Jamaica

I challenged myself by taking pictures with only a disposable camera.

I have one essential piece of travel advice: enter without any expectations. This tactic will permit you to wipe your mind of any stereotypes and be more open to experiences. Naturally, before visiting a different country, everyone seems to have advice— mostly the places to avoid and things you shouldn’t do. All useful advice, that I often take with a grain of salt… not entirely ignored but at its core, it is crucial to be aware of your surroundings and never put yourself in tricky places.

That being said, as I boarded my flight to Jamaica, accompanied by my close friend Idiatou, nicknamed Chum, I had zero expectations and loads of excitement. Contrary to the usual input, I had only heard positive stories about Jamaica, and after a particularly rough beginning of the year, we were in need of positive vibes. I sat next to a burly man, soaked in cheap cologne and dripping sweat. I said my hello and set up my nest, prepping music and pulling out my sweater. As I arranged myself, a gay flight attendant, who was sweet and noticeably flamboyant swooped down to our seats and asked if we needed anything. “No, thank you,” we all responded and resumed our activities. The flight attendant roamed around a few times and the snickering began. I began to hear comments about how gay he was and how ridiculous he looked/acted. The giant next to me tapped my forearm and pointed at the flight attendant and hypothetically asked with a heavy accent, “why is he like that?” a question that led him to chuckle and shake his head. I could feel my blood pressure rising at his ignorance and intolerance, and responded rather rudely, “who cares what he does?” He didn’t speak to me again. Many times before, I had heard Jamaica was an extremely homophobic country, often considered to be in the top ten of the world. I tried not to let this single experience spoil my mood and fell asleep rather pleasantly.

Thought #11: Transition.

Excerpt from “Between the World and Me,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates:

“I was one wrong ticket from Vienna, Milan, or some Alpine village that no one I knew had ever heard of. It happened right then. The realization of being far gone, the fear, the unknowable possibilities, all of it -the horror, the wonder, the joy- fused into an erotic thrill… And at that moment I realized that those changes, with all the agony, awkwardness, and confusion were the defining fact of my life, and for the first time I knew not only that I really was alive, that I really was studying and observing, but that I had long been alive- even back in Baltimore. I had always been alive.”

Lately, I’ve been crying a lot. Silently, in solitude. I find pockets in my day and space to release the spillage of tears that build up from small reminders of South America. I constantly struggle with wanting to share everything with my loved ones and battle with fear of oversharing and borderline bragging. So I stay quiet. I quip about a few things here and there but not even I have encompassed the enormity of it all. 

I’m crying right now. 

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Faces: Brazil

Oh that long-awaited post I have been postponing for fear of not accurately capturing my time in Brazil. But alas, there is no better time than now. So here it goes. 

I fell in love with Brazil, that intense teenager newfound love driven by curiosity and vulnerability, where life hasn’t yet hardened you with distrust and precociousness. The sort of love where everything you see is pierced by a cupid’s arrow.

Sidenote: This love is definitely influenced by my decade-long fangirling of watching Brazilian novelas coupled with Bossa Nova beats and bombastic views.  

Who are the Brazilian people? A rambunctious community energized with passion, euphoria, beauty, and life. Brazilian people have discovered the full potential of all feel good emotions. They talk, they laugh, they banter, they cry, they dance, they kiss, they hug. My god. 

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Now all politics and injustice aside, let’s not forget how corrupt ALL of South America is. You want to see corruption at its finest? Go to Brazil.

But the people, oh the people. 

I had believed all Brazilians were lean, avatar height beings with tanned skin and… honestly now that I think about it, I had no idea what I was thinking.

Who are the Brazilian people?

Female. Backpacker. South America.

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I’m usually an impulsive person, a habit that has gotten me into more unforgettable memories than regrets. For the most part, I get these foreign surges to live in the moment, live my best life, live like there is no tomorrow. There were moments during my planning, where I wanted to throw the towel in and leave right then and there. But alas, I planned for a year and here I am, nine months later in a hostel in Buenos Aires, nearing the end of my trip.

Before I left, I scoured the internet for valuable information on solo female backpackers in South America. As expected, 1) There weren’t many posts and 2) It seemed the dangers and tales of Latin America has infiltrated to novice backpackers. SO! Here, I will contribute my grain of sand on traveling tips and essentials that I have greatly needed and highly recommend:

Here’s a quick profile on who I am, perhaps relatable. I graduated uni, worked for a year, lived with my parents, saved my money. Why did I travel? Because for most of my young life, I have lived in the United States, endured comments of being “exotic, spicy food, salsa.” I wanted to truly understand if these stereotypes really applied for most of South America. And if you are part of any minority in the United States, you will understand that regardless of where you are truly from you are categorized into being Asian/Pacific Islander, Latino/Hispanic, Black, or White, that’s it. Being a Latin American in the US means you are to know about all of the cuisine, Bolivian, Peruvian, Colombian, you must dance merengue and bachata, otherwise you are “too white.” Tough right? My second reason is much simpler, I wanted to improve my Spanish.

Lil more: I’m not much of hiking or any sort of physical activity kind of person. I was a bit concerned about my physical state pre-trip, but there’s sooo much else to see it wasn’t a problem, most of the time. 

I have been to: Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Perú, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.

Clothes:

Latin America is often painted as a tropical fruity terrain with an abundance of colors and sounds. Half of that stereotype is correct, the heat… not so much. Keep in mind the South American continent has a large backbone running from Colombia all the way down to Chile. The Andes. A breathtaking mountain range that is accompanied with stifling cold temperatures and absolutely no heating systems anywhere in the countries that border it (or so it seemed). Also, contrary to very basic popular belief, there are seasons down south. There are scorching summers, breezy autumns, and cold winters. Be prepared for any temperature. I packed: