2 Live Views Season 1 Episode 17 This time we go political!! Why are Millennials not getting married or having children? March 25th, 2019heyyyhelen
I promise you, one of the questions I get tired of answering and get asked the most both home and abroad is, “Are you by yourself?” Unfortunately, many black women and a few black men get asked this question more times than we care to answer. I guess because I have been “doing it” so long that I am just immune to it, but the real question is, why do we have to travel solo?
It is not to brag, but I have been to almost every U.S. State, several Countries, and a handful of Continents. In my travels, there has been one thing that both amuses me and makes me sad all at the same time; it’s seeing countless black women traveling solo. As unpopular as most of my friends and family may think it is, it is actually sadly common, particularly for single and successful women of color. You don’t believe me? I belong to several, yes several single, black travel sites on Facebook and Instagram. Here, you will find the most fabulous pictures, stories, suggestions, and cautions before you (Single You), plan your next getaway. I find that I word search where I would like to go in these sites steps before I arrange travel. But again, why?
I sat next to an amazingly handsome, single Latino male on a flight recently to Cartagena, Columbia. He was a pilot, and we hit it off as soon as I buckled into my window seat. We started with the usual pleasantries, and within five minutes, he asked, “Are you traveling by yourself?” and as always with a forced smile I replied, “Yes sir I am.” I’ve come to realize that when I look around the plane, if there is not a couple traveling together, there is often a group, but the solo thing, well it has always been “My Thing” but I also noticed over the year although some of us do it by choice, many it becomes their reality.
For those that don’t know, I’m in my 40’s, single, and don’t have any children. Now, don’t cry for me Argentina, I have and continue to live an amazing life, and that’s a whole different blog 😊, I say all that to say, that when I speak to other solo travelers, their story is similar are close to mine. Some have children, and they are now grown. Others take group trips but will also reserve a solo trip in that same year for their “self-care,” but it still cannot go unnoticed that we (single black women are the biggest solo travelers).
My first solo trip was close to 20 years ago after I was going through a divorce. I went to the Bahamas to get my mind right and get over my funk. I realize that not only was I am an amazing person, but I also enjoyed my own company. Honestly, the first two or three trips I hated the stares when I went to have dinner by myself. I hated the thought of having to “protect myself.” And worst of all, I hated the single traveler surcharge that cruises, hotels, and travel sites penalize s with merely because we are a solo traveler. As time when on, I started using it to my advantage. I made it clear I was solo. Men made sure, I got to my room safely, and women that worked at resorts offered me package deals that would not be a distraction and added me to odd numbered groups to assure I was not by myself. I’ve never met a stranger in my life, so meeting new people was never the problem, my circumstance just made it a necessity.
Now to be clear, I have traveled with friends in the past, but nine times out of ten they too are single black females, and I don’t know about you but every NOW and THEN I enjoy the company of the opposite sex, but they are not always readily available. Not making it a stereotype, but most of the men I know, can’t swim, don’t enjoy International Travel the way I do, some don’t even possess a passport, making it even more challenging to find a travel buddy. I know married women who have told me they take solo or girls trips because their husbands do not like to travel. What I see on more than 99% of my trips are European couples, European families and single black females. Even on this recent trip, on the Delta flight, I was on, there were only two black women on the entire oversold flight.
I don’t predicate my life or happiness on others thoughts, fears, and perceptions of me being a solo traveler. As a matter of fact, for me to enjoy all that this world has to offer, it’s the only way. Do I have fears? Sure. Do I get nervous walking around in a strange Country? No more than I do in a peculiar U.S, city. I learned real early to avoid looking like a tourist, speak as much of the language as you can (I keep a translator app on all my phone and electronic devises), and make every trip a Great Adventure!!
So, to answer your question, “Are you traveling by yourself,” the answer is YES.
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So…. Last year I deceived to find out where I was from. I took two different DNA test and came back with two different results, there goes that theory. Anyways, one said without a shadow of a doubt I was from West Africa (Sub-Saharan) that could be anything from Senegal to Cameroon.
