Monday, June 20, 2011

Quick Update

Hello everyone,

Just wanted to let you all know that this blog will be on hiatus until the fall because I am stateside and unbelievably busy. If anyone wants to do a guest blog about interracial relationships, traveling while black, or any mixture of the two, shoot me an email or comment.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Seeing Angelo Again (or why it's good to have rich international friends)

Some of you might recognize the name "Angelo". If you don't, then you can read the blog post titled, "With Angelo" for more information about him. Basically, I met him when I went to Italy and we have kept in touch often since then. Apparently, everybody is catching the marriage bug because he sent me an e-mail a few months ago telling me that he was getting married in early May. He said he would love it if I could attend and I wouldn't have to worry about accommodation because he was renting a renovated villa for some of his family and friends to stay in. Please reread that sentence. A renovated Italian villa…to stay in…FREE! I was checking out flights before I even finished reading the whole e-mail.

Soon, I was on a flight headed straight to Italy. When I arrived, a friend of Angelo's kindly picked me up and took me straight to the villa. Ordinarily, I am not one for gaping at expensive homes, but my bottom jaw definitely got a workout when I saw this place. It was a huge luxurious villa on a sprawling estate in the Italian countryside. I had my own room and got to enjoy waking up to the sight of a beautiful garden and birds chirping softly without me wanting to kill them. The wedding was stunning and so was the bride. She was dressed in a slinky ivory dress that showed off her well-toned body and several male guests made no bones about checking out her butt as she walked past them. Ah, the Italians. As they exchanged vows, I felt a sudden rush of envy that surprised me, though it is easy to see why. She married a rich, generous, handsome, nice, and faithful man who will no doubt cherish her. She basically married the Lamborghini of men, while a lot of other women are just settling for a hoopty. I guess I was just reminiscing on what could have been and should have been with my ex-fiancee instead of living in the moment and realizing that I completely made the right decision, in breaking my engagement.

The high point was the reception. The liquor and conversation flowed freely and I had a fantastic time, although his uncle continually tried to grind on me on the dance floor. Luckily, I was tipsy and found it hilarious instead of realizing just how creepy it was the day after. His mother got up and made a speech that I couldn't understand at all, partly because it was in Italian and partly because she sobbed through most of it. I saw her dancing with Angelo most of the night, crying into his chest and gripping his shoulders tightly. Angelo and I danced a few songs together and I thanked him for inviting me and for being a wonderful friend to me. He told me that he was glad I came and that I could stay with him anytime, although the evil eye his wife was giving me said otherwise.

After my long weekend was over, I reluctantly packed my bags and headed back to reality.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Interview with the Infamous Marie

Some of my regular blog readers might recognize the name "Marie". She has been my partner in crime for a few of my trips abroad and is always a source of amusement and fun. I asked her if I could do an interview for this blog and, being the attention whore that she is, she quickly agreed.

1) What part of the U.S. are you from and what is the "swirling" scene like there?

I am from the deep South and I have seen a lot more interracial couples in the past five years than ever before. I think that taboo is really starting to lift and I couldn't be happier.

2) Why did you choose to go abroad?

Well, one of my first "real" jobs was for a travel agency, so traveling was inevitable really. But, I've always had a fascination with life on the other side of the pond. They just seem to live so differently from us and I couldn't wait to experience that firsthand.

3) In terms of interracial dating, which country do you think is the friendliest towards it, and why?

I would have to say England just because it's so widespread and few people seem to care, at least openly. You see mixed race children everywhere you look, so you know someone is swirling!

4) What have your experiences with swirling abroad been like? Did anything surprise you?

My experiences with swirling abroad have been great! When you're abroad, something great happens. You can enjoy your experiences for what they are, not for what you want them to be. My favorite trip so far was the one I took to England last year. I don't know what it was about me, maybe the fact that I had just broken up with a boyfriend but men were on me like gangbusters. I walked into my hotel and the handsome Englishman at the front desk looked at me and started stuttering. I thought he had a speech problem until I noticed his coworkers trying to suppress their laughter. His hands were shaking when he gave me my room key and I smiled knowingly as I switched my way to the elevator. That was a fun moment.

I also began a foolish and fantastic relationship with a bartender I met at a bar near the hotel. If you want to know about a city, befriend the bartenders. They know everything and then some. He took me to all of the lesser-known attractions of London. We even sneaked our way into a private party that turned into an orgy! Before your minds get carried away, we sneaked out really quickly. But not before we saw things that can never be unseen.

6) What's the weirdest thing that has ever happened to you abroad?

Well, that was actually with you Love. Love and I were on a train leaving Paris and had both fallen asleep, with her heavy head on my shoulder. I woke up first, and gently (note from Love- it was not gently!) tossed her head to the other side because I had to go the bathroom. When I was walking back to my seat, I noticed a well-dressed man kneeling in front of Love. At first I thought he was a train attendant telling her something, but then I noticed she was still asleep. He wasn't touching her, but he was staring at her with this crazy and psychotic look in his eyes. I still don't know what it was. He didn't look angry. He just looked focused. I started yelling at him to get away from Love and he slowly stood up, looked at me, and walked away. Like he wasn't in a rush at all. I told Love what happened and she started laughing like a deranged maniac, but I think that was just the sleep deprivation.

7) If money was no object, where would you make your home in the world and why?

Probably London, with Paris as a close second. London is a great place to be if only because you can get to everywhere in Europe from there. The culture, food, and atmosphere just can't be beat.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Tips for an Extended Trip Abroad

A poster named Simone e-mailed me looking for information about Amsterdam and traveling abroad for an extended period of time. I thought it would make a good post for everyone.

Amsterdam is a popular tourist destination for Americans. We share a common language, which means that culture shock will probably be at a minimum. This isn't to say we are the same, though. There are many differences that will baffle and amaze you. The most obvious is the legalization of marijuana. It's very important to note that marijuana is allowed only in certain cafes in Amsterdam. Sometimes, certain hotels will allow the use of the plant, but it's best to stick to the cafes. If I had to describe Amsterdam in one word it would be: tolerant. There is a relaxing vibe to the city that tends to affect you. It amazed me that so many different people could, for the most part, get along. Personally, I experienced no discrimination in Amsterdam.

Now, let's get down to the bone. Traveling abroad for an extended period is a tricky thing to do, at least at first. I will stick to the main things you might want to do. First, there is the subject of your current living arrangements. If you are in an apartment, think about subletting. If your lease allows it, it is a great way to ensure your apartment is kept in good shape, if you pick the right tenant. Make sure you put a clause in the tenant contract that ensures that if you have to come home quickly, for any reason, then the apartment will have to be vacated by the tenant within a reasonable period of time. If you live in a house, you can choose to rent it out as well. If you have the funds to do so you can always keep your apartment/house empty, and have a trusted friend or family member come by to check on it regularly. You can forward your mail to a PO Box or to a loved one's house. It's important to do this as well as stop your newspaper service, if you have it. You don't want your house/apartment to look as if no one is living in it.

The best tip I can give about making plans to travel abroad is to start early. When traveling, things will always go wrong. Always. If you are well prepared, then you can frequently overcome these obstacles. Try to book your flight at least four months in advance, six would be great if you can swing it. It's the classic demand/supply system. When there are plenty of seats available, the price is lower. The fewer seats available, the higher the price. I have found some amazing deals because I booked my flights early. Speaking of airlines, try to pack as lightly as you can. I know it might be tempting to try to take all of your favorite pieces, but fight the urge! Try to have a lot of "basic" pieces, meaning pieces that can be worn with a variety of outfits. Learn how to pack efficiently, so you won't be bogged down in a busy airport or foreign street.

Make sure your passport is up to date and with you while navigating through airports. I recommend putting your passport and ID in a plastic baggie in your zipped purse for easy access. Getting a safety pouch to put underneath your clothes is always a good idea. Keep it high on your stomach so that it can't be reached by an "accidental" touch. Always be alert. Pickpockets and criminals often target those that look distracted or preoccupied. Take close notice of your surroundings and the people around you, even if you are with a group.

The Internet is your friend when it comes to finding a place to stay for an extended period of time. There are websites dedicated to reviewing hotels, hostels, and even apartment buildings. Study these and see what other people have to say before you commit. If you're going to travel during the off season or have never stayed in the particular establishment, then I recommend making a short reservation, just to see if you like a place first. If you like the place or have been there before, it might be helpful to contact the owner of an establishment and see if there are any ways you can save money since you're going to be staying for an extended period of time. Once, I received an extra week free in a hotel in Canada because I talked to the manager and told her that I would her be staying at least three weeks.

Finally, have fun! Take a lot of pictures/video to commemorate your time. Make sure you savor the moments you have. The memories will be with you forever and you can reminisce about them forever.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Engagement is Off (And Apparently Russia Sucks for Black People)

So, as many of you have seen, I have taken a small break from blogging due to some pressing issues. I had a lot of thinking to do and a lot of hard decisions to make. Long story short, I decided to call off my engagement. While I love my ex-fiancé very much, I couldn't see us reconciling our lives in a way that would work for both of us. It had nothing to do with any cultural or racial differences, but rather life just got in the way. I'm at peace with this decision because I know it's the right one.

Now, on to the point of this blog. I have never traveled extensively in Eastern Europe, but when a friend of mine told me she was going to Russia for a week, I was excited to hear about her experiences. We went out to lunch and I knew something was wrong because she looked positively frazzled. The things she told me made my blood run cold. She said that when she first arrived she noticed that some people were staring at her, intensely. It wasn't a friendly or a curious stare, but rather one of hatred or disgust. Then, when she arrived at the hotel, the workers there acted as if they didn't believe that she was really supposed to be there. They insisted on calling the manager to verify the booking and to make sure the credit card she was using was valid!

