Travelblog East Africa Part 2 - Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania

I would round out the rest of my summer vacation with going to the three of the other four countries around Lake Victoria. Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania. Thus completing my tour of Wakanda. Each one of these countries I only spent about two days in, but each one was distinct for a variety of reasons. As such, each one won’t get their own post but they will get their own spotlight.

Rwanda

I had a wonderful tour here even though my fever sickness starts here, I had very kind hosts (with no internet) and had a wonderful tour that explored how modernized Kigali is becoming as it has some of the best urban development I’ve ever seen. People are moved from their old homes for a little then come back with brand new modern homes. Also on the tour I had an assortment of food and fruit, a fresh milk bar - which tasted far better than American milk, Muslim schools and the highlight the Genocide Museum. The museum was huge on getting rid of what most people know Rwanda for as it moved based the Tutsi/Hutu issues and into everyone being called Rwandans. This is rare in that they were the only East Africans who weren’t prideful about their tribe over their nation.

On another note, a lot of people could tell I was mixed and they found it fascinating. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten so many stares in my life. My tour guide told me that mixed people were seen as gorgeous so don’t be surprised if women flirt. Granted we all know me and my tour guide, who’s skin was midnight, was far more beautiful to me than my skin tone. Lastly, my tour guide driver had a personality and spoke to me in english and French to show me one of the presidential homes that had an airplane crash into it. Kigali, Rwanda was beautiful and one of my favorites of East Africa

Uganda

I would argue that my best hosts were in Uganda. While my sickness got to the point where I decided to cut my time in Tanzania short - unfortunately no Zanzibar, someday - I had great hosts who I was able to watch the Croatia versus Russia game with for the World Cup, drink Ugandan beer and enjoy a homecooked meal. My tour guide in Kampala, land of seven hills, drove me on a motorbike tour with amazing skills. I don’t think I can emphasize enough how bad the traffic in Kampala is and the skills of motorbike drivers is unmatched. He was a kind guy and I got to learn a lot on the tour. Instead of going out anywhere I simply stayed in and hung with my Serbian and Uganda hosts who talked to me about have mixed children which was a long and enlightening conversation about how they’ll navigate biracial life in Uganda.

One odd vision I saw was China’s influence on contracting their own people for their highways while cutting out the Ugandan contractors and performing neo-colonization while putting the country in debt again.

Tanzania

I truly wish I had more time in this country. It was beautiful and similar to Kenya in that it had Black people of all levels handling everything. One aspect that was interesting was how bad the traffic in and out of the airport was. Outside of that main road the traffic wasn’t like Uganda. However, there were a lot of cool experiences to be had in Dar es Salaam and I was so close to Zanzibar, but being sick had me go home soon, so maybe some other day in my future. The first evening I tried to figure out the spotty internet but wonderful AC and had myself some fish and rice where they once again thought I was Tanzanian and knew Swahili. This was hilarious because the lady serving me didn’t know english - I live for these moments! Anyways, afterwards I headed to a local bar and watched two African football teams duke it out. It was great to just be around an atmosphere of happy African men and women.

The main highlight though was roaming around with my main man Meck on a tour that started at Dar es Salaam harbor and Barack Obama Rd(2nd East African country that’s honoring him). We went to the fish market, several government homes, huge supermarkets, a variety of churches, mosques, spice markets, and some different foods (jackfruit, sugarcane water, fries in an omelette). Meck was a great tour guide and Tanzania was gorgeous but soon my East Africa journey was ending.

I hope I can return someday, especially for Zanzibar, but West Africa is next on the horizon.

Travelblog - East Africa Part 1 Kenya

Asante for reading as this is the first part of my journey into East Africa and the wonders that I discovered there.

