My Heart is in Havana| My Blissful Trip to Cuba

Hi Daizies,

You know there’s that one trip that totally changes your outlook on life? Have you ever heard that seeing the world can really broaden your perspective on your life and the world and what you think is important? It sounds all deep and stuff but this past trip to Cuba did just that. By the end of my trip I experienced life in a way that I never had before.

The Culture

I was in Havana, Cuba for 6 days total and felt like this trip allowed me to experience the true culture of the locals the absolute most. The thing that made the trip so special were the people and the genuine friendliness that I encountered every single day I was there. The people there are very warm and have a close knit community. They have a strong community that I felt apart of because of how nice they were to me as well.

Being Black

Most importantly, I was in a society where my identity of being black and a woman didn’t dictate how I navigated through the country or at all. I pretty much was under the impression that no matter where you go in the world, the black people or darker skinned people of that nation experience some sort of discrimination. I thought that the afro-Cubans and the white-Cubans would be differentiated somehow, just from coming from America, this just seemed like it would be a thing. But day 2, I noticed…there didn’t seem to be any racism. Granted, this is just my experience being there for 6 days and I can’t possibly know the ins and outs of every afro-Cuban’s experience but to ME I noticed a striking difference from the racism I encounter with every day in the States whether it be from the 24/7 news cycle of violence or microaggressions experienced. Walking through Old Havana and the central parts of town, I saw the lighter skinned and white Cubans and the afro-Cubans ALL hanging out together. The kids were all playing in mixed groups. The schoolgirls weren’t in close knit groups based on skin tone or anything. Everyone seemed comfortable with each other and referred to one another as CUBAN. Not Afro-Cuban or White-Cuban or anything. The culture wasn’t really based on the separation by what people looked like on the outside. It wasn’t an “erasure” or ignoring of the fact that some people derived from Africa or that slavery existed, but I didn’t feel or witness the same lingering effects of institutional and structural racism that exists in America and in so many places in the world. I had never seen any of this in my life before. Of course I was so curious as to HOW this was. I learned so much more about Cuba and race in the Afro Cuban Culture tour that I’ll touch on later in this post. But it was nice to just walk around with people looking like they’ve never seen a black person before. I often got mistaken for being Cuban and many people spoke Spanish to me. I looked like the people there and felt like it too.

Being a Woman

I have never felt so safe in my life. I felt more safe in Cuba than I do living in America. I have never seen a society where there was so much respect and kindness towards women. In the United States it’s “normal” to look straight ahead when you see men on the sidewalks and walk swiftly to your next destination. It’s “normal” to not even look in the direction of men trying greeting you even in broad daylight but ESPECIALLY at night. It’s “normal” to bring an extra jacket to cover anything that may be revealing. It’s “normal” to miss out on anything that happens after sunset when solo traveling because you don’t know who’s gonna be acting crazy. So much of my life and travel is dictated to doing certain things in hopes of being safe, because of being woman. When I first stepped off the plane and was at the airport, I noticed that a lot of the female workers had really cute short and tight skirts. I was like okay werk, maybe it’s just an airport thing. But when I got into the city, I saw that the short and really tight skirts was a whole style and lots of young women and girls were wearing it. I immediately thought ” how do the men treat them?” Where I’m from, wearing anything that’s deemed sexy could warrant a lot of harassment and just men being so creepy. But throughout my whole time, I never saw or heard any men harassing women wearing the short skirts or wearing whatever. No one thought they had the right to talk to them any kind of way because of how they’re dressed. Simple, but shocking to me because this is how it should be and it actually exists in Cuba. I actually had pleasant conversations with men who greeted me in the city. They asked simple questions like “Is it your first time in Cuba?”, “How many days are you in Havana?”, “Do you like it here?”, or “Are you looking for something?”. It was never that uncomfortable invasive talk you can sometimes run into when you give a guy just a few seconds of your time. Never tried to ask for my number of if I was single. Never tried to touch me inappropriately. Never followed me. Never tried to prolong the conversation to get something from me. Just brief small talk if I chose to have it. Ending with a handshake in most cases. There was a level of respect here that didn’t seem to matter that I was a woman. I was just a person. I was a person exploring Cuba and even the compliments were sincere and simple and not as a way to be weird. It was such a relief. And I was really happy for the women there that they could be free and safe.

I love traveling and have been to many countries but this was the first time I felt free of carrying the intersections of being black and a woman with me. I didn’t have to wonder if someone had preconceived notions about me because of my skin color, and I didn’t have to speed past any man in sight. The thing that separated me from others was my personality. When people talked to me it was to get to know me. Even being American wasn’t an issue there, which is surprising considering all the things America did during the Revolution. People asked where in America I was from and thought it was cool. That was it. No judgement or stereotypes needed to be fought based on my interactions with others. I was just me. It was groundbreaking because now I know it’s possible. I know it’s possible for a group of people to live in harmony and not have violence and systematic laws that disadvantage black people. I know it’s possible for men to respect the choices of women and to not feel they have the right to take from women.

