N.I.C.E.

N.I.C.E.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Change is In the Air As I Unlock My Hair!

It has been a while since I have posted so it's time for an update.  First of all, I wrote a new book that I am very excited about!  It is entitled: "Health Disparities, Diversity, and Inclusion: Context, Controversies, and Solutions" .  The release date is 2/16/17! My book, which has been a labor of love, is about the health status gap between Black (and other people of color) and White people in the U.S. along with an exploration of diversity and inclusion. Other social injustice topics are explored including, mass incarceration (of men and women of color), food injustice, educational disparities, the school to prison pipeline (K-12 children) and important concerns regarding women, immigrants, children, rural and urban environments, and other current, critical issues. The focus of the book is not solely on problems, but SOLUTIONS in every chapter. 


It was a labor of love as I wrote for over a year, finally getting the manuscript to my publisher, ahead of schedule, before I headed off for a well-deserved travel experience with my husband. I think you will find my summer travel interesting as it will include many installments. The first piece is about our last destination on that trip, which was New Zealand.  That was a fantastic experience!

Hair Changes 

During our summer-long international journey, my husband and I went through what we call, "hair changes." He decided to grow out his hair, rather than his normal short cut, so that he can interchange between braids and his fro.  I, of course, braid his hair and did so throughout our summer trip. This all started because we realized that his father has never gone bald, so therefore, the genetic possibility of him going bald is very slim if at all.  I told him that I think his hair is a natural gift and a luxury and why not just let his beautiful hair flow.  He definitely was feeling that idea and decided to go with it.

I decided, simultaneously, to end my 25-year lock journey.  I realize that emerging out of locks is a slow process, and I am not sure how it will actually happen, because I am going for it naturally, of course.  I just decided not to twist my hair anymore and let it grow from the root. So, I will share with you how that is going.


My Unlocking Steps:

1.  No twisting;
2.  Letting my hair grow from the root;
3.  Washing and conditioning with thick, creamy shampoos and conditioner;
4.  Brushing daily with a fairly firm brush;
5.  Moisturizing my hair and scalp with my home made, oil concoction and leave in conditioner;
6.  Style by braiding remaining locks and creative updos;
7.  Never, ever cut any of the remaining locks but allow them to thin out and fall off, if that happens.
8.  Never, ever twist the locks;
9.  Sleep with a silk scarf every night;
10. Use Henna for extra conditioning when desired.

The results so far are fantastic! First of all, my locks are still hanging in there which I love, so the goodbye to them is gradual.  Also, my hair is growing beautifully and thick from the root, which has created very nice length overall.  Some of my locks have broken and fallen off, but that is ok.  I lovingly let them go as I understand that without the twisting and nurturing, it is hard for them to remain as some thin out and just let go.


The question that I have asked myself and I'm sure others will ask is why, after 25 years of having them, have I decided to let go of my locks? The answer is that I'm not sure.  It just happened.  I just looked in the mirror one day, at my beautiful locks, and decided, I want something different and new. I decided that I want my strands of hair to be free flowing and that I want to feel the texture of my hair from the root, all the way to the end so that on some days, I can just wake up, wash, condition and go and let my hair do what it pleases. Also, it is a positive, interesting journey for me.  When I started my locks, I cut off all of my hair and let my hair grow from the root and then I locked it up and let it grow.  Now, this time, I'm letting the same process happen, without any cutting, but instead of locking my hair as it grows, I'm just letting it grow freely, just like my husband is doing with his beautiful fro.





I'm excited about this process and will share as I get further along with growth and no locks but for now, there is not much to say except that Change is in the Air, As I Unlock My Hair!  All that matters is that I maintain my commitment to the fact that Natural IS Cool Enough!

Monday, June 6, 2016

A Guest Post: Muhammad Ali: A Real Man and Human!


As an avid athlete, Coach and very knowledgeable person, in regard to sports and  insight into athletic figures, I often rely on my husband to help me understand the nuances of the athletic, sports world.  It is within that vain, that I share my husband's post below, which he shared on his blog   Purple WorldView.  I  am pleased to share this article with N.I.C.E. readers as Muhammad Ali was truly the greatest and I think  quite "Pretty" as he would say.  We also have to recognize that Natural Fro that he always sported, so we know that he understood that Natural Is Cool Enough.  Enjoy the piece below as he gives a perspective on him that helps us understand his humanity and that through the wonderful example of Muhammad Ali, we can all strive for greatness! 


Sunday, June 5, 2016
Muhammad Ali: A Real Man and Human
No other athlete or celebrity has affected the world more powerfully than Muhammad Ali.  No superstar has held fast to his/her beliefs so steadfastly when threatened with the full force and power of the United States government.  His words and actions profoundly affected me throughout my entire life both in my formative and adult years.  I will be forever grateful for being blessed with having the opportunity to watch, listen to, and admire Muhammed Ali.

Ali's boxing prowess is unquestioned.  He was, undoubtedly, one of the the most talented boxers who has ever lived.  No other man ever possessed hos combination of size, speed, power, grace, and defensive skill in the ring.  Despite his significant physical stature, a full 6'3" and 215 pounds, Ali moved around the ring with the fluidity and ease of much smaller man.  His feet carried him through fights as if he were wearing roller skates and his hand quickness made it difficult to count or even see his punches.  His ability to "Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee," allowed him to change boxing matches from pedantic, barbaric fights observed mainly by boxing fans located near the bout venue into world-wide entertainment events watched by both boxing aficionados and people who knew little to nothing about the sport but who were captivated by Ali's personality and persona.  As a boxer, Ali's skill ranged powerfully from an ultra-quick, hard-to-hit, "Ali-Shufflin'", double jabbin' machine to a center-of-the-ring, toe-toe, hay maker-throwing, "Rope-A-Dope", "I'm just tougher than you are," pugilist.




But my greatest memories are of Ali as poetic, linguistic genius with spectacular comedic timing, the ultimate gift of gab, and the personality, looks, and charm to captivate and capture the full attention of the audience.  His quotes are laugh-out-loud funny and yet they touch your inner core with a poignancy, honesty, and insight coming from the mouth of an African-American man, born in the the Jim Crow Days in Louisville, Kentucky possessing only a high school degree (that the school awarded begrudgingly due to the amount of class time missed while participating in U.S. Amateur Boxing Association events).  I'm pretty sure that Ali didn't actually invent trash-talkin' but he sure perfected the art form!

"If you even dream of beating me you'd better wake up and apologize."

"I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale; handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail; only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick; I'm so mean I make medicine sick."


"It's not bragging if you can back it up."


NOBODY ever talked more or better trash than Ali and it came completely naturally to him from his early days as the "Louisville Lip" to trading barbs with fighters, national sports reporters, and talk show hosts from countries all across the globe.  Ali could not be out talked or talked down to.  He deftly answered all questions from experienced interviewers, professors, and students, and always retained full control of the conversation regardless of the number and quality of the attempts to wrest control from his hands.  Ali was the bravest man I've seen in my lifetime.  Raised in the Jim Crow South, Ali always spoke out strongly against any and all racism, oppression, injustice, and inequality he witnessed.  He spoke freely about the hardships and inequities faced by black and other poor people in the U.S. and abroad.  He stated his positions unflinchingly regardless of the power and prestige possessed by the people and organizations his remarks were directed toward.  (Remember, we're talking about U.S. during the 60's and 70's here).   

"I know I got it made while the masses of black people are catchin' hell, but as long as they ain't free, I ain't free."


"Wars of nations are fought to change maps. But wars of poverty are fought to map change."


"I got no quarrel with them Vietcong."


That last quote caused him to have to fight all the way to the Supreme Court to defend his right to conscientiously objecting to joining the U.S. Armed Forces to fight in the Vietnam War.  As usual, Ali won although the case, and the boxing ban that accompanied it, did steal a full three of Ali's prime boxing years and money earning years).  Millions of people, fans and haters of Ali, know all about the boisterous, clowning Ali but far too few know the pensive, thoughtful, wise Ali.  Check out these deep. thought provoking quotes:

"It isn't the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it's the pebble in your shoe."


"I've made my share of mistakes along the way, but if I have changed even one life for the better, I haven't lived in vain."


"I know where I'm going and I know the truth, and I don't have to be what you want me to be. I'm free to be what I want."


"A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life."


When it is all said and done, Ali's humanitarian spirit and beliefs far outweigh his prodigious list of boxing accomplishments.  Ali was comfortable around every person in every country and he possessed the rare ability to make the people around him feel comfortable and cared for.  My life, and the lives of millions of others, have been and will continue to be blessed by Muhammed Ali's thoughts, words, and actions.  It does not matter if you were lucky enough to see him live and in person or if you are introduced to him via video and audio tape snippets, Muhammad Ali's spirit and love of all mankind transcends all barriers of time and space.

