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Christmas wonderland… Czech please!

Memories of a Christmas Wonderland… Czech it out!

 

the Educationally Frustrated student

A few years ago when I went with my sister to Prague for our Christmas holiday, we lost ourselves in the sheer size and beauty of the Christmas markets and not to mention the marvel of the romantic city…

This year I can’t be in Europe to experience the novelty. But if it’s a warming cup of mulled wine, creative handcrafted gifts, smells to excite my senses, then thankfully I can find all those in London… But it’s not quite the same! I can’t help but to reminisce on my Christmas couchsurfing adventure with my sister two years ago…

You might be lucky enough to find some last-minute flights to Europe this Christmas, but it’s you’re short for time, or cash, checkout the Christmas Markets dotted across London… You can’t miss the one on South Bank!

Share your favourite Christmas markets in the comments! Thanks 🙂

Czech out our trip…

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A night in Paris… A city to fall in love with or be seduced by?

My sights on Paris... Visiting the Eiffel Tower

My sights on Paris… Visiting the Eiffel Tower

Across the English Channel lies a city said to be the ‘most romantic in the world’. There you can get lost in an array of beautiful sights, sounds and tastes with your loved one… It’s every girl’s dream to fall in love, even a singleton’s. So I took that journey across the channel to discover if a single girl can find pleasure in a city drenched in romance… Would I be seduced by a night in Paris and let my guard down all in the name of… Love?

“Hold your horses! We’re not even in Paris yet!”

That’s the thought that crosses my mind the the moment I discover what that annoying squeak is.

Surprisingly, it’s not a sound from my mental book of “ultimate bad manners” (a collection of bad manners that disgust me on public transport); someone sucking food out of their teeth for everyone to hear! I look around the cabin of the Eurostar train in search of the culprit excepting others to be straining their necks with the same intention. Am I the only one disturbed by that sound?

That sound, it turns out, is actually coming from the couple in the seat in front of me locking lips (more like sucking lips) every perfect 5 minutes as though on a timer.

It dawns on me this trip isn’t going to be made easy for a singleton… I’ve barely left London and the sound of ‘love’ is already irritating me. How will I cope when the train arrives in Paris in a few hours time?… Will I arrive on the platform and find myself on a film set where everyone is kissing?… Even pigeons locking beaks making that annoying groaning noise?….

“Wake up Kai!” It’s just a bad day-dream (but not far from reality).

I’m going to the world’s most romantic city for my birthday! And if I want to make the most of this 24hr date with Paris, I’ll have to stop thinking like a singleton and start thinking like a woman ready for love… And that my friend, is exactly what I did… Because I’d rather be in Paris…

Ready for my date with the City!

Ready for my date with the City!

I woke up with a distinctive feeling of excitement. Not only was it my birthday, but I was out of London! A sense of relief washed over me as though finally over an ex. Excited to move on. Paying particular attention to my appearance; it’s a first date after all and first impressions count. The makeup- light and simple, the hair short and sleek, though still concerned about my short locks leaving me ‘exposed’, not offering the same protective lure as my long extensions. But overall satisfied that I can confidently go out as myself- as natural as I’m willing to be.

I didn’t come to Paris looking for somebody to fall in love with. So once I was able to ignore those grim faces on the metro, and see past the conflicting ‘shabby-chic’ of parts of the city, I was set to make the most of my date with romance… Alone in Paris!

The first compliment I received as I strolled by included the word “chic” (I’m embarrassed to write that after 5 years studying French in school, that was the only word I picked out of that sentence). The old man who gave those words wasn’t a good representation of “chic” himself, but nether-the-less, it put a bounce in my step and I smiled back in gratitude. That was the only comment I received that day, and that was the only one I needed, as though Paris had confirmed the theme for my day: chic.

Now, 24hrs is not enough to do all the “chic” things Paris has to offer. Not even half. So I found myself on a fast pace no different to my walk in London. A far cry from the easy-breezy-strolling-along-without-a-care-in-the-world pace I day-dreamed of having. Neither did I find myself in a cute Parisian café off the beaten track to people watch from. No time for that. Just getting to the Eiffel Tower was a mission (only because I was too proud ask directions in broken French). But once I found it was worth it.

