Travel Series: Ang takes Denver!

We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us.

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Well…that was a longer break than I anticipated.

But you can’t fight it, you know? When you need to get realigned, your soul and energy will let you know. You don’t feel inspired or motivated… so in other words, a bih was just NOT feeling it! But we can save the story behind this for another blog post.

Let’s focus on the reason I am here today after my long absence. DENVER.

And Denver is everything your imagination can ever dream and more! At least in my opinion. I took a long weekend trip there with my fiancé and best friend a few weeks ago and I came home with all of this inspiration. A drive filled with the need to share my trip with all of you. 🙂

So before I jump into all the details of Denver, let’s address the elephant in the room.

Yes. I traveled during this pandemic. Yes. I practiced all safety precautions. Yes. I value the lives of others.

I understand there are mixed views regarding the pandemic and the level of severity. I respect the opinions of all. I believe it comes down to a matter of choice.

If you do not feel comfortable traveling, that is more than understandable. However, if you would like to travel, my advice is to ALWAYS wear your mask, regularly wash or sanitize your hands, practice social distancing, and always make your best judgement from circumstance to circumstance.

OK, moving on…

Denver, Colorado aka The Mile High City is located on the west coast of America and offers breathtaking views of over 200 mountain peaks. The city earned its nickname because its official elevation is exactly one mile above sea level. But Denver doesn’t only offer scenic routes throughout the city, Denver also offers a thriving art scene along with an abundance of bars and restaurants to satisfy a foodie’s wildest dreams. And as if all of that was not enough, Denver’s weather during the summer is amazing. Cool in the mornings, hotter in the afternoons, and barely any humidity!

Hear are few fun facts about Denver:

  1. There are currently more marijuana dispensaries than Starbucks and McDonald’s combined. holy sheeet
  2. The very first Chipotle restaurant is located in Denver.
  3. Denver has 300 sunny days a year. That’s more than Florida!
  4. The Denver International Airport has been the subject of conspiracy theories since the finalization of construction in 1995.

Speaking of the Denver International Airport…

Some say the airport was built by the New World Order. Others say that it houses the Illuminati Headquarters underground. Conspiracy or not, you cannot overlook the strange murals and sculptures that are assumed to tell stories of the apocalypse.

We attempted to locate one of the infamous statues, The Blue Mustang, which is a 32-foot horse sculpture with glowing red eyes. Many people refer to the sculpture as Blucifer, an acknowledgment to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful due to lack of time and lack of information offered by the employees at the airport. Coincidence? Maybe. But it seems that the affiliates of this airport are poking fun at us all. Just check out the message here. TOTALLY normal, I’m sure.

While at the airport, we picked up our car rental and was more than ready to hit the open road. So originally, I had a whole itinerary because in my mind we only had three days to explore the f**k out of this city. But you know life doesn’t work out like that. Needless to say, by the time we left the airport with our rental, we had already wasted 2.5 hours. *throw the itinerary out of the window* Seriously, just do it. Definitely research dope places to go but don’t become a slave to the itinerary. As ironic as it sounds, time and travel really don’t go together. Time never seems to be on your side and there’s always delays. I never seem to learn! But I digress. Who cares when you have the opportunity to explore a place you have never been before?? And so, Day 1 was freestyled and nothing but great vibes.

DAY 1:

Pike’s Peak

After the airport, we headed to Colorado Springs, which is about 1.5 hour away from Denver. Our first major destination was Pike’s Peak, the highest summit on the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains that offers views from 14,111 feet above ground. Read more on how to explore ‘America’s Mountain’ at https://www.pikes-peak.com/.

To enter, it’s a $15 ticket but the experience itself is worth it. You have the option of driving to the top on your own, driving mid way and taking a shuttle to the top, or hiking it. We opted for the combo of driving and shuttle because honestly going up an altitude that high not only messes with your car, but it messes with your lungs too! If you ever make it to Denver, make sure that you adjust to the change in altitude before you do any physical activity. I had such a tight heaviness in my chest and felt a bit winded until my lungs adjusted. Most importantly, listen to your body. Unfortunately, several people needed medical attention at Pike’s Peak.

The most amazing part of this experience wasn’t the views, surprisingly. Don’t get me wrong, the views are breathtaking and looks like pages ripped from a nature and wilderness magazine. But my absolute favorite part about this experience was the weather change as we went higher up the mountain. On ground level, the temperature was about 75 degrees Fahrenheit. By the time we reached the very peak, the temperature was recorded to be 41 degrees Fahrenheit and began to flurry. Insane! Snowing in July! Definitely a first for us and such a happy moment. The amazement in our eyes and voices as we realized it was snowing. My true inner child came out in that moment and my heart adored every minute of it.

