Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Liberia Travel Diary

The day I interviewed my husband in order to write this blog post, I had watched an episode of the documentary series, Chef’s Table, a relevant point in my opinion because it made me realize the drastic contrast between passions, worries, and pastimes in the developed world versus a place like Liberia. I mean, here I was watching a film about a famous Italian chef experimenting with Parmigiano-Reggiano in his 3 Michelin star restaurant, while my husband was telling me about his first-hand experiences of quite the opposite. 

THE FOOD:
When I asked him about Liberian cuisine, the first point he made was about cravings, which took me by surprise. He said that he realized in Liberia it is best not to entertain the thought of cravings. If you see a commercial for a burger or something chocolaty, there is no convenient or inexpensive way to fulfill that desire. One must learn to not feel like having something sweet after every meal. There’s a huge difference between eating something good and eating to survive. “I am only visiting, but for people that live here, fulfilling cravings like sweets, ice cream etc. is difficult to do,” he said. One day, he was craving pizza, so he and the people he is staying with made a curry out of peas, carrots, and corn over tortilla bread instead to fulfill the craving.

About local delicacies, he said there is a dish called, ‘potato greens’. It’s made of mashed up leaves, a bit like spinach, but it actually has no potato in it. So, why is it called potato greens? Beats me haha.

Now, I know what you all are really wondering. What was the most delicious meal he has had on his trip? “There was this woman on the side of the road barbecuing fish on the top part of a fan rack. It was very spicy and had a lot of flavor. Locals eat the whole fish including the eyeballs, but I didn't obviously,” he added. Another special delicacy is pickled chili peppers, perhaps spelled, Pepe, pronounced (pay-pay).

A fish dinner with a side of pepe.
Chili peppers used to make pepe.
Fresh coconut juice, straight from the tree.

A banana tree! Do you see them growing on there?
CAN’T BEAT THE HEAT:
Despite the fact that the power goes out often, by the grace of God, he has a fan where he is staying at the moment. He told me that it is so hot, even at night that you cannot simply flip your pillow over or move around on your bed to cool down. Everything is just always hot. When the power goes out, it is hard to fall asleep. You have to sleep on your back so none of your body parts are touching each other, otherwise it feels sticky and too hot.

Lots and lots of palm trees!

School children playing sports against the sunset.
THE ATMOSPHERE:
“One of the first things I realized when I got off the plane was the smell of the city. It was a very deep musky heavy smell. It smells like petroleum, humidity, and gas emissions,” he said. Over time, he realized that this is the normal smell of Monrovia. The air is so heavy that when he would go home at the end of the day and wash his face, the water would turn black because of how much dirt came off his face.

The aftermath of a five star hotel after the civil war which ended in 2004. There also used to be a lot of elephants and monkeys, but they got eaten up because of famine after the civil war. Now these animals can only be found deep in the jungle. 

The inside of a mosque.
An Ahmadiyya school in Monrovia, Liberia's capitol city.

TRANSPORTATION:
The majority of the roads, with the exception of the capitol city of Monrovia, are unpaved. As a result, they are also very bumpy and not comfortable to travel on. There are many potholes in the roads, some so deep that if you accidentally drove over one, you could get stuck or even seriously injured. When driving, you do see motorists that have gotten stuck in potholes. Also, the monsoon season destroys the poorly made pavement and especially the unpaved roads. In Bomi County, some villages he visited had roads so terrible that he walked alongside the truck instead of riding in it. The ride is slow and bumpy. The scariest part for me, he said there are manholes everywhere without lids, so you could literally just fall in, especially as a pedestrian at night. Luckily, he never goes out at night.

A motorcycle ride into a village.

An unpaved road.

Crossing a flooded area in a makeshift boat.

A blocked road? I'm not sure, I forgot to ask.

PEOPLE WITH BIG HEARTS:
His favorite aspect of Liberia are the Liberian people. “They are amazingly selfless. They will go out of their way to help you. If your car gets stuck, they will run to your car and help you out, smiling while doing it,” he said. He went to a village where the chief woman of the village gifted him a chicken, which is a big deal over there. He repeated that the people give him much love and that everywhere he went, people were extremely generous despite having so little.

A gifted chicken :)

Some kiddies :)

Some kids playing with balloons.

My husband with some locals.

THE BEAUTY OF LIBERIA:
First of all, there are palm trees everywhere. When he told me this, I was all ears because palm trees are one my favorite things in the world. Many houses are also made of mud with roofs made of palm tree leaves. He also visited a place called Tubmanburg. It is an incredibly green and beautiful area. There are rolling hills full of palm trees and lush jungles so dense that you can’t see further than a foot into them. 

He hiked to the Blue Lake in Tubmanburg, which has beautiful clear blue water. The lake is actually a quarry that used to be a mine, but had to be deserted during the civil war. It is basically a man-made body of water within a huge mountain originally created to dig for various metals. During the civil war, the mining machinery was left behind. The lake is about 300 feet deep in certain parts, full of cool fish, and machinery abandoned deep in the water. He knows this firsthand from swimming in the lake, I am supposed to add haha.

A pretty beach.

More beach.

A shot of the water taken while swimming in it.

ADVICE FOR THOSE PREPARING TO VISIT:
Each country in Africa is different, so he can only speak for Liberia. He said that all those things that people tell you to bring, they are futile. He took all the precautions for repelling bugs, but has gotten bit many times. Bug sprays and mosquito repellent did not work. He found that after-bite ointment worked best out of all the products he took with him. It cools the area after a bite and provides the most relief. Also, ant bites are way worse than mosquitoes because they bite more times. “Sometimes when walking, you have to be very aware of your surroundings because there are streams of ants and if you accidentally step on one, they crawl up your legs in groups so quickly and bite that the only way to get rid of them is to take your clothes off or jump in water,” he said.

He also said that the sandals he bought before traveling saved him on the trip. There are a lot of rocky and bumpy places that are hard to walk on without a proper shoe sole. It never ever gets cool enough for a sweater. These days during the monsoon season, it rains a lot and very hard. An umbrella is basically useless because it will get destroyed and not work. He says you could wear a raincoat or rain boots, but no one uses them here, so you would probably just look funny. No matter when you go, thin clothing is best. You will also need a lot of packaged water because the local water is not safe for foreigners to drink. Well water will make you sick. And of course, it is very important to stay hydrated because you will sweat a lot throughout the day.

I left out two scary stories because a) my intention is not to paint a negative picture in any way and b) this post is already 1400 words long and most of you have probably stopped reading by now. If not, holler at me in the comments below ;) 

Thank you for reading. Take it easy.

xo Aneela 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A little catching up to do...

Hello my dear blog friends,

My mother has recently guilt tripped me into getting back into my blog. I totally agree with her, hence this post is reaching you today. Now if only she knew that I am writing this on the Tuesday morning of my first grad school finals week, I think there would be a different conversation happening altogether. Nonetheless, here I am, feeding my craving to have a little chat with you all. I will just justify my untimely blogging with the words of my professor, "You are always exactly where you are meant to be." So there we have it, we can't argue with these great words of wisdom, now can we? ;)

While I have been away, here is some of what I've been up to:

READING
I have been reading loads lately. I've always been consistent with reading non-fiction books, but lately I have jumped head first into fiction and I am loving every word! Some books I have read lately are When You Reach Me, The God of Small Things, Thirteen Reasons Why, To All The Boys I've Loved Before, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stop Pretending: What Happened When my Big Sister Went Crazy, Esperanza Rising, and One Crazy Summer.

Some non-fiction books I've read lately are Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Why Not Me, and Lean In.

I am also wanting to explore genres I have never been too interested in, namely science fiction and fantasy. So, I have been scouring the internet for suggestions and I've settled on two authors, Ameriie and Tahereh Mafi. I am hoping to get their books soon and read them over the summer.

I am also a member on Goodreads. I do at least rate the books I read and write reviews only when I feel particularly inclined to, both positive and negative. If you would like to connect with me on Goodreads, click here for my profile link!

