Category Archives: U.S.

Things To Do In New York

Happy belated Valentine’s day yall! I was up to the usual ridicularity. I had hibachi with KJ, Charles and Papaya, drank some beer and fell asleep with visions of sugar plums dancing in my head (or maybe I was drunk!..just kidding). In a fit of unmitigated domesticity I baked mini-cupcakes for friends and colleagues! I actually mailed out a valentine’s package to my nephew! (A cookbook for kids, a card and some candy). There must be a full solar eclipse coming.

Despite work being insane. I headed back to NY last weekend. I met up with LN at Arena Studios for a Molly Crabapple gallery show. We lasted about 10 minutes. The draw was art and “free champagne”, we couldn’t think of a better way to kick off a friday night! But the studio was hella-packed, hella-hot and hard to move around. Plus, it just wasn’t either of our “cup of tea”, the people watching was FANTASTIC though. There was a burlesque model in the back and people could sketch if they so desired. I opted out of that and headed back to the champagne! We ditched the show and headed to get some italian food after walking 40-eleven hundred blocks. The food was okay, but the drinks were the winners (Clementinis!). We killed time jibber-jabbering about race issues, socio-economic issues, travel and women’s reproductive rights…it was fabulously nerdtastic, then we rushed uptown to catch Paul Mooney’s late set at Caroline’s. This was my third time seeing him and I will never get tired of his humor and insights.

Saturday I caught up with SJ in lower east village (?) for lunch, but we ditched that since we’d both eaten already and hit the Italian Wine Merchants saturday Wine Seminar. SJ is into Italian wines and this class focused on Tuscans and Super-Tuscans for you vinoheads. It was one of the best wine classes I’ve attended (and cheap!). A Beautiful venue, proscuitto, an array of cheeses, breads and 7 wines. And they were cracking lobster tails when I realized I should switch to water. We chatted up the whole place and I got invited to dinner by a random family of four, while SJ got hit on by a cutie-pie who was about 4 inches shorter than she is! We headed next door after the class for…more wine of course!

I had to decline the dinner invite to head to Thomas Pink to pick up a gift for KC’s birthday party later that night, then showered and changed and met Josh and Dennis at Vlada for drinks, then we walked over to Ariba Ariba! for the.best.mexican food I’ve had outside of Mexico. Actually, this was the best restaurant/non home-cooked meal I’ve had in weeks. And this was the worst (also in NYC). We cruised in Dennis’ pearl white Mercedes CLK to KC’s uber-bachelor pad in Chelsea and I realized I’m out.of.my.league. These kids have moolah! All in all a good night of dancing (techno, really? really?) and spoon bread (no that is not a euphamism). Fortunately there was no pork fried rice at 5am this time. But I can’t make any promises about next time!

Let me know what your favorite NYC spots are! Or where is your favorite restaurant/eatery in the whole.wide.world?

It’s Getting Hot in Here…NYC edition

I’m just back from New York. The plan was to go see the Kara Walker exhibit at the Whitney, catch up with a friend or two and enjoy restaurant week, maybe watch a little hotel t.v. and get some work done.

Who was I kidding?

Friday started off great with a special delivery (yes, that’s cryptic, I know. lol). Unfortunately, the weather turned all The Day After Tomorrow on us. Snowflakes as big as tissues on an already snowpacked tundra-looking land was just one more reason KJ and I were ready to get outta dodge. Through snow, sleet and rain (really) we made it into Brooklyn by 8:30pm and into Manhattan by 9:30, just enough time to check-in, stash the car and hit Caroline’s Comedy Club to see Sheryl Underwood’s late set. There was no question that it was going to be hella-funny, and she didn’t disappoint, we laughed our way through 3 martinis each and had to explain some of the more “urban” jokes to the unsuspecting folks of the non-brown variety. After the set, at the bar (waiting for KJ) Sheryl walked up with several people in tow and uttered the most beautiful phrase in the human language: “Hey cutie, come hang out and let me buy you a drink.”

