Are you going alone?

happy

“So you’re going alone?” is a question I often get when I tell people that I’m driving a few hours to go see my extended family who live in another city. “Yes, I do it all the time” is usually my answer but I noticed recently that I began to sound a little defensive. I had to think about why I sounded like that. Was I ashamed? Did I sound like a loner, because I drove by myself? Did people pity me? Maybe or maybe not.

As a single woman, I challenge myself to do things out of my comfort zone. I noticed that I was comfortable doing a lot of things by myself (safe things of course!) but there was a limit to what I could do. Why was I limiting myself? Going to the movies by myself is easy (and again safe!) as I love going to a Sunday matinee shows. But why couldn’t I buy a ticket for a Saturday night show? Since Saturday nights are popular date nights, I thought to myself that I didn’t want anyone to notice that I was sitting by myself. But are people really noticing me? Are they actually sitting in their seats and making remarks about the girl eating a tub of popcorn by herself? Maybe or maybe not.

Another challenge that I’ve always wanted to try was to go out to a restaurant by myself. The local food court doesn’t count. Takeout doesn’t count either. A real sit down restaurant where I order my food and maybe a glass of wine. I decided to start with a local pub near my work. I sat and ordered a poutine. As I waited for my food to arrive, I looked around the pub and noticed that everyone was eating in groups. I was the only one, eating by myself. I ignored my mental observation and suddenly felt a little uncomfortable. I was glued to my phone until my food came and ate rather quickly. Why did I feel so uncomfortable? I’m pretty sure that people around barely noticed me. What was the shame about? I realized that this shame came from my own insecurities. I was uncomfortable in my own company. I always thought that I was confident about myself but there was a small part of me that lacked confidence in taking risks.

Recently, a good friend of mine booked a Mediterranean cruise and I was excited to hear about the details of her trip. I then asked if she was going with family or friends and she boldly answered that she was going on that two week cruise by herself. I was shocked and definitely impressed (and slightly jealous!). I admired my gutsy friend and started thinking if I could ever take that risk. I could, but I would probably bring half of my novel collection and pray that there would be free Wi-Fi everywhere. I feel like it would be a liberating experience and definitely force me out of my comfort zone. Why should you always wait until someone is free to book a vacation? Why should you lean on someone else’s company to have fun?  Life is definitely too short to do things according to another person’s availability. Hearing about my friend’s experience definitely opened my eyes to the possibility of doing more things on my own.

Go alone to that Saturday night movie premiere, try out a new restaurant, go see that play you’ve always wanted to see, book a day at the spa and don’t bring a book. I’m going to let my mind wander as I challenge myself to these activities. Maybe one day I can become a solo travel blogger.

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Haiti cherie

haiticherie

“Where are you vacationing again?” asked a business client.
“Haiti” I responded in excitement and smiled at the thought of not being at work for an entire week.
“Tahiti?” he asked with a perplexed look on his face.
I sighed and said “No, Haiti, H-A-I-T-I. It’s located in the Caribbean.”
“Ah ok….I’ve never heard anyone go there before….wait isn’t it where the earth—–“
“Yes!” I interrupted. “There was an earthquake a few years ago.”
“Ok….so um have a great trip.”
“Thanks.”
*awkward conversation ends*
Although I was slightly annoyed by this conversation, I understand that Haiti is probably not a popular tourist destination. It’s a beautiful country that has been plagued by natural disasters and political instability. Haiti has even been ranked #11 as one of the world’s most corrupt countries (https://www.cheatsheet.com/culture/ranking-worlds-corrupt-countries.html/?a=viewall). With all these factors against them, it’s clearly a country that needs to work on not only its image but in providing basic needs to its citizens.
Despite all this, Haiti has my heart. I grew to appreciate it on my first trip to Haiti back in 2013 to celebrate my cousin’s nuptials. Since that trip, I told myself I had to go back and discover the whole island and not only spend time in the beautiful resorts, but encourage the local communities as well.
When I found out a friend of mine was moving to Haiti for work, my other friends and I were ecstatic and immediately started planning a trip. We narrowed down the dates, bought our tickets and four weeks later, as the plane descended at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Haiti, we had no idea what was in store for us. This trip ended up being an amazing adventure that definitely changed our perspective on life.
Here are the top five things I learned about Haiti:
5. Haiti is a beautiful mountainous country.
According to Wikipedia, it is the most mountainous country in the Caribbean and I can confirm that. Every time we drove to nearby communities, we were either driving up or down on the treacherous roads. The views were spectacular and the lush sceneries left me wanting more. I had always heard relatives talking about the mountains in Haiti, but now I truly appreciated and understood its beauty.
Tip: To enjoy the view even more, grab dinner at L’observatoire. The views of Port-au Prince are stunning.

view

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

L’Observatoire de Boutilliers is a restaurant that has one the best views of the city.

4. Haitian food is delicious.
I’m biased and growing up in a Haitian family, I grew to love the food but going to Haiti made me appreciate the food even more. The banan peze (flattened fried plantains that is fried twice) and picklies (a vinegar based slaw that you eat with meats and rice) and the other fried delicacies that I don’t get to indulge very often gave me life. Rice and beans is a major element to any meal, however; mushroom rice (better known as du riz djon djon) is a treat. Djon djon are dried mushrooms grown in Haiti that are used to flavor the rice and give it that exquisite black color. Other delicacies I enjoyed was the local Haitian beer, Prestige, which can be bought anywhere in Haiti. I’m not a beer connoisseur at all but I grew to appreciate the mild flavor as I savored the fried delicacies.
Tip: Purchase a bag of djon djon before you leave Haiti.

food haiti

Rice with fried meat and fried plantains

3. Haitian art is beautiful.
On day two on my Haitian adventure; my friends and I visited a city named Jacmel, located in southern Haiti, about a two hour drive from the capital city, Port-au-Prince. It had a cool, artsy vibe where we even met a Canadian expat who had been living there since the earthquake. The architecture was beautiful, with European style buildings and bright colors. It’s probably where a lot of Haitian artists get their inspirations from. Haitian art is sold everywhere in Haiti, but in Jacmel, the art was different and blended so well with the scenery that you couldn’t help but admire it. It reminded me of visiting an art gallery at a lounge in an urban area. The attention to detail and the level of talent amazed me and my friends and I all bought some art.
Art is such an important representation of the culture and history of Haiti. A prime example I can think of is Jean- Michel Basquiat, a famous New Yorker with Haitian roots who made beautiful and sometimes controversial art. People are still flocking to see his work and buy his art in 2017.
Tip: Support the local economy and purchase a piece of art. You won’t regret it. Have lunch at Café Koze, a quaint spot that sells wraps, salads and freshly squeezed fruit juice.

Lovely art that is sold on the streets in Haiti

Cool sculptures sold on the streets of Jacmel

artist

Jacmel

cafe

Café Koze

2. Bassin Bleu is a must see.
Bassin Bleu is a natural water site located in Jacmel. It’s a series of basins that lead you to a clear blue body of water. The road to Bassin Bleu is a little treacherous but the twenty minute hike my friends and I took was challenging. (Our cardio wasn’t up to par either but I digress!) The wide steps and sometimes slippery rocks made it hard, especially if your shoes didn’t have a good grip. At one point, we even wondered if that hike was worth it but when we stopped and saw the view, it was all worth it. To swim to the Bassin Bleu, there is a rope that takes you down to the water. (Mind you, if you are not a good swimmer, you might want to avoid swimming there. The current is strong and there are no lifeguards.) Since we were there during rainy season, it had rained the previous night and we didn’t see the clear, turquoise color water. Instead, we saw a brown colored body of water. Although we were a little disappointed, it was still beautiful.
Tip: Get a local guide to take you there and you will enjoy it even more.

haiti trek

Hiking towards Bassin Bleu

 

bassin bleu

The beautiful clear waters of Bassin Bleu

bassin marron

What we saw lol

1. Haitians are strong.

Despite being plagued by political instability and natural disasters, Haitians are resilient people. Driving through Port-au-Prince, (and driving during chaotic rush hour), I looked around and saw the markets where people sold anything and everything. A woman had a stand of papayas and mangoes next to another woman, busy making fried plantains to sell and a man, walking around with basket full of unmarked antibiotics and random pills. Everyone is hustling, trying to provide for their families and making a life for themselves. Posters of the current president could be seen around the city, with graffiti calling him a liar. Little kids, selling water on the street and the construction worker, attempting to clean the road in the middle of rush hour were all things that I observed and discussed with my friends. The country has so much potential. As foreigners visiting the country, we could see the problems and provide solutions. But where do we start? I feel in order to make a change, it doesn’t have to be big. My friends and I met a man in Haiti who was grateful for a Canadian couple who had visited Haiti years prior and had seen the potential in this man’s life as he worked in a resort as a young boy and decided to pay for his schooling. He was forever indebted to that couple and to Canada for changing his life. All it takes is one small act.

Haiti has my heart and I’m looking forward to going back someday soon and exploring other parts of the island. Stay tuned!

Lovely beach

 

 

What are you afraid of?

claustrophobic pic

I’ve never been a fan of small spaces. I’m not sure where my fear started. Actually, I think it started when I watched an episode of America’s Most Wanted and the killer stuffed his victim in a small box. I got scared and watched more episodes and before I knew it, I was paranoid and officially claustrophobic. (Mind you, I was nine and watching these episodes by myself on a Saturday night. Where were my parents?!)

I never gave my fear of enclosed spaces much thought and actually didn’t even realize that it scared me until my teen years. One of my first summer jobs as a teen was a data entry clerk for an accounting firm. My office was located on the 17th floor and I dreaded the elevator ride every day. One sunny morning, I got on the elevators by myself and as the doors closed, I panicked and pressed the emergency button. Or so I thought it was the emergency button. It ended up being the fire alarm button and the elevators doors quickly opened. Needless to say, the whole building was evacuated and I didn’t dare to say that I had pushed the button as I gathered with my coworkers at the nearest emergency meetup spot. Why was I so scared? It was just an elevator ride. What’s the worst that could happen? Thoughts of hot, elevator rides that got stuck mid floors where emergency and fire buttons didn’t work always filled my mind and I couldn’t bear the thought of being stuck in there for hours (It’s never happened but is probably still in my worst fears list!) As I approached my twenties, my fear of enclosed spaces grew and I started to dislike crowds and small cars. When I made the decision to purchase a car, I was test driving a small sized car (I’m pretty sure it was a medium sized car but in my mind, it looked like a two seater). As I was riding around the car dealership, a sense of panic rose in my chest and I knew I had to get out of the car. I told the salesman that I didn’t like the car and he had to find me something bigger and better immediately. (I’m pretty sure he thought I was delusional as I told him this and made a gesture to get out of the car right now!) I purchased an actual medium sized car and made a point to never purchase a small sized vehicle. Or a two seater convertible. (Don’t even get me started on a smart car either!)
A few months ago, I attended a concert in a small standing room only venue with some friends. We arrived early and proceeded to stand near the stage and waited for the main artist to enter. As the room started to fill with people, I started to feel anxious and got hot. I removed as much clothing as I could and distracted myself by focusing on other things and talking to my friends. The concert started and the opening act sang two songs. As they were singing, I looked back and noticed the room was almost filled to capacity. My heart started to beat fast and I started to sweat. I knew I needed to either leave the venue or find a place to sit. I let me friends know that I would be right back and started to leave the venue. Getting through a crowd of people turned out to be more work that what I thought it would be. I felt the urge to push everyone and just scream at everyone to let me out as if I was being taken into custody in jail. I noticed a bar on the left side of the venue and made my way there. I was hot, sweaty and light headed. Why was I feeling this way? I was missing the best part of the concert! I was so relieved when I arrived at the bar and could feel the cool breeze on my face due to the proximity of the front doors. I ordered a drink and leaned on the bar. I felt better but I was disappointed in myself. I knew I couldn’t go back to the front of the stage. I watched as everyone was singing along with the artist and having fun while I stood at the bar, sipping on my drink. I stood there until the end of the concert and waited for my friends near the entrance. I couldn’t bear to tell them about my episode and acted like I enjoyed myself. As I think back on my experience, I didn’t even think my fear of small spaces could impact my daily life. In fact, I have no issues with travelling on a plane. However, I still get anxious riding an elevator and just seeing people go in for a full body CT scan on medical TV shows scares me to death.
I looked up the definition and common experiences of claustrophobia and was surprised to see that one of the experiences that could onset it was if a child jumps into the deep end of a pool and cannot swim. I cannot swim and have a slight fear of water. My swimming lessons consisted of the teacher telling me to stop holding the pool ledge while attempting to float, wearing a floating device. I didn’t trust the floating device, or the teacher and definitely not the water. It was a bust for me and I never received my beginners’ swimming certificate filled with stickers like my classmates did. (I also wasn’t a fan of wetting my relaxed hair every week but that’s another issue!) Looking back at that experience, I’m pretty sure that my fear of small spaces attributed to me never learning how to swim because I was afraid of drowning in the deep end of the pool.
There are treatments and techniques to get over claustrophia and I truly believe that it starts in your mind. I need to believe that I can overcome it and hopefully one day, I can learn how.

 

“Thank You”

“Thank you.”
These two simple words have so much meaning. We teach them to our kids at a very young age and emphasize that by saying it, you are kind and well mannered.
These two words imply that you are thankful to the man who held the door for you at the mall and the server who brought you the food you ordered at a restaurant (assuming the order is correct!) It’s understood that these two words mean that you are thankful by not only the action of an individual, but also by the kind words someone have told you.
But are you really thankful? Do you actually take the time to think about why you’re saying thank you or is it just something you say by default?
“Thank you” is also used after the word “no” to lessen the blow of an unwanted date or an offer to a product you’re really not interested in. How many times have you politely smiled while saying “no thank you”?
After saying the words “thank you”, how often have you thought about why you’re thankful?
I watched a clip the other day of a survivor of the hurricane Harvey and him and his son had lost everything in the storm (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmkKhCCbxxs) and yet he was still thankful and had hope. I was so moved by his words. I couldn’t even imagine myself expressing my thankfulness to a reporter, knowing that everything that I’d work hard for was gone. It really put things in perspective.
The words “thank you” can impact someone’s life for a long time. A simple gesture or words can make or break you. Don’t ever disregard those two words and remember to say them often.
This world needs it.

 

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That’s what friends are for…

After seeing the movie Girls Trip, it got me thinking about the importance of having female friends in your life. I’ve been blessed with having loyal female friends in my lifetime. Good friends are not only loyal but keep you grounded and even call you out on your bullcrap. They are protective, empathetic and your biggest cheerleaders. They are there for you through thick and thin.

 

Girls’ Trip movie

However, I do realize that not everyone has had the privilege of having a tight circle of female friends around them. I’ve known women who didn’t particularly have female friends because of events that ended in disagreements and a lack of trust. I remember being in grade seven and witnessing the cliques that were formed and unformed every week, the cattiness that occurred at recess and the fierce competition among my female classmates. Every week, there was a fight that ended in tears and a friendship had ended. I never took part but understood why girls would be reluctant to form a friendship. Unfortunately, those situations have played out even as adults. Not everyone has had the pleasure of having a “Sex and the City “type of friendship. (Although, I would’ve loved to be Carrie Bradshaw’s friend to shop in her closet!)

Female friendships give you a sense of belonging and a sense that you are part of a community. Once you reach adulthood, friendship changes. It may be especially difficult to get that if you move to a different city at an adult age. Where do you meet people when everyone has already formed a tight circle, and adhere to the #nonewfriends code? More and more people work from home, isolating them from interacting with coworkers. We don’t necessarily know our neighbours anymore, especially if you live in a high-rise apartment building. It can be a lonely feeling, especially when you realize that people are too busy, engrossed in their phone than to have a conversation with a friendly stranger.

It takes effort on both parties to maintain a friendship. You don’t particularly need to communicate every day to keep that bond. We get caught up in our “busyness” that sometimes a quick “how are you?” text is all you need to know that someone is thinking about you.

On the other hand, you can also outgrow friendships. People’s lives change and sometimes the things you had in common are no longer relevant. I had a conversation with one of my cousins recently about teen friendship. You had your clique, your ride or die girls. The ones you spent hours with on the phone, commenting on your favorite TV show and passing notes to each other in class. You weren’t really open to meeting other people because you had your girls with you all day, every day and couldn’t imagine that one day they wouldn’t be available for you. But what happens when your friends’ lives change and you no longer have things in common? Your best friend from high school may not necessarily still be in your life. You can go from meeting up for dinner every week to seeing their kid’s pictures for the first time on social media.  Friendship change. People grow up and develop a different lifestyle than yours. That’s why it’s important to remember that quality trumps quantity. Always be open to meeting new people in your life.  In this day and age we’re living in, I feel like people have developed this sense of independence that almost feels like they don’t need people. It’s sad that one would think that being alone is better than having people in your life. Sometimes, you just need one person. One person to cheer you on and to tell you that everything will be ok.

As my friend and I laughed during the showing of Girls Trip, there were parts that made me sad as I reminisced about outgrown friendships. They say that people don’t come in your life by accident but are meant to cross your path for a reason. Treasure your friends and remember to always be open to new friendships.

wefly

Some of my ride or die friends celebrating my 30th birthday in the Dominican Republic

Happy one year!! 

Happy birthday Introverted Queen! My blog is officially a year old 🙂

I actually didn’t think it would last this long nor did I remember the exact date when I started. (Thanks Facebook memories!)

 The idea of starting a blog came after having a conversation with a friend and discussing social matters going on in the city. I wanted to write about it but felt that the blogging world was already saturated. Everyone had a blog. From foodies to fashion to music, there was a blog out there for everyone.

But why couldn’t I find a blog that spoke about things that mattered to me? I guess it was time to change that.

And that’s how it all began on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I felt inspired and decided to write about things that mattered to me. Things that frustrated me. Things that encouraged me. Things that made me go hmmm.

I felt that name suited me the most (personality wise) but the queen came from the strong Black women I surround myself with.

I’m unsure if I’ve impacted someone but putting words out there is the first step. I hope I’ve inspired someone but most importantly, that I’ve told my story.

Vive Montreal! 

Oh Montreal. A city that I was born in but never really took the time to discover until my late twenties. It has a European flair with a touch of modern elegance. It has its grittiness alongside a plethora of unique neighbourhoods. The cost of living is substantially lower that other big urban areas and you can actually find a rental in your budget that doesn’t look like a dungeon. The fashion in this city is superior than other places (After all, Montreal is the fashion capital of Canada!) Its population has a considerable size of diversity but what I enjoy the most is the cuisine. Unlike another urban city that will remain nameless (it ends with the letter “o”), the food and the crowd isn’t pretentious. You will indulge on a good meal for a decent price. 

Delicious brunch @ Passe Compose


 

Who doesn’t love a good brunch? 

I’ve always found that Montreal homes have a great curb appeal and most homes have quirky characters. 

Lovely homes in Westmount

As a former Montrealer, this city holds a special place in my heart and brings back great childhood memories. Most of my extended family and friends still reside there and I cherish the moments we spend together. 

My godson and I

Overall it’s a great city to visit and experience a European flair. Just be careful of the potholes 😉

Fix your face!

rbfs

RBF. Resting beep face (we all know what the “b” stands for!). It’s a term used to describe how a woman’s face isn’t friendly. Often, she is described as someone who is not approachable, who lacks a facial expression (see picture above) and looks downright mean all the time. (FYI, I’ve seen a lot of RBF on men but I’ve never heard the term used for them. But I digress!)

I was having a conversation with a close friend and we were discussing the ways to meet single, available men. I shared with her my ultimate way of meeting a man: in the Starbucks lineup. Here’s how it would happen: I would be lost in my book while waiting for my pumpkin spice latte to be ready and he would suddenly tap my shoulder and casually ask what I’m reading. We would discuss the book plot (because he probably would’ve read the book already since he’s a great reader) and the rest is history.

