All posts by Nanyamka Farrelly

I am a journalist and a communications, marketing and public relations professional. I've discovered that my passions are telling people's stories and motivating people to find their purpose and live their best life!

I Enjoyed Taking People’s Things; and Having Mine Taken

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I really hate wearing clothes. So I wear as little as possible, until I really need to – like when I must leave the house. The other night while looking for something comfortable to make a store-run, I came across a black yoga pants I took from my cousin Shoija. Returning from Europe this summer I had a layover in Atlanta and stayed with her. Rather than unpack all of my stuff looking for something to wear, most of which needed to wash, I asked her loan me something comfortable for the night. (FYI, I had lots of clean underwear. I usually overpack those.) She brought me a whole stack of clothes. I chose a yoga pants and t-shirt. Remember now, I hate clothes. And I hate long pants. But after a transatlantic flight wearing jeans, that yoga pants felt good! So good that I told Shoija I’m keeping it. She gave me a look as if to say, “aren’t you going to ask first.” But I didn’t.
So I chuckled to myself the other night, at the memory. Not so long ago, when we were children, we took each other’s stuff all the time. I remember cousins taking my clothes, shoes, hair accessories…. I took things from them too. And it was never a problem. Actually, if I had something that one of my family members liked more than I did, I would usually give it to them before they had a chance to take it. And vice versa. That was the norm for us cousins who were around the same age. Some things were off limits though, like gifts and expensive jewelry. Heaven forbid I took something that one of my cousins’ boyfriends gave them.
We saw this among our parents. My mother and her sisters always took each other’s stuff – and it was never a problem. The adults also always gave us something to take whenever we visited – be it food, groceries, a new bra, a head-tie, money. My Aunt Keturah once gave me an engagement ring that she had found! Once we left with their homes with something, they felt good.
One time in high school I tried to explain to a good friend why I didn’t have a particular accessory. A cousin had “gone with it,” I told her. She couldn’t understand how someone could “go with” something that was mine without asking, even after I explained that my family did that all the time.
I think that it was outside influences over a period of time that caused things to change. As we became older, we became more possessive. We started saying things to each other like, “if you want something, next time ask.” Soon it seemed like we started valuing things more than each other. Like we preferred to have something safely tucked away in our closets, never to be used, while someone else needed it. We allowed the ways of the world to be the ways of our lives.
Things are just that – things. The only value they have, is the value we give them. The Bible says “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6, 21) Where is your treasure? Is it among the earthly things that we know will soon rot or fade away? Are we so caught up in what society tells us is valuable, that we prefer to store them up rather than put them to good use or give them to someone who can put them to good use?
That night in Atlanta with Shoija reminded me of how we were as children, when things mattered less and people mattered more. Matter of fact, she stared offering me more clothes to take – all the while trying to convince me to change my morning flight so that I could spend an extra day with her and the family.
I’ll probably hardly ever wear that yoga pants. But the memory of how I took it from my cousin, like we did when we were children, will always bring g a smile to my face.

Are You Suffering from “Harden’ness”?

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As a child growing upon the Virgin Islands when we wouldn’t listen to and obey adults, we were accused of being “harden.'” The word was used often to describe defiant, disobedient children who would not take instructions from adults, no matter what. It was synonymous with unruly children. I think that all of my peers were told by an adult “yo too harden,'” at some point in our childhoods. Surely if adults called you “harden'” it was not a good thing. It wasn’t until, I got older that I really understood the word – which is actually hardened, with a “d” at the end (that we in the VI never pronounced). The real word – hardened – is an adjective that can be used to describe anyone, not only a child, who is so set in their ways that nothing can change them. While it’s not usual to hear the term used towards adults, it very well can be. As adults sometimes we make up our minds – and because we have declared a stance on a particular subject, or because we have always been doing things in a certain way – nothing can change us; we become hardened. It’s ok to change. It’s ok to change your opinion. It’s ok to change your lifestyle. It’s ok to change your plans. It’s ok to change your feelings. It’s ok. None of us should become so hardened that we are unwilling to change. But even worse, none of us should become so hardened that we do not listen to God. Lots of times the Most High shows us that we should do things differently. That we should behave differently. That we should think differently. That we should live differently. But we don’t; and we remain hardened. In reality we are no different from an unruly child who refuses counsel from someone wiser. The thing about hardenedness is that deep down we know that we should change. Sometimes everything and everyone in our lives show us that we should change. We know that we are being defiant for no reason, or that we are being defiant against good reason. Listen to your inside voice. Listen to God. Suffering from “harden’ness” is a choice. Let’s choose not to suffer.