Pike’s Peak is a recommended must see attraction while in Denver but I do have a few tips for you:

  • Give yourself plenty of time to experience Pike’s Peak. As I mentioned earlier, it’s about an 1.5 hour drive from Denver. Once you are there, you want to give yourself plenty of time to drive and stop along the way before the part closes at sunset. We ended up spending 5 hours there.
  • Get all of your footage of the views on the way up to the top. Once you are at the top, there is not much of a view due to construction currently taking place.
  • Layer up for the temperature change. I didn’t properly plan for this at all lol. All I had was a jean jacket and I suffered.
  • Get the donuts. There’s a café and a gift shop at the very top. Seriously, get the donuts. I still don’t understand how their old fashioned donuts tasted so delectable. I mean, it’s old fashioned donuts. I just don’t get it. BUT GET THE DONUTS.
  • Truly soak up the experience. How often do you get to be over 14,00o feet above ground with those kind of views? Be present and grateful.

DAY 2:

Denver Biscuit Company

We had a full, action packed day planned! Did we have enough time? Lol barely. But it was my fiancé’s birthday and I was determined. Our first stop was Denver Biscuit Company located in the Stanley Marketplace. For my fellow 813 peeps, the Stanley Marketplace is kind of like Armature Works. For those who still don’t know what I am talking about, the easiest way I can describe it is as a really dope flea market of local restaurants and shops.

The Denver Biscuit Company has many great reviews and is often referred to Top 10 best in the area for serving size and taste. The restaurant claims that the secret to their biscuits is love…and LOTS of butter. And they did not disappoint! Definitely come hungry. Beyond worth it and highly recommended. I ordered the shrimp and grits in a biscuit bowl [enter drooling emoji here].

See what the hype is about at https://atomiccowboy.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Stanley-MainMenu-1.pdf.

The International Church of Cannabis

After one of the best breakfast experiences of our life, we headed to another highly anticipated attraction, The International Church of Cannabis. No pun intended. After a bit of research, I quickly realized why this is such a popular tourist attraction and it’s not the obvious reason. This church is aesthetically and visually appealing as its décor focuses on the power of color theory and color therapy. While visiting, we were told that the artist, Okuda San Miguel painted the gorgeous murals inside of the church in 5 days!!! I can’t even imagine that level of dedication!

In addition to the many displays of art inspo, the church offers a guided meditation and laser light show that was really cool to experience. The meditation and light show costs $25 and gives you a full power hour of awesomeness. Feel free to check out more details at https://elevationists.org/.

The International Church of Cannabis have stated that an individual’s spiritual journey, and search for meaning, is one of self-discovery accelerated by the way of ritual and mindful cannabis use. The members of this church are known as Elevationists. Because Elevationism claims no divine law or authoritarian structure, all backgrounds and religions are welcomed with open arms. At your visit, you will not be given anything for cannabis use. The church likes to remain as family friendly as possible so the kiddos can join in on the fun of the meditation and light show as well.

Denver Selfie Museum

After our visit at the International Church of Cannabis, we headed to the Airbnb to freshen up before we went to our next attraction on the list, the Denver Selfie Museum. This was definitely the highlight of the day! As the first and only Instagram pop up museum in Denver, this place offers a selfie adventure like one never experienced before. For a $29 dollar ticket, you can access every corner of the museum that is covered in art, murals, and props for the ultimate selfie. Such a dope concept! 10/10, strongly recommended to visit if you’re ever in the Denver area.

Check out more at https://denverselfiemuseum.com/.

Punch Bowl Social

After the selfie museum, we were way overdue to grab a bite and after a bit of google searching, we came across this gem of a restaurant. Punch Bowl Social offers a scratch-kitchen menu and pairs with a fun zone of entertainment options such as bowling, life size Jenga, pool, karaoke, and old school arcade games. Due to COVID-19, they current offer outside seating only. In my humble opinion, their menu is limited. But then again, I am a pescatarian so that limits the options for me regardless. However, I opted for the shrimp tacos and they were pretty delicious. But my absolute favorite thing I tried on their menu was their Buffalo fries!

Check out the vibes at https://punchbowlsocial.com/location/denver.

Sweet Action Ice Cream

There is ALWAYS room for dessert. If you have a sweet tooth like my best friend and I, there is an ice cream shop a couple of blocks from Punch Bowl Social called Sweet Action Ice Cream. We decided to walk there after our meal. The staff are extremely sweet…again, no pun intended…and vegan options are available. With flavors varying from Stranahan’s Whiskey Brickle to Vietnamese Coffee, there is a flavor to satisfy the most eccentric taste buds. Beware of the double scoop though, it’s A LOT more to take on than you think. See what other flavors that may satisfy your cravings at https://sweetaction.com/. No pictures for this one…I was too busy stuffing my face.

