Travel

Anegada Christmas Get-Away

The best thing about living in the US Virgin Islands is being able to island hop. Throughout the Caribbean each and every island is truly unique and beautiful. There is always a different culture, food, accents, and histories to enjoy. The Christmas holidays are always a big difficult for me since the 27th of December comemorates the passing of my late husband Andres Contreras. In efforts to keep my spirits high we took off for Anegada, British Virgin Islands for the Christmas holidays. 

Anegada is a small, flat island located in the British Virgin Islands 40 miles north of St Thomas US Virgin Islands and is formed of coral and limestone. It has approximately 300 residents, one school and no dirt. It's impossible to grow any vegetables on the island so sea food such as conch and lobster is a staple of the local diet. Tourism and fishing fuel the economy and you will meet locals born on the island or others that come from neighboring Tortola. There is also an immigrant population from Dominican Republic that moves from the bustling city of Santo Domingo to Anegada to work. 

There are a few nice places to stay on island I highly recommend Anegada Reef Hotel. The staff is friendly and the bar is sure to get crowded at night with sweet Sydney behind the bar. The rooms are spacious and comfy and they've got a nice strong wi-fi signal. If you want a higer end option check out the Anegada Beach Club and their gorgeous suites and tents!  For dinner check out Potter's on the Sea who you can always count on for a fun night with Sam headlining the limbo and lots of delicious local food. You'll need to get your dinner reservations in early though, by 4:00pm otherwise you'll find yourself hungry in the evening. 

We spent a lot of time on the beaches of course and if you like hiking as I mentioned, this island is totally flat so I recommend stretching your legs. If you want a little more exciting way to get around you can always rent a scooter or motorcycle from Kenny's Scooth Tooth right by the ferry dock. My favorite beaches were Loblolly, Cow Wreck and Anegada Beach Club. With sand like sugar you won't be disappointed anywhere you go! 

If you're coming over from the US Virgin Islands you will want to check the ferry details carefully. Ferries run from St Thomas to Tortola, and Tortola to Anegada only two days per week. Be sure to line up your times and accomodations correctly. 

Instagram: Travel Therapy The Book

For the past few years I've used my Instagram account to document my travels. I enjoy dividing up my posts on my social media. You won't see the same things on my Facebook that you will see on my IG accounts. So be sure to follow me on Instagram. I will be wiping this account as soon as Travel Therapy the book is released! 

Ella Eco-Lodge Review: Ella, Sri Lanka

During my trip to Sri Lanka I was convinced to take a side trip to Ella, a beautiful little town about 200 km from Colombo. Ella is quickly becoming a backpacker hub and hotels are being built as we speak. Ella Eco-Lodge was my home and backdrop for my photo shoot with Sri Lankan model Prageeth Silva. After being in the busy city of Colombo for a week I needed an escape to nature.

We took an air conditioned evening bus through the dark countryside. Only small shops an temples covered in Christmas lights lined the way down the bumpy red dirt roads. I was the only woman on the bus, most of the men were going home to enjoy a long holiday weekend after working all week in Colombo. A young man about 17 ended up curling up to me and falling asleep on my shoulder for a few hours along the way, most likely exhausted from working in the hot sun all week. 

The bus ride was seven hours, two hours behind schedule and although it was endurable it was not enjoyable as leg space is quite cramped. We were in luck to find a robust tuk-tuk driver in the middle of the night, but his tuk was too weak to actually carry us up the hill to the eco-lodge so we were blessed with the joy of walking our bags up the hill in the middle of the night. 

Ella Eco-lodge is conveniently located just a short walk from town however once you climb waterfall road to the lodge you feel transported into a different world. This space is perfect for a getaway and as a nature lover I was in pure heaven. There is Ella Rock that's close by but we chose to go to Badulla and hike to Dunhinda Waterfall instead. Taking the city buses between the towns was a highlight of my time as I struggled to stand up I enjoyed jamming out to the live music videos of great music. 

Once Prageeth and I completed our photo shoot and hike most of our time at Ella Eco-lodge was spent enjoying the space. You can watch monkeys in the trees on hear them on the roofs in the morning. There are countless birds, butterflies, and if you're lucky deer that come to roam around the foliage.  The rooms were well-equipped, clean and pleasantly fragrant. The bathrooms had hot showers which becomes quite a luxury when you're on the road. 

Sampath Perera the owner of Ella Eco-Lodge, was kind, accommodating and we had a lively and eye-opening conversation about American politics, my least favorite subject at the moment. Sampath has beautiful goals for his Eco-lodge and wants to accomplish as many things as he can without damaging the environment which I found respectable. My only complaint was that I could have lived in this beautiful place for much longer. I rarely go places only once so when I return to Ella, I will be sure to spend more time here. 

If you're interested in booking this accommodation during your trip to Sri Lanka check out Sampath's AirBnB here.   

 

Sari not Sorry: Tracing My Roots

In my family we still get married in a sari or saree. Usually we will have a Christian wedding dress and use a sari for the reception. The picture on the left is of my mother in her wedding sari. My mother made my sari when I got married and it was a very special time for us. My great-grandmother was from India and she was the pillar of our family. She raised her kids to be Christian and I know nothing of her ever actually converting although I do believe that Christianity and the Western world changed her thinking about how women should be treated and the rights they should have. A dark-skinned Indian woman she came to the United States in the early 1900's and was constantly confused for an African. "Let them think how they want, you do what you have to do." she would always tell me. As a kid I think this felt like regular advice from old people but as I grew up I discovered how deep those words were for her. 

I remember going to my great-grandmother's yellow house and being excited to see her. She was meeting us and my mother and I had arrived a few minutes early. "She's coming around the corner soon. There! Granny's coming, now see." My mother said to me. I lifted my head and searched outside of the window but I didn't see anyone. Suddenly there she was, in front of me, in jeans and a white men's button down shirt. It was the first time I had ever seen my grandmother in western clothes. I can't remember another instance of it either. We went back into the house and she quickly changed back into her sari and I felt relieved. Things were back to normal. 

I have always identified with my Indian heritage having been raised with this powerful and traditional woman in the most formative years of my life. Indian food is still my favorite food, and a year after my great-grandmother died I stopped eating meat, perhaps to be closer to her in some way. I've even taught Bollywood dance to middle-schoolers. Unlike most black Americans I listen to Hindu bhajans in the morning instead of Christian gospel music. I pray to Ganesha, not Jesus.  However the truth is I'm only 1/8th Indian and I look much more black-Cuban like my father. An all American first generation mash. These things always made me feel ostracized from the both the black-American community and the Indian community. No matter what you look like, it's very hard to leave behind a culture that is the first culture you ever knew. Before I could begin to know what American culture was I knew about daal, and naan and incense and ganesha in the morning. 

Let them think how they want, you do what you have to do.

Having met and worked with and lived with many Indians over the past 14 years I know that there is zero acceptance waiting for me as part Indian in India. Pressed for time I was desperate to experience an environment with dark-skinned Asian people without so much concern about safety and racism so I chose to come to Sri Lanka for two weeks instead of India and I'm glad I did. I found exactly what I was looking for. The cool black skin of the people reminds me of my family. The sweet nature of the people and genuine warmth I've felt here has felt like coming home. I bought a sari while here and at least have some ideas about what life was like when my great-grandmother left this area of the world so many years ago. Although I still plan to go to India to study yoga at some point for now I feel fulfilled and for that I am grateful.  

 

Below are some videos on how to tie a sari. If you haven't worn one I suggest giving it a try.