Africaniversary (500 Words)

I can't believe it's been three years since my first volunteer trip to Kenya, Africa. I'm feeling nostalgic so here are a few of my favorite pictures and excerpts from the original tumblr that I managed during our trip. I can't wait to return here and explore other parts of this beautiful culture and continent. 

Day 1: Yep, it’s 4 AM in the morning and I haven’t been able to sleep all night. Partially because I am so excited/anxious and partially because there’s a few things I still need to wrap up before I leave. I am unfortunately quite the “packrastinator.” My whole life it’s been nearly impossible for me to pack more than a day in advance. I wonder if my fellow WFM team members are nestled, all snug in their beds, while visions of the Serengeti dance in their heads...

Day 3: Today...We got to visit a village benefitting from the One Acre Fund micro loans. They were so friendly and we were all touched by their hospitality. We learned about their work and culture and also participated in harvesting millet and planting trees...  

Day 7: Thursday, our fantastic host/tourguide Ruby Ruth showed us around Maai Mahui and introduced us to CTC and the Malakai Moms that expertly craft and sew the lifeline products we sell in our stores. We learned all about CTC’s mission and multiple initiatives including Community, Environment, Education, Health and Economy. And the kids there were adorable, of course!

Day 8-9: Friday and Saturday were spent exploring the Ol Pejeta Conservancy near Mount Kenya. Truly a once in a lifetime experience where we got to see elephants, giraffes, zebras, cheetahs and even ultra endangered white and black rhinos…

We are all still in awe of Africa - everything we’ve seen and experienced, everyone we’ve met and the memories we’ve created.

Day 12: Tuesday, we laced up our shoes, put on our gloves and went to work transplanting trees… [and] painting the bakery floor bright blue…. and built a berm to help block the bakery from the evening wind, (Maai Mahiu can get very windy!)...

Day 14: I can’t believe this incredible journey has come to an end. And what a memorable end it was! … We took a bumpy road out to one of the Massai villages where we met and mingled with the kids and were so graciously invited into the home of one of the grandmothers. This was personally one of the most memorable a experiences of the trip.


Day 15: Friday morning, we all headed to the CTC bakery for a lovely breakfast… [and] got ... Cafe Ubuntu painted on the wall before having to head back to ... the Nairobi airport.
It was hard to say goodbye as we all felt like we had become a family the past two weeks. We all created lasting friendships, gained valuable insight and created amazing memories that we can’t wait to share with our teams, families and friends back home!
Asante Sana!
Love, Team Rafiki

If you've been to Africa, what are some of your favorite memories? If you haven't been yet, where would you like to go?

Mural Methods, Madness & Monsoons (550 Words)

I'm a little late in writing this. I'm still getting acclimated to the full-time freelance schedule which entails a really inconsistent but exciting work-life balance. 

The original design.

The original design.

Anyways, Hub City Co-op liked the first mural I painted outside enough to commission me to paint another one inside. The space is approximately 17' x 9' (5.1 m x 2.7 m). They requested a creative way to display the Seven Cooperative Principles, which are supposed to guide all cooperatives. 

In retrospect, I slayed this project. It took me five days from concept to completion. Most of my git-er-done motivation came from the fact that the block party to celebrate the first mural was being held that Saturday and I couldn't stand the thought of the mural being seen as anything less than awesome by all the people I anticipated would attend the event. 

Projecting/tracing: my least favorite part. 

Projecting/tracing: my least favorite part. 

In contrast to the rainbow garden of yummy colors outside, I kept this one much simpler. It's important to consider the mural surroundings when planning the design. I selected just three fonts and two colors to contrast the hodgepodge of endless products surrounding it that are already competing for your attention. 

WIP

WIP

I picked shapes that, to me at least, represent traditional Southern cooking and culture: a lemon (lemonade), a skillet, a mason jar, etc. I knew there were some obstructions on the wall but I wasn't sure exactly where so I intentionally created a design with puzzle pieces that I could move around if necessary. Of course it ended up being necessary.

