Stop #3: Los Angeles, a Hidden Treasure

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Echo Park, Los Angeles

Los Angeles is so much more than Hollywood and vapid blonde women in big sunglasses and angry Black men in speed cars (the stereotype, I know). As much as I did get to explore places and spaces beneath the surface of LA during my college years, there are some really obvious areas that I neglected to ever see.

It would be unfair to liken it to New York City’s Central Park, or even São Paulo’s Parque Ibirapuera. Still, Echo Park gave me that feeling. The feeling of a nature-based hideaway smack dab in the middle of the city. With leaves rustling against the wind in the trees above, and the ducks pattering away, and the constant shower of the fountain, one can easily close her eyes and escape the city that is just a block away in every direction.

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That day was really special. I got to reconnect with my college bestie, which was just fantastic. It was a lovely reminder that no matter how far and how long we’re apart, we’re still part of each other’s lives. And that means everything to me.

~Feroza

 

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Note: This is part of a series of posts in which I share snippets of my Easter sojourn. Thank you for reading.

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Stop #2: Rio Dulce, Guatemala

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Rio Dulce, Izabal, Guatemala

It is important to remember that there are people who live a very different way of life from you. No better, no less.

Do not condemn what you do not know or understand.

That is the beauty of travel. You learn to be slow to judge, and more open to the beliefs and stories of others.

~Feroza

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Note: This is part of a series of posts in which I share snippets of my Easter sojourn. Thank you for reading

Stop #1: Belize

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I hadn’t spent any real time in the city I grew up in since I left nearly 14 years ago. When we visit, we usually spend just one night and continue on to the southern part of the country where we have family and where we’ve built our new family home.

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Nothing about the city has changed, yet much has. I went to Belize for a sad occasion, but in return I received an opportunity to really experience living in my hometown again, giving me a more balanced view.

I can’t say Belize City is beautiful, but its home. There’s crime, distrust and extreme poverty. But there are also hidden treasures as well as kind, generous people, like the man who took this photo and proceeded to tell me his testimony.

~Feroza

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Note: This is part of a series of posts in which I share snippets of my Easter sojourn. Thank you for reading.

Pictures and Memories

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Dangriga Town, Belize

There is nothing as sobering as death. It makes you cling to life in a way that you didn’t before. It makes you reevaluate things. It’s crazy to think about how someone who has always, always been around…is suddenly not. And when they’ve left this world, all they leave behind are pictures and memories.

Pictures and memories.

In February two people that I knew died. One who was a member of my faith community back at USC, and the other was my near and dear grandaunt who served as my mother whenever I was in our hometown. With my aunt, it was expected. We’d been preparing ourselves as a family for months now. But with my friend, it was completely out of the blue. Despite the different circumstances of their deaths, it’s put me in a more reflective mood than usual.

I’m thinking about how uncertain life is. I’m thinking about how settled I was beginning to feel until life threw me a curveball. I’m thinking about whether there is anything I would change if I knew I’d die tomorrow or at some fixed date in the future. It makes me think, “Am I satisfied with my life?” And if not, “What can I do now to start changing that?”

When I first typed this, I was traveling to Belize to attend my Aunt’s funeral and to be there for my family. I’d had no plans to travel for a while, but it seemed that my homeland beckoned. And, despite my misgivings and my own plans, I’ll always respond to the call. Family is important.

Since then, I travelled to six other countries in the space of six weeks–A totally unplanned for sojourn that just ended up happening as I went along. The next series of posts will be tidbits of reflections of my time in those different places and spaces. 🙂

Thank you, readers, for hanging in there with me.

~Feroza

What I Believe

I’ve been reflecting a lot about what I believe, and why I believe what I do. I don’t think I could trust another who has not been through this process. Because, if you don’t know why you stand for something, then there’s someone you’re fooling–either yourself or someone else.

I am not having a crisis of faith, but I’ve had to reexamine it, in light of some recent events. Here, I’ll merely focus on Trinidad & Tobago’s carnival celebration this past February.

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No, this is not me. But there were feathers, feathers everywhere

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I was delighted to find traditional drumming!

Carnival is a five day street party (though officially two days) in Trinidad, and the largest annual event in the country. Having just moved here a few months prior, I made it my mission to see different aspects of it. I was convinced that it would give me deeper insight into the culture and history of the people and nation.

Long story short, it did. It was fantastic, seeing the city come alive in preparation and with people. The electric feeling of excitement in the air. The academic conversations it sparked. Also, the more superficial conversations it sparked.

Some of my Christian friends, however, did not approve of my methods, and it turned into a situation where I was led second-guess myself.

The point is this, Christians in Trinidad and in the wider Caribbean shun carnival because of what it ‘represents’ and what goes around it and out of it. I use quotation marks because I acknowledge the dualistic nature of the event. Firstly, it began as a celebration for the freed enslaved to celebrate their emancipation from the British colonial masters. Over time, it has become an outlet for mainstream media to feature music, for liquor companies to make money, and for ordinary people from near and far to dress scantily and carry on in the streets with their “baddest behavior.”

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A float depicting stick-fighting

Bad things follow carnival. Just this year, a beloved Japanese tourist was found dead in her costume just days after the event. People get alcohol poisoning. Men and women alike cheat on their partners, fueled by too many drinks and the general sexuality of the event. Thieving rises. Prostitution rises. Unplanned-for babies are conceived.

Yes, indeed, I understand clearly why the Christians flee. Why they condemn.

However, I feel another point just as strongly: it is possible to enjoy and take part in carnival without subscribing to any (most) of those things. I had a really great time meeting new people, observing the costumes, listening to the music, and understanding that sexuality is an inherent part of the culture of the African diaspora.

I have my faith, but I am also a scholar and a traveller. I have learned not to condemn something that I do not understand. I have learned to observe and question. I know how to research (and I intend to do more of it). And I have learned, also, to have a good time without compromising my own principles. There is more to the story, of course, but I will not go into excessive detail about it. It isn’t necessary.

At the end of all of it, I have this understanding about myself, and I’m okay that it will offend some or make them uncomfortable. This is what I believe for myself.

Blessings,

Feroza~

How Couchsurfing Changed My World

It was never my intention to come to Trinidad. It was never in my grand plan, not that I had one. After graduating with my B.A, I was supposed to hitchhike to Ecuador, find my Rastafarian husband and teach English/Music on the beach (my parents were mildly supportive of this). So when I did end up in Trinidad………….it was a struggle.

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Coffee and Culture Exchange meet up!

If you’ve talked to me in the past four years since my family has moved there, you’d know about my deep reservations toward Trinidad & Tobago. I have lived in four other countries and the transition of moving has never been as rough as it has been for my move here. For various, various reasons. Point being, toward the end of last year I got the point where I was ready to pack my bags and move somewhere else as soon as I could.

Days into the new year, I was formalizing those plans, creating budgets, and doing research into how I could complete this law degree in a different country, preferably one I’m already acquainted with. But while making those plans, I recognized the need to find a way to hold over until at least half way through this year, when I’d be done with the first year of school. So, I decided to look into the local Couchsurfing community. After all, the website had served me well while traveling through Europe last summer.

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After briefly meeting at a CS event, we caravanned together on a ladies beach day

For those of you who don’t know, couchsurfing is a community where locals host travelers in the spirit of culture exchange. One can either host, stay with a host or “meet up” with other folks who treasure an authentic, local touch in their travels (for free or at the cost of cooking/going out together). I met my Luxemburgan brother through CS so I have a rather high regard for the site.

I figured that meeting other likeminded people wouldn’t be a bad idea. I was aching for the kind of subculture that, sadly, one has to know someone in order to find it. Unlike America, nothing in Trinidad is really a quick Google search away, and the predominant “bar and liming” culture runs counter to my nature. I’m more of a café and chill kind of girl.

So I updated my profile to “willing to meet up”, and saw that there was a meet up event happening in the first week of the year. It was at a coffee shop, aimed at new and seasoned couchsurfing hosts to talk about their experiences hosting. I looked at it as an opportunity to meet locals who would hopefully give me encouragement about living their country. Maybe, I thought, I would make a new friend. Maybe.

Long story short, I did make a friend. I ended up meeting someone who has become my best friend here in Trinidad since that very afternoon. His opening line? “Allow me to show you the artistic side of Trinidad.”

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Guess who’s local and who’s not 😛

Since the year has started, I’ve been getting deep into the CS community here in Trinidad. I’ve been going to a few meet up events, hosting a few events of my own and through that I’ve already made some lifelong friends. I realize I sound like a cliché study-abroad advert or something, but as someone still new to the country, couchsurfing has been a great platform to meet people that I would not have otherwise.

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Writing music with Sarah, a vibrant surfer 🙂

It’s like therapy—an opportunity to share my own story of moving from place to place, and an opportunity to hear other people’s stories. It’s a space where I don’t feel like an alien because of all the places I’ve been, because I’m in kindred company. Most of all, it’s been an opportunity to discover and re-discover this country that I’ve professed to hate (such a strong word, which is why I use it).

After my 3.5 month sabbatical last year, I haven’t had much of a stomach for travel. Settling in one space for a while has been a much more appealing notion, especially since I’m trying to get through law school. But hosting people and meeting up with people who are traveling or are dreaming of traveling has turned into another kind of travel for me. And, it has made living here so much more bearable.

The rest has been entirely Divine.

~Feroza

Queen

This week, I celebrate the two year anniversary of going natural. I’ve been wanting to write about this and I’ve been struggling with it…because I didn’t want to be a cliche. You know, repeating what every other Black woman has said about it. Or even superficial, because what is hair compared to more substantive issues like politics, world hunger and climate change? Nevertheless, it’s been an important part of my experience as a young woman growing into myself. I must write.

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For me, my hair is a statement. I am my hair—wild and vibrant and passionate and tamed-ly untamed.

For me, my hair speaks freedom, independent thinker, and someone who will not bend to toxic manipulation.

For me, my hair reminds me of my truest self. Left on its own, it defies gravity. It naturally grows upward. It is skyward bound. By that virtue, I myself defy gravity by the mere fact of my existence and the desires I have for my life.

For me, my hair reminds me of my worth as a Queen: dignified, intelligent, creative.

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This is written as I ruminate over several comments I’ve received and conversations I’ve had with women in the past couple weeks about my reasons for going natural, and their own fears about going natural themselves. I’m struck by just how many people consider this courageous. And it is. In this Eurocentric world, it takes courage and inner strength to be oneself.

But the way I see it, I cannot and will not be anyone other than how I was born to be, and as superficial as it may seem, my hair is bound up in that identity.

Some have called me ‘unkempt’. I’ve received snide remarks about not having a comb. Others have hinted that it is unprofessional and draws too much attention.

But for every one of those comments, I’ve had far more conversations affirming one’s own natural beauty, and I’ve inspired so many in walking this natural walk as a living proof that it is possible and that it is worth something. After all, why it is a terrible thing to draw attention? Why should it be a terrible thing to be myself? It is not. Not a terrible thing at all.

I’m happy to have reached this point where I am. I’m honored that other women are looking at me as a model for what they could be, what they already are.

Queen.

~Feroza

Here’s Looking Back

img_20151223_154259.jpgI feel like I’ve spent a lot of time looking back. But I do because I want to remember. The power of memory is that people and moments are kept alive. The power of memory is that you know exactly what you want (or don’t want) moving forward. It’s important to remember in order to be grateful. It’s important to remember, in order to be kind. It is important to remember, so that you can chart your path forward and avoid the mistakes of the past, if you can.

But I think I’ve done too much remembering in the past weeks. I’m ready to properly look ahead. 2015 taught me courage to go after my deepest desires, and I learned of the beautiful ripple effect that occurs when one goes after their dreams. This year, I wish for no holding back. I wish the same for you: go after your dreams. Do what you can. See how the universe rewards you. It will.

~Feroza

Who Knows What’s Coming?

Early last year, I learned of a Bible verse that has stuck with me ever since”

“I am going to do things with your days, that even if you were told you would not believe”

And so it happened. I dove right into a grassroots ministry called Worship On Campus, I launched my SoundCloud page after years of self delusion, I graduated with my BA, I travelled to places I never dreamed of, I learned a new lifestyle while doing workaway in the south of France, I sparked a major music festival in my home village in Belize, I revived and re-wrote nearly half of a fantasy book that I began back in high school, I started law school and, above all, I fell in love with beautiful people. 2015 was filled with so many personal successes that I would not have believed even if I had been told beforehand.

I am so thankful to the people that I met along the way in 2015. People who illuminated new knowledge, who reminded me of who I really am, who encouraged me in my deepest confusion and who gave me such laughs that I’ll never forget. The people who opened their homes to me while I was traveling, those who lent a listening ear, those who held my hand and those who weathered my crazy. And most importantly, those who have always said yes to my dreams and schemes, despite their own personal reservations. It’s because of you all that I walk into 2016 with hope, with courage and with ambition.

New frontiers await this year, literally and figuratively. I will travel, I will do all I can to pour positivity, encouragement and light into others, and I will serve. Who knows what’s coming? But if I’m told, I’ll do my best to believe it.

~Feroza

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