Being Off the Grid

I was solo traveling for majority of my 6 days in Cuba and so I came prepared with a FULL itinerary printed and everything with addresses of what to do and where to go. I am a GPS girl and was like omg this will be interesting trying to get from place to place with 0 wifi. But I actually didn’t even use my itinerary as much as I thought. I had already booked the Afro-Cuban tour with Airbnb before arriving and knew I wanted to go to the beach and do a dance class. But other than that, I literary took it day by day. I could walk out to the Old Havana and the day would just go from there. I didn’t need to follow a plan, I followed a vibe.

I looked up more. I greeted people. I listened to recommendations. I journaled. I was really REALLY present in the moment. I didn’t get bored without the internet and had the chance to see what it felt like before being “always on” was normal to me. When back at my Airbnb, I would watch whatever was on tv for a little bit. There was a station with American movies and I even saw one episode of Game of Thrones. In the tour, I learned that there’s often one person in the neighborhood with a USB drive that downloads all the newest things happening on the internet. Then for like 1CUC an hour you can rent the USB to download all the seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, Game of Thrones, or whatever shows you like and have your piece of the internet. They make it work!

Living in a Socialist Society

From what I saw and learned, everyone has everything they need. I knew the basics of socialism and the word communism always seemed to come with a negative connotation in school but actually being in a country where it’s the way things are seemed like a whole new world. Throughout my whole 6 days in Cuba I didn’t see a single homeless person. In basically every major city I’ve been to and even where I live, I could walk past dozens of destitute homeless people with no where to go. In Cuba everyone has a home and there are shelters available for anyone that needs them. They have such an advanced healthcare system and can go to the doctor or hospital without having to worry about how to pay for it. You can go to school and study for free. There isn’t this inequality of the rich and poor. Everyone has everything they need. And because of this, I felt like people didn’t feel the need to take or steal from each other. There’s no need to. People seemed to share with each other more. Without having to stress about material things and striving to have more and more things, people showed their love and enjoyment of being with each other.

Cuba does have limited resources but it was more of the things that seem common in other places that are used way more than necessary. Like we waste A LOT of things and take more than we need because it’s available. It’s a lot of overconsumption now that I’ve seen a different way of living. Also the way homes are set up, there are lots of homes with multigenerational families. So there’s always someone to talk to, so really it’s easy to not have social media because you can be entertained with those in front of you. Although having my own apartment is a major staple in adulthood in the U.S., I actually thought it would be a fun experience to live close to my family if I lived in Cuba.

Things I Did

Day 1

The first day I arrived in Cuba, I took it easy and enjoyed a nice refreshing nap before going out to a bar with my cousin. I stayed in the casa particular right above the La California restaurant. Here I got to know a lot of the waitresses and waiters, and got great recommendations on places to go in Havana. The bar was called La Esencia in the Vedado neighborhood. We got there around 11pm and it started to get more active around midnight. It seemed like a place where mostly locals went and it was still popping even on a Tuesday.

Day 2

My first full day in Cuba, I went to the Old Havana area and marked the Museo de Revolucion as my main landmark. Surprisingly, this was the last place I visited even as I passed it over and over. With a 1 hour bike tour for 10CUC’s, I was able to see the major places to see that I had on my list. My 2 years of Spanish have served me well in Spanish speaking countries. My tour guide was explaining what we were passing a little bit about the history and I could pretty much comprehend. It was also helpful to know Spanish just for general interactions with people and to get to know people. The landmarks I remember seeing were:

  • El Capitolio
  • La Plaza Vieja
  • La Catedral de la Virgen María de la Concepción Inmaculada de La Habana (had to look this one up)
  • Some wall mural everyone was taking pictures of
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  • A cruise ship
  • An important garden

I don’t remember all of the specific names to the translations but I knew what I was looking at lol. But after the tour I ran into a traditional dancing performance near El Capitolio. I loved being able to see what traditional dancing looked like and the performers dressed in 60s clothing.

For food, I was walking back from the Capitol towards the Museo de la Revolucion area and a restaurant hosts led me to the restaurant and explained what was on the menu. For 8CUC I got the largest serving ever and it was my favorite meal of the trip. Too bad I didn’t take a picture of the outside of the restaurant so I could actually refer people to it. Anyways, the food in Cuba was better than I expected. I came across tons of blogs saying the food was bland and suggesting to bring your own spices. HOWEVER, it was some of my favorite food cuisines and the seasoning was just fine. I don’t like spicy food at all so that lack thereof was no problem. Food in Cuba ranged from a low low price of 1.40 CUC for a filling meal to 23CUC. Also the exchange rate is basically 1 USD = 1CUC, so Cuba isn’t a place where you can expect to buy things for cheap overall. For the lower priced meals try to find restaurants inside of neighborhoods. And when you get to the city center and more populated areas, you’ll find the 20-23CUC priced meals. Also try to eat as much as you can because there aren’t supplies for takeaway boxes. I get full so fast, so I had to leave so much food behind that I would normally take to go.

Day 3

Near the Malecon I got a great view of the city line and it was perfect for a photo opp. There were some statues and things to read as it related to the castle that was nearby but not where we could walk directly to. Going back to research exactly what it was, I found that it’s called the Morro Castle.

The rest of the time from here I was solo traveling. I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering in Old Habana and ran into a local guy who took me on the ferry to visit the Christ of Havana statue in Casablanca. The ferry was about 7 minutes and 1CUC each way. The Christ statue mimicked the Christ the Reedemer statue in Sao Paolo, Brazil. This was something I didn’t even find when looking up top things to do in Havana but it was so cool to see and to take a ferry. I actually think it was my first ferry ride too! It was a little trek up the hill, so I definitely got a good leg work out.

