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.

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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?

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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.

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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!

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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!!

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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?

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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. 

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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?

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