Quarantine Chronicles: Journey To The Past

Singing “Journey to the paaaaast“. Such an awesome song from an awesome movie; Dreamwork’s Anastacia.

Since being home, I have taken it upon myself to de-clutter the entire house, from the bottom up. In doing so, I have found myself through a portal to a past life. An escape from the statistics being fed by the news and narcissism from social media. I look through the photographs and can’t help but yearn for simpler days. Of course back then in my childish naivete I was unaware of the magnitude of the world’s chaos and the stress inducing responsibilities of adulthood. Warning to any child or teenager who stumbles upon this blog: being a grown up is overrated. But I was brought up relatively privileged. Side note, I just found out that I was literally born with a silver spoon. A gift from my grandfather! Going through the old photographs, I am eternally grateful for the privilege I had to experience different worlds around me during my early years. I am who I am because of my early exposure and interactions.

As parts of the world begin to open up and I make decisions on trips planned for the latter part of 2020, how about we look through some photos from my past…prior to this blog?

As you may know, I was born in London, England. I never actually lived there, but I spent a good number of my childhood years visiting family.

One of my earliest memories of travel is taking trips within Nigeria. From 45 minute trips to my dad’s village in Kono and a few hours east to my mum’s village in Umukabia to flights a little north to the middle of the country. I remember this particular trip to Jos in Plateau quite well. We visited a game reserve where I witnessed huge snakes devour rabbits. Scarred for life! At least I got to pick strawberries at a local farm.

Jos, Plateau, Nigeria. Sometime in the 90’s
Zuma Rock, Abuja, Nigeria. Sometime in the 90’s

Watching Disney movies, MTV and Nickelodeon, I always dreamed of visiting America. When my sisters left the country to attend university in Massachusetts, I finally had the opportunity.

Annual picnic by the beach in Rhode Island, USA. Early 00’s
On the way to school, Massachusetts | Early 00’s

We eventually lived in Massachusetts. But in the blink of an eye, my dad’s job took us across the pond to the Netherlands. We lived in Wassenaar. I have nothing but fond memories growing up there. I plan on visiting the country again. This time to experience it as an adult. Living in the Netherlands, it was not only easy to visit family back in England, but also to check out the continent. I remember a road trip we took to England. We drove to Calais, France and hopped on a ferry across the water to Dover, England. Through basketball (yes I played basketball), I was able to visit and compete in Luxembourg, Germany and Belgium. My brother’s elementary school project on Antoni Gaudi sent my family and I to Barcelona for some research (vacation).

Scheveningen beach, The Hague, Netherlands. 2001

We eventually made our way back to Nigeria. Lagos, Nigeria to be exact. While in Nigeria, I had the opportunity to visit Benin Republic, Togo and Ghana. It is a travel goal of mine to visit all the regions of Africa.

Take me back to the beach!! Lagos, Nigeria. 2010’s

When we moved back to the States, we spent a lot of time being tourists. Honestly, it’s not like we’ve stopped. And I’m pretty sure when things go back to “normal” after the pandemic, we’re gonna be aggressive with traveling the states.

First and only time in Las Vegas, Nevada. Under 21. But I’m pretty sure I copped some sips of champagne in the limo. 2010
Grand Canyon, Arizona. 2010

Somehow, somewhere down the line, my family took an interest in cruises. This year is looking like it’s going to be the first time no one is going on a cruise since the first time. My first cruise trip in 2014 took us to St. Maarten, and the US Virgin Islands. I had never seen such beauty that is the Caribbean sea. I wasn’t fully aware that these places where just a hop and a skip away from America.

First scuba dive, St. Thomas. 2014
US Virgin Islands. 2014
St. Maarten. 2014

I hope you enjoyed going down memory lane with me. I don’t remember all the trips I’ve been, but I know for sure, moving forward I will ever take travel for granted. It is a privilege. I also want to take this moment to recognize my grandfather who traveled the world! He passed that curiosity and passion down to my mother. And now because of my parents, I have the travel bug! I pray that one day, I get to experience the world with my own little family and pass down the travel bug to my future children. That’s the only type of bug I’m trying to deal with.

Quarantine Chronicles: Cooking to bridge cultures

So, we’re still staying at home. Insert unenthusiastic yay! While I’ve been at home I’ve been cooking more than ever. Mostly because I can’t afford to occasionally order from DoorDash or GrubHub. I can’t even be mad because it’s been great for my diet and body. I adopted a flexitarian diet which basically means majority of my diet is non-processed and planted based. The beauty of this diet is that if I’m craving meat or seafood, I can totally still indulge. I just have to be mindful of the amount and frequency at which I intake animal products vs veggies. Okay, but how does this relate to the type of content you post on this blog? Thanks for possibly asking! Well the point of my blog, if you haven’t read my about page (please go read about me), is to share my experience as a Nigerian learning and embracing cultures within the US and outside. For me, food is one of the quickest ways to learn about culture. The ingredients in dishes have a history. The process tells a story of heritage. And if you ever get the chance to break bread with someone from a different ethnic background than yourself, the table is literally set for you to have open conversations about their history. I have a very diverse ethnic and cultural background. By blood, I am Ogoni, Igbo, Itsekiri and something else – I don’t know. All different ethnic groups in Nigeria. Because I traveled and moved around a lot, not only am I culturally Nigerian, but my family has adopted American (particularly southern), British and Dutch cultures. It’s evident in the meals we cook to how we celebrate certain holidays. All but one of my siblings have very adventurous palates because of this. I’m telling you, food is another way to explore the world! Anthony Bourdaine (RIP) knew this. And that’s why he will always be a fave!!! Before I get sidetracked, lets get back to the topic of this blog post. So I’ve been at home, can’t travel, I have time to cook, I have an interesting cultural background, and I am adventurous. What do I do? I try out fusion recipes! Particularly Nigerian fusion dishes. Thanks to creativity and inspiration from my Instagram friends and family, I’ve made the following dishes!

Southern cookin’ with Nigerian spices: Suya Spiced Chicken and Spicy Waffles

French treat with a Nigerian touch: Plantain Crepes Stuffed With Egg Stew

Mexican staple with Nigerian filling: Suya Tacos

If you’d like to watch my process check out my IGTV series or my YouTube series. In the meantime, what other cuisines should I fuse with Nigerian? What types of dishes have you made during the lockdown? What are your favorites? Let’s have a discussion in the comments.

Cheers!

Quarantine Chronicles: Community

Dropping off lunch for the guys at the fire station

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I ran away to Atlanta for the sake of my sanity. I was struggling mentally and spiritually while living alone during the Stay At Home Order in Michigan. Not only was I missing face to face interaction, I felt like my purpose had been taken away from me. I’m the type of person that finds gratification in serving and contributing to society. I find it in my profession as an automotive engineer and in my photography and travel hobbies. My mother had suggested me coming down a couple times before, but when she offered the opportunity to work at their homeless outreach I was more than willing. She works for a nonprofit organization that provides rehabilitation and housing for senior citizens and veterans. Due to the pandemic, they have expanded their relief to all homeless by providing daily snack/lunch packs. I decided to bring my camera along for documentation.

Setting up the table with the daily snack packs and bread
Practicing social distance
One of the homeless vets that actually sleeps just outside the building on the grounds
Captain (a veteran and one of the organization’s tenants ) picking up his meals
Ms. Melinda, a senior citizen picking up her meals
Dropping off meals at another tenant’s apartment
Jerome, a veteran. He was so ready for my camera!!
The women who run the organization also decided to buy lunch for the fire station nearby
One of the local churches donated a box of hand sanitizers

The community has been good to the organization. As a non government organization, they receive many donations from other charities and institutions. I’m glad to have the opportunity to be a part of the team albeit for a brief period. Community is such a big deal to me wherever I go. To be able to contribute in any form or manner is a privilege.

Quarantine Chronicles: Future Plans

Picture taken using self timer on my phone.