And everything else seemed to find its ways across my path. It’s easy to see beauty in Paris. Beauty is romance.

More to French cuisine than I expected! Delicious meal at the 'tres chic' Maison Blanche in Paris

More to French cuisine than I expected! Delicious meal at the ‘trés chic’ Maison Blanche in Paris

And so it was that night that Paris romanced me. An evening at Maison Blanche for my birthday dinner included a meal with flavours dancing off my tongue. I hadn’t expected this from French cuisine. The evening was amicable yet lanced with romance. The view of the Eiffel Tower offered added splendour.

Paris wooed me that night the way any woman would love to be wooed… Paris made me understand why I’m still single… I’m just not prepared to settle for less. My night wasn’t overly exciting, however the simplicity was intense allowing me to savour every moment… It was, dare I say, romantic!

And yet the city didn’t cross the thresh-hold into seduction. I wasn’t seduced by the charm of Paris to ‘be in Love’. It remained classy and tasteful.… Lets face it, if it was seduction I was looking for, I could have just stayed in London!  I willing chose to offer myself for a night in Paris. And I don’t regret the wonderful night I had even if it does remain as just that – a night in Paris… Though my aunt can rest reassured that her morals are deeply instilled in me and that I won’t make it a habit of sleeping with my first dates (I’m a Lady)!

So I’m leaving Paris with a sense of fulfilment. A sense of gratitude. A sense of respect for a city so famed for romance, however it wasn’t distasteful caricatured or overly animated as you might expect. It didn’t take advantage of a gullible heart of a singleton. I wasn’t falsely lead to believing in love-at-first-sight. I wasn’t made to feel left out. Neither was I made to feel that I stood out as I strolled along the streets alone. My date with the city will be one I will remember always. But would I do it again? Probably not again alone. With a significant other would be my preferred choice for another significant occasion. 

And what made it different from the others?

Romance. I feel in love with charm… Once upon a time I had this with London…

I’m back on the Eurostar without hesitation to get back home. Paris was great, but if I’m to take anything away from our date, it’s to be grateful for what I have already… And I’ve always had London. I just need to rekindle the charm my city offers.

Which city have you fallen in love with? Share your thoughts below x

Feeling extra special with a 'Moelleux Chocolate' cake at Maisonblanch, Paris

Feeling extra special with a ‘Moelleux Chocolate’ cake at Maison blanche, Paris

Eurostar from London to Paris prices start from £69 return.

For accommodation Airbnb offers a wide range of locations and prices. Plus the benefit of staying with a local.

A day with the kids at Summer Camp- Italy!

As summer draws to an end, and kids prepare to go back to school, it’s about time that I shared a taste of my day with the kids at Summer Camp- Italy!

Earlier this summer, when I flew to Rodallo in northern Italy for thier annual ‘Fiesta del Pesce’, I accompanied Alu and Gena (“my niece and nephew”) to spend a day at their summer camp in neighboring village, Vallo (Caluso).

I didn’t expect to be such a hit with the kids! They enthusiastically sought my interest by giving me a geography lesson on the map of Italy… In english!

Now you know why I keep going back to one of my favourite European countries! Each visit is always unique!

Little did I know that this would be the theme for the rest of my summer… “Down with the kids!”

The kids present a drawing of my name... So sweet!

The kids present a drawing of my name… So sweet!

Italy Summer Camp SUMMER CAMP ITALY SUMMER Camp italy Summer Camp Italy Summer Camp Italy

The month of August: Paying homage to my ancestry

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This month of August, I would like to pay homage to my Tabom (Afro-Brazilian returnees to Ghana) ancestors by remembering their legacy.

It occurred to me that there are a string of significant events and coincidences that took place during the month of august that are somehow in twined with Tabom history, and as a descendant; this is directly relevant to me. Also today, the 23rd August, is the International Day for the remembrance of the Transatlantic Slave Trade on its abolition… Nothing is just a coincidence in August!

I am currently in Haiti, the first Black Republic in history. The island Hispaniola, mother to both Haiti and the Dominican Republic, was the first island to be discovered in the West Indies by Christopher Columbus 1492. The island would become the gateway to the New World. A turning point in World History would be marked by the Transatlantic slave trade… The beginnings of the African diaspora in the Americas.

picture credit (?)

picture credit (?)

On the 22nd of August 1791 a revolt was staged by slaves in the French colony of the island, Saint-Dominique, which would not only spark the beginnings of the Haitian Revolution, but inspire a wave of revolts throughout Latin America. The oppressed would fight the oppressor in a bid to gain freedom.

The news of the Haitian Revolution would reach the shores of Salvador Bahia and beyond. I don’t think it is a coincidence that I am in Haiti on the anniversary of a significant revolt which took place 222 ago! My Tabom heritage may not exist had the slaves in Bahia not heard news of a colony of ex-slaves ruling themselves as a freed Republic!

Slave Rebellion in Brazil

Slave Rebellion in Brazil

I’m even more so convinced that it wasn’t by coincidence either that on the 24th of January this year, I was reading about a group of African muslim slaves who were conducting an important meeting, not so far from where I sat reading in Salvador, on the same date in 1835. The revolt they planned started prematurely hours later, on the 25th January 1835. This revolt would mark a significant part of Brazil’s history… And my own story

It was in the month of August that the (second) group of Afro-Brazilians arrived on the shores of Ghana (then Gold Coast) on or around the 8th August 1836. The revolt of 1835 played a key role in them being expelled or winning /buying their freedom. Needless to stay, they left the oppression Brazil in search of freedom. And they would find it in Accra and become known as known as Tabom.

Coincidently muslims celebrated Eid all over the world on this date just a few weeks ago, 8th August. It mustn’t be forgotten that the Tabom returnees were muslim. Their faith played a key role in their struggle for freedom in the Malê (reference to the African muslim slaves of Bahia, said to be of Hausa origin from Nigeria) revolt of 1835.

I would like to think that this strength of my ancestors has been passed onto me as I continue my research which took me to Brazil and now Haiti. My research has gone beyond tracing my ancestry to Brazil (which I have done; next stage is tracing the origins in Nigeria)… It is now about discovering the strengths and traits of who I am, and why I am (here).

This month also saw the celebration of my favourite Ghanaian festival Homowo. The Ga tribe of Greater Accra celebrate the end of the a plentiful harvest, paying homage to a time long ago when our ancestors experienced a great famine across the lands belonging to the Ga people. When the heavens finally opened up, they reaped their crops so plentiful, they “hooted at hunger”. This is also the start of our New Year. We say “Afi oo Afi” wishing each other a happy new year.

So with these significant events interlinked and their dates occurring in August across various countries and centuries, I think that makes this month rather special for me as a Tabom descendant!

It was also my Aunty Marian’s birthday last week- she is my talking Tabom reference book! So this is in fact a month of celebration! I’m grateful and thankful to have an aunt who I have a strong bond with. She tirelessly answers any of my questions regarding my family history and African history in general. She is proof that our history begins with speaking with our elders and recording their information. We cannot wait for until our elders pass then it becomes HiStory. It is ours- not ‘his’, first and foremost. Thank you Aunty Marian and many of my tabom  family who have contributed.

Tabom descendants... with my aunty Marian on her 70th birthday a few years ago.

Tabom descendants… with my aunty Marian on her 70th birthday a few years ago.

I’ll end with a few supporting extracts from the book (latest edition is being prepared) “Eles Voltaram (/They returned)” by Alcione Amos which she was kind enough to send me personally. It was largely due to the writings of Mrs Amos that I was able to place together the missing piece of my Tabom ancestor.

“A second group of Afro-Brazilians arrived around August 8, 1836 from Bahia. This group included about 200 men, women and children. They were identified as “liberated slaves,” and their arrival date seems to indicate that they either were expelled from Bahia in the wake of the Malê revolt of 1835, or decided to leave because of the harsh living conditions imposed on blacks after the revolt. They were well received by Ankrah, but not by the Dutch authorities…”

“The Tabon were the first to introduce the Muslim faith in the Accra area. Johann Zimmermann, a Basel Mission missionary, reported in 1851 the existence of a Muslim school in Accra. He visited the school on January 2 of that year and found out that the teacher had copies of the Koran and the New Testament in Arabic. It is very possible that this was a school run by an Afro-Brazilian returnee, although there is no way to verify the assumption. In fact another major influx of Muslims into the area would not take place until decades later in the 1870s, this time with the coming of Hausa soldiers brought in by the British…”

Enjoy the rest of this magnificent month!

 

Celebrating the Ga people and their traditions… Wogbe jeke!

In the traditional wear segment of the Miss Ghana ECOWAS pagemant... Dressed as a 'Mane' Queenmother.

In the traditional wear segment of the Miss Ghana ECOWAS pagemant… Dressed as a ‘Manye’ Queenmother. Special thanks to Nana Obuobi I, Queen Mother of Meyera, Greater Accra, for the inspiration and endless support

“Afi o Afi!”- Happy New Year!

Today in my family home in Osu, Accra, they are celebrating the start of a New Year after a successful harvest… The Homowo festival!

As my father is from Osu, traditionally I celebrate Homowo in this part of Accra. However this is a celebration of gratitude and sharing food so everyone’s doors are opened welcoming guests to join in the feast. I always head to my Grandmother’s side of Accra; James Town and Kole Gono, to sample the kpekple (the traditional food made from maize) served with generous helpings of palm soup with fish, in different relatives houses.

This song by Nat Brew will be playing through the sound systems for sure! Unfortunately, this year I am not in Ghana to experience my favourite festival. One that carries so much meaning to me. But I can still dance to this song and thank my ancestors for going through their trials and tribulations to arrive at the land they finally settled in, Greater Accra… Ghana. I’m so thankful that their strength has been passed down onto me, as I’m now on my own personal journey in Haiti.

“Wogbe jeke
Ejeke ejeke
Woje shonn!”

“We’re come from far” indeed! Here’s my history in a song! Thank you Nat Brew for this song. It gets me on my feet every time!

An extract about Homowo from Reverend Peter E. Adotey Addo:

THE HOMOWO FESTIVAL

The word “Homowo” actually means ‘making fun of hunger.” Our traditional oral history describes a time long ago when the rains stopped and the sea closed its gates. A deadly famine spread throughout the southern Accra Plains, the home of the Ga people. When the harvest finally arrived and food became plentiful, the people were so happy that they celebrated with a festival that ridiculed hunger.

The Homowo festival starts with the planting of crops before the May rainy season and continues through August. The actual time for the August celebration is determined by the Chief Priests after they consult with the Lagoon Oracles.

Sometime in June there is a total ban on noise throughout the State, and fishing is limited to certain days. In early August the celebrations begin with a special Yam festival in honor of the Spirits, the eternal protectors of the Ga people.

For the full article please check out the website:
http://home.roadrunner.com/~osofo/homowo.htm

Nyomokaimono.
God’s remembrance… Remembering where we are from…

Photos from last weeks Homowo ceremony in Accra, James Town. The Chief sprinkles kpekple to the gods before it is served to anyone

Photos from last weeks Homowo ceremony in Accra, James Town. The Chief sprinkles offerings of kpekple to the ancestors in gratitude of a succesful harvet. Thank you to Togolese journalist Nestor Drovi for allowing me to use these photos.

I’ll end with a statement from a very dear friend about his experience of the Homowo festival. Cássio Eduardo Rodgriges Serafim is a Brazilian living and working in Ghana. He is the Portuguese language professor at Ghana Institute of Languages (GIL). I met him in 2010 and he has since become not only a supporter of my “Tabom” afro-brazilian heritage research, but a true friend. He leaves his post this academic year to head back to Brazil. Cássio you will be dearly missed by myself, your students and the Tabom community. Thank you for your contribution!

“I do like the Ga Festival. I first witnessed the Homowo in 2010, and I was looking forward to seeing it before leaving Ghana. Through Homowo, I can see some similarities between Ghana and Brazil..

The similarities I notice regards to the food and the dance I saw when people were following the chiefs to enter into the Usher Fort. Some women really danced as if they were possessed by spirits like during candomblé rituals in Brazil. However, I think there are many other things in common.
About the kpoikpoi, it looks like the Brazilian cuscuz as we prepare in my region.”

Finding myself in unexpected places… A journey towards spirituality

At the Sathya Sai centre....

At the Sathya Sai centre….

As I am writing this post, Sai Baba has his gaze fixed on me.

There’s no avoiding the warmth in his eyes and smile radiating onto me even from a picture hanging on a wall above my head. Perhaps this was my inspiration to wake up early this morning with a strong desire to write about my journey towards spirituality.

I woke up giving thanks to God first and foremost. For bringing me this far on my journey, from the Dominican Republic to Haiti. Thankful to God for being the pillar inside me that makes me fearless and driven. Yet the comfort I need when I’m lost and confused. For being my guidance towards finding myself in least expected place…

At Sathya Sai centre in Port-au-Prince.

In Haiti.

I believe in the power of the universe, the power of positive forces connecting and creating kinetic cosmic sparks of energy. It’s this type of energy I believe was created when I connected with Guylene in LA two years go. The New-York born Haitian photographer and I shared a car-pool with other Couchsurfers as we made our way from LA to San Diego for Brazil Day festival in 2011.

When I told her just months ago that I wanted to come to Haiti to volunteer, she immediately put me in contact with Carlos Suarez; one of the coordinators at the Sathya Sai World Foundation centre in Haiti. And it’s here that I have been for just over a week volunteering. Finding myself relish in a contentment that doesn’t even include having a social life (though this is something I will be happy to re-establish in due time)!

Seeing the children at the camps smile when we bring them their food is a priceless experience. And these children aren’t quick to smile at just any camera! They’ve been betrayed before. Lured into false pretences that their smiling faces captured on a shooting machine would bring them change. When that change never arrived, they protect their integrity by hiding their faces from the betrayer, from the camera.

And yet they opened their eyes at me, widened their smiles to me, extended their arms out for me. I would love to take full credit, but the truth is it’s down to the respect and trust they have for the Sathya Sai centre coordinators and staff, knowing that everyday without fail (excluding sundays) their food will arrive in the back of a delivery truck.

Journey towards spirtulity

Journey towards spirituality

Spirituality will mean something different to each individual. For me, it’s about allowing myself to let go of mental weight, expectations. Detoxing from aesthetics and sexual pleasure (though neither are excluded) to focus my energies on loving myself internally. Allowing myself to be happy in its simplest form; contentment. When I’m in this state I exude gratitude to God. By loving myself, I am loving God

I believe there are many channels to enhance our connection with God. My relationship with God is personal and spiritual. I know God has a purpose for me, how ever I can only act upon it when I have a clear mind. And with so many distractions from living in a bustling city such as London, it’s when I travel that I connect most with God.

I believe that God comes in many forms. We can connect with him by connecting with positive energy. Being thankful to the universe- our biggest source of energy is also part of connecting with God. I always try to bring back the Godliness I retrieve from my travels; contentment, the energy that keeps me sustained with glow. But it often fizzles out within a matter of days when I return to the pressures of ‘normal life’ and I’m left feeling empty again. Despite carrying on the routine of praying each morning, before meals and before going to sleep, there’s no depth.

And once you’ve felt the power of God inside you, the energy you possess, the enhancement of contentment in your life, you know there is more to God than just saying the routine prayers of thanks you’ve been programmed to do since childhood.

I’ve experienced my world enhanced by knowing God- that is loving the being which is me that He so perfectly created. I’m not here at the centre to change my religion or be swayed into a fantasy of escapism. I’m just opening up my mind to the different channels I can use to lead a fulfilled life of happiness.

And I’m at good place to learn… From the teachings of Sathya Sai Baba.

“Do not get attached to worldly things and pursuits.
Be in the world,
But do not let the world be in you.”

-Sai Baba

Namaste.

My journey continues…

When Rodallo came to London!!

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Rodallo station in 2011

By now you’ve probably established I have a soft spot for this quaint traditional Piedmontese farm village called Rodallo. Neatly tucked away in the suburbs of Turin, in close proximity to neighbouring town Caluso.

When my ‘adopted’ Rodallo family- Elvio and Esta, told me they were coming to London… Well, it was only right that I finally return a favour by hosting them! A small token of my appreciation for the endless hospitality they offer me (and whoever I’m accompanied with) whenever I visit northern Italy.

My central London apartment is a far cry from their homely village farmhouse. But the plus side of it was that they got an exclusive taste of Soho! Walking distance from most tourist attractions and few tube stops from the rest of the ‘Rodallo group’ staying in nearby South Kensington. As well as English breakfast every morning prepared by myself 🙂

Myself and Rosa with our 'niece and nephew', and with Elvio and Esta.

Myself and Rosa with our ‘niece and nephew’, and with Elvio and Esta last summer!

My best friend Rosa, also an avid fan of Rodallo after I introduced her to the village last year, was on hand to bridge the language barrier. Rosa took the opportunity to announce to group of ‘over 60’s’ (except one member who proudly claimed she was ‘underage‘ and therefore ineligible for a travel discount!) that she has plans to move to Rodallo in the near future!… Even more reason for me to visit regularly!

Of course, the British weather was traditional as ever even at the start of our summer- grey! But never-the-less the Rodallo group had a blast!!

Here are a few pics from when the Rodallo came to London in June!

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Mama Lou’s big, glorious wedding!

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The women in my family have always been a symbol of strength; both physically and mentally. They are the backbone of the family, the nurturers, advisers and my teachers. Firm disciplinarians, yet quick create laughter together with their playful conversations often minced with (sexual) innuendo! I learnt through watching my Aunties, how to be a woman. To accept my curves with pride, to stand strong in my beliefs and most importantly to be an independent woman.

So strong are my role models. Maybe too strong at times… I often wonder; exactly where do men fit in the picture?!

So it was a heart-warming surprise to get an invitation from my aunty Lou, Mama Lou as she’s often called, to attend her wedding!

And what a glorious one it was! The Lutterodt women came together to get our outfits perfect. There was something handmade (my aunt Marian sewed her own dress), something bought and something borrowed (Aunty Nicky’s hat topped off my outfit, and the jewellery courtesy of aunty marion added a touch of bling). The Lutterodt men played their role too, looking dapper in their fresh suites!

A picture of perfection!

From the ceremony, Mama Lou’s numerous outfit changes (my aunties don’t do things in halves- it’s all or nothing at all!) straight through to the very last dance. Mama Lou, very much a perfectionist, couldn’t have planned it any better. Nana Obuobi – Queen Mother of Meyera, Greater Accra, brought a cultural Ghanaian touch to the traditional English wedding. Even the British weather was on point with sunny spells. Simply glorious!

What I really loved about this day was seeing my Aunty, an influential role model, surrender to love and happiness. An example that us women can still have our qualities of strength and be soft for love 🙂

The cherry on top of the wedding cake was that I caught the bouquet! Much to the delight of my elder aunties! I can’t help but love their team spirit cheering me on, patiently waiting for me to settle down…

No pressure then!

Vacancies are open. Who what’s to make an honest woman out of the travelmaker?… Don’t all come running at once!

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Travel finding Kai..

Beijing 1998 aged 12. I caught the travel bug. My first trip to Asia which would change my ideology of travelling. It was the trip that I quickly discovered that despite living in a multi-cultural and diverse city which London is, the authenticity of cultures are often compromised. The Chinese take away which I thought was ‘authentic’ Chinese food, wasn’t the Chinese food I ate in China. I learnt then that the best way to discovering a culture is to be there… on the land, amongst the people.

Less than ten years after, I took my first solo trip out of my comfort zone… The beginning of my travel journey. Travel kinding Kai. Travel making Kai…

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