Helen Lawrence 100%
- Sub-Saharan African 80.3%
- West African 75.2%
- African Hunter-Gatherer 2.9%
- Broadly Sub-Saharan African 2.2%
- European 18.9%
- British & Irish 6.3%
- Broadly Northwestern European 7.0%
- Broadly European 3.0%
- Broadly Southern European 2.6%
- East Asian & Native American 0.5%
- Native American 0.4%
- Southeast Asian 0.1%
- Broadly East Asian & Native American 0.1%
These results were from 23 & Me. The next one said I was a mixture of Ethiopian, Nigerian, and Turkish??? Lawrence is a German last name, and yes I know the slave masters gave us a NEW last name and tried to strip us of our identities and royalty, but that’s another topic and blog for another time. OK, I’m back…didn’t mean to get so deep, I was really confused because “HELLO” Ethiopia is in Eastern Africa, oh well, I said all of this to say, that I made a vow that once I found out WHO I WAS, I was going to visit those areas to ingratiate myself in my TRUE and Authentic Self and Culture. Since I am still confused because most DNA test also do not include your Native Indian breakdown, I knew it was safe to say I was still in search of who I REALLY AM. What I know for sure is I come from amazing parents, grandparents and ancestors from all other the globe, and that I am a Perfect Combination of what GOD created me to be. So, in the meantime, my travels and discovery will be limitless and explorative. I knew my first trip to Africa would be this year, but where to?? I chose Egypt…LOL
I have had Egypt on my “To Do” list for many years. From both a Biblical and Historical standpoint I knew one day I would make my way there. At the beginning of the year I was laid off from an employer that I worked at for nine years. My last day was two weeks before the Super Bowl and to be honest I wasn’t devastated, but I was a little disappointed. My team makes it to the Super Bowl, and I had to “ADULT” and decided if spending $5,000 to go to the Super Bowl (flight, hotel and at least 200 level ticket) was fiscally responsible. I mean I got a handsome severance, I have always been disciplined and amassed saving in multiple accounts, and hey how often does YOUR team get to a Super Bowl (unless you’re a New England Patriots fan)? The Eagles had not been in 14 years, but I decided that I needed to pick between the Super Bowl in Minneapolis in February, or Egypt for my birthday in July (both came with extreme temperatures on opposite ends) so I picked Egypt over my EAGLES. The good news is that the EAGLES won the Super Bowl and I was able to attend the first Super Bowl parade for my Team and City. Here it was June and I still had no job, my unemployment benefits were running out, and I had not been anywhere all year, so this “Wanderlust” was going through some serious withdraw. So, with no job offers, I did what any sensible person would do….I booked two trips for July 😊, one to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for the July 4th holiday, and the other for Cairo Egypt for my 47th birthday, and in true Helen style, I went Solo and First Class for both.
I have been to every US State at least once (work mostly afforded this) with the exceptions of Alaska and South Dakota, 25 Countries, and enough frequent flier miles to start my own airline. Approximately 95% of those have been International SOLO trips, because for me, that’s my preferred way to travel. I am accountable for me, myself, and I. Being adventurous I also decided to stay at my 4th Airbnb and coming from a bourgeoise Hilton Girl that is saying a lot. After careful review and narrowing it down, I found the best place in Cairo for me, with Pyramid views, enough room for 8 people and a HOST that topped all past Host. My host Mahmoud affectionately known as “Mo” was extremely responsive, planned my trip from pick-up, to additional flights, to a 4-day cruise in between, and back to the airport for a 3:30 AM departure for my flight back to Atlanta. It was go hard or go home.
I left the night before my birthday; the flight was 15 hours with a brief layover in Rome. I didn’t sleep the entire flight, and that’s not the norm for me. I’m the girl that falls asleep before the cabin door even shuts, but this time, I just could not. They served dinner, dessert, I watched two Nigerian Movies (my favorite) and got up 3 times (something I have to force myself to do), yet I was wide awake. Upon arrival in Rome, I checked into the Sky Club Lounge (y’all thought I was lying when I said I’m bourgeoise) freshened up, had lunch and said a Happy Birthday prayer, before my connecting flight in two hours. “Thank You Father for 47”.
When I arrived in Cairo, I was a little nervous. Not because I was in a predominately Muslim Country, not even because I was traveling solo, because truth be told I was familiar with both, but I was not sure what to expect I guess. As I came down the escalator the first thing I noticed was a well-dressed man holding a sign with my name on it. He whisked me through getting my Visa and Immigration while others were looking at me like “who is that girl?” He spoke amazing English and during the ride gave me a car tour, being sure to point out all landmarks and answer all of my questions, and I had few; like in the first 20 minutes, I didn’t see one female driver?? My greeter and driver let me know they just recently started letting women drive, remember in the Muslim culture, women are more caregivers and quite frankly not expected to drive. Now here is this professional, executive, single black female who does EVERYTHING for herself in a Country where that is frown upon. CHECKED & NOTED…After about an hour drive, observing the clear bifurcation between the haves and the have nots, I was in front of my HOME for the next week. If you have ever done an Airbnb in other Countries, the outside is generally not the best aesthetically, and can make you a little nervous, but Mo was standing outside to greet me, and had a gentleman take my luggage up as we walked together to the elevator. Lord please let this place look like the pictures.
The pictures online did not do the apartment any justice, the place was amazing. It could sleep up to eight, a full kitchen with a stocked refrigerator, ice-cold AC, a balcony with the three pyramids in my view, and most importantly HOT WATER for the Shower. Later that night Mo’s wife and mother prepared me the most amazing birthday/welcome to Egypt meal fit for a Queen. They do this for every guest I’m told, but I’m going to pretend it was all because it was my birthday LOL. What isn’t the norm is later that evening Mo took me to sit outside with the locals to smoke some Shisha and discuss my packed itinerary. Because I was solo, Mo was my personal tour guide and his good friend was my personal driver for the Cairo portion of my trip.
My first full day started with the Pyramids of Giza & Sphinx. They were MASSIVE in person and I count it a blessing to be standing here at what is still considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. I was also excited that I finally was able to check this off my bucket list. I rode a camel, and had an impromptu photo shoot courtesy of my Brother Mo. Next, we ventured off to Sakkara, what I didn’t know if this is where the very first Pyramid ever built was and I was able to venture inside the tombs of Teti and Kagemni. Time for lunch, to know me, is to know this is an area I am NOT adventurous in, but I tried a local favorite Kofta. It is a mixture of minced beef or lamb with spices, rolled onto a skewer and barbecued over coals. They look like and taste a little to me like Jimmy Dean Turkey breakfast sausage.
Now that our stomachs were full the next stop was to Memphis the ancient Capital of Egypt to see the biggest statue of King Ramsses II. The last two spots were visits to a papyrus painting shop, where they showed me how the paints are applied to papyrus paper. Here is the popular Judgement Day:
Afterwards, I went to a fragrance shop that made their own oils and perfumes. Let’s just say I spent more than I planned, and one of the four oils I purchased was guaranteed to heal my knee pain, and another would get me a husband LOL. I haven’t opened any of them yet.
I slept in the next day because I had a flight to Luxor. Mo set me up for a 4-day cruise on a 5 Star Cruise Ship (called floating hotels by the locals). I was met by my English-speaking tour guide, Omar who immediately along with my personal driver, took me to the Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple all before the sun went down. In between, he also took me to find an Egyptian style dress to wear to one of the nightly theme parties, it cost me a whopping $6 USD and I have to say I was cute 😉
During the next few days I visited The Valley of Kings, Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, Edfu Temple, KomOmbo Temple, and continued to sail to Aswan. On the last day was a visit to Phialae Temple Island, and the High Dam then the unfinished Obelisk. I asked my tour guide if we could modify the tour (at this point I was all tombed, pyramided, and templed out…LOL) I had read about the Nubian Village and I had to go. With a few phone calls, we hopped on a motor boat and about 30 minutes later we were there, and I’m so glad as this became one of the highlights of the trip. The Egyptians here speak Arabic, but they also have a Nubian language, they looked more like me, and I got to touch a crocodile. The plan was to hold him, but he was NOT as cooperative as he was the day before, and let’s just say momma didn’t raise no fool, I knew how and when to leave well enough alone.
I arrived back to Cairo that evening and once again my FAVORITE driver was at the airport waiting on me. We brushed up on the 10 Arabic words I learned on the cruise and he tried to teach me a few more. The next morning was a tour of the Egyptian Museum of Cairo. I guess we went on the most popular day and time because it was overly crowed. Mo told me Friday is the weekend and many go to Mosque for noon prayer. Because I was not a Muslim, I had to observe the prayer but could not enter the mosque at this time. We took a trip to the downtown market place, it was a combination of Canal Street in New York; South Street in Philly and the Underground in Atlanta. You can get clothes, food, household items (Mo brought me a beautiful top spread/throw in Purple). We sat and enjoyed both a Coke for me and a fresh pineapple drink for MO. He continued to educate me on the Muslim culture and what I would see at Noon. He excused himself and participated in the noon prayer, in the street. To watch the men and women worship on one accord was moving. I have always been a spiritual person, and I LOVE true authentic WORSHIP, and this day was beyond anything I had EVER seen. Imagine hundreds (and I am not exaggerating) of people praying on one accord, over 100 degrees, many could not make it in the Mosque, so they worshiped in the streets. Imagine, young and old, you don’t have to be a Muslim to appreciate what I saw this day. Once the prayer ended, tourist were then permitted to enter the mosque. We traveled to another mosque instead; The Alabaster Mosque of Mohamed Ali. This place was beautiful inside and out. The view from the outside of the mosque was even more breathtaking.
