Sundays Like This

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Having a job that often takes me away on the weekends has helped me appreciate the languorous pleasure of Sundays spent sleeping in late...well, Saturdays too for that matter. Unfurling from soft sheets to the sounds of nature instead of jumping to the jarring toll of an alarming clock is a welcomed respite. I take my cool time to greet the world. Un-bothered by the hours going by, I read, daydream or watch a movie-usually, spoiling myself with all three. I sip a cup of soothing tea and listen to my heart's musings. I used to feel a tinge of guilt at this self indulgence but many morns pulled from hotel beds to work before 6 am and having to then immediately turn on the 'ready to chat' switch have been an effective cure. I've come to embrace my need for solitude. Those who truly know me, know that as conversational as I can be, my tolerance for socialising and chatter is actually quite low.  As such, I view Sundays' quiet, easy awakenings as a sacred opportunity to care for my mind and spirit. In the haven of my home bedroom (since that's where I linger), I can recharge from the over stimulation of this society. Although I hope that even if I'm married with children, I will still claim such moments,  they will probably not be as frequent as now. (My friends with young one's to tend to remind me of this, intentionally or not). So for as long and as often as I can, I  will indulge in Sundays like this. 

Please share how you spend your Sundays. Do you pass them lazily or do you find yourself out and about before the sun is high in the sky?

Photography: Sammy Sampson 

An Infusion of Inspiration

Saturday, April 8, 2017

After experiencing some growing pains last year in starting the Carnival portion of the Ancestral Memory brand, I questioned several things pertaining to being a creative entrepreneur. However, deep down I knew that I had to continue following my passions even if there were hurdles along the way. I just needed to pause and pour some affirming love over myself and my intentions. It has worked wonders. Disconnecting more from social media and connecting more with relationships, environments and activities that feed my spirit are largely responsible for this infusion of inspiration. Sometimes creative entrepreneurs become so caught up with producing results that we forget to simply enjoy being conduits to creativity. As I've allowed myself to play with beauty just for the sake of playing, I have become clear again with my intentions. The Ancestral Memory Spring Summer '17 capsule collection comes from this space. Stay tuned for more!

Modelled by Gabrielle 
Designed, styled & photographed by Ancestral Memory

Holding A Medi - A Guide to Meditation Pt 1

Saturday, March 18, 2017

At the time, it was hard to believe. The notion that sitting silently and just focusing on my breath for say...30 mins...could significantly improve my mood much less grant me an enduring peace. However, after battling depression for several years, I decided that I had nothing to lose by giving the suspiciously simple exercise a go. I sat on the floor and followed my friend's instructions: folded my knees, sat upright, closed my eyes and attempted to quiet my mind. At first it seemed difficult and I felt both annoyed and frustrated at not being able to gain control of my thoughts, which came as relentlessly as water rushing over a dam. I silently berated myself for my incessant mental chatter. That was just it though, I was trying and judging and forcing something to happen. As I stopped trying to control my thoughts and allowed them to pass without judgement, they ebbed and serenity washed over me. It was the first time in I could not recall how long ago that I felt such a profound peace. After the 30 minutes had passed and I opened my eyes, the feeling was still with me. Three hours later it was still with me. It was as though I was immune to worry, fear, anger,impatience and other manifestations of negative thought. They would come but they would not move past an imperceptible filter. I decided that I would meditate the next day and see if the outcome would be the same. It was! The next day too... and the day after that...Before long, I was meditating twice a day, at times for an hour at once. The strange exercise I had been reluctant to try was now something that I eagerly looked forward to doing. This was not as a result of some addiction but because I felt the markedly positive differences that the practice imparted. Things occurred with increased harmony and ease in every area of my life. Doors opened. Barriers were removed. Paths were made clear and miracles abounded. I felt clarity, discernment and  connection to the Creator. I realised that meditation is a tremendously powerful spiritual practice.

For ten years now,I have been an avid believer in know-er of the transformative power of meditation. Having experienced its benefits, I'm happy to see that more and more people are doing so too. Much to my delight, many schools around the world are incorporating meditation into their curricula.  It's also being introduced to work places by some open minded employers. Granted, there is still skepticism - which I think is often promoted to steer people away from something that could benefit not just themselves but the world at large. Nonetheless, I see many indications that meditation is being embraced. Despite all my praise, you may still be tempted to roll your eyes.  I am sure  though that if you were to practise meditation  even for just a few weeks, you would see the reasons for my enthusiasm. In case you have been interested in meditation before or my claims have piqued your curiousity for the first time,  I am happy to share what I've gathered from my experience with it so far.

Beginning with this post, I'll be sharing some tips on silent meditation. In the future, I'll extend the series to cover other forms of meditation. I hope that this guide will be helpful to you as you give meditation a chance to help you. For starters, let's dispel a few common fallacies.

 How To Meditate Silently- Dispelling the Myths

1) Meditation is not just for Hindus or Buddhists 
2) The objective of meditation is not to turn a person against his or her religion.
3) Meditation is not devil worship or "New Age" mumbo jumbo.
4)Meditation is not a cup out for those who don't want to take initiative in accomplishing things in life.
5)Meditation is not meant to be a sedative to escape dealing with life's challenges.
6)Meditation is not just for people who believe in God.
7)Meditation is still effective even when done for a short amount of time.
8) Sitting in silence with your eyes closed and limbs folded isn't the only way to meditate. There are myriad ways to do so. From taking a stroll, to washing wares, from taking a shower to eating, much of what we do can be meditation.
9)Meditation is not just for people who do yoga or are into Eastern spiritual practices.
10)Meditation does not require perfect thoughts or perfect attention...just for us to be present.

Photography Credit:Sammy Sampson 

Travel Diary: Ghana; Market Adventures Pt. 1

Friday, March 3, 2017

When I think of shopping in West Africa, markets immediately come to mind - boisterous, colourful chaotic places where a person can find  a dizzying assortment of goods. During my recent visit,  the markets in Accra matched this profile (to varying degrees of intensity). The Accra Arts Centre is on the mild end with Makola and  Kaneshie  being on the more intense end of the spectrum. With that said, if you are new to African markets, I suggest easing your way in gently...Well, as gently as possible.

You may want to first visit the Accra Arts Centre, which caters primarily to tourists. There you can practise your bargaining/negotiating skills, obtain a feel for the local market etiquette and gather many souvenirs for yourself and others. The Arts Centre is aptly named considering that it houses a plethora of arts, crafts/ hand made goods. As you peruse the stalls, you will find piles of fabric including Ghana’s iconic kente cloth, sculptures, masks, beads galore, drums, brass wares - both modern and antique and many other items. I could be wrong but from my observation,  compared to the other venues, the Arts Centre has the best selection of arts and crafts in Accra. (I don’t think I took enough photographs  to give you a good idea of what the place is like. Hopefully, next time I can make up for that.)

As I mentioned previously, relative to places like Makola and Kaneshie, the atmosphere at the Arts Centre is mildly tempered. The vendors are generally polite and professional, happy to offer their best service but not in an overly aggressive manner. You may even experience that if a vendor you’re visiting doesn’t have an item you would like, he/she may run off to find a neighbour who has it. I witnessed this several times and each time I found the sense of community refreshing. Of course, each person was intent on making  sales but I had the impression that the overarching belief was that the success of one was the success of all. Most vendors also seemed pleased to have someone from another part of the African Diaspora patronise their businesses. Several of them confided in me that they felt a special connection to their AfroCaribbean and African American guests. In such a positive environment, it was no surprise that I ended up befriending a few of the vendors.

Another pleasant aspect of the Accra Arts Centre is that there are several coconut vendors on the premises. Whenever you feel drained by shopping or by the heat, you can rejuvenate yourself with fresh coconut water. However, should you want something besides coconut to eat or drink, there is a small restaurant/ cafe at the market’s entrance. Although I only purchased some coffee and a pastry from them, one of my new friends, Emmanuel informed me that they also serve local Ghanaian dishes and that on certain nights, they have live music or a dj.  

Oooh! One more cool thing to note about the Arts Centre Market is that it’s located walking distance from the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum. For those who may not know, Kwame Nkrumah was Ghana's first Prime Minister and a PanAfrican hero. The mausoleum is the site where he was laid to rest. It may be a good idea to stop at the Mausoleum first to pay your respects before your hands are filled from shopping. Another option though is that you can stop by the market to note prices, take a break at the mausoleum and return to the market after. That way, you will not be impulsively buying and thus you will limit the possibility of buyer’s remorse or paying too much for an item.

This post was focused on the Arts Centre Market but I do intend to do separate posts on some other Ghanaian markets in the future. Below are some suggestions should you plan to visit. Please feel free to ask me questions regarding anything I did not cover.

Tips and Things to Note

*Negotiate prices with vendors. Offer to pay ⅓ of the price announced  and work from there.

*You will quite likely be charged more (the ubiquitous tourist fee) if it’s apparent that you aren’t a local.

*Do not show interest in an item if you aren’t prepared to pay for it.

*Browse around the market and compare prices before purchasing anything.

*Should you find an item you like at one vendor but not in a colour you would like for eg., and you find the same item in the desired colour elsewhere but for a higher price, politely explain that you saw it for less at a different stall. The vendor may be willing to reduce the price. There is no quarantee of course but it doesn’t hurt to politely try.

*Although the vendors at Accra’s markets aren’t as aggressive as those in Marrakech for eg. (my opinion), be prepared for some persistence or a bit of pushiness on a slow business day. With that said, don’t be pressured into buying anything you aren’t comfortable buying.

*Most vendors speak English fluently since it is commonly spoken in Accra (Ghana’s capital). This differs in remote areas, such as the villages to the North. However, you may even find some vendors at Kaneshie or  Makola market who don’t speak formal English fluently, but maybe Ghanaian pidgin, which is a deeply colloquial dialect of English. I would be impressed if you understood or could speak pidgin.

*Most vendors accept US dollars, English pounds and Euros. However, I think that using  Ghanaian cedis is better  because you may not receive the best rate if you use foreign currency. Plus, I suspect that the person selling you may be less inclined to inflate the price. I could be wrong though.

*Last but not least, use your manners. As in most places in the world, saying thank you carries you far. The English words for this is fine but the vendors love when you practise a Ghanaian language and the most widely spoken is Twi. So, start with Meda w’ase or Medasi (meh-dah-see) - Twi for thank you.

Photography Credit: Photos of me by Kwame Prosper
All other photos by me.

Trinidadian Mango Habanero Pepper Sauce

Monday, February 13, 2017

With a collision of Indian and West African roots, Trinidadians are a peppery food liking people. When the Guinness Book of Records listed the world's hottest pepper as being from Trinidad & Tobago, we considered it a national badge of honour. For the typical Trini, a meal is not complete unless there is a some heat accompanying it. To ensure that this is so, we marinade and cook our dishes with fresh peppers (usually pimento, habanero or bird peppers). For those incidents when the finished meal still requires some heat, the person eating will add a whole pepper or pepper sauce to his/her plate. Even many of our 'snacks' are spicy hot. Our obsession with pepper is inculcated from childhood. As a rite of passage, adolescents gather to make and communally feast on a spicy fruit concoction called chow (made from mangoes, pineapples, guavas, pommerac, pommecytheres, cocoa and a plethora of whatever tropical fruit is in season). I remember as I child, my older brother giving me a piece of such fruit that had sat baking in the sun to intensify the spicy sting. As if that wasn't wicked enough, he had hidden a piece of pepper in the morsel. I not only ate it but returned for more, my tongue stinging with pain. I refused to let on that I could not handle the heat. When my brother gave me another piece, I felt proud of myself.

I've taken this obsession into adulthood. Like many other Trinis, I've been experimenting with creating my own pepper sauce recipes. Pepper sauces are a great option if you want a dash of heat in your meal but you want to be able to control the intensity.  Furthermore, they are extremely easy to make. In this post, I'm sharing a recipe for a mango habanero sauce. Please note that you can easily adjust the heat and sweetness of the sauce by adding or reducing the number of peppers and mangoes used. Let me know how yours turns out!

15 habanero peppers (use fewer peppers for a milder sauce)
3-4 large full to ripe mangoes (also use more mangoes if you 
   prefer a sweeter milder sauce)
2 kiwis (these were used to add some tartness w/out having to use 
             more lime or vinegar)
1 lime/lemon
3 cloves of garlic
6 stems of green onions
1 onion
1 bunch of chadon beni (also called culantro or oriental     
   cilantro)/about 10-12 leaves 
2 carrots
1 tbsp of salt (I used pink Himalayan salt)
1 cup of distilled vinegar
1/4 cup of mustard powder
1/2 cup of water 

*Using gloves, roughly chop peppers, removing the stem/head.
*Remove some of the seeds if you want a very mild sauce. 
*Roughly chop flesh from the mangoes.
*Roughly chop kiwis, onions, carrots and scallion.
*Grate a wedge of lime to obtain lime/lemon zest.
*Place peppers, mango, garlic, carrots, chadon beni, green and 
  regular onions in blender. Place blender on pulse setting until 
  the ingredients are minced or finely chopped.
*Add salt, mustard pepper and lime/lemon zest to the blender.
*Place on pulse setting until the mixture is smoothly blended.
*Transfer the sauce to bottles and refrigerate. 

Be sure to keep your hands away from eyes during the process and wash your hands thoroughly after! 

