Monthly Archives: October 2015

September and October 2016: A Recap of Travel, Education And Fun

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imageEvery two months, I will provide an update on my travels, activities and any new venture that materializes.  Here is what I had the opportunity to experience during September and October 2016:

TRAVEL:

From September 9-20, 2015, I experienced Wonderful France that featured excursions to Paris, Avignon, Arles, Aix-En-Provence, St. Tropez, Nice, Monaco, Lyon, St. Paul de Vence, Beaune and St.  Balme Maxime.  This entire trip was fun, educational and whimsical.  The food was great and the historic sights were amazing!

In October, I was honored to return to my undergraduate institution Oberlin College for the OA4 (Oberlin Association of African American Alumni) reunion.  It was amazing to see classmates that I had not seen since commencement. To be able to reminisce while walking the campus and getting reconnected to the college that served as the foundation for my path in social services was almost surreal.

Also in October, I had the chance to travel to Cincinnati, Ohio, for The International Congress of Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly (LBFE). Not only were the workshops well presented, but I was blessed to meet my colleagues who work in other parts of the world.  Staff and board members from other LBFE chapters — Madrid, Barcelona, Romania, France, Switzerland, Germany, Poland and Ireland and the U.S. — were able to meet and share best practices for working with isolated elders.

THEATRE

In mid October, I attended The  Court Theatre’s (Chicago) production of “Gem of the Ocean” written by renowned playwright August Wilson.  Wilson wrote The Century Cycle plays (one for every decade from the 1900s to 1990s), and after having seen this production, I can proudly say I have seen all 10 of Wilson’s masterpieces.

NEW RESTAURANTS

I, along with five “This I Do For Me” participants, experienced an absolutely delectable meal at Francessa’s on Taylor in September, and at Pizza Capri and Chant, in October.

READING

In September, I read the seminal work “The Sisters Are Alright” — a must read that examines the stereotypes that plague African American women. The author Tamara Winfrey Harris did a beautiful job with this book.  Also, “Leave Your Nets” written by mystic Joel Goldsmith was devoured by me in October.

MUSIC

In October, I saw the musical phenom Cecilie McLorin Salvant in concert, and immediately following the concert, I purchased her latest CD entitled “For One to Love.” I am also listening to “Live in Cuba” by The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis.

Lets see what November holds!

You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest .

#thisidoforme.com

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The Ultimate Travel Companion: Volunteering — By Kweli Kitwana, Guest Blogger

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  • For years, I’ve dreamed about taking a volunteer vacation.
    Volunteer vacations are called many things, including service vacations, international volunteering, volunteer travel, working vacations, gap year travel and volunteering abroad. No matter what they are called, I always knew this was something I wanted to do. Going someplace with a unique purpose is just in my blood. Don’t get me wrong, I love exotic vacations on beaches, enjoying fine dining and taking in the local sights. However, experiences of cultural immersion is an exciting honor aligned with my personal need to get involved, connect with people and hopefully, leave a footprint in someone else’s life.

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    Kweli Kitwana

    West Africa has been on my travel bucket list for some time.  I have always looked to Africa for personal reflection and creative inspiration. For my entire life, I could never pass up the opportunity to immerse myself in West African culture, spirituality, politics or arts. Knowing I’d end up there at some point, I wanted to choose my path to get there carefully.

In about a week from now, I am leaving for Ghana.  Recently, I heard that SISTAWorks was seeking a volunteer willing to go to Bogatonga, Ghana (and, surrounding rural villages) on short notice for about four weeks. SISTAWorks, a nonprofit, has as its mission to see more of Ghana’s adolescent village girls through high school, instead of languishing as menial laborers in city markets. Empowering these young women is an essential step in breaking the cycle of poverty in rural African communities. These girls would not be able to attend high school without the scholarships and support they receive directly from SISTAWorks.

Students at work in Bogatoga, Ghana

Students at work in Bogatoga, Ghana

I will be meeting these girls and their families, selecting the Scholars for the upcoming school year, providing training, and collecting/distributing their education supplies and resources to them. It’s a huge undertaking, but I’m up for the challenge.

This opportunity has been “in the works” for some time– you see, life’s opportunities are always waiting for us.

Over 10 years ago, I bought a beautiful quilt from Baba Blankets to support an African Collective, thus giving economically marginalized girls an opportunity to change their lives via education. While on a business trip in Denver, Colorado, I attended the Annual African American Art Fair. I was especially drawn to a beautiful exhibit of colorful quilts with the most familiar patterns. E. Aminata Brown, the vendor and Founder of Baba Blankets, explained that these quilts “are the exceptional work of our girls in Ghana seeking to advance their opportunities through sewing and education.”

It was this experience which inspired me to revisit my own family’s tradition of quilting — particularly my Grandma and Mama’s loving creations handed down and gifted throughout the years to our family and friends. This interest eventually led me to quilting and designing over 300 fabric designs celebrating African American culture, tradition and history, along with the creation of my online business “African American Fabrics.”

Well, here I am — full circle… I am now, honored to spend a month volunteering with Sista Works. If you know me, you know I am filled with the enlightenEd possibilities of this gift. The gift to learn from and dare to receive continued inspiration, while making a sustainable difference in girls lives is an opportunity of a lifetime.

Please take a moment and visit their website. Hopefully, you will even be inspired to make a donation to them!!
www.sistaworks.org

Or, you can help support my volunteer trip specifically by donating to my Go Fund Me campaign.

www.gofundme.com/KweliToGhana

Reflections on France — How I Miss Her!

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Reflections on France — How I Miss Her!

I have been back exactly one month from my Wonderful France trip, and one thing is really clear to me — I want to go back!  France has that great mix of serenity — Saint Paul de Vence and  Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Balme — to high profile sophistication of Monaco, Monte Carlo, Nice and Lyon– to the just plain fast pace as you would find in exciting Paris.

When I say I felt freer than I have in my entire life, I mean it.  I was free to meet new people —  adventuresome Australians, caring Canadians and all ablaze Americans.  I was free to try my first Pastis and my first Floating Island.  I unapologetically and unashamably took pictures of all the iconic Parisian and uniquely French sites, while at the same time taking photos of some of the most unsuspecting aspects of life in France.  You know the ones that cause you to ask yourself “who would be interested in this photo?”

The food, the food, the food!  Who knew that ordinary chicken could express its Frenchness in so many different ways.  I actually had Coq Au Vin!  Who knew that macarons taste better in Aix? Who knew I would eat at Paul Bocuse’s Lyonaise Restaurant in Lyon? And, oh, The boulangeries, charcuteries and the plentiful open air markets (St. Tropez) too big to navigate in one visit.  I had fun trying, though!

Who knew that I would find a bracelet laden with Swarovski Crystals for little or nothing?! I came back loaded down not with clothing, but with tee shirts and refrigerator magnets shouting out Côte D’Azur, Avignon, Arles and Cannes!

I am determined to cook something — anything — with those cooking herbs from Provence, and then lay that meal atop the Provençal linen that I purchased.

Yes, I’m a newly minted Froncophile.  Can’t you tell?  Actually, I’ve been one for a while through my mental travels, visits to French restaurants in Chicago, and through the writings of James Baldwin, Richard Wright,  Peter Mayle, Julia Child and a good number of Expats, who like me, have that Love of France Disease.

France, who knew I would miss you this much? #thisidoforme.com