So here's how it happened:

Monday: Design (5 hours)
Tuesday: Projection & Tracing (4 hours)
Wednesday: Painting (6 hours)
Thursday: Painting (10 hours)
Friday: Painting (17 hours)
Total: 5 days, 42 hours

See what I mean about the inconsistent schedule? Now I wish I had started at least one day earlier to save my sanity during that last marathon painting session where I started talking to my wall, specifically, Missiour Poulet, the French-speaking rooster. (Read the full, funny story on Buzzfeed.) 

WIP

WIP

When you look at the finished product, it looks easy. Except that it's not and its a pretty tedious process: paint 2-3 coats of white, outline with black, fill in with multiple coats of black. Each "puzzle piece" averaged about 3.5 hours to complete. 

But it's totally worth all the effort. I'm happy with how it turned out!

Finished! 

Finished! 

I just wish I could say the same for the Block Party. The party had infinite potential but attendance was no doubt hindered by what seemed like a monsoon sent by some spiteful, mural-hating deity that I must have unintentionally offended.

It literally hadn't rained a drop all day until minutes after the celebration started. There was thunder, lightning, a diagonal deluge of rain and all of our smartphones chimed in unison with flash flood warnings. I had an epiphany and realized where the term fair weather friends must have come from. 

I want to thank all my friends and family who did come, especially my bestie Christina who is a face painting pro and helped me transform kids into butterflies, cats, dogs and other assorted, creative creatures. We did it for free but had a tip jar that collected $51.51 which we donated to the Children's Advocacy Center here in Spartanburg. 

I definitely earned my monthly massage for July!

 I really enjoy creating public art & design and think more places should have it, but obviously I'm biased. What do y'all think? 

Teaching Asanas at Summer Camp (250 Words)

Since I'm going to be a bit more stationary these days, I decided to start putting my RYT 200 certification to good use. A friend referred me to Climb Upstate, a rock climbing gym, who needed a yoga teacher during their five day summer camp last week. 

Photo credit: Climb Upstate

Photo credit: Climb Upstate

I was a bit nervous since both the age range and style of yoga they required were not my specific expertise but it turned out to be pretty fun. (Spoiler Alert: Kids yoga is way different than adult yoga!)

There were around 15 kids, most of whom were under the age of 11. I considered a practice successful if 3/4 of them were actively following instructions during the 30-minute sessions each morning. Others just kind of rolled around on the floor or flat out refused to participate at times.

I was surprised that a few kids knew some of the poses already because apparently there is a school somewhere around here that incorporates yoga into it's curriculum. (I'm gonna find out where and enroll my future kids now, just in case!) 

Cobra pose, kind of. Photo credit: Climb Upstate

Cobra pose, kind of. Photo credit: Climb Upstate

The staff was friendly and helped me keep the kids focused, which was super helpful. I even got to climb a few routes before I left on the last day!

I feel like rock climbing and yoga are somewhat related because they both require strength, concentration and practice to move from one level to the next. 

Child's pose; appropriate. ;) Photo credit: Climb Upstate

Child's pose; appropriate. ;) Photo credit: Climb Upstate

I think lots of non-traditional spaces like schools and retirement homes and even corporate offices can benefit from incorporating a little bit of yoga. What do y'all think? 

Rocky Mountain Wedding Retreat (300 Words)

Colorado is my favorite of our 50 United States, so I was beyond thrilled when my friend Bianca (and her fiancé Chris of course) decided to have her wedding there. 

The venue was amazing; a retreat called Wild Basin Lodge that was hidden so deep in the Rocky Mountains that there was no cell reception. I shared a room with Michelle and Mary and we slept with the door open all night, enjoying the cool night breeze and the sounds of the water rushing in the river below. The balcony was perfect for my morning yoga sessions set to the soundtrack of nature. 

Instead of buying a stereotypical wedding knickknack, I prefer to offer my time and talents as a gift instead. I was happy that B felt the same way and did my best to beautify some handmade wedding signage. 

It was a lovely, little ceremony surrounded by only a few dozen close friends and family and tall, alpine trees. What followed was your typical dinner, dancing, mingling and desserts; but the fun, casual kind that included a s'mores bar, giant Jenga, Cornhole (aka Sack Toss) and polaroid pictures with props. 

The next day, Mary and I went hiking in the Wild Basin Natural park because that's what you do in the Colorado mountains in the summertime. The temperature was tolerable amongst the shaded trees but didn't block all of the scorching sun. Eventually we took a break to dip our toes in the water. Mary is far more acclimated than me so I had to take turns dipping my feet in then thawing out my toe-cicles. 

I had such a wonderful week(ish) out west and wish nothing but the best for the newlyweds! 

How to Get the Most out of Hamburg, Germany (300 Words)

Hamburg will always be a special place for me since I lived/studied here in 2008. I visited a friend here again recently and some things have changed over the past 8 years but mostly it's the same old city I remember. 

Hamburg is a big, busy port city in Northern Germany. 

S-bahn/U-bahn local trains included in Eurail or buy daily pass €6. 

CITY

FREE Walking Tour | Robin & the Tour Guides (yellow umbrellas) 7 days/week.
I enjoyed Rhonda's Historic City Center tour (11:00 - 2:30) so much that I joined the Harbor/Reeperbahn tour (14:00-16:00) as well! 

ALLSTER LAKE


Big body of water between the city and the suburbs. Lots of parks/greenspace on the suburb side; shopping and architecture on the city side. 

HARBOR

Take a walk through the underwater Elb tunnel under the harbor. 

HVV Ferry (Fähre) cheap ride around the harbor, €2.

Discounted touristic rides on Sundays. 

Small St. Pauli park overlooking the Harbor is a great place to watch the sunset.

ST. PAULI / REEPERBAHN 

Abundance of street art concentrated in St. Pauli/Reeperbahn area.

FREE Alternative Hamburg Tour Wednesday - Saturday; see lots of street art! 

See the Beatles tribute: sculptures + round record-shaped discography on the ground. 

Eat at least one Franzbröchen, Hamburg's famous cinnamon pastry. 

The famous Franzbröchen 

The famous Franzbröchen 

Have a drink (€4-€14) at Clouds/Heaven's Nest downtown for a beautiful panoramic view of the city.

Reeperbahn at night: Red light district
Lots of clubs/bars around Hans Albers Platz offer live music with no cover. 

ART/PHOTOGRAPHY

Deichterhallen
Closed Mondays
Contemporary, Avant Garde Art & Photography
€14 both halls
Tuesdays after 16:00 = €5
Just make sure you check out the current exhibitions online first so you don't get stuck paying to see a bunch of port-a-toilets like I did. -_-

Art???

Art???

Paris is Always a Good Idea, Except For This One Time (600 Words)

I'm pretty late to the Paris party. Many friends have traveled here before me and most can't stop gushing about the place. In the words of Audrey Hepburn "Paris is always a good idea." 

...Except for this one time

...Except for this one time

Except when it was my idea. My timing turned out to be te-rri-ble. 

It all started when I went to reserve my seat on a train from Rotterdam to Paris. The ticket agent refused to book the seat since they couldn't guarantee the train would arrive due to a railway workers strike in France. So I just had to show up at the platform later that day and hope that the train did too. 

Thankfully I boarded said train and eventually met my sister and a friend at Paris Nord. We had a decent dinner. Not the Fall-Out-Of-Your-Chair flavor that everyone raves about but palatable. I like rose wine and cider so I ordered a rosé cidré hybrid but it tasted awful like partially composted flowers and apples. 

Despite it being the beginning of June and supposedly summer, the weather was cold and slightly wet with temperatures hovering around 14°C. 

The river Seine was too high for the boats to pass under the bridges.

The river Seine was too high for the boats to pass under the bridges.

The three of us did a free walking tour of Paris the next morning. We assumed the media-hyped strike would paralyze all the metros until our guide told us that "No, of course the metros are working. The city cannot just shut down." 

Except the city did partially shut down later that evening. My friend and I arrived at the Musé d'Orsay to find a note taped to the ticket office window announcing an early closure. 

So we headed back to Marais to do some thrift shopping, for all of 30 minutes, because all the shops apparently close at 19:30. 

At least we got to see the outside

At least we got to see the outside

The next day we were scheduled to visit the Louvre at 13:00 with our pre-purchased tickets. However the top story on my BBC news app announced that the worlds most famous museum would be closed all day while employees moved art & artifacts above ground since the river Seine was on the rise after heavy, unseasonal rains. 

We decided instead to take the metro/train west to the Palais of Versailles. When we went to change trains at Invalides, the entrance to the C-line was blocked with a notice that the line was closed; another precaution due to flood fears since the main line to Versailles ran along the river. 

Everything makes you feel small in Versailles

Everything makes you feel small in Versailles

We figured out a detour and took at least an extra hour but eventually we arrived at our royal destination. After about four hours wandering the palace and gardens, we walked back to the station to discover there was only one train per hour heading back to Paris due to some combination of striking and floods.

Again it took extra time and effort but we finally got back to the city and climbed the steps of the Eiffel Tower. It was like the final challenge in an obstacle course and we reached the pinnacle of it victoriously despite so many struggles along the way. 

It all seemed a bit surreal because if you went by the media coverage alone, you'd think the streets of Paris were filled with soggy, angry chaos but not once did I see a protest or floods or even moderate rain. 

The transport strikes have been a pain for many people but I know the taxi and uber drivers at least are benefitting from it because I had to pay €81 to get from the city to Charles de Gaulle airport early on my last morning. 

Guess I'm just gonna have to go back to Paris at some point. ;)

My First Solo Mural (600 Words)

I'm back to my regularly scheduled blogging now that I have completed both my European wanderlust and painting this 130 x 10 foot (40 x 3 meter) mural in my hometown of Spartanburg, South Carolina. 

 

It's incredible that less than two years ago I was planning and organizing this massive mural project for Whole Foods Market in downtown Miami, secretly fantasizing about doing street art myself, and now it's reality. 

 

I was home for Christmas during a break from my year-long travels. My dad excitedly told me about a call for mural design submissions in the local newspaper placed by a local Co-op opening soon. I immediately started brainstorming and sketching since the deadline was about a week away. 

I first researched the top fruits and vegetables grown in South Carolina to speak to the fresh, local produce and the important community-owned and supported aspects of Hub City Co-op. These foods include: corn, wheat, peanuts, oats, peaches, strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelon, squash, beans and sweet potatoes. 

 

I nixed two of my original three ideas since the designs didn't really answer the brief nor work well on the wall, which was rife with obstacles like windows, doors, fences and other equipment. My final submission included designs inspired by Mandalas - or “Mirandalas” when I design them in my own style.

 

In traditional Indian art and culture, mandalas represent microcosms of the universe working together in harmony, but have become positive symbols of happiness and relaxation in the west due to the recent popularity of adult coloring books.

 

The collages of produce also represent a diverse yet cohesive community. I felt it was important to incorporate the business name to maximize the potential of the space and attract new residents and visitors that might not otherwise be aware of Hub City Co-op.

Work in Progress

Work in Progress

I submitted my design in March, a few days before boarding a plane to India and didn't receive any further correspondence from the Co-op until I was in Nepal in April. I was ecstatic that my idea had been selected despite the fact that I wasn't able to start the project until June when I returned to the States. 

 

I arrived home on Saturday, June 4th, slept most of Sunday and then had a meeting with the client bright and early Monday morning. It turned out to be great timing, since the buzz around the store had died down since their April 1st opening and this would be some fresh, local (pun intended) publicity. 

Everyone I worked with at the Co-op was helpful and friendly including Russell, kind of their mural consultant, who ended up doing me a solid by helping me project, trace and therefore tame the intimidating wall beast that night. I'm also thankful that he introduced me to Jamarcus Gaston, who invited me onto his local show to talk about the mural

So 109 hours over 15 hot and (thankfully) dry summer days later, I can say I successfully completed my first official solo mural project. I've been a longtime admirer of the street art community and now I can say I'm a member of it and have a deeper/more sincere appreciation of it. 

 

I have to give a quick shout out to all the artists I've met and worked with that inspired and/or helped me to pursue and achieve this dream: Jessy NiteAtomikJenny Perez, Jorge-Miguel Rodriguez, Kazilla, Luis Berros, MONz, Nate Dee, Noah Levy, Rei Ramirez, Trek6, Yuhmi Collective, Paul Walsh, Russell Bannan and Eli Blasko

Keep dreaming, y'all! 

Cutting Costs while Traveling Venice/Venezia Italy (300 Words)

Venice is a roughly fish-shaped cluster of islands in shallow water off the Eastern coast of Italy.

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 If you're staying in the islands, take the train all the way to Venezia Santa Lucia.

Buy a continuous ACTV Public Transport pass for the public boat taxis (vaporetto) and busses. €20/1 day, €30/2 days, €40/3 days. Pass activates after the first swipe and will remain valid for the following 24/48/72 hours.

 

All transport costs/entry fees reduced if you are under age 26.

 

City streets are confusing but walkable. Download Ulmon offline map app. (link)

 

Register in advance online for a free walking tour. Three hours rain or shine. Tip your guide at the end. Lots of local insight and information like how to skip the huge queue at San Marco's Basilica. ;)

 

Don't try to see every island - most look the same. Do visit Murano (famous glass products and production) and Burano (a rainbow of architecture).

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Pick three main museums or landmarks to make priority.


Free to go inside the famous San Marco Basilica.


Eat small, inexpensive tapas dishes at an authentic Osterilla.


AVOID all pizza and foods at the most touristic spots (Rialto Bridge, San Marco's Square) and places with huge, multi-page menus, pictures of the food or promoters trying to recruit you.


Watch the San Georgio limestone church (built by Palladio) glow at sunset.

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Buy one thing: Murano glass accessory (jewelry, wine stopper, cuff links, etc) - many options under €10. Street stalls are cheaper than shops and items are usually cheapest on the other islands.


Cool books, postcards and stamps available at Acqua Alta bookstore.

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Touristy Gondola rides are €80 for 30 minutes. Instead take a short trip across the canal in a "ferry Gondola" for €2.

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I really loved Venice and want to come back here to live for a little while someday.

Mini Guide to Marseille, France in 300 Words

Second largest city in France, located on southern coast. 

Ancient; first Greek settlement in France = Massalia. 

Very diverse, at least 50% immigrants. 

Relatively walkable but also a metro, tram and busses. 

City is old, dirty and kinda stinky in some parts but still many diamonds in the rough. 

 

St. Charles = Main Train Station

Vertigo Centre Hostel is super close. Clean and comfy enough. Breakfast (extra 5 Euro) is good if you like bread. 

Vieux Port: Packed with boats and people

Ferry to Chateau d'If around 11 euro

Inspiration for Count of Monte Cristo. I ran out of time before I could do this. :(

 

Le Fort Saint-Jean

muCEM 9.50 Euro but so worth it

Incredible, inspirational collection of Pablo Picasso 

Well executed, educational displays on Mediterranean history

Historic architecture and cathedrals

 

Basilisque Notre Dame de la Garde

NOT the famous/Hunchback one (it's in Paris)

Hike up a hill and lots of stairs, nice architecture and interior decor

 

Cours Julien

The bo-bo (bourgeois-bohemian) community

I serendipitously stumbled into the street art capital of France. 

I spent hours meandering around the streets & admiring many murals. 

 

Musee de Beaux Arts / Musee d' Histoire Naturelle / Palais De Longchamp

The building is more interesting than anything inside. Save yourself 11 euros and just admire the architecture and Longchamp park behind it. 

 

Parc Nationale des Calanques

Beautiful national park less than an hour from the city center. 

It's huge and there are no signs so I highly recommend a map

No entry fee and can be reached by public transport (1.60 Euro each way)

    Metro red line towards Santa Marguerite

    Change to Bus 21 at Rond Point du Prado (walk left out of station, cross street, bus in front of big stadium)

    Ride until the last stop at Luminy (University) and walk past the traffic circle towards the giant rocks and you'll eventually run into the trails. 

    

A Guide to Art, Parks, Surfing & More in Munich (300 Words)

There's fabulous art & entertainment everywhere in Munich as long as you know where to look!

Englischer Garten / English Garden

Huge greenspace (3.7 km) on the Isar River. FREE!

Walk, jog, run, bike, surf. Yes, surf!

Mini Hofbrauhaus: English Garden, No costume necessary. Less crowded and less tourists but many dogs.

I dislike it but I attempted to drink a whole glass of beer but could only finish Half-a-weissen. 😂 LOL

Personally, I do not understand the appeal of beer gardens since I don't smoke cigarettes or drink beer or feast on dead flesh but apparently a lot of other people find it enjoyable.

I walked for several hours during my street art scavenger hunt today. Couldn't have done it without this helpful post/map. Like hunting for buried/hidden treasure as most of the murals are below street level and/or under bridges.

Three street art hot spots on the east side of the river.

Street Art Mecca is located at Burogebaude Viehhof / Outdoor cinema near Ludwigvorstadt-Isarvorstadt. www.viehhof-kino.de

The place was kinda closed and partially under construction but I found a way in anyways. Met a group of local guys about to start a fresh design.

Bikers, sunbathers, picnic blankets and book readers are scattered around the Rosengarten & Frülingsanlagen when the weather is nice.

Schwabing = University & Arts district & my favorite area. 

Pinakotheken / Pinakothek der Moderne = Traditional & Modern Art in four buildings; one of the world's largest art museums.

Monet

Monet

Marienplatz: Full of tourists but you have to fight the crowds to see the old architecture.

Haus der Kunst | Contemporary Art Museum

Next to Haus der Kunst is the famous city surf spot, Eisbachwelle.

Dean&David: A chain with relatively cheap vegan/vegetarian food.

 

Munich is such a creative city! I hope to come back to paint my own mural here someday!

Much Love,

A Beautiful Bicycle Ride Around Bodensee Lake (300 Words)

Bodensee is a massive, natural lake with shores in three different countries. Here, you can bike through Switzerland, Austria and Germany all in one day. (And you can see Lichtenstein too!)

My sister, brother-in-law and I thought it would be a good idea to go here during a long holiday weekend. Apparently, lots of other people had the same idea.

We took a train from Zurich to Konstanz then biked to a ferry and crossed the lake to Meersburg.

The views include lakeside villages, the Alps, vineyards, forests, apple orchards and roadside gardens. 

Sometimes it felt like we were part of a peloton but mostly it was wide open roads.

It took us at least an hour to find a room for the night and we ended up booking the last two rooms for €160 at a hotel that resembled an old farmhouse called Dorfkrug between the towns of Langenargen and Krossbronn.

This is German territory so naturally there was a bier garten out back. We enjoyed traditional Bavarian dinner and breakfast here as well. 

We stopped in Lindau, Germany for a coffee break and a quick walk around the tiny island. A famous German storybook from my brother-in-law's childhood about a music box maker named Augustin was set here. 

fairytale tower in Lindau

fairytale tower in Lindau

My brother-in-law departed for a faster and more challenging ride through the hills while my sister and I continued to Bregens, Austria where we had lunch and caught a train to Munich.

In total, we traveled about 60 KM from Konstanz to Bregens which is about 25% of the 256 km of bike paths around the lake. The weather was perfection!

I'd love to come back someday and bike around the whole lake. So glad I got to spend some quality, family time in such a beautiful setting!

Much Love,