I have to say that there were so many moments that I had while visiting in Kenya that I felt like I was in real life Wakanda. From the fact that everybody walking around in any social class was Black to the lack of racial differentiation because we all knew we were African. I had a great time exploring the wild Nairobi nightlife (yes I enjoyed myself but East African women are not as tall as West African women so there’s that) and a variety of excursions. Yes I did the typical safari in the Serengheti as Nairobi National Park is a reserve right outside of the main city and I got to see almost four of the big five (no leopards but came close to seeing a rhino and saw an elephant, buffalo, and lion among other animals). I also got to see some traditional villages and dances at a place called Bomas. I also enjoyed plenty of Tusker beer and grilled meat straight from the bone which was all reasonably priced unlike the souvenirs and clothes.

Interacting with people in Nairobi was a great experience because on my first day I had a set of tour guides also known as the Nairobeez who rap in english, Swahili and sheng, the slang of Kenya. It was a really great feeling to roll with a set of Black dudes and just kick it and explore. It’s an experience I rarely have in the US because so many of our men are awful and I don’t vibe with them. I also flirted with several different women as I learned Swahili from them and was happy that any women I met there would be African of a whole variety of shades. Sadly they were all short including my awesome airbnb host - how to stay in Africa - who hooked it up with drivers too. As this was my fourth time in Africa, I definitely learned that you need to have drivers to help you since there isn’t much public transportation that is legitimate there outside of the wild busing system in many countries.


When I went to Mombasa, it was similar but I got to see the beach and the Arab trading town on the coast of the Indian Ocean. This worked out since I couldn’t make it to Zanzibar due to getting sick but such is life. I got a driver, Bilal, there too who hooked it up with a wood carving spot - amazing to see authentic wood carving and eat some cassava crisps while bumping classic hip-hop.

On some interesting cultural notes, all of the African men loved hip-hop they were curious about producing it, what to listen to and learning about the history of it. At the same time The World Cup was happening so it was interesting to see how people cheered against England the original colonizers of their lands and cheered for France due to all the Africans on the team.

It was a deep feeling of gratitude that I had in Kenya due to how amazing it was. I hate that I got sick during my time there, but basically seeing Wakanda live without white people anywhere was absolutely fantastic and something I sorely missed when coming back to the US.

Travelblog - Central European Excursion = Budapest, Wien (Vienna) and Warsaw

During this past Spring Break in April,

I went on a trip around Central Europe to the countries of Hungary, Austria and Poland (cities Budapest, Vienna and Warsaw respectively). I initially thought about giving them each separate entries like I usually do. However, these cities blended together at points and I was in depression during this time so what I did in the cities didn't differ or see cultural aspects out of the norm either. Still I will breakdown my experience in each:


Hungary-Budapest

My time in Budapest was fun in its own weird way with significantly cheaper currency (no euros), Magyar language that I barely even understood and it was ok because everyone knew I wasn't Hungarian. It was a pretty easy city to traverse with buses, trains, and trolleys everywhere and an awesome airbnb host. The food was surprisingly wonderful from paprikas (chicken with paprika), goulash (soup), hurka (sausage), delicious Kürtőskalács (funnel cake), and the wine. I highly recommend all of it and getting lost in the old Jewish Quarter for the quirky ruin bars. These bars are made from the ruins of older buildings from the destruction of World War 2 in the past and yes that did hit hard. 

The other fun aspect of Hungary was the bathhouses based on Roman baths and everybody was out there - all ages but definitely not all ethnicities at the Széchenyi Thermal Bath.  I also had a nice and enjoyable free walking tour which was my main process in Central Europe. I definitely recommend this cheap and fairly entertaining beautiful city (open alcohol carry!) to visit as a change of pace from Western Europe.


Austria - Vienna (Wien)

I only went to Vienna for a day, but I tried to indulge in as much as I could for the six or seven hours I was there. The absolute best part was the central loop and all the Strasses (streets) and Platzs (squares) that a variety of perspectives. There were swanky and fashionable clothing pieces, phenomenal churches, an impressive library, and the wonderful Sacher Torte cake and cafe. This cafe is exceptionally gaudy and it works with the classiness of Vienna. I had a free walking tour to explore which was a blast to use and even had some fun figuring out Vienna's different red light system (they're outside of doors as you walk). In the end, the main highlight was meeting an Ethiopian lady who worked at a restaurant I was in who thought I too was Ethiopian. A surprise and welcoming face in a sea of whiteness - which is towed oddly in Austria since it is part Western Europe with euros v. Central European historical struggles.

Still, the city and country is a blast and an alternative to Germany. I really want to explore more of it someday as I felt there was still much more indulge in this city filled with Mozart, coin-operated bathrooms, and cafe on cafe on cafe. 


Poland-Warsaw

While I was only here for a stopover, I figured it would be imperative to explore the city center of Warsaw with a free tour. The tour had many of the usual European highlights of churches, some cafe where famous people visited and World War 2 statues and remnants. At the same time, Warsaw and Poland for that matter offered a little more than the usual due to the fortitude of the Polish and the more humble approach of non-colonizing white people. I didn't face racism there I was pretty much ignored and without much fanfare since that country had a hell of a history and my tour expressed how much Hitler razed to the ground when they tried to resist. Poland is also not known for having slaves or colonizing people so the people had an air of working class about them especially when I went to the milk bar*.

*Polish milk bars are a must. Since the head lady doesn't speak english you tell her what Polish delights you want (I highly recommend the perogi and borscht!), she writes down the number and you pay, then someone calls your food and you get it. It's cheap and simple and was a stable means of quick and common eats during the communist days. 

Beyond that, this is the home of the composer Chopin and his music and vodka can make good uses for all that extra zloty you'll have. 

Do You Remember the Time? In Egypt

I know I've been meaning to post about my adventures in Egypt, but life happens and this will probably be a shorter write-up that doesn't express all the aspects of Egypt. As I get ready for another journey soon, I realize that I needed discuss the quirky but glorious times of Egypt with my muse. 

Cairo - In Cairo, I would have a wonderful tour guide who showed us the first pyramids of Djoser before moving on to the glorious Great Pyramids and Sphinx. I feel no words will convey their majesty and amazingness as it was so great to finally learn how they were built in steps then covered in limestone. We had hilarious hotel experiences with perfume, breakfast boxes and some great pigeon and mixed meat at the place of our tour guide. I also enjoyed shopping around for papyrus where the guy entertained with glow in the dark cats.....which are not very common in Egypt.

Speaking of which, there were a variety of myths about Egypt that were pretty dashed when here. Nobody has a "Walk Like an Egyptian" pose here, all the Egyptians are my skin tone or darker (and there's even some Nubians and Hittites who they traded and fought with on there), and there are so many different poses and representations of the gods and goddesses it's mind boggling. On the return, before seeing some of the Christian and Muslim region of Cairo-change of pace, we saw King Tut's wonders - the man had layers and layers of gold and was probably the original cribs with how much jewelry he had and he huge pierced ears. However, pretty soon I was Ancient Egypted out as I need a break from it to see other global aspects. We celebrated a birthday with our tour guide's other client and had a blast which makes for those really magical moments I enjoy in travel that are impromptu. 

Luxor - Luxor was a big shift and a far smaller, more religious but still touristy town. We had a shift in drivers and tour guides which wasn't great as the Luxor (and later Aswan) tour guide was bizarre and socially inept. It was good to note that I wouldn't be doing tours that much again and probably going back to my usual way of figuring it out. However, the treasures in Luxor are worth it. Luxor Temple is a pretty cool temple in the shape of Ramses II*, but the Karnak Temple with its huge pillars, the colorful Dendara Temple (go there!), Queen Hapshepsut's nicely designed place (only female Pharaoh!) and of course the Valley of the Kings which showcased preserved ancient tombs and their walls that depicted Egyptians as Black, not Arab nor white. It's empowering to know we built all of Ancient Egypt and you really can't know until you go and see those statutes, colors, styles, and figures for yourself. 

The other highlights were the strange food we went to for a tour that was overly classy Italian food (strange to have), shifting guides, Alabaster sales, hookahs (official) and lemon mint juice, with Muslims celebrating Merry Christmas at the hotel while taking pictures in Santa outfits - go figure. 

*Ramses II built most of the temples you will see in all of Egypt, he unified Upper and Lower Egypt and loved his power. After seeing his mummy, I realized he was a pretty big dude for the time and lived for about sixty years. He and to a lesser extent, his wife Nefertari, are all over the country and you will get used to that symbol. A true master of his domain. 

Aswan/Abu Simbel - Aswan had less on the temple side but the Philae Temple on an island and the magnificent Abu Simbel, are worth the journey (even if it took four crazy hours in a car). Abu Simbel is another three hours or so from Aswan - Sudan is visible from it - but it is arguably one of the best temples in the country, huge statutes, walls and dedication to the gods/goddesses and Ramses and his wife. It is timeless.

Still the main attraction in Aswan is its modernity mixed with tradition. Everyone will try to convince you to take a boat on the Nile River, the back alleys offer tea house, a hustler might know all four or five languages you ignore him in, people in my skin tone with curly hair are in hijabs or not, and a promoter might get you to follow him on facebook for the grand opening of his hipster dessert spot. Yes Aswan, is a bizarre combination of Luxor and Cairo or past and present and it's intriguing just to walk in its bizarreness. The only negative would be that one of the guys taking us to the airport tried to hustle us because of not tipping as much (they will want a tip everywhere) it was a bad practice and I can definitely only recommend Jakada Tours for Cairo and Alexandria. Find a driver and enjoy Luxor and Aswan otherwise. You should also definitely fly everywhere.

All in all, while some moments were silly, it was still an absolutely wonder to return to the Fatherland and see the glory of Ancient Egypt and all the Blackness that went into building it and the knowledge gleaned from it. 

 

Ciudad de Mexico, Volver a Mexico

Translation - Mexico City, Return to Mexico.

Mexico is the country I have been to the most by far than any other. On this adventure, I finally went to a city that wasn't Tijuana. That city was the capital/metropolis of Latin America, Mexico City

Translation - Mexico City, Return to Mexico

Mexico is the country I have been to the most by far than any other. On this adventure, I finally went to a city that wasn't Tijuana. That city was the capital/metropolis of Latin America, Mexico City. I had been wanting to visit this city for a long time primarily due to the ancient Aztec temples found in Mexico City as I'm a constant sucker for historical buildings. While I didn't go to the Aztecan ruins, instead I found a vibrant culture within the capital along with my muse.

First of all, was a trip in to the center of the city for the Zocalo, street food (plantains!), Aztecan ruins of the Templo Mayor in Tenochitlan and a celebration of Aztecan culture that took place throughout the center. It was an odd mix of Aztec and colonialism as the Mexicans were both proud of their heritage as an indigenous people, but also their Catholicism.

Speaking of Catholicism, I would then go to the holiest site in Latin America - Iglesia de Virgin de Guadalupe. This is amazing grounds in which I got a blessing in (I enjoy partaking in religious ceremonies in other countries to learn about the culture rather America's brainwashing of it). There is also a huge depiction of Guadalupe everywhere, a great vista, a megachurch and smaller church, chapels, and more. Around here I would also try some wonderful tacos (chorizo, carne asada and some time of pork), Mexican cola, and mangoes with lime and chili.

Afterwards, I would head to the Museo de Archaelogico to see real and reproduced versions of artifacts that I had learned about in Religions of Latin America class - Olmecs, Aztecs, Mayans (extension from Guatemala), and a few others who were from the region. This museum was also in the fancier area of Mexico City so I got to see the Angel of Independencia as I rode out to the airport past several classy buildings. Of note, the subway here is great because it uses symbols along with names to represent famous and popular stops. Like the handicap accessible friendly Antigua, I find the directness of subway and bus lines in Mexico City to be helpful. 

One other event that was a perfectly captured moment was a Mexican punk rocker singing a traditional Mexican song on the subway then going into No Doubt's "Don't Speak" - America is everywhere while Mexico put its own spin on it. All of this to say, is that Mexico City seemed to be doing pretty well and remaining diverse in all that was occurring in it. I found that a stark contrast to all the media hoopla surrounding it in America. As always, see the world for yourself and not someone else's perception.

I know I'll return to Mexico again, but hopefully this time it is for the Aztecan ruins of Teotihuacan or the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza.