Tag Archives: africa

Musical Moments in Cuba

Standard

Cuba is a place where music and culture are valued beyond material wealth and acquisition, and as such, the sounds and rhythms of the country and its  people, are never far behind.   Outside of Havana, Santiago de Cuba is probably one of the best places to experience Cuba’s cultural diversity and the video below provides a snapshot.

The first scene is a group of men literally singing for their supper, to the   tourists that visit Castillo del Morro (or more formally, Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca), and choose to stay for lunch.

The second scene is a singer at Casa de las Tradiciones.  This is a very popular spot for both tourists and locals.  The first part of the evening consists of solo (and typically older) singers with traditional tunes and the second part of the evening involves hot and sweaty salsa dancing.

The third scene is part of the musical rehearsal for the national closing ceremonies of the Feria de Libros (National Book Fair).  This is my favorite piece because it reflects the strength of African cultural and linguistic roots in Cuba.  When watching the dancer, imagine her arms holding up the ends of a long flowing traditional gown.  This is the  Ballet Folklórico Cutumba and for more info on them, click here.

Advertisements

Starting A Business Abroad

Standard
“Hi I enjoy your blogs, I am African-American from the States and would like some information about your experiences in Cuenca and if it is a big challenge for blacks to start a business over there. You stated your experience and I thought that was great. I want to experience the life of Ecuadorians and especially Cuenca, what must my expectations be? Is it really true that $300.00 can get you a nice place to live?  Your help will be greatly appreciated.”

__________________________________________________________

I am one of those people who does not know how to take a true vacation. Laying around beaches or passing the days completely self-indulged is an absolute challenge for me (which is one of a number of reasons why I hate cruises).  While my travel may seem random to an outsider, those in the know, know that there must be a specific interest I have in that country or city and that it is in some way tied to a business idea.

So when I travel to a new place, be it in the United States or anywhere else, I always have an eye out for the business environment and opportunities for entrepreneurship.  I also have a personal principle of not wanting to work for anyone other than myself and my clients, so I definitely try to consider all the possibilities.

That said, over the years I have realized some universal truths for doing business abroad:

  • Take your time. Doing business abroad can be a slow process and you want to make sure not to sink everything you have into a business proposition that is unteste;
  • Travel with an open mind and have no preconceived notions, because they are probably wrong;
  • Get to know a place before you start thinking of business there because what may work where you currently are, may not be feasible in another environment (this requires time);
  • Get to know the people before you put plans in place because their needs and desires may be completely different based on culture, religion, region, etc. (this requires time);
  • Keep your ears and eyes open and your mouth closed (regarding business plans).

On this last point, the minute you voice that you are interested in doing business in a place, everyone will (1) immediately know that you are not from there i.e. you are a “gringo” and (2) everyone will present you with a “great” business proposition.

On the challenge of being black and starting a business in Cuenca –  No one cares what color you are…black, brown, purple, neon blue. As a North American foreigner your money is green (yes, you too Canadians), and that is all that matters.  Anyone who runs a business has to hustle and take care not to be hustled, especially when working in developing countries.   You could be in the blackest country in Africa, surrounded by folks you think look like you…but they know you are a “gringo”, “toubab”, “pumoy” foreigner from the West, and trust that they will be first in line to take advantage of any naiveté.  Now that I think of it, that sounds just like New York.

So are there any particular challenges with being a black, North American, person, starting a business in Ecuador? Not particularly because you are essentially a black gringa/o.  What will present a challenge is language.  You will always fare better if you know the language enough to get around and to ensure surrogates are not leading you by the nose. The second challenge is finding trustworthy surrogates, which takes time because everyone has their own agenda.

Next, travel with no expectations, just go… you will never be disappointed and will almost always find something joyful.  Okay, correction. I had no expectations when I went on that cruise and I was still thoroughly disappointed…actually revolted.  So maybe “never” is too absolute, please substitute, “almost never”.

Finally, yes it is possible to find a place in Cuenca that I think is nice for $300.  The operative phrase being “I think”.  I like to be comfortable  but I have simple tastes, I appreciate zen decor and I like living with locals, like a local.  Yes, I have been known to hand wash the family laundry, but  I also require things to be clean, secure and welcoming.    Normal Cuenca apartment pricing means not living in the expat buildings or neighborhoods, negotiating stated prices, and having the ability to speak just a wee little bit of Spanish (you’ll have more leverage).

In the immortal words of Jay-Z and Pharrel (yes..I am going there)

“I’m a hustla baby, I  just want you to know –
It ain’t where I been, but where I’m about to go…”

My Home – Sierra Leone

Standard

Home is a beautiful place.  Where ever it may be, it typically makes us feel warm, cozy and happy.  Like being bundled in a furry fleece blanket with a cup of hot cocoa (those of you living in cold climate know what I am talking about).   The African continent, has that effect on me.  The western region is the birth place of my parents and I have an especially strong affinity for its people and foods.  I took my own children to our native country a few year back and it was great (in an “out camping for a month” kind of way).

Sierra Leone still bares the scars of war and dislocation, but there is also hope and resiliency.   It was wonderful to be able to share that with the kids and I think it would be great to share that experience with you too.

Interactive Vlogs – Video Logs

Standard

In the spirit of making this blog and website, as interesting, interactive, and utilitarian as is reasonable, given our staff of 1.5, we have now added a Video feature to our site.   These videos are from our various journeys over the years and are meant to add another layer to our journey of discovery.

The Video tab is located in the menu bar above or click the word video. All videos are categorized by country, where applicable.

I hope you enjoy them and I look forward to your comments.

Why Consider Living Outside the US?

Standard

One of the things that always perplexes people is why I travel so much.  The first thing people assume is that I was in the military (which 30 seconds after having met me, you would know could not be the case) and the second assumption is that I must be obligated to travel because of my “job”.   Neither one of these is the case.

I travel because I have a need, desire and passion to explore the world around me and to be reminded of its beauty.  And I travel to recharge my batteries and rekindle my hope in living a life beyond the daily grind and the routine rut that most of us fall into as adults.

So over the last 7 years, this rut has taken me and my family to:

  • China  (Beijing)
  • Sierra Leone
  • South Africa (Cape Town and Durban)
  • Senegal (Dakar)
  • England (London)
  • Nigeria (Kano)
  • Southern India (Pondicherry)

I am an unabashed adventure traveller, in that ‘taking the road less traveled’ is my preferred way to travel and live.  And each of these destinations have built upon each other – with new and unexpected discoveries and invariably the overwhelming warmth and generosity of the people we meet.

However, one of my central reasons for travelling is to discover a city I would want to live in with a community I and my children, would be active and happy in.  A place where the stresses of US life (financial, health, social, etc) melt away with a slower pace, lower cost of living, and friendly and embracing neighbors and friends.

We are not searching for a utopia, just a good place to lay our hats, unpack our suitcases and truly LIVE.