RIP Champ!  You were, are, and always will be, the Greatest of All Time!.




Monday, April 25, 2016

Beyonce's Lemonade: A Naturalista's Analysis Of Why We Must Continue to Love that Cool, Refreshing Drink!

First, let me begin by saying that the last thing that I have time for is to write about and analyze a Beyonce piece, as I am in the middle of finishing a book about health disparities and social injustice, which are issues that are deeply plaguing our community.  However, in the midst of my work, a loss occurred--the loss of a complex, mysterious, purple loving Black man, that the world, particularly many Black people adored.  He was a Prince.  Our Prince.  Now gone.  While in the feelings of deep, abiding love for this Black man, one of our most beloved sisters comes forward to tell us about, what seems to be trifling behavior towards her--a personal matter.  It diverted our attention from the love of a Black man who died as mysteriously as he lived, so they tell us, to anger, animosity and the repeated lament "I ain't sorry"by a sister regarding her situation. 

Beyonce's Lemonade is visually appealing and the music feels good when you listen to it.  Lemonade is one of those things that you just can't stop looking at as you try to grasp it and take it all in.  I love the complexity of it. For example, when she emerges from a large, what appears to be, building of authority, based on its pillars and stone masonry, with water flooding under her feet, in a bright yellowish, ruffled dress, barefoot, and then reappears in platform heels, swinging a bat with intermittent moments of laughter and rage, I sat up.  I looked over at my loving husband of over thirty years and the father of my children and thought, oh damn, this is the "baddest" shit I've ever seen in my life!  I felt sorry for my husband for a moment because I thought, brothers all over the world, including him, must be terrified because we know that place exists in  every sister!  "Jealous or crazy but I'd rather be crazy"--that's some scary shit right there!


The next morning, we went to brunch with our son and his girlfriend.  We found ourselves discussing Lemonade as we sipped mimosas, that were delicious, from straws out of large mason jars.  We intermittently discussed Prince and Lemonade.  All the while I felt confused about which of these two topics were most important and wondered why I was discussing either because I don't know these artists personally and we seemed to be talking about their personal lives. My mind wandered about the fact that I know personally the ills of health disparities, the suffering of my people in America and the world, politics and all of the other trauma going on  in our society, at large, for real. I also thought of all of the good things that I know, such as weddings, and new babies being born to family and friends, the great times I have socializing with people I know, the delicious food we were actually eating, my joyous world travels and most importantly, love of family.  I consciously became aware that through media imagery, I am being deeply distracted to think and focus on issues that don't have anything to do with me at all, rather than just enjoying newly released music.


As for Lemonade, I thought, as a Black women married to a Black man for over thirty years, would I ever, under any circumstances, put the intimate aspects of any negative personal relationship matters between us, out there for the world to see?  Would I emasculate my husband, father of my children, my lover, my friend in such a profound way, publicly, that perhaps he would never recover?  Perhaps Lemonade is just a marketing ploy, to keep us engaged in their relationship while we constantly question, is it really about them--Beyonce and Jay Z? is this a marketing game to keep us looking, buying, watching and then throwing distrustful gazes at each other over something that is not really real for them? But again, I found myself back in the Lemonade discussion, which will make millions of dollars for others because of our interest in it.  The next morning, I watched White men and women laugh at brother Jay-Z, who is from Marcy Projects in Brooklyn and rose to be a successful artist and businessman, ridiculed and laughed at by White folks on the morning talk shows.


Ultimately, it seems that if a Black man cheats on a Black woman, this kind of lamentation exhibited in Lemonade shows that she is in too deep in terms of her concern for whether he is bedding someone else. I know there are vows when you get married, but damn. Is our identity as Black women that predicated on where he puts his organ?  If a man cheating makes a woman have to go through measures exhibited in Lemonade  to "survive" his infidelity, we are not ready for the realities of love and relationships! Beyonce's questions: "did he convince you he was a God," are you a slave to the back of his head,""am I talking about your husband or your father?"  The answer to those questions should be clear, namely no, no and no!  Although I love my husband, he is not my God, I am a slave to no one and what may or may not have happened between my mother and father has nothing to do with me except their union created me and I came through my mother in order to exist and I love them for that.