WRITING
I have also been writing plenty of new things, mostly poetry and some flash fiction (1,000 word short stories). I know what you're thinking, "Why should we care? It's not like you're posting it on here!" It's just that it takes a lot to share creative work and I am still contemplating how I want to go about it. You may love it or you might think it's garbage, either way, I'd have to take a risk to find out.

MAKEUP
To completely transition into vain endeavors, I am literally obsessed with makeup at the moment, more specifically LIQUID LIPSTICK. I don't know, I just  love it so much! I have a few from NYX Cosmetics that I love and I have a collection of 15 colors coming in the mail soon that I am hoping to write a review on. Spoiler alert: it has an orange shade!!

WEDDING
Last but certainly not least, my wedding is approaching pretty soon (June 30th - July 4th)! My family and I have been having the time of our lives preparing for it. My mother suggested that I post the prep we are doing on my blog and I want you to know, it will be done, God willing. I will post about things like DIY projects we are doing, color stories and why I chose them, and probably a lot of accessories related things. Also, I want to talk about how I planned it out and am getting the tasks completed (with the help of my parents of course), the things that are important, and also the things I feel are unimportant and a waste of time and money. There is a lot I could talk about, so if there is anything in particular you would like to see, just let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for sticking around, guys! Hope you're having a great day!

xo Aneela

Saturday, January 21, 2017

First Day Thoughts

It is currently 6:20 AM. I want to write about school before the last of my firsts is over. I started grad school this week, which has conjured up a lot of feelings. One of those feelings is that of knowing absolutely nothing. Over the years, I have learned to embrace this feeling in a big, warm hug. 

You walk into the first day of class, with nothing in hand but your willingness to do something you've never done before. You don't know anyone or, anything really and you get that funny feeling in the pit of your stomach. The fluttering of the butterflies of possibility. There's only one way to go from here, up and beyond your aspirations for yourself. 

I am in love with this feeling. It humbles me and makes me feel about the size of a pebble. I am so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to continue my education, to learn, and to grow. I realize how much I missed being in this environment and how I have something many people never get to experience. 

This morning, I have my first Saturday class. Yes, I'm a bit nervous, the butterflies have been fluttering about since last night, but I am also hopeful, and excited, and delusionally optimistic, the way a learner willing to gain new perspectives ought to be.

xo Aneela

Thursday, January 12, 2017

In-Flight Fashion Essentials for Smooth Travels

If you find yourself having anxiety over the perfect outfit to wear while traveling, I've got just the thing for you! I've scoured the Internet and curated a list of affordable (and fashionable!) clothing and accessories to remedy many of the annoyances people have about traveling by plane; whether it be feeling too cold, too hot, or just generally uncomfortable and inconvenienced by the clothing they've chosen to wear. So, feel free to use this list to build the perfect in-flight outfit and fly like a seasoned traveler! I've included images of my favorites with shop-able links below.

OVER-SIZED CARDIGANS
One of the keys to a great in-flight outfit is LAYERING. Cardigans are great for this, guys! They are super comfortable, come in so many cute styles, and the best part, a cardigan can double as a pillow when smushed up into a ball!


BLANKET SCARVES
Much like the over-sized cardigan, I also have a special affinity for blanket scarves. If you're not picking up on the pattern here, it's the bigger the more cozy mozy kind of vibes. You could use a blanket scarf as a shawl, a blanket, or a make-shift neck pillow. And of course I chose plaid ones because fashion, duh!


TRAVEL-FRIENDLY BACKPACKS
When I travel, top handle and shoulder bags are totally out of the question. I believe the easiest bag to carry is a backpack. I mean, you're barely "carrying it". It distributes its weight evenly on the body, making it super comfortable and ergonomically pleasing. It also allows for the hands to be free which is a huge incentive in my opinion. And with one of the options I've listed below, you won't be compromising on style!


COMFY BOOTIES
Booties are more comfortable than typical heels and more "put-together looking" than sneakers. And they're just so stinkin' cute and trendy. I bought a pair this fall and I practically never take them off. I am very obsessed with the ones I've chosen for this post! Check them out!


Thank you so much for reading! I hope you have a super great day!

xo Aneela