BA Pics, Finally!

BA Pics, Finally!

I finally uploaded my vacation pics!

That took longer than it should have, lol.

I’m so ready to head to MS. This seems like the longest week of the whole year. I woke up this morning like IT’S ONLY WEDNESDAY!?!?! Sheesh! My attention span is nil. I’m having tummy issues. I need some tender loving care! And some long mornings in with some Law and Order marathons. And the ability to jump in the car and see my grandma. (I hope I remember to pack my crocheting supplies!!) And to be able to help my mom some with my granddad. And to see him in case this is my last chance. And to hang out with my dad. And to see my cousins and all the kiddies. And to do all the other stuff I am not able to do in Atlanta. 🙂

Well, it took me a bit of time to actually type that because I keep getting distracted. So I’m not even going to try to tell any stories. Soooooooooooooooooooooooooooo MERRY CHRISTMAS in case I don’t log back on before Sunday. I hope everyone has a blessed holiday!

Last Post on Buenos Aires (For Now)

Last Post on Buenos Aires (For Now)

So I went through the awesome and the great. Earlier this week, I posted on my work blog the ugly. Check it out here. That part was rather crazy. If you want to know more about Argentina and black folk, google Domingo Sarmiento. It’s just so weird to see other people who have noticeable hues have such color issues. Not surprised, but wasn’t really all that prepared. I just wish American black people had a place they could really go and not stand out like a sore thumb. But AT LEAST, we didn’t have to go through what I went through in friggin Strasbourg, France. Now in the words of Kanye–THAT ish was cra’y! So as my mom reminds me often these days, the Buenos Aires trip could have been better in terms of the way some (not all) people treat black folk, but it DEFINITELY could have been worse. So that definitely didn’t overshadow the awesomes and greats.

I feel like I’ve left out a lot about the trip, but I can’t quite come up with what else I have left to say. Maybe it’ll come to me in my dreams (I really do dream about what to write sometimes, lol). And in case you’re wondering, no, I still haven’t found my battery charger (and to be honest, I keep forgetting to look) so the pics are still forthcoming. I’ll get them out before the end of the year, LOL.

In terms of travel, another country conquered and another continent visited! I have three more continents to go (Africa, Asia, and Australia), and of course there are still countries in Europe, S. America, and our very own N. America that I’d like to eventually get to. I think I’ve gotten a good number under my belt by 30 though, right? 🙂 I love to explore and experience new places and observe cultures in person. It’s just so much to glean from stepping outside of your norm and seeing how other people live life and handle issues. And of course seeing how all people are similar on the other side of that coin. I love traveling. ❤

I’ll be back later. I hope everyone is ready for the weekend, baby!!

Adventures and All the beef you can imagine

Adventures and All the beef you can imagine

I’m back! So last time I talked about the awesome. Here’s some of the great.

1. Remember the adventures due to rain I told you about? Well… After a full day of exploration, the gang decided to take the route home that would take us through a historical celebration. That’s actually when we took the best pics of the Pink Palace and the oldest church in Buenos Aires and the like.

Almost as soon as we got off the subway, the music stopped and people started packing up their instruments and stage way early (according to a random, they had just started). Did we take that as a sign? No… LOL. We took more pics, we talked to a guy who was walking one of the sweetest dogs ever, we basically snubbed our noses at the sprinkles. Then the sprinkles turned into slightly larger than tiny drops, so we started walking to the condo. Halfway there, the drops turned into a full out rain storm. We had no umbrellas, no ponchos, or anything. It is funny now. It was slightly funny then, but we were cold and wet. And my feet weren’t covered so I felt icky icky. We took streets where we saw awnings so that we could dash from awning to awning, walking with our backs almost to the wall like we were spying, lol. We took a break in a bakery and got a couple treats. Then back to the mad dash. When we saw there wouldn’t be an awning for awhile, we would take a break under the last one, then ask each other were we ready to run. By the time we got to the condo, we were drenched. And of course, Nervous Nelly (me) got to the door and started shaking so it took me longer than usual to unlock it. We all immediately took showers. Then we watched a DVD. (Well, the DVD watched me and everyone else watched it.) It was a wet adventure that really made for a memory.

2. The next morning, we headed to the zoo. That was one of the activities I was most looking forward to. We hopped on the train, got to the stop, walked over to the entrance, and crickets. All gates locked. No one in sight. Then a family walks up and they were looking like we were. Utterly confused and pretty disappointed. So what’s going on? Our resident Spanish interpreter Kendra read the sign about the hours (maybe we were just early??), and nope, sure enough, it should be open that day of the week at that time. So she kept reading and learned that the zoo has a right to close the day of based on weather condition. That damn rain storm last night!!! It was bright and sunny that day, but they had decided not to take the chance, I guess. Sigh… It was ok because we used that time to venture out to another part of town we hadn’t yet been to (with a superb mall where we got some super shopping done) and maybe wouldn’t have otherwise. And I still got to go to the zoo later that week on Thanksgiving. 🙂

3. The outdoor markets are just great. I loved being outside and seeing people peddle their (very lovely) wares. We got to go to two different markets on Sunday, both with their own personalities and both with plenty of characters. People like to bargain. And people like to pretend they’re bargaining, lol. Paula went back and forth with a guy flirting with Kendra about a pair of earrings and how much he’d take from her since she was out of pesos. I think she ended up getting her way with the rest of the pesos she had and like 5 American dollars. That scene could have been in a sitcom.

the hippie hustler

4. Leaving the markets, Paula spotted an ice cream stand. So we headed there, and I sat at a nearby table while everyone looked at the sign trying to figure out what the many flavors could be. Then I spied that this was not your average ice cream stand. There was also a restaurant inside and there was a couple eating at the next table, and I SPY chicken fingers!!!!!!!!!!!!! By Sunday, I was so tired of beef (gasp!) I didn’t know what to do. I am a beef eater, and I like an occasional steak. BUT GEEZ LOUISE. I had to have those chicken fingers. I don’t think anyone had even planned on eating for another couple of hours, but they were sports. Since we were there and since I was ordering anyway, we went ahead and ate. My ma and I ended up splitting a three course meal for 60 pesos (the chicken fingers by themselves would have been 30 so why not??). Sirobe got her normal cheese dish. Paula got that too. And Kendra got chicken fingers by themselves (hers looked different from mine–still not completely sure why). But they were a #win. I don’t really even remember the rest of the meal. I savored those chicken fingers.

5. Paula and American Airlines had a bad relationship throughout this trip so she had to leave early. 😦 BUT we couldn’t let her leave without seeing some tango! So we headed over to the La Boca area (which has a very rich history!) and had lunch. There’s a strip of restaurants there where they have tango in front of each to lure people to come in and eat. I think we picked the best one. We got tango, we got flamenco, we got this guy who had these balls on strings and kept backing up until I thought he was going to hit me with them, then he turned around and grinned. Jokester! That was a good lunch too. I think we all enjoyed our choices. (I didn’t have to eat beef there either, LOL!)

La Boca
Flamenco!

Ok, I have to run. I’ll be back to sprinkle in some pics. And I haven’t forgotten about the pics for the last post–I haven’t yet found my battery charger so I can’t upload my pics yet!!

Bringing in 30 Fabulously

Bringing in 30 Fabulously

Last week, I traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina for my 30th birthday vacation. It was great to leave rainy gloomy cool Atlanta to see sunshine (and a little bit of rain which led to two adventures…). And it was great to unleash the explorer in me for a week. And by explorer, I really mean explorer. I went to this Spanish-speaking country without knowing a lick of Spanish (I always studied French). Well, let’s not say a lick. I knew the numbers 1-5 because of Sesame Street and I knew gracias means thank you. Oh, and I knew how to say I don’t speak Spanish. Good start, right? By Thanksgiving, I had a few things under my belt, including numbers up to 12, please, and how to communicate with the taxi drivers. I actually kinda want to learn a lil Spanish now.