Ah, future plans. Another grammatical faux pas; redundancy. But I had to keep the consistencies in the post titles of this series. So what does the future hold? Are everyday people making actual plans these days? I understand the lack of desire to not, but I hope so. This current situation is temporary. Everyone should have a hope and something to look forward to. Even God has plans to give you hope and a future. Check Jeremiah chapter 29 verse 11. At least begin to create goals for the sanity of your mind. For my sanity I made the big decision to temporarily leave Michigan and go back to my family home in Atlanta. In the words of Ricky Martin and Christina Aguilera, Nobody wants to be lonely. That song is my JAM!!! Anyways, while here in Atlanta I am doing work with a homeless outreach which I PLAN on blogging about. I’m also currently redecorating the entire family house, starting from the bottom (the basement). I’m in the middle of a workout plan with one of my sisters. I’ll be recording some music with my brother. AND I just started actively working on some stuff for my rotary club in Michigan. For someone who is technically unemployed, I am quite the busy woman. My mind is always occupied with one too many things.

But what about my travel life? What’s going to happen for the rest of the year? Am I going to push everything to 2021? The sad truth is that it looks like some, maybe all of my international travel for this year might not happen. I have a wedding in Canada this Summer and have plans to visit East Africa in the fall; both have neither been canceled nor postponed. This pandemic really threw a wrench into my travel activities. Granted it definitely doesn’t hold a candle to the dire struggles of so many affected by COVID-19. But it still stings.

Nevertheless, a light bulb turned on as my brother dropped me off by lake Eerie in Michigan en route to Atlanta. It was my first time seeing this Great Lake – three down, two to go. Although I do remember seeing a large body of water when I visited Toronto and am beginning to think that was lake Ontario which would then make it 4 down, one to go. I did not enjoy that trip. So, I spent a few minutes in solitude by the water as my brother went to buy gas for the road trip. As I had some alone time to not only contemplate my decision to escape Michigan and also cool off from tension in the car (my brother and I had a small argument lol), it also occurred to me the possibilities of short road trips within the state of Michigan and to neighboring states.

As I walked around Lunar Pier, I examined the empty lake town. The sounds of the crashing waves filled the lonely air. I thought about the history within each street and building of the sleepy town. I appreciate nature and history. Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois all have sights to offer and stories to tell. This would be a great time to explore those parts of the Midwest especially during these times; from a novel perspective.

And as the governor of Michigan slowly lifts restrictions in an attempt to reopen the state, the deeper I can explore. I’m actually excited about the journey that will be moving forward. As my homepage says, 2020 is still my year of new journeys. What do you think the rest of the year is going to look like travel wise?

Quarantine Chronicles: Present Plans

Present plans…a bit of an oxymoron isn’t it? By nature I am an explorer. I’ve always been curious, always been adventurous, always been a bit of a busy body. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve also become a homebody, can be a bit of couch potato; a loner. I’ve realized that I’m the type of person who contradicts herself. I’m neither this nor that. My interests, hobbies, personality are all over the place. One of my friends recently called me a chameleon; That I easily blend into whatever environment I find myself. To an extent, he’s right. But as much as I seem to blend, I have never really fit in. So what’s the point of this seemingly narcissistic introduction? Well, the Stay At Home order in Michigan has been a bit of a struggle. It’s easy but hard at the same time. In my last post I talked about how I was already prepared and comfortable to be in self-isolation. But as I have mentioned I am a natural explorer. Staying at home and following a routine day by day is not natural…for me. I need to satisfy the part of me that loves to wander.

Let me offer a bit of context here. A lot of people have protested that the order set out by the Michigan governor seems to have taken away their freedom. I’m going to call them out…privileged and entitled. I get it, you can’t take your motorboat out into the lake, you can’t buy paint, you can’t do gardening work. While I don’t really understand some of the restrictions, instead of complaining I’m working my way around them and adapting to the current normal. It should be noted that I’m not saying one shouldn’t protest and voice complaints. We do live in a democratic society. But if all you’re going to do is complain, then you’re being a baby. Grow up.

Back to the purpose of this blog post. I recently and spontaneously drove to the west coast of Michigan, back to the sand dunes. This time around I went with my brother and his friend. Thankfully, the state parks are still open. The beauty about these nature parks is that they are huge and open. So when it comes to social distancing, there are barely any risks. The only risk would be another human deciding to approach you. We brought our masks and hand sanitizer.