9 Signs “He Ain’t the One for You”

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Love, trust and respect are foundational elements for good relationships. When a foundation is built sometimes everything else falls into place – but sometimes that just doesn’t happen. Here are some of the signs that I’ve observed that indicate that your boyfriend isn’t the one for you. Life is short. Don’t settle for mediocre when you deserve awesome. Before I begin, let me say that if he’s abusive to you – he ain’t the one for you. Abuse comes in many forms. The most common are physical, verbal, emotional, sexual and financial abuse. Queen, an abusive relationship cannot honor and serve you. An abuser must first acknowledge his actions and seek help from a professional and a higher power. No amount of love from you can change an abuser. Change can only come from the abuser himself.

1) He cheats (and cheats again, and again)
Unless you are in a polygamous relationship or have made exceptions to include other people in your relationship, you expect that your significant other will be faithful. Some men report challenges in remaining monogamous in a long term relationships and sometimes they cheat. It’s your call if you want to forgive and remain in a relationship with a man who has cheated on you. Cheating hurts. I know this because, well, I’ve been cheated on before. If your man can put you through the pain of cheating on you – then do it over and over again – it signifies that he doesn’t mind seeing you hurt. Nobody who loves and values you would want to see you hurt. So honey, if he cheats on you, he ain’t the one for you.

2) You two are not sexually compatible
Some folks may downplay the importance of sex in a relationship. They’ll tell you to find someone whose company you can enjoy even after you’ve grown too old for sex. And they are right to some extent. A good relationship cannot be based on sex alone. But while you’re young and healthy sex will be a major part of your relationship.Compatibility goes beyond the frequency of the act itself, to include each partner’s likes and dislikes, and expectations. No matter how good of a person he is if you are not sexually compatible, it will lead to sexual frustration. At that point there’s an opportunity for therapy or other professional help. However, if you’re always sexually frustrated, he ain’t the one for you.

3) You can’t be yourself around him
You may have found the perfect man, with the perfect job, and the perfect house. He may have a perfect body, perfect smile and perfect values. Even though he may be perfect, you should be comfortable being you; or else you are deceiving him and living a lie. If you can’t wear t-shirts and jeans when you two go out because he prefers you in heels and a mini skirt; or if you have to hold back your boisterous snort-like laugh when you catch a joke because he hates it … You catch my drift. Sooner or later if you change the core of who you are to please a man you will have regrets when you realize that even you, can’t recognize who you are anymore. If you can’t be yourself around him, he ain’t the one for you.

4) You have opposing values
In a relationship, all values will not match up perfectly. If your core values differ drastically, no matter how much you compromise, your relationship will have problems. It’s important to find a mate with similar values. If you value hard, honest work and your boo is always looking for a get-rich-scheme, this may be a challenge later on. This is especially important if you want to start a family, because when children are involved the stakes are higher. If you hate liars and your fiancé is a compulsive liar, if your have children it’s likely that you’ll be upset that little Jr. is becoming a compulsive liar too. If you and your partner’s values are opposite, he ain’t the one for you.

5) He doesn’t support your goals and dreams
Your true soulmate will be your biggest cheerleader. If you decide you want to be an astronaut, he’ll move with you to Houston to attend Johnson’s Space Center. In life you should feel like there are no limits to what you can accomplish – because really, there are no limits. Your man should not impose limits on your dreams. He should be the one encouraging you, even if everyone else has given up on you. So if you find yourself with someone who regularly reminds you of what you cant’t do or who tries to otherwise discourage or divert your goals and dreams, he ain’t the one for you.

6) His total happiness depends on you
We all want to feel love and wanted. We want to know that our presence makes a difference in someone’s life – and that’s great. The fact is that we are not responsible for another human being’s emotions. If your boyfriend cannot have a happy moment unless you provide it, or if you get blamed for his various emotional states, he may have deeper issues that you cannot fix. If all of his moods are based on something that you did or didn’t do, my love, he ain’t the one for you.

7) He doesn’t think that you’re totally awesome
No one is perfect. You know that. And your boyfriend knows that too. But that shouldn’t stop him from from feeling that you are the most awesome person on earth. If you’re with someone who thinks that you’re ok, that’s ok. But your life partner will think that you are awesome – and he’ll want to tell everyone too. There is someone out there who will accept you as you are, flaws and all, and think that you’re awesome too. If you’re with someone who doesn’t, he ain’t the one for you.

8) He doesn’t like your mother
I got this one from my late Aunt Keturah. She always used to say: if a man doesn’t like your mother, he can’t love you. I’ve found this to be mostly true. Sure there are some mothers who have been intentionally or unintentionally damaging to their children. In these cases, your husband may not like your mom. And let’s face it, some people are just unlikeable. But if you get along fine with your mom and your significant other can’t stand her, he ain’t the one for you.

9) No one in your inner circle can stand him
Now we don’t get into relationships for our parents, siblings, other family or friends. We look for someone that provides the type of relationship that we want. Sometimes our close family and friends may not like our significant other. And that’s ok. But when all the people who love and care for you cannot stand your boyfriend, that’s usually a sign that he’s a jerk. If a man manages to turn-off all your friends, your parents, and your family on both your mother and father side of the family tree, they can probably see something you can’t. Do some reevaluation: he ain’t the one for you.

Chronicles of an Island Girl’s First European Adventure: Conclusion

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Getting Back Home
I was restless on my transatlantic flight back to the US. I had missed my family and was nervous about my cousin’s health. I also felt bad about leaving the trip early, even though it was only one day early. Everyone was sleeping when I left and only my boyfriend had known of my last-minute decision to leave. On the airplane the remote control for my inflight entertainment was broken. I couldn’t scroll through and the only thing I could watch was a children’s channel or Life of Pi. I had spent an enormous amount of time trying to fix the control. I had even had a flight attendant reset my screen. Unable to settle my mind, I decided to watch Life of Pi. It was one of the best movies I have ever seen! Everything happens for a reason. There was a reason that was the only movie I could see. The most important theme I got from the movie is that no matter what we may face in life, once we have the insatiable desire to overcome, we will. Praise God. In that moment, I knew that my cousin would be fine – that she would fight for her healing.

Landing back on US soil felt so good. That was an unexpected emotion for me. Back in Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport around noon I was disappointed to find only two US Customs agents to receive US passport holders. Now this is the type of service that, unfortunately, I have come to expect in the Virgin Islands. But I was quite surprised to meet a long line of international travelers returning home and having to wait so long to go through customs because so few agents were available. Nevertheless it felt good to be in familiar territory.

When my cousin finally picked me up, she had some good news. Our cousin was recovering rapidly! I had a layover in Atlanta and cherished the opportunity to spend time with family. It just so happened that my uncle and his family from Chicago and other family from Bermuda were visiting Atlanta. It was a mini reunion of sorts. I was tired bad! But the night in Atlanta was filled with family and fun. I left out for St. Thomas the next day.

I hadn’t even arranged for someone to pick me up from the airport. But hey, I was home. I should be able to find a ride one way or another. I was glad when my dependable cousin was able to pick me up. I can’t explain how good it felt to see my children and mom, even though I had been gone for only eight days. My oldest had baked a welcome home cake for me! Home sweet home!

Conclusion
Travel, travel and travel some more! I like seeing and experiencing new places and cultures. Still, my fear of long flights and limited financial resources made traveling a challenge for me. But like anything else, we can come up with a million excuses of why we “can’t,” or we can simply do it. Now international travel won’t happen instantaneously for most people. It will take planning and saving. But it’s worth it. On my travels through Europe I saw older couples – some looked to be in their 80’s, younger couples – some toting babies in their arms, entire families – with three generations traveling. There were travelers who were wheelchair bound. There is no excuse not to travel and expand your world view. Even though I live on an island, I promised to never limit myself to an island. So get those passports. Renew them if you must, but make it a point to see and experience something new.

Accommodations
Having heard of hotels in France with no air conditioning, no irons or other amenities that we are accustomed to, I was a bit concerned about what to expect. We stayed at Marriott properties throughout our visit and each had met or exceeded our expectations. The Marriott London Arch was the best. Service was great – the concierge spent almost an hour helping us to get the best cab deal on our 4 am departure from London.

Food
There were bakeries everywhere in Europe! I love sweets, and tried out quite a few desserts, but surprised myself with the restraint I used to not eat all desserts in sight. I didn’t notice too many obese people, perhaps because portion sizes in Europe were smaller than those in the US. And in Amsterdam just about everyone rode bikes. I wasn’t totally impressed with the food. Like anywhere else, there were good restaurants, and there were not-too-good restaurants. My best foods were a ravioli dish and the Josephine Baker drink in France, and the waffle and ice cream dessert in Amsterdam. I’m pretty easy to please and like learning about new cultures, so I had an easier time with food than some in the group.

Random
• The Charles de Gaulle Airport in France had, by far, the most sophisticated public bathroom that I’ve ever seen.
• We traveled within Europe on Easy Jet. It was easy and economical.
• Plan for the money conversion. The Euro and Great Britain Pound are stronger than the US Dollar. Do the math early for good budgeting.
• Check the weather of your destination before you arrive. And be sure to pack more than a denim jacket – even though it’s summer!

Now go get those passports and book some travel!
This island girl’s firs European adventure was awesome! Love and blessings!