DAY 3:

And so, we are on our final day in Denver! Are you guys still with me? Good. The goal for Day 3 was really about visiting as many establishments as we could, mainly to kill time. We checked out of our Airbnb around 10am but our flight was not until midnight. A full day with an ample amount of opportunities to explore. *swoon*

Snooze, an A.M. Eatery

The Mecca of Breakfast. And to think we almost didn’t make it here. We were running a little behind schedule and after finding Snooze as a breakfast option, we quickly found out just how popular this restaurant is. Please anticipate a minimum of an hour wait if you ever come here. I think the main reason for such a long wait is because they are ensuring they do not reach maximum capacity for proper social distancing (which honestly, kudos to them) and the fact that they do not allow reservations. First come, first serve basis.

We put our names on the waiting list and debated if we should actually wait. We decided no. We found another restaurant 7 minutes down the road called Syrup and placed our names on their waiting list. We were told that it was a wait of about 25 minutes. We ordered coffee and mimosas in the meantime. But 25 minutes turned into 40 minutes and before we knew it, we were receiving a text from Snooze saying that our table was ready. It was a no brainer. We ran to the car and drove straight there as we received threats of losing our spot. But we made it! And OMG, how disappointing would it have been if we did? Cause the food is BOMB.

The bestie and I always like to eat off of each other’s plates, so we strategized what we would order. We decided she would get the OMG! French Toast and I would get the Smashed Avocado Benny, along wit Abri-ca-lav-ra Mimosas to wash it all down. The most satisfying. Delicious. Scrumptious. Love of a meal that I have ever tasted, I could cry. Don’t believe me? Check out the menu here at https://www.snoozeeatery.com/food-menu/. You’re welcome.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Located in Morrison, a city just 30 minutes outside of Denver, lies a concert venue and a park wrapped in one! Here, you can see the celebrity stars and the physical ones with views surrounding you, enhancing your experience all at once. You can either purchase event tickets or you can take the cheap route (like I did) and visit the venue during daylight hours before concert operations commence. And it won’t cost you a penny, only your time. 738 acres of land and an elevation of 6,450 ft. above ground, be sure to fully immerse yourself in the rich, reddish tint of the naturally formed statues that fills the park throughout. It truly is beautiful and a great attraction to add to your field trip while in Denver.

Want more footage of the views? Check out some live cam footage here at https://www.redrocksonline.com/explore-red-rocks/live-cam/.

MCA Denver- The Museum of Contemporary Art Denver

After Red Rocks, we headed to the downtown area of Denver to dive into some much needed art and culture by visiting MCA Denver. By the way, they offer free weekend access to all guests. Helloooo. Again, a no brainer. Nari Ward, a New York based artist and whose work is featured in the museum, creates his art composed of found objects from his neighborhood. With these, he highlights issues related to consumer culture, poverty, and race. We encountered so many deep and meaningful installations as we wandered the museum for 2 hours, digesting what our eyes have set upon.

If you’re ever in the downtown area, be sure to swing by their website and grab a few weekend access tickets at https://mcadenver.org/visit/tickets.

RiNo Art District

After the museum, we headed to the thriving art district of Denver. Listen…So. Much. Art. EVERYWHERE. And along with the colorful, eccentric art splashed across the walls of the buildings and streets, you will find the trendiest restaurants, breweries, and bars. It’s hard not to fall in love with this lively area that offers an escape from reality along with encountering the friendliest people you will ever meet.

Here are a few honorable mentions in the area:

The Preservery

We briefly passed by this establishment as we further explored the art district, mainly because they were closed by the time we arrived. However, the staff was so incredibly friendly and offered suggestions of bars and restaurants to visit in the area. Also, they allowed us to hang out and grab a few pictures of the urban aesthetics that seemed to cover every inch of their walls.

Want to find out more info? Check it out at https://thepreservery.com/our-space.

Lustre Pearl Denver

Ici tout est bon. “Here, everything is good.” Definitely one of our favorite bars in the area! It’s seriously a whole vibe. From the aesthetics to the drink selection, to the music that blasts into the street, to the laid back and conversational staff, it’s pretty hard not to have a good time here. We enjoyed our time so much here that as the day started to wrap up before our departure, we came back to soak up the good energy before our long flight. We didn’t eat there but I made sure to load up on the Asher Skye drinks; yum.

