Back at it again: Themes and musings for a happy 2014

•January 11, 2014 • 1 Comment

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2014 is here!!!

It has been way too long since I wrote a blog.  So much has happened and I often leave the blogging as the last thing on my “To Do” list.  The worst part about it not being a priority is that a day or two easily becomes 3 months.  In the interest of new beginnings and transitions, I am once again deciding to give blogging a go.  I realized that part of getting this blog thang happening is putting a structure in place to do it.  With that in mind, this post will be all about my plans for 2014.

For the past couple of years, I have used a theme and Happy Black Woman’s 31 Day Reset to turn my life right side up!!  Since, I started to add structure to the framework for achieving the realistic goals I set for myself, I have really been able to change my stank eye ratio from 80 percent stank eye/20 percent not to 50 percent stank eye/50 percent not.  Believe me this is a great improvement.   And with that in mind, I give you my theme for 2014. 

FINDING MY VOICE! 

Now, for those of you that know me, this may seem kind of odd.  However, once I explain it in detail I think it will make a bit more sense.  My theme is in 2 parts.  The first part is around financial fitness/wellness/literacy.  Finding my financial voice means that I will spend this year with my new boo.  Who is my new boo?  My budget, checking account, savings account, home savings account and anything else that has to do with money or financial fitness.  I need and want to find balance in this area of my life.  The only way for me to do that is to become comfortable with money.  I need to be comfortable with talking about it, reading about it, saving it and sometimes not feeling like I need it.   I have a short list of goals like finally taking advantage of those free financial planning services that I have through my 403(b), taking a first time home buying course to see if my dream brownstone is actually possible without a sponsor and will play a lovely little game where I actually save the money that is in my savings account.   Of course, this didn’t happen over night.  It took some time for me to get my spending under control, cut down my debt (a little bit) and realize that I didn’t have to suffer to get control over my finances.  I am still not perfect but I am on my way to being balanced.  I am pretty excited about it. 

The second part of my theme is finding my voice through written and oral communication.  Of course, we all put on our resumes that we have excellent written and oral communication skills.  I believe that is true for some of us.  However most of us could use a bit of practice.  So that is what I plan to do.  I am excited to take on new writing assignments at work and have started a writing circle/group with a wonderful friend where we carve out at least 2 hours once a month to work on writing.  We are going to have a grammar lesson and time to just put it all out there on the virtual or real paper.  This group takes me back to my favorite course in the 5th and 6th grade when I had a teacher that required me to write whatever I wanted for at least an hour per day.  I may not have been the best writer but I was confident and engaged.  My mind went places and I need to find that place again.  The place where my skills and confidence meet to form something.  It may not be perfect but it is something that I am proud of.  In fact, this blog is my first step in that structure.  My hope is that I get at least 12 posts for the year.  

 So dear friends.  Yes, all 12 of you that read this blog.  What is your theme for 2014?  I cant wait to hear from you and look forward to the journey that is before us.  Just think, the Traveling Womanists doesn’t just have to go to a place far far away.  This Traveling Womanists is on multiple journeys.  This one just happens to be to a location that you cant find on a map. 

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Guest Blog: The truth about consulates: Preparing for my big journey to South Africa

•January 8, 2014 • Leave a Comment

The trip to the South African Consulate.  Deep Sigh.

My friends and colleagues have been encouraging me to visit the Consulate for months.

 One said, just visit and get on their radar.

 Get on their radar?  What does that mean? But after receiving this recommendation for the third time,  I finally took the trip, during a snow storm, all the way from my Brooklyn home to E. 33rd and 3rd Ave in Manhattan.  Waiting for me behind the glass window was a 75 plus, year old woman.  I stepped up and here’s how the conversation went:

Me:  Hi, I’m here to speak with someone about a work visa.

Consulate Representative (CR):  It’s all on the website.

Me:  Oh yes, I looked at the website and that’s why I’m here.  I have questions about work visas.

CR:  It’s all on the website.

Me:  Yes, I reviewed the website and I have questions.  I want to know what my options are for obtaining a work visa.

CR:   That’s between you and the employer.

Me:  Well, I don’t have an employer.  Is it possible to get a visa without a job?

CR:  Your employer helps you get a visa.

Me:  Oh so, when I get a job offer the job helps me get a visa?

CR:  No you get a visa.

Me:  Oh, ok. What are my visa options?  What do I need?

CR:  That’s all on the website.

Me:  Well since I’m here can you give me an application so I can review it and get some clarification while I’m here?

CR:  The application is on the website.

Me:  (My voice gets louder with annoyance) Yes, I know, but can’t I get a paper    application here?

 

She gives it to me.  I look it over.

 

Me:  I have questions.  Is there anyone I can talk to here?

CR:  No.

Me:  So while I’m completing this application, if I run into trouble there’s no

one I can talk to? No one eight-hundred number to call?

CR:  No.

Me:  Well what’s the difference between the General Work Permit, Exceptional Skills Permit, and the Quota Work Permit?

CR:  It’s all on the paper.

Me:  But I have questions.

She looks at me.  Finally after 20 minutes of this back-and-forth, another woman finally gets up from her desk and says, I can answer your questions.  I thought to myself, “you heard all of this and you are just now stepping up?”  We stepped over to another window and I proceeded to go through the checklist of each type of visa.  As I thought there were a number of criteria in which I needed clarification.  She answered the questions and then the BOMB SHELL…

you have to come back to your country of origin to obtain a visa.

 Me:  Wait!  If I go to South Africa and get offered a job, I can’t apply for a visa there?

CR 2:  No you have to come back here.

Me:  And how long does it take to get a visa?

CR 2:  4 weeks.

Me:  And there’s no office in Johannesburg at all where I can apply for a visa?

CR 2:  No.

So what’s the lesson folks?  Due diligence.

I feel in my heart that this trip is destined.  I am meant to explore the world at this time.  I can’t begin to tell you the signs I have and continue to receive about South Africa.  From car songs to random emails about South African speakers in New York to discovering a pin of the South African flag in my mom’s dresser.  Even my dirt cheap airline ticket was a sign.  Although, I know this is exactly what/where I am supposed to be doing at this very moment, one still has to be completely informed.  If I want to relocate to another country, it would be nice to know all of the regulations regarding immigration, visas, and permits.  Silly of me to think I could simply go to a country and get a work visa there.

Huh!

So, now my focus during this trip is to proceed with in-person interviews, establishing contacts, and building networks.  I will then return in March, once my 90-day visit expires, and obtain a work visa:  General Work Permit, Exceptional Skills Permit, or Quota Work Permit. 

My next questions:  Can I apply for all three at one time?  If I get denied one kind, can I apply for another? Sigh…

Am I Ready to leave? South Africa or Bust.

•December 31, 2013 • 1 Comment

Hello everyone. We are sharing the journey of Ms. Bianca Mońa in a three part series, as she prepares to leave for South Africa. Please feel free to share comments and let us know when you might have felt this way, before your trip.

Highs and lows. My highs are having people that remind me of all of things I need to do.

They give suggestions and ignite ideas and generally focus me. These people make sure I

have complete to-do lists and remind me, sometimes gentle and sometimes forcefully, to

complete the tasks. These friends offer to help me pack and purge. These friends offer

space in their storage units and rent zipcar to make sure we can safely travel there in the

snow storm. And most importantly these friends send affirmations through a myriad of

tactics including prayers and pep-talks. For all of this I am grateful and humbled.

 

Last week, I had my greatest high. No, not a job offer. No envelopes of cash. But a good

hardy cry. It was in a public space in front of plenty of people, but there before I knew

it I was crying. Gushing, really. And it felt soooo good. It was the release I needed to

relax, to find calmness, and find honesty. The tears were a release to admit that I am

scared and elated. Nervous and fearless. Worried and careful. Sometimes experiencing

all of these emotions at the same time. But tears are healing and I have been on a high

knowing that everything is perfect and complete and will unfold magically as needed.

 

The Lows. The same ole, same ole. Money and doubt. But this is the fullness of life.

One can not completely appreciate the good if not for the bad. And how does one grow

if not faced with barriers or hurdles? These lows aid in building character. Right? Well

that’s what they tell me.

 

Bianca Mońa is an arts administrator, curator, educator, advocate, and artist. She was a consultant for the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (Manhattan), the Sauti Yetu Center for African Women (Bronx), and gallery manager for City Without Walls (Newark, New Jersey). Most recently, she served in the education department at the Studio Museum in Harlem while founding the Newark Black Artists Oral History Project. Her artwork has been featured in the Gallery Aferro and Bushwick Open Studios. She holds a bachelor’s degree in arts administration from Dillard University (New Orleans), and two master’s degrees (art education and interdisciplinary studies) from San Jose State University and Teachers College, Columbia University.  Ms. Mońa is currently embarking on her next adventure,  relocating to South Africa.

South Africa or Bust

•December 26, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Hello Readers! Happy Holidays! We realize that we have not posted in a minute. We have a special two part post that we wanted to share with you all from Ms. Bianca Mona. At the end of the year, she is embarking on a new chapter in her life and wanted to share with us. Please enjoy and feel free to share. 

I get asked almost everyday, “Oh, you must be excited?!?!?” My response. NO. This relocation, or glorified adventure trip as some like to call it, has actively been in the works for six months. Six months of plotting, planning, and praying. Six months of research and network expanding. Six months of doubt, fear, and anxiety. And now with less than a week to go until I move to South Africa, excitement has yet to show up. Instead, anxiety has become from friend. A close buddy. A steady companion. And she manifest in many ways. First it started with sleepless nights. For months I got subpar sleep, often having to take naps during the day. Crankiness is the other side effect of international relocation. I haven’t been pleasant, smiley face Bianca since June. I’m irritated and annoyed by most people and situations and thus spend many a day at home, preparing… reading… thinking… all about South Africa. The other quite alarming physical and sometimes paralyzing effect of anxiety is the heart palpitations. I