As I reflected on Lemonade, I could not help but think of my favorite section of Lorraine Hansberry's book, A Raisin in the Sun where she states through her character "Momma" about her son: 


"There is always something left to love. And if you ain't learned that, you ain't learned nothing.  Have you cried for that boy today? I don't mean for yourself and for the family 'cause we lost the money. I mean for him: what he been through and what it done to him. Child, when do you think is the time to love somebody the most? When they done good and made things easy for everybody? Well then, you ain't through learning - because that ain't the time at all. It's when he's at his lowest and can't believe in hisself 'cause the world done whipped him so! when you starts measuring somebody, measure him right, child, measure him right. Make sure you done taken into account what hills and valleys he come through before he got to wherever he is.” 


This is not to say infidelity should be just brushed aside.  Obviously, if you know Raisin in the Sun, it is about imperfection regarding business, not intimate relationships.  Her son messed up big time with the family money and his sister was majorly hating on him. The point is that the mother put loving him in a bigger context.  In terms of  some of the Black men in my life and relationships, I had a wonderful, Black brother, my sibling, that I loved  deeply.  He's gone, so young, without ever learning how to truly love. I have a beautiful Black son, who I also love deeply who is intelligent and fun-loving and learning the nuances of relationship love.  I have a handsome, smart Black husband, who for over thirty years while learning all about love, learned with me.  Love is not perfect.  It has its ups and downs but the ups are in the sustained, long-term love, joy and commitment to each other.  Lemonade  is not solely about making lemonade out of the lemons of cheating, as an example, but recognizing the wholeness of each other and the complications that exist between Black men and women, in relationships, in a society that does not love Black people, in general. 


In lemonade, one line that I love is "if we are going to heal, let it be glorious."  We must be glorious together.  If we decide we can't tolerate the actions of each other, then we should let go and move on or hold on tighter, in the midst of our imperfection and heal together, gloriously. Public lynching, by Black women, however, of Black men can't be where we are now.  Afterward, if our men are still slightly breathing, will we cut them down from the tree, revive them and wash their wounds from the whip that has scarred their imperfect backs and  bathe it, put ointment on it and then let them back inside, with scars of shame?  Now, ashamed and eager to go back into that safe haven inside of us, their strength, we are willing to take their now weak bodies, minds and spirits back inside of us after emasculating them. Will we really love them again while they experience the shade and scorn of others through their public glances for something so personal?  Should the public be involved?

Black women, no one wants to endure a man or woman "cheating," in  a society that has told us that there is ONE man for each woman and ONE woman for each man.  Monogamy is a bitch for many because if you look back in history, it did not exist in most parts of the world.  Intimacy was about something else--namely populating the world, along with pleasure.  The problem with it all was, unfortunately, male domination ensued in the process. But we have perhaps evolved to something else; something that has created expectations that for most are impossible to fill.  If we look at divorce rates and separation rates, we see how difficult it is to accomplish.  You have to be willing to pursue monogamy in your relationships, both, men and women, with everything you have and to understand that neither person in the relationship is perfect. We have to understand that as in Lemonade when we look at the beautiful mothers who have lost their sons to police brutality, that Black women are mothers of these Black men, who society randomly took from us, either by death or mass incarceration.  What we can do is raise those young Black men, that are still amongst us, with a purpose.  We can try and teach them that loving a Black woman, takes courage, strength, and fidelity to the commitment of love. They must know that it will be hard work but we need each other for protection and survival.   If we cheat on each other, in a society that tells us that monogamy is the way, infidelity breaks this ideal notion of love, which perpetuates mainstream society's idea that we can't do what they also are NOT doing successfully.   


As Black women, our strength does not exist in terms of whether or not the man we love cheats on us or not.  If and when he does, it's his loss, especially when Black women give their all to the relationship. Black women must know that with or without a man's fidelity, we are whole, we are free and we are absolutely beautiful.  I long for the voice of Maya Angelou to speak to our young Black  girls and young women just learning how to love and be loved by  a black man to say: 



Men themselves have wondered   
What they see in me. 
They try so much 
But they can’t touch 
My inner mystery. 
When I try to show them,   
They say they still can’t see.   
I say, 
It’s in the arch of my back,   
The sun of my smile, 
The ride of my breasts, 
The grace of my style. 
I’m a woman 
Phenomenally. 
Phenomenal woman, 
That’s me. 

    These are the instructions that I passed on to my beautiful, intelligent,  daughter, with hopes that she will pass them on to her children as my mother passed this on to me.  Beyonce states in Lemonade: "my grandma said, nothing that is real can be threatened." That is the real deal right there. We can not be cut in half by  infidelity.  It's too trivial.   

