Who Do You Meet In the Club?

Last week my girlfriends dragged me to a popular club in the area so that we could catch up over drinks.  I hate going to this particular establishment because I think it’s the most high-end thirst trap venue in D.C.  Despite trying to get out of having to go, I showed up and immediately regretted simply not standing my friends up.  As we sipped our drinks and rocked to the DJ’s 90s set, I decided to make the best of it and ended up having a great time catching up with them.   But as I people watched, I made an unscientific observation of the following crowd of characters in the room:

The Undistinguished Gentleman: He walks through the door wearing his semi-tailored suit. He presupposes that every woman likes a man in a suit.  But he wasn’t expecting that so many guys would have the same approach as he did–most of the men are wearing suits.  The color of his pocket square is the only distinguishable feature he possess from the other suit-wearing men in the crowd.   He now wishes he wore his bow tie instead.  Disappointed at this realization, but undeterred, he remembers that his sock game is always on point.  So he finds and leans against the nearest chair causing a slight elevation in the foot of his pants, enabling him to show off his well-coordinated socks.  He hopes his look says that he is a classy man with a decent job and style.  As he leans against the chair surveying the crowd, his power suit gives him confidence to find a lady to strike up conversation and buy a drink.  He gets lucky with the first woman he approaches; she engages him in conversation and he is hoping to get her entire life story.  He doesn’t hesitate to give his usual elevator speech of his background.  She doesn’t hesitate to give him her number.  Tonight will be a great night for him.

The Groupies: Unlike men, women oftentimes don’t go to a club/bar by themselves (I do it and I think women should do it more often).  They tend to arrive in a group of 4 or more.  Each of them is hoping to draw some attention to herself but with such a large group, a guy doesn’t feel like he has an in. Walking into the group would be like offering himself up to a firing squad while hoping no one will shoot him down.  The women talk and dance amongst themselves never creating an aperture sufficient enough for a man to approach any of them.  They dance and laugh seemingly having a great time, but each of them is secretly hoping that one of the men in the club will take notice and ask her to dance or strike up a conversation.  She thinks, if he’s really a gentleman, he’ll offer to buy drinks for her friends as well. And as they prepare to leave for the night, a guy stops one of them on their way out.  Her friends, annoyed that they received no attention tonight hurry her to leave because they have spotted a cab waiting outside.  She leaves with her friends never exchanging numbers with her new friend.

Mr. Rabble Rouser: As soon as he steps through the door of the establishment, you know he has arrived.  His voice is one octave higher than the music that is blaring through the speakers.  He waves and kisses the waitresses as they pass by, he gives a handshake to the bouncers and bartender as he strolls to his usual spot—a table behind the makeshift velvet rope.  The table, which contains a bucket of ice and a carafe of orange juice and cranberry juice, is perched 3 feet higher than where most of the crowd is standing.  He sits down alone at his table, wishing they would convert the establishment into a cigar bar so that he can smoke the Cuban in his jacket pocket.  A few minutes later his 8 friends arrive making their way behind the velvet rope.  Their two waitresses make their way toward their table holding bottles of Moet, Belvedere and D’usse with sparklers around them.  The Rabble Rouser leads his boys as they scream “turn up” in unison.  Using the shackle grab, they begin pulling ladies up from the dance floor to join them at their overly crowded table.  Most of the ladies happily oblige and within minutes, they have a drink in their hand.  They are now all ready to turn up for the night.

Ms. Spotlight Grabber: It’s happy hour and most people are arriving directly from work, yet she is dressed as if her day job is working at a gentleman’s club.  Her sequenced dress reaches about mid-thigh; but with the 5 inch platform heels, the dress fits like she last wore it when she was eight-years-old.  Whenever the DJ plays a song, she goes wild as if it’s her favorite. Until the next song is played and she gets hype all over again. With each song and each drink, she gyrates her back and waist with extreme emphasis and bends over slightly in hopes that one of the men will come over and match her rhythm. It will be a disappointing night for her if her attention-grabbing outfit and Kama Sutra dance movements don’t grab a man’s attention.  The men smile awaiting the right opportunity to approach her while the women stare at her with disdain.  She’s used to smiles and stares—nothing can ruin her night.

The Pusher Man: Like every other weekend, he has his game plan down.  He buys drinks for himself and every beautiful lady that he meets.  Most of the time, he walks away once he hands her the drink.  He doesn’t want to come across as the guy purchasing drinks to get a woman’s attention–even though that is exactly his intent.  He surveys the crowd and finds the ones who look like his type.  He hands drinks to three different women throughout the night and none of them seem to have taken the bait–the second woman refused the drink. When he brings a glass of wine over to the fourth woman, he adds, “I hate to see a beautiful woman standing around with an empty glass.”  He gets a smile.  As he walks back over to where he was standing she’s well on his heels.  She taps his shoulder and says, “thanks for the drink, are you from here?” With a smile that says, ‘time to reel her in’, he responds, while thinking, “fourth time is always the charm.”

Ms. Cold Shoulder: She walks into the room prepared to break every man’s ego.  She constantly gives men eye contact and flashes her beautiful smile to lure them into her web. Men misread her stares as “come hither.”  And before they know it, they are met with her scornful reproach as they attempt to strike up a conversation with her.  None of them are ever good enough to be worth her time. But the reality is, to avoid future disappointments, she convinces herself that none of her suitors are nice enough to date.  Idris Elba could walk through the door and he wouldn’t make her cut.  She has dealt with a few fade away types so she tries to ensure her attitude is a turnoff.  As one man walks over, she prepares her screw face which causes him to divert his path and walk past her.  As the next man strikes up a conversation with her, she implements the belly button rule (when a person speaks to you, notice where their belly button is facing.  If it isn’t facing you, he/she’s not interested).  She has no doubt in her mind that the men who didn’t pay her any attention must be gay.  She leaves the club always disappointed that she never meets anyone that she likes.  Nevertheless, she’ll be back next week to try again.

As Oscar Wilde once said, “be your [best] self, everyone else is already taken.”  I am sure these crowd of characters that I oftentimes notice in the club are beautiful people who have a lot to offer.  However, when they walk into the matrix, that is the club, all bets are off and they lose the essence of who they truly are.  Wait!  Who am I kidding?  Sadly, these people are probably just as self-centered, insecure and rude in their daily lives.  Let’s just say, next time I go out with my girlfriends, I’ll be choosing the location.

Advertisements

Lawyers: Choose Your Clients Wisely

Before I delve into this topic, click here to listen to the clip of Senator Tom Harkin D-Iowa as he so eloquently voices to his fellow senators, a concern that should raise the eyebrows of all attorneys.

I often tell people there is nothing to really admire about lawyers–we come a dime a dozen.  You can find some of us chasing behind the ambulance that is taking your sick relative to the hospital, or convincing you to pay us for something that you could probably do yourself with basic reading comprehension skills and attention to detail.  But in reality, I love the practice of law! Being a lawyer is one of the most admirable professions despite the bad reputation that often accompanies us.  In order to practice law, an attorney must sit for and pass the bar exam (one of the most grueling tests that one will ever take in one’s entire academic life) of his respective state; an attorney is then sworn in to the bar and takes an oath that starts off similar to this:  “I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of …”  The most admirable lawyers are those who spend their time upholding our Sixth Amendment Constitutional rights by serving as counsel to indigent people who are accused of criminal offenses.

Debo AdegbileMany lawyers accept pro bono cases because we believe in the importance of providing our expertise to those who need it most.  As such, I am appalled at the Senate’s recent rejection of President Obama’s nomination of Debo Adegbile to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.  Their rejection of Mr. Adegbile is a subtle promulgation that attorneys should be mindful of who they choose as a client.  Before I go any further, let me provide a brief description of  Debo Adegbile. He was born to an Irish immigrant mother, who raised him as a single parent, and a Nigerian father.  After attending NYU law school he went on to work for one of the most prestigious law firms in the country. Seven years later, he left the firm to join the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.  As the litigation director, Mr. Adegbile participated in the preparation of a legal brief filed on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a journalist and convicted cop killer, which led to the reduction of Mr. Abu-Jamal’s sentence from death to life imprisonment. As stated by Dhalia Lithwick, “the historic mandate of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund—was to help ensure that the American criminal justice system, and especially the death penalty, is administered fairly and constitutionally. As a representative of an organization that is institutionally dedicated to ensuring that justice is administered fairly, [Adegbile] fought for fairness and…judges agreed that unfairness occurred.”  It is without a doubt that Debo Adegbile is one of the leading civil rights attorneys in the United States and was unquestionably very well suited to be at the helm of the civil rights division of the DOJ.

I am not going to debate whether the conviction of and appeals for Mr. Abu-Jamal are justified because it doesn’t change the fact that he deserves to be represented by counsel.  Our system was created to protect not only the innocent but those who are guilty, to ensure due process for ALL.  So much so that if your client tells you that he is guilty of a crime, you are still obligated to provide him with adequate representation.  However, I can’t help but wonder what if Mr. Adegbile wasn’t a black man defending Mr. Abu-Jamal? Actually, there is no need to wonder because Chief Justice Roberts once defended an unrepentant mass murderer who was recently executed. Yet, Chief Justice Roberts was never questioned, yet alone denied confirmation by the Senate. Nevertheless, Mr. Adegbile’s defense of Mr. Abu-Jamal caused the Senate to indirectly proclaim that Mr. Adegbile was guilty by association.  This Senate vote, and the power of police officers to influence politicians, speaks volumes and should be troubling for every single person in this country. The behavior of police officers has always been questionable as it relates to the black community.  With Mr. Adegbile at the helm of the DOJ Civil Rights Division, the community was certain to have a leader who is especially conscious of civil rights violations against the black community.  More importantly, any person who is ever accused of a heinous, high-profile crime should be concerned that some of the best attorneys in the country may shy away from defending their case.  The life of the accused may end up in the hands of ambulance chasers and attorneys with mediocre litigation skills.

The U.S. Senate has blocked more Obama nominees than all other presidents combined; but the most recent rejection of the President’s nomination of Debo Adegbile should send a chilling message to lawyers throughout the country to choose their clients wisely.

Do Black Lives Matter in America?

America is racist. But you didn’t need me to tell you that. Voting for a Black president has not transcended us to a post-racial society. We continually observe (and believe) that the value of a Black life is inferior to that of a white person’s.

I was not born in the United States. The majority of the people who live in the island in which I hail from are Black. One’s race is rarely a factor. Beauty is measured by the lightness of one’s complexion; lack of such beauty and the benefits accompanying it can be overcome by wealth. In other words, classism supersedes racism where I come from. So when I arrived in the United States over 27 years ago, I didn’t know the first thing about racism.  What I have learned since then is that Black lives don’t matter.

Racism throughout history has shaped our thoughts

Over time, I’ve experienced the subtle and not so subtle illustrations of racist America. I have come to understand that the inequities perpetrated by whites against blacks for centuries is now engrained into the subconscious of all of us. The pervasiveness of inequality stems from Black people’s fight to survive, coupled with a sense of powerlessness, acceptance of our place in society and complacency based on an illusory belief that Blacks are better off than we were 200 years ago. It is this reality that causes us to accept slave masters raping women, or to overlook the subtleties of depicting a Black man as barbaric. It has been engrained in us that if you come from a two-parent household, don’t sag your pants and you are articulate, then you will be accepted in society and won’t face the same obstacles as other Blacks. Or, because America was courageous enough to place a Black man at the helm of leading our country, then all of us should believe that we are now living in a post-racial society. It is also the subtle manner in which whites have caused Blacks to turn on each other by berating one another and becoming a divisive group.

Subtlety of racism in our laws

What makes Michael Dunn pull a gun on four unarmed young teens? Because our society has proven he can get away with murder. History has devalued the lives of Black males. As Thomas Jefferson once stated in 1820,”I consider a woman who brings a child every two years as more profitable than the best man of the farm.  What she produces is an addition to the capital, while his labors disappear in mere consumption.”  In 1955 Mississippi, Emmett Till’s alleged whistling at a white lady was grounds for beating him to death and being acquitted for his murder. In 2013 Florida, Trayvon Martin was gunned down because he appeared suspicious while walking through a neighborhood holding candy and a drink with a hood on his head. His perpetrator was also acquitted.

This isn’t a sensationalization of these events.  Just as we had laws endorsing slavery, we now have laws that circumvent the value of a Black person’s life.  Raising the defense that you had to protect yourself from the Black aggressor who you believe to want to harm you is sufficient to acquit a non-Black person for killing a Black man. Although George Zimmerman did not invoke the “Stand Your Ground” defense, this law is currently on the books in 16 states while 19 other states across the U.S. have some variation of the law. This means that white people like Michael Dunn no longer have to cross the street in fear of the unarmed Black man walking toward them, nor ignore the loud “thug” music coming from a Black person’s car. Rather, a white person can simply stand his ground and use deadly force if he believes a Black person is threatening his life.  It appears that Dunn’s only mistake on that day at the gas station was leaving three of the four boys alive.

This isn’t a southern problem. Racism and the lack of value placed on the lives of Black men is America’s problem.  We want to believe that justice is applied equally when in reality our crime prevention and enforcement laws and policies disproportionately target people of color.  Statistically, most murders are intra-racial. In other words, most white homicides are perpetrated by white offenders. Yet, the media only emphasizes that “black on black” crime is the primary cause of the deaths of Black men.  In a 2012 Urban Institute study, killings of Black people by whites were far more likely to be considered justified than killings of white people by Blacks.  When PBS Frontline asked the analyst of the study to make a comparison between states with and without Stand Your Ground laws, he observed that in most states, whites who kill Blacks were 250 percent more likely to be found justified than whites who kill other whites. In states with Stand Your Ground laws however, that statistic jumps to 354 percent.  With these types of data, one should understand the righteous indignation by many Blacks at the fact that a jury could not determine whether Michael Dunn was guilty of murdering Jordan Davis.  As is often said, justice is never applied equally–especially when the victim is black.

How to combat the problem?