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Day 4

I knew I wanted to take a Rumba class prior to coming to Cuba. I had looked up a couple schools before arriving and had one written down that I was certain I would take a class from. But I ended up walking past another school in the Old Havana area and a friend I made said La Casa del Son was the best one. I ended up making a reservation a day before, since they were pretty busy. For 18CUC I learned the basics of Rumba with a personal dance teacher. I thought it would be pretty easy but there were some specific form details that my instructor was coaching me to do. So it ended up being quite a workout just from trying hard to have the right form. I had a lot of fun learning and dancing. The form of Rumba I was learning came from the Guanabacoa region which is where I visited in the Afro-Cuban tour the following day.

I got a chance to visit the beach, and got help finding the tour bus that goes to la playa. The Malecon in Havana isn’t one where you can swim, so the nearest beach was about 25 minutes away. I got on the tourbus that left from Central Park and bought a 5CUC roundtrip ticket. This beach was called San Marisol and was a lot closer than other beaches people had mentioned to me. The water was a perfect temperature and I had fun swimming and relaxing.

Day 5: Afro-Cuban Tour

I found out about the Afro Cuban Culture tour from a travel group on Facebook. The tour is organized by Beyond Roots Cuba and the experience can be booked on Airbnb. I had never read such profound and amazing reviews of anything ever and booked right away since the slots were sold out for so many days in advance. And it really was everything I hoped for. There were 14 people, all American. Ten of us were Black American and the rest were white. It was great to ask the questions I had in my head to someone who lived in Cuba and could give background to the things I had noticed. It was also great to be around other Black Americans and have that shared experience together. In the intro, the creator of the Afro Cuban culture tour explained that she wanted to create this to give tourists an opportunity to learn about the African roots that influence Cuban culture and especially to dispel any myths that the Afro-Cuban religions were scary. We spent a lot of time focusing on the three major Afro Cuban religions because they played and continue to play a critical role in the culture and especially during slavery. Adrianna, our guide, said that when she first started this tour she always got questions about her black experience as a professor and she did not understand what this meant or why it was being asked. Coming from the United States, this would be a question I’d ask as well, and she was able to learn more about why that was asked and how different race relations were in the U.S. She said she hadn’t really felt racism her whole life in Cuba. Even being female, she said the rule at the university was to have faculty made up of 50% male and 50% female and that it was apart of the law.

It was interesting to hear that Adrianna thought all Americans were white and didn’t know there were black people in the States until Obama opened up travel to Cuba in 2016. Since then African Americans have been seen as a reference point for Cubans in accepting their natural hair and African features. She said they saw that most Americans coming were black and they were coming natural. They then saw that they can wear their hair natural and still be pretty and beautiful. It’s harder to maintain natural hair there because there aren’t a lot of products or resources for the upkeep of black hair. Adrianna said she uses products for white people. So many people straighten their hair because it’s easier but it’s starting to change now since tourism and contact with black Americans. I love seeing our positive influence on other cultures. While the natural hair is something that’s still recent, it’s great that it has positively impacted other parts of the diaspora.

I did find out that while there didn’t appear to be strong racism in Cuba colorism does exist. It is common for people to want to identify is mestizo or mulatto or have long straight hair. But with the younger generation, this is starting to change and more people feel comfortable with their natural features.

I also learned that the people there appreciate and are grateful for the Revolution. It allowed black and poor people to get an education, have good health, and own their homes. Things like water and all utilities are very very cheap. The rich people are the ones who hated it and many fled to Miami.

I loved learning about the religions. We visited an Afro Cuban museum in Guanabacoa and learned all about the Orishas and the origins of the Santeria religion. Santeria is basically a mix between Catholicism and the Yoruba religion deriving from Nigeria. The Orishas were once people and so they have human flaws, emotions and characteristics. According to Beyond Roots, Santeria is based on the belief and worship of a group of Orishas or saints who become beings who represent and symbolize not only the forces of nature but also rituals, activities, passions, and feelings of human beings.

I haven’t heard anything about persecution or discrimination because of religion there either. The way the Santeria religion is set up, there are multiple Orishas anyway, so having a different God to pray to isn’t a negative connotation. You can practice any religion and pray to multiple Orishas or gods in different ways. The religions are personalized to you. Like if you decide to get initiated, your reading and suggested actions are customized to you. Most people get a bracelet, but one man was told he shouldn’t wear it cuz it was a blockage of things he needs to receive. This is just one example of how it’s not super ritualistic and by customs.

I also participated in a cleansing ceremony and received a reading from the babalawo priest. For me, it wasn’t like a shockingly accurate experience. More like common sense things you should follow in life such as having goals for yourself and learning about who you are. I appreciate being apart of the experience though.

Later in the day I ended up going to Casa de la Musica and there was an event going on with a band from Mexico performing. The nightlife is from around 11pm-3am, and around the 2 am I felt myself getting a little sleepy. But the party didn’t end! There was salsa dancing everywhere, people danced with each other and made friends with those around them. The band performing was pretty cool, I have no idea who it was but I guess they were a big deal.

