want to take more dance classes and possibly do my own (or maybe through a university one day) anthropological studies of Cuba.

What and/or who inspires you?
I am inspired by women who can do many things but find the balance between work, friends, and play. I am also inspired by beautiful, soul filled music.

How would you describe your relationship with the sun.
I say that I am solar powered.  I love the sun! It’s color and how it illuminates the world.  Although it is very bright early in the morning, I hate to wear sunglasses it creates a barrier between me and being able to experience the sun and the true colors of the world. The sun gives me energy, and just like it comes everyday, reminds me to rise and go experience the world.

When the sun is not out I always feel completely drained and often a bit sad.

Are you happy?
SO happy!  I am alive and just got back from an amazing, inspiring journey, and feel better after having step throat for 2 weeks, I’m elated. But mostly I am happy because life is good and I choose to be happy.

Kendra is a Dancer, Teaching Artist, and Choreographer
Her email signature reads: Dance, Live, Love, Feel!!

I’ll post a few pics from Le Fooding in the eat or be eaten section later this week.

Until then, Be Happy!

*Lala*

St. John: skinny dipping in the dark of night (interview w/ Erica)

Happy Tuesday to You! My weekend was pretty low key yet productive. I am growing busier by the day – which I love considering I had the longest vacation ever last year. I’ll write later in the week but in the meantime, check out an interview with another great friend and world traveler, Erica. I met Erica at her neighborhood boutique, Addy & Ferro years ago. She is a lovely person who is ambitious, focused, and adventurous! Thanks Erica for sharing your experience in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Where were you born and where do you live now?
I was born in Harlem, NYC and now live in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

Are you under 30 years of age or older?
older

When did you first leave your country and describe that experience?
i was young, maybe 9, so i don’t remember exactly, but it was probably a family road trip to Montreal. I remember getting spending money from my dad and having to exchange it for Canadian money and how different the money looked. I also remember us stopping at the boarder answering travel/nationality questions driving there and back.

Do you have any fears? If so, please describe.
there are things in life that i worry about, but i don’t have any fears that i can think of.

How do you spend most of your days? Working? Studying? Etc?
good question… i’m not on a schedule right now, so each day is different, most days are pretty leisurely

How was the trip funded?
i used points for the airfare, camping was inexpensive ($12.65 a night), i also did a one week work/exchange at the campground and stayed with friends.

Why do you travel? What do you enjoy most about it?
i love exploring new places, taking in natural beauty and seeing how people live life in other parts of the world. i always feel like part of me grows when i travel. i enjoy having new experiences and learning something new outside of my everyday world.

List 3 of your favorite travel destinations and why?
little corn island, Nicaragua, st. john, u.s.v.i., – i love nature, tropical places and the beach

morocco – going to the sahara desert was amazing, the food, markets, people, culture, riads

How many languages do you speak? or do you plan to speak?
i only speak english, would love to learn another language one day

List the your 5 things you bring with you when you travel.
passport, camera, a book, i-pod, sleep mask

What is your least favorite aspect of travel?
probably flying and being around “tourists” versus other travelers

What is your earliest memory of traveling?
road trips driving from harlem to either atlanta, ga to visit family or florida for my mother’s annual tupperware conventions.

Tell me about your last trip in a warm place? Where did you go, how long did you stay and what was the purpose of your trip?
st. john u.s.v.i. to celebrate my 40th birthday with friends, stayed for 12 days in an eco-tent on a campground on the beach, it was beautiful

During this trip, what was your most memorable conversation and with whom?
i had a few good conversations with friends, but had a moment skinny dipping solo in the dark of night when i felt like i was conversing with the universe and getting guidance and love from my ancestors. it was pretty moving.

Would you return? If so, where would you go or see?
definitely! beaches: trunk by, cinnamon bay, peter’s bay

What was your favorite meal and where did you eat it or who prepared it in St John?
my favorite meal was Lobster at Sheila’s Pot a Caribbean food stand in Cruz Bay ($15 and there was enough for three meals), and Scallops at Sweet Plantain’s a Caribbean food restaurant in Coral Bay. The food was delicious!

Do you have any other trips planned for the year?
michigan womyn’s music festival

What or who motivates you to keep living and thriving? What inspires you?
love from family and friends motivates me, i’m inspiried by future possibilities of happiness

Please identify the most important aspects about being alive, in your opinion.
love, family, friends, learning, growing, experiencing, happiness

What is your relationship to the sun? and earth?
i’m fueled by the sun, i love laying in it and taking in its energy, i enjoying being close to the earth by camping and sleeping on the ground or being barefoot.

Are you happy?
i am happy more often than not

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