What drink would you choose? https://lustrepearldenver.com/drink

Dio Mio

You guyssss. I have never tasted pasta so good. I’m not even exaggerating. It was cooked al dente and everything! And I think what shocks me the most about this place, is that you wouldn’t expect a counter service pasta restaurant to be that good. BUT IT IS. Dio Mio offers a relaxed atmosphere paired with traditional pasta meals that are explosive with fresh ingredients. The portions are huge as well so you get plenty of bang for your buck. I ordered corn fritters for an appetizer and Cacio e Pepe for the main course, which is basically an alfredo pasta dish. My takeaway? Pasta heaven.

Are you a foodie who likes to read the ingredients of the meals, like me? Here, let me help you- http://www.diomiopasta.com/dinner-menu.

And so, our trip came to an end 😦

But the experiences I shared with my fiancé and best friend in this beautiful city, will forever be cherished in my heart. So many laughs, epiphanies, and great conversations, all shared while basking in the aura Denver shares with its local residents and tourists.

If I could summarize this trip in a single moment, it would be the moment as we were driving up Pike’s Peak. Teyana Taylor’s song, “We Got Love” was playing in the background and as the song began to finish, an audio clip started playing…

A lot of people define success differently

You know, for me, you can have everything

You can have all the money in the world

But if it’s not enjoyable, if it’s not sustainable, know what I mean?

If you can’t be a person of integrity while having all of these things

What does it matter? What does it mean?

The value is internal

Your value is internal

Ms. Lauryn Hill

And for a brief moment, I teared up, filled with the upmost gratitude for where I was at the moment, with two of the most important and meaningful people in my life. I hope you enjoyed reading about our trip! It’s good to be back writing for you all and can’t wait to hear your thoughts ❤

Sex on the First Date: Battle of the Choices

Sex is as important as eating or drinking and we ought to allow the one appetite to be satisfied with as little restraint or false modesty as the other.

Marquis de Sade

Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free…

SHUT THE EFF UP. Take your opinions, place those opinions on a spiked bat, and shove the bat up your… *breathes deep* I despise this phrase. Why? First of all, it places ‘price tags’ on women as if we are objects instead of human beings. I believe I speak for all women when I say, we cannot be bought. This is not rent to own. There will be no owning, PERIOD! Second of all, it has placed unnecessary insecurities and shame amongst generations of women. So much so, that several women actually question their worth and wonder if they are relationship worthy. They wonder if men will think any less of them for expressing themselves sexually and allowing intercourse to occur on the first date. And can you blame these women for their insecurities? Slut shaming and other demoralizing ways of attacking a woman’s character has been the norm for decades. Third of all, it has placed rules on an action that comes so naturally to us all, men AND women. Why is it better to wait for date #3 to have sex as opposed to the first date? It’s not like you know that person that much more extensively. It’s still a short amount of time in comparison! Trust me, takes YEARS to fully get to know someone. And having sex on the first date does not mean that you will automatically get ghosted. Yet, these misconceptions continue to focus on repressing female sexuality causing many women to feel confused as to what is considered the ‘right’ thing to do. Don’t get me wrong- I am not advocating that all women should have sex on the first date. However, I feel that every woman is entitled to make this decision without judgment from others.

What constitutes as a date?

Personally, I feel any time that is scheduled with another person one on one with the intent of spending time solely with that person, would be considered a date. Can be as elaborate as making reservations at the top restaurant in town or as simple as Netflix and Chill (although this method makes it super tempting to have sex right away!). Honestly, there’s no rules to this shit. You’re attracted to a person, you make a move to hang out, then 9 times out of 10, it’s a date. But of course, if it is established that the hang out is solely for sex, then consider it a booty call…I guess. Oh, the technicalities.

You think you want to have sex on the first date…

You meet this guy. You both go out to dinner. He’s f**king beautiful. He smells good. His sense of style is on point. Conversation is bomb. He seems genuinely interested in what you have to say. He has ideas, input, SUBSTANCE. The chemistry is unmatched. And by the time the bill comes around and he automatically reaches to pay, you’re hot and heavy and wondering what it’s like under the hood. Go for it! I am a firm believer in energy. If the energy feels right, then why not? More often than not, sex is a strong indicator of the connection between two people. Sex plays an important role within any healthy relationship and allows intimacy to flourish. Making this decision should not diminish your chances of forming a long-term relationship, but only contribute to whether or not you could potentially see a future with this person. As long as the feeling is mutual and consensual, don’t overthink it. It’s all about your own comfort levels. And if you decide to take the plunge, I HIGHLY encourage that you use protection. You may know that the chemistry is amazing but you do not know him. Safe sex is still the wave sis.