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Chronicles of an Island Girl’s First European Adventure: Amsterdam

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The “Red Light District” is Real

If I thought London was cold, I was in for a surprise – Amsterdam was colder! When we finally made our way out of Schiphol Airport I wanted so badly to get into a vehicle to escape the cold. My denim jacket wasn’t helping me at all. But the group proceeded to spend the next 20 or so minutes in front of the IAMSTERDAM sign. Then we missed our first bus to the hotel. We decided to take public transportation because the bus took us right in front of the Amsterdam Marriott where we were staying. We were lucky this time to be joined by my boyfriend’s sister who lives in Amsterdam. In addition to being such a warm and fun person, she also spoke the native language.

After checking-in and dropping off our luggage, we decided to head out for something to eat. For me the temperature was so cold that I considered staying in. To make matters worse it started to rain just as we left the hotel. We went to a nearby Hard Rock Cafe for lunch. The wait for a table was long and the food was expensive. But the food was good and we got so comfortable that we didn’t want to leave. Our 3:45 am wakeup call earlier that day probably also had something to do with our sluggish mood.

We finally left to explore the area. A member of our group had been patiently waiting for this leg of our trip to experience the “cafes.” From since we were in Paris he had been waiting for his “medicine.” As we walked around I was startled by the electric trams which seemed to appear out of nowhere and drove through what I thought were pedestrian walkways. We walked in and out of stores in the drizzle. The day was wet, cold and dreary. Four of us headed back to the hotel, while two set out to find the cafes.

I crashed when I hit the bed. After about two hours I woke up and called around to see what the group was doing. They were asleep. Grateful, I went back to sleep again. We woke up a few hours later and headed out. It was night by then. And I wanted to see the Red Light District.

The hotel’s surrounding area had blocks and blocks of stores, which were all closed. The city looked like it was asleep. The further away from the hotel we walked, the more the nightlife came alive. There were lots of bakeries and other eateries, which I had grown accustomed to seeing in Europe. Out of the blue our friend who had gotten his “medicine” earlier walked into this eatery. This move was new to us because he was not a fan of sweets like the rest of us were. He ordered a waffle with ice cream and began raving about how good it was. He offered everyone some and they all decided it was great. It was already cold, and the thought of ice cream made me feel even colder, so I passed. But when he went back and purchased a second one, I decided to try it. It was the best dessert I tasted in the whole of Europe! And I had been eating a whole lot of dessert since I landed in France. The waffle was nice and warm – slightly crunchy on the outside, nice and soft on the inside – lightly sprinkled with powdered sugar. The ice cream had a smooth caramel, butter pecan, vanilla flavor. It also had a few candied nuts. It was awesome! It was one of those things that you just want to eat slowly, to savor each bite. And I’m not a foodie. But that dessert did it for me. I could have gone back to the hotel and called it a night.

I guess I wanted to see the Red Light District, because in my mind it couldn’t be real – legal prostitution where women are displayed in window fronts selling their bodies! From afar we saw the red lights. We got closer, and I was still in disbelief. The women on display looked like Victoria Secrets’ models. They were slim, beautiful, fully made up and wearing some of the sexiest lingerie. The fact that they were selling their bodies still didn’t seem real to me. The guys in my group asked their price. It was €50.

Then we walked by a set of stairs and saw a man leaving a room zipping up his pants. Wow! It is real. How did these model-type ladies make it seem so easy? Was it easy to have a career as a sex worker? Continuing to walk around we saw more red lights on than off. I guessed that it was a slow night. But for each window where the lights were off and the curtain was drawn, I got this weird feeling.

Beside the sex for sale, the nearby area offered strip joints, live sex shows and the cafes. The night was beautiful. But watching groups of young men stroll the area deciding their pick of women had me thinking conflicting thoughts. First – this is true freedom, when a woman can choose the career that she wants. Second – this is truly sad when a woman must sell something so precious to make a living.

The further away we walked from the main area the women in the windows changed. They were no longer Victoria Secrets’ models look alikes. They looked like the girl next door – panties and bras, cheap wigs and in some cases cellulite. We decided to head back to the hotel. The walk back was especially cold.

At the hotel I used my Magic Jack app to call home. My mom sound worried. One of her nieces had suffered a stroke a few days earlier. While the whole family was praying for her and her recovery seemed miraculous, my mom wasn’t dealing with the situation too well. Mom herself had undergone surgery two weeks ago. I decided to fly back home the next day.

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Chronicles of an Island Girl’s First European Adventure: London Part 2

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Bolt, the Queen and the Marble Arch

Usain Bolt seems to be a really popular guy in London. As we made our way around the city he was featured in quite a few advertisements. Go Bolt! Equipped with our complimentary hotel umbrellas we headed to the famous London Bridge. Apparently the London Tower and the Tower Bridge have replaced the London Bridge in prestige. All this time we had been singing about the London Bridge falling down, I had expected the London Bridge to be a bright, shiny part of the city’s history. Instead the Tower Bridge was the main attraction. We visited both, just for the fun of it.