    In short Naturalistas, we can love and be loved and know that with everything, we can make lemonade out of lemons.  But we must also know, that the next time we squeeze lemons to make lemonade and add sugar to make it sweet and tasty that the Black men that we choose are not the lemons to be sweetened but just like anyone else are flawed, imperfect and that is what makes the lemonade taste so good when it is mixed right. It is the fusion of all of those things together, lemons (each of us), sugar (sweetness from each of us) and water (what each of us all need to survive and what we are mostly made of).  You bring all of that together, expecting perfect deliciousness (love).  Sometimes it's too tart, sometimes it needs more sugar and sometimes the water is just not right.  The last thing we want to happen is on a hot summer day when we drink that cool, refreshing glass of lemonade, to always think of it metaphorically as what we made from the imperfections of our Black men.  We must love ourselves. Regardless. I end with number 3 and 4 of Alice Walker's definition of Womanists:

"3. Loves music.  Loves dance.  Loves the moon. Loves the Spirit. Loves love and food and roundness.  Loves struggle. Loves the Folk.  Loves herself. Regardless. 

4. Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender."


  

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Celebrating #BrownBoyhood Through Toys: A Naturalista Introduces Melanites!

Celebrating #BrownBoyhood is an exciting new venture. Perhaps you haven’t 
heard about it so sit back, read and enjoy this fantastic information about, 
Jennifer Pierre, a young Black woman entrepreneur who has created a novel 
project worthy of serious consideration, entitled Melanites. She is a graduate 
student in the entrepreneurial program at Babson College. She was one of 
my former students, so I am bursting with pride, but not surprised to see 
her brilliant, well-thought out and interesting creation as it was obvious in 
the classroom that her brain energy would never be wasted. On the heels of
 Barbie’s debut of a new line, andAmerican Girl’s release of their latest African
 American addition, it seems that diversity on the shelves is once again a hot 
discussion topic. It is no wonder that the desire for more diverse options is on 
the rise given America’s continuously changing consumer demographic. 
Per Jennifer, “according to the United States Census, there are more multicultural
 children being born under the age of five today than ever before.” Hence rather 
than “minority,” emerging majority is becoming the reality for children of color. 
This reality peaked Jennifer’s interest towards a new creation.
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Additionally, as a smart business-minded person, through her research, 
Jennifer learned that in 2015, the Toy Industry Association estimated a 
$24 Billion market in the US alone of which 8% of those sales were
 accounted for by the doll category. Of that slice, that the percentage of 
diverse dolls cannot be calculated because there is not enough data. Her
 light bulb went on as she realized this fact: that translates into a substantial 
untapped market that does not coincide with what is currently being offered!
 The Toy Industry is simply not making products that appeal to the millions of
 multicultural families who purchase toys every year.
Consequently, Jennifer went on to create Melanites, a toy company introducing a
 new line of boy dolls of color. After visiting countless toy stores that did not reflect 
her or the people in her community, she decided to do something about it. Jennifer 
is a founder of the company, which hopes to stand up for children’s right to options. 
She decided to focus her mission on celebrating brown boyhood. This means tackling 
racial and gender bias simultaneously. Pierre points out “that there exists a “blue aisle” 
that stereotypes young boys into the pigeon-hole of hyper-masculinity.  The shelves
marketed to young boys are “littered with toy guns, fighting stances, and 
aggressive role play.”
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She indicates that “children’s play is serious business because it is a 
focal point of where ideas and messages around their sense of 
self-confidence and imagery emerge.” Having diversity in their toy 
selection is a very human need for access to different backgrounds.
To see the rest of this exciting story with more photos, visit: 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/patti-r-rose/
celebrating-brownboyhood-_b_9722198.html

Friday, April 8, 2016

50 Countries and Counting: A Naturalista’s Travel Adventures in Brazil!

Brazil is a lovely South American country that I had always
wanted to visit.  Traveling there with my family was as delightful
 as I thought it would be, spending our time in Rio, enjoying 
the beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema and taking in all of the sights. 
Brazil is a place where you find beauty in the people, the scenery,
and the attractions. We loved our hotel, which was oceanfront
 with a lovely rooftop pool. It was a family experience as our children, 
who are young adults, traveled with us.  I also had the opportunity 
to invite two of my students at the time, to spend time with us while
 we were there.  One of them is from Brazil and had taken a university 
course with me in the U.S. as a Fulbright scholar and was in Brazil 
during our visit.  The other was also in Brazil having a one semester, 
study abroad experience and was learning to speak Portuguese.  
It was wonderful to catch up with these two naturalistas and have 
my family meet them.  They were excellent cultural tour guides 
during the brief time we spent with them.Below are details of some of 
our experiences in Brazil as it was definitely one of my favorite 
places in the world to visit.

