Getting lost in the lost city: Petra Chronicles

Jordan was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. I remember the driver picking me up  from my hotel in Amman for the drive to Petra. He looked at me through the rear-view mirror and said, “You have water? It is going to be very hot” I smiled in anticipation and instantaneously decided to use the two hour drive to get to  know my driver and the Jordanian culture. I probed about relations with the surrounding countries, Jordanian food, best places to visit in Jordan, and dating. He said, “Here in Jordan your mother picks your wife. You really want to make sure your mother knows your taste in women otherwise you’d end up with an ugly woman” I laughed at the idea of my mother picking a husband for me. I’d be ruined! I adjusted my position at the back of the car- we were going to have a great conversation. He took his eyes off the road for a brief second, then said, “You have the eyes of a Jordanian woman”. “African. You mean an african woman” I corrected him. He smiled then nodded in agreement. 

There’s a pretty good chance you’ll absolutely love the Rose City. The Rose City also known as Petra or The Lost City is nothing short of gorgeous. The twists and turns will lead you to breathtakingly beautiful cravings in the mountains. The varying shades of sandstone colouring in the walls of the mountains rivalled nothing I have ever laid eyes on.

 I traveled through the royal temple and tomb. When I reached the monastery, I paused to take in the structure. It was quiet- peaceful, even.  I liked it. I liked the intimidating mountains that remind humanity of its place in the world but contradicted that reminder by letting us know how much could be achieved if we set our minds to it. I was snapped out of my reflection by the sudden sound of rap music blasting “…Ain’t no limit to this as long as we drop gansta shit” I was shocked. Was that Snoop playing? Why am I hearing this here? How is this possible? Before I had the chance to spell out globalization, a petite bedoiun turns around the corner on his donkey with music blasting as he sang along. I shook my head. Globalization! Bringing America rap to Petra one bedouin at a time. 

What to see: The Monastery. The Temple. 

What to know: ‘bedouins are hard as the desert, soft as the sand, move like the wind, and are free” 

Nigeria: Naija No Dey Carry Last.  

I’m Nigerian American! Let me tell you, we third culture folks have it rough some days. Rotating rehearsed scripts between being American, Nigerian, and the most annoying, not Nigerian enough on a frequent basis. The “you aren’t Nigerian enough” option from my fellow Nigerians is the most disconcerting as it carries along with it a sense of judgement and, even worst, betrayal. Why, you ask? Because my tribe of Nigerians had magical dust sprinkled on them at the time of creation. Ask anyone. It’s quite true. Phrases like, “naija no dey carry last” and “Omo naija ni mi” should not be taken lightly. 

Who wouldn’t want to cling to all the excellence that is associated with Nigerians and the country? The country is a beautiful chaos. The traffic, the  motorcycles, the flowing garbs in various hues of reds, blues, yellows and greens will captivate you. There are currently over 182 million people in Nigeria. The giant of Africa certainly doesn’t carry last when it comes to procreating, right (insert side eye here) I’ve found some of the funniest people in Nigeria. If you ever spent a day on the streets of Lagos and didn’t find some event worthy of laughter, I’d strongly suggest that you check your pulse. No seriously, you should. There is always something to laugh about. A look to your left and a driver is beeping his horn telling the motorcyclist how he looks like (and I quote) ‘the head of a goat’ because he didn’t move out of the way quickly enough. A look to your left and the conductor of a truck overloaded with passengers is screaming while hanging from the vehicle with one hand, “Oshodi Oke, e wole e wole, ko si change o” It’s a sight to behold! 
If you have plans to visit Africa and want to really experience ‘Africanness’, I’d recommend you skip Kenya and South Africa (for now) and head to West Africa -more specifically- Nigeria. The giraffe and lion petting can come later. In Lagos (the former capital of the  country) you can go salsa dancing at many of the local spots, grab a local drink at a pepper soup joint, or head to a nearby beach. If the mood so strikes, I’d recommend you head to one of the local markets to grab some artwork and fabric. Some of my favourite well tailored dresses were made in Lagos for less than $50 bucks. #truestory

The food is one of my favourite cuisines (nope, I’m not biased) in the world. If you want spice, I’d recommend the pepper soup. Nothing else could clear up your sinuses like some goat pepper soup. Remember to bring along some tissues, you’ll need them! If you want protein, try the suya. Suya is traditionally made with beef grilled over an open flame seasoned to perfection and served on a stick. Think of suya as a kebab but exponentially better in taste.  Looking for something on the sweeter side, I’d recommend some puff-puff. It’s dessert but not quite dessert. Try it and let me know what you think.

I would be remiss if I didn’t write about the corruption, lack of consistent electricity, and the pollution that continues to plague the country. But what country doesn’t have its share of headache. Nigerian- known as the giant of Africa- continues to find its proper footing in the global arena. For all of its flaws, it is still is a place that would make your heart come alive almost instantaneously. 

What To Do: Have an outfit tailor made. 

Must Try: MoiMoi (Bean Cake) 

One of many transportation options
Open Road Market
On the Island. Steps away from the US Embassy
Respite during a busy day

Museum
African Art

Rome-ing Through Italy

What’s all the fuss about Italian men anyway, right? So what if they look like Adonis himself. So what if the first words you hear from one of such creatures was, “Bellisimas! You are like the sun. There is only one of you” seconds after you meet him. You’d find these Adonis look-alike roaming the streets of Italy with no caution tape wrapped around them. Pardon me, I went on a rant. We are talking Italy!!! We are talking food that leaves a lasting imprint on your memory months after you tried it. We are talking art work that would tempt you to relocate just so you too could be part of this museum accidentally dubbed country. If you read my previous post, you’d recall that I always wanted to explore Italy. I intentionally kept that desire close to my heart hoping someday my feet would take me there. And when my feet  did, boy did Italy knock my ankle socks off!

Italy was more exquisite than I could have imagined. No visit to Rome is complete without a trip to the Colosseum, Pantheon, Roman Forum, Spanish Steps, Saint Peter’s Basilica, and the Trevi Fountain! Rumor has it I broke down and purchased my first pair of fashionable Prada shoes in Rome- who’s to tell if those rumors are true? Speaking of fashion, Italians take their fashion sense very seriously. Regardless of social status or age, locals take pride in the way they show up. 

Must Try: Gelato. Just do it! 

 

Keep it in your heart and your feet will take you there. Rich Port

I stood waiting at the corner of the street for a bus. The local bus would take me to Old San Juan. It was a lovely day to explore Puerto Rico (rich port). The colorful summer dresses flowed carelessly through the streets, music played by a local musician filled one’s ears, and my stomach was filled with seafood Mofongo and Cuba Libre. My decision to take a local bus was driven, not only by cost, but mostly because I knew it would give me a glimpse into the everyday lives of Puerto Ricans.  An hour later, I gave up on any hope a bus would arrived and hailed a cab to Old San Juan. Are you judging me? Ever tried standing in the sun for an hour after having a Cuba Libre? It’ll test even the patience of Mother Theresa (if she partook in such libations) I digress. The cab drove past El Morro right into into the heart of Old San Juan. We turned the corner to unveil colorful buildings that boasted remnants of the city’s past relationship with Spain. Over to the left- a canary yellow house. A little to the right -an aqua blue one. I hopped out of the cab, grabbed an ice cold drink and made my way through a few winding roads. My aim? To get lost then make an acquaintance or two en route to getting found again. 

I wove in and out of touristy stores with little intent to buy anything. Opting instead to strike up conversations with store owners and locals in the area. I walked into a small store at the end of a block where a bald gentleman with kind eyes (I love kind eyed people) greeted me. Within a few minutes, my soul was somehow drawn to this store owner. There was something incredibly humbling about him. I stayed. We swopped stories of our travels around the world. He spent three months each year traveling the world. One month in Italy, another in Spain, another on a cruise around the world. “You are very fortunately, I remarked. “I’d love to visit Italy” He looked at me with his gorgeous brown eyes, and said words that would become my travel anthem for years to come- “keep it in your heart and your feet will take you there” It’s been over three years since I met that kind man. I make it a point to stop at his shop when time and chance permits. I consider him a friend. I’d like to think he feels the same way about me. Last time I visited him, I told him my feet had taken me to Rome because I kept it in my heart.  
Fun Fact: Puerto Rico is a Commonwealth of the United States. Puerto Ricans cannot vote in the general elections. 

Genesis.

The Lagos sun was shining down with an uncommon kind of vengeance that day. I rolled down the window of my father’s car as he drove and put one arm out the wide opening. I closed my eyes and felt the wind pass through my fingers. There are many memories of my childhood, but this one stands out so vividly. I didn’t care where we went as long as we were taking a journey. The journey made me feel uninhibited. Over 20 years later and nothing has changed. The journey is, and always will be, more important than the destination.

This blog is not only about travel in the sense of packing up a luggage with your favourite swim wear, a fabulous pair of sunnies, and boarding a flight to some exotic location. I won’t let you down -this blog does include those- but more importantly, it deals with our interactions with each other in spaces outside of where we call home. Sometimes those interactions are filled with love and acceptance. Other times, they are horrid and make you lose faith in humanity. No matter the exchange, the point is to learn something new, see God in all things, and leave your space better than you found it. This, to me, is the genesis of meaningful travel.

Location: Ouro Preto (Black Gold), Brazil

Fun fact: Ouro Preto is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.