So I think I’m going to do 2-3 posts since we did a lot in those 7 days.

Let’s start with the absolutely awesome.

1. It was soooooooooooooooooooooo great to have my mom around for an extended period of time. Since we don’t live in the same place I don’t get to see her as much as I’d like to, and sometimes you just need your mom around, yanno? Plus, it was cool to have her with me on a non-Thanksgiving focused birthday (lol), so why not let it be the big 3-0.?? It was cool to be able to tell her thanks for doing all the work 30 years before since she usually is the one that reminds me of that fact.

2. I am super uber mucho grateful for friends that enjoy traveling to new places for celebrations! My birthday was so special with those gals in the mix. So many laughs and experiences to share.

3. Our condo was the bomb.com. It was spacious, it was cozy, and it was in a pretty cool part of town (San Telmo). We had a rooftop patio, we had an ice cream shop right on the corner, and when we were coming back from a long, hard day of shopping in Palermo Soho’s weekend market, we walked right into a huge outdoor market right in our neighborhood! It was very cool.

And one of the best things about the condo was the house manager Ruben. He has to be the best, most versatile, nicest “den mother” you can have, especially in a foreign country. Ruben took great care of us. He a cell phone waiting on us with his phone number in it that we could take with us in case we had issues while we were out (of course the week was half gone before we started remembering to take it). And I arranged almost all of our “official” activities through him, and they were all great and a couple even had surprises built in.

4. As a show of my appreciation, one of the things I arranged for my traveling companions was a surprise traditional Argentinian asado (barbecue!) to take advantage of the pizza grill (that’s what we called it–I don’t know what the actual name of it is) in the condo. Ruben came over and prepared a 4-course meal (pics coming soon) for us. First, there was a cheese dish that you scooped out with a fork. Then we had pork sausage. Then we had steak and salad. Then Ruben surprised me with a cake! 🙂

5. My birthday dinner was grand. We went to the Piazzola Tango for tango lessons and a dinner and show. The tango lessons were very fun to me. Our whole group participated during the teaching but I was the only one who participated during the practice, lol. Partially because if you didn’t have a partner already, you had to wait for the male instructor to come around and scoop you up. But I’m always ready for the challenge. And my little swingee dress was perfect for practicing! (More pictures coming soon–so please come back and check!) The dinner was cool. The wine was free flowing, and we actually had as much water as we wanted (first time the whole week we could get water and soda refills!! lol!)! More empanadas (my mom became an empanada aficionado during the week, but I don’t have to ever eat another one) for the appetizer–the other choices were ceasar salad which I wanted until I saw “fowl bits” in the description :-/ and pumpkin soup, which I just wasn’t willing to try on my bday (What?? I was being adventurous all week!). Then we had steak (what else????) and potatoes for the entree. Half of us got the flan for dessert (which was ok but kinda not great) and the other half got some dish that had a scoop of ice cream and some kind of hard cake (they ate the ice cream). But the tango show… the tango show was amazing. It was much longer and way more involved than what I expected, which was just a couple doing some moves for a few minutes. This was a full performance! The orchestra was wonderful (y’all know I love live music and string instruments and I finally got to see accordions in person!). The dancing was amazing and the singing was cool (the singers were very very dramatic–probably more dramatic than the dancers, lol). Then after the show, our waitress brought our table champagne and a REAL dessert. It was a chocolate cake with this really delicious creamy icing. We devoured that thing (and yes, I have before and after pics). Ruben was the bomb for that surprise because before I was a smidge disappointed with my dessert. But the finale was right on point.

Ok, so I’ll be back with added pics and another post with more great moments of the trip! Hope everything had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Where History Meets the Future

Where History Meets the Future

Last weekend, I traveled to my hometown of Jackson, MS to celebrate Mother’s Day with my mom and to Tougaloo College to perform my annual national alumni board duties as the Atlanta alumni chapter president, Southeastern Regional Representative, and Assistant Secretary of the Board (and yes, I had to take minutes for a three-hour meeting, lol).