How could I say “No” to that? Yeah, of course I didn’t. Thus began a night that I can barely put into words here (to protect the innocent AND the guilty). KJ and I hung out with Sheryl and her friends, at the bar and acted up until the wee hours of the morning. Sheryl is razor sharp smart, kind and talented.  It was one of those nights, that was magic, where you don’t want to be anywhere other than where you are in that moment in time. It was not the last we’d see of the crew though.

Saturday, we hit the Whitney where KJ hustled a student discount and the exhibit was worth the journey. It wasn’t easy to get through either physically (so many people) and emotionally (antebellum south images of race/sex/brutality, etc.) kind of like my reactions to Frida Khalo’s work…Good art makes you feel, and not always good. My favorites where “Creme in your Coffee and Chocolate in your Milk” sketches from the 90’s and one of the video pieces from 2004. The exhibit moves out to UCLA’s Hammer Museum for the rest of the spring, so catch it if you can. Amazing. Here’s a brief, but good, everyman’s synopsis of the exhibit “My Enemy, My Complement, My Oppressor, My Love.”

We scooped up a couple bottles of wine to meet KC and the crew at his pad in Chelsea to whoop it up before heading back uptown to see The Color Purple on Broadway. Thanks to S for the hookup on a 1/2 price tickets link! The show was phenomenal. Chaka Khan was funny and fierce. I’ve seen her live before and she didn’t disappoint, she was so obviously born for the stage.

After the show we met up with Sheryl and the crew. again. until the wee hours. again. And she wouldn’t let us pick up the tab. again. KC and his crew met back up with us, toasts were made, friends were hugged and my favorite quote of the night was: “That’s why they put me in jail last Thursday!” As uttered by an arrogant “D” list rap personality who shall remain unnamed (hey, I ain’t crazy!).

We metro’d downtown for more club hopping KC and Kirk, but not before I got into a rather delightful conversation with a housing-challenged gentleman who regaled me with tales of his walk from Richmond (Virginia) to Atlanta (Georgia). Before we hopped off the train, we promised each other we’d meet up in Palermo, Italy one day.

The rest of the night gets sketch, Rated R/x, NSFW, TMI, WTF? and OMG! So, I’ll just let you fill in whatever story you’d like, I am generous enough to fill in the details like: Pork fried rice at 5am?

Sunday, we sent Sheryl a gift bag over to her hotel before heading to brunch at Junior’s over in Brooklyn off Flatbush. We decided to stay in Brooklyn and watched the game. I was down for the Pats the whole way, and I couldn’t be mad that they lost because the Giant’s defense really won that game. I lost a dollar to Charles who flip-flopped at half-time. Argghh! It was in the 40’s in NY and I guess that is like The Day After Tomorrow to them, Ella had the heat on in her apartment and when I woke up from my nap, I was convinced that I was in hell (and after the weekend, who could be surprised?). But then I realized I had on my hoodie and was too close to the radiator.

Whew. That was close.

I have to be back in NY on Wednesday. Who else is scared?

 

Wish You Were Here

  

hard rock hotel pool, originally uploaded by funchilde.

[1] Dear Hard Rock Hotel, I am enamored of your pool area. However, all of your waitstaff look like extras from a bad teen Disney movie. I am impressed with your level of open-mindedness. I’m not sure I would’ve hired the guy with the tattoos on his neck, arms and knuckles. I was however, mildly amused that his right-hand knuckles sported to word “lost” and those on his left hand “soul.” Truth in advertising never ceases to amaze me, tell “Dru” I said hi. You all do however, brew the best iced-tea ever.

[2] Dear Ford & Volvo motor company(ies), Thank you for throwing the best “Grown and Sexy” party I’ve been to ever. I thoroughly enjoyed the indoor/outdoor fabulousness of the Blue Martini lounge. Your choice of DJ was superb, a mix of old school hip hop and R&B including a “Tupac retrospective” and an “ode to Michael Jackson’s “Off The Wall” album”-brilliant.

Also, your signature martini with the flashing blue “ice-cube”…lovely, in form and function. Thanks for the free drink tickets. We tipped Tiffany VERY well, considering we ate our weight in meatballs, german chocolate cake and had a “never ending” dirty martini (damn you Nate, Tammy & B!).

