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Welcome My name is Tess. I'm a 9-5 New Yorker and traveler. My hobbies include destroying suitcases, photo-bombing tourists in Times Square, and taking long romantic ADHD walks around the globe. Welcome!

Dec 17, 2013

Lesser Known Holidays That Deserve Pay.

If you are not a fan of holidays, then that's too bad because the next two months are wrought with some major ones like Christmas, New Year's, MLK, Chinese New Year's & Valentines. 
But did you know that there are a few lesser known and yet intriguing ones coming up as well? How do you I know this?  Because i was cruising the paid holiday calendar at work.  So for those of you who cannot legitimately observe religious holidays without being blasphemous or sacrilegious.  Here are a few that you can propose be added to the Paid Holiday schedule.

You can thank me later.........

owning a fleet of these buses almost guarantees instant wealth. 

Festival Of Sleep Day - January 3rd -   Who hasn't experienced the 48hr hangover, post New Year's. And after all the energy spent closing an entire 365 days, the third day of the new year is usually full of the walking dead still recovering from alcoholism, sleep deprivation or simply lying about being sick because they are still on vacation in bumbafuck. So why force them to use a sick day? They should really called this "Pick Up The Pieces" day. 

 Houseplant Appreciation day - 1/10 - The name alone explains why you can't possibly show up to work on this day. How can you appropriately show your undying affection, if you are not side-by-side to your beloved potted perfection of greenery? (medical marijuana aside)  After all, it offers you a immediate source of oxygen from the polluted life you live.  And not being there to say thank you? - well that's just selfish.....

Opposite Day - January 25th  - Well what's the opposite of being at work? Boom!! They say this holiday may date back to president Calvin Coolidge in the 1920s'. So if it good enough for a president then damnit who am I to oppose?

Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk Day - February 11th - "Today is the day to recognize that sh*t happens."  Well I couldn't have said it better myself!  Sh*t happens everyday and still I and millions of others manage to make it to our jobs - and on time.  So give us a little friggin' well deserved credit here and make this a paid holiday.   

Singles Awareness Day - February 15th - "You can celebrate and enjoy the fact that you are unattached, by spending time in online dating sites, swapping gifts and spending time with other single people", is how they say this holiday should be celebrated.

 And if that isn't depressing enough, they declare this shitty holiday just after Valentines day - on purpose. As far as I'm concerned this holiday would give the suicide hotline a marathon day of work.  And well, making those suicidal calls from work can bring down productivity so - stay home!    

Tell A Fairy Tale Day  February 26th - Most of us spend a good portion of the day doing this anyway. So instead of wasting all those colorful stories on people you will only lie to again tomorrow, take a day off today recoup some karma points.

So there you have it kids! And there are dozens more out there. So have a great New Year. I  would tell you that there will be another entry before 2014 but that would be a fairy tale. And that holiday is two months away. 

Be good and if you can't be good .....then dammit be good at it!



Jun 19, 2013

Can We Talk About The Indians In The Room?


As a handsome young, Indian commuter & I  discussed the severe winters in the NYC Metro area, he said that he considered moving back to the year-round tropical weather of his own country in fifteen years time. "India Tropical?" really?  

 When I told him that I too considered "expat-ing" abroad, in East Africa, perhaps Tanzania, he jumped in excitedly and said, "Really? That's where I am from!" Habari Gani! He then proceeded to talk to me in perfect Swahili.

Miss Tanzania 2007 Richa Adhia -
Her victory ignited an ethnic debate

Many people are aware of how the entrails of colonialism in Africa, left behind large numbers of Germans, Dutch, & French to name a few.  And although many of these groups left en mass, as African countries began gaining their independence; those who remained now consider themselves to be Afrikaners, a separate ethnic group of non-indigenous Africans.   

But by what name do we call the Indians of Africa? How many people know about the Asian population that settled in Africa, beyond South African borders?  Ethnic Indians can be found throughout sub-Saharan Africa by the hundreds of thousands. And their presence however small, is still noteworthy.


Did you know that Tanzania has an Indian Embassy?

But what brought them to Sub-Sahara Africa in the first place? Indentured servitude, the British, and the early scramble for African development play a prominent role. For example, when Britain commissioned the construction for the Kenya-Uganda Railway in 1896, the project brought over 30k Indians to Sub-Saharan African for work over a 30 year period.

