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.

Culture Shock

Originally posted August 2019.

I went back to the Silver Lake sand dunes for a photo shoot with 4 other black women and one Asian. We just so happen to be there during the free ORV weekend. What does that mean? A bunch of predominantly white Americans in their Jeeps, dune buggies and dirt bikes riding around by lake Michigan. We rolled up in one of the model’s 4 x 4 Jeep ready to drive through the dunes.There was jubilation when we spotted the only other black group participating in the activities; two older couples driving by. HEY KINFOLK!!

At a point, one of the photographers and I had to hitch a ride with anyone who would give us a chance. Luckily this older man and his young daughter gave us a hand and took us on a fun ride!! At another point when we had to pick up a recreation passport (required to enter state parks), things got interesting as we pulled up to the scene blasting something along the lines of Meg Thee Stallion or Lizzo; my memory fails me. Anyway, the intensity of the stares we received was like no other. I honestly think it was mostly out of surprise and confusion. A bunch of black girls and an Asian, half of them dressed in gowns, blasting hip hop, about to ride sand dunes in a Jeep. It’s obviously not common. 

I hoped out of the vehicle with my bubbly energy and made my way to the front to purchase the passport, the whole time feeling the eyes following me. I wasn’t even phased by it. I thought it was hilarious. I was like, “Yeah, we also came to have some fun like everyone else!”.

I’m a very curious lady. I’m the type of person that will try almost anything different. If it looks like fun, I’ll be there regardless of the people I see doing it. Because of this I was called an Oreo or similar for majority of my life. I still didn’t and don’t care. Looking at the demographics chilling by the beach and driving through the dunes, I was reminded of the time I went mud riding in the middle of the woods in God Knows Where In South Alabama with a couple strangers I met in the city. PLEASE DON’T BE AS DUMB AS ME!! 

So I definitely was not surprised to see the characters we came across.

When trying to define American culture, things can get complicated. The united states of America is a gargantuan machine built with so many different yet opposing parts. In this day and age, thanks to social media many Americans are beginning to see the different sides, shades, thoughts, opinions…cultures that make up this nation. For some it is the realization of an ugly truth, for others it is relief that their truth can finally be heard. In my honest opinion, from what I have observed from reading American history, this country has thrived on culture clash; Native Americans, slavery and African Americans, Japanese immigrants, Catholics, Jewish immigrants, Muslims, Hispanics, white nationalists…the list goes on! But this is America. This has always been America. And guess what, ish like this goes on in most if not all other countries. I’m not sure why we all expect better from America. My guess would be because America is where the oppressed run to for freedom. 

I Took A Trip To India…In ATL

Originally posted August 2019.

I spent about two months in Georgia this summer and one of the places I wanted to visit was this Hindu mandir (worship place) just outside of the city of Atlanta in the suburb of Lilburn.

When my sister and I used to live in Atlanta way way back we would always explore the city and attend events together. So when she recommended we visit the temple, I knew it was one of those opportunities that we don’t often come across. My sister picked me up from the airport and we headed straight to the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Atlanta.

Here’s a quick lesson on BAPS and the mandir. BAPS is a Hindu religious organization within the Swaminarayan sect of Hinduism. This mandir in Atlanta took 2 years to build with 34,000 hand carved pieces of stone shipped all the way from India. Construction finished in 2006.  

No picture taking was allowed beyond a certain point closer to the actual building in reverence of the worship grounds. I don’t think I could justifiably describe the intricacy of the bricks, walls and ceiling…UGH!!!

The architectural detailing was reminiscent of the cathedrals of Europe. At certain points there were ivory white details of the different Hindu gods within the pieces, one after the other. In my sister’s words, it is an architect’s dream.

First impressions…”It’s a lot smaller than expected”. That disappointment was quickly overtaken by the beauty of the grounds. It was when we drove around the building to exit the premises that we realized the enormity of the temple!

I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to me that the United States of America would house such buildings. In a sense it seems so un-American because once you approach the security gate, you’re almost transported to India as the Indian security guard with his matching accent welcomes you. But then it is America. I’ve driven by so many mosques, European Christian orthodox cathedrals, synagogues and so it only makes sense that obviously there would be beautiful Hindu temples across the country. Visiting such places reminds one not only of the ethnic and cultural diversity – which makes this country great, but also the religious diversity. Maybe I should do a series of traditional religious buildings I come across in America. What do you think?

Unplanned Trip to Savannah, Georgia

Originally posted July 2019.

THE AUDACITY OF MY OWN FLESH AND BLOOD! I wasn’t invited to my family’s trip. If I hadn’t asked what they were doing the weekend of, I would’ve been left behind in Atlanta. And I wasn’t the only one almost abandoned. My brother was also left out of the secret trip. So, we invited ourselves to their weekend vacation to Savannah GA. We spent half of the time in downtown Savannah and the other half on Tybee Island.

Savannah is about three and a half hours from Atlanta. I’ve been to Savannah a couples before and what I always remember are the Oak tree canopies with Spanish moss hanging from the branches.The first time I visited Savannah was with the whole family and we did all the tourist activities including a historical trolley tour through the city, jet skiing with dolphins in the Atlantic and a night time ghost tour. This time around, my brother, his girlfriend and I decided to just chill and walk around City Market. 

Since honesty is the best policy, I have to confess that I barely took any pictures while we were out. Mostly because we had gotten buzzed at the hotel’s complimentary cocktail hour before leaving. I had a very strong rum punch and gin and tonic, plus a few sips of margarita. Anyway City Market is this area downtown near the squares with restaurants, bars, and shops. It’s pretty much like an extremely tame and small version of Bourbon street. We ended up at this Scottish restaurant for dinner. I had the bangers and mash because sausages from the UK are the best!! I also had a glass of scotch which I would feel the next morning. Since honesty is the best policy, I have to confess that I barely took any pictures while we were out. Mostly because we had gotten buzzed at the hotel’s complimentary cocktail hour before leaving. I had a very strong rum punch and gin and tonic, plus a few sips of margarita. Anyway City Market is this area downtown near the squares with restaurants, bars, and shops. It’s pretty much like an extremely tame and small version of Bourbon street.

Speaking of next morning, we spent the day on Tybee Island which is about thirty minutes from Savannah. One of my fondest life memory is going on my first ever jet ski ride and having dolphins swim up and play around us. It’s always an amazing experience encountering animals in their natural habitat. Well this time around, due to shallow pockets, we just hung out on the beach; swimming in the ocean, flying kites, and just general lazing.  

The last time I was by the ocean was about a year ago in the Caribbeans. I think this is the longest I’ve been separated from it. I was longing for it. And it sure was nice to be back. My body, mind and soul were at ease. That’s what nature does to me. It’s God’s creation unbothered by humans. It’s beautiful and innocent. You know God takes care of nature regardless of human interference. And the crazy thing is that we are even more special to Him than the creatures that fly in the skies and the ones inhabiting the land. I know the world makes it hard to have faith sometimes, but if you just abandon your ego and the human interference, stop looking for reasons or something to blame for your situations, and just let God take care of you (easier said than done)…just imagine how awesome you’d be no matter the circumstance.  

As for Savannah, I’ll be back another day. There’s so much fascinating history in that city that needs to be documented on this blog. It won’t be a spontaneous trip next time. 

Chasing Balloons

Originally posted June 2019.

Back in the peach state again!!! Georgia has a lot more to offer than the city of Atlanta especially for those who love to explore nature. You’ve got the beaches by the Atlantic ocean to the east, mountains to the north, caves, waterfalls, rivers, lakes etc.

The last time I went to Helen, an old Bavarian town two hours from metro Atlanta, I chased waterfalls and tubed up the Chattanooga river. This time around I visited with the intent to ride a hot air balloon during the hot air balloon festival. The traffic entering the town center was ridiculous. The Georgia summer heat held nothing back. The air was filled with the smell of sweets, and the sounds revving engines from motorcyclists attending a bikers convention. For lunch my family and I stopped at Two Tire Tavern for German sausages and one of the local ice cream shops for dessert. And then we began our God knows how many miles trek looking for the festival grounds.

I’ve always been fascinated with hot air balloons; particularly how they navigate the sky. This was my first time being up close to a hot air balloon and I gotta say, I was quite blown away (PUN INTENDED). As I saw two balloons take off into the sky my eagerness to ride elevated (PUN INTENDED).

Alas, we were distracted by the need to document everything we spent way too much time trying to get pictures (I’m beyond disappointed with myself for this). By the time we decided to line up to ride it was pretty much too late in the evening.  Thankfully American skies are full of balloons during summer. I’ll make another attempt at another festival.

In The Desert

Originally posted May 2019.

So I haven’t traveled anywhere in a minute. At first I blamed life circumstances for that. But at the end of the day, life is just mind over matter. And I’m really trying to mentally get over myself and make things happen especially when people let me down. I’ve been working on my photography and videography skills which has been helpful. It keeps my mind focused and creativity challenged. Through this new venture, I even found a group of creative women that has ended up being a source of support and motivation. 

We recently went on a mini trip to the west coast of Michigan to take some test photos for a project we’re working on. Last summer, I went to Saugatuck, a beautiful little town with dunes overlooking Lake Michigan. This time I ended up at Silver Lake. We specifically went to catch the sunset on Lake Michigan from the sand dunes. Oh my goodness, the sand dunes!!!! They are a natural wonder to me. I felt like I was in the middle of a desert as I walked through the high hills and valleys of sand. 

The winds were unfriendly. They were great for picture and video purposes but oh so painful on my skin! I felt like I was being shot at with tiny needles. But when the wind calmed down, the peace I felt was like no other. 

In one moment I was in the middle of nothingness. The next moment, I could see the gorgeous and seemingly boundless Lake Michigan.  Once again, I attempted to catch the sunset on the lake. Once again, like last year, the sun was hidden behind the clouds as it disappeared into the water. The whole experience was a metaphor of my life.

Let’s cut to the chase, life has been hard. I honestly wish I could go into the future to make sure that things turn out well and that I’m happy. Like genuinely happy. Scrolling through Instagram I see people posting about their opportunities and achievements, and I can’t help but wonder why is it difficult for me to accomplish things that seem like an “easy” check on life’s generic to-do list?  Why do I frequently find myself in deserts and valleys? I’m actually tired of having to find the oasis and lilies. I’m tired of having to see my glass half full even when I feel like I’m empty. Like God, I know you’re teaching me to be patient but when will it be my turn? What’s worse is that I hate that I feel this way because God has been faithful and provided for me. I just didn’t think I’d still be wandering at this point of my life. But thank God for His promises on which I can hold on to.

Fun Times in Quintana Roo

Originally posted October 2018.

So it’s my second time in Mexico, second time in the state of Quintana Roo. Last year, I spent a few days in Tulum with my brother. This year, I was in Cozumel and Costa Maya for a day each with my family.  We pretty much spent majority of our time in Costa Maya on the beach.

I decided to go for a little adventure in Cozumel. This was my second time going scuba diving. The first time was a few years ago in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. While I absolutely love the experience of being able to breathe underwater and explore the ocean floor, this time around I had somewhat of an awful time. I woke up with a cold and slight headache that morning. As we descended into the ocean, the worse my head hurt. Halfway through, I actually wanted to swim back to the surface due to the discomfort.


A Piece of Me In Roatan

Originally posted October 2018.

Where do I begin with this blog entry? SIGH…

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect from visiting Roatan. My sister had booked a tour with a local Honduran who has exceptional reviews on Trip Advisor. So I had pretty high expectations. But boy, I had no idea that the experience would transcend all senses. I saw, I heard, I smelled, I tasted, I felt. Because I did more video taping than picture taking, I’ll be posting a video clip of my time on the island soon. 

As my family left the port and made our way into the island, my sister asked a local stranger if she knew Cleve. She smiled and pointed in the direction of a slim man with brown skin and short dark straight hair holding up a sign with our last name on it. We shouted loudly with joy “CLEVE!”. He responded with even more energy “FAMILY!!!”. We basically ran to each other like long lost relatives reuniting. He gave us all hugs and there was pure jubilation amongst us all. I’ve never been welcomed by a stranger like that before, but it was heavenly! It was that type of love Jesus preached about back in the day. Another local man who was in the corner observing the whole spectacle told me that we were in good hands…”Cleve is the happiest man on the island”. It honestly pains me that I can’t really go into details of the character that is Cleve because I would end up writing a novel. And this blog post is my travels on the island of Roatan. But I’ll say this, Cleve is the light and salt of that island. 

He embraced my family as his own, and showed us his beautiful island. We got an awesome history lesson that even connects Roatan to Nigeria via the Garifuna tribe. One of the five tribes on the island. The Garifuna people first arrived to the Caribbean after their slave ship from the bight of Biafra capsized. For centuries, they have fought to conserve their West African culture. 

We ended our tour eating local food in one of the villages of the Garifuna people by the water.  The food was so similar to the cuisine of my people in my father’s part of Nigeria. Seafood soup with fish, lobster, conch (a shellfish) eaten with machuca, or as my people call it ununu (mashed plantains). It was enough proof for me that the Garifuna must have descended from Nigeria.

Oh, how I want to visit again!