2 Live Views Season 1 Episode 24 — Pre NFL Draft – RIP Nipsey Hussle – Tweet is Tired of the Church April 3rd, 2019heyyyhelen
As I sit on the veranda of my Christmas/New Year Air B&B in Ocho Rios Jamaica, aside from the amazing view of the Port and Beaches, GOD continues to look out for your girl. You know that meme that says, I don’t look like what I’ve been through? Well that is an understatement.
2017 has been a complicated year. I was finishing up my Doctorate, yet I manage to take a trip Every month (a goal I set the previous year). I was forced into a new position on my job which would literally eliminate most of my bonuses, yet I took four trips in my birthday month (Cuba, Houston, Cabo & Iceland). I preached and taught less at my home church, yet spoke, hosted, song and was a Conference/Keynote Speaker three times outside of my church and 90% of it outside of GA. I guess it can be said that my “FAITH” has brought be safe thus far….
A dear friend of mine asked me, “Where is your book”? when you gonna write a book. I politely told her, God has not purposed that in my heart. She then said, “Well what has HE purposed”? Never one to back down, I said, “What would I write about”, being “Single, Saved, but Unsatisfied”? or should I tackle, “How to stay Saved in a foreign land”? If you are new to Heyyy Helen, you may not know that I have a great passion for Faith, Fashion and Football, but I also enjoy another “F” and it’s frolicking from City to City, State to State, and last; but not least, Country to Country (including Islands and Continents). At the time of this post I had already been to seven Countries in 2017, and can NEVER get enough. But back to the book..I was being sarcastic but I know there is something in me, I actually think I’m a great story teller (hence my blogs, when I sit still to do them 🙂 I also know that folks see what I want them to see, and not necessarily what they need to see. I say that again to reiterate that I thank GOD that I don’t look like what I’ve been through.
For every trip there was a sacrifice. For every materialistic thing you see there was me questioning GOD. (Yes, the preacher Questions God). There is pain behind every smile, but there is also PEACE that GOD showed me this year. He desires more from us, but I will stay with me…He was asking for MORE of me. Not just because I was a preacher. Not just because I am a child of GOD. Not even because He continues to do exceedingly and abundantly for me, but because HE SAID SO, and it was that clear when (with no forewarning), GOD was shifting things in my professional and personal life. In both areas HE wanted a different response and reaction from me, a level that showed Peace and that I Trusted HIM. I tried this approach (with success) recently and now laugh at how long it took me to simply do what HE told me to do.
2018 is going to be the year of purpose for me. What has HE purposed you and I to do? Was it a book, a business, or even going back to school. Were you supposed to give more, travel more, volunteer more? Heyyy Helen has a purpose, and I vow to TRUST the Process in 2018 and not let Fear block or overtake my Faith. No resolutions guys.. Just Vision, Purpose and Faith.
On June 6th me and my travel buddy finally confirmed and booked our trip to Havana Cuba. We had been pondering on it ever since President Obama relaxed the travel restrictions in 2016. It appears (and we were right) that “45”and his current administration was in a vicious attack to discredit and remove any and all policies and advances that President Obama implemented; without any significant reason other than to dishonor and delete his legacy. I am thankful that we did, 10 days later, in Miami with a crowd of Cuban-Americans behind him in support, “45” announced that, “Effective immediately, I am canceling the last administrations completely one-sided deal with Cuba”. The crowd irrupted and I called my friend to see if she too was witnessing this foolishness. I didn’t even call Delta or the Host of the Air B&B we had already secured and confirmed, yet I just started my count down and continued my research of the Country itself.
If I was completely honest, I didn’t have the same experience that many of the Black Travelers I follow on Facebook in the multiple travel groups. Not to say it was bad, it just had some peaks and valleys. The airport experience was the most interesting. Even with First Class tickets, the process to board with your Visa (which we had already paid for online) was unorganized, very shocking for Delta, who I utilized for 99% of my travel. Insomuch that we were delayed pushing back from the gate as there were still confirmed passengers completing “visa confirmation” paperwork. May I suggest some of this be done upon check-in, and may I also recommend that if one purchased their Visa online through Delta no less, that there perhaps be an expedited lane? Of the 12 seats in First Class, 7 were occupied by African Americans, and interesting enough, only about 25% of the total travelers were Black. Just thought I include that tidbit of information.
The direct flight from Atlanta was a hair under two hours, and the process once we arrived to Havana was without incident. We had changed our USD to Euro’s as highly recommended prior to the trip, we then converted to the widely utilized CUC when we landed at the airport (yes they were open on a Sunday). We knew that Internet was limited, restricted and pretty much unavailable so we made contact with family members prior to leaving Atlanta, and we arranged travel to take us to our Air B&B. Needless to say the driver was not there and we had no address, but we were able to get a signal, text the Host, and we took a taxi to the apartment.