I read many articles on these topics and often share in the anger and frustration exhibited by the authors. However, rarely do those articles provide a means or ways that its readers can effect change.  Although this isn’t an exhaustive list of solutions, here are a few: (1) we need to start educating ourselves on our rights as citizens and ensure that we are reaching young black boys and girls; (2) read and stay abreast of laws that are created in your state as well as federal laws; (3) understand the implications that the laws have on your daily life. Perform your civic duties: (4) Vote for every elected official that will have an influence on creating and enforcing the laws of your country, state, city, county, etc.–these laws aren’t magically appearing on the books; and (5) show up for jury duty. Emmett Till’s assailants had an all-white jury. George Zimmerman had no black members on his jury.

I hope there will come a time in the future when our great great grandchildren can look back on today and genuinely recognize that there has been a drastic change in the manner in which Blacks are treated in the U.S., and racism and injustices against Blacks will become less prevalent. I hope there will come a time when Blacks can say America was racist. But you didn’t need me to tell you that.

New Year’s South African Style

imageWe have been here for almost 5 days and it is evident to me that Ace (mom) has her own agenda–to find me a husband here. She must be out of her mind!  I noticed her smile and stare whenever she noticed an African couple walking together; she smiled and stared even more whenever she saw them with kids. I’ve never heard of a biological grandma clock, but if one exists, them my mom’s is ticking.

After returning from our trip to the township, we returned to the waterfront for dinner and ate at Belthazar.  Mom was very friendly to the waiters and asked all of them the same questions: (1) how old are you? (2) do you have any kids? (3) where is the rest of your family?  I’m not sure of the significance of these three specific questions, but I sat in my seat embarrassingly staring down at my food.  One of the waiters was from Ghana and the other was from Zambia.  A third was South African who was studying law at University of Cape Town. We were the last customers to leave the restaurant and by the end of the night mom and I were taking pictures with her new friends.

The next morning, we relocated to an oceanfront flat and returned to the waterfront to purchase our New Year’s Eve tickets for later that night.  I had been researching and asking what most people do on NYE.  The consensus was that most of Cape Town would celebrate at the waterfront.  For those with money, they could celebrate while having a 5-course dinner at one of the amazing waterfront restaurants.  However, many others would converge on the waterfront and walking around listening to the music blaring and preparing for the fireworks show.  People walked around, some with their families, others with their friends.  Mothers carried their children around on their backs secured by towels used as makeshift baby slings.

imageMom and I had dinner at Tasca.  We dined on a prix fixe dinner of some of the best seafood, wine and champagne I’ve ever had.  At close to midnight, we joined the others outside of the restaurant and watched the fireworks show as we extended a “Happy New Year” to those standing around us.  It took a moment, but I had to remind mom that we were blessed enough to ring in the new year on another continent.  In one of the most amazing places on earth–a place where some of our family and friends would never have the opportunity to visit.  In that moment, in the beginning of the new year, we were thankful.  It was an enjoyable experience to celebrate with so many different people.

After leaving the waterfront, we were determined to stay awake to celebrate the new year with those in the U.S.  Thus, we had seven more hours to go!  We navigated through the bumper to bumper traffic and headed to Long Street.  As we walked up the street, we joined a group of people who were marching behind a band.  The band sounded similar to a New Orleans band.  Spectators on the sidewalk watched as we walked by.  Then I realized—we had jumped into the middle of the parade!  Mom had no desire to find the nearest exit so we followed the band up the parade route as people stared.  We eventually exited and were stopped by a group of men sitting on a stoop.  They shouted, “you must not be from around here!”  Mom stopped and asked, “why do you say that?” imageAnd one of the men responded, “because this parade is usually for Coloureds; we never see Africans here.”  “Oh you’re American!” another man shouted after deciphering our accents.  We stopped and spoke to the men for a few minutes who informed us they were Muslim, but as South Africans, they respect and celebrate everyone’s religions.  After leaving the men, we headed farther down Long Street, where the crowd changed.  No longer were were marching up the parade route, we were now standing in the middle of the street with young South Africans of various ages.  They yelled and screamed as many drunkenly stammered down the streets in search of a taxi.  We walked around until close to 5am and headed back to the flat in time to see the sun rise and to wish our family and friends in the States a Happy New Year!

*******

New Years Day in Cape Town is unofficially known as Beach Day.  On this day, hundreds of thousands of people converge on the beaches around the country.  Mom and I geared up to head to Camps Bay to hang with the natives.  The traffic was bumper to bumper and it was hot.  To get to Camps Bay we must drive along and up a cliff.  As I soaked in the magnificent view of the city and the ocean, mom clenched the handle of the door fearful to look over at the ocean. Sigh.  Mom has a MAJOR phobia of heights (although she has no issue with flying).  We could not descend from the hill fast enough for her.  When we finally arrived at the beach it was crowded with residents (and tourists—most of whom were black).  Some were located on the hill right above the beach.  They were not in bathing suits (beachwear appeared to be optional), but had arrived at the beach to have a picnic with their friends and family.  Sprinkled among the thousands of people were a few whites who were sunbathing on lawn cheers underneath umbrellas.

