Have Passport?  Will You Travel?

Right on the heels of the announcement that the US and the UK have banned electronics of a certain size being brought on board flights into the US, emanating from “Muslim majority countries” and some airports in North Africa, is the attack as on the British Parliament today March 22, 2017, being deemed a terrorist attack for now.    Five persons are reported dead, including a policeman and the attacker.   Sympathies go out to the families of the deceased.   

The attack on the Houses of Parliament in London occurred exactly one year after the Belgian attack.  How quickly these things fade from our memories when we are not directly impacted. At the time of these incidents our sense of security is shattered and then time passes and we think everything is irie.

The public at large isn’t privy to the specific rationale for banning the electronics in flight other than the authorities have received information on “imminent threats”.

Just like the limit on the volume on liquids in carry on, would we see global adoption of this policy?  We wait to see!


We have the 45th President of the United States doing all in his power to restrict travel to the US of person from “Muslim majority countries” and we are also hearing many reports of deportations of non US born persons to their countries of birth. ICE’a dragnet is far and wide. 

I have observed that in most cases these persons had in the past committed state and federal offences, but they had already served prison time for these offences – double jeopardy!   We would never know the level of intelligence the authorities have on such persons, we just hear their side of the story.  

How are these recent incidents affecting your travels plans?   Would I recommend that you lie low until this boils over, if ever?

 I can’t tell you what to do, everyone should be tuned in to their own level of comfort and or fear. As for me I will continue to put on my travelling shoes,  soldier on and take advantage  for TSA Pre-check status until it is taken away for whatever reason.   

Travelling out of our comfort zone to less travelled places, learning and appreciating other cultures are ways in which we can reduce bigotism and racism etc.   Yes, I know there are people who are well traveled and are still bigoted AF, but for the majority of us, our world view is enhanced by the experience.

Last year I travelled to three South American countries and one Central American country I hadn’t been to before.   The atmosphere in those places are not as tense as in the US and in the U.K.    Threats of terrorism are almost non existent.   

 

Remember to not only travel to places,  travel into your heart and soul as well. 

Glenda Jack is an unrepentant traveler and her next trip would be to New York City on business.  

A Blogger is Born Every Day 

I write this piece with two of my trusted friends in mind. One now lives in Iran and even though a lot of distance separates us I still always bounce my ideas off her. Isn’t the internet great? I can always depend on her to give me honest feedback.  The other one lives in the US.  She is a communications expert and  with her as well I receive the brutal truth.  

 PT Barnum, founder of the circus, Barnum and Bailey is credited as having coined the term 

a sucker is born every minute

P.T. Barnum
If he were alive today perhaps, he may have similarly coined the term:

A blogger is born every minute 

In this “free for all digital age”, where manuscripts, copy and drafts no longer have to be submitted to editors for approval and vetting before they appear in print, Jane and John Doe can write anything for consumption, there’d always be a willing audience/following. 

 Blogging and VidBlogging are the new means of editorializing and opining, sharing information and misinformation. “Alternative truth” is the new buzz term.   

One does not need to have a degree in journalism nor even attend a Journalism 101 class to have a following. 

Blogging is the great equalizer.   

There are hundreds of thousands of bloggers, in cyber space, some paid and sponsored, some using “bots” to boost their following, and some doing it just for the love of blogging. Topics range from racism to politics to the arms race to terrorism to entertainment to gastronomy to travel to LBGQT issues. There would always be a captive audience under the sun. 

 

Then why do I feel I have a niche audience via my slice of blogging paradise: “comewithgblog.wordpress.com”?

 Here are some reasons:

 1. I would like to blog on Caribbean Travel.  Bloggers for Caribbean Travel are few and far between. The Caribbean is much more than the 3 “S’s”. Wouldn’t it be great if we take virtual historical, cultural and gastronomic journeys, when I travel the Caribbean?

Ruins of Palais Sans Souci, Cap-Haitien
2. There aren’t many bloggers journaling the black female ex-pat experience – from experience I can say a lot about why some ex-pats are more equal than others. 

3. Whose going to showcase us?  There aren’t many bloggers creating a niche for  the “50+ is the new 25 crowd” – We buy into the Hollywood concept that you stop living when you reach a certain age. No not at all. My circle is living proof.

Janice Prass

There is intersectionality amongst the three and I certainly don’t have all the answers and I may not get a mass audience but write I will on the above topics, even though friend number 2 advised that I should stick to one theme, because my subscribers, all seven of them for now, would be coming to the site looking for topics of a particular slant, she cautioned that they may get confused if I mix it up. This is a valid point, but nonetheless I will continue to rep., tell my own stories and also include those of family and friends.  

Happy to have you on this Journey.   

Glenda is a Wealth Manager who doesn’t believe that there is any mundane situation, what may seem ordinary can be chronicled into the most exciting tale just using a smart phone as she does.     

 

 

Black Employee Network

I recently joined my company’s Black Employee Network (BEN). BEN is an Employee Affinity Group for employees of Black/African heritage and their supporters. The purpose of the Network is to inspire members to achieve their full potential as committed and motivated employees through informal networking, career advancement, mentoring and social/community opportunities. Even though quite a few of the former purposes don’t apply to me because I am winding down my careeer in the financial services industry.   I fully endorse the initiative for the younger BE. 

General networking events are held regularly to provide a forum for members to hear from motivational speakers and learn from each other through building professional connections and social events. Educational workshops are also held on a quarterly basis, which are aimed at supporting members towards advancing their education while developing their communication and networking skills.

Mission:

To help build a more collaborative, harmonious and dynamic workforce through Celebration, Awareness and Advancement of Black Employees.

Celebration: Participate in corporate, communal and historic celebrations of key milestones and events that promote black history, culture and achievements, and charitable causes and community involvement.

Awareness: Execute initiatives to promote BEN and increase membership, membership value, and the engagement of black and non-black employees.
Advancement: Facilitate corporate dialogues and provide resources that equip qualified black employees to manage their current and long term career objectives.​
 

Community:

 Pan Fantasy: BEN has had a relationship with Pan Fantasy over the last few years sponsoring them for Caribana as well as other activities within the community. 

 Commendations to the company. There are other associations in the company such as the Asian Employees Network, the Native People Employee Network.

 I am by no means advocating  separatism, but rather identification.

Andi’s  Journey – Conclusion 

If you had an opportunity to chat with your younger self, what would you discuss? What advice would you give? What would you do differently?

  • Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today
  • Travel more
  • Save more
  • Invest in a decent pension

 Do you believe women are born with an adventurous spirit or it is something that can be developed due to circumstances?

  • I do think women are different to men.
  • I think nurture vs nature is a big influence in lives.
  • I believe that if you give opportunities, there is so much to discover out there.
  • If women live a sheltered life and have no opportunities as in many of the women I see here in Egypt, they can’t experience fully their lives.
  • I do believe we in the West have so much we take for granted. Only when you travel and see others’ lives then you know.

 

You recently visited Ghana for a wedding, how was that? What’s different about a wedding ceremony in Ghana?

Ghana was bitter sweet for me. It was like being in the West Indies again. Lovely people and weather and not at all as I imagined. However, I was only there for a week.

It was also very sad visiting the slave dungeons in which quite possibly my ancestors were imprisoned.   

 

What are some of the most memorable lighter times you have had in your chosen profession?

I ran a Comenius group at my school in the UK which allowed exchange between schools across Europe. I was able to visit Slovakia and the Czech Republic a few times and the highlight of our 3 year partnership was to take 15 pupils (3 of whom had never left their county) to visit our sister school in The Czech Republic. What an amazing week. Children who had possibly never met a foreigner before were communicating in ways they could. No English was spoken by the others. Children are children wherever they are in the world ( I’ve found that out too!) A girl who was a bit of a loner in the UK got my badge of friendliness as she was teaching another to count in English and do a clapping game. Along with my book BERa Award ( British Educational Research award that I mentioned before) These 2 things stick in my head as to my accomplishments in Education and my own self.

What do you feel you have bragging rights to?

Bringing up two sons who are well adjusted young humans.

We are forever learning and growing. Is there anything you would like to take the time to learn more about?

Life, people, why we are like we are.

I would love to do an Anthropological study one day.

 What is the quality you feel best describes you?

Personable


 

What is the best personal learning experience you can talk about that may help someone who wants to work and live abroad especially in a totally different culture? Anything that may help them advance or prevent them from making a costly mistake…

  • Do it
  • Try to learn the language
  • Make local friends
  • Eat the local food
  • Go to where the locals eat
  • Travel as the locals do
  • Smile at the things that annoy you ( Timekeeping)
  • Embrace it as fully as one can without losing yourself.

 You are very young at heart – how would your children and grandchildren describe you?

Adventurous

 

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me Andi! I have always admired you, your drive, your authenticity. Continued success on your journey and I hope you will make several visits to comewithgblog.wordpress.com and impart your wisdom. Blessings and much love to you always!

Habitation Des Lauriers – Your Home Away From Home 

If you’re looking for a place to stay  in Cap-Haitien that feels like a home away from home, then I highly recommend Habitation Des Lauriers. 

Cap-Haitien is in the north of Haiti.   


 
This boutique hotel is owned by Leslie and Brenda Coles. Leslie is Haitian and Brenda is originally  from Honduras. Both lived many years in the US.

 

I stayed at HDL February 25 – 28, 2017 and I took the opportunity to sit down to talk to Leslie about HDL to find out a little  more about this “colonial house”  atop the hill, overlooking the bustling city and the Atlantic Ocean .

Leslie told me that the house was built in 1901 and was owned by a French man from Corsica, France.  He bought the house in 1975 and retained its original name, Habitation Des Lauriers. 

 The Coles began operating this lovely place, as a boutique hotel 10 years ago. They started off with 7 rooms and now they have 23 rooms including superior and standard rooms. Detached from the main structure, higher up the hill,  there are dormitory style accommodations. On my visit there were a group of medical personnel and a church group staying in the latter. 

 In the main hotel I met people from various parts of the world. Everyone was quite pleased with the ambience, location and the accommodation.  
 

Dining – I am vegan and as soon as Brenda found out she ensured that I had meals to suit my diet; vegetable  soup, eggplant stew and the Haitian staple, mais molou. At breakfast, I noted that most people were having the other Haitian typical breakfast, which is spaghetti with hamburger meat.  Breakfast 🍳 is included with the stay.

  

 The staff at HDL is very friendly help and accommodating as well.    

If you happen to get a room facing east, you must rise early with the sunrise, it is spectacular.

 

When you are not on tour, you can sit off in any of the comfortable chairs in the garden setting with a glass of wine or cocktail of your choice.   

 You can also plunge into the infinity pool from where you can see Dominican Republic in the far distance. 

Otherwise, let Brenda organize a tour for you to:

La Citadelle

Le Palais

Or to the  Amiga Island.   All at affordable costs.   She can also arrange a driver to take you around to see the city.  

 

I asked Leslie and Brenda if  they ever had any renowned persons stay at the hotel. They said that amongst the renowned guests was a Nobel Prize winner from Argentina and they also accommodated members of the Cornell and Yale University Orchestra which put on a concert last January at Le Palais Sans Souci.

Habitation Des Lauriers is definitely the place to stay in Cap-Haitien.

 P.S. One little detail I forgot to mention is that  transportation is arranged to and from the Hugo Chavez International Airport free of charge.    

Let’s follow Andi’s Journey to Egypt  – Part 1

Andi Downer, a lifelong friend of mine  has been working and living in Egypt for the last 5 years.  