Our next stop was Borough Market – an open air market that sells everything from fresh Parmesan cheese, to candied nuts. There I had the best honey, cinnamon roasted cashews. The vendor sold trays and trays of candied this, or yogurt covered that – and he allowed me to sample all that I wanted. I had to consciously make myself walk away from the table. We were told that we had seen only a fraction of what the market had to offer, because it came alive on the weekends, not on the Tuesday that we were there.

Catching the “tube” (metro/train) we made a second attempt at the Buckingham Palace. We had a nice stroll through Green Park on the way to the palace. I don’t know what an average day is like at the palace, but to me, the place was packed. Does the Queen really live there? We hung around taking pictures at the palace and the Victoria Memorial.

On the way back to the hotel I was delighted to find a roadside fruit vendor. Back at the hotel we dropped off our day’s purchases, then headed back out to wander around the Marble Arch area.

The group settled on Middle Eastern cuisine for dinner. My boyfriend, whose culinary taste had been hard to please, wanted something more familiar (hint, American franchise food) so we continued along.

It was a nice stroll in downtown Westminster. As we reached the end of one street – we saw it – the Marble Arch. What is it with the Europeans’ fascination with arches? My companion decided to eat at a McDonalds. While he was ordering I noticed veggie burger on the menu. It was part of the deli menu. Veggie burgers at a McDonalds? I had to inquire more. I didn’t feel like eating a sandwich. But I was encouraged to try it to see if I liked it. And I liked it. It was lettuce, cucumber and mayo on a wheat bun, with a chickpea burger. The burger tasted like falafel, which I had earlier at a Middle Eastern restaurant. The mango smoothie was pretty good also. That was my first time eating lunch at a McDonalds since I stopped eating fish at age 19 (I stopped eating meat at 15). I really enjoyed the stroll, as there was no pressure to make it to any particular destination.

Heading back to catch up, with our friends, we encountered a long line in Restaurant. We joined the group, who had finished their meal. All of us were in high spirits and decided to do a group toast. As we sat there sipping on champagne, we were getting mean looks from the people who were waiting in line. This was strange, as everyone we encountered in London was really nice. I asked the server if the restaurant was always so popular on a Tuesday night. He explained that it was Ramadan and the fasting ended at sunset so every evening was packed. We soon ended our celebration and headed back to the hotel.

At the hotel we made arrangements for transportation to the airport. We were leaving out from London Southend Airport, which was more than an hour from the hotel. We had an early flight to Amsterdam.

Stay tuned for more on my European adventure.

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Chronicles of an Island Girl’s First European Adventure: London Part I

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The Eye and the Rain

I never cared to visit London until the 2012 Olympics. Of course after the country was put it in an international spotlight, I wasn’t the only one interested in going. (Now I can’t wait to go to Brazil! But Brazil has always been on my travel wish list.) My first impression after landing in London was “why is it so cold.” We traveled from France to London via Easy Jet to London Luton Airport. It felt like 60 degrees when we got off the plane. London Luton is like the airports in the Virgin Islands. We walked off the plane, down the stairs, unto apron, then into the airport. When the cold morning air hit my face, for a second I wondered if it was summer in this part of the world. Then I remembered that France was a hot 90 something degrees. Putting the chill aside, it felt good being in an English-speaking country. We were able to negotiate our cab fares! (The little things we usually take for granted.) After reaching to the hotel we set out to find something to eat.

On our first stroll through the Marble Arch area in Westminster, England we were startled by the loud horn blowing on a delivery truck as we crossed the road. The group hurried across the street but the horn blowing continued. We looked back to see a Dominica flag in the truck, driven by two men – one wearing a visible Gucci chain. For those who may not know, a gold puffed Gucci chain is a trademark piece of Caribbean people, specifically Virgin Islanders. It’s a surefire way to identify a Caribbean person; it’s right up there with the hibiscus earrings. We started waving and shouting “ehhhhyyy” at the guys. It turns out that we were not being run out of the London street, but instead given a real island-styled “hail up” – and it felt really good. The truck kept on its way, and we kept on ours – wondering if and how the drivers recognized us as island people.

The guys in our group wanted to go to Brixton in southern London, where we were told has a large Caribbean population, for some island food. But we were too hungry to venture all the way down there at the time. We ate at Giraffe’s then headed out to sightsee.

While we had found many historical marvels in Paris, I found the Eye of London to be a modern marvel. It’s described as a revolving observatory. In essence, it looks like a gigantic ferris wheel. A misunderstanding with my boyfriend had dampened my spirit a bit as I rode on the Eye. But the 360 degree views of London from aboard the eye were a must see. I had been looking forward to seeing Big Ben. But after I did, the Eye stole all of Ben’s glory.

As we were leaving the Eye it started to rain. And I was unprepared. One couple in the group was equipped with a complimentary umbrella provided by the Marriott Marble Arch where we were staying. As she said, “If a hotel offers a complimentary umbrella, that mean it rains a lot.” We waited out the rain a bit, then decided to go ahead with the rest of our sightseeing. Passing by several double decked sightseeing busses, we came across the iconic London phone booths, then headed for Buckingham Palace.

It started to rain on the way to the palace. Then it started to pour. The group had to decide if it made sense to continue or to head back to the hotel. Since we were nearly there we continued. The experience was pretty cool, as my boyfriend and I walked and talked – in the rain. The palace wasn’t too much fun in the rain. We plotted our way back to the hotel.

Luckily for us, the wifi at the Marble Arch Marriott Hotel was pretty good. We used our extra time to check in with family and friends back home.

For the first time in days, I got a full night’s rest!

Stay tuned for more on my European Adventure.

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Chronicles of an Island Girl’s First European Adventure: Paris Part 2

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The Day of Awe
We had three big locations planned for our second day in Paris. It was Saturday and we decided to plan our stops more carefully as to not tire ourselves as we had done the day before. We planned on heading out around noon. But no one woke up until about 1:30 pm. We met up at 3 p.m. to head out. The first stop was Notre Dame. We had been using the Metro for getting around – a system I have yet to figure out. Living on a small island with no metros, it’s hard enough trying to figure out the system in New York or DC, but Paris was a whole other beast. Not to mention, I’m “directionally challenged,” as my boyfriend says. Praise God for the Metro riders in our group who took the lead.
I immediately liked Ile De La Cite, where the Notre Dame is located. There was something about the area that felt familiar and welcoming.

We stopped for lunch at an open air outdoor restaurant before making our way to the cathedral. I was in awe upon seeing the Notre Dame. It looked so huge and powerful. The architecture and attention to detail were magnificent. Within the walls of the Notre Dame were hundreds of intricately carved faces. The inside of the Notre Dame was dark and a live mass was in session when we entered. As we walked deeper into the building there were dozens and dozens of small lit candles. Along the walls were spaces dedicated to saints. As we passed to the far right of the pulpit, the scent of Frankincense and myrrh was overwhelming. I felt like I was transported to a few centuries in the past. My boyfriend was creeped out by the Notre Dame. While I reveled in the history, he wanted to leave. We left the inside of the Cathedral and headed to the side so that we could go to the top of the massive church, but the line was too long.

We headed for the next stop on our list – the Luxembourg Garden and Palace. I am used to seeing street performers in train stations. In Paris we saw a whole band! In one metro car there was a violinist with a moveable amplifier and taped accompaniment. We got up, started dancing and began a cha-cha line on the train! Before I knew it, strangers had taken out their cell phones to capture us. I just hope we don’t end up somewhere on the internet!

The Luxembourg Garden was beautiful. I immediately envisioned lavish outdoor weddings being held there. When we reached the middle of the garden, a few people in our group stopped for crepes. We saw the wrap for the crepes made to perfection right in front our faces. We rested for a bit while our friends enjoyed their warm snack. For the entire day we were careful to take our time. We wanted to be fresh for our most anticipated stop.

A good friend suggested that we visit the Eiffel Tower later in the day so that we could have the experience of seeing it in the day and the night. That was the best advice.
As we headed toward the revered monument our pace picked up the closer we got. We had a new sense of urgency and a new burst of energy. Then there we were, a few hundred feet away from the Eiffel Tower. It was surreal. And like all good tourists, we stopped to take pictures. When we reached to the bottom of the tower, all heads pointed to the sky staring at the structure. It was gigantic. I gained a new respect for 19th century engineers. As with all other structures in Paris, it was intricately artistic. I just kept staring at it. We soon got in line to go into the tower. It was a long line and the estimated wait time was two hours. Honestly, I wanted to wait to go inside of the tower. The group decided to head to the Seine River for a river cruise. The sun was setting and the Eiffel Tower was lit. It was beautiful. It was dark by the time we got on the boat. And without warning, the Eiffel Tower started to dazzle with sparkling white lights. It was magnificent! Us on the water and a dazzling Eiffel Tower! The night had cooled down considerably and I was chilly. Our boat trip was romantic. I was intrigued with the detailed carvings on the bottom of the bridges and the rich history of the city.

When we got off the river cruise everyone was hungry. Or group had various diets. I am vegetarian. Three of the group were pescetarian (they eat fish but no meat or poultry). Two in the group ate anything. It was almost midnight and we needed a restaurant that could satisfy everyone. After reading the menus from a few restaurants, we settled on this one spot not far from the Eiffel Tower. I wish I could remember the name, because there I had the best meal of my entire trip – a goat cheese ravioli. The server was friendly and worked hard to meet the needs of my pescetarian friends – who insisted that their “smoked salmon” be cooked. By this time, the men in our group were hungry and borderline “angry.” They knew what they wanted and they wanted it done correctly. Most of us had not been impressed with the food in Paris so far. But tonight everyone enjoyed their meals. It was the bill that surprised us after we had filled our bellies. A glass of Coke was €9. That’s almost $12 for something we easily buy back home for $2 at the maximum. The guys also decided to get extra plates to go, since it was their best meal so far. I won’t tell you about the rest of the bill. Let’s just say the owner of the restaurant would be happy.

We left the restaurant in a walk/run mode to catch the train back to La Defense. We were told that the last train left at 1 a.m.

Last Day in Paris
On our last day in Paris we decided to head out to the Lafayette Mall, buy souvenirs and explore the surrounding La Defense. It was Sunday an I was totally disappointed that the Lafayette Mall was closed. I was so disappointed that I wanted to go down to see for myself. Instead we headed to the nearby Les Quartes Temps Mall. It was there, in the food court that I had the best drink ever – the Josephine Baker. It was a frozen smoothie-like drink made from passion fruit, coconut and mango. The drink surely did justice to our ultra sexy icon.

Later we hit the Charles De Gulle Place for souvenirs. That evening we had some packing to do. Our next stop was London!

Stay tuned for more on my European adventure.

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Chronicles of an Island Girl’s First European Adventure: Paris Part 1

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Too Much to Do; Too Tired to Do It

When we landed in Paris it was dawn. It was about 8:30 am when we got to the Renaissance Hotel in La Defense. My body was on the 2:30 am time that it was back home. I was tired. The first thing I was interested in doing was sleeping.

I got about 4 hours of sleep. The group decided to meet at 1:15 pm to set out. We left from La Defense and headed out by foot, not quite sure where we were going. Right outside of our hotel was the Grande Arche De La Defense, that we decided to bypass since it was so easily accessible. The day was hot. But a cool breeze made it nice. Our first stop was Arc de Triomphe – a huge arch of whom history I still don’t know.

From there we did plenty walking downtown at Charles de Gaulle. High-end stores, open air baristas and souvenir shops lined the streets. We spotted some Ferraris and Maserati’s cruising down the street. Then we noticed some parked at the side of the road, offering anyone with a driver’s license a 20-minute drive for a fee. It was €89 to drive the Ferrari. The men in my group were tempted, but reasoned that they’d like to blow out a Ferrari on the open road, not creep on crowded city streets.

We stopped for lunch at Leon de Bruxelles, whose specialty is mussels. The place wasn’t too vegetarian friendly – I made do with a small salad and cheese croquette – but those in the group who had mussels said it was the best. Service was a bit slow. But in the end when we tabulated our bill we included a 15 percent tip. One guy in the group gave an extra €10 for good measure. Needless to say, we got the most enthusiastic farewell from a waitress ever. Later a waiter at another restaurant told us that tipping is not mandatory in France and there is no pressure on customers to tip unless they had excellent service.

On the walk from the Arch downward, the further away we walked from Charles de Gaulle Place, the more we noticed Paris’ amazing structures and landmarks. There were lots of intricately carved structures and monuments. Unfortunately the city was not as tourist friendly as expected. While everything was written in French, we had hoped to meet some informational guides who could explain some of the awesome things we were seeing. Trust me, we were armed with maps and guides, but they were not enough. The language barrier didn’t help. Most Parisians didn’t seem approachable.

We kept walking in search of the Louvre Museum, then low and behold, shooting up to the sky from behind a canal, we saw the Eiffel Tower in the background. Cameras came out in an instant. We posed and posed some more. This was the epiphany of Paris. It was the ultimate must-see thing for the group – we were so excited. The day was really hot. So we stopped by a mobile vendor, at first to buy some water, but ended up buying homemade ice cream too. “Not that powered Haagen Das they try to fool you with,” the owner told us. He “used the real vanilla beans” in his product, he said. His gelatos were perfected over four generations of gelato making, he said. And he was right. They were excellent. He had a mango gelato that tasted like the freshly picked fruit. By far the friendliest Parisian we had met, he went on to tell us he grew up with black people and had black friends. He even gave us a raised closed fist salute while saying “fight the power.” We all looked at each other and smiled. He was the first person in Paris to make us feel genuinely welcomed. The sighting of the Eiffel Tower and our new-found friend really made me feel good as we headed to the Louvre Gardens and Museum.