The apartment was exactly as pictured on the inside, but the outside was old and dilapidated and I see why the HOST did not provide pictures of the outside. We did Air B&B, 1: Because that is our preferred method, and 2: because the money goes to the people opposed to the government (although I am told some still pay a tax) and it loosely “justifies” one of the OFAC requirements of People to People, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/travel/americans-can-now-plan-their-own-people-to-people-trips-to-cuba-but-what-does-that-mean/2016/03/15/05870872-eae5-11e5-a6f3-21ccdbc5f74e_story.html?utm_term=.715e4baddb26 We were provided with Cleaning Services, a Cook, and a direct phone line to call the Host for travel and itinerary suggestions. The major disappointment was the “HOST” spent an hour with us on day one and that was the last we saw of him. I called daily and although he answered there was always an excuse. To know me is to know I travel solo, and march to the beat of my own drum so one monkey was NOT going to stop this show. Not to mention my friend Lisa travels just as much (if not more) than I do, so we had no problem navigating all up and through Cuba. Word of Caution, you need to know at least basic Spanish, as I promise you we only ran into two people (other than Tourist) that spoke English. We selected an English speaking Host with the AirB&B and many of the Hotels have individuals that speak English, but that was still with some barriers. Remember that internet is restricted and/or very limited so your goggle translator may not be available when you are in heart of Cuba. And I can’t stress this enough….LEAVE YOUR AMERICAN PRIVILEGE BACK IN THE U.S. You are in THEIR County and ENGLISH is NOT THEIR official Langauage. OK I’m back J
We used the Habana Bus Tour (Hop ON Hop OFF) pretty much every day which cost $10 CUC for an all-day pass (BTW the bulk of our money was spent on Transportation). The Tour bus has an announcer but most time the intercom was fuzzy and her English was VERY broken. Stops included The Political Center, The University, The Capital, Marketplaces, Center Square (Old Havana and where most people transfer and a great amount of your time will be spent), Cruise Ship Terminal and many other Historic Landmarks, Hotels and attractions. You can Hop off at Park Center Square and for $5 go to the free beach. Beware it gets crowed as people start going before 9:00 AM. Varadero Beach in Matanzas, Cuba, is about a 90 minute commute and will cost you about $75 CUC per person, plus the cost of transportation.
We spent the bulk of our time interacting with the people, engrossing in their culture, taking our amateur photography status to semi-professional (well you be the judge) and LORD have mercy devouring Cuba Cuisine. I am the absolute pickiest eater you will ever meet (I don’t eat seafood, mayonnaise, Chinese food, most vegetables, etc…lol) but when I tell you I ate like a native E-V-E-R-Y-D-A-Y I am not kidding you. The local favorite and mine is the Ropa Viega which is shredded beef, served with vegetables, rice and bean, onions and peppers..and it was ummm ummm goooood J Lisa had a grilled lobster for @ $11 CUC that made me want to ask, “Can I have some”, and I don’t eat seafood. My dish runs between $3 and $7. You can eat GOOD for $5-7 and still have leftovers.
The people of CUBA love President Barack Obama, they often said his name when they see people of color that are obvious tourist. They curse “45” and in their BEST English. They are not as aware of the new changes were tourism from the U.S. may slow down, but it is said that less than 10% of their overall tourism comes from the U.S. I would argue that number after seeing Norwegian and Royal Caribbean Cruise boats docked and the oversold flight I was on from Atlanta, but I digress. Some of the concerns of the current administration and Cuban Americans is Humans Rights, are the lack thereof. I would be a fool to say we didn’t see obvious signs and that there is a great need of support. The average person makes about $300 a year from the government, and begging and hustling was prevalent everywhere we went. To avoid being taxed, Cubans often ask you to pay them on the side as they fear “cameras” are everywhere and they’ll be taxed. We over tipped and gave extra money and the people were often in tears from our generosity. AirB&B and US tourist, help them out tremendously, this recent reversal will be a blow for them.
The trip back was “suspicious”. Not because we had to pay the driver before we got to the airport on the sly. Not because the driver was 20 minutes late giving a new meaning to CP Time (Cuban People Time), but after we all boarded the plane, Cuban Customs randomly kept pulling Americans off our plane saying they bypassed or didn’t clear customs. The gentleman in the seat behind me even showed them “their” official stamp but they still made him get off along with a family of 4 with a baby. To know me, you know I lack patience, and was ready to “POP OFF”, I was hungry and wanted Dansani Water and a real Coca Cola. But what you NEVER want is to be detained or locked up in a foreign Country, so I kept my mouth shut. 90 minutes later we were heading back to the A-T-L. With our Global Entry Membership’s, we had the luxury to bypass the lines, and we were heading back to our cars in the fraction of the time.