Day 6

I ended up meeting a Cuban family close to my casa particular and spent the whole afternoon with them learning more Rumba dancing, watching tv, and playing with the baby. Days like that are a prime example of being in Cuba. Meeting nice and friendly people and going off and just having a good time. I was going to go to the museum but it was not an important thing to have a schedule there.

Day 7

Before heading to the airport, I rushed to finally see the Museum of the Revolution and it was so worthwhile. It summarized everything I had experienced, with historical documents and visuals of Cuba’s history. I have so much I want to learn more about. Like why was the U.S. supporting the regime when the regime was all about not having equality for the rich and poor? I learned about the U.S. playing a major role in cutting Cuba off from exports around the world and Russia stepping in to buy their sugar exports instead. I saw actual visual photos of how people lived before the Revolution. Many people were struggling to survive and in terrible living conditions. I saw how after the Revolution, Fidel Castro made immediate efforts to eliminate illiteracy, allow renters to own their homes, and have adequate and free healthcare for all. I learned a lot and took many pictures of the displays to read later since I had to hurry back and leave to the airport. But there’s a lot I’m interested in learning more about. It’s so beautiful that even after having a severed relationship with the U.S. for decades, Cubans treated Americans with warmth and friendliness. The past didn’t dictate how they treated those coming to Cuba now.

Havana oh nah nah

Cuba is a country I would definitely visit again in the near future. I can say it was my favorite trip so far. The experience of just feeling like I could be myself and be safe and feel like I belonged is what made it so special. I lived my daily intentions and self care out loud. I have everything I need and more. I don’t have to always be working and always producing. Ir’s okay to rest and be content. There doesn’t need to be this pressure to produce more, to have more, to do this and that to have more money and things, a bigger house or anything. It is okay. None of that matters and I knew that but being in Cuba…I felt that. I had no Internet and had to bring my own toilet paper to most places but I felt safe and secure. And I think being safe and having what you need and deserve as being a human on this earth is worth more than any material thing you can by. Having love from your family and friends and caring about your community is what matters. I loved seeing this and will always take this with me. I’m so full with love from this experience.

Literally and as always,

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One Year After Graduating College| All of My Thoughts

Greetings Daizies,

About a week ago I was laying in bed and thought “wow it’s been a long time since I’ve been in class” and then realized it was almost one full year since I finished school. March 12, 2018 was my last final of undergrad. I think this past year went by in a whirlwind but at the same time it feels like the year was more like 30 months then 12. So much has happened. And I have a whole new life now.

What I Like the Most

The best thing about being done with school is… being done with school. I think having a full time job is way better than when I was in college because there’s a feeling of security and less stress. In school, I often had the stress of not knowing if I would even pass a class even with putting in the most effort I could. And this cycle repeated every…single…quarter for 4 years!

Halfway through my first rotation I can say my work environment and responsibilities are nothing like school. I’m not being formally tested and graded on what I remember from a course and feeling like my whole future depended on it. I have gotten the hang of my role and the nervousness can come when I have a presentation coming up or the ambiguity of a new project. Overall I like my job and really like the balance of my personal and work life. I get tired often though, especially around 2pm when I just want to go home and sleep. It’s not really due to me feeling like I’m bored, but at the end of the day it is work lol. The biggest change I’ve had to get used to is simply working full-time. As a student, I worked full-time only for an internship period of 2 months and it was always followed by a study abroad trip. Now, when one week is done the weekend is here and then it ends and I think to myself “alright back to work again…this is what we’re doing now? This is the routine?” With school there are breaks you’re counting down to, you know an end is coming. With work it’s like “hmmm, this is just gonna keep on going and going?” There is no end to it. The breaks in sight come from trips I plan. I have a work culture where I can take vacation days throughout the year and I’m looking forward to a week off next month hooray!

Financial security is the biggest change for me that I am blessed to have. I’m able to live comfortably and be able to do things I enjoy like travel and buy essential oils lol. But this one piece, is a huge relief.

My tip for future grads is to start acting on your hobbies and interests while in school so it’s easier to build on them once you start working full-time. Don’t let being a student define you.Graduating college is the most monumental goal ever and once that’s done you may feel like “now what?” or that you need a new goal. So many years have been riding on accomplishing this ONE thing. That’s probably where my thoughts of uneasiness about routine come from, the “is this my life?” type of thoughts that happen once the weekend ends. Introducing new fun things have helped me these last few months so I don’t feel like it’s just work work work and living for the weekend. Small interesting goals are fun. Being goal-driven can’t just be turned off once you finish college. I try to do activities after work that involve some sort of ambition like going to the gym and taking challenging classes. Launching a new business, Dai of Social, was also no small thing this year. I even had my first branding workshop this week which made me feel so accomplished and happy my client was happy.

Staying in touch with friends and making new ones is another aspect of graduating. Yes I do miss having a handful of girlfriends around me that can go with me to on campus events or to go out with. It often does take days or weeks in advance to plan a night out or just to hang out. This can be difficult but it’s just the reality of things when people move away or are in different parts of the city. I’d probably be making more friends if I had moved to a new city and knew absolutely no one. I have a lot of new acquaintances but not necessarily in the friend part yet but making progress with getting to know people and seeing if we vibe well. I don’t force anything. I make an effort to be social but I don’t overextend myself or try to be like anyone else.

I of course enjoy my alone time. I explore the areas around me and have gotten quite used to my new neighborhood. I love being able to do what I want to do and when I want to do it. My actions aren’t confined to what finals I have coming up or what topic I need to study more on. I can take a night in and watch tv and the next day can go hang out with a friend. I’ve always been a person that does what feels right with my spirit. So I’ve found a good balance with being social and being by myself.

Things I Miss About College

One night I thought to myself ” was college really the most fun I’ll ever have?” There were some nights for the books where everyone would go out to the same place and dance all night. I haven’t had a night like that in a while or as much. Maybe there will be more of that when it gets warmer but that’s one thing that’s been different with life after college, very little functions and going out.

I miss the *option* of going to class or being able to not go to work lol. My classes started at 10:30am, and it was up to me if I wanted to go. Now I wake up around 7:20 am every single day and it never feels like I get enough sleep. Last year if I felt I didn’t get enough sleep or I knew I wasn’t going to be in bed on time, I would simply take a “personal day” from class. There’s none of that now and that takes some mental strength to accept that you are an adult and these are real adult responsibilities.

I also miss being around black people in spaces and events that were in close proximity. There was the IC at school, for students of color, all of my roommates, the undergrad clubs for business school, and so many functions I could go to when I had the time. Now those are few, far, and between outside of school. I’m finding more events on Facebook for black women now and it just requires a little more effort and research when finding these spaces but I think it’s worth it.

More time for hobbies

I’ve tried a lot of new ideas recently. Now I am at a point where I just want to experience life and be inspired. This year my motto was to be shameless and act on any and every idea I think of. But there’s also beauty and importance of being still. Listening to myself. Living. And enjoying. I think that’s where my next amazing idea or goal will come from. It’s okay to not have a million things on your to do list. And I’ve changed my mind about what interests me and that too is okay. I just want to do what I find interesting and build on those interests.

Each chapter in life has lessons and amazing memories that only happen in those chapters. When I think of freshman year, would I want to go back? Absolutely not. It was rough trying to pass my prerequisites but then I can always remember my first spring quarter on campus and the hilarious weeks of events and memories. Same with the rest of the years of college, oh yes it was so much work, but each year had something unique and special. So even now as I’m new into my career and a young adult, there are things I miss and things I’m getting used to, but there’s something special about this chapter too. And I want to be present and enjoy those moments as well.

As always,

Dealing with IBD: Going Gluten and Dairy Free For Real This Time

Greetings Daizies,

Health post here! Last year was a crucial year for me in finding out more about my stomach issues. Severe abdominal pain started becoming less of random flare ups a few times a year, to an every day occurrence. After several tests and months, the my stomach pain pointed to a form of Irritable Bowel Disease.

I’ve tried just about every supplement and suggested treatment for stomach pain there is. I even thought by minimizing my intake of desserts, cheese, and breads, that that would be enough. But after meeting with a naturopathic doctor, I learned that it takes about 6 weeks to get rid of the inflammation in your stomach. And right now my stomach has been inflamed every day for MONTHS. So treating myself with a tri-tip beef and peppered cheese steak and fries every week or so, sets me back. The stomach pain I feel can be from something that I eat days ago. Isn’t that crazy? So now I am on a mission to take cutting out Gluten and Dairy 100% for 6 weeks.

Reason

After doing the low-FODMAP diet, I noticed that gluten and dairy are trigger my stomach pain more often than other foods. It can be harder for my stomach to break down those foods and my intestines experience inflammation because of it. My first step, is cutting them out completely. Like not even a little treat, because even that little treat can have drastic effects during the week.

Although IBD isn’t described as a condition that’s caused by diet, what you put into your body does have an effect on how your system reacts holistically. I’m working with both a gastroenterologist and a naturopath so I can see both sides of the spectrum. I think the long term medicines work to help not feel the symptoms for a while, but I don’t want to be on immunosuppressive drugs the rest of my life. So I’m going to really try hard at this food thing. For the first 2 days of strictly not eating any of the foods I’m avoiding, I can say I haven’t had my usual flare ups. I know it’s only been a few days but that is a huge change seeing as how it’s something I’ve experienced daily for the past 7 days. I feel optimistic about not letting this control my life and that I will go fully in remission 🙂

Favorite recipes so far

Now I am not 100% perfect in identifying what is and is not gluten, but I’m trying. So if you see something that has gluten in it, let me know! It’s really day 2 with no slip ups. I’m making sure I’m eating enough so I don’t feel hungry and fall back to bad habits.

  • Ground chicken sandwich and fries (substitute the Hawaiian bread I was using for a GF bread)
  • Panko breaded chicken strips ( minimal oil, trying not to eat as much fried foods)
  • Spicy jammy drummies (LOVE this recipe from Chrissy Teigan’s cookbook)
  • Pan seared chicken and Spanish rice
  • Egg noodles and beef
  • Bacon, eggs, and GF cinnamon & raisin bread
  • Fruit smoothies

Non-food health changes

Another interesting thing I noticed is that when I’m on vacation outside of the country, I have NO stomach flare ups and eat literally anything I want. You know why? I am completely stress free on vacation and the food anywhere outside of the U.S. is just way fresher. This is eye-opening, because my body reacts to how I’m feeling (not worrying) and the state of the food I’m digesting (completely fresh and unprocessed). Stress manifests differently in different people. So I am trying to eliminate encountering the things that negatively impact my stomach on an everyday basis.

Food is just one part of my long term health for beating IBD. Along with making diet changes I want to make some lifestyle changes to help me deal with stress which affects my digestive system for sure.

  • Eat dinner before 9 pm
  • Get in the bed before 11:30 pm
  • Actually use mindfulness apps
  • Have more fun
  • Get monthly massages

Looking forward to a successful journey. I can do this!

Wishing health and wellness to you all,

How to Get Out of the Post-Travel Blues

I went through my blog drafts and came across a brief entry expressing how I felt after coming home from a semester abroad in Italy. I remember vividly feeling the way I felt. It doesn’t seem that long ago actually, but 2017 really was an entire 2 years ago. There is much that has changed but I appreciate the journey that it took to get here. I still went on one more study abroad trip after the exchange and it was well worth it. I encourage anyone in college to study abroad as many times as they can! Now that I’ve graduated, I have gotten used to shifting from study abroad as my way of exploring the world to getting comfortable living in one place but planning to travel at least every 3 months this year, with solo travel being a required yearly thing.

Coming back to reality can be such a drag, especially after what was probably the time of your life and seeing so much of the world. Even after trips that are 3-5 days, there’s the reluctance to get back to work and the routine of life at home. My experience with this is to give myself time but not too much time to dwell. Capturing the amazing moments in a creative and productive way keeps my mind moving as I reminisce. Creating a vlog, or writing a blog is a productive way to document all of the fun so that there is a tangible outcome of spending hours looking through pictures and videos of all of the fun I had.

Cinque Terre 2016

Stay productive and live in the moment

It’s true, right after touching down in the U.S. I immediately went on the study abroad page to find a new program I could apply for with one more year of college left. There is nothing wrong with being on the lookout to get out of the country again and by the way things are looking I’d wanna get out of here as much as possible. My advice is to treat it as a thing that you’re doing to nurture your love of travel not to avoid your actual life. You will be in your city more than you will be abroad. Home is what you will always come back to so take steps to improve your life where it is. I did this by making plans to do something new and visit a new place in the city at least twice a month. It has also helped now to recognize my thoughts in my head days prior to coming home and thinking of the positive things to look forward to when I come home or goals I want to accomplish. Thinking of the new goals you can set for yourself helps put some positivity into the “back to the reality” feelings of coming home. I learned that I want to be happy for the several months I’m home so that the travels are even more rewarding and I an feel happy all the way through without spending the last few days dreading coming home.

Puerto Vallarta 2018

For a lot of times coming back home means back to responsibilities and actual work. We all have to work and go to school and take care of others sometimes which is apart of life. One way to manage these stressors is to incorporate the self care activities normally associated with a vacation, into your life at home. I got more massages when I was in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico than the entirety of the year. I think I should actually do more of that and not deprive myself of the amazing pampering of a massage. We don’t have to wait till a vacation every few months to do vacation-like activities. The more things we do to make ourselves smile, the better I think our days will be.

Take a glimpse into my 21 year old feelings coming back to America:

January 17, 2017

“I’ve come back to the United States for studying abroad twice now. The first time I came back from an exploration seminar and couldn’t stop thinking about London for months after I came back. I literally cried as I was getting on the plane. This time, I was gone for four months in Italy and I felt prepared coming home. No tears. I don’t find myself constantly thinking about Italy exactly but more of the feeling of traveling. I miss how  normal it was to be in Milan for a few days only to prepare for my next trip to a completely different place. I’m trying to find a new normal. A few days ago, it felt like I was in the same place I was at the start of last year. Wondering what’s next. Wanting to leave again. Each time studying abroad I felt free. Life was exciting. I was in beautiful places constantly and learning more things. How can I feel the same excitement and freedom in my actual country? As my college experience comes to an end, I realize that studying abroad can’t always be my goal for the year. I’ve already accomplished some amazing global goals as an undergraduate. So right now I am just waiting for something new again. Trying to find what I find when traveling but somewhat in everyday life.

Now that I’m back it feels like I’m starting college all over again but at the same time it seems like everything is exactly how I left it. My eyes see Seattle but my head is still traveling.”

Fun times. Fun times. May the travels continue in abundance.

Reflection: Pushing Past the “Resistance” to Moving Higher

I consider myself a very imaginative person. I am constantly thinking of new ideas in my head and find myself brainstorming new business ideas and things I can create. Ever since I was a kid, I often jotted down ideas for clothing designs, hair styles, products, and even song lyrics. Being creative has always been apart of who I am. This is all important to consider because as we grow up, that imaginative side to us can seem to dim down and the reality and pressures of life can make you want to be “realistic”. You start dialing back those huge dreams and shape them into what you “think” you can do or what you think you’re good enough for.

 Over the weekend I encountered some internal thinking that literally aligned with the recent podcast episode from Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations titled “Unlock Your Creative Genius”. In this episode Oprah interviewed Steven Pressfield, the author of The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, as he shared insights on how to express our deepest ambitions. He believes we all are creative in some way and shared his insights on how to break through those barriers we face to reach our creative goals. This episode was on time and in time for me. In 2018 I launched Curl Calendar. It was the first time I put something out that was a long-term idea that I thought of for well over a year. I felt like I had broken the obstacle of having an idea just stay in my mind. In 2019, I plan to keep going with my entrepreneurial spirit and ambitions. Within one week I had found some really great webinars on Facebook from women sharing their tips and steps to help people turn their hobbies into businesses. A lightbulb went off in my head about something I’m good at that I could offer as a service. I got so excited and the adrenaline of a new ideas was running through my head. I set out to plan my idea fully over the weekend as a business planning workshop for myself.

I started doing research on one element of my idea and tried to put myself in the zone of where I would begin if I was actually starting the project. I started to think maybe I wasn’t experienced enough to do this thing I wanted to do. Maybe there wasn’t a need for what I was trying to provide. Was I going to be good at it? I spent 15 minutes in self-doubt and almost became overwhelmed with the thoughts to the point I just wanted to spend the rest of the afternoon watching Netflix. I looked at the time and it was only 45 MINUTES into my workshop. In less than an hour I had negative thoughts darting into my glow and excitement to embark on a new journey. I recognized what was happening. It was fear, it was all negativity. I talked to myself and told myself to finish what I started and that I couldn’t quit before I even gave myself a chance to see something through. I had spent days exciting to write out my goals and plans for this idea and as soon as I actually started, my internal thoughts of insecurity and doubt wanted to hold me back. I said nope, not today and continued on with my workshop and made so much progress that day.

“What happens first is the dream and resistance is the shadow”. Resistance always takes the form of fear. A shadow trying to pull you away from the dream. You have to make the decision to move forward. ”

Steven Pressfield

The feeling was so familiar and now Steven Pressfield had put a name to it, resistance. Everyone experiences it. It always finds itself prevalent in our brains when we are headed in a new direction and about to push ourselves and embark on things like entrepreneurial endeavors, new career opportunities, or even evolve emotionally.

“The more important an activity is to your soul’s evolution, the higher resistance you’ll feel. The more fear you’ll feel”

Steven Pressfield

I said well would you look ah there. Every single time there is something new coming up, it never fails to have those feelings, that shadow of resistance that wants me to stay where I am and abort whatever idea, big or small, that I may have. I recognize it now and I am glad that I do because now I can be mindful of it and be strong to not let it defeat my purpose.

One thing that resonated with me in the discussion was that that resistance isn’t really us talking. It’s not our best selves, it’s not representative of our values and motives. So don’t beat yourself up…for beating yourself up. That energy that is doubting yourself, is apart of the process. It happens. It doesn’t mean you’re a negative person and that you don’t want to see your own self succeed. What’s important is that you acknowledge what’s going on in your head and not give those thoughts any more power and energy. It goes back to the notion of being mindful. I started being a lot more mindful which is why I ended up having that conversation out loud saying “Yup, there’s that voice in my head with these thoughts of doubt, fear, and insecurity. There’s no reason to feel like that actually. You are more talented than you think. Now let’s regroup and finish this”.

I think I did a good job. What I learned from the episode only further validates what I was thinking and how I practiced pushing past the resistance. With that being said, in 2019 I am stepping into all of my gifts and talents. When I was 12, there was a poster on the wall in class that said “you’ll never know the outcome until you try” and I decided that that was my motto a while back. I’m reclaiming that motto now at 23, unapologetically. Who am I to even stop myself?

Why Black Women Should Own a Cat

Greetings Daizies,

I’ve thought a lot about writing this blog post. There are so many reasons a person should get a cat, but I wanna speak directly to us black girls. I feel like cats have gotten a bad rep and even heard people say “black people don’t like cats.” No one really talks about it but I think cats are the perfect pet for black women. There hasn’t been enough praise for cats and more black women especially need to know why cats are the most amazing animals on earth.

1.Cats are your ride or dies for when it comes time to do your hair

Ladies, it takes sometimes several hours for a perfect twist out, braid out, or even just detangling. Not many people want to sit around and watch the process. Your hands are getting weak, your arms are trembling with fatigue, you’re almost about to give up when you look to your side and a beautiful and encouraging creature is sending you positive energy to keep on going with your natural hair tasks. Cats are there for you and your hair care. They want you to reach your hair goals! I could stop right there but I can keep going.

2. Give and receive love from a breathing being that requires very little from you

As black women we take care of just about everything. Kids, intermediate families, work, school, the bills…everything. We’ve been responsible for juggling many demands ever since we were old enough to and sometimes even before then. Imagine coming home to a breathing that doesn’t need much but your love and your love only. They are just as independent as you are and aren’t looking for you to do basic things like bath them, but just want to be cuddled and pet. If you’re feeling drained during the day, you won’t have to worry about another thing just zapping your energy from you. Cats give you the love you may sometimes feel like the rest of the world isn’t giving. All of this without the constant maintenance that other pets may require *cough cough*dogs.

3. Cats support you in your self care journey

As I type this blog, my cat Spencer offers his support

As I mentioned with cats and your natural hair journey, cats are patient with you in your journey to improve your overall self care. They are still, they are calm, and they are understanding. Lots of self care habits take time, such as doing yoga, journaling, or a face mask. You know what has the patience to sit by you throughout all of these processes? A loving and doting cat. Just wanting to support you and your heart’s desires. If you’re doing sedentary work like writing an essay or brainstorming, you’ll have a cuddly ball of joy to sit on your lap and make sure you finish what needs to be done. When you look down at them you won’t want to disturb them unless absolutely necessary which in return results in more productivity and a better chance of finishing what you start.