This earth is filled with undisturbed spaces. And honestly with the stay at home order, there are even fewer people outside. During this time of the year, the sand dunes are particularly empty, which made them perfect for an escape out of the house. I was able to safely practice my photography, and get a great workout (climbing up and down those dunes is not an easy task).

Excuse me as I go slightly off topic. People ruin things. It’s the reason why there are certain laws. It’s because of the stupidity and inconsideration of people. Driving to the coast, we passed a couple of parks that were filled with people. Some people were sat on the grass having group picnics! To me, it didn’t make any sense considering there are loads of other parks that are just as beautiful and empty. A simple google search will point you to “hidden gems”. I understand that it’s human nature to gather, but with the current atmosphere, you have to practice wisdom.

So with that being said, my present plan is to continue to practice wisdom as I make the decision to get some fresh air and explore my surroundings. Be it to go for a walk around my neighborhood or to drive to a park. Here are some tips for practicing social distancing while outside:

  1. Keep your distance. Plain and simple. Unless it is absolutely unavoidable to cross paths, find a way to not.
  2. Visit lesser known spots. Do your research.
  3. Go during unpopular hours. We visited the park in the evening. There were a bunch of people leaving as we got to the dunes. There was still plenty of daylight hours left. The weather was still perfect. Another example for grocery shoppers, go right after senior hour in the morning in the middle of the week. Again, do your research.
  4. Don’t be one of the stupid and/or inconsiderate human beings roaming this earth. Don’t litter. Don’t unnecessarily confront people. Respect the earth. Respect your neighbor.

As we wait out this storm, what have you been doing at home…or outside to adjust to the new normal? Remember, this too shall pass.

Quarantine Chronicles: Past Plans

Stuck at home

In the words of Alanis Morissette, “life has a funny way of sneaking up on you…life has a funny way of helping you out”. Her song Ironic has been one of the songs on replay in my head. Majority of last year I was unemployed and couldn’t really afford to travel anywhere. I was even a gas miser. I would not leave the house unless for essential commuting; church, interviews, groceries…and eventually driving Lyft. At the time of my termination in March, I had saved enough money to sustain me for six months. But I feared by unemployment would stretch out to a year. Then 2020 came with an awful beginning, but come February things were looking up! I landed an amazing job! Not only was I going to be engaged in challenging and futuristic engineering, I was going to be able to afford to pay off my debts AND TRAVEL!! I created a new budget that included future travels for the year 2020! BLESSED BE!!…Then the pandemic took over the globe. My start date in March kept being postponed as the company was trying to figure out their policies for such events. Then their offices shutdown and I received the email that my employment is on hold for the time being. SO CLOSE!! Eventually the governor placed a Stay At Home order. As of now, the order will be lifted at the end of April. An optimist could say I spent the last year preparing for this! In addition to my already established stay at home skills, I’ve also created content on TikTok, IGTV and YouTube. To be honest, when I do worry, it has been spent on others at risk and those tragically affected.

I could go on and on about the current situation, but this blog post is specifically about all the trips I’ve had to cancel due to the pandemic. Here they are in chronological order:

March 13th-14th: Take a train ride from Detroit, MI to Chicago, IL for St. Patrick’s Day (I’ve never taken the this train route plus St. Patty’s in Chi-town is a big celebration)

May 1st-3rd: Fly down to Atlanta, GA for a family wedding (I miss my family so much)

May 25th: Road trip to Holland, MI for the tulip festival (It might still be too early to cancel this trip even if the festival is cancelled)

I still have many trips planned for Summer and few for Autumn. Majority of my Summer travels are within the State of Michigan. I’m more concerned about my international trips come September. I guess that’s for my next couple blog posts in this series: “Present Plans” and “Future Plans”.

How has quarantine been for you? How are you coping? Have you had to make any changes to routines and plans? Let me know in the comments!

2020 Vision (I know, such a predictable title)

Two months completed in 2020 and MY! OH!! MY!!! 2020 was a rough start! Literally walked into the new year fighting off bronchitis with the threat of homelessness in sight. The awareness of me being in my late twenties and single didn’t help my mental state either. Oh and I had been technically unemployed for almost a year. Whew! My self esteem was nonexistent, my insecurities ran wild. My confidence…ha! What confidence? If it weren’t for my commitment to serving at church, I would’ve avoided every single person I knew for the most part. I was utterly embarrassed!

I spent most of January and February in hiding. But I wasn’t in self-pity mode for majority of the time. By nature I’m a fighter and a planner. Through my faith in God and support from my family (Special shout out to my mother), I couldn’t, I wouldn’t and I didn’t let myself give up. What really gave me the boost was my church’s annual week of prayer at the beginning of January. I wrote down all the things I wished for on the prayer card and laid it on the altar. That week I attended every single evening prayer gathering surrounded by my spiritual family. I don’t think I had ever felt the presence of God in such an intense and vulnerable yet calm way. My tears of desperation gradually turned into tears of hope. And who knows if my card was picked up by an individual and prayed over? It didn’t matter. I felt God’s assurance.

So I bought myself a planner, wrote down my goals and dreams for the year and started working towards them. Since I’m already vulnerable at this point, so I will share a couple of my goals and dreams. Let’s cut to the chase…I’m tired of being single. It was fun in my early and mid twenties…fun-ish. But, I’m not here for it anymore. I have cliche aspirations of marrying my best friend, having children and growing happily old with my family unit. I’m not saying I need these things. It’s just what I want. Plain and simple. Moving on.

Being that this is actually a travel blog, I want to visit two new countries. I’m already saving up money for one of the trips that falls on my birthday. Click here for more information. Due to the Coronavirus threat, I’m considering changing my second trip option. In addition to my international voyages, I do want to hit up new places and explore new travel activities within the US. Summer in Michigan is going to be fun! And that’s all I will expose….for now. I can’t tell you guys everything.

Deep breath in, deep breath out. Things are looking up! At this moment in time, one of my personal prayer requests has been answered. It was most likely number one on that prayer card. Regardless, I praised before the storm, through the storm and will continue to do so wherever I go. And honestly, God’s will be done! So here’s to all the travel content headed your way in the next few months and for the rest of the year. WOOHOO!!

A Stay At Callaway Gardens

70 degree weather in December?! Thank God I went south for the winter! I had two weeks of brilliant weather in the 60s and 70s in Georgia. Unfortunately, I caught the flu a day after I arrived, AND then got bronchitis. At this moment I’m still battling the bronchitis. After Christmas, my family and I went down to Pine Mountain for a get away at Callaway Gardens. The last time we stayed there was about six to seven years ago. The weather was not friendly then. And we stayed in the cottages. My nephew, my parent’s first grandchild was just a baby.

This time around with 5 grandchildren, we enjoyed 70 degree weather and stayed in the lodge.

Of course when you’re down south, you must try the local bbq spots. This is something I’ve really missed since moving up north. Three Lil Pigs in Pine Mountain was so delicious. You know it’s good barbecue when they actually smoke their meat outside with actual wood. Their homemade bbq sauce was gold! I basically drank half of the spicy bbq bottle. I had my go to dish, pulled pork sandwich. I love to have mine Carolina style with the coleslaw on top…so delicious!!

Back at the lodge, we spent a lot of time in the lobby by the fireplace. They had free delicious hot cocoa and cookies for us. My nephew trashed majority of the family at tic-tac-toe. Our second night in, my mum and I chilled by the fireplace with drinks in hand. She had a glass of Bailey’s Irish Cream, while I enjoyed a glass of Basil Hayden’s Bourbon Whiskey, neat.

We had two major activities while at Callaway Gardens. The first was the Fantasy in Lights show. At night time, the gardens turn into a Christmas light show where you can either drive in your vehicle or hop on one of the trolleys. About 8 million light bulbs are used in the display. I was pretty sick for the whole trip, much of the trolley ride was a bit of a haze. I didn’t even take any pictures. But I did enjoy singing off key (I lost my voice) to the Christmas songs.

The second activity was exploring the actual gardens during the day time. Unfortunately, it rained majority of the time we were there. The Birds of Prey show that is usually outside had to be moved inside.

Eventually the rain did subside and I got to take a few pictures outside before we headed to the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center. One of my nieces was absolutely mortified. I’m not surprised though. About a thousand butterflies flew back and forth in the glass house. It was magnificent.

The sun finally came out as we arrived the butterfly center.
One of the butterflies decided to catch a ride on my shoulder!

I definitely want to go back to Callaway Gardens. It’s such a peaceful get away from the madness of Atlanta. Next time, I would like to visit during the spring time to see all the flowers and probably without children and without being sick. Who wants to visit with me?

End of the Year 2019 Message

So I haven’t posted in quite some time…tsk tsk tsk! Well, the thing about this blog is that it’s essentially a travel blog. Hence, in order for me to create posts, I need to travel. Unfortunately I have not been able to afford to travel anywhere since September. This is even including the state I live in. If I’m being honest, I started this year way better than 2018. I had high hopes and ambitions. But it all came crashing down. And I’m still trying to make my way through the rubble.

I’m grateful for my mother being so active in my life. A couple days before Christmas, I emotionally broke down while I was driving and she was in the passenger seat. She reminded me of the glory of God in every situation. My family has been through better years, but as she counted all her blessings through the struggles, God reminded me that He is indeed God and He is looking out for me. I was reminded to be still. I could go on and complain about the situations regarding my career and romantic relationships (two important things to a woman in her late twenties), but to be honest, after coming back from my recent family trip to Pine Mountain, Georgia I can see the goodness and grace of God in my life.

So as we enter 2020, I have ZERO resolutions. I have things that I said I was going to begin and/or accomplish in 2019. Those plans have no choice but to roll over to 2020. If anything, my plan for 2020 is to follow through in the process of my projects and plans. I’m also going for a vision board party in January. I’ve heard there is power in visualization and manifestation. We’ll see. But for now, I wish you all a joyful, peaceful and prosperous 2020. Remember, don’t give up on yourself because God will never give up on you!

The Harvest.

My church had a meet up at Long Family Orchard, Farm & Cider Mill in Commerce, Michigan. One of our pastors boasted that they have the best donuts ever! Having visited several orchards in the metro Detroit area for the past three years and tasted some gosh darn good donuts, I was highly intrigued.

Visiting apple orchards and cider mills during the fall season is probably my most favorite thing about Michigan. I enjoy the cool breeze on hayrides trying not to get smacked by branches through the orchard. Seeing people of all ages and backgrounds spending quality time with their loved ones always warms up my heart.

The scent of apples in the air always excites me. I begin to think of all the ways to utilize the apples in my kitchen; apple pie, apple crisp, apple cinnamon oatmeal, apple baked chicken…the list goes on. I always make a challenge out of my visits to the orchards. I must pick the perfect apple, unblemished and without bruise. It’s a bit time consuming, but it’s at least quality time outside in the midst of nature. It’s good for my mental health. Plus it’s a great way to support small local businesses.

At the end of the harvest, you must reward yourself with fresh apple cider and a sweet treat. And the donuts…just might be the best donuts EVER. The way it hit was disrespectful. I never hesperred it…inside joke for my Nigerian readers.

Not to sound like a Debbie Downer, but life has really been hard lately. I almost feel like it’s gotten harder to navigate. I’ve just entered the beginning of my fourth year living in Michigan and it seems like with every step I’ve taken forward, I’ve been pushed two steps back. I said I would give myself til Summer 2020 to decide if I would stay in Michigan or leave. Right now, it’s Fall 2019 and I honestly have no clue. The thought of moving somewhere new and starting all over again exhausts me. I’ve built some valuable relationships here and am just beginning to find my place in community. But at the same time, I had so many plans for how I was going take Detroit by storm and really make a difference. I haven’t accomplished any of my plans. At least not to my standard. I know I have the tendency to be hard on myself. Moving back to Atlanta with nothing to show would deem me a failure…at least that’s what my mind is telling me. Moving back would also mean a change in career for me as far as I’m concerned. I don’t know if I’m ready for that yet. But regardless, I still have about a year to make a decision. A year to brush of the dust and mend my scars. A year to reevaluate my goals and find a better approach towards my goal. God brought me here for a reason and His timing has always been perfect. Whether I stay or go, I’m going to make sure I give it my all these next seasons. Best believe my harvest next year will be bountiful.