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*

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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*

married to myself

A few days ago, while on my way to work, I heard a man’s voice say, “Good Morning! Good Morning!”. Turning my head slightly to catch a glimpse of the caller’s face, I managed a faint smile and returned the greeting. Before, the last syllable departed my lips, the man, who was creeping beside me in his silver Acura, hollers, “You married?” Considering that I was wearing a mini-dress, I was positive that this question sprang primarily from his loins. I picked up the pace, then lied and said, “Yes” and smiled really big to display my happiness with being a kept woman. I’m not married but I fibbed because at that moment, I felt much safer saying there was a man in my life — imaginary and all.

I shared this story with a buddy, he listened then promptly changed the subject by asking “Why do some women seem so desperate to find a man?” Then he said, “It’s a real turn-off.”

Please read my response (and theory) below:

If a girl is born into a decent family, she is never left alone. Any responsible caregiver knows this. For example, my younger brother could romp all over the neighborhood; however, I needed to be in close proximity at all times. “Where are you going?” “Who are you going with?” “How are you getting home?” The questions never ceased. The same little girls grow up to be teenagers and now their boyfriends walk them to the door, pick them up for the dance, insist on a phone call upon arrival home, etc. Then the same young teenager becomes a woman and moves away from home. At this time, she is faced with being alone in a vast world full of men who don’t seem to have her best interests at heart. But then she meets a man who reminds her of her father or uncle or first boyfriend and she thinks, “I gotta hold onto this one because when we walk down the street, men don’t bother me and so on …”

Often, men can be sharks and the one thing that seems to keep sharks away are other bigger sharks.

And let’s not forget about all of the films, soap operas, novels, and fairy tales that encourage or support this behavior.

Please do not misunderstand my theory, I am not a proponent of desperation in any form but it makes sense to me. Fortunately for me, I learned at a young age to enjoy my own company and if that wasn’t enough, I could always say, Hello!.

Currently, I am single. And, although I am content in either situation, I would admit that it’s great having a man around — whether for pure companionship, to zip up my dress, take out the trash, or with whom to converse and build.  On the other hand, I am noticing that when I am not in a relationship, I am far more productive hence the past two months’ activities:

September was a heavy “food” month, working on my book project, building a new web site, attending food-related events (Epicurious Entertains New York), and eating at new restaurants.

Plus, I received my Level I Reiki certification. A goal of mine since completing the Hatha Yoga certification course over eight years ago. Reiki is a Japanese energy healing form; this skill is a wonderful addition to my health & wellness toolbox.

October was a huge blur. In addition to working as a full time web producer, I was booked every weekend this month for a photography shoot. Also, a friend shared the news of the Levi’s and Leica Photo Workshop with me. This can be described in two words: super dopeness, and it’s open until December 18th.

And to top it off, last Wednesday I started a branding and marketing course at 3rd Ward.

I can only contribute the abundance of work and love to peace of mind and extreme focus.

Giving thanks for organic food, friendships, and learning. The photos are from yesterday’s excursion to the Big Bambú exhibit on the roof of The Metropolitan Museum of Art or The Met. Artists: Doug & Mark Starn along with several rock climbers. Fantastic! with a capital F 🙂

I feel great and I wish the same for you and your loved ones!

Peace, smiles and happiness,

*Lala*

(have you eaten anything orange today?)

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

i’m flying! i’m flying!

Hey people! It’s summertime! And like my main man, Stevie Wonder, said back in 1980, it’s Hotter than July! and I am loving it!

Bear Mountain Park, July 2010

At least 3 times a month, I have dreams of flying. It is the ultimate sleeping activity. There were times when I awoke in a foggy haze and thought for sure I could fly if I simply concentrated. This past weekend I was given this opportunity, and needless to say, I jumped on it. To celebrate a friend’s 36th birthday, the six of us (old and new friends) ventured to Middletown, New York for a brief camping trip. However, the main purpose of this adventure was to FLY HIGH. Can anyone say, HANG GLIDING?!

Hangar 3, Middletown, NY

Saturday. We spent most of the afternoon in the car jamming to beats and making jokes until we found the camp site reserved by my friend’s wife (she is my friend too but his wife first :). The night before our hang gliding adventure, we set up our tents, danced to the music blaring from the car speaker, shared wine and cheese, played hide n’ seek in the pitch darkness of night, then had a BBQ over a make-shift grill. By 1:30 am we were exhausted. The night was filled with laughter, spontaneity, and pure funtastic-ness.

Dancing in the dark - July 3, 2010

Middletown, NY - July 3, 2010

On various holidays or rare occasions, I often reflect upon where I was last year at that very moment. Last year on the 4th of July, my eyes were flooded with tears and my heart was overwhelmed with sorrow. I was also in a great deal of pain. A long and private story that will only distract from this one so I will move forward. The point is I survived and I am stronger for it.

our fun-loving hosts and friends, Jas and Cisco

our fun-loving hosts and friends, Jas and Cisco - July 4, 2010

Sunday morning. We arrived at the hangar at 9:59 am. I was eager to experience the feeling of being in mid-air supported only by spirit and wind. If you don’t have a license to fly solo, you must be accompanied by a licensed instructor. Our instructor’s name was Thomas, a twenty-year veteran who prefers hang gliding to sky diving and loves the ladies. Once we reached 2900 feet, Thomas, repeatedly said to me, “don’t worry, you’re going to be okay!” Perhaps he was concerned by my calm exterior and lack of speech. He could not see me grinning from ear to ear. My face sported a vibrant glow and smile the entire ride. See for yourself:

I yelled into his right ear, “I’m not afraid! I’m flying! I’m flying!” What an amazing adventure! It lasted all of fifteen minutes but it was the most surreal fifteen minutes of my life.

It feels amazing to be in an all together different space this year compared to last. Life is wonderful and special. Do you know this? I sincerely hope you do!

Live for today and give thanks for every breath that you take. With gratitude, peace and respect.

Have a beautiful and productive week filled with peace and love. (i couldn’t stop taking photos…see more below 🙂

*Lala*

a work in progress

blogging is fairly new to me, i started a blog in an effort to keep in touch with family and friends during the last winter’s stay in Bahia, Brasil.

currently, nine months later, i am blog-happy and have decided to focus my main postings on international travel. the title of this blog, The Adventures of Lala the Sun Chaser, simply speak to my personal quest to be happy and free while basking in the glow of our most powerful energy source, the sun. if you haven’t noticed by now, i am not a fan of the cold — despite the fact that i grew up in pittsburgh, pa. it hurts my skin and bones 😦

as i travel far and wide, i will continue to share my adventures and if i am not air bound, i will share the stories of my friends – old and new – who choose to see the world in all its splendid glory. it is my personal mission to NOT take for granted the enormous sacrifices made by my ancestors who were forbidden to step foot off the plantation for nearly five centuries — plus i love new experiences. if you do not have a passport, start the process today by clicking here. it is most important…Mom.

in the coming weeks, i will add interviews from friends who recently traveled to Ghana, West Africa and Sudan, East Africa. stay tuned…

since i do not have time to blog daily, i have added pages to your right: eat or be eaten, laugh & love, listen & learn, and watch & see.

i update these pages several times a week with food related info, videos that make me laugh, music i enjoy & news stories that intrigue, and suggestions of movies to watch or rent, respectively.

hence, if you check out my blog and think, ‘nothing new here’, click on the links to the right and have a happy day!

MAY ALL YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE !!!

your local Sun Chaser,

Lala