Every time I go back to campus, I’m reacquainted with my memories of “coming of age” at Tougaloo. A pretty precocious 16-year-old, I was pretty sure I was making the correct decision by bypassing my senior year to enter college and start pursuing further education in my passion–mathematics–as well as an education in life and an advanced education in black history. Growing up, I was exposed to lots of heritage because my parents were very determined to ensure that I knew about where we’ve come from and what I would endure to get to my future. Attending HBCUs, for summer academic programs and for college, solidified all of that–by showing me that there were lots–i.e. a campus full–of young black scholars with different backgrounds and goals that were still very much like me. This was important to a kid who grew up one of a handful of black kids in the gifted program, the accelerated classes, the AP classes, the academic organizations at a majority white school. I kept wondering–is it really diversity if I’M the diversity? It meant volumes to me to see that I was not an anomaly. In addition, as a math student, it was important that I had professors who made a conscious choice to teach at my institution–not because they had to, but because they cherished the meaning of it–and who made a concerted effort to push students to the cliff and made us jump into our unknown greatness. First, Dr. Raffoul, who was the dean of the math department when I got to Tougaloo, sat down with me in his office and told me that although I hadn’t taken AP Calculus (since I hadn’t been a high school senior), he was confident that I could take Calculus I with a bunch of upperclassmen and excel. It was tough at first, but with help from mentors and my professor, I aced it, setting the stage for several more semesters of pure math training. Fast forward to my sophomore year midway through Differential Equations when Dr. Fahmy, whose opinion I cherish until this day, challenged me because I had been slacking off. We had a conversation that I’ve never forgotten because it shook me to the core. He told me that when I came into his class as a freshman, I was something special–I was going places. But lately, I had been merely mediocre. And if I wanted to settle for mediocrity, that was fine, but surely he wouldn’t be spending so much time supporting me and helping me to find opportunities to shine and prepare for my future. I didn’t cry in front of Dr. Fahmy, but as soon as I passed through his doorway, I bawled from Kincheloe Hall to my room in Berkshire Hall, and I got my stuff together immediately. I got my first B the semester before, but that was the only B he gave me for the rest of my college career–and do believe that I worked for those As.

Congressman Bennie Thompson '68 and Ranada Robinson '02

The other thing that made Tougaloo so special is our tie to black history. Tougaloo was vital to the civil rights movement, and it was nothing extraordinary to have a conversation with someone who was right there in it. As an example, just last weekend, I got history lessons while touring the new Bennie G. Thompson Academic and Civil Rights Center. First, while giving an address at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Congressman Thompson, class of ’68, told us about his time at Tougaloo and how he met while on campus not only his wife, but Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Stokely Carmichael.

Joan Trumpauer and Anne Moody

Then, while looking at the beautiful photos that adorn the hallways of the building, Dr. Doris Browne, class of ’64 and the VP of the Tougaloo College Board of Trustees (and my Gamma Omicron soror), told me about her time at Tougaloo–she graduated at 18–and her academic decisions after she left! She was friends with the Tougaloo Nine, and she told one of my classmates and me the story of what they did and why. She then pointed out Joan Trumpauer, the first white member of Delta Sigma Theta, who she still knows today (and they both live in the DC area), and Anne Moody. Now, my eyes got big when she said Anne Moody because I read her book Coming of Age in Mississippi when I was in junior high, and she’s always been a historical figure in my head–but not a real person. It really means so much to me that those kinds of conversations are commonplace if you’re interested.

Finally, the connections are invaluable. I meet someone new every time I visit the yard, and more often than not, seasoned alumni are happy to give encouragement and advice to students and younger alums. After the TCNAA meeting on Saturday morning, I met Eddie Irions, class of ’60, who is the Memphis chapter president. He told me how he’s revived the Memphis chapter and gave me suggestions on how to meet my goals with the Atlanta chapter. He gave me this quote, that I’ve been chewing on ever since:

Inch by inch, it’s a cinch… By the yard, it’s hard.