4. Be entertained but not agitated

Get lost in the antics of a cat sprinting across the room. Watch them unravel a bundle of yarn. See how interested they are as you unbraid your hair and take down the kanekalon. Or watch your cat simply watch you. Cats are can be a form of calm or upbeat entertainment without having to pay a monthly subscription like Netflix.

5. Cats increase health

The soothing vibration of a cats purr can stimulate the happy brain cells and increase overall happiness. Just letting a cat lay down on you and purr can relieve so much stress. The vibration of a cats purr is in the range of 20 hertz to 140 hertz and vibrations in this range are known to be effective in treating many diseases. Owning a pet in general helps reduce stress and lower our blood pressure. But cats in particular help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. The American Stroke Association found that people who don’t own cats are 40% more likely to have heart disease or strokes. SO while you’re actively getting your life together, the extra added bonus of having a cat in your life just further adds to your black girl magic.

More black women should have cats. If you had a bad experience with a cat or two back in the day, don’t let that have you write off cats forever. They are truly pleasant little angels that are necessary for self care and will be there as you grow and thrive.

How to Keep Your Hair Looking and Feeling Fresh While in Protective Styles

This is the perfect season to rock protective styles. The weather is cold in many places which signals dryness for a lot of people with natural hair. But just because your hair is tucked away in braids or twists, doesn’t mean you can slack off with taking care of your hair. It does more harm than good if you forget about your hair for weeks and then expect to see the benefits of low maintenance styles in the end. Here’s some way to get the most out of protective styling while also making sure your hair is still cared for.

Cleanse your scalp

Have you ever had a style that still looked cute but your scalp itched so bad you’d rather take it down instead? Getting a couple of scalp cleanses in the duration of the style can help it last longer and not lead to the uncomfortable itchiness that makes you want to take your hair down as fast as possible. It may seem like an impossible task to wash your hair when in styles like braids or twists, but you can still cleanse your scalp and you’ll probably be more comfortable because of it. You don’t want to deprive your scalp of a good cleanse for several weeks, which leads to build up of product and dirt. Washing your hair while in braids or twists won’t take nearly as long as when your hair is out and free. I cleanse my scalp every 2 weeks when in braids, crochet, twists or any protective style. I’ve managed to do this without getting all of my braids wet and it taking days to dry. Since the focus is on your scalp you’ll need:

  • a spray bottle
  • conditioner
  • water
  • hair bands

Wash Day method

  1. Mix 1/3 cup of shampoo into 2/3 cup of water into spray bottle
  2. Section hair into fourths
  3. Start with one section and left the ends of your hair up and spray directly onto your scalp
  4. Massage the mixture gently onto your scalp
  5. Repeat until each section is complete
  6. To rinse, fill the spray bottle with water and in the same fashion lift one section of hair up so that the water only runs onto your scalp
  7. Rinse each section

I use more water than shampoo for wash day in this case so that I am not disrupting the neatness of my hair with all of the lather that comes with shampoo. Lifting the ends of my hair up and out of the way helps for long hairstyles and to avoid the trouble of trying to go to sleep with wet braids. You can always blow dry you hair if it does get wet, but I like to avoid this all together. After shampooing, I condition in the exact same manner. I dilute the conditioner and complete the process just as with the shampoo.

Tools needed for conditioning:

  • Spray bottle
  • Conditioner
  • Water

Daily Moisturizing

The point of a protective style is to have your hair protected for an extended period of time. Your hair is mostly protected which is good, however applying a moisturizer to your scalp and to the exposed pieces of your hair will aid in healthy scalp maintenance and preventing dryness to exposed strands. After wearing twists for several weeks, there are pieces of my natural hair that I can see sticking out. My natural hair and the extensions are the same color but I can obviously tell where my hair is showing by the texture. Since this part of my hair is now exposed to the environmental elements that can cause dryness, I apply a leave-in conditioner and coconut oil to the twists I know have pieces of my hair showing. It’s easier to tuck those pieces in especially once moisturized.

Even lightly spritzing your style can add some life and longevity to your look. I fill my spray bottle with water, vitamin E oil, almond oil, and castor oil to quickly moisturize my scalp and freshen up my twists every few days. This adds extra some shine and sheen to my hair.

Redo your edges or the front of your hair bi-weekly

For braids, twists, faux locs, or other styles that are installed individually, you can revamp a style that’s getting fuzzy in the front by simply redoing the first row or two every couple of weeks. My goal was to keep my twists in for six weeks and I was able to do this while keeping them looking almost brand new by redoing the front rows. There were also a few pieces here and there that bothered me throughout my hair, so when I had time I just redid them so that I could get the most out of my hairstyle.

Don’t keep your style in too long

All good things do come to an end. While you can keep a style in and looking great for a while, you don’t want to leave the style in forever and risk your hair matting up with build up. The recommended time to wearing a protective style is around 4-8 weeks. For me I wear my styles for about 6 weeks. It’s important to give your hair a full wash and deep condition after having your hair tucked away for a while, and also give your hair some time to be free.