I am thankful we took the trip. I am grateful to be blessed to have the opportunity to experience other cultures and see the World one trip at a time. And I am appreciative of the things we take for granted. The Cuban people are resilient, resourceful, and were rich in ways MOST of US would never comprehend. I am not sure what the future will hold for the people of Cuba, Tourism for US Citizens, or the Castro regime (Raul plans to resign in 2018), but my prayer is for Peace and a favorable outcome on all fronts.
If you are new to Heyyy Helen, you would think this blog title is catchy, but actually it is what and who I am, and this weekend confirmed it. Before I get into my weekend, can I be a little transparent? I know I should be blogging more, investing more time into my brand, and stepping out on faith as it relates to Heyyy Helen, but I have to admit it is truly a daunting task. When the vision came, I was all too excited to hit the ground running and making my “MARK”. This blogging, research, and traveling for the greater good of Heyyy Helen (my calling) requires discipline and what the Bible refers to as “NOW” faith. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1, KJV). Thank GOD for the Accountability partners I have in my corner, who got me allllll the way in order this week, so I’m BACK!!
OK, now that that is off my chest, let me tell you about my weekend. The minute I found out that the NFL Draft was going to be in Philadelphia, my hometown (well I grew up adjacent to it in the suburbs but stay with me), I knew I had to be there. I immediately registered online to win free tickets as well as inquired about purchasing VIP Tickets. Booked Airfare, Secured Lodging, and told my family and friends that I would in town for a brief stint. I also called my Father in the Ministry, Bishop Dennis E. Joell as I knew I would stop by the church for Sunday Worship. His response was, “Good, you are going to be preaching then”. Well I paraphrased it, but basically I needed to come prepared.
I arrived on the final day of the draft. I parked my rental car for free at Citizens Bank Park for all attending the draft, hopped on the train for a 15 minute ride to City Hall, and rushed off with the other mostly Eagles Fans heading to the same place I was. Awwwww Philadelphia, the Home of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection. The Home of the infamous Philly Cheesesteak and Pretzel. The weather was unseasonably delightful in the mid to high 80’s. The Penn Relays were going on at the same time, so the town was abuzz. I must of clicked my heels three times because there is no place like home.
The NFL draft was a complete and thorough success. Fans came from all over to participate, and all you kept hearing was how GREAT a job Philadelphia did in pulling it all together. The Eagles Fans showed up and had that JAWN (this is a word created and used in Philadelphia to describe just about everything it is a noun) live. My Eagles had an awesome draft, and we looked poised to be a serious contender not only in the NFC East but the entire League. Singing the Fly Eagles Fly song with every pick as well as when the previous and current players came on the stage was a delight. Booing anytime the Cowboys came up in conversation or the screen, but the biggest kick was my phone blowing up with family and friends calling saying they saw me not just on The NFL Network but singing our song on ESPN. A good time was had by all, and there are rumors that Philly may be the Host City again in 2018. Job well Done Philly!!!
I spent the remainder of the evening catching up with my parents which is always precious and cherished time. Even at 45 they still “baby” me. They were concerned with if I was hungry, what I needed them to cook, was my room comfortable enough, and was it quite enough to mediate before preaching in the morning. Sunday morning and it was time to prepare to preach. I have some rituals and requirements prior to preaching, mostly complete silence, no food or drink, and positive vibes. My parents knew this and respected all of the above. Off to the Shiloh Baptist Church where it all started for me in 1989. Where I was licensed and spent 13 years; HOME. My nerves were all over the place, I hadn’t preached there in almost 15 years. How would I do, would they like it, I’m not the same preacher I was 19 years ago. All I could pray is “LORD have your way”; and that HE did. The message was received, my parents (both birth and spiritual) beamed with pride, my ex-husband cheered me on (yes we cool like that) and my best friend got to hear me preach for the first time. GOD was in the Building and I am so glad I said yes.
Now I can conclude and be deep and say me and the other Saints had on the Whole Armor of GOD, and that our feet were shod in the preparation of the gospel of peace and so forth, but I won’t. Style is something you will always see in church and in particular the predominantly black church. So as for Fashion we did a little something something Sunday. I wore my St. John Knit Sunday go to Meeting and Preaching Suit, while my girl Tonya came representing Betsey Johnson. I once heard somebody say (and Deion Sanders multiple times) When You Look Good, You feel Good, and I felt Amazing!!!! Here are a few pictures we took Sunday.
What an amazing weekend of Faith, Fashion, Football, Fellowship…….