I walked through one of the abandoned neighborhoods in Detroit one afternoon. Thankfully there are many organizations working on bringing the streets back to life. I strolled with one of the volunteers who spent her childhood in the West Davison area and listened as she blissfully reminisced on a place that no longer exists.
The aroma of pumpkin spice lattes consumes me as I walk passed every coffee house. The leaves are beginning to lose their vibrant green color. The air is finally getting cool. Time to fill my closet with sweaters and booties. If you couldn’t tell from the large pumpkins on display at every grocery store, or the crowds visiting apple orchards and pumpkin patches, well the autumn season is upon us.
This summer I attended the 35th African World Festival held in Detroit.
One can imagine my excitement and expectations of this event especially with me being an African (Nigeria) living in America. From the title itself, one would expect a congregation of the different African cultures showcasing their individual arts, music, fashion, cuisine, literature, history etc. You know, because Africa isn’t a country. Let me say it louder for those who fail to listen: AFRICA IS NOT A COUNTRY!!! What goes in Morocco has no effect on the culture in Swaziland. The food eaten in Djibouti I’m sure is quite different from what is eaten in the Ivory Coast. Not every country has lions and elephants roaming about, not every country eats jollof rice, not every country wears Dashiki.
But somehow the planners of this event yet again revealed what most Americans – looking at you African Americans – do. They shoved the entire continent into one vague, Hollywood devised country – thank you Coming to America. And in my opinion, they did a poor job at it.
There was nothing to identify the individualism of the different nations of Africa. Nope! I felt like I had just stepped out of the airport to be greeted by tourist targeted shops that sell what you think is merchandise native to the country of Africa at an overpriced mark because they sellers know very well that your image of Africa is what Western culture has given you i.e. Dashiki, head scarfs, wooden jewelry, huge wooden masks, and more Dashiki. And how could I miss the huge section of pro-black, pan-African vendors selling “Black Live Matters” shirts, Africa shapes on any item, and Egypt.
Anyway, my friends and I came across a tent that had musicians playing what sounded like Atilogwu (a dance from the Igbo culture) music. To our dismay, what we saw looked like a dance troupe of middle aged women rocking head scarves and flowing skirts dancing barefoot with moves reminiscent of again, Coming to America, nothing like the Atilogwu dance, all being led by the instructor who probably took an African dance course taught in her American university. We were not impressed.
As for the food…DEAD. I don’t understand how majority of the vendors were selling fried chicken, fries and greens. I didn’t know that was an African staple. Caribbean food was also pretty popular too. And don’t get me started on the sad looking yellow rice with vegetables that they tried to pass off as jollof. What disrespect!! The thing is that I know there is a diverse demographic of Africans in Michigan. One of my favorite restaurants in the area is Ethiopian. Did the Africans not get the memo about this festival?
I guess not enough Africans were consulted. The whole festival just seemed like an event planned by African Americans for African Americans in an attempt to get in touch with their “African” heritage because hell, we all come from Africa, right? I should’ve known better when I saw that the musical headliners were African American gospel choirs, jazz musicians (an American genre) and Eric Benet. Yes, Eric Benet. I wouldn’t be mad and probably would’ve enjoyed myself more if the name of the festival was, I don’t know, African American Heritage Festival. But no, it’s the African World Festival. And somehow, I, An African, felt like a foreigner out of place in the midst of it all.
What happens when I have an intense week? Well, I plan a Saturday trip to a local winery and vineyard with girlfriends for some wine tasting. There’s nothing like good company. Add some wine and a sunny summer afternoon, and you’ve got relaxation.
This was my first time visiting a winery, period! For someone who loves her glass of dry reds and semi-sweet whites, I can’t believe it took me this long to visit.
Side note: I asked for a wine rack for Christmas and my sister got me a 25 bottle wine rack!! So excited to one day fill it all up!!
Extra side note: I planned a trip to Chicago earlier this year to attend a wine festival and got pretty, uh, “nice”.
Basically, I love wine.
Anyway, so we visited the Sandhill Crane Vineyards in Jackson, Michigan. That’s about an hour and a half west of Detroit. It’s been around for 14 years and has grown immensely in popularity in the past 6 years, with award winning wines. It was started up by a retired police officer who created a business out of his hobby of wine making.
The venue is so inviting and cozy. Everyone who works at the winery was so friendly and welcoming. It helped that my friends and I got a lot of compliments on our outfits and general appearance. One of the hostesses, took us on a tour of the grounds, from the cafe to the cellar to the room which hosts events.
After the tour, the ladies and I were seated on the patio. Each tasted 8 different wines of our choice; from dry to semi-sweet to dessert wines. My favorite were the Riesling and the Cabernet Sauvignon. I bought a bottle of the Cabernet. Hopefully it’ll spend some quality time on the rack if I don’t give into temptation and open it up.
Tulum is the first place I’ve visited in Mexico. So it only made sense that my brother and I would indulge in tourist activities. I was particularly excited about the cenotes and the ruins.
A cenote is a natural sinkhole. The limestone bedrock breaks apart and reveals an underground water cave. Tulum is known for cenotes, so of course we had to visit at least one. It’s interesting, there’s a whole ecosystem in there with fish, bats and birds.
On our way to the Mayan ruins, we came across this guy with an iguana. Being who I am, I decided to hold it. My brother also came over his fears and held a snake.
Back in the day (pre-Columbian period) Tulum was inhabited by the Mayan people. My brother and I visited the 13th century archaeological site which houses the ruins. The ruins consists of mostly temples, a cenote house, and a castillo (castle) located on the cliff overlooking the Caribbean sea.
Unfortunately, the castillo was closed for maintenance. So I only got a distant shot of it.
Even more unfortunate, my brother and I were so deep in conversation about the problems and differences between our generation, the generation before and the generation after, that we unknowingly exited the site and couldn’t get back in without paying for another ticket. Sucks, because there was a whole lot more of the ruins that we missed out on.
For 4th of July, I decided to take a break from the United States and visit Mexico for a few days. I took my brother along with me, because you know, who’s gonna take pictures of me? This was actually my first time ever in Mexico, so I was quite excited and nervous at the same time.
A few things stuck out to me:
1. Mexico reminds me so much of Nigeria, from the vegetation to the buildings, even the people. Some woman scolded me and called me “stupido” because SHE wasn’t paying attention and almost had an accident with my bicycle. The bicycles provided by our hotel was our mode of transportation, 90 % of the time
2. The water closet system is strange. They either don’t flush down toilet paper, or the bathrooms don’t provide toilet paper. Still trying to figure that out.
3. Bargain and haggle so you don’t get ripped off. Another similarity with Nigeria
4. There was a thunderstorm over the ocean on our last night. Our restaurant was on the beach. All logic flew out with the violent winds as I thought a hurricane was approaching.
I feel like I need to give Tulum another go. Things didn’t really go as I had hoped, but I am thankful that my brother was there with me.
Living in the states, my family tends to mix Nigerian culture with that of the American. For example, Backyard BBQ with Jollof rice, thanksgiving with Jollof rice, ski trips with Jollof rice etc…I’m totally kidding about the last part. There was no Jollof present. But nothing screams American summers louder than grilling, fishing, roasting s’mores, and camping. Well, this is the America I grew up watching on TV.
This past weekend was one of the most stereotypical American weekends I’ve ever had. I went up north Michigan and stayed in the cutest cottage ever that overlooked the lake with its own private “beach”.
Side note: To all those who believe sand around a lake is a beach…it’s not. Unless the lake is as huge as a sea, but even then, that’s stretch.
Below is the timeline of my activities:
Friday evening: I fired up the grill and cooked some salmon, sweet potatoes, and asparagus
Friday night: Pitch dark outside, no moon in sight, with nothing but a flashlight, took the row boat out into the lake. I can’t say I enjoyed this part. I don’t trust dark waters.
Saturday morning: Took the boat out for my first ever fishing experience. I hooked my own worms and everything! AND caught a fish!
I “caught” a second one, but I had a struggling match with the fish ending up ripping off the hook from the line.
Saturday afternoon: Took the canoe out into the lake for some exploration. I decided to leave all technology behind for this one, so no pictures. Okay, so I had actually dropped my phone in the water earlier that morning. It literally slipped right through the cracks of the dock.
Saturday late night: Made a bonfire, roasted some marshmallows and made s’mores. The night sky was glittering with a million stars. It was a perfect night.
Sunday morning: Went out fishing one last time before heading back to the city.
As a woman from River State, Nigeria, I am particularly proud of myself for catching my first fish!!
If you’ve ever been to Detroit, you would be aware of the plethora of art tattooed across the city; murals, graffiti, sculptures. Charles McGee is a legend amongst artists in Detroit. A 92 yr old, who moved to Detroit at the age of 10, Charles McGee revealed his most recent piece, an 11-story mural. I repeat, A 92 YEAR OLD!
I attended the reception held to celebrate his achievements. It also showcased some of his popular pieces. I was beyond overwhelmed and inspired. I was fortunate enough to briefly meet and chat with Charles, a very frail yet strong looking man seated on a wheelchair. He reminded me of my grandfather. Same age, still working. And not out of need, but a want. The fuel is still fresh. It’s almost out of necessity if not it’ll waste away.
Who would’ve thought Detroit, MI would have a vibrant Mexican community? When you think of Mexican immigrants, most uninformed people (like myself) would think Texas, California or New Mexico. But there are vibrant Mexican communities all across the MidWest with Chicago shockingly being the number 2 city for Mexican immigrants.
Through the company I work for, I participated in the Detroit Cinco De Mayo parade. I got so caught up in the moment and atmosphere that didn’t realize the photo opportunities I was walking by. These are just a few of the pictures I remembered to take.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m very much into the art scene. As an artist, I am drawn to creativity in form of colors and patterns. It’s one of the reasons I’m obsessed with street art. I travel a lot and one of the most exciting things I find in each city are the bursts of colors and stories spread across the walls of buildings.
Last week I was Houston for Easter. I needed a break from the Midwest. My friend and I were on our way to Discovery Green, an urban park located in downtown. While looking for parking, we came across this cop who gave us whack directions to a free parking area. As we tried following his directions, we soon realized we had gone wrong way when we noticed that the park was no longer in walking distance. Fortunately for us, as we were navigating the area, we came across this block filled with graffiti and I noticed a number of cars parked around it. So we decided to stop and take pictures…you know we had to do it for the gram. I had no idea we had stumbled upon a Houston gem known as the Houston Graffiti Building.
Majority of the people who had congregated at this spot were your urban hipster, hypebeast, woke type, social media obsessed demographic. I don’t know how I managed to leave without getting pictures of them…rookie mistake.