The Tamarind: A tree well-traveled

When the roots are deep there is no reason to fear the wind - African proverb Having spent most of my childhood in Africa and acquired a fair knowledge of African cuisine and culture, I was blown away by what I did not know about the most widely distributed fruit tree of the tropics, the tamarind tree. Indigenous to tropical Africa, Tamarindus indica, has been cultivated for centuries on the Indian subcontinent and is often reported to have originated there. From India, it spread to Persia and Arabia where it is referred to as the “tamar hindi” (Indian date) and it derived its specific name “indica” which further lends to the illusion of Indian origin. It is now understood to be native to Africa and grows wild in sub-Saharan African countries such as Sudan, Cameroon, Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, Somalia, Tanzania, and Malawi. India remains the largest producer of tamarind in the world at present time. The Tamarind - Fruit within shell (Photo credit: Taste of Home) The tamarind fruit hanging from tree (Photo credit: souschef.co.uk) The tamarind has a vast array of uses world over from cooking, baking, juices and drinks, with cultural and spiritual rituals, and beliefs surrounding this peculiar tree, fruit and seed. With a sweet and sour or tangy taste, I learned it is a key ingredient in Worchestershire sauce! I must confess I do not remember seeing a tamarind tree or its fruit used for any of these purposes in Cameroon, but given my Caribbean roots, my curiosity was peaked when I learned the tamarind drink is popular in Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean. Even though I remember drinking a locally made tamarind drink while in Senegal, I had never seen it made or knew what ingredients were used in making this drink. The tamarind is called "daahar" in wolof, the most commonly spoken language in Senegal, and it has been suggested this word is associated with the origin of the name of Senegal's capital city, Dakar. This tree has long been naturalized in…

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A walk in Conservation Park

This year, spring break was anything but ordinary. Without any concrete travel plans, we defaulted to a "staycation" where we visited different sites and establishments in our hometown. With Panama City Beach being a top beach destination, we have always found a lot of options to recreate and entertain closer to home. I was therefore not surprised to find TripAdvisor named Panama City Beach as the No.2 “Emerging Destination” in the world as its Travelers Choice 2021 Best of the Best Awards. Naturally, most tourists come for the emerald-green water on the sugar white sand beaches but not to be forgotten are nearby state parks which provide a wonderful break for an early or late afternoon walk or bike ride away from the crowds. One of my favorite of these is the Panama City Beach Conservation Park. This park is perfect for cyclists, nature lovers, bird watchers and trail seekers with over 24miles of trails on 2900acres. With 12 different trails as short as 0.6miles and as long as 11miles, it provides a family friendly option to accommodate physical activity for all ages including furry family members 😊. Located off Panama City Beach Parkway also known as Back Beach Road, is easily accessible to tourists and locals. There is no entrance fee at the park and there is ample parking on arrival at the visitor’s center. The visitors center is located at the southeast corner of the park and has public restroom facilities, garbage disposal and drinking water station. It does not have attendants, but the park rangers and staff are available and often seen maintaining the grounds. There are maps available at drop boxes and a larger map on the wall with pictures which tell the history of the park. Conservation Park was established by the city of Panama City Beach in cooperation with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Made up of mostly pine tree and cypress domes, it was founded with the dual purpose of protecting and balancing the natural resources while providing outdoor recreational opportunities. In…

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Soulful Senegal

(This blog post is updated and revised to include Covid-19 specifics) It is another rainy evening in Florida as I start writing this blog post. I had always wanted to visit Dakar. I had a few Senegalese friends and was always intrigued by the new reporters who got assigned to cover West African news and would often report from a location in Dakar. Growing up we talked about getting our hair braided "Senegalese style" which often indicated a microbraids or micro twists at the time. My initial impressions of Senegal were later reinforced by my husband who had visited a few times before. I looked forward to this trip and meeting his Senegalese friend of whom he often spoke. They met one summer in Paris during a semester studying abroad and had remained great friends for over 25 years now. In the fall of 2019 we were fortunate to have mom stay with the kids while I seized the opportunity to visit and experience Dakar for the first time. We arrived in the afternoon on a direct flight from JFK, New York. We typically try to stay at a locally owned hotel when we travel and because it was just the two of us, we chose a modest option located downtown, Le Ndiambour hotel et residence. It attracts all kinds of visitors as it has standard rooms and suites with kitchenette options, conference rooms, full-service restaurant with an amazing breakfast buffet (pre-pandemic), a rooftop gym and swimming pool. It can accommodate short or long term stay with standard wi-fi accessibility and friendly, helpful staff. It is located 2blocks from the corniche heading west and is within walking distance to several restaurants, coffee shops, and open markets.  When traveling with children, the resort Terrou Bi would be my choice for a relaxing and fun stay. Located along the corniche on Boulevard Martin Luther King in the Fann Hock neighborhood, it is conveniently located on a private beach and has more amenities than one could wish for.  It has rooms with seaside…

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Travel Through Sound: A fresh “tune in” to not so fresh technology.

In a world of sound bites where every media outlet is vying for just “15minutes” of your time on a YouTube video, and after a year of zoom calls, podcasts, virtual conferences, meetings, and presentations, I was far from enthusiastic when a friend shared with me a link to check out. He is not one to share everything he comes across and so it was not hard to check out this technology which, has been available for the last 5years, was completely new to me called Radio Garden. I clicked on the link and instantly I was looking at a world globe and listening to “Sunday Best” by artist, Surfaces but my cursor was over Leicester, UK. Out of curiosity I headed straight to where I supposed was Cameroon, Central Africa. The circle hovered over a green dot which turned yellow and on the left side bar a list of radio stations popped up. I was listening to Bikutsi on “Balla Radio” in Yaounde, Cameroon. I noted there was a short list of nearby radio stations and another list of popular radio stations in Cameroon. After a mini dance party with the kids, we travelled to Kalaburagi, India and listened to “Retro, Bollywood” radio station. From India to Columbia, Alaska to Australia, the tunes continued. Every now and again we stumbled on a local news station, commercial or talk show which gives the listener an arguably more authentic experience than one would experience as a tourist to one of these locations. All this got me wondering how this technology came about. Radio Garden was born of the idea that one’s access to local radio stations should not be limited by their geographic location. It is a product of a digital research project between 2013-2016 by the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, the Transnational Radio Knowledge Platform and five other European universities. The service is internet dependent and the site interface is a 3D globe with the user navigating through geolocation around the globe. Tuning in to a local radio…

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Step into Ancient History – Four Days in Egypt (2016)

Family vacations without kids anyone? When Mark and I first got married we took a couple of vacations together. However, the more kids we have, the less “couple's” vacations we take. Wonder why? Lol! The main reason has been that we have always thought it more enriching to travel together with the children, sharing experiences, bonding, and making memories. However, whenever we were ready to travel without the kids, we have been fortunate to have a grandparent or aunt or another family member happy to babysit in our absence. Thank God for them! As our family has grown, there have been more times when we have had both grandparents or more than one adult with nanny available to cover all our bases and attend to the needs of each child accordingly. Family has always been a blessing to us in many ways. It was no different when we decided to squeeze in a last minute trip to Egypt. Mark was scheduled to travel to West Africa for work that December, and I was 6 months pregnant with our 4th child. The children were soon to be out of school for the holidays when I called an aunt to help watch the kids and we stole away for a 4day break that December. Ready to go! Mark was no stranger to Cairo. He had lived there a couple years while his parents worked with the foreign service. He graduated from The American International School in Egypt where he spent most afternoons playing basketball after school. Over the years, he had shared with me stories around beautiful memories of scuba diving in the Red Sea and the infamous excursion he took with his father hiking up Mount Sinai. At the time of this trip, his mom was back in Egypt on assignment and his brother would also be visiting for the holidays. Without ever visiting Egypt my impressions of this North African country was limited. I could only imagine a place I had read of and learned about in school. We got…

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BEYOND AFRICA – MEXICO TWO WAYS. THE FOLK ART AND MYTHIC ON LAND….. AND SEA! PART II

Mexico…..My last post on Mexico recounted our first trip to Mexico, the Maya Riviera to be precise. Our second time to Mexico would be in the company of our great friends, the Dunlaps, who were a cruising party of 8. We had four children at the time and with our party of six, this was going to be our first cruise as a family. Mark and I had gone on river cruises within cities such as River Vltava (Prague 2017) and I have cruised the Rhine River twice (2017 Dusseldorf, 2002 Cologne) but never had we cruised internationally. We booked our cruise with the help of our most knowledgeable cruising friend and travel agent, Misty. Our cruise ship left from New Orleans which was an easy five-hour drive from home and in five days, we would have two stops: Cozumel and Yucatan (Progresso). "All aboard!" Balcony viewWe ready Misty recommended adjoining suites with a balcony view, a recommendation I was grateful for our entire trip.  Our youngest were 2 and 4 years old and so having two fun days “at sea” gave us a chance to rest and enjoy the amenities aboard without any planned excursions. Having a history of motion sickness, I was certain to pack my scopolamine patches. However, I soon learned I did not need to use these as I had no symptoms while aboard the ship. Our suites were located on the second to the top deck at the front of the ship. The ship was large enough that I hardly felt any movement while at sea except for one night heading back to the Gulf Coast we experienced some turbulent waters. Time well spent together The amenities on the ship were adequate with one of the highlights being the kids club where they spent a couple hours a day with their friends (the Dunlap kids) in supervised play, art and crafts. We also participated in a couple of “Mommy and Me” activities. Having the kids club afforded Mark and I some time together during which…

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STOWING AWAY THE NON-TRAVEL COVID-19 BLUES

Travel gives us something to look forward to. The anticipation of going to a new place and learning new things is often elating. Travel permits a break from routines, hectic work schedules allowing for well needed rest and relaxation. Through travel we connect with others for business or pleasure. Our increased activity levels during travel can help lift our mood. Achieving goals like climbing a mountain at high altitude or scuba diving can give you a sense of purpose. The lack of all these can cause the blues or bring about wound-up anxiety and depression. This is yet another way the COVID-19 pandemic can trigger a sense of helplessness and the feeling of being trapped in the mundane. However, there are ways we can forge through the moodiness and stay afloat until the option to travel is safer and more feasible. Make home feel like a new destination. Take the time not spent travelling to re-organize, declutter, or redesign your home. Use favorite pieces from travel destinations to decorate and remind you of the trip you made. Making a collage or framing a piece of unfinished art you bought at a local market may not only bring back fond memories but also give a sense of accomplishment. Make it a family event with input from the kids how they may like to re-organize or decorate perhaps their rooms or play areas. Bi-Neh's Art Collage #1 (2020) 2. Explore as much as you can virtually. Instead of another family movie night, cast onto your screen a virtual tour of a world class museum, art gallery, or zoo. A short list of virtual tours of zoos and aquariums can be found here. We have visited the National Smithsonian Zoo several times and the Georgia Aquarium brings back nice memories. The British Museum, has a museum of the world tour which is interactive, and you can discover the ancient Rosetta Stone and Egyptian mummies.3D tours of Egyptian pyramids can be found here. Our favorite virtual tour is the National Museum of Natural History.…

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closer to home: Amicalola falls state park

Dawsonville, Georgia Sometimes you need to get out and take a hike. This has been truer since the dawn of the pandemic when physical distancing is advised and travel is restricted. This was the sentiment when the kids are out of school for the holidays and staying indoors all day every day is not recommended. Even though it is winter and there may be colder and rainy days in the Southern USA, there could not have been a better day during the holidays to take a hike in the North Georgia mountains, the day after Christmas, Boxing day. We drove up with the kids to Dahlonega, Georgia for a four-day break. On the days leading up to our trip, our five-year-old son kept praying for snow, asking “Mama, will there be snow in the mountains?”, “I hope we get snow for Christmas.”.  Living in Florida, the kids do not have memories of snowy winters unless we travel north which we have done a few times. Baby's first snow/Making "snowsicles "! It was Christmas eve when the first flurries graced the outdoor deck in the backyard of the VRBO cottage we rented for the break. The kids excitedly ran out to feel the flurries which were more like big wet dewdrops which melted on contact with their warm hands and faces. However, come Christmas morning, those dewdrops had consolidated into about a half inch of snow. Just enough snow to see the edges of the dark brown fallen leaves of the poplar trees on the ground peeking through, just enough to dust the pavements and some parts of the street with frost and cold enough to turn icy. It was Christmas morning when we stepped outside and took those “white Christmas” photos for the day got warmer and most of the snow melted with the afternoon sun. The next day, we were not returning gifts as is suggested by “Boxing day”, we were heading out for a hike at the nearest state park, a 20minute drive from our Dahlonega cottage. We…

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Air travel & covid-19 testing

Aerial view: Istanbul August 2017 It is a new year and after 2020 most of us would like to have flipped the switch to a new reality in 2021, but the covid-19 pandemic rages on. Even though the vaccine is being rolled out and distributed rapidly in many states and countries, the RT-PCR COVID-19 test is still required by airlines for international travel. It is also required for some domestic travel depending on the state you are traveling from and that which you will be flying to. It is certain the COVID-19 test will play a role in international travel at least until the desired results from a vaccine are realized. With that in mind, here is the information you need to incorporate COVID-19 testing into your family travel plans.  Several states and countries mandate quarantine and/or documented proof of a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival. Some international airports such as JFK in New York have requirements for all traveling passengers to complete a health screening form before exiting the airport. State and local travel requirements vary and to see a detailed requirement on your desired location, the CDC has a link where travelers can find complete guidelines for every city and state before they travel. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-planner/index.html When traveling through airports, there will be long enough lines at airport check in counters, security checkpoints, and boarding gates. All passengers are required to wear masks aboard flights, and with recommendations for washing hands or using sanitizers, staying six feet apart when boarding a well-ventilated airplane, the last avoidable risk of transmission of the covid-19 virus is in sharing the space aboard the plane for the duration of your flight. For the protection of all passengers, pilots and crew members, most airlines have required COVID-19 testing on international flights where the flight times and supposed exposures are longer than most. Lastly, it is agreed by most health organizations that accurate, reliable and rapid testing eliminates the need for quarantine of COVID-19 negative travelers upon arrival. There are different types of COVID-19 tests:…

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TRAVEL Poll

Travel Destination 2021 The beginning of the year is always a great time to plan travel. Its a great time to budget and explore destination options. It is always fun to get the kids input and initial impressions because it gives us an opportunity to do some research. Traveling can sometimes confirm those impressions or we find out quite differently. Kids Travel Map 2021 - Colored = "Visited with Mom and Dad"; Circled or underlined = "Mom and Dad have been here and we want to go with them next time". The kid’s are reviewing the travel map for 2021. Their bucket list is long and ever-growing 😊. Help us plan our next trip by taking the poll. Click on the poll block above to edit it directly in this post. Add a question, and multiple answers and even change the styling of the block using the sidebar controls. Add new poll blocks by searching for "poll" or type "/poll" in a new block.

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