imageWhen mom and I arrived on the beach, I looked around at how we could obtain lawn chairs.  I noticed that the only beach goers who were utilizing them were all white, but I know mom was not prepared to lay on this sand and burn underneath this hot African sun.  So I found a gentleman who was carrying around an umbrella and bargained with him to obtain two chairs and an umbrella.  As he set up our chairs, he asked mom where she was from (a question we got often and one that mom insisted on answering honestly).  As she told him that we were American, all I could think was that the price of these chairs and umbrella just quadrupled!  After telling me the chairs would cost ZAR 220, I was able to bargain him down to ZAR100 ($10).  Paying the “local” cost for items was becoming a challenge with mom who was unwilling to understand that we looked African.  But, the moment we opened our mouths and people realized we were not “African” they would automatically charge us more for items (she would eventually understand this lesson).  As we laid on the chairs and soaked in the ocean air, I could feel the stares coming from those around us as people walked by.  As Americans in South Africa, we were an anomaly–stuck in two worlds.  If we were Africans, why were we sitting on these lawn chairs pretending to be white?  I’m sure the impression was we must have been Africans with money.  It is a similar struggle that some African-Americans face in the U.S.–not feeling black enough for black people, yet we were not white.  Mom and I took turns going into the water.  I barely got off the sand because the water was ice cold.  Yet, many people (especially kids) enjoyed jumping around in the water.  The vibe was awesome.  You could not help but to feel as happy as they are as they jumped and cheered in the water and celebrated the beginning of the new year.  We stayed at the beach for hours soaking up the great energy.  Mom continued to have mini panic attacks as I drove  up the cliff toward our flat.  When we arrived, she was exhausted so we decided to forgo dinner.

South Africa Adventures–The Dichotomy

On our second day, I made a reservation for mom and I to tour the wine areas of San Francisco–Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Raymond, our driver, had taken me on a similar tour four years ago. RaymondHe is a very nice Coloured (the name given to South Africans of mixed descent) man who lives in a nearby township. I left it up to Raymond to determine which estates we would visit. As we drove into the winelands, mom had the opportunity to ask Raymond cultural and historical questions from the perspective of a local. Raymond was very patient and provided us with a rich history of the area. He started from the beginning of South Africa’s colonization and provided us with detailed information up to his perspective on the reported corruption of South Africa’s current president, Jacob Zuma.

We arrived at the Fairview Estate for our first wine pairing. We sampled eight wines with an assortment of cheeses that are made at the estate.  Since our sommelier failed to provide us with a spit bowl, Ace (mom) believed it was obligatory to drink the entire glass (did I mention she isn’t a drinker?). By the time we left, Ace was complaining that her “eyes were turning”–a Jamaican terminology for when one is becoming tipsy. We stopped at a few more wine estates before heading to lunch at Le Petite Ferme. Before eating, we enjoyed a beautiful view of the mountains from the estate’s vineyard. I have kept mom happy with our 5-star dining, but my clothing is already beginning to fit tighter. imageAfter lunch, we visited a few more estates then headed back to the flat. It was a fun-filled day, but on the drive back to the flat I could feel the wine kicking in and I was beyond tipsy (but I wasn’t drunk).
imageOnce we returned, we could do nothing else but take a nap. After sleeping for a few hours, we decided to explore an open-air market that was located within walking distance. During the festive season, there appears to be a party occurring in the streets every night. The market was crowded with vendors, and people walking around contemplating what they would purchase. The majority of the vendors and customers appeared to be Muslim.  They sold everything from toys to food.  We stopped at a stand with a man selling figs. Mom decided to take a taste of the figs–one and a half days in Cape Town and she already wasn’t afraid to try food from street vendors. I happily passed on tasting it. She decided to purchase a handful then realized she forgot to bring her wallet. How convenient. Of course I gave her a side-eye as I pulled out ZAR10 to purchase her figs. IMG_3523

As we explored the marketplace we noticed that most of the vendors and people walking around were Muslim. At this point, we were getting comfortable with feeling somewhat out of place in South Africa. One vendor sold Beats by Dre headphones for ZAR150 (the equivalent of $15).  For Christmas, I purchased similar headphones for my sister for $150! Chances are the vendor’s headphones weren’t real, but I contemplated buying hem for my sister and returning the ones I previously purchased .

IMG_3557On our walk back to the flat, we snapped a picture in front of the former slave lodge which was turned into a museum (despite it being next door, we didn’t get an opportunity to explore the museum).

********

The previous day, mom and I had a wonderful adventure driving through the majestic vineyards of the Cape while sipping some of the best wines in the word.  But, it would be a spurious claim to believe that all of Cape Town consists of fine dining, great wines and open air markets.  So, on the following day we took a tour of two of the most famous townships in Cape Town–Llanga and Khayelitsha Townships.  As mom got dressed in the morning, she prepared to wear one of her cute sundresses and her expensive jewelry. I immediately advised her that today, we (really her, because none of my clothing looks as expensive as hers) should wear something a bit more unassuming.

 After heading to Long Street to have breakfast at Rcaffe, we boarded the tour bus headed to the townships (similar to the term “projects” in the US).  imageTandis, our tour guide, brought us to District Six Museum on our first top.  There, he explained the history of District 6 and other townships where non-whites were relocated.  Mom was enthralled in the story and walked around the museum soaking in as much information as possible.  After the museum, we headed to Llanga Township (the oldest township in Cape Town with over 50,000 residents) where Luyolo took over as our tour guide.  As we walked through the area, the children ran up to us and grabbed our hands.  They were all so adorable, yet as we walked along, we could see the poverty-ridden homes.  We walked into one of the hostiles to see how many people lived.  Mom, stopped in her tracks, paralyzed and shocked that people lived this way.  The common area was filled with flies and was as clean as it could be.  There were up to 4 families living in one room.  The hostile had one kitchen area and no living room.  In one of the rooms was a lady who I met almost 5 years before.  We took a picture similar to the one we took previously.  Since this was not my first time through the township, I was not as shocked as mom, who was afraid of touching anything.  Mom grew up in poverty in Jamaica, but she said this did not match anything that she had experienced first hand.  It was a sobering experience relative to our wine tasting the previous day.  At this point, mom peppered Luyolo with many questions about the standard of living.

One of the ironies of our visit was as we walked by some of the shacks the entire home was smaller than the size of my mother’s bedroom with holes in the zinc roofs.  However, many of them had flat screen televisions that were bigger than televisions owned by mom or me.  We entered a makeshift bar where Luyolo explained that many of the men in the neighborhood would stop by to have homemade beer.  Since none of the women on the tour were willing to take a sip, I stepped up to have a try.  It was served in a pail that everyone had to drink from in the spirit of Ubuntu–human kindness.  The beer was warm and had a bitter aftertaste–not something I would take more than a sip of).

imageAfter Llanga, we drove through Khayelitsha Township–the largest township in the western Cape.  There are over one million people living in the township.  In Khayelitsha, we stopped by Vicky’s Bed and Breakfast.  When I visited years prior, I met met Vicky and learned about her Zagat rated B&B in the township which raised money for the local school.  But during this visit, Tandis informed me that the tour would be conducted by Vicky’s eldest daughter because Vicky was killed by her husband two years ago (her husband is currently in prison).  As we left Vicky’s, we saw children “swimming” in water along the road that contained tons of garbage.  It was very sad to watch, yet we left them behind and returned to our affluent area of Cape Town and continued our vacation.  Nevertheless, the memory of the townships were forever etched into our minds.

Our South Africa Adventures Day 1

We’re still not over the jet lag (we’re 7 hours ahead of EST) so we had a slow start to the day.  Since our flight arrived after most stores were closed, we had a few errands to run in the morning. Ace had to decide which one of her glamorous outfits she would wear today.  After much contemplation she settled on purple jeans as she was disappointed that the temperature was merely 62 degrees (it later rose to a high of 75).

imageWe had an itinerary with various activities on tap, but of course nothing ever goes as planned. Our first stop was to the V&A Waterfront.  It is somewhat of a tourist hub with stores, restaurants and a great view of the mountains. We needed to visit a foreign exchange bureau and purchase adapter plugs that enabled us to charge our phones.   The waterfront was crowded with tourists and other visitors walking around on the beautiful summer day.  We also stopped at Woolworth’s (similar to a Target/Walmart on a much smaller scale) to pick up a few snacks for the flat we’re staying in.  On our way back to the car, the strap of mom’s shoe broke. Oh boy.  Of course the fashionista would not take another step until we mended her shoes.  We walked into a store at the waterfront and mom asked one of the workers whether they had crazy glue.  Undeterred by the blank stare she received, mom moved on to asking another worker for crazy glue.  After her 3rd attempt, I realized, they had no idea what she was talking about.  I imageexplained to a worker that she needed an adhesive to repair her shoes. The store did not carry an adhesive so mom was left to purchase a new pair of shoes.  Being the practical one, I recommended that she purchase a comfortable pair of shoes, but mom was having no parts of it. “I need a cute pair of shoes that is obvious that it is from South Africa.”  After much back and forth, she settled on a pair of shoes she could be semi-happy with.

Our next stop was the Old Biscuit Mill for lunch.  It is in an open air market where merchants gather and set up make-shift restaurants and sell various goods.  Unfortunately, mom’s shoe purchasing experience took longer than we anticipated, so by the time we arrived, the merchants were closing. Disappointed but undetered, we returned to the waterfront to have lunch.

imageIn addition to being a shopaholic, mom also likes to fine dine.  After perusing the menus at a few locations, we settled on Oyo.  We sat alongside the water and enjoyed a great meal while we people watched and relaxed. Our server Tapiwa (pronounced Ta-pee-wah), was very sweet and patient.  Mom and I discussed the interesting racial group distinctions in South Africa and the classification of called Coloureds (Coloured is loosely defined as man and women who are of mixed race). The waterfront was filled with many tourists and people from various areas of the continent.  We were trying to distinguish who among the passer-byes would be classified as Coloureds.  We were also admiring the interesting attire worn by women.  the passer-byes also stared back at us (we would learn why I few days later). Mom was taking it all in.  Hands down, the most beautiful natural women of the world live in Africa!  On our way out, we met an older couple from Switzerland who struck up a conversation with us.  They asked where we were from and later asked whether I was married.  Ace wasted no time in responding for me and letting them know she wanted to find me a husband (a statement she has made about 10 times during our trip thus far).  The gentleman replied, “you are looking for a chief?” To which his wife responded with disgust, “here in South Africa, you must be looking for a thief!”  Mom didn’t know whether to laugh or be offended. She is starting to learn the dynamic do race relations in this country.

imageAfter stuffing our faces, we were exhausted. This did not deter us from experiencing more of this beautiful country.  We returned to our flat for an hour then headed to Camps Bay for sundowners.  Mom, the fashionista, could not wear the same outfit to dinner that she wore all day (plus she brought enough clothing to last a month).  Therefore, she she had another wardrobe change before we left.  Not to be outdone, I borrowed her leather jacket to spice up my own look.

imageWe drank and ate at Tuscany Beach Restaurant.  Mom was shocked to see a server who was not black. Since arriving, she wondered why she only saw black workers at the airport, in restaurants and in stores. This isn’t actually true she just hadn’t been paying close attention and she hasn’t adjust to being in a country where blacks are the majority.  She was also saddened to see homeless people for the first time in the country. We watched street children hustle people for money as they walked to their cars.  As we left the restaurant, two children approached us aggressively asking for more money despite the 4 Rand I handed to them.  Mom was much nicer to them as I got into the car and drove off.  Exhausted after a full day, we returned to our flat and passed out.  Our first full day was now behind us.

New Year New Things

It’s that time again–almost a week before the new year!  It’s always a time for me to reflect on the current year and set goals for the next one.  Overall, I would say 2013 was a great year.  I didn’t lose any loved ones and everyone remains in great health.  I laughed more times than I cried.  There was heartbreak, which was replaced with the love from family and friends.  I added a few new friends, and allowed a few others to fall to the wayside.  I received a job promotion (more money to give to Uncle Sam—chi ching!) and traveled to awesome new places around the world.  Most years I ring in the new year in midnight mass with the exception of last year and this year.  Since I will be out of the country , I’m posting my New Year’s Resolution list early.

I’m not crafty enough to create a vision board; but if I were, it would have a picture to symbolize this list of fourteen 2014 resolutions (in no particular order):

1.  Purchase a home

I hoped to purchase a home before the end of 2013 but I was unsuccessful.  I’ve made buying a house at the top of my list for the new year.  I’ve always used the excuse that I may return to NY one day as one of the reasons why I’ve procrastinated on buying a home in DC.  I’ve also explained it away as one less asset I have to protect when I get married.  But, I’ve accepted that I will likely live the rest of my life south of the Mason-Dixon line (though I will always be a New Yorker) and my husband and I can always sign a prenup.  So, in 2014 I will become a homeowner!

2.  Listen more say less

I think this one makes the list every year.  Some years I’m better at doing this than other in other years.  Sometimes there is so much more you capture through silence than through words.  In 2014, I’m going to lower my word count.

3.  Spend more time with my family

black-family-extended-360x200I always wish for more hours in a day, but that desire contradicts my need for more sleep.  Nevertheless, I need to find more time to spend with my family.  I spent the weekend with my father who is always a source of entertainment and knowledge.  His patience with me and ability to always know the right things to say is unmatched.  But the time spent with him was also a reminder that he is aging and our time spent together must be cherished.  I’m taking a trip with my number one ace (my mother) over the new year so I am off to a good start with this resolution.

4.  Love fearlessly/Embrace my vulnerability 

A friend sent me this quote that she thought reminded her of me: “Open your heart. Fall in love. Fall in love and do it right; in the most fearless, head over heals, I-can’t-believe-this-is-possible way. Love, with all of your might. And when your heart is so open you don’t know what to do with it all? Let it break.  Let it break. Let it break, and mend, and heal. Let it heal. Then do it all over again. Don’t be afraid. We are capable of the most profound love when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.” After reading it, I rolled my eyes and flippantly requested that she refrain from sending me such future bullsh*t.  For the few people who really know me, they understand that I possess the ability to empathize (though my word choices may not be the most fluid), but being vulnerable and sharing my feelings is a rarity that only a few witness.  Nevertheless,  I have decided to use this quote to challenge myself in 2014.  We’ll see how this one goes….

5. Take the leap to becoming an adjunct professor

Teaching is one of my many passions.  When I made the decision to change jobs, I spoke with my mentor about a 5-year plan.  He insisted that my plan include teaching a law school class in my practice area.  At the time, I thought he was being crazy and overly ambitious, but he has always believed in me, at times more than I have believed in myself.  I was recently asked to fill in for a professor and teach a few of her law school classes next semester.  I hesitated in taking on the challenge, but recalled my mentor’s vision–one step closer to becoming Professor LIST. 

6.  Put God first

Like #3, this makes the list most years.  It is in my nature to always want to be in control of a situation (I like to say I’m practicing my leadership skills).  At times, I have to take a step back and remind myself that someone higher than me is controlling my life’s journey and therefore I should never forget to put God first.

7.  Trust my gut and never second guess myself

I’m a little book smart; but more importantly, I have a gut that is spot on.  It never steers me wrong or gives me bad advice.  Even when I can’t pinpoint what it’s telling me, I know I should always follow it.  I plan on doing this more.

8.  Charge my friends for legal services

I’m all about utilizing my skills for others, but I usually reserve that for the indigent by taking on pro bono litigation cases.  In 2013, I’ve received quite a few calls/emails from friends seeking legal services–for FREE 99!  Some of them make more money than I do (my ex ‘s business pulls in over a million dollars annually, but he has no shame calling about some legal problem).  As of 2014, my legal advice will be prefaced by a description of my fees.  (Since I know my ex will read this–you’ve been forewarned!).

9.  Make a power career move

I’m always striving for a new challenge.  In 2014, I plan to make a career move to ensure that I stay on my toes and am honing my legal skills.  I haven’t decided whether that move will be an internal change at my current job, or an external change/addition (see #5) but it will take me one step closer to success.

10.  Redefine success

This new years resolution is somewhat counterintuitive to what I just stated in #9.  But in 2014, I’m redefining  contentment for myself.  I distinctly recall an e-mail exchange with a friend a few months ago where I stated what I would do “when I become successful.”  Her response was something to the effect of “it’s sad that you don’t recognize that you’re already successful.”  I will always be an overachiever, but I am going to ensure that I don’t lose sight and appreciate what it means to to me to be successful (if I accomplish even half of the resolutions on this list by the end of 2014 I will have been successful).

11.  Pray more 

Recently, I was talking to a friend in the middle of the day and at noon he said I should stop and pray.  Huh?Even though we both attend the same church, I thought he was joking.  Then he told me that he had started to pray every day at a specific time.  We’re both Catholic, but we have different ways of praying (he says a few Our Fathers, Hail Mary’s and the Act of Contrition, while I have a more personal prayer with God).  The next day, while we spoke, he reminded me that it was prayer time.  It felt very fulfilling to stop and take a moment during the middle of my hectic day to say a prayer–a practice I hope to continue in 2014.

                                                         

12.  Put less weight in how I am perceived 

I’ve lived on this earth for over 30 years and I am pretty comfortable in my skin.  Typically, I try (and fail effortlessly) to find a way to be amenable to others; sometimes it is at the expense of my own happiness.  In 2014 as a daily reminder to myself,  my cell phone ringer will be set to Lil Wayne’s “Don’t Give a F*ck*” .

13. Tighten the inner circle

I have joked with a close friend of mine that our friendship has reached the end of its rope and shall terminate at the stroke of midnight on January 1st 2014, to which she jokingly agreed.  Although our statements were made in jest, each year as I’ve matured I realize that I have grown apart from friendships that haven’t been able to withstand the test of time.  Oftentimes I get the statement, “damn you know everyone in DC”.  This could not be farthest from the truth.  While knowing a large network of people, I have embraced the joy that comes with knowing a lot of people but having a tight inner circle.  In strengthening the bond with those fifteen people, I will loosen the bond with others. I have never lost a friendship that I did not miss losing, but I have never let go of a friendship that I regretted losing.

14.  Exercise more

This one also makes my list every year.  But the older I become, the more important exercise must become a part of my routine.  I’ve already been selected from the lottery to run the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in April (yes, I am a glutton for punishment).  Therefore, the high intensity workout regimen will begin promptly at the beginning of the new year–or when I return from vacation.

Although some people don’t believe in creating resolutions, it serves as a useful roadmap and outline of the things I hope to accomplish with the start of a new year.  What are your resolutions?

Wishing You All a Prosperous and Happy New Year!

%d bloggers like this: