However, all things even dreams coming true must come to an end and mine did on March 9, 2006 when I landed at the Newark International Airport.
I've been in the U.S. for 1 week. It feels completely normal yet a bit strange to be back home. I was abroad for over 2 1/2 years (two years in Japan).
People keep asking me, "how was it?" I actually have no words to describe the last 7 months of my life. I have been/was living my dream. I hope you have or will have the opportunity to make one of your wildest aspirations come true. It is an amazing and empowering feeling.
Please note that I plan on writing several more posts about my travels in the very near-future. Then I'm not sure about the future of this weblog because I've changed, things changed, and I can't figure out how blogging will fit into my current reincarnation.
I recommend these airlines, bus companies, and tour agents!
Air Asia (For budget flights in Southeast Asia)
Emirate Airline (The best international flights I've had in my life.)
Continental Airline (Got a one-way $193USD fare from Dublin to Newark!)
Ryan Airline (For budget flights in Europe)
I highly recommend these hostels!
Travel/Work Abroad Programs I used and changed my life!
Volunteering in India (no program fee)!
February was my 7th month of travel.
Mumbai --> departed India on an Emirates Airline flight to Johannesburg, South Africa --> overland bus travel to Cape Town --> overland bus to Stellenbosch in the Cape Winelands region --> overland bus to Durban --> overland bus travel via Swaziland to Maputo, Mozambique --> overland bus travel to Tofo Beach in the Inhambane province, Mozambique --> overland bus travel to Maputo --> overland bus to Johannesburg
Please check this space soon for a few posts about my experiences in South Africa and Mozambique. Honestly, I know I've been a shitty blogger regarding my world travels. However, I know I must write about my experiences in Southern Africa.
What southern African nation has incredible beaches on the coast, a latin flavor, Portuguese speaking Black folks, and great seafood? The streets of the capital city are named for revolutionaries such as Karl Marx, Ho Chi Minh, and Salvador Allende (I'm staying at a hostel on Avenida Mao Tse Tung.). The people are devoted to rememboring their fallen revolutionary heros, Samora Machel and Eduardo Mondland. I've also endured more loud hip-hop in the streets than I've heard in the last year. And the guys seem to love the U.S. rapper, 50 cent. Where am I? MOZAMBIQUE!
After 2 years and 6 months, I'm finally in a place where I don't stand out or get stared at? Where am I?
Cape Town, South Africa!
I left India in the early hours of February 3rd surrounded by good vibes. It wasn't easy to leave India. I felt like I had been there forever and could stay another day in hopes of seeing more. However, I realized that India called for a commitment I was no longer ready to make and Africa was calling me. Africa wasn't calling me in a romantic sense though. I just knew deep down in my heart that spending time on African soil would enrich me.
I tried to get to Ethiopia first for several reasons. 1) Ethiopia was never successfully colonized by any Western powers. 2) The country has a rich religious heritage. However, traveling to Ethiopia required more work than I was willing to do. Then I flirted with the idea of going to Kenya. But I still didn't want to do any work to get there.
I was left with one country on my list, South Africa. But I had a lot of hesitations about buying an airline ticket to the land of Nelson Mandela. I was terrified that the legacy of apartheid would weigh so heavily on my shoulders that I wouldn't be able to breath but then I remembered a lesson from home. I've heard some northerners (in the U.S.) air their perceptions about racism in the South without ever visiting the area. And I know many African-Americans from the North and Midwest who are moving back to the South. If areas of the south could change enough to entice northern and Midwestern African-Americans to return to the land of the confederate flag, then maybe I should give South Africa a chance.
I've been in South Africa for 8 days and I'm having a great time. I flew into Johannesburg. I stayed there for 2 nights and came to my senses and got on a bus to Cape Town on the third evening. I honestly couldn't make sense of Johannesburg. Everyone seems afraid of the city. But what is the point of visiting a place if you can't even walk around. I went to the Apartheid Museum which is an amazing place. I also had another dramatic incident there.
I got into a heated argument with a security guard. He accused me of taking photos. Now, I was taking photos after I watched a slew of white visitors take photos. However, I was the only one singled out. The security guard, an Black African man, gave me a lecture. Then I told him to make sure he gave that same lecture to the white people who were taking photos too. He claimed that I was the only one. Then we started to get into it and I started getting emotional. A white woman came to my aid by verifying the fact that a whole slew of people had been taking photos. My last words to the guards were, "I can't have this conversation anymore. I'm getting emotional and this isn't my country. And I don't know why I came here!" I went to another area and had a good cry. The Apartheid Museum is the kind of place that makes you cry. I started freaking out after learning about the Bantu Education Act of 1953.
The then-government gave Black Africans sub-par education in their own tribal languages. I saw parallels between the Bantu Education Act and current government schooling in India which brought tears to my eyes.The photos shown of the Black African schools in the 60s looked like current Indian government elementary schools; overcrowded, sometimes no desks, few teachers, and outdated materials. (Please note that I visited a government school in Pune.
State governments in India are charged with educating their young citizens in the official language of the area. I've always found this policy bizarre. Why are poor kids learning Marathi or other regional languages when the language of business in India, the language of the elite is English? I basically see the reinforcement of regional languages in the Indian primary education system as a way to keep the poor disadvantaged and unable to compete in a more globalized economy. And there are government schools that are conducted in English but families must pay more in school fees. (Please note that government schools are usually attended by the poor. The middle-class and Indian elite usually send their children to English-speaking private or parochial (convent) schools.). In the 1953, the South African government was doing the same thing by not education Black African children in English or even Afrikaans. I then imagined a vast conspiracy all over the world to keep poor in their place and let the elites continue to hold sway.
Once I finished my tour of the Apartheid Museum, I was filled with marvel for the Black African people. I can't believe there wasn't blood shed in 1991 when apartheid ended. The system was harsher than I ever imagined. All non-white people were treated horrifically but Black Africans, the sons of the soil, got the cruelest treatment.
South Africa reminds of California with a lot of Black people. Unfortunately, too many of the Black people are still poor a decade after the death of apartheid. The economic inequalities are openly visible. Blacks are now in positions of political and government authority but the whites have all the keys to the boardrooms. I've heard that "reverse racism" is now being practice which is a preference for Blacks in government and other areas. I laugh when I see signs that read, "STOP ANC RACISM."
I see South Africa heading the way of countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, the majority welds political power while a minority of the population controls the capital. The South African government is desperately trying to bring help the poorer population but is stymied by the effects of decades of very low quality education. So, Black Africans have the freedom to move about their country but many can't enjoy it because of poverty. It is depressing.
In India, everyone thought I was South African. In South African, some people suspect I'm one of them until I open my mouth. It also takes me 5 minutes to count out money since I'm still thinking in Indian Rupees.
Another big issue facing Ms. World in South Africa is money. SOUTH AFRICA isn't a cheap country. It is a little cheaper than the U.S. but it isn't Southeast Asia prices. I've spent money in Johannesburg and Cape Town like I was in Singapore. I've been in Cape Town for a week and I have to escape as soon as possible because of my shrinking bank balance.
Last topic- Cape Town. The Mother City as it is called in South Africa, is like Goa, India and South India-believe the hype. It is a city of breath-taking beauty. The beaches are lovely but the water is freezing cold. The restaurants are going to be the death of my bank account. Cape Town is a town that can't disappoint a beauty lover.
Ms. World arrives in Africa in February 2006. This is a foretelling of what could happen.
Ms. World : Hello! My name is Ms. World. I'm from America. How are you?
My first African friend: I'm fine. You are American.
Ms. World: Actually, I'm African-American.
My first African friend: Where are your people from in Africa?
Ms. World: I don't know.
My first African friend: What tribe are you from?
Ms. World: I don't know. The Midwestern tribe?
My first African friend: You aren't African. You are American.
Ms. World: I know I'm America but I've got Black skin.
My first African friend:That doesn't make you African.
Ms. World: It doesn't. Oh.
My first African friend: No!
This is my reckoning. I'm going to go to the land of my ancestors and not be recognized. My Americanized sense of African identity will be chopped down, splintered into many pieces, and thrown in a trash heap. Half of my name will be cut off from me by the original owners of the name. I will have traveled thousands of miles over a period of years to realize a truth that my mother told me over 10 years ago in the house on a hill. I will finally realize that my vaulted roots actually begin with the names of a 17-year-old and an 18-year-old who fell in love in the early seventies, got married, and signed their names on my birth certificate. Actually, I'm a little wrong there.
The tree begins with a woman whom I never met who shares the same name as one of the months. She was married to the man whose name starts with H. which a tarot card reader in Sydney, Australia correctly guessed. They begat the woman with strong Native American features who used to give me grape soda when I was sick with chicken pots and lived in a house that had no bathtub. The 17-year-old is named after this woman. But the 17-year-old didn't know this was her proper name until later in life.
The branches of this tree are filled with church-going, working people, a Pullman Porter, some teachers, a slew of life of the party-types including the legendary Ms. B., a sprinkle of ministers, a former Ebony Fashion Fair model, police officers, and a jazz musician, me thinks. My roots are indeed vaulted and strong as the Redwoods which help stabilize me as I rush madly and excitedly around the world looking for something that is already within me.
I will travel all the way to Africa to realize, yet again, that my mother is usually right. "Your roots begin with me, " she curtly noted in an semi-uncomfortable conversation we had over 10 years ago.
I must remember that sometimes the journey is much more important than the destination.
Southeast Asia is the warming. India is the passion. Africa is the reckoning.
I finally kissed reality on Thursday. I've realized that I may not have enough money to travel to the Middle East and Africa. This realization brought a little sting of pain into my heart. My great consolation is that I have enough funds to travel around Southeast Asia and India for at least 6 months. And I have enough time to savor my experiences in those diverse countries. However, Africa, oh, Africa is another matter!
I believe my feet need to touch African soil. I think visiting an African country is a very important experience for African-Americans. I can't let my Africa itinerary die without a fight! Right now, I have all the time in the world to travel to places that my soul craves to see and I want to take advantage of it. I know I'll always be a traveler. However, I'm not sure if in the future I'll have time to linger and soak up the energy of a country and its people for a months at a time. Therefore it is imperative for me to find a way to get to Africa. I believe I may be able to travel from India to an African nation in 2006 using my "cushion fund." This means that I may return to the U.S.A. with no money. (My poor family! ;)
So, I've decided it is best to focus on planning my travels throughout Southeast Asia and India at this point in time. This will be the first leg of Ms. World's BLACK GIRLS RULE! Tour. The second leg will commence after I've conquered India with my own special Brown Sugar charm.
Friday, April 29th is Green Day in Japan. It is a national holiday, so I'm off from school. I had an impromptu lunch with Cousin Jo, Chinatown Spice, and Sexxy Phil at a delicious new Indian restaurant in Toyama City. The butter chicken curry was to die for!
I'm a born groupie! I was also born to be a cheerleader! I think my groupie-ness is in kinship with my inner cheerleader-ness.
I spent last Friday night hanging out with Chinatown Spice in the hood of Namerikawa. I was browsing some magazines in her possession when I stumbled upon it. My new lust. My new sensation... Naveen Andrews!
He is hot and into older women. I would have never guessed that Andrews was the long-term boyfriend of actress Barbara Hershey who is 50-years old. Hershey played the neurotic younger sister in Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters. (I love Woody Allen movies especially Annie Hall & Manhattan.) I'm not an older woman but I like the fact that Andrews isn't into 19 year-old beauty queens.
This is my lusting list.
1. Taye Diggs who has been receiving mean letters regarding his interracial marriage. Everybody loves the chocolate and some of us chocolate sisters don't think there is enough to go around but I hope we ain`t hating on Taye!
2. Abihishek Bachchan- The finest Bollywood actor on the planet. He can't act but it doesn't matter!
3. Usher - I don't think I really have to explain this. It is all about his body!
4. Naveen Andrews- I think he needs to be converted by some brown sugar loving!
5. Kofi Annan- He is a fine older gentleman. I have to get rid of his wife first. She is a Swede and I love those folks. I don't think I'll interfere in their UN love unity.
6. Vivek Oberoi- Another fine Bollywood actor but he may actually be able to act! He is also on the browner side of the desi color scheme.
7. Mos Def - I've been feeling him since 1998! He is sooo talented and interesting but I heard he has strings attached.
8. Kaname Kawabata- He is a member of Chemistry, a Japanese pop RnBish duo. They sound like a mellower Japanese Jodeci. He can sang ;) He is a sexxy Japanese brother.
9. Robi Draco Rosa- He is thee Puerto Rican stud. He was my favorite Menudo member!
10. Prince William of Britian - I have a royal fetish. Please forgive me!
Other notable lusts: Prince Felipe of Spain, Japanese actor Ken Watanbe, musician Ziggy Marley, senator Barack Obama, India's national cricket team, TV journalist and 60 Minutes presenter Ed Bradley, ex-Pakistani cricket sensation Imran Khan, African actor Djimon Hounsou, British actor Jude Law, French soccer star Thierry Henry,
What do we know from this list? Ms. World likes colored men and European royalty. My poor family has no clue whom I'll bring home after 2 1/2 years of traveling around the world. ;)
p.s. I must add that I wish more African-American middle class women would look beyond their four corners of the world for potential romantic prospects. I will never give into the idea that their aren't enough men to go around. However, I think class issues are impeding the union and growth of Black love.
I'm also sick of this idea that seems prevalent in the African-American community that interracial relationships are defined as a Black/white coupling. There is a whole world out there and I hope more of us, especially Black women explore it!