You’re against the idea of first date sex…

Honestly, that’s okay too! There are many reasons why women decide not to have sex on a first date. Some women want to get to know the person a little more and build a comfort level before sharing intimacy with them. Some request that their partner get tested before sexual intercourse (smart!). Others feel that sex is enhanced once there are solid, romantic and emotional feelings towards their partners, so they rather wait for that connection. There should not be any form of reverse shaming for deciding to wait either. We are all entitled to making the best decisions for ourselves and our bodies and spirits, dependent on whatever circumstances. This choice should be yours and yours only! If you are not comfortable or have any doubts, then listen to your gut feelings. Deciding not to have sex right away should also not diminish your chances of forming a long lasting relationship.

My stance on having sex on the first date…

I’m totally for it! Every time? No. But there has been certain situations where I felt I connected with my date on so many levels and felt extreme attraction to this person, so I went for it. Most times I did not regret it lol. Other times, I ran for the hills and became Casper- the UNFRIENDLY ghost. Super ghosted. And I NEVER feel ashamed, whatever the outcome. I am a grown woman who enjoys sex. I am in charge of my own emotions and body, and I am fully capable of making decisions that I feel 100% comfortable making. When I made a decision to do so, I practiced safe sex and would regularly get tested. Granted my dating days are long gone now…someone found me worthy *insert upside down smiley face emoji* Just goes to show you, a decision like this won’t ruin your chances of finding love and commitment.

What is your choice?

I am curious to hear from all of you. Calling all ladies! Do you believe in having sex on the first date? What are some of your reasons behind this decision? Or are you completely against it? Why? I would love to hear some male perspectives as well. Do you think less of a woman when she has sex on the first date? Do you automatically label her as someone you are unwilling to form a relationship with? Let’s bridge the gap and start a real conversation about this. Looking forward to all of your feedback and stories. Stay assertive, friends.

For more content, please follow me on Instagram at @ang_meets_soul

Speak My Language: The Five Love Languages

To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others. -Tony Robbins

How many of you have ever felt like you and your partner are speaking completely different languages? No matter how much you try to understand your partner, and find a way for your partner to understand you as well, it seems like a constant struggle. I’ve been there…shit, sometimes I’m still there if we want to keep it 100% honest! Miscommunication is common and unfortunately, we allow miscommunication to escalate issues within the relationship, rather than finding solutions. Many times miscommunications and above all, assumptions, are due to us not understanding that our partner may speak a different love language than us. What is a love language? Dr. Gary Chapman, the author of The 5 Love Languages, describes this as the way we feel loved and appreciated. Depending on your personality, you may feel and express love differently than your partner does.

The 5 Love Languages are:

  1. Words of Affirmation: This is using words to express your love and build up your partner, verbal compliments, if you will. Things like “you are beautiful” or “I love you so much.” No matter how minimal a compliment may sound, people with this love language will feel appreciated. On the flip side, negative or insulting comments to hurt your partner will leave them with an everlasting grudge, so choose your words wisely!
  2. Acts of Service: This expresses love by doing acts you know your spouse will appreciate. They often require time, thought, and effort. Most importantly, done with positivity and not out of obligation. So for example, cooking for your loved one or doing the laundry.
  3. Receiving Gifts: This is pretty explanatory, but it does not mean it has to be materialistic or grand. Something as small as picking up flowers would fall under this category. However, don’t mistake this with the previous love language- acts of service are purely helpful and lessen the load for your partner.
  4. Quality Time: This expresses love by giving your partner UNDIVIDED attention. So no distractions like smartphones, video games, and so forth. Doesn’t have to be an extravagant date. It can be as simple as having a game night together. Please don’t postpone or cancel this time with your partner; this can negatively impact how secure they feel in a relationship.
  5. Physical Touch: Nothing impacts a person with this love language more than the physical touch of their partner. This does not have to be drastic PDA. It can be as simple as holding hands, cuddling, and kissing. They will feel extremely unloved without physical contact. No gift or compliment will help without the physical touch.

My fiance and I have VERY different love languages. My primary love language is Quality Time. My secondary would be Words of Affirmation. These two love languages seem to be the most common in relationships, according to an article I read in Elite Daily. I love being told I am loved and appreciated; gives me all the fuzzies. But nothing does it to me like some good quality time! Let’s forget everything and just focus on how much we love and value one another. YES, love it. Because of this, I am often the one who plans dates and trips, along with whispering sweet nothings to him lol. However, my fiance’s top love language is Acts of Service. I cannot count how many times he has cooked for me, washed dishes, or folded laundry without me even mentioning it to him. Because our love languages are so different, it has not always been easy to find common ground with each other. Many times, arguments have been escalated because of it. My fiance is a signed hip hop artist and this keeps him very busy. And although I tag along to the numerous events, rehearsals, and studio time, we really don’t get much quality time with one another. If he is not stepping out of the house, many times he is on the phone tending to some conference call or planning the next event. This has been a huge adjustment for me, and has nearly taken me almost 5 years to come to terms with. I’m still learning and trying to find creative ways to get that time in with each other. On the flip side, he is more aware of how much quality time means to me and will plan impromptu dinner and movie dates. In return, I try to be more understanding and supportive of his music career even if it is as simple as me tagging along on a studio session while he does his thing.

