Reading is such a great window to the world

Who else enjoys curling up with a good book while delving into other times and cultures? I do a whole lot of this now more than ever because weekends are for resting and resetting to navigate these pandemic times. This is one form of self-care for me.

I am an avid reader of all kinds of genres and have been since I was a young child. This is all thanks to modelling my mother.

I also get to explore a range of books with my students at my leisure and also contribute to those in the library at my school. Books are really great resources to learn more about different cultures, people, places and a range of topics. I also have a pile of books from the library at school to lose myself in and my Kindle is always near, for the times when I want something outside of my stack to enjoy.

Here are a few of the books that I have read this year that have allowed me to learn more about different topics and expand my knowledge:

  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi caused tears to spring to my eyes again and again at the happenings in early Ghana where the transatlantic slave trade is concerned.
  • Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid is one that has been on my list forever; it is filled with rich visual and emotional imagery in its setting of Antigua.
  • Hostage by Guy Delisle is a very captivating comic that shares quite a serious story that is so inspiring and reminds us to never give up hope.
  • Chasing Moonlight by Raven St. Pierre is such a captivating read and oh so realistic.
  • Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie is really very well written and filled with subplots in its rich historical contexts spanning past India and Pakistan.
  • So you want to talk about race by Ijeoma Oluo is a book for these times I tell ya.
  • The Mama B series by Michelle Stimpson is just a feel good series and I like that is is about a couple in love who are over 60.
  • From Harvey River by Lorna Goodison is a wonderful memoir about family and legacy in postcolonial Jamaica.
  • Redemption Ground by Lorna Goodison is a nice collection that showcases Goodison’s craft as a poet and storyteller.
  • Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyam is a rich literary piece that reminds us of God’s grace.
  • Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje reminded me of some of the sights and sounds of Sri Lanka when I visited.
  • The Hawaiian Archipelago by Isabella Bird is a great vintage travel log about a solo female traveller way back when. I admire her nerves of steel and sense of adventure.

Reading is such a calming activity for me, so it is nice to be able to do this on weekends when I stay home. I am excited to get to the next three books in my stack this weekend: Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah, Letter to my Daughter by Maya Angelou and Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison.

Call, text or reach out to someone who pops into your mind

You know how people randomly pop up in our minds from time to time? It’s a good reminder to contact them and catch up. It may not be a big thing for us but it may mean the world to those we reach out to. There are too many times when I have gone with this feeling and be the listening ear someone needs in that moment.

In these times it is so easy to get wrapped up in our own emotions as we social/physical distance. I know people with lots of responsibilities may feel overwhelmed and not have time for others outside their household. Regardless, it is nice to text or call someone for a few minutes to let them know someone is thinking of them. This ongoing pandemic and all it brings weigh on us in different ways. Some people who live alone are experiencing waves of loneliness and may not want to reach out and bother others. I was chatting with a friend recently and this came up. it’s hard for some singles who live alone.

In addition, we should know what works best for people in our circle where communicating is concerned. There are so many of us who prefer texting and don’t realise this doesn’t work for others. I came to this realisation after hitting a communication snafu with someone. I was all for texting and voice calling. This person preferred video calls because like many people, this person connects better by seeing who is being spoken, even if it’s on a screen. Sometimes it’s the little things.

Call, text or reach out to someone who pops into your mind. Don’t put it off. We are each other’s keeper.

Blogging is a Labour of Love though it Takes Grit to Keep Going

Blogging is a hobby for me and I have been blogging on and off for over ten years. I find myself coming back to blog because it is something I enjoy doing. I mean, just sharing thoughts and ideas about the things I like talking about on the internet space: travelling (especially solo travelling), self-care, budgeting, living debt free and overall being smart with money.

I like the freedom of blogging as a hobby, so I can go at my own pace with no demands from sponsors or chasing numbers. It is very therapeutic. I have invested some money into my own domain, so there are no ads clogging up my blog but more and more I am thinking I should just go for the free domain and save those coins. After all, every bit adds up.

It does take grit to keep sharing and churning out posts though blogging is a hobby. I like taking some time to choose my cover photos and think of how to share topics, craft posts and such. There are times when I have all these ideas flying around in my head and want to create blog posts but have no time for blogging. Then, there are other times when I have time but just want to lie on the couch all day, with a book and not be typing stuff. For me, blogging is a labour of love, not so much labour because I don’t force myself to blog but go with the flow.

It is nice to look back at a post and see how it appears on the blog – the aesthetics of it. I also like to get alerts about comments and hear what people thing about my ramblings. These are always appreciated.

There are also days when I just don’t feel like blogging anymore and I think of just stopping. I have done this a time or three before. I, however, remind myself to leave this blog up as something I can look back at over the years and reminisce about what I share. It is great for sharing the places I have travelled to and for encouraging others in different ways, I hope.

There are many blog posts about blogging as a business, so I am writing this to share that blogging can still be a hobby. In a world where there is much talk about multiple streams of income, blogging sometimes is a stream of income for some people. This is perfectly fine. A blogger is a blogger whether he or she does it as a hobby and/or for business.

It is ok to be lonely and tackle it intentionally

Listen, as a single person living alone, it is easy for loneliness to creep up out of nowhere and take over. Being alone is not synonymous with loneliness and even those who live with a bunch of other folks can be lonely.

Even the most introverted person may suffer bouts of loneliness, since the options to go out and get our people fix are far different than they were in the past. It is ok to feel lonely, we are human beings and need human interaction to varying degrees, for our personality type. My major love language is quality time. I don’t wait for those near and dear to mete it out, I actively facilitate this. It is simple, if you reach out and engage others they will often reciprocate, especially those who are for you.

Accept that you are lonely

For some reason, it has become this belief that something is wrong with you if you say you are lonely. Being lonely is just a feeling which means you need to relate with other humans in some form. This makes us better people in my opinion. It is s a sure fire way to keep us in tune with others and not shut ourselves completely off from everyone forever. As we know not everyone in our lives can fill our lonely moments. These are usually sated by being with those we have close bonds with; people who we can just chill and be at peace with.

There ought to be people in our lives who we can reach out to and just say, “Can we chat for a bit, I am feeling lonely right now and I want some company.” If there is no one like that in our lives, we need to address this because we need these kinds of connections.

Getting our people fix in the midst of the 2020 pandemic

Picnics have become trendy again and are great for hanging out with dear ones and social distancing. These are great since they are outside and everyone can bring their own food and sanitary items. People also play different games or just sit, listen to music and chat in the great outdoors. We can appreciate our relationships more, now that we have to put more effort into being more responsible while hanging out with others.

I have always been into epic chats and/or calls on Skype, WhatsApp, Line and so on way before this pandemic. I live far away from family and many bonafide friends, so this is a must. Make plans and carve out time to spend catching up with people and really getting in touch. It does the heart, mind and soul well at all times.

Another great thing to do is just to hang out with friends one on one in open places just to chat and chill. It could be at a common train station or bus stop that’s convenient for both of you. The important thing is to see others and spend some time with each other. Things have changed but we can still touch base with others and be there literally and figuratively.

Know what triggers your loneliness and stay away from them

I mean sometimes you may not be able to guard against this but do what you can. Many of us single people, who desire to be in a relationship may find ourselves being lonely after seeing couples cosied up on different social media platforms. Before you know it, loneliness has crept up and you experience melancholy.

Also know that the feeling usually passes, even though, when in the thick of it, it feels all consuming. When this happens, it is good to do things that take your mind off the loneliness: exercising, cooking, blogging, painting,doing your budget and whatever works for you. Look for the way out and don’t just give into loneliness and despair.

Don’t feed the feeling of loneliness

When bouts of loneliness come, it is not time to play all those sad and sappy songs that just intensify the emotions.

Encourage yourself with words from the Bible, tap into your joy and speak it over yourself. Put on some lively music and dance like David danced. If nothing else you would have gotten a good workout.

Also don’t go jumping back into negative relationships – whether romantic or platonic- because of loneliness. Go to those who have your back and who you will be happy you got closer to in these times of loneliness. Since, when the heights of loneliness take over we can lose the rationale part of ourselves, let’s know who we will lean on before it strikes. Cultivate relationships with people that allow you to not hesitate to reach out and have them be there for you.

Again, it is ok to feel lonely and to share this with your loved ones, so they can help. We do life most effectively when we partner with others to give and receive, emotionally, mentally and otherwise.

2020 is reminding me to take pleasure in the simple things

It’s summer break for me now and it was a long time in coming. The usual month of summer break was whittled down to two weeks. This was so we could make up time at school, for all the online classes we had at the start of the school year because other schools who were less organised, didn’t have classes for two months. Suffice it to say I was ready.

As the responsible homebody that I am, who is a big fan of self isolating, my plan is to spend many hours stretched out on my couch reading. My little heart is oh so excited. I have no less than 8 books lined up from our library at school and my kindle at the ready, if I needed, to up that number. I just love escaping into the world of a book and learning all kinds of things. The time flies with a page turner I tell you, though the emotional roller coaster some of these books take you on is no joke.

Today a read the book Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. It’s a rich text that sheds light on a perspective of slavery that is often not addressed. This is the fact that Africans were sold into slavery after being taken as captives by warring tribes. Her style is flawless and she grips your attention and makes you feel the characters, the setting and takes you from time period to time period through generations. It was really lovely, to delve into this masterful piece for a few hours and pass day one of summer break, self isolating all by myself, in my own space. It was truly therapeutic.

I am also loving being able to make all my meals at home. I enjoy cooking, sometimes twice a day, to get in some nice whole foods. Today I made a lovely veggie stew with boiled potatoes on the side. Adding balsamic vinegar to stews just takes them up a notch. Try it if you haven’t done so yet. It’s quite easy to eat and eat all day at home so, I bought healthy snacks to keep myself in check: watermelon, apples, kiwi and bananas. YUM!

It’s also nice to have time on a weekday to catch up with friends and family in different times zones. I mean everything from texting to having epic calls for hours. I love it. There is no time to feel lonely, though I live alone.

I see my apartment as my safe space that helps me to keep mentally well in these uncertain times. Like I do for weekends, I went shopping to get a range of things I wanted to have, so I wouldn’t be tempted to run to the supermarket nearby at the drop of a hat. This is actually a habit I have mastered over several years now. I like doing one big grocery shop on a Thursday of Friday for the week. I plan out my menu for the week so I know what to buy.

I also enjoy doing some dancing here and there throughout the day to get some exercise. I squat, do lounges, standing abs and random stuff to move throughout the day when I go to the bathroom. I don’t want to just be a couch potato.

So yeah, for a normal summer break I would be off somewhere exploring our beautiful world but this year I have to be still. I am not miserable and I am being intentional about enjoy this time. I am relaxing, resting and keeping my mind fresh and active. This is self-care and I am here for this. Thanks 2020 for forcing me to remember to enjoy the some of the simple things in life.

Are you keeping your hopes and dreams alive?

Hold fast to your dreams

For if dreams die

Life is a broken-winged bird

That cannot fly.

Hold fast to your dreams

For when dreams go

Life is a barren field

Frozen with snow. (Dreams by Langston Hughes)

Are you still dreaming, making plans and keeping hope alive as this pandemic carries on?

It all feels surreal but I am still dreaming about things I want to accomplish internally and externally. In Jamaica is often said that where there is life there is hope.

As for me, I am still budgeting and making plans for different savings goals and such. I am thinking about the travelling I want to do in the future and I am also thinking about a number of other short term and long term goals. Most importantly, I keep reminding myself to keep hope alive and continue to dream new dreams.

That’s it, I was just inspired to remind someone to keep dreaming and keep hope alive in the midst of this pandemic. Stay on budget and save for your goals…

Pivoting Mentally with These Unprecedented Times

This is a very humbling year. In these first six months of 2020 I am learning to step back, go with the flow and take each day as it comes.

I am someone who plans way ahead and thrive on structure in my life. This isn’t something that 2020 is entertaining, so for my peace of mind and mental health, I am learning to pivot, relax and take things as they come.

I was going to Jamaica to see family in two weeks. Well, it ain’t happening because if I leave Japan there is no getting back in as a foreigner. My tickets were booked months ago because I am a planner and it is usually more affordable months in advance. The optimist in me waited months and months in the hope that I would still be ale to pull this off but alas this is not happening. Let’s not talk about how some airlines are still inflexible in these times.

I let go of that which I can’t control. Am I losing some money? Am I missing out on seeing family and loved ones? Yes, but is it for the greater good of staying healthy and not bringing this virus home to them? Absolutely yes! This is me talking to myself and making peace with what my reality is now.

I am learning to plan long term but adjust my expectations with the reality of each day. We live in hope that this virus will be under control in a few months or less but we really don’t know. I still have long term plans and goals. I am still budgeting and saving, now more than ever, because I see tough economic times ahead. I am also in the mental zone where I know I will not travel in the way I did before for quite some time. I also know that I will not be as comfortable going out and about for leisure for quite some time.

I am actively keeping paranoia at bay. Do you know when you are out around others and someone gets into a coughing fit? Thankfully, here we all wear masks but, you know how you just instinctively want to escape from this person. I really don’t want to be unkind to others while trying to be safe. I don’t want to be the one with a coughing fit either. The times can keep us on tenterhooks so we have no peace. This is something to be on guard about.

I am prioritising periods of rest and relaxation. I have always been a homebody, so there is no place like my own space. On Fridays I ensure that I get all the items I need to make my meals on the weekend. I have taken to coming home on Fridays and not stepping outside again until Monday when I go to work. This is like a mini staycation for me since I do my chores but make time to chill on my couch and read for hours. I also do some stretches and movements inside to work out some. This is my escape and since I live alone its just perfection. It is hard wearing a mask for hours on end in this humidity, so on Saturdays and Sundays and enjoy this freedom. I focus on slowing down, relaxing and just being. This is an act of self-care and helps me to pivot as needed in these times.

I keep hope alive. I do believe these times will pass and it is important to know this, so I remind myself of this when I start feeling a drag on my spirit. I listen to my gospel playlists, read my Bible, pray, worship, cook stuff I love, talk with my people, take time to be thankful…

In these months, I have seen nature doing all it does without interruption and I am reminded that good things are happening, even in the midst of these trying times. I am experiencing many of these good things and by focusing on these I am walking through the new normal with joy.

Life is truly a gift and it is worth living well even/especially in these unprecedented times.

Wear Mask, Wash Hands, Social Distance…Is this the New Normal?

What can I say, these are uncertain times that all of us are learning to navigate one day at a time. It is sometimes surreal to think how much has changed and continues to change since the dawn of the new year.

We are back at school now, our health and safety demands that we wear masks all day, open all the windows and doors, remind students to wash their hands, sanitise desks, chairs and other things we touch in the classroom, as well as, social distance. It’s a lot and we are trying our best to have classes and educate our charges in the midst of all this.

I wonder how schools with classrooms at capacity will manage all of this when they reopen? It is hard to relax and have conversations with students and other members of staff like before. Social distancing is at the forefront of our minds. This is the new normal and it is exhausting to remember this day after day after day. It is quite easy to become paranoid at this time because it just feels like this invisible parasite is just lurking around at every turn.

We all know that the emphasis is on physical distancing but the term social distancing has taken root to describe this. It amazing how this term has become a part of the daily lingo and shows how a living language grows and stretches to accommodate words and expressions. We are reflecting on this in my classes and analysing how different posters are made using paralanguage and such. I like that we can discuss these kinds of things in my classes as we bring in current issues into our analysis of texts.

Wearing a mask in these hot humid climes is not fun at all. There is a lot of walking to be done to get from point A to B in this city. I often end up breathing hard through my mouth after a few minutes with beads of sweat bursting every which where. It is rough! I, however, try to pace myself literally and figuratively. I drink lots of water before leaving home each morning and throughout the day. It is important to replenish all the liquid that the mask helps me to sweat out. Phew!

Here we are almost halfway through 2020 and it seems like an unending rollercoaster. I am reminded daily to be thankful and treasure each moment of each day. There are many annoyances, tests and trials of course but there is much to be thankful for.

Each one of us need to think well about how to manage ourselves at this time and focus on this too. There are lots of heavy things happening. With this in mind, I carve out time on the weekend to stay in, relax, read a book and enjoy not having to wear a mask. This really helps me to go out and be my best on week days.

I pray we all keep well, in all aspects of our lives. Wear your mask, wash your hands well, social distance and feed your mind what keeps it healthy. For now, this is the new normal…

What am I Learning in these Uncertain Times?

Life teaches us lessons, it is good when we learn these lessons and use them to improve ourselves in some ways.

I am pausing to think about what I am learning and jotting them down, so I can come back and dwell on these at a later time.

Rest, Cultivate Peace and Live in the Now

I am as busy as ever working online from home. It is a pretty hectic time and my days fly by. I am finding that keeping to a schedule each day is helping me to get enough sleep and order my days. In addition, I dress for work in comfortable clothes, don different earrings each day and put myself together. After all, I do interface with my students and other members of staff throughout the days.

I have also taken to being offline for much of the time on Saturdays and Sundays. It is quite nice to curl up on my couch with a good book, getting lost in something I enjoy. I also reserve certain chores for the weekend, that I would do in the same way when I went out for work.

I am enjoying living in the now and being ok with this. I am not planning crazily for a few weeks or months down the line because things aren’t clear. Notwithstanding this, I still have my dreams and I am keeping hope alive.

Stay on a Budget and Build the Emergency Fund

It is quite tempting to be shopping online and using this to pass the time. For me, it is just so easy to shop on Amazon or iherb and get the stuff I like and others that draw me in. Nope, I am not doing that. I am still living on my budget for each month and focusing on saving what I can to go into my emergency fund. We live in uncertain times and I fully expect some hard times ahead. Even us with jobs may face a pay cut at some point in the near future. It is best to save what we can now to prepare.

I chuckle at the fact that over the last 8 weeks I have worn the same two pairs of shoes: my sneakers to go out and exercise and my chucks to go to the grocery store (the latter because there are no laces to tie). Do I really need a bunch of shoes? Mmmm…

Embrace Change and take more Chances

I don’t like change, though I know it’s necessary for growth and provides many benefits. I do give into changes but not as enthusiastically as I would like. This is something I am working on improving in order to be a better me. The ability to embrace change actually helps with having a healthy mental state. I have to roll with the changes happening, adjust and thrive. I can’t control everything, so as a lifelong learner, it is in my best interest to change my mindset in this regard. I am working on this.

Enjoy ‘the Great Outdoors’

Thankfully, here in Japan we never had a tight lockdown, so I could go out each day for walks to enjoy the beautiful spring weather. Of course, I was doing this while observing physical distance. There is just something about seeing the trees transition from blossoms to delicate green leaves, that remind you that you are alive. There is hope. Nature is doing its natural cycle even in the midst of the world grounding to a halt. I am always humbled and amazed.

I now go for long walks after dinner, all over the neighbourhood, to exercise, enjoy being out and about and take advantage of the freedom to move around in a way I had taken for granted. Also, sometimes I just stand on my balcony in the mornings and let the sun beam on my face. This is a simple pleasure.

Make Thankfulness a Daily Habit

I am thankful for all the precious people in my life, the moments we share, especially the everyday moments that shine brightest now. It’s nice to stop and write down things that I am thankful for each day. This gives me joy. This also helps me not to complain too much.

I am learning much more than the above but I am tired of typing, so I am going to run off to the supermarket to get my shopping for the week done. I am thankful to be able to do this oh so mundane task at this time. I am really thankful for all the people who work in the supply chains and the supermarket staff who show up to serve us in oh so many ways…

Will Travelling After this Pandemic Come with More Hassles?

As these surreal days roll by I ponder what travelling post this pandemic will be like. It is already painful to get off a long 14 hr red eye flight to stand in lines for a few hours in transit.

Will we be pricked and prodded and at the mercy of rapid tests?

Will we have to pay even more to be packed into the not so comfortable economy seats to fly home to see family and friends?

Will travel blogging still be a thing especially for budget travellers?

Yea, I know all this is somewhat inconsequential in a world where people are losing jobs and facing increasing hardships. These are some things on my mind with everything else now.

reminiscing on my trip to Kuala Lumpur…

People will continue to travel I am sure. People are still travelling in the midst of this pandemic. Some travel for a living and others need to go from point A to B for important reasons. There are also still others who enjoying travelling for leisure and other such reasons.

I imagine wearing a mask onboard flights will be mandatory. Interestingly, this was en vogue for many East Asians since it helps to combat the dryness in the aircraft. Can I even handle wearing a mask for 14 hours on the flight from Japan to America then on to Jamaica?

One of the majestic castles in Japan from my jaunts around the country. How carefree were those times?

I am seeing news here and there about airlines planning to implement social distance practices on board. This suggests fewer passengers and with many airlines losing money hand over fist, I can imagine airfares will shoot up. While I can forego travelling for leisure to budget and save, I need to visit Jamaica to see family and friends, ideally once a year. I am a bit anxious about how much more this will cost, since flights are already going above $2,000 for a round trip in summer, in economy. Oh yeah and this means not getting any meals on the leg from America to Jamaica. Also, getting on the plane and having all the overhead compartments stuffed by those who got flight deals. Sigh!

So yea, I am waiting with bated breath to see how travelling cross-continentally tests my budget for one thing.

Looking out from the Peak in Hong Kong

Can you imagine being on a plane and having a coughing fit post this pandemic? Even when wearing a mask I know this will make the journey all that more uncomfortable? Will I just not eat anything for 14 hours? Drink no water? Gasp! That just won’t do.

I am already a nervous flyer, so I am already steeling myself for all the above.

There are lots of questions rolling around inside my head about how flying will change. I fly cross-continentally at least once a year, so this has been on my mind. I also think about how quickly tourists will want to or even afford to take vacations post the pandemic.

This may seem frivolous to some but there are many people who work in this industry and others connected to the industry.

As with many things, time will reveal how travelling will change post this pandemic. We have to learn to expect the unexpected, be flexible and learn to thrive in unchartered waters.