Travel Diary: Ghana , A Retreat in Accra

Monday, February 6, 2017

Recently, I flew off to Ghana for a mini vacation. Although I didn't do everything on my agenda, the time there was enjoyable. I spent the days feasting on delicious, fresh tropical fruit; lying by the pool reading; hearing children play in the street, making beautiful new friendships and being blessed by the warmth of Ghanaian people. My visit to Ghana definitely helped me put things back into a more positive perspective. It also made me wonder if such a cheery vantage point is elusive unless we travel or is actually more sustainable than we may tend to think.

I do believe that sometimes it is necessary to change our environment in order to gain a fresh perspective. Routines have their benefits but they have their drawbacks as well.  Routines can convince us that things in our lives are stagnant - they prevent us from seeing the ways in which we are growing or illuminate a path to growth ; they may prevent us from seeing the blessings in our lives by fading those blessings into a landscape of mundane, seemingly meaningless things. When we have an opportunity to go somewhere new or at least slightly less familiar, it's as though our compass is reset. The lens seem clearer and more in focus. With this change of view comes excitement, a restored purpose and the ability to see the big picture as well as the details.  I suspect that this all occurs because when we travel, we are pulled from routine and all it entails: structure, predictability, monotony, security etc.

When we travel, we are compelled to find different ways of being, to reinvent ourselves, to connect with strangers, to confront useless beliefs, to learn new things and to take risks. There is only so much that guidebooks, maps and concierges can do. In fact, the best pieces of our travel experiences  often stem from the moments when we venture off the suggested path (literally and figuratively). Allowing our inner child to take charge, we give ourselves permission to explore, to rest and to indulge in things simply for the pleasure of the now.

We return feeling as though we have been infused with life. We express thanks for blessings that now seem so abundant. We vow to start new endeavours. We feel exuberant and we want that positivity to  last. So, can it? We may not always be able to escape to a so-called exotic place but we can have that energising positivity at home. Maybe we will not feel the giddiness of having trekked to Machu Pichu or swimming with dolphins each minute of every day. However, I believe that we can find ways to include elements that make vacations magical in our daily lives, especially since they need not be grandiose or expensive. 

*Explore a new part of your town or city spontaneously.
*Eat a dish or type of cuisine that you wouldn't ordinarily.
*Do something that seems ridiculously childish. PLAY!
*Devote time to relax (disconnected from technological gadgets).
*Engage in conversation with a stranger (preferably someone who
 seems quite different from you...and by conversation, I mean
 listen attentively to that person and share a bit of yourself).
*Learn a fun filled activity that you've dreamed of trying.
*Randomly smile with others.
*Indulge in self care (which doesn't even have to cost much).
*Do something touristy in your town/city/country.
*Keep a journal of these local adventures.
..............Be present in them all & Bring on the magic!

Photography:  DextDee Photography

Travel Diary: Ghana, Labadi Beach

Monday, January 30, 2017

During my stay in Accra, I wanted to check out Labadi Beach. I was excited about spending a pleasant Sunday afternoon at the popular spot. I arrived to find hordes of visitors and knew that it was not going to be the quiet time I had anticipated. Much more disappointing though were the piles of rubbish that greeted me, mostly plastic and styrofoam that had washed down from the city's gutters. I had seen those gutters brimming with garbage and grimaced out of concern about the impact of that non bio degradable waste. To then see such waste coursing into the ocean was too much. To see children playing on the beach and in the water amidst the detritus pulled at my heart. It felt like a blatantly cruel act against our planet and our children. Yet, so many adults were there seemingly enjoying the scenery, taking selfies, lounging beneath umbrellas...unbothered by the plastic bottles , wrappers, styrofoam containers scattered across the sand and being claimed by the sea. I felt confused about how such extensive pollution could be so accepted but I wondered if I was being self righteous and paternalistic.

When I travel, I prefer to focus on the best of the place I'm visiting. I strive to leave my biases, preconceived notions and judgements on the aiport tarmac. I am convinced that I gain more from the experience of travel this way. This is perhaps all the more so for the African continent. The belief that there are too often negative representations of African countries  dissuades me from harping on the less than pleasant aspects of life in those nations. I feel a desire to recap only the good and there is indeed always good. However, my recent journey to Accra led me to question whether there is harm in always  glossing over the ugly things I encounter. Although I ascribe to the concept of celebrating the positive things around me  so that more of those things will be manifested, I also believe that it is important to acknowledge the things I wish would change in this world. Yes, I may not be a citizen of Ghana and I should be sensitive to not impose paternalistic opinions but I am a citizen of this world and I care.

Whether it is watching Ghanaian children surrounded by the filthy, harmful refuse of human consumption or seeing the ocean take away that refuse and knowing that it will end up on the other side of the world, I feel affected. Consequently, I can't recount the beautiful aspects of my experience in Accra without addressing the things I hope will be better.Our children and their children deserve better.