The next day, she was at a café and she heard Russians behind her, saying that she was probably a drug addict or prostitute and that they hated all of the "African trash" in the country. She told me that she had never felt so fearful. I was surprised at this comment because she has traveled more than I have, including to some war-torn and extremely poor nations. Needless to say, she won't be going back to Russia. After hearing about her experiences, I can't say that it will be on my itinerary anytime soon as well.

*Edited to include part of a comment I made on this post. Everyone's experiences are different when traveling, like with everything else. The things my friend told me about her personal experiences made me sick. She has since sent me several articles describing the intense racism towards black people in Russia and it is disgusting and terrifying. My decision to not visit Russia is not based on fear, but money. I refuse to spend my money there and support the country in any way.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Observations about Scotland

I realized that I never made an "observation" post about Scotland, so I decided to do that. I have to say I'm a little biased about this country because I love it so much on its own. It's one of my favorite countries in Europe.

Scotland is definitely more relaxed in terms of race relations, especially compared to Ireland. I got more curiosity in Scotland, as opposed to neutrality or hatred. The landscape is stunning and there's a rich history to the country, which makes it seem rustic. There is also a modern feel to the big cities, which makes it seem cosmopolitan. This isn't to say that Scotland is a utopia because it definitely is not. Like many European countries, there has been a rise in Nazism and violence against minorities. But, honestly, as minorities we have to be careful wherever we go in the world, even our hometowns.

I found Scottish men to be quite interesting. The ones I talked to had interesting stories to tell. Of course, they could be lying, but either way, I had a good time listening to them. They seem to be more direct and forward then men from other nationalities. The ones I met didn't have a problem telling me about their opinions about anything and everything. This was a refreshing change of pace, especially from Englishmen who have a reputation for being secretive or repressive.

Scottish food is unlike any other. How anyone lives past the age of 30 is beyond me. So much oil, so much fat, and so much everything in haggis, clapshots, etc. I had to work hard to find healthy food. I can say that if you crave fast food, you will not be disappointed. Pizza, fried chicken, hamburgers and french fries, and anything else you want is probably located within a 5 mile radius.

The Scottish Highlands are something that should be seen at least once in your lifetime. I can't even begin to describe the beautiful views. There is something healing about standing alone in a beautiful field in a foreign country and just feeling the wind.

There's nothing like it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

American Black Chick in Europe Went Abroad...and Stayed.

Recently, I interviewed ABCiE about being abroad, Croatian businessmen, and interracial dating.

1) What part of the U.S. are you from and what is the "swirling" scene like there?

I'm originally from Atlanta and the swirling scene there is getting better, but when I was growing up it definitely wasn't the norm.

2) Why did you choose to go abroad?

I actually decided to do a study abroad programme my final semester of undergrad because I just wanted to try something different. Plus I read a ton of books and I was intrigued by the idea of actually seeing the places I read about. After my first study abroad programme to England, I gotten bitten hard by the travel bug and I've been back and forth ever since.

3) In terms of interracial dating, which country do you think is the friendliest towards it, and why?

Hmmmm....this is a tough one. I think it depends. I know there are certain cities that are cool as far as interracial dating, but not necessarily the countries as a while. As an Africa-American, I'd say London and Paris are fabulous.

4) What have your general experiences with swirling abroad been like? Did anything surprise you?

So far, not to many issues as far as swirling abroad. I think I was most surprised by how much more common it is in the European cities I've been to and how much less of a stigma is attached to it. Not to say that there are no stigmas or no problems, but definitely not the same baggage as in the US. I would say that black women should be cautious that men are not going after them to fulfill some fantasy...but this applies to any country.

5) What are some particularly memorable experiences with swirling abroad that you have had?

Oh where to start? I guess the one that really stood out actually happened to a friend of mine while we were in Croatia. We met this Croatian guy our first day in Dubrovnik as we were searching for our hotel. We chatted with him a few minutes and he invited us to dine at the restaurant he owned. We did end up stopping by, but it was too expensive on our limited budget. We saw him later and told him why we didn't eat there and he said that he would have given us the meal for free. Turns out he was trying to get us to his restaurant to spend more time with my friend! He then proceeded to ask my friend out. When she politely declined (because we had an early bus to catch the next morning), he pleaded with her for just one date. He said, "Are you worried about your safety? Don't worry, when you are with me, you are like Swiss bank. You are safe." I'm pretty sure he would have happily made my friend his wife if he had any indication that she would have agreed...he feel for her hard.

6) If money was no object, where would you make your home in the world and why?'s hard to pick just one. If I had an option, I'd split my time between NYC, Berlin, Paris and London.