As I was daydreaming about this situation, my friend reminded me that meeting someone at a coffee shop only happens in the movies or on “reality” TV and that I suffer from RBF, therefore it would never happen. Ouch! Talk about a reality check.

However it got me thinking. Are we all walking around with an angry face? Are we all guarded which makes us unapproachable? We’ve all heard about the angry Black women stereotype, (Who can forget Omarosa from The Apprentice!) but it seems that even the other non Black women are being categorized in the RBF movement. As I sat on the subway; I observed the various women and men who came and sat down. Most of them were on their mobile devices; some were reading the newspaper, some were in deep sleep and there were even a few who were lost in deep thought with a focused solemn expression on their faces. Is that considered having a RBF? Being deep in thought or looking “unbothered”? What if your face is naturally like this?

I’ve come up with three steps to combat RBF:

1) Walk around with a smile on your face. At first, it will seem forced and fake but afterwards it will become a habit and you will look more approachable.

2) Examine your past pictures. If you suffered from RBF, make a conscious effort to smile with your eyes (Remember Tyra Banks infamous “smize” face?)

3) Ask others if you suffer from RBF (a real friend will tell you. Shoutout to all my honest friends! 🙂

As for me and my RBF, it’s still a work in progress.

 

The awkwardness of small talk, part I

I’ve never enjoyed making small talk.

Working in a customer service oriented environment, I’m often asked if I’m enjoying the weather or if I’m having a nice day. Of course, it’s the polite thing to do but I feel like the moment I answer, that person has already moved on and is honestly not really interested to know that I enjoy summer.

Small talk feels phoney to me and I would much rather have a discussion about the high cost of living in an urban area. Or even ask how they feel about global warming. I often chuckle to myself at networking events where I have to mingle and make small talk. One of my favourite questions to ask is “do you enjoy what you’re doing right now?” I feel that question opens to the door to a discussion about hobbies, passions and money. However, I understand that it can be a little weird to introduce yourself and dive in a thought provoking question. It could lead to people wondering how odd you are.

“You have to build up that relationship” said my friend; whom I had just confessed to hating small talk. “You can’t be all up in their business too soon!”

A few days ago, I read a summary on a TED talk called “How to turn small talk into smart conversation” (http://ideas.ted.com/how-to-turn-small-talk-into-smart-conversation/) and it gave me something to think about. Open ended answers lead to stories, which is much better than giving random answers. It removes the awkwardness and allows for relationships to grow.

I feel like it’s an experiment that I should try, just to see how people would respond. Maybe I will grow to enjoy making small talk.

Stay tuned…..

“New Year, new me”

“New year, New me”.Every year, I hear this phrase and I cringe. It’s a cliched phrase and there’s  something about starting a new year that makes people want to start “life” again. People get super philosophical and all of a sudden are motivated to act and do things differently. Retail stores have even embarked on that train of thought and before you know it, you’ve bought yourself a fresh set of workout clothes because you’ve already signed up at the gym’s fantastic low rate deal. You’ve also bought yourself a fancy set of notebooks to write down your goals (that notebook sale was too good not to miss!). Not to forget those organizational bins you purchased because you’re going to start de-cluttering and living a very “minimalist” life. 

In the era of “doing me”, I’ve noticed that my past resolutions were focused on me, myself and I. I realized that after making these changes in my life that I felt selfish and not necessarily “better”. I wasn’t aware of what was happening around me and was fixated on goals. How was I inspiring other people? Was I making a difference in the world? Was I being a better person to impact my community? How can I make goals based on my needs and wants when the rest of the world is in chaos? There’s nothing wrong with taking care of yourself to be a better friend, a better employee or a better husband/wife. However, and I feel that as cheesy as it may sound , my actions need to make the world a better place. I can’t continue to make goals for myself and ignore the needs of my community. How can I help? What can I change? 

As you settle in this new year, I believe that it’s important to be a better version of yourself. Write down your goals and prepare to attain them. Take care of yourself  but don’t forget to take care of others.