Simple, but so resounding because I’m the queen of wanting to get it done NOW. But I’m learning that some things just take time and small steps, and I’m happy that a fellow math graduate took the time to have a 30 minute impromptu conversation with me because he wants to see us succeed.

This is the testimony of an HBCU graduate. Despite the advice of my high school counselors to stay my senior year and see who else offers me money (simple answer–any school to which I would have applied) and the advice of people who thought a 16-year old on campus was a bad idea, I absolutely made the right decision. The time and dedication and effort put into students at HBCUs and maintaining ties to our values while forging ahead with 21st century initiatives (omg, Tougaloo has so much in the works!!) are truly noteworthy. No, HBCUs aren’t perfect, but what institution is? It’s important to keep in mind that it’s not just a place to fill our brains with more information (although Tougaloo, for one, does a very spectacular job doing so, ;))–but it’s also a place to fill our hearts and spirits with motivation, self-confidence, a strong identity, and meaningful connections.

Now, it’s just up to us to support our institutions–it’s up to us to make sure that they maintain viability and that we encourage continued relevance. Alumni giving and community support are imperative to ensuring that our institutions are able to train our children for the world–building and expanding networks, encouraging entrepreneurship, finding more and more avenues for research and innovation, but most of all, providing them with the foundational skills and knowledge that are necessary for critical thought and good decision-making. They’re our schools and our future. As President Bevery Wade Hogan said this weekend:

If the people who know you best don’t invest, why would anyone else?

Let’s make it happen.

Last Feature Friday of 2010: Pen Pals

Last Feature Friday of 2010: Pen Pals

I’ve been away, if you hadn’t noticed. 🙂  But never fear, I’m back and a little rested.  You wouldn’t believe how busy busy busy I’ve been.  Well, maybe you would.

Anywho, I type to you today from Wilmington, Delaware.  I’m here for my pen pal’s wedding.  🙂

I’ve had a few pen pals in my life–one from elementary when we did that pen pal exchange program and one I gained from keeping in touch with a classmate who moved away.  Then, I had one (Lakeitha) with whom I became very close with at a summer program at Alcorn, and we wrote to keep in touch through college. (We still keep in touch, but not quite as much as we had.)  Since 2005, I’ve been writing my soror Erika.  We’ve never met in person, although we almost did in 2008.  We met on the national AKA listserv during a discussion about pen pals, were alike in many ways, and decided to cease all other forms of communications and become pen pals.

It might sound weird to some, but we’ve chronicled our lives over the last 5 years and have really become connected.  Hey, I even have the letter when she wrote about meeting her groom. 🙂  (If I had have been thinking and not packing at the last minute, I would have brought it with me.  But alas…) I’m so happy to be a part of her special day, after having traded dating war stories with her over the years.  Erika is soooooooo sweet–just as sweet in person as she is on paper.

I’ve never been to Delaware (or to Philly), so this is really a trip of adventure.  Yesterday, we did the wedding rehearsal (I’m doing a biblical reading), and then had some yummo grub at a Jamaican restaurant in downtown Wilmington for the rehearsal dinner.  It’s been great meeting everyone she’s written about in her letters. 🙂  Today, we’re running some last minute wedding errands, and I get to see more of Wilmington (and eat at Erika’s fave restaurant Borders Cafe).

If you’ve never had a pen pal, consider getting one.  There’s just something special about getting regular old-fashioned letters and being able to really say how you feel without worry of being interrupted and knowing that you’ll get a well-thought out response–along with sharing.  Sometimes, in friendships, one person becomes the unloader and the other becomes the listener, creating an imbalance that’s hard to reverse.  But with the pen pal, it’s so easy to just pick up a piece of stationary paper (or regular ole lined paper) and write away about whatever is going on with you (positive, negative, no consequence–just whatever is on your mind).  And you can pretty much count on your pal to do the same.

Tomorrow, my pen pal gets married. 🙂  I feel blessed to bring in the new year in a new place with a new yet not new dear friend.  I’ll be on when I can to do some other 2010 and Kwanzaa reflections, but until then, happy new year!  Many blessings!