By the time we reached to Louvre Gardens we were all tired. We rested for a bit under some trees and had to really convince ourselves to continue the journey, for after the Louvre, we planned on going to the Eiffel Tower. We reached the Louvre hoping for some cold A/C to revive us. The air conditioner could barely be felt. I had observed a pattern in Paris. The A/C in the hotel was at a minimum, the air on the metro was almost non-existent, now here in this museum we were sweating. Is this Paris’ way of saving energy and lowering its carbon footprint? We didn’t get the reprieve we had hoped for and were too tired to even walk around. It was a long day. We plotted out way back to the hotel, and saved the Eiffel tower for a next day. When we got back to the hotel it was around 8 pm. I needed to sleep badly. By 1 am I was wide awake. Go figure. My body was still on Atlantic Standard Time.

Stay tuned for more on my European adventure.

If you missed the first episode, read it here: Chronicles of an Island Girl’s First European Adventure: Getting There

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Chronicles of an Island Girl’s First European Adventure: Getting There

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If six months ago someone had told me that I would be traveling to another continent, on a “buddy pass,” by myself I would have called them crazy. As a matter of fact, in retrospect, I am crazy, sort of. When my boyfriend invited me to go to Europe on a three-country tour with him and some friends, I told him that I would think about it. I pondered on it for a while, thinking that I won’t be able to find a sitter for my children and that my best option would be to pass up the offer. That was until I told a couple colleagues. One flat out said to me, “I didn’t know you were on drugs,” when I told her that I didn’t think I could make it. One coworker was especially optimistic. She kept telling me “you deserve it Nanyamka, and you’re going to go.” Every time she saw me she asked about how the planning was coming along. Every time I came up with an excuse, she found a solution. When she asked her regular questions “have you packed yet” and “so what sites do you want to see,” I dare not told her that I wasn’t sure if I was going, unless I wanted a scolding. Truth be told, it was because of this dear colleague that I made up my mind to go.

Eventually my boyfriend explained that he had secured buddy passes for the group, which meant we would travel for a fraction of the price – if we actually got on the plane. Buddy passes work on a stand-by method. If there are empty seats on the flight, pass holders get to fly, in order of priority. This was NOT what I had in mind for international travel. I mean, what would happen if all the flights were all full? But my boyfriend assured me that he would check the flights regularly and arrange my tickets through the airports where it was more likely that I get a seat.

Because of all this and the fact that I had so much going on at home and at work, I wasn’t excited about the trip. Actually, my friends and family were more excited than I was. That was until my boyfriend called from Paris. He went up two days before we did. At that moment I realized that this was a great opportunity and we would have a blast! And on that day, my ticket was purchased – two days before my departure.

The first leg of my flight was St. Thomas to Puerto Rico, but it was a regular ticket, not a buddy pass. In Puerto Rico, the agent told me, “just wait for me to call your name,” which gave me hope that I would get on my PR-ATL leg. In that flight I had the good fortune of sitting with a Virgin Islands couple who were heading back to Illinois where they live. We had an engaging, eye-opening, spiritual conversation. You know the feeling when God put you in a certain place at a certain time for a reason? Yep, I was meant to meet that couple.

The ATL-Paris leg didn’t seem too promising – I was number 12 on the stand by list – but I kept the faith. It just so happened that I met two of the other people in the group at the airport. We were the last three people called to board the flight. Whew, that was close. I had been mentally preparing myself for the eight-hours and 24 minutes flight. I don’t enjoy flying: sitting in a cramped seat for so long, the cold recycled air, being thousands of miles in the air with no control – I can go on and on. I respect airplanes and pilots. No matter how many flights I’ve taken, I still count it a miracle to be in a gravity-defying air-suspended machine. I pray hard every time I get on an airplane – whether it’s a 20 minute flight on the tiny Seaplane in the Virgin Islands or on a jumbo trans-atlantic flight. Because I had only slept for 90 minutes the night before, I hoped to catch up on my rest. Getting ready for international travel within two days was, well tiring.

I did rest a bit, but I had great entertainment. The Delta seat back multi media screens are awesome! I’m not much of a movies person. I prefer to read on flights. So before this eight-hour flight, I had never paid much attention to it. I had watched a movie or two on it, but never explored it further. This thing is amazing. Tabs features up-to-date movies, HBO, tv, music, games, sky kids and my flight. I watched “The Hangover II” and “This is 40.” For me, my flight is the coolest thing. There is a moving map that let’s you know, in real time, how many minutes you have to reach your destination and an map that shows the plane’s actual location. Channel 13, the R&B station was the bomb. Ok forgive me if I am going overboard with this, but all this time, I had no idea how cool it was.

The flight attendants are preparing for our second meal and we are scheduled to land in Paris in about an hour.

Stay tuned for more on my European adventure.

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