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The Rio Experience

I absolutely love Rio!  The experience there is one of vibrancy, 
rhythm, color, culture and excitement. Besides enjoying the 
Copacabana and Ipanema Beach areas, we enjoyed many 
sites including the center of the city. We rode through the 
Tijuca Forest to the Corcovado Mountain, visited the 
Christ Redeemer and took a cable ride to Sugar Loaf and enjoyed a
 fantastic view of the city and all of its outstanding architecture. We 
were also thoroughly entertained at a Plataforma Samba Show, which 
included amazing costumes that comprise some of the visual 
highlights of Brazilian culture along with Samba (a Brazilian dance), 
frevo (Brazilian folk music) and capoeira (which is a form of martial 
art performed in Brazil that includes dance, acrobatics and music).  
Excellent—all of it!! The latter is thought to have emerged in Brazil 
through West African descendants during slavery.  There is a great 
deal of skill involved in the art of capoeira so it was really a treat to 
see it so beautifully performed.

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Monday, March 28, 2016

50 Countries and Counting: A Naturalista’s Travel Adventures in Panama (Including The San Blas Islands) Nicaragua, Belize, Honduras, Costa Rica and Guatemala!

Traveling to Central America opened my world in so many ways,
in terms of uniquelydiverse, beautiful people and interesting cultures.
I learned so much and had excellent opportunities to practice my
Spanish language skills. I only have one place left to visit
there, which is El Salvador. Below are my thoughts, in brief,
about these lovely places with encouragement that you
experience them all.
Panama
My first visit to Panama was on a vacation with my husband.
This was a fantastic experience!We stayed at the hotel owned by
 the now infamous political candidate called the Trump
Ocean Club Hotel and Tower. Politics aside, as this was well
before he was a candidate,his hotel in Panama is fabulous!
I most enjoyed the infinity pool, which is fantastic! We also
enjoyed the sites of Panama through an excellent city tour
including Casco Viejo, a vibrant and colorful neighborhood with
the hottest nightlife, and Panama Viejo. We also thoroughly
enjoyed a visit to the Panama Canal Miraflores Locks, which
is not to be missed. Panama City is very vibrant and based on
its architecture, which includes many high-rise condos,
it reminds me quite a bit of current day Miami. The food is
delicious, the people are friendly and there are wonderful
handcrafted items to buy, made by the various groups of
indigenous people. Panama is an excellent place to visit.
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The San Blas Islands—My Homestay With The Guna (Kuna) People
To see info. on The SanBlas Islands (great pictures of the Guna (Kuna
people and my stay with them), Nicaragua, Belize, Honduras, Costa
Rica and Guatemala, which is wonderful and the travel tips
visit:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/patti-r-rose/50-
countries-and-counting_9_b_9541542.html