We were slated to visit the hanging church, instead we opted to ride to the top of the 70 story Cairo Tower. I pulled the Canon back out and we went to taking pictures. MEET MO Ladies and Gentlemen, your FUTURE Tour GUIDE, HOST and BROTHER (because I know many of you want to go and can and should.
Now a sister was wiped out and hungry. Mo saved the best meal for last. In true authentic Egyptian style, I was treated to and devoured the Egyptian favorite, Kushari or Koshari. This dish is made with rice, macaroni and lentils mixed together, topped with a spiced tomato sauce, and garlic vinegar; also add in some chickpeas and crispy fried onions and a squirt of lemon or lime juice.
I don’t know if I ate it too fast or ate too much, but when I got up that next day my stomach was not as happy as it was when I ate it LOL, but it was worth it. On my last day, Mo and I had Shisha that night, amazing conversation, and I promise you he is my new found brother. I had a 3:00 AM flight, and my driver was friendly and alert at that time of morning. Mo brought me a papyrus paper art picture that I was eyeing but was trying to be frugal. I cried like a baby when he surprised me with it, saying I wanted to do something nice for you, plus it’s your birthday.
They say people don’t have to be nice and when they are, they don’t have to be nice to you.
As-Salaam-Alaikum, Akhi Sadiki MO 😊 (PEACE BE UNTO YOU BY BROTHER AND FRIEND MO)
shkra lk ya sadiki (Thank You my Friend)
February 4, 2018, is a date that will FOREVER be etched in my heart; it’s the day my beloved Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl for the first time. Fifty-Seven years had gone by and there was NO RING, NO Parade, NO SUPER BOWL BANNER, but at last, on what was one of the best Super Bowl games I have EVER witnessed, the EAGLES FINALLY got it done. I have joked for years that there are two things that I want and pray for; to see Jesus face to face and for the Eagles to win a Super Bowl in my lifetime (obviously not in that order).
If you have ever believed in a Cinderella story, a perfect ending, or a “next man up” scenario; the 2017-2018 Eagles Team gave you just that. I attend on average 3-4 games a year, in my quest to visit all 31 stadiums (The New York Jets and Giants share a stadium) of the 32 teams. I try as best I can to attend the home opener even with me living in Atlanta for the last 13 years, I make my way to the home opener, and then select stadiums I would like to visit for away games. The first home game was against our divisional foe; The New York Giants. If you know anything about the NFC East, you know there are no “cake walk games”, they are usually hard fought and very close, which was no exception on September 24, 2017. Jake Elliott, a kicker the Eagles signed less than 2 weeks before this game; who was waived by the Beagles, with just seconds left on the clock, nailed a 61-yard field goal, for the Eagles to pull out the win 27-24. What a game to remember, but the bad news was in that same game Darren Sproles, broke his arm and suffered an ACL tear; surely we were doomed.
As the weeks and the months passed, we continued to be decimated with season-ending injuries and in just about every position. Sproles, Cox, Sturgis, Peters (when I literally cried like a baby), Hicks, and our Franchise QB Carson Wentz in week 14; everyone including some Eagles Fan counted us out, but the next man up, got the job done. Many had said, well the Eagles have nothing to hang their heads over, although they won the Division, there was no way they would win one playoff game without their star QB, let alone make it to the Super Bowl. The biggest challenge in all three post-season games (in my opinion) was the very first game we played against the Atlanta Falcons. I am a realist and I tell anyone that wants to listen that if Atlanta’s QB Matt Ryan connects with Wide Receiver Julio Jones at the end of the 4th, their results may have been different, but the Eagles had the best record not just in the NFC but the tied (with the Patriots) for the BEST record in the NFL, yet the amount of disrespect to make us the underdog was daunting, but back to that game. A low scoring game, the Eagles won 10-15, and next was the up and treading Minnesota Vikings.
There is a saying or curse that has stood true since the start of the Super Bowl era, that no team that was the Super Bowl Host has ever made it to the Super Bowl, in comes the Host Team, the Vikings. Yup, you guessed it, the Eagles were once again the Underdog. I remember sitting at my favorite “Atlantadelphian” Sports Bar watching the game at a standing room only capacity and saying if we get this Pick (interception), it will change the complexity of the game, and boy was I right. Although the Vikings came out and scored on their first series, who knew that would be the last time they scored? The Eagles were on their way to the 52nd Super Bowl pulling an 8-37 shellacking on the Vikings. We now faced the G.O.A.T Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, and again the underdog.
On paper, we were far better than the Patriots this game, but there was so much doubt. Tom Brady is over 40 years old, and the Eagles had a backup QB, but that made no difference. The only reason we were the “fan-based” favorite was that outside of the New England States, everyone hates the Patriots…LOL, but the media was split. This game was a true chess match, and I promise you my stomach was upset the entire time. With food, drinks, and the Atlanta based faithful Eagles fan at Rocky Mountain Pizza, I made several trips to the bathroom, I know TMI, but the nervous energy and the thought that we came this far and was looking like a potential winner was too much for your girl to handle. The ball was in the hands of arguably one of the best QB ever (Brady), and he was strip-sacked by the Eagles DE Brandon Graham, for what some will say was the game changer and final nail in the coffin. I said, not too soon, Brady was connecting quick and often with the beastly and difficult to tackle 6’6″ TE Rob Gronkowski AKA “GRONK”, and we alllll know you never want the ball to be in the hands of Brady for the final seconds. A Hail Mary was thrown and for 99% of Eagles fans it was in the slow motion, here it was our season, fate and breath were in these last seconds and if the Patriots can catch it and send the Super Bowl to overtime (with a 2-pt conversion should the ball had been caught). INCOMPLETE…EAGLES WIN!!!!!
During this Super Bowl game, I was disappointed in having been recently laid off from a job I had worked on for 9 years. I was upset that for my very first Super Bowl, I had to be fiscally responsible and forgo attending at the tune of approximately $8,000 (yes for everything and at least 2nd level tickets), but when the final score popped up, when the confetti fell from the sky, when the camera panned in on the fans who like myself waited all their lives for this moment, I instantly forgot about all my disappointments. I was seen on television and social media in tears because at that very moment something steered up in me; never give up.
Like the Eagles, we to are often counted out. It could be because of your age, sex or race. You may have had a diagnosis, report, or pink slip, and everyone else started planning your demise. The Eagles inspired me and I know countless others, that it’s next man up, a team effort, and our new Eagles Chant… We all we got, we all we need. Although I didn’t make it to the game, I made it home to attend the first ever Eagles Parade. It was cold, but we didn’t feel it, it was crowded, but we were all family, the players hopped off the bus several times to interact with the fans, because like FAMILY, We’re all we GOT, and we’re all we NEED. What I’ve learned from the Eagles in 2017-2018 most of all is to surround yourself with people that hold up accountable and hold you up. Surround yourself with dream builders and not snatchers. What I know for sure (outside of finally being able to say we are Super Bowl Champions) is that winners always want to see winners win… Catch That One!!!!
As we start off with a New Year, some of us opted “NOT” to make resolutions, but simply evaluate areas in our lives that need attention. I know, I know you are asking what’s the difference; not much but it sounds better right 😉 But all jokes aside, when we make “resolutions” it is so easy to fall off. However, when we examine ourselves, we realize that it is not an easy switch; it’s examining, evaluating and executing. With this method, it takes, days, months and in some case a constant and ongoing process.. Because…
Which leads me to this, I am not here to judge, but often we need to look in the mirror and see what is really the root cause and problem. So here goes; a video went viral earlier this week of a woman testifying about what she “USE” to do. She went into great detail about sexual favors she performed and was (to some) too graphic. The microphone was taken away from her and the service proceeded. Not to get up on a high horse or soapbox, but I don’t know if I was more upset with the lack of privacy during a testimonial service, or all the GIF’s and mockery I saw (primarily by the Saints) on social media. I had several conversations with Christian friends of mine, and they shared the same sentiments. The next day I saw a Facebook post by Pastor Jamal Bryant, that led me to blog on this very subject. He to was disturbed and I saw folks during his “Live” post questioning his authenticity and validity because of his own PAST transgressions. But isn’t that what a testimonies purpose is for?
Is it just me, or was there a time when testimonials were an intricate part of the Christian Worship Service? I know we have replaced it with Praise & Worship, Video Announcements, Praise Dance and a plethora of other things I will save for another post (not to mention Pastor Jamal Bryant was very concise with his commentary). I actually went to Google and looked at some old services on You Tube where the services included the testimonials and the congregants were blessed. Now I hear you saying, “Helen the problem is folks don’t know what to talk about and be out of order most of the time”. I hear you saying, “Folks are up there being too graphic and there is a time and place for that”. I even hear and at my own church struggle with the Pastor asking for a specific testimony (i.e. marriage, tithes, experience from a retreat) and the bearer of the microphone decides to go rouge (now that is out of order), But can I tell you what the WORD of GOD says…
I grew up in the church so all I know is what I have experienced and seen, and with that I believe I’ll testify. Giving Honor to GOD who I try to make First in my Life. I don’t always do what HE says and move when HE tells me to move, and Lord you know my mouth is my biggest challenge and everyday Lord I have to say….