Follow my Existential Exile. . .

Friday, September 21, 2012


I recently had the pleasure of visiting New York City. The last time I hit the big apple pavement was back in '07. The World Trade center site was still a disaster, with minimal progress on the memorial. At that time the city was fun as always, but still scary and a "big deal" to maneuver my way through the subway system. My recent visit was a much different experience.

Thank God for girlfriends who let you crash at their crib. My friend J loaned her couch and a set of keys to me for the week in the city. She lives in Queens, which is a neighborhood of New York I had never visited and never knew where it was located in relation to Brooklyn. Aside from my experience of Jamaica Queens in Coming to America, this burrow might as well be on the moon. In my mind it was a far distant land, like Staten Island. But something in me has changed since living over seas. Nothing excites me anymore. It's not that I don't find anything exciting, I just did not view New York City as the same frightful place. Give me a map, a transit pass, and some cab fare, go. That's really all you need, well maybe a little more money and a fearless attitude. I've been a tourist and an expat lost in foreign lands for so long, nothing phases me. I've seen some crazy ish, stuck in the middle of nowhere-Cambodia/Philippines/Malaysia with oxen mooing at me, and lost in Bangkok ghettos, so why would the dirty streets of NY cause a stir? New York felt foreign just like the other cities I traveled to (Macau, Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok), and just like I maneuvered through the concrete jungles of SE Asia, I did the same in NYC, feeling like I was conquering new territory.

Of course I still got lost. Even with my handy NYC Mate app, I realized the cray cray of MTA. Why is there no train connecting Queens to Brooklyn? They say use the G line, but according to one native New Yorker, it is the bastard child of Mass Transit. New York on the weekend is relaxed, and apparently so are the trains. They don't run as frequently, and some completely shut down after a certain time. I realized I do not like the subway system in New York. I actually prefer Chicago's elevated trains. At least I can see sunshine, breathe fresh air, and jump if a terrorist attacks. I also realized New Yorkers are very nice, helpful people. . . except when you ask for directions, because I also realized NOBODY really knows where they are going. It's like an unwritten rule that if you want to look like a New Yorker, you don't carry a map. Good thing I don't care. If I relied on people's false sense of "I know where I'm going" I would have never got home. Funny thing is, everything you need to know about the trains is written plain as day inside the subway on the Helvetica-printed signs. Good thing I can read.

Vietnamese New Year Celebration and Dragon Show

I didn't see fire breathers or men hanging water buckets from their eye lids in NYC, but I did see my fair share of street performers and skateboard acrobatics :-) 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

shifting, changing

Since I have returned to my home country from my self imposed exile I have not been inspired to write, but the spirit of writing about unconventional adventures is not dead, just dormant. I am sifting through ideas of where to take this blog or how to expand its reach Another physical trip may not happen soon but there are still journeys that I want to explore. Discovering my ethnic heritage is one I'd like to dive into. I am also passionate about the African-like cultures I learned of in the south pacific like the Melanesians or the Aborigines. Where did they really come from? Along with all that anthropology I am passionate about humanity, the way people are treated, in this country and abroad. So I may take my blog in the direction of humanitarian issues that relate to the places I've been.

One issue that came across my daily reading was human trafficking, which doesn't just happen in Thailand, it happens here, in America too. Jada Pinkett Smith has created a web space to get the word out and new music video (Jada can sang!) with her group Wicked Evolution. It melodically explains in Spanish the experience of a young girl caught up in a sex trade.

I present the video to you as a challenge. This week I challenge you to use your creative talents to produce a positive change. Ignore the superficial, minute simple conversations about hair, someone's personal views on trivial politics, and chicken sandwiches. Invest time in fighting and protesting serious, and unnecessary struggles that are negatively effecting people as I type.

Jada's Video 

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Pinks and Blues

One of many things to look forward to in summer is sitting outside and watching the sun set. Sure you can do this year-round, but it's more fun when you're beach side wearing a sarong instead of seven layers of clothing. As of now I have yet to see a sunset as beautiful as the ones I saw in the tropics of SE Asia. Here are a few moments captured when the sky is painted pink and blue:

"A  September dusk", View from my Viet balcony in HCMC
"A December Sunrise" in Palawan, Philappines
Almost up,  in Palawan, Philappines 
Bali Sunset
Boracay Sunset, Boracay, Philippines

Cambodian Sunrise, Angkor Wat
6:00 AM Sunrise, Angkor Wat Temples, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Sunrise, Gulf of Thailand, Absolute Sanctuary Resort, Koh Samui Island

Monday, June 4, 2012

I Have Learned the Secret!

If there was one reason why God sent me to live and work in a foreign land, less prosperous than the one I came from, then this verse says is beautifully: Philippians 4 verse 10-13

Thanks for Their Gifts

10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

gud thangs.

3 Good Things about living in Atlanta

1. Abundant choices of Black Hair products, especially at the World Natural Hair Show.
2. Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, they just opened a new International Terminal too!
3. All kinds of sweeet-soulful-southern yummy food you can eat.

New Age

Applying for jobs has been fun. . . not. But, I did receive a quirky application the other day. After succeeding to Round 2 of virtual interviewing, I was asked to answer the following 3 questions:

Q. What is Scoutmob?
A. Like Goodie Mob of the app world; a super-swag mobile app, born and bred in ATL, Georgia, used for scouting out the best of the best locally-owned businesses in your city to help you get "tha hook up".
Q. If you had one last day in Atlanta, what would you do and where would you go?
A. Funny you ask, because I’ve had two “last day” moments. My first “last day” in Atlanta, so I thought, was spent packing and buying décor for my first apartment in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. I was geeked to move to the urban environment and attend grad school at SAIC. My second “last day” in Atlanta was 2 years and 2 months ago. I spent quality time with the fam, and then flew across the world to my new home in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
    However, if tomorrow was another hypothetical “last day” in Atlanta, I would use Scoutmob to find the best Vietnamese phở for breakfast, or a cute café in Virginia Highlands. I’d scout the best southern style soul food for lunch, and for dinner I may check out my favorite spot Loca Luna. In between the meals, I’d eat again. I’d use Scoutmob to find that west midtown bakery that served Coca-Cola cupcakes back in the day, I think it's called West Egg (now they have Sweet Tea Liqueur Milkshakes, whaaat!). 
    Actually, for dinner, I would find a restaurant serving African food. It would be my going away celebration, because my next destination would be Cape Town, South Africa. Design Indaba, here I come!
Q. Design a quick logo refresh of your favorite Atlanta brand/hotspot/locale/joint/team/strip club.

Strip Club? Can't say I have a favorite one in ATL or anywhere for that matter, but I will say my favorite area, Little 5 Points, could use a nice imagemark. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Learned Behavior

So, its been almost a month since I've been back. 25 days to be exact, but who's counting? Took a couple of weeks to get used to the time zone, and "daylight savings" business. I'm happy to be home, to smell grass, and trees, hear the crows, scare the squirrels and watch out for deer. My parents work later than normal so I get to smell real breakfast food in the morning instead of rotten dog meat or whatever it was cooking in the hem next to my complex. I can drive a car again, yaaay, and listen to the latest hood music on Atlanta's r&b/hip hop station. I can bop my head along, snap my fingers, do a twist and have no one stare me up and down. . . well they might stare, but not too hard.
Its almost like I never left! I mean, it's not hard getting used to something that hasn't changed in two years. However, since I've been back there are certain habitual Southeast Asian tendencies I have yet to let go. Here are a few learned behaviors or things I've grown to appreciate while living in Vietnam:

1. I can honestly say I am comfortable being over heated until I break a sweat. I can drive in the car and not turn on the AC. Instead I roll down the windows and keep it movin. Nothing wrong with sweat, its melted fat. Though I can't do this with my mom in the car, she has hot flashes.

2. I rinse out every glass jar till its clean before I throw it away. I think this is a good habit, it will keep the trash from smelling rotten, but the habit started to keep the ants away.

3. (My mother had to remind me) "Do not put water on my floor!" Okay, ok, I've gotten used to showering directly on a tiled bathroom floor, no bathtub, no inclosed structure just shower and floor. In Vietnam structures are built to hold or repel water and built strong to hold high winds. But it gets me thinking, How come U.S. houses in flood/hurricane zones aren't made with concrete?

4. I live for juice. . and water, I'm always thirsty! Unfortunately I don't have a juicer, so I put my 'rents blender to use. I made my mom a cucumber/lemon juice/mint/honey smoothie to die for!
Add a little rum. . . It's the drink of the summer ;-)

5. I'm extra conscious about my surroundings and security. Always checking my back, people walking behind me, and I still turn my check card around so when I open my wallet you don't see the words "Bank of America". You don't need to know where I'm from. For all you know, I could be Guyanese. And, I refuse to be a victim of identity theft. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Calm? before the storm

So a typhoon came through HCMC the Sunday I had to fly out. I got out of Vietnam safely, though it was pure craziness up to the hours before my flight left. Seemed as if everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Electricity went out, stiffed with a crazy amount of money (USD) bill written in vietnamese which lead to being cheated out of my security deposit, freelance project almost went awry, typhoon came, bags too full, luggage broke, my thumb is bleeding, I mean really???

But lets count our blessings, I have the world's greatest friends, who came to the rescue to help me escape out of my apartment before the landlord could ask for more money. So thankful for the extra luggage they spared to help save me some dough for over-sized bags. Their wit also helped me sneak my super extra heavy carry-ons on the plane, though neither bag could fit in the overhead or underneath the seat. The small black bag made it to Tokyo when the handle snapped off as I exited the plane. Awesome! Now I have to drag the bag behind me, which already weighs about 40 pounds, while carrying a 30 pound-child of books on my back. Blessing number two, Narita has handy carts available for no extra charge. This made my 8 hour lay over very pleasant. Once I get to the gate I noticed a group of Black Americans waiting to get on my flight. After I get my seat number one of them offers me a seat and starts chattin it up. Not really in the mood to talk, this dude quickly mentioned he's with a traveling singing group called "The Platters." Yeah, I figured they were singers. The name doesn't ring a bell, but I smile and nod and watched the video footage on his ipad of their performance in Manila. Of course he was trying to spit game, but Blessing number three, he was kind enough to help with my bag all the way to Atlanta. He got it on the plane at Narita, in the over head bin, then took it down once the plane landed, stood in the customs line with me holding it, and took it down to the baggage claim area before security check in. I miss Black men! It dawned on me later in the flight, that the older Black man sitting behind me on the plane, who was part of this guy's entourage, really was part of the original singing group The Platters, and helpful-kind dude was his son. Crazy, "Only You!" lol I guess they have an international following.

Well I still had 3 large bags to lug to the second security check point, and stand in a long line again, with this 30-pound-child like back pack just to go through another set of metal detectors, then to the "plane train", then to baggage claim. The silver lining was knowing that my dad, who I have not seen since Christmas 2010 would be waiting for me on the other side of the black tape at Hartsfield-Jackson. There he was looking the same, with glasses and sweat suit. His face is skinnier, looking more like an older Barack :-) There's nooo place like home!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Wale of a tale.


Its the very last night in our little paradise of Absolute bliss. To end this lovely spa holiday we went snorkeling and on our way to the next destination we spot a wale!! Actually it was two wales, possibly a mother and child. It got closer and closer and we saw some gills. . . and a mouth. Amazing!

Tonight we will eat our last super-food healthy meal and watch Eat Pray Love in the hotel theater. Awww, I definitely don't want to leave.

Anh Thong National Park, mixed water lake

the James Bond, near Anh Thong National Park

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Yogi Monster Day 3

The pain in the back of my legs will not go away. It is the end of the last day of our 3-day rejuvenation spa holiday and I feel great. Just had my colon cleansed for the first time, and it actually made my arthritic hands feel better. After performing Hot Yoga for the last time, I ended the day with a tumeric scrub. I'm squeaky clean!
Here's how the day went:
6:00 AM
Wake Up
6:33 AM
Breakfast: chocolate muffin (it wasn't that great), with bananas, goji berry tea w/ honey and soymilk with brown rice porridge, cinnamon, pumpkin seeds and flax seeds.
8:00 AM
Colon-hydro therapy info meeting. Gotta know what's about to go where the sun don't shine.
9:15 AM
Alright lets get this over with.
10:15 AM
Sleeping by the pool. Although quite uncomfortable, the hydro cleaning therapy made my arthritis feel better.
1:00 PM
Pilates with Sean, the Brit.
2:00 PM
Lunch: Pineapple, coconut and mint juice, Greek salad w/ feta and bell peppers, Tom Sum Soup with chicken and brown rice
3:00 PM
5:00 PM
Nutritional meeting with Janell, the resident Naturopath
6:00 PM
Super Hot Flow Yoga
7:00 PM
Thai Herbal Scrub
9:00 PM
Dinner: the last supper :-( Green salad with hummus, carrots, flax seeds, cherry tomatoes, Poached shrimps w/ lemon juice dressing, shallots, cilantro, and fresh greens. Papaya blend juice to drink, it's my last free juice, tastes like liquid honey comb cereal.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Yogi Monster Day 2

our last free juice :-(
I'm super sore. So lets start the day off right with the Steam Room, and of course more juice!
7:10 AM
Steam room then juice, cucumber, lemon and honey. Its like lemonade with cucumber.
8:30 AM
Beginners Hatha, Intro to Yoga
9:35 AM
Breakfast: today was coconut yogurt (yummy goodness) w/ fresh fruit and a porridge of brown rice with warm soy milk, cashews, cinnamon and chunks of young coconut.
10:15 AM
Wrote in my blog.
11:00 AM
Tooo tired for hot flow yoga, so I just went on the treadmill.
12:00 PM
Aroma therapy Massage
1:10 PM
Leg and Tummy workout practice routines.
3:00 PM
Lunch: seaweed wrap first, then black bean burrito with soy, wheatgrass and coconut water juice, mixed salad. That wheatgrass was hard to swallow.
4:00 PM
Sat by the pool, then slept for the rest of the day
9:30-10:00 ish PM
Dinner: veggie salad w/ hummus flax seeds and pumpkin seeds, poached chicken w/ mango, goji berry and ginger tea

Yogi Monster Day 1

It is the end of day 1 (Tuesday March 20th) of my yoga retreat with Tiffany. We started the vacay with Angor Wat first. That was quite the excursion, with the long bus ride to Phnom Penh, then another bumpy 7 hour ride to Siem Reap. Climbing through the temples from dawn till nearly dusk, in the heat was also exhausting, but lots of exercise. So it was a relief to finally get to our island destination of Koh Samui, Thailand for our 3 day rejuvenation session at Absolute Sanctuary.

Since we're on a 3-day rejuvenating plan, we have a limited menu of meals, but 3 meals a day, all very fresh and delicious food. BUT the best part of this spa holiday is the unlimited juices, yes unlimited. I love it. For my next blog entries I am going to share my day, the schedule and what I ate during my 3 days of rejuvenation:
7:00 AM
Breakfast at the Love Kitchen.1 silver-dollar sized pancake with the most delicious coconut yogurt. Scrambled eggs with salad and lemon grass tea. Also had some pineapple juice
Sauna for 10 minutes
8:30 AM
Detox Yoga
10:00 AM
Flow Yoga
12:00 PM
Lunch (thank goodness, I was starving)
1:00 PM
Consultation with the receptionist
2:00 PM
Sauna, again and juice!
2:15 PM
Head, Neck and Shoulder Massage with heat compress
4:30 PM
Infra Red Sauna
5:00 PM
Welcome Ritual (Foot Massage)
6:00 PM
Hot Flow Yoga, it's like a milder version of Bikram, but still very intense.
9:00 PM
After sweating myself silly we get to enjoy a small, but filling dinner. Thai glass noodle salad with sesame was the starter. Then steamed sea bass with yummy mango, papaya, pineapple salsa, served on a banana leaf. To drink I had a refreshing iced mint tea. Like mojito without the kick.
Good night!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Post 100!

I made it to 100! Just shy of 3 weeks till my exile in Vietnam is over. I think anyone who has been in exile, whether a self-imposed metaphoric prison or forced detainment in a cell, can agree you have a lot of time to think or read or write, or design or to do something more constructive since watching television may not be an option. During my two-year exile I've found more time to read more books, especially those in the Bible, and watch movies with a different perspective. My new perspective prompts me to do research and through that research I always find information that relates to my current situation.
For example, I've seen the movie ALI with Will Smith, 50 thousand times, but there was one particular time I watched it that prompted me to do research on Ali and his fighting legacy. I guess I needed more, because I felt the movie focused too much on his political activities in NOI, and less on his career. This is when I discovered the phrase "Thrilla in Manila" was reference to his fight against Joe Frazier in Manila, Philippines. And all this time I thought it had to do with Phillipine-American war.

So today I had the pleasure of watching The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 .
Its an interesting amalgamation  of video footage taken by Swedish reporters, because they were curious to know what was going on in America in regards to the fight for freedom, the rallys, the riots, and the systematic oppression of Black people. It was fun to watch, because as an 80's baby, its hard to believe how hard life was "back in the day". Especially for us children of parents whom were strong enough and smart enough to keep it moving and live their lives in peace and productivity, not peril. Sometimes this meant moving out of a predominantly Black neighborhood into a "safer" suburban environment. So growing up in lily white Green Bay, Wisconsin I can truly say I do not know what it's like to be involved in a rally, sit-in, or hear a church bombing. But my mother made sure my brother and I knew our history. Anyway, as I was watching the movie it got me thinking about a conversion I had yesterday, Saturday night. I attended a bar-b-que hosted by my South African friend. I guess ZA's love to bar-b-que! She invited her new South African friends over. They brought South African sausage, Boerewors. It's kinda like bratwurst, but a bit dry. While waiting for the food, I got into a serious conversation with a grey-eyed ZA regarding ancestry and cultural lineage. I told him I would love to know about my African ancestry, and he proceeded to tell me about his Estonian-German heritage. However, since raised in South Africa, he has no desire to be or feel connected to these cultures. Long story short, he posed the question of,
Q."You know, I see how African-Americans have separated themselves and created their own culture, isn't that good enough?" In other words, why try to find the connection to a culture that I don't know much about and don't have any evident contemporary cultural ties to?
A. Because my history did not begin with slavery. Because in America I am not "American" I'm "The Black girl". Because, it's not soo much that Black people want to separate ourselves, it's that we were forced too, just like we were forced on slave ships and forced into slavery in foreign lands, the government systematically tried to force us to be drug addicts, stupid, and broke, SO since no one asked me or my ancestors whether or not we wanted to take part in the making and building of the history of one of the most "powerful" countries on the planet, I think I have a right to say I want to know my true heritage that was essentially stolen from me.

Any who, of course watching this movie also prompted some research. Did you know Stokely Carmichael was married to Miriam Makeba? And, unbeknownst to me Miriam Makeba is from South Africa. How many times have I heard her song "Pata Pata"? I'm sure some American ad agency has also bastardized it in a television commercial during my childhood. :-) 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Everyone looks great in an Ao Dai.

Even Me. I've been thinking about getting one made. I'm not sure where I could wear it. Maybe to a wedding or fancy New Years Dinner, but I must have an ao dai (pronounced "ou yai") before I leave Vietnam. Its one of the treasures of this culture I would enjoy taking back home. Though much of the modern fashion in this part of the world is quite tacky, the ao dai is cultural attire that fits the female form just right and can be versatile as business casual or formal wear. Of course I have to get one in purple, and possibly black too. Here are some interesting ways the Ao Dai can be interpreted to fit different cultures: Miss Earth 2010

Friday, March 2, 2012

the last leg.

On my way to take my last trip to Mui Ne.  *sigh*  Time has passed away quickly. I still remember my first trip there with my girl Nicole. I will miss her dearly.  As I scurry along to finish all my projects and begin packing, I'm struggling to stay strong and hold back the tears. I will miss soo many people, and I have no idea when I will see them again.

I hope they know they have made my life sweeter, and my memories rich. Like a piece of chocolate lava cake, from MOF, lol, my love for you all spills over into ooey gooey goodness.  

Thursday, March 1, 2012

We certainly have overcome. . .

"Instant Brown" Poster Graphic from

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Walking in the Light.

CAUTION: Revolution-Walking©. Martin Luther King Leads Selma-Montgomery March, to Protest Lack of Voting Rights for African-Americans.

Wait don't go!

Welp, that was quick! The month we're suppose to nationally acknowledge the history of people of African descent in America is over. As always I will continue to celebrate my life and history all day everyday. I had an interesting skype conversation with a friend last night. I'd like to share it with you:
(Previous words were exchanged about the unity of Black folk in America and what certain Black leaders like Farrakhan and Obama are doing or not doing to help the unity)

"Friend" 2/28/12 10:46 PM
The problem in the US is very simple, all the community are devided, i've never been to Chicago, but i got lotta friends in the US and they all TOLD ME THE SAME ish, they said Unity? only among the christians, or muslims, or black Caribbean...
unity won't exist between other blacks if they got different believes etc
i mean all of my african friends told me that

"Me" 2/28/12 10:47 PM 
interesting opinion
there's more to it than that.

"Friend" 2/28/12 10:48 PM 
so if you didn't hear about what N.O.I. [Nation of Islam] is doing for the community (muslim), based on their talkin (my friends) it won't surprise me

"Me" 2/28/12 10:53 PM 
Americans in general, who have been in the country for many generations have lost their original culture, and especially in the case of those who are of African descent, but were brought over as slaves, our heritage has been completely erased. So we try to form our own "Black" culture, but honestly, though it is rich, it's not enough, and not well defined, and not concrete, or has any solid foundation anywhere but from slavery. So, in my opinion until Black people can hold on to a solid sense of self worth (which also comes from knowing and believing you are a valuable child of God who is loved by God) and an actual heritage that was formed from a specific culture i.e. cultures in Africa, only then I feel can you begin to understand who you are and where your values should come from

it won't solve all the problems, but I do think in general youth in America and Black folks struggle with a lack of identity

yes we are American, no doubt, but I'm not "The American" until I leave America, that's kinda strange

that i'm not even accepted "as I am" in my own country

So I think it's wise if Black folks embraced and researched their African-ness

but too many Black folk are too lazy, too naive, or

tooo caught up in James Brown Philosophy "I'm Black and I'm Proud"

to even investigate what their true heritage is

"Friend" 2/28/12 10:56 PM 
T there's nothing to add, you said EVERYTHING, im 100% with what you said

"Me" 2/28/12 10:56 PM 
a lot of us are not just "Black" we're African + Native American + European (Anglo-Saxon) . . .
and we have a means to figure this out now, the African Ancestry kit
so there's no excuse, but it is a bit pricey

"Friend" 2/28/12 10:58 PM 
i feel you girl, i think it's very important for the black american to know their history and from where they are coming from, i had several convos with few of them and T i couldn't get why they were so embarassed to be assimilated to their african brothers

"Me" 2/28/12 10:59 PM 
. . . of course at first it's a bit daunting, but the reality is we are from Africa

Because we're soo far removed, its hard to really relate to a culture you don't know anything about 


and this is why more Black folk need to travel. . . we are still African, partly, half, quarter whatever, we're a lot of things, and unfortunately unlike other countries like France, or Brazil, we haven't been able to be proud of ALL of our heritage

but this is America in general, a lot of white folks couldn't tell you their heritage either

Americans are happy just being "American" and that's good enough for them, like some Puerto Ricans [Jennifer Lopez] are happy saying they are 100% Puerto rican,  but that's a lie

they're Spanish + African + Native American,

Jamaican's are happy saying "I'm Jamaican" when in reality you could potentially have Chinese, African, Irish and Indian in your blood line. . .

. . . Long story short, Let's take this exile to Africa!


Not all mulattos [or people of mixed heritage] play the "tragic" role. In light of my previous post, below are a few photos of contemporary "con lai" creatively loving their culture:
Linh's mother is Vietnamese and Martinique. I love Mama Nguyen!

"queen" Victoria is Vietnamese and Cameroon

The hip hoppers. JM is Vietnamese and Reunion Island. (near Madagascar)
Cute and Gorgeous!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

a little history for ya

According to the American government or whoever makes these rules, it's the month we're suppose to celebrate the history of the people of African decent in America. Well, I celebrate my living existence everyday. In fact I'm jamming right now to Erykah Badu. Hey!

Any who, since we're suppose to be talking about the history of people of African decent in America, and I'm currently located in Vietnam lets discuss an issue that is about to be extinct in Vietnam. . . the con lai.

To be continued in a few. . .

Okay, so for those that don't know "con lai" in Vietnamese means "mixed". Not to be confused with còn lại which means "remnants" or as my government friend told me "left behind." If you look up the phrase "con lai", Google translates it into "cross breed". Well we're not talking about dogs, we're talking about the children of American soldiers and the Vietnamese women they slept with. Before I relocated to Vietnam, I had a few friends profess that "there are soo many Black people in Vietnam! War babies!" Oh really? Did you fly over to Vietnam and perform a census?? I don't understand where people get their information. From my personal experience living in Saigon for almost 2 years, I will tell you I HAVE NOT seen a lot of African Americans, and I definitely have not seen or met a lot of people who look to be mixed with Vietnamese and African ancestry. However, they do exist.

There is one lady whom I see every time I visit my favorite vegetarian restaurant, Hoa Dang. You can only see her if you sit in the back of the restaurant, straight ahead from the door. This is because she only works in the kitchen, and on occasion she will come out and stand by the mini bar and bathrooms. Her skin is brown, a bit darker than most Vietnamese who let their skin tan. It's her hair that gives it away. Most of the time I don't notice if a Vietnamese person looks mixed with African features, because if I do see someone like this I assume they are Cambodian. This worker at Hoa Dang has African hair. There's no doubt about it. I can also tell, she has no idea how to take of it. Does she even know where it came from?

A friend of mine who works for the US government talked about a program back in the 90's, that granted American citizenship to Vietnamese who "looked" mixed. There wasn't much paper work involved because most Vietnamese who were alive or born during the time of the war burned any evidence that they were part of or supported anything anti-Communist and/or the American army. And according to Wikipedia, "Having a child with a member of a belligerent foreign military, throughout history and across cultures, is often considered a grave betrayal of social values". 

I can only imagine the shame the worker's mother may have felt for having the baby of an American soldier. She may have been outcasted. I doubt she kept in contact with the father. Once the baby was born, (some time between 1950 - 1970's) was she educated on her heritage? I doubt it. Could you imagine being born into a homogeneous  society, everyone but you looks the same, same skin tone, same hair. You don't really notice you're different until everyone stares at you, or makes fun of you. You wonder why you look different but no one bothered to explain, or give you a correct answer. To make matters worse, these Afro Amer-asian con lai children have spent their entire life in a society that doesn't accept them as beautiful or worthy. Now as grown middle aged adults, these Afro Amer-asian con lai have been fully immersed into Vietnamese culture. I wonder if they feel complete. Or,  do they feel like a part of them is missing, incomplete or unresolved? 

dear readers,

I received some negative feedback regarding my blog earlier this week. Please understand I started this blog as a gateway for my friends and family in the US to have a taste of my experiences living in Asia. If you don't like what I have to say, DONT READ IT, it really is that simple. I will only censor myself so much. I do have the right to my opinion, and I realize that my opinionated thoughts may offend someone. I apologize. The blog is about no one else, but me and my experience. Unfortunately or fortunately if you are in my life at this current time, you are part of this experience. Be encouraged that I find inspiration in the rich stories of the colorful lives I learn about daily. At the end of the day, its all about lessons learned, and it's all good.

Peace and Blessings,

Monday, January 30, 2012

The greatest of these is LOVE.

I have never met a group of people with similar phenotype that have such a strong sense of self-hate comparable to that of Asian cultures. I thought Black people in America had some self-worth issues, but it is nothing compared to what I see and experience daily while living in Asia, specifically Southeast Asia.

It is illegal in America to discriminate against hiring someone based on their "race", hair color, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Even if the employer really didn't like the candidate because they are Black or Latino or too White, or too fat, or whatever, the employer would not have the audacity to literally verbalize what they think for fear of being sued by the candidate or ridiculed by the NAACP.  Apparently this sense of tactfulness does not apply in Asia. If your employer thinks you're too fat, too short, too dark, or too "Asian" they feel they have the right to say so, and not offer you the job because you don't meet their superficial requirements of the ideal employee. I just had a conversion with an Asian co-worker over lunch. Most of the current lunch time topics are centered around the pathetic situation with the school we're employed by here in Vietnam. This particular lecturer is of Asian ethnicity (I won't get more detailed than this). And might I add the school is owned and operated by people of an ethnicity from Southeast Asia. This lecturer has been living in Vietnam for a while, working as a designer. He decided to apply for a teaching job at the school because, as he stated,
"I'm tired of having to re-train every Vietnamese employee I hire. I wanted to see what was wrong with the education they were receiving at the universities in the city." 

And now that he's here, he can see the problems. Let me tell you, there are many. However, during this designer's interview with the Asian director of this school, before he was even hired, the director made it very clear to him that,

"We usually don't hire Asians."

As he told me, "It took everything in my power not to punch him." 
Punch? He would've got a foot up his arse at the least.
Yes it is true. Since the school is a private education institute, and funded by the students who pay their tuition, it is critical that the school give the customers what they want. The perception is that Western lecturers know more about everything, design, business, English, etc.  So the student who sees a Western lecturer in their classroom will feel they are gaining more, getting their "money's worth" than if they saw an Asian lecturer. And heaven forbid the lecturer is Vietnamese, the students would really have a fit. Another co-worker actually got demoted from lecturer to administrative assistant because the Vietnamese business students did not want to learn from a Vietnamese business woman.

I have observed this inferior behavior and try my best to breath an air of self love in my students. I remind them that their skin would look healthier if it actually experienced at least 1 minute of sunlight a day. I remind them that while they continue to bash Vietnamese design, it is in THEIR power to re-construct what Vietnamese design looks like. I remind them that the one thing that makes them unique as a designer is their culture. No one else in the world knows what it is like to be Vietnamese, use this as your strength, let this be your source of creative inspiration. I can only hope they are enlightened to learn that when we love ourselves, there's nothing and no one that can stop you from fulfilling your God given destiny, no force can prohibit you from achieving your highest potential. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I think we can finally say it's a new year.

Well, I've been reared into the new year of the dragon quite proper. Flower exhibits, dragon parades, drumming every morning, even right now, 9:11 AM. The city is a buzz, the children our excited. It's fun to see. Though I do not understand the significance, and honestly don't care too, I enjoy being submerged in the Vietnamese cultural tradition of Tet.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Joy comes in the morning.

So, I got up in the middle of the night, like I have been for the past couple of days. The strategy is to nap for a bit, then get up and do design work. Though I usually sleep right through any alarm or music I have going. This night I also had my dimmer on, so that, with my iTunes blaring Aaliyah and having to empty my bladder, I got up. I only got up, however, with the intention of immediately going back to bed. 2 hours later, and now hearing the roosters crow, I'm still awake.

That's because I got some great news. A friend of mine from waaay back when has decided to take the ultimate faith walk and become a missionary for a faith based organization called the World Race. He had his interview last week, and got the call today, Tuesday January 17 his time acknowledging that he is on the team. The news is not only exciting, it is amazing. Amazing how God can work through people without us even knowing. Now, I know Jamal. I know what he does (travel), what he loves (talking and running), I know what makes him tick. But I had no idea he had been praying for something more fulfilling in his life.

Like extra help knocking at the door in a time of need, Just at the right time when he needed to hear from God, after his praying, the next day I posted the link to World Race on his fb page. Now he will be a true fisher of men. If that's not God at work, I don't know what is.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A letter from a friend:


I wanted to say something on this special MLK Day. It may not have a lot of meaning worldwide because many people do not have sufficient background knowledge to have any strong emotions about it. But I do! I respect this American memorial day! And there are few “holidays” that I do respect, so this is quite special.

As a teenager, I remember memorizing King’s speeches from a CD that I had bought at Circuit City. I can’t explain it, but I found his peace and individual liberty/responsibility so appealing, like it was part of the Truth in this universe. My family grew up Baptist and Republican, so I had to learn history for myself. So I did. I learned that I cannot be part of any political association or even religious association, because even if that association knows any part of the Truth, they tend to practice it their own way rather than literally and directly. So this conclusion that I had drawn when I young, about King’s speeches containing real Truth, was only the beginning of coming out of tradition and into what I know to be Truth.

America is steeped in political and religious tradition, and they cannot escape and comprehend the Truth because they are bombarded by media tactics to keep them enslaved in religious, racial, and political sects. Democrats ask blacks to politically attack whites. Republicans ask pro-war people to politically attack pro-peace people.

And King was stuck in the middle. Or, perhaps, he transcended sectarian lines because his message of individual liberty and peace was part of the Truth of our Savior. I believe this is why he, along with Kennedy, and Lincoln were assassinated. Certain people just don’t want the public to be free from fear and free from danger, and responsible only to their Highest Liberator.

YAHUWAH bless you this day in your life with every spiritual blessing!


Monday, January 16, 2012

Exotic friends = exotic drinks

This past weekend was lovely. I had a great Saturday morning brunch with ladies of our bible study circle. Waffles with cinnamon (no chicken), scrambled eggs, Hungry Jack syrup, pineapple, cantaloupe, dragon fruit with honey, orange juice and warm soy milk with coffee. Yummmm. To finish the day I went to the spa at YKC to have an oatmeal bubble bath and reflexology foot massage. Dinner was blessed with sushi from Tokyo Deli.

On Sunday, I went to church then had lunch with Janell and our new friend from Barbados. I had to visit my Malaysian friend to pick up some things I left at her condo. As I tried to leave, so that I wouldn't be stuck in Phu My hung alllll day, she insisted I try one of her Lychee Martinis. Okaaaay, if you insist. Well, 3 martinis later, I finally made it home, belly full and very relaxed. :-) 

Chúc mừng năm mới!

Waiting to board the boat for the Underground River.
Happy Blessed New Year!
I had a great time with moms this past Christmas season. She built up the courage to fly all the way to Asia to check on her baby and make sure I was alright. Since Christmas time is crazy in Saigon, I thought it'd be best if we head to a peaceful place where the people speak more English. On Christmas day we flew to Palawan, into Puerto Princesa City. The main attraction of visiting Palawan is diving, but also viewing one of the new 7 wonders of the world, then Underground River. The river runs about 12 km. We saw 4 of the 12. There's a photo of us waiting patiently to board the boat which will take us to the island which holds this beautiful work of nature. Moms couldn't quite get adjusted to the rural-ness of Palawan. No TV in our hotel room, no hair dryer, no radio and too many bugs was too much for her to deal with. I loved only hearing the sound of the ocean to put me to sleep. If you love adventure and connecting with nature I would recommend Palawan, Philippines to travelers of Southeast Asia. After our Post-Christmas adventure we flew to Manila to visit with my friends from work. Almost every time you want to fly to a different Philippine island you must fly back to Manila. Of course our flight was delayed and we only had time to chow down on the Micky D's of Manila. however we had lots of Filipino food at the hotel in Palawan. Chicken adobo is great, some sort of green papaya soup with chicken and there is a citrus fruit called Calamansi that makes a great drink.

Our second destination was Boracay. Boracay is a wrench-shaped island off the coast of Panay Island. When you travel to Boracay you must fly into Panay Island to the city of Caticlan. You could also fly into Kalibo, which is what we did, because it is cheaper. But, you will have to sit on a bus for 2 hours to reach the Caticlan jetty. All of the flying and Southwest bus rides were a bit much, but once we arrived to Boracay we realized it was worth the wait. What a beautiful place!

Similar to our Caribbean paradises like Bahamas, Boracay is a haven of powdery white sand beaches. You can do almost anything you want. Any water sport, horse back riding, go-carts, lots of shopping and plenty of great places to eat especially seafood. Don't forget to check out the Obama Grill. The prices were high, but it's worth seeing. My favorite thing to do was swim, snorkel in the crystal clear water, and shop. You don't have to bring any beach fashion to Boracay, just do all your shopping there. I even found two fashionable swimsuits my size. I wasted soo much time driving around Saigon arguing to get a swimsuit custom made! Almost every hotel in Boracay sits directly on White Beach. No shoes required, till you get on the main road. I booked through and found a great hotel that happened to be right next to a night club in Boat Station 2, White Beach. Since this was New Year's Eve weekend in Boracay, the island was packed. It seemed like every culture from around the world was there. We managed to befriend some young South Africans. I even had a "Stella Got Her Groove Back" moment, when one of the SA guys bought me a drink as I sunbathed solo. Of course I kept in touch and moms and I met up with them on NYE. I also loved visiting Puka Beach. You take a tricycle up the main and only road to Puka Beach. If you go, buy Puka shell jewelry, it's a beach fashion must have! With soo many things to do, little time and a strict budget moms and I could't do everything. We did manage snorkeling, and we tried helmet diving but the company canceled on us at the last minute.Then, on NYE, we ended the day with a "Crazy Crepe" and sailed across the Sulu Sea, up and down the Boracay coastline. At night every club/lounge on the island was lit up, and ready for a party. 12:00 AM struck and a parade of fireworks ensued from Boat Station 1, 2 and 3.. I'd have to say it was the best fireworks show I've ever seen. I definitely recommend Boracay Island to anyone who can't live without water!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"I give myself away, so You can use me"

Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.  - Matthew 10:39