Thursday, March 10, 2016

50 Countries and Counting: A Naturalista's Travel Adventures in The United Kingdom, The Netherlands and Spain!

The United Kingdom (UK)
London
On one of my recent birthdays, my husband and I decided to travel to the U.K. , specifically to London. I had been there before, on my way to Kenya for a health conference, but not with him, so we were both very excited. There was so much to see that we weren't sure where to begin, so we started with the main event, from my perspective. The British Museum had a special Egyptian exhibit, of which they were displaying their ongoing collection of Egyptian artifacts, and the Papyrus of Ani (Book of the Dead), the special exhibit. That exceeded my expectations! I had been to Egypt, but the British Museum also has the Rosetta Stone. We stared at it for a considerable period of time, with fascination. This was the stone, which led to the translation of Hieroglyphics, the written language of the ancient Egyptians.
We also visited the Tower of London where we saw the crown jewels and learned some very interesting history. Big Ben and Parliament were a must and a Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tour ensured that we covered all of the other important sites of London. Of course, there was eating of fish and chips and visiting pubs to enjoy pints and other libations. Another highlight was the experience of High Tea at Fortnum and Mason, one of the premier department stores in London. However, we saved our shopping for Harrods and outdoor markets. Harrods was exciting and the outdoor markets were eclectic!
In a nutshell, we enjoyed strolling, visiting parks and gardens and drinking and being merry in London. It's definitely a place that I recommend for an interesting city experience with a good vibe. There is lots to do and see in London and if you go in the Spring, as we did, bring your coat, boots, scarves and gloves as it was cold indeed!
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The Netherlands
Amsterdam and The Hague
When I think of our trip to Amsterdam, what comes to mind first is a laid-back atmosphere--essentially a true chill spot. We went there with our children, who were quite young, and ready for an adventure. We enjoyed a canal cruise, walking, eating, cafes and visits to museums including the Anne Frank Museum. Thinking of that museum always reminds me of an interesting story. Our daughter was in elementary school, and one of a few Black children in her class, a few years after our trip there. Her teacher was discussing Ann Frank in class and my daughter raised her hand and explained that she had been in her house and began to share all she knew about her. Her teacher called me the next day, asking for a chat. When I arrived, I encountered a middle-aged white woman, who I had met briefly on the first day of the school year for my daughter. At the meeting she requested, the Teacher advised that she was concerned about my daughter, insinuating that perhaps she was delusional as she had expressed that she had been in Anne Frank's house. I summarily explained that she had as my daughter had traveled with us on a trip to Europe, including Amsterdam, where she visited Anne Frank's house (hiding place), now a museum, which included a narrative about her life. The Teacher offered her apologies, seemingly surprised at this you black child's travels, as she had not been to Europe herself. In any event, visiting Anne Frank's hiding place, now a formidable museum was a cherished memory. I too, as a child, had been fascinated with Anne Frank, after reading her published diary in school.
We also took our children to The Hague where we visited the Scheveningen District. There is where we experienced the amazing place called Madurodam, which is a park with replications of historical buildings and sites in Holland, offering a fun and unique overview. We absolutely loved it and I highly recommend it for adults and children alike. It is right near Scheveningen Beach so enjoy a swim and walk on the beach while there. It's very close to Amsterdam and so worth the experience! Lastly, in Amsterdam, don't forget the marvelous cheese, the Brown Caf├ęs and a sneak peak at the Red Light district, which is definitely a wild scenario to see. You may want to pick up some cute souvenirs such as windmills and little wooden shoes. They will always remind you of your trip there when you return home.
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Spain
Barcelona
My trips to Spain included Barcelona, which I traveled to first with a colleague for a Health Conference where we gave a presentation. I enjoyed my experience there so much that I returned with my husband for a truly fun time. We visited Barcelona where we enjoyed paella, sangria, the beach, strolling, shopping, cathedrals, museums and adored the work of the great architect Antonio Gaudi including La Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllo and more. Each structure was fantastic and worth seeing! Barcelona is one of those places that you visit and you know you will return again because you must! My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of our time in Barcelona.
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Madrid
Madrid is distinctly different from Barcelona as you get an urban, historical feel while exploring it. It's a place where I could live, rather than just visit. My husband and I saw it for the first time together and we were fascinated! It is the capital of Spain and carries that title excellently! It is chic and filled with excitement as you walk through its many spaces. Again, we experienced delicious food, including tapas, paella, accompanied by sangria, and there was so much other outstanding food, no matter where we went. In terms of museums, The Reina Sofia National Art Center and the Prado Museum are must do's. I also recommend a visit to theRoyal Palace. We truly loved Madrid and I place it in the category of one of my favorite cities in the world. Being able to speak some Spanish, thanks to my awesome Spanish Teacher, was very helpful too and a great place to practice.
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Toledo
If you are going to visit Madrid, I think your trip will not be complete without an excursion to Toledo. Here you will have an experience of Christian, Jewish and Arabic culture in terms of their illustrious history. It is a Unesco World Heritage site and won't disappoint. The highlight is the Fortress of Toledo, followed by walking through a city that will truly fascinate you--particularly in terms of the architecture of the various religious buildings. The food of course, is also delicious. My suggestion is tapas since you will be doing a lot of walking and may want to enjoy small, delectable bites as you sit down to ponder the sites.
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So, that sums up my experiences in Spain, The Netherlands, and the UK. I definitely hope to have more there. Next I will cover, Panama, Belize, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Nicaragua, which you don't want to miss. I will talk about pleasure, culture, and service in these beautiful nations. Until then, below are some useful travel tips.