[3] Dear Shaquille O’Neal & Penny Hardaway, Thank you for gracing the Blue Martini lounge with your very tall presence. I’m just as glad as you are that everyone kept their cool, noone bothered you and that VIP was stocked with food to fill your ginormous bodies. I hope that you both avoid unwanted stalkers, paternity suits, STD’s and late night phone calls from all of the ladies throwing themselves at you. But you’re probably used to that by now.
[4] Corey Bayne Wowers (name changed to protect the guilty), Thank YOU for the most hilarious quotes of the week. You easily topped last year’s gems by being both endearingly ghetto-country fabulous and street-smart. My favorites (I swear this was from an actual conversation):

“I shoot good with a shotgun!”
“I swear, dude was fishin’ out the car window while we was ridin’ down the highway.”
“My wife is country, she can cook ANYTHING.”
“I don’t do violence against women, but a man…..he fair game.”
“I had to take off my clothes, so the cops couldn’t see me. It was night time.”
”With the right seasonings, alligator taste pretty much like chicken.”

[5] Stella, I don’t even know what to say. Pure foolishness and comedy. Thanks for dinner. You owed me after sticking me with that lunch check. Who orders a “triple” cocktail? You.

[6] Dear bed, I love you. I want to take you out behind a middle school and get you pregnant*.
*30 Rock Reference

[7] Denny’s we do not love you. Fortunately your more attractive cousin, IHOP, came to our rescue. Along with Tammy’s pleading and the best.cab driver.ever. I’m not sure that there’s anything better than french toast at 3am.

[8] Akil & Siddiq, how did you manage to escape my camera lens? And Siddiq, how many martinis did you have before you took this photo?

[9] Dear Reader, yes, yes in fact I DID get some work done!

PS: Happy Birthday DAD!!

To Whom It May Concern

  

Cabs, originally uploaded by shinya.

[1] Dear NY Taxi Cab Drivers, thanks for going on strike during Fashion Week. My 11pm ride on the 6 Train has scarred me for life. I am somewhat ashamed that I pretended to be asleep when the beggar came through the subway car asking for “anything…even a quarter.”

[1a] Dear Philly Taxi Cab Drivers, thank YOU for not going on strike until I left.

[2] Dear Douchebag in front of me on flight 1913, thanks for reclining your seat as far as you could so that I had the best view of your male pattern baldness, couldn’t reach my drink, or open my laptop. Charming.

[3] Dear Miami, please make every one of your residents re-take Driver’s Ed. I’m particularly concerned about their ability to “merge.”

[4] Dear Hampton Inn Manhattan. I love you. Thanks for the USA Today AND the Wall Street Journal. And Breakfast. I want to take you out behind a middle school and get you pregnant*.

[5] Dear Devil Toddler, aside from being the most unpleasant two year old I’ve ever met, I want to thank you for going after my glass of red wine, and flinging most of my delicious, delicious nectar on your grandmother during our flight. She was amused, I am not. You owe me $5.00.

*30 Rock reference

It looks like I’ll be adding Washington DC to that list of places I’ll be visiting this month too!

On The Road Again (4 Work)

[1]
Boston
Philly
New York
Miami
Orlando
Minneapolis

And that’s just THIS month! Fortunately I love what I do, so that makes it easy and I’ve been traveling my entire career except for the very first year, so now I know someone or someplace I love in almost every city I have to visit. Cool.

[2] On the up side I found out that Stella will be in Orlando so we’ll get to cut up in yet another state together. So much for sleep, credit limits, and a healthy diet. I don’t think we could possibly top last year’s shenanigans (sp?) in Atlanta and I’m too old to want to try.

[3] I actually used the phrase “I’m old enough to be your mama.” this past weekend. And it was true. I got carded buying some wine for an event and a 16 year old asked me if I was still in College or Grad School.

[4] Does anybody else love Hampton Inn hotels as much as I do? Probably not, but you should.

[5] Five things I can’t travel (4 work) without:

1. Delsey hardcase rolling suitcase in electric blue.
2. Mentha Lip Shine Lip Gloss
3. Sleep mask for trains/planes
4. iPod
5. A Book

What Five things must you have when you travel? Keep it clean folks!

California Love: Friends Near & Far

  

ryan ericka and sherri, originally uploaded by funchilde.

I’m back from California. It was just what the doctor ordered in terms of feeling more energized, focused and refreshed. I went out for work of course but had 10 days between the two events I needed to attend, I hit San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Santa Barbara, Ventura, San Jose and finished up in Palo Alto…and of course, there was that one day in Napa that shall never be mentioned again. You know your day can only get better when you wake up to the phrase “Yall still here?” (Thanks Blaine and Tawana!).

The work part was pretty great. We laughed, laughed, worked until we were so tired we were delirious and laughed some more. My favorite saying at the end of each day was “First round is on ME!” This is for my NY client and I love my colleagues more each time we meet, there are those I miss, but our mix of personalities and workstyles keeps everything moving fast and with alot of fun. You can’t beat that.

I was lucky enough to have gracious hosts and decadent hotels, but of the two I enjoyed the time I spent couch surfing the most. I stayed with Sherri (above right) for 5 days and got to see her beautiful home complete with orange, apricot, plum, and lemon trees (and something I’m forgettingooh, pears).

It was nice to feel domestic and pick lemons right off the heavy branches and make lemonade. No trips to Trader Joes/Harris Teeter/Von’s necessary. Likewise, mojitos with fresh mint from her garden were the perfect welcome. I enjoyed helping out with the fruit picking and clean up, loved cooking breakfast on the grill, we strolled through the Ventura Weekend Market and checked out the San Buenaventura Mission, read (Golf for Women Magazine), napped, read (Back Roads), listened to old school Erykah Badu and Jill Scott, and read some more. Oh, and watched a phenomenal movie (Half Nelson w/ Ryan Gosling).

We’re both foodies, so it was nice to indulge and be indulged-I grilled steaks and asparagus, portabella mushrooms and chicken-apple sausage. She made a crustless quiche, salsa from scratch and an amazing breaded Tilapia. Wine was a staple, a necessity. The weather in SoCal is so amazing that I worked outside on the back deck every day.

We had a BBQ that included Ryan and Ericka (above w/ Sherri) two of our Semester at Sea students who are absolutely adorable, gracious and wise beyond their years. I also got to hang with one of Sherri’s best friends and met this guy (one of my favorite OG’s of Hip Hop-note the capitalization).

I also got word that I’ll be going back to a project with one of my favorite clients, this time for a 9 month (oh lawd) stint. So this trip represents the slow closure of my immediate sexy travels, but I’m excited to be in one place for a while and work on my fitness and health goals, get to know some people better, and plan the next big phase/trip/thing. So, back to New Hampshire I go….!

I’m already researching Mexico, Thailand and an overland Europe to Africa Trip. And I am always game for another jaunt on the Green Tortoise. Whatever it is, I hope to keep making friends around the world because there’s nothing better than re-living your journeys with people who were with you.

More than anything I missed my nephew, and I can’t believe I’m admitting this…felt a touch of baby fever, not that I want to actually birth one, but the thought of nurturing and loving a little person crept up on me. But it might just have been gas from the asparagus. And while I’m happy to be home on the east coast, I can’t say that I missed either the humidity or the mosquitos.

So what’ve yall been up to?

Oahu, Hawai’i: Changes in (L)attitutde

We had a week long crossing from Japan to Hawai’i. Mostly to save fuel and give everyone a chance to process where we’ve been and get ready for where we’re going. We’re talking about wrapping it up, bringing it home, turning out the lights. Next-to-last stop: The Land of Aloha.

After being greeted in so many special ways as we’ve dropped anchor in so many ports around the world (the barefoot little band in India, the ladies of Vietnam in their conical hats), we dock in Hawai’i and disembark to…a woman with a sign for “Free Shuttle to Wal Mart!” Damn, this is exactly why I’m not ready to be back. Really? The first thing we see when we get back to the US is an advertisement for us to spend money as a group at the one place (besides McDonald’s) that symbolizes American Consumerism at its best/worst? (Don’t get me wrong, I love Wal Mart).

Anyway, I joined up with a group that was headed to the beach. One of our staff colleagues is a Hawai’ian local and she and her fiance set up a tour for us complete with ATM and Coffee shop stops. The main focus was to get to the beach and kayak out to some small islands off the coast. The day started out overcast but Lesley (our colleague) and her fiance Matt put sunshine on the itinerary with their hospitality and generosity. First stop…Nuuanu State Park for some scenic overlook time. Watching the mountains shrouded in mist contrast with the deep blue of the ocean is a scene I could never tire of.

Next stop Coffee! at Morning Brew, a sweet little local place with vegetarian breakfast bagels (sundried tomato cream cheese, sprouts, and capers on an everything bagel for me) and a Vanilla Chai that would make you slap your best friend. We hit the ATM and saw US dollars being spit out at us for the first time since January. My laptop power cord crapped out sometime in Japan and I was trying to track down a replacement as well, but to no avail. I didn’t want to spend a single second on errands when it could be spent on fun. The other 12 took Matt and Lesley up on their offer of a kayaking expedition. I declined noting the choppy looking waves, lack of lifeguard, and my excellent sinking skills which hamper my swimming talent. Instead they dropped me at a quiet side beach known mostly to locals with promises to pick me up in a few hours. 

I was looking forward to a few hours of solo down time, a precious comodity on the ship. As usual I had a book (Backpack), my iPod, and my cameras, and this time, some beer money and a beach towel. The sun was finally out in full force but playing hide and seek behind the clouds. In the ultimate nod to never being alone on Semester at Sea, after I had stepped 3 feet onto the beach two of my students yelled “Hey Dia!” and I was like “oooh lawd-I can’t get away from these crumbsnatchers!” but I ended up having a great time with J and E (my students) and their friend Olley and their band of local friends. So in the spirit of comaraderie, I chipped in for a couple of Corona (or three), dug out my sunglasses and settled in for some exposure to local culture. Hawai’ans are…different, not in a bad way, but their lifestyle is all about family and outdoor activities. People either have lots of money or are making it day by day. I enjoyed how animated the Hawai’ian students were, how in love with their island life and family focus they are. They embraced me without question, offered me food and drink and entertained my dozens of questions without complaint. Finally I relaxed out of “tourist” mode (and even though Hawai’i is a US state…if you don’t grow up there…you’re a tourist or “Haole”).

My favorite part of the day though was when the skies grew dark and the rain poured down from the heavens. The six of us took cover under a Hobie Cat boat that had a tarp over the top of it. We laughed as we arranged ourselves in the small space and I joked that my “dear black family” letter back home describing being covered in white sand, afro full of sand, beer full of sand, on a beautiful beach in Hawai’i isn’t a bad place to be. We had to take cover a couple of more times that afternoon, but the sun was strong enough to cause me to get sunburned on my face! I didn’t realize until a few days later, when I started to peel and my caramel complexion went two toned. No I don’t have any pictures of that.

My least favorite part of the day was when we all met up at the van in the late afternoon to the realization that the van had been burglarized. They got everything. Cameras, credit cards, cash in insane amounts, even one dude’s underwear! I didn’t lose anything since I dipped out and had my backpack with me. After the police were done with their questions and credit cards were cancelled, I treated the group to dinner to assuage my “survivor’s guilt” and ensure that they knew someone cared. Funnily enough, we had a gorgeous sunset dinner at Don Ho’s where we discovered that the famous musician had passed on just last month.

So yeah, welcome (back) to America, we made it around the world only to be greeted by Wal Mart and Grand Theft Auto, but also the “Aloha” spirit of strangers and the generosity of friends. The good old US of A, no better, no worse, than the rest of the world. Same same…but different. Next stop: San Diego!

Puerto Rico: Guess Who Got a Tattoo?

 

I wish I could tell you that I slept in today, but I didn’t. Not a whole lot of time for that and who wants to sleep in when there’s a whole U.S. territory to see? Shayla, (another one of my staff colleagues) and I hit the streets of San Juan early. very early. So early that nothing was open except for the jewelry stores and the restaurants serving breakfast. She was on a mission to track down a tattoo parlor or two, and get some comparison prices for a small piece she wanted done. This would be her first tattoo and she was nervous. I don’t know her well, but she seems really similar to me in that she’s pretty conservative about that kind of thing. I like the idea of tattoos, on someone else, but have never seriously considered getting one myself. But I was curious and intrigued, so I went with her for moral support.

We spent the morning wandering around Old San Juan and the streets reminded me of San Miguel de Allende (Mexico) in some places with their narrow access and brightly painted buildings. It was a nice breezy morning and we just strolled which I love. We dipped into Cafe Mallorca, where they are known to have an amazing breakfast, but to conserve money, we ate breakfast on the ship (free!) and picked up some homemade macaroons to sample while we checked things out (worth the 30,000 calories!). We got bamboozled into checking out some jewelry and next thing I know, I had whipped out my credit card and so had she. I keep justifying these purchases as “gifts” but if yall don’t get any “gifts” when I get back, yall know the deal!

While waiting for the tattoo parlors to open we found a music store (Jah Rastafari) and I was all excited that I could pick up some Puertorequeno tunes, alas…they sold only Bob Marley and Marley-esque tuneage. BUT we did meet Rashonda who is an SAS alumni. She did the spring voyage last year and loved PR so much that after returning home and graduating, she packed up and moved down to PR last August! How cool is that? She was great and gave us a recommendation for lunch, but had no help for me regarding my music crisis. We found two tattoo parlors for Shayla and she got quotes from both of them. I liked the guys (pictured above), but wouldn’t trust them with putting ink on my body.

We decided to mull her options over lunch at Cafe Puerto Rico. I know, cheesey name, but the food was oh, so, good. After mulling the menu, and chatting up the cutie-pie bartender/owner and his brother while he made us some noon-time cocktails…I decided on arroz con camarones, plantanas (yellow rice with saute’d shrimp, plantains) and…red beans (good thing I have my own room, no?). They also made their own salsa picante (hot sauce) from scratch and it worth the sweat beading up on my forehead, they couldn’t give me the recipe though b/c they said their father made it, and they had no idea what was in it!

After lunch we stumbled across this little store (Hecho a Mano) where we spent a small fortune in jewelry and music, a lot of the students had found it too after word got out about the great prices and the place was packed but I picked up two CDs that I am totally in lurve with now and have on constant rotation (Shayla is rolling her eyes). Having made her decision (not the guys pictured above), I accompanied Shayla to the tattoo parlor of her choice and stood-by while she did all the paperwork and got all of the info and warnings.

It took about 20 minutes (17 of which I slept through) and I waited for her in the parlor lobby. The artwork came out beautifully. She hugged her tattoo artist as if she was glad to still be alive and we boogied out of there to a pharmacy so she could get the recommended ointment to take care of her new bodyart. We also stocked up on drinks and snacks, etc for the ship (we leave tomorrow!).

I also found these creepy things which are the worst souvenir idea I’ve ever seen! We spied some old dudes throwing down playing dominoes near the park and stopped to soak up their good time. The last stop of the day: booking our indie (independent) trip to El Yunque rainforest! A lot of people went yesterday with groups but we decided it would be more fun with less people so we cabbed (best cab ever) it over to the Ritz Carlton’s tour desk and hooked up a tour for the next morning. I’m still coming to grips with traveling in a group, but I realized I’d rather travel this way than not at all, so I’m keeping my attitude and perspective in check. All of which are easier to do because I genuinely lurve the majority of the people I’ve met.

Other highlights: Dusting off my rusty spanish and impressing others (and myself) with my ability to get around/get what I needed. I’m an international woman of mystery!

My latest post is up over at Gadling! Our talented team over there is growing. We’d love your comments!

Puerto Rico: Not A Foreign Country

  

these kids can DANCE, originally uploaded by funchilde.

Student #1: Man, I’m so excited to finally be going to a foreign country!
Student #2: Uh, Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, its not foreign.
Student #1: You know what I mean!

The students in the photo are from Universidad Interamericana in Puerto Rico. The students in the conversation…yeah, those are MY kids….oh lawd what have I gotten myself into?

Again I couldn’t sleep as we sailed into Puerto Rico’s Harbor at Sunrise. I got pretty good shots of the city, the capital and the famous fort as we sailed in. I caught a cute shot of two of my favorite students. I am loving the  Nikon D50 for these shots, but can’t give up the Coolpix for the everyday roaming around photo ops.

The weather was hot even at 7am, but the sun was bathing everything in a beautiful light, and the energy and excitement on board was electric. I couldn’t wait to trample my new friends as I headed down the gangway. The PILOT boat came out to get us, and guide us into the berth, but before we got cleared to leave the vessel we got a surprise: The Governor of Puerto Rico came by to give us a diplomatic briefing and warn us that Ricky Martin was in town and that unfortunately the concert tickets were sold out.

Getting the ship into harbor, and getting everyone cleared through immigration (yes, even in PR) and keeping the students relatively calm and orderly, requires everyone on staff to be involved to some degree to make the process as smooth and as fast as possible (disembarking almost 1000 people). So I have quickly learned there are no days “off” and no “sleeping in”, but everything is so new and exciting that no one really minds how hard we’re working from what I can tell. 

Once the ship was cleared I cleaned my office (I know what a dork), cleaned my room, and set out my laundry to be picked up. My toughest work days are coming up with the academic add/drop process for the students to finalize their courses, and I wanted this quiet time to get organized. I also wanted to give everyone a running start into San Juan, so that we wouldn’t be tripping all over each other while in port. Some people took off for the beach at Vieques, others for the Museo de nuestra raiz Africana (Museum of our African Roots) but I took off for the Zocalo in hommage to my time in Mexico. I just wanted some time out to myself and by myself to think and observe. After almost two weeks on board and surrounded by people I needed to recalibrate and this was just the spot (except for all the damn pigeons!).

After my navel-gazing down-time, I caught up with some other staff members and we flagged down a taxi and asked the driver to “take us where YOU would go eat if you weren’t working and were taking new friends out to show them San Juan” he obliged and took us to El Jibarito on Sol Street in old San Juan. The place was empty, but had a great vibe and the waitress teased us in spanish before admitting that she spoke flawless english. The three of us hung out in the back room drinking Medalla’s (Puerto Rican beer) in the filtered sunshine, and enjoying the quiet. Little did we know that 700 other people from our ship had the same idea and when we went pay the check and leave, the restaurant was packed with all of our compadres! I chowed down on red beans and yellow rice with grilled pork chops and plantains dipped in garlic butter (yum!).

I had to high tail it back to the ship to get ready for the evening’s activities! I was a trip leader and took 47 of our SAS students out to Universidad Interamericana for a night of cross-cultural fun. We ended up taking 2 buses to the university so about 100 of us in total. When we arrived the Puerto Rican students were outside, all dressed in maroon polo shirts with their school mascot (the tiger) and clapping and singing “ole’, ole’, ole’, ole’, ole'” with huge smiles on their faces. We spent the evening eating local food, hanging out and mostly DANCING SALSA (click to watch video two videos). We were hot, sweaty messes, dancing for 3 hours before we finally packed up our stuff and went home. Many of the students met up with their PR peers later that night in old San Juan and it was fun to watch the boundaries of culture, skin tone, and experience melt as young people pursued those universal unifiers…beer, romance, and dancing.

When we got back on the bus someone had hopped from the other bus onto ours and I was left without a seat as I gave mine up to the last student. One of my male students yelled “You can sit on my lap Dia!” I declined, citing the rumor factory that would have me “giving lapdances on buses” that would be circulating within the hour. The students thought this was hilarious and I told them I’d cut their throats in their sleep if I heard one rumor about me on board the ship. Don’t you wish I was looking after YOUR kids?