A relationship takes understanding and compromise. Once I figured out that my fiance and I have different love languages, arguments occur less. I am mindful not to take it personally when he is too busy to spend quality time with me, and he is mindful to make more of an effort in that department. Somehow, we make it work. We are constantly learning about one another and granting each other patience and grace. Love isn’t always black and white. There are a ton of grey areas, and to find common ground takes an open minded approach. I challenge all of you to find out your love language. How can this be applied in your relationship? Do you think it will help or hinder it? Find out your love language here https://www.5lovelanguages.com/quizzes/ . Spread love, be kind, be understanding, and learn a thing or two. Happy Wednesday loves!

Travel Series: Wanderlust takes Puerto Rico!

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” -Martin Buber

I have to admit…Puerto Rico was never considered as one of my top destinations. Might I dare say, I even labeled the island as ‘basic.’ Shame on me! Puerto Rico was a last minute birthday gift I decided to treat my fiance to because it didn’t require a passport (he seriously needs to work on changing this), it was fairly affordable, and it did not require to take many days off from work. I chose the city of Old San Juan. My fiance doesn’t care for the beach; he’s more of an artsy kind of guy. I knew he would appreciate the beautiful architecture and art of the oldest city in the U.S and territories. We left for a long weekend to enjoy the birthday festivities. Being of Puerto Rican descent, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to get in touch with my roots. I am terribly Americanized and I get shamed for it ALL THE TIME. I don’t think I can ever put into words the incredible energy this beautiful island has. You feel it the moment you step off the plane. It was more than just a weekend trip, it was truly an experience, and I left feeling proud and connected to the island. Alright, enough with the spiritual awakenings lol let’s get into the details!

A few fun facts about Puerto Rico:

  1. Puerto Rico is not a country or a U.S state. Due to the U.S governance, it is part of the Commonwealth and considered a U.S territory. However, people on the island are not allowed to vote in U.S presidential elections.
  2. Cock fighting is a popular blood sport in Puerto Rico, where two chickens get placed in a ring called the ‘cockpit’ and fight to the death…literally. However, this will cease due to Congress voting in favor of banning the sport in 2018.
  3. El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. With 28,000 acres of lush tropical palms, it is definitely a sought after destination. We did not get to explore this beautiful rainforest due to the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria. Last I’ve heard, it is up and running, so I definitely plan to go back!
  4. Puerto Rico coffee is AMAZING. Honestly! The conditions on the main island are excellent for growing quality coffee . I lived off cafe con leche while I was there.
  5. The Coqui frog is the official mascot of Puerto Rico. Endemic to the island, the frog is known for its timid ‘ko-kee’ evening sounds. Another fun fact, apparently the Coqui frog also lives in Hawaii! It is reported that the frogs were accidentally transported in a shipment of plants.

Puerto Rico has some of the liveliest and friendliest people I have ever encountered. Immediately stepping off of the plane, we were greeted with warm hospitality. Using excessive hand and facial gestures, they are expressive and their energy is infectious. The first night we landed there, we took an uber to our air bnb. Our driver was friendly, humorous, and conversational as she gave us suggestions of attractions to see around the city of Old San Juan. We reached our location around 4 am. We walked up to our home for the next few days, go to input the security code…and nothing. We couldn’t get in! Located on San Sebastián , a very popular tourist area and near all of the nightlife, a local bar owner saw we were having trouble and insisted on helping. Apparently, the building was correct but our security code was wrong. As we waited for a response from the air bnb owner, the bar owner insisted on us coming over for a few drinks. We dived into deep conversation over discounted drinks, and you would swear we were life-long friends. Encounters like this mean the world to me. In the U.S, we get so caught up with how busy our lives are, how stressful life can be, our everyday obstacles, that we forget easy going nature such as this exists! Around 5 am, we were able to get in contact with the air bnb owner, just in time before the bar closed for the night.

Only being on the island for three days, we took full advantage of the attractions closest to us. We spent our days walking and exploring the city, enchanted by splashes of colors throughout the buildings, blue cobblestones that paved the streets, and 500 years of history. Some of the most well known attractions we visited were El Morro and Castillo de San Cristobal, massive fortresses used as defenses against Spanish conquistadors nearly 500 years ago. By day, we visited numerous local art galleries and museums. We even visited the historical shanty town, La Perla, which we were advised by locals to never go to at night. I believe one of the locals exact words were, “Not even the police go there at night.” Yeah…say no more. One honorable mention is the Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery, a colonial era cemetery with construction dating back to 1863. Okay, so I know what are thinking. Why would anyone want to visit a cemetery? Honestly, we were just passing on the way to La Perla. After doing further research, it is reported to be one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world, so why not? While at the cemetery, we were admiring the style of the tombstones. Elegant and marble life-like sculptures, these burial sites are truly a sight to see. The cemetery overlooks the ocean, which is believed to be symbolic of the journey over to the afterlife and originates from Spanish superstition and fear of death. First, I will say that I am a believer in the paranormal and after life. I’m not sure if my fiance previously was, but after our encounter with this cemetery, I am sure his beliefs were seriously altered. As we passed through the cemetery, we noticed a burial site that looked like a mini mosque. It was massive, dome shaped, with stairs leading to doors on all sides. One of the entrances leading indoors looked like it had been ripped open, I’m assuming from Hurricane Maria. My fiance was fascinated with the site and its architecture, so much that he insisted that I take a photo of him sitting on the stairs. After I took the photo, I noticed he proceeded to walk up the stairs to take a peak inside. I warned him that it was probably not the best idea, that it can come off as disrespectful to the spirits resting there. Initially shrugging me off, I urged him to follow my advice. He agreed and we continued exploring around the cemetery. This is when things got a bit spooky. I did not see what he saw, I can only relay the information. According to him, he saw a dark figure hiding behind a burial site with a black cloak floating off the ground. He was SHOOKETH. I’ve never seen him so scared before. He insisted that we leave the cemetery immediately. While on our way out, the wind seem to pick up and dozens of crows were flying over us. Although I didn’t see what he saw, I believed him. It was a feeling, you know. And plus, I warned him *Kanye shrug.* You can see the picture of the site in the slideshow below along with other locations we explored.

Our exploring didn’t stop during the day. By night, we were checking out all of the local restaurants, bars, and lounges. Nightlife is CRAZY in Puerto Rico! The streets are ridiculously busy up until the wee hours in the morning. Also, the legal drinking age in Puerto Rico is 18. With that being said, us ‘old folks’ were outnumbered. The night spots that stuck out the most to me was La Factoría and Douglas. La Factoría is a bar that gives you a speak easy vibe with its hidden passages and entry ways, which creates a really cool atmosphere. There are multiple rooms inside with different genres of music. Douglas is a corner pub with friendly staff and the most amazing Coconut Mojitos I have ever tasted in my life! And trust me, they sneak up on you. Both places are highly recommended.

Douglas has amazing Coconut Mojitos for half the price!

You can’t talk about Puerto Rico without mentioning the food. Honestly, I gained like 5 pounds just over a course of a weekend, but I loved every single minute of it. Some popular mentions are Arroz con Gandules, Tostones, Alcapurrias, Mofongo, and Empanadillas. I indulged in it ALL. These foods are not unfamiliar to me because they were part of my childhood growing up in NYC, which is where the majority of Puerto Ricans migrated to during the political immigration dated back to the 1800s. So basically, I was in heaven and was excited for my fiance to try these foods as well. I also can’t forget to mention the desserts I indulged in, Piragua, Tembleque,and Flan…ugh, take me back! Now! My fiance also tried his first mango EVER in Puerto Rico. We were seated at a restaurant, and the servers started passing out free mangoes pulled from the tree in the back. I don’t think mangoes in the U.S will ever measure up for him.

I will always cherish the memories spent in Puerto Rico. I never expected to have such an amazing time. My fiance loved it so much that I’m convinced he is tempted to move there. The culture and people were magical. I always felt ashamed for not truly embracing my roots, not necessarily by choice, but because of my American upbringing. My parents did not even raise me on the Spanish language, although both are fluent. I can’t tell you how many glares I get from other Hispanics with my broken Spanish. But on that island, I felt accepted. It’s the weirdest and most loving feeling to meet someone in a place you’ve never been before, and just by looking at you, they know you are part of the culture. A local bartender at Douglas was conversing with us as she made our mojitos, and she looks at me and says, “You’re Puerto Rican, right?” I asked her, “How did you know?” She told me that my physical features, my spirit, and even the way I spoke, gave it away. Laughing, I told her that I don’t speak Spanish very well and it was my first time to the island. Without a glance of judgment, she says, “Welcome home. It was only a matter of time.” And in that moment, I realized she was right. I may not speak the language, but I cannot deny the feeling inside when I hear salsa music. Or the fact that I can’t keep myself from dancing when I hear salsa music. Or how anxious I get, scrambling to get Coquito and Pasteles during the holidays. I cannot deny that my roots are mixed with Taino, African, and Spaniard blood. The traditions I grew up with are deeply rooted. The island, at least to me, represents pride and acceptance. I had come home for the first time.

Racially BLURRED.

Netflix Original Series
No copyright infringement is intended

It’s 2019. Donald Trump is the U.S. President. Racism and prejudice seems to be very evident in society. Women are losing rights to their own bodies. Wars are still erupting around the world. We are one comment away from North Korea unleashing their mass weapons of destruction. What a time to be alive! We are at a point in history where social awareness is at an all time high, and past and current injustices are being brought to light. Information readily available at the touch of our fingertips.

This month, Netflix released an original limited series called “When They See Us.” A series based on the true story of the Central Park Five, which took place in New York City in 1989. For those who are unfamiliar with this story, it is about five teenagers ranging from ages 14-16, who were wrongfully accused of beating and raping a Caucasian women in her late 20’s, among other charges. Four teenagers were African American and one was Hispanic. I think it is important to mention races and ages for the simple fact that the investigation was not carried out properly. One can assume that this was due to discrimination. These teenagers endured police brutality. They were questioned and coerced without a guardian present, leading to signed waiver of rights. Ultimately, this led to their downfall. They received sentences ranging from 5 to 15 years; they served between 6 to 13 years, collectively, for crimes they did not commit. They were just kids. I have to admit, it was a painful and difficult series to watch, but I feel it was equally important to watch. It’s a harsh realization and a major reality check that simply cannot be ignored. If you have not seen this serious, I strongly urge you all to check it out. I give fair warning, it might emotionally affect you.

Photo provided by New York Daily Times
The Central Park Five

I have always been aware of the disadvantage that people of color hold in society. I have never been blind to the discrimination and prejudices that occur. More and more stories of police shootings and brutality continue to surface. It has stirred an uneasiness within me for my safety; an indescribable anxiety and worry specifically for the men in my life. Originally being from NYC and of Puerto Rican descent, I have two nephews who are young adults and live there. Who experience and witness tragedies more often than some of us have ever endured. My sisters and I fear for their safety everyday. I have three more nephews that are growing up in that environment and sadly, will become aware of the injustices as they grow older. I am engaged to an African man, and with that alone, the uneasiness hits closer to home. Every time he steps out of the house, particularly at night, I become uneasy. If I can’t reach him and he is home later than expected, I automatically think the worst. It’s sad to say that my usual first two thoughts are that he has either been involved in a car accident, or he has been arrested. Every single day that he is away from me, at any given time, I fear for his safety.

This past weekend, that anxiety became a reality. He was doing a late night music performance. After the performance, some unfortunate events occurred, and he was on his way to the hospital to support a friend. Around 3:30 am, he was on his way back to me. He called twice but I missed his calls. Around 4:30 am, I woke up and realized he was not home. I called him to get an update…no answer. I called him repeatedly from 4:30-5:30 am, worried sick, creating all sorts of scenarios in my head. The panic continued to build each phone call he did not pick up. I called every friend I could think of, friends that he might have been with. Anyone who could offer any kind of information to ease my mind. I googled local car accidents, I searched the arrest inquires for Hillsborough County. All I could think of is how I missed his phone calls and something must be wrong. It was not like him AT ALL to not answer my calls, or even be out that late at night. After finding no information, I decided there was nothing more I could do. I fell asleep praying for his well being. About 15 minutes later, I received a phone call from him. He was pulled over, for a claim of a faulty light over the license plate. The police searched the car thoroughly and let him go once they found nothing. I’m not sure how a faulty light coincides with a car search…I’m just happy that he was safe and able to come home.

I’m not sure if people of color will ever feel safe in their own country. I’m not sure if they will ever be given a fair chance in society. I will never understand how five teenagers of color were not given a fair trial and were coerced into a false confessions, with no substantial evidence to prove that they committed the crimes. Furthermore, I will never understand how a Caucasian man like Ted Bundy is given multiple trials, able to represent himself, and allowed to do research in the library freely, without handcuffs. The treatments are completely different and it is so blatantly obvious. How can you overlook that? Some people may not agree with my opinion, and that is okay. It is solely my opinion and I don’t represent the people in this country. But I refuse to ignore certain situations that continue to surface. I can’t ignore that fear.