I sat down to chat with Andi to discover more about what inspires, stimulates and motivates her.

Can you give me a brief overview of your educational background which has allowed  you to be where you are in life now and to do what you do?

I lived in Trinidad for 16 years and completed my GCE’s before completing my secondary Education in the UK. I started off doing a degree in Liverpool (having completed my A’s in Law, Economics, Governmental studies and Statistics) but soon abandoned that as I found my calling in Nursing. This I completed in London but before I could work having qualified, I found love in a husband who was in the Navy. With that we travelled and for the next 6 years we were in Gibraltar bringing up 2 boys. On our return to the UK I went back into Nursing whilst my husband did a first degree.  I  followed him when my sons were about 8 and 10 years,   reading Anthropology, Archaeology, Environmental studies and Education. After 2 years of study I diverted to do a full BA in Education leading me to qualified teacher status. Having done 12 years in British schools and a break up of my marriage, I fled to International teaching, beginning in Egypt. 

Pyramid at Giza, Cairo

If  we can, I would like to go way back a bit. As a woman from  Trinidad myself who has been living away from Trinidad for the past 16 years, I know your journey from Trinidad to England to Cairo must have been an interesting one. Talk to me.  What motivated you? 

I went to England really because my mother is from there and after a death in the family she returned to care for her elderly parents and as myself and my youngest sibling were under 16 she decided to take us with her. It certainly wasn’t my choice. I remember crying myself to sleep many nights wishing to be back in the warmth of friends and family back in Trinidad. As a good Christian girl, I went where I was told. Back in those days one didn’t really decide that one would stay in Trinidad as all my older siblings were married and the decision was made for us. I wasn’t really consulted to be honest.

 What made you choose a career in teaching and how is the teaching experience different in the East?

As mentioned earlier I went into teaching by accident, but but accidental choice. I had 2 boys in Primary school where I helped out with the reading, trips etc, and got a liking for it. My husband had just completed his degree and I was working nights in a Nursing home.

Teaching in Egypt is very different from the pressures teaching in the UK. I felt burnt out trying to keep up with the testing and severe amount of paperwork and accountability for children who were not performing (but were doing their best) trying to get the best League tables and so on. Having come to a time in my life where choices were now my own and being unhappy in my employment, I took a leap of faith and just went with it.

Egypt has been in the news moreso since the “Arab Spring” in 2010. How do you feel living there, how do you account for your safety?

Egypt has its political problems and the religion of the country has its own ‘gender’ problems. However as an expat, I don’t fit into the boxes and lead quite a normal social life with little if any problems. I travel around Egypt quite freely, stay out of problem areas, and I would urge anyone to come see the beauty and surround themselves with the amazing history this place has. 

Egypt has had a bad press. I live here. Yes there are areas you shouldn’t go to.

It is quite safe. As safe as anywhere else I can go to.

Pyramid at Giza, Cairo
After 5 years I think I have just about exhausted the places I really wanted to see in Egypt.

Who inspired you? Who were your influencers? Do you have any key mentors or people who deeply influenced you to become such an adventurous woman? Who are you committed to in your work and in your personal life? 

My parents are my influencers. They (94 and 87 years  old now) met in 1946 married in 1947. Dad, a  black Trinidadian and mum white British. Can you imagine the barriers they faced? They are still married, 6 children , 13 grandchildren and 23 great grands from a variety of cultures later still going strong. My parents gave me the experiences, viewpoints and perspectives which formed my early opinions of how to live in a totally multicultural society as a child and I took that with me throughout my life up to today.

What are you most excited or passionate about? We note that you are an accomplished traveler especially to off beaten tracks.  

I am passionate about sharing my skills as a teacher, learning new skills, cooking and of course travelling.

Andi at a spice shop in India 🇮🇳
I have always travelled. As a child there was no better joy than dad telling all 6 of us to get in the car and drive to the beach at Maracas and in my later life travelling to USA, Spain, France before I married at which point I was hooked. The children(and dog) would be packed into a car with the tent and all we needed for the week and away we went to some corner of England. As money was tight in the early days we just did the British Isles but later on we flew to France, Spain and Greece.

Now I make sure not a moment of my free time is spent sitting still but going somewhere to experience the beauty, history, culture and people of a different place.

Can we talk about love and romance? Is it easier to find it in the East as opposed to the West? Are dating mores vastly different between the two cultures

Love?

There is an Arabic Egyptian saying “ I am happiest being in my own company”

It doesn’t  mean I don’t love being with others but actually I am quite happy sitting on a hill watching the sun go down on my own. Of course I would love to share my experiences with someone , however I find that I am now at a stage that I have become used to being on my own. Lonely? Of course at times. I take pleasure in experiencing things and then able to share my insights, my photos, my experiences of the places I have travelled with my family. My grandchildren, my siblings, my children, my friends…I love them all, Could I live with them? ….Perhaps not!

Egyptian men ( a lot) are always on the look out for western females. 

There are some wonderful male friends I have made here, as I would probably anywhere in the world. Not all share all my passions , my beliefs, my lust for living life, and as a western woman, sometimes that is difficult for these friends to fully appreciate. It is a clash of cultures. I am not saying that never the twain should meet, just that it is not for me. Alas, someone with my own values may one day cross my path and Yes I would be happy to go down that route again.  

Hash Group – Wadi Degla, Cairo


Let’s say we are talking a year from now, what would you say you accomplished in that year? So I guess I am asking about those things you know you will be doing in the coming year, that you know for sure won’t fall in the bucket of ‘wanted to do, but never got started’? Tell me about that.

I am always doing online courses, French Spanish, computers, educational etc. Some I abandon, some I keep going at.

I have started learning the guitar in January, and with 2 lessons I am happy to continue. If I can play Happy Birthday for my class, I’d be happy.

I am hoping to get to the Far East either professionally or holidaying so starting this Easter, I’m off to Vietnam. Summer I’m hoping to get to Malaysia.

However, I am at a crossroads in my career, having been here for 5 years I may spend another here or if I get the right job I’ll be off, so who knows…another leap of Faith?

Part 2 of the interview with Andi continues next week on this blog “Come With G”

Ayiti Part 2 – La Citadelle – The Haitian Monument!   

The second day of my Haiti trip consisted of a tour to “La Citadelle Henri Christophe” and “Le Palais Sans Souci”.   

La Citadelle  is a large mountain top fortress located on top of the mountain Bonnet L’Eveque. It is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.   

Entrance to the Citadelle
My new friends, who I met on the flight to Cap Haitien and their friends asked me to wait for them at the police station Barriere Boutielle for the much anticipated trip.    

 Whilst I sat on the bench in front of the police station I was able to observe the folks going about their day to day business. 

They only way you could have known it was Sunday,  was because I saw many bible carrying nattily dressed folks on their way to church. Otherwise it was commerce as usual. People were being transported to and fro on anything with a motor and at least 1.5 wheels.  

Downtown Cap Haitien

The drive to Milot (a kreyolizayion of “mille eaus” (a thousand waters),  was quite pleasant.

Because it was Carnival,  on the way we encountered what Trinis would call “jab molassies” blackened, with their whips and chains blocking the road demanding coins for a smooth passage. We only paid once because I wanted to get a photo.   Otherwise we waved past them. 

Carnival time again
The journey up to the Citadelle comprised,  4WD up to a certain point and then a mule ride uphill led and coaxed by 2 and in some cases 3 young men. The view up was breathtaking. 

Aggressive horse trading occurred but don’t let that be a detterant.   

Which horse will take you up the hill @ Milot?
La Citadelle
The path was well “paved” with stone, so it was not as terrifying as I thought it would have been. I had a more terrifying experience in Ecuador, where the path consisted of shifting earth.   
Start of the uphill journey

 
Our guide was Jean Toni Lacourounne and he is quite knowledgeable about Haiti’s history in general.    

The fort was built by Henri Christophe, who was born in Grenada 🇬🇩 and declared himself king of the north of Haiti after the Revolution in 1804 (Toussaint L’Ouverture, the leader of the Revolution was captured and died in prison in France).  

Statue Monsieur Henri Christophe @ The Cathedrale
The Citadelle is the most impressive fortress I’ve seen in my travels. That such a magnificent structure was constructed more than 200 years ago with mainly local material and labour, bears testimony to the skills of the Africans who were dragged across the Atlantic.   

It was built as a lookout and to ward of incursions by the French after the Revolution.   

Le Citadelle was meant to be self sustaining, it comprised living quarters for the King and Queen and their workers, cisterns and food storehouses. 

There still remains a huge stock pile of canons and cannon balls.   

Stockpile of cannon balls
I would call that area the Machu Picchu of Haiti.   

The Machu Picchu of Hispaniola
Even though an empty ruin, Le Palais is also impressive.   It has been destroyed by earthquakes but nonetheless you could  still imagine its splendor in its hey days.   

Also built by King Henri Christophe 1; it was his official royal residence 

The ruins of Le Palais Sans Souci

“The impressiveness of Sans-Souci was part of Henri Christophe’s program to demonstrate to foreigners, particularly Europeans and Americans, the power and capability of the black race. The African pride in the construction of the king’s palace was The impressiveness of Sans-Souci was part of Henri Christophe’s program to demonstrate to foreigners, particularly Europeans and Americans, the power and capability of the black race. The African pride in the construction of the king’s palace was captured by the comment of his advisor, Pompée Valentin Vastey (Baron Valentin de Vastey), who said that the palace and its nearby church, “erected by descendants of Africans, show that we have not lost the architectural taste and genius of our ancestors who covered Ethiopia, Egypt, Carthage, and old Spain with their superb monuments.”[4] However, Christophe’s reign drew heavily on European monarchical signs of prestige. He established a hereditary nobility, along with coats of arms and prescribed ceremonial dress.uropean monarchical signs of prestige. He established a hereditary nobility, along with coats of arms and prescribed ceremonial dress” ~ Source @ Wikipedia.   


These “monuments” and historical places are in dire need of renovations. 


Next to the Palais is the Cathedrale also built by Christophe so that he could practice Catholicism. 

Cathedrale
Because I consider myself fairly transient I try not to indulge in purchasing  every souvenir which is shoved in my face so it was really tough resisting the vendors at these sites.   The haggling was like I’ve never seen before.   I gave up my money for no material goods in return.   

Ayiti – Part 1 

Ayiti (land of high mountains) – the creole word for  Haiti, the first nation to become independent in Latin America and the Caribbean but yet the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.    


When I told people that I was going to Haiti for a few days I was asked:

• Why Haiti ?

• Are you going on mission work?

Yes almost everyone expressed shock.   When they got over it I was implored to watch what I eat and drink.   

I was advised to get vaccinated against yellow fever, hepatitis A and to have on hand my malaria tablets.   They also cautioned about dengue malaria and cholera.      Yes I have heeded certain warnings and have taken precautions.    

This is the Haiti 🇭🇹 I saw when approaching and landing at the Hugo Chavez International Airport, Cap Hatien. Yes I understand that the north is more verdant than the south but nonetheless.   

For many reasons I will not name here I opted for Cap Haitien instead of Port an Prince.  No regrets so far.    

   
They would have you believe Haiti is a  completely denuded,dry, barren country. Granted that flying over the island of Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic side looks much greener, but the children have not cut down all the trees in the forest for food as yet.   


All that being said though the level of trash along the airport road is astounding. How do you teach a people to take pride in their environment?