However, this doesn't explain why when work related contracts ended, or when dictators, like Idi Amin expelled them after having a dream in which "God told him to do it", (sure blame God) still many of them chose to stay behind. One reason seems to have had much to do with what the British began doing - enterprising


Asian-Africans - Rwanda

During the 1900s' Indians in Kenya held significant economic strength & political positions over indigenous Blacks.  In 1905 a merchant named Alibhai Mulla Jeevanjee, became one of Kenya’s first Indian politicians. He also founded The African Standard - Kenya's first newspaper, which is still in circulation today.  And did you know that by 1948, 183 of Uganda's 195 cotton ginneries were Indian run? Indians also largely controlled the trade in Zanzibar.

Presently, East African countries like Tanzania not only have an Indian embassy but have had former beauty queens of Indian descent.  Zambia Mozambique and Rwanda also have thriving Indian communities. And Zanzibar is the birthplace of Freddie Mercury, of the band Queen

Mombasa a coastal region in Kenya is a popular wedding destination.  

Over the following decades, Indians amassed a comfortable amount of wealth, owning properties establishing businesses and cornering commercial trade markets in countries like Kenya, Tanzania, and Malawi.  "A Bend in the River written by Indian-Trinidadian author, V.S Naipaul, is said to have best described the experience of the Indian population in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Like most Africans, these Southeast Asian descendants speak several languages; English, one or two ancestral Indian languages (i.e. Gujarati) and of course, the national language of the African country they are from (i.e. Swahili).  Historically, Indians have moved throughout the world in search of work, for centuries. They can also be found calling home to a number of Caribbean countries like Trinidad, Guyana, Suriname & Jamaica.

Take a look as writer/director Steve Sander's tells the tale of these trans-continental Indians or "Indian-Africans" in a documentary called African Raga.  And the next time someone of  Indian descent tells you they can't wait to visit home, be sure to ask "where" exactly home is.

May 16, 2013

Cartagena; The Black Colombians Y'all

 Cartagena; Colombia's "African" Coast. 

So, I once saw a Shakira video (you know, her hips don't lie) where she's home, in Colombia doing something charitable. Nothing odd about that.  However, what I did find interesting, was that everyone around her was black.  And I thought, "Is this really Colombia she is in or am I missing something?"  

Was the way 12yr old  Joanna responded when we asked if she can dance Champeta. .  


I hadn't previously planned to visit Colombia, but an airfare deal further stoked my intrigue.  Three days later, the ticket was booked and I began scouring travel websites for information on Cartagena, the coastal region of Colombia. 

And I found plenty.... however many websites kind of failed to mention one very important detail about this coastal city. But the truth was about to hit me harder than a sock full of nickels to the face.

This is on an Island about 20 minutes by row boat off off the mainland.  They call it La Boquillita or "Little Boquilla" is waterlogged throughout most of the island.

Did you know that the population in Cartagena is predominately Black? As well as the cities of  Cali, Baranquilla and Choco.  I'm not going to lie to you folks I arrive in most countries with few expectations - but I honestly was not expecting that. 

Sure I'd heard about the oftentimes unmentioned legions of Afro-Latinos in places like Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, El Salvador, Belize and Nicaragua to name a few.   

But to be in a country, in which the free world rarely focuses on, much less admits to the presence of such a staggeringly large population of African descendants, outside of North America made this trip, by far, one of the most humbling I've taken.

These are the guys at Mt. Totumo (the mud volcano).  They are part of a collective that maintains the grounds and upkeep for the volcano and it's visitors.

In any case, I spent several days touring and learning about the history of Africans in Cartagena.  And perhaps, to overstate the obvious, it was in many aspects, extremely similar to the difficult plight of Africans in America. 

Did you know that more African slaves were brought to South and Latin America than North America? Ten fold. Many coastal cities in these Caribbean countries had ports which were the drop off point for cargo of all kinds including the human kind. 

 La Negra 

A fundamental difference however, is that in many Latin-American countries, including Colombia, colonial governments tried like hell to wipe out any trace of the black population through race mixing. 

And you would believe that it worked, until you are in the middle of a population that looks, well, exactly like yourself .  The failed tactic however, led to the marginalization of an entire population based on the color of their skin, and according to the locals, much of this marginalization still exists today.  

Joanna's little brother (left) and cousin (center). They made their own video after a quick iPhone tutorial.

However this could have also had a huge affect on the way I experienced this beautiful city.  During my visit, I walked the streets daily, of what is regarded as an extremely dangerous city, in the day as well as the evenings .

 In areas like Getsamani, San Diego & Bocagrande, I met people and made connections, never once feeling any of the danger that I was strongly advised of beforehand. 
Cartagenians were friendly, hospitable and generally went about their business. 

Inside the Carneceria (meat market) section of "El Mercado." The atmosphere is lively. This gentleman wanted to know what a local girl was doing with a tour guide? Then he caught on.


Is not only used to describe the woman above, it is also used to describe the language she would speak and the accompanying culture.  It is also thought to be the only Spanish-based creole in Latin America.  The language has strong roots in the Kikongo language spoken in Congo and Angola - both countries of Africa.   

Some scholars believe it may have been the main language of African slaves across Latin America. The lady above may not be an authentic Palenquero but she's reppin' the presence of a disappearing culture.   

This is the only way to La Boquillita - by "Water Taxi".    

Oftentimes I was mistaken for a local girl by tourists and Colombians alike.  But not always..
 "Morena,” they called out. "De donde tu eres? Or ”La negra, que es su pais?" I was shocked because as sure as I had blended in, I very much stood out. And yet I noticed how Cartagenians let their guard down & embraced me.  I used their curiousity as a segue to my own inquiries and also as an opportunity to make new friends!  

In this photo, Henry, Elias and me are travelling by boat through the community to head back to the open water that will  return  us to the mainland.  The only thing that separates these houses from the water is a small bit of elevated ground.

 It was romantic to hear the call of cocks, chirping crickets, barking dogs, and laughing children throughout this slow row. Neighbors call out to you when you pass by offering a friendly "Buenas!"
I was emotionally conflicted, envying the simplicity but not the conditions

El Capitán, Elias

I lounged on the beach at Bocagrande drinking cervezas with local shop owners and their friends while other tourists got haggled by vendors. I ate lunch at the table with the resident families in Boquillita while other tourists isolated themselves in cabanas.
And  I was occasionally asked to take photos with other tourists, who didn't realize that I too was a tourist.

Perhaps I let my guard down too low considering the country's overall reputation.
But I casually disappeared into the ebb and flow of the city without any harm coming to me.
Who knows maybe the combo of common sense, street smarts, and brown skin is what saved my ass!

Anyway why would I hold back? These people were exotic and yet familiar, hospitable and peaceful. Their culture, those colors, the foods many of which were typical island traits.  Within just a few short days, I had gladly assimilated into a culture that seemed so foreign and yet jarringly familiar to me. Who knows, maybe that's the magic of Cartagena!

Have you ever visited a country that was nothing like it's presumed reupation?
...and did anyone believe you??

Apr 8, 2013

Hiking, Snake Charming and Vodka Shots - Spring Has Sprung

Conquering Cold springs - Mt Taurus trail

We ain't `fraid of no mountains!

Don't you just hate those people!? 

You know, the kind that own backpacks and hiking gear, puffy vests and bikes n whatnot? The folks that get a crew of people together and as soon as the weather breaks, they wanna climb mountains and shyte! Puhleeease! You know what I'm talkin about?!

Walking through the quaint village of Cold Springs on out way to the trail head

Well count me as one of THOSE people! Because the onset of warm weather gets into my bones and sets off the Daniel Boone spirit in meh!  So we gathered our crew, some of the finest outdoors men and women of New York city and shot up north to Cold Springs NY to scale the face of Mt. Taurus and Bull Hill.

That there, on four legs is Smity, our resident pitbull watching as we scale the dilapidated stone structures on the trail

I know what some of you  highfalutin folk are thinking "Sounds like a horror movie waiting to happen?!  and "Hell Nah! I don't do woods" and of course "Why that hell would i wanna walk for 4 hours?" Well then, I can truly say that, it sucks to be you! Because you have no idea how much a spring hike with 15  amazing people and one extremely lovable pit bull can be ! 

The mountain is full of copper head snakes but I have no idea which kind this is 

We saw wildlife that came to greet us along the trail. And while many of the ladies took off at speed that Usain Bolt would be envious of,  yours truly picked it up with a branch and then one of my peeps picked it up by the tail. (I'll admit sniffing fresh air for too long can make you do some crazy shyte) 

Shawny leaves the Hudson behind her

We encountered a pond of hundreds of the horniest frogs doing the nasty  - it was a froggy-orgy and they could be heard across the mountian. Somebody commented  that if  you ain't you making noise then you ain't doing it right!  That would make these frogs pros!

It's a froggy affair

The Facts: Mount Taurus is part of the Hudson Highlands State Parks  department.  It's a scenic six mile hike classified as moderate with regards to the difficulty level. The best part? Well not only is Mt Taurus an hour's drive outside the city, but you can also get there on the Metro-North @ Grand central Station, for about $26 round trip.  And Hiking is $free.99! which is always in my budget. That's right folks everything costs less outside of New York City.

I mean you haven't really lived until you've gone hiking for no gotdamn reason!

For those of you who secretly harbor the desire to run about buck wild in the woods or for visitors looking for a little slice of New York's other beautiful parks this is a great day trip.  You can be there by 10:am and back in the city by 6pm.

Follow the link below to get more info as well as a short video of Mt Taurus trail so that you have an idea of what to expect.  http://hikingcampingtrails.com/mt-taurus-and-breakneck-ridge-day-hike/ 
No sweat!

Mt Taurus has an incline of approximately 1400 hundred feet. And the weather was perfect at a balmy 54 degrees. For some of us, it turned into a strip hike as people shaved off layers the further along we got.

We started off  loading up on Gatorade and fruit, trail mix and power bars; a set of walkie-talkies, and a "No- Man-Left-Behind-Attitude.

At the summit of Bull Hill

Once we reached the summit, we ate our lunches, drank coffee and did a few celebratory shots of vodka and rum! All while taking in the amazing view. We headed back down following the trail markers and throwing snowballs, swinging on tree vines and climbing massive trees.   

We spent about one half hour here jumping from structure to structure!

Some of the guys got a little adventurous and the girls eventually followed behind. Less I reminded everyone that I only had three band aids and one alcohol swab.

It was definitely the best Spring hike yet

What about you! Do you have any adventures planned for spring? 

Feb 25, 2013

How to Do Manhattan's Times Square on $35

It has occurred to me that people come to NYC "ballin" on a budget. Don't be ashamed I do it all the time!
And still I manage to have an amazing time. So in honor of all you thrifty travelers, dirty backpackers, and gap year broke college kids, here's a quick "How To"  on doing Manhattan Times Square for about $35 bucks!


Head to Barcelona, a $5 shot bar on 8th and 54 and ask for the knight rider. They will pump the 1980s' theme song while you gulp down your shot. They have over 100 shots to chose from inclding ones where they set the bar on fire - literally.
If you drink 100 shots within one year, you get to create a shot and name it. It's kind of like build-a-bear but with alcohol! don't worry if you're too drunk too remember your name, they keep a running list with your name and your dereliction

$5 each

Pet the pretty horsey of the hottest policemen men in NYC - the mounted squad.  They love taking pics so don't be scurrred! And they are some of the biggest flirts (not the horses)  So ask for a business card and tell them you may need some "saving" later. 


Ditch the corny character drawing and instead, get some face claymation to take home. Who tha fugg wants to carry around a poster of themselves with a warped head? Instead have this guy etch  I Love New York into your face and date stamp it! Throw that ish in your pocket and keep it moving!

No seriously these leg warmers deserve a whole half hour of questions.

Yup those are fox faces on his knees

Casual convo with a real NYer - Ask this guy who makes his leg warmers - he's got about a dozen and matching coats. And he will model them for you, plus give the story on how they came to be! Two words thrift+store.


Character Assault - Run up and randomly punch papa smurf in the nose or solicit Hello Kitty for her kitty - cuz you know it's hard out here for a cartoon pimp.
$1 each

Ditch the dogs - authentic  NYC street meat is a halal truck - gyro and shish kababs get the job done and don't give you diarrhea.

Street meet - head over to the Red Stairs and meet other tourists. Take pics and get authentically elbowed by New York commuters. Because yes, you are always in the fugging way!

So you think you can ride?  well then, grab a bike @  bike rental central park and opt out of riding through Central Park. Instead, hit the streets and see how long it takes before you hit someone or someone hits you.
$12 for 1 hour

Brokeback Sing-a-long - Request a song from this guy then sing along. He won't ask you for money. He just really needs the practice - Pay this guy.

Don't pay this guy!

Support Medical Research - Some people want to travel and see the world, while others are just trying to make it through the damn day. Not an advocate for medical marijuana? No prob there's a guy 3 blocks down that needs money for beer. Cheers!

There you have it kids - the $35 midtown round up. This is your trip and it is what you make of it. You didn't come here to eat McDonald's and get ripped off at the wack wax museum. You came here to do New York -right. Whatever you want to see, smell, or touch is within your reach for less than you think.  Just ask the right people. And if you are not sure who those people are, well then, you've come to the right place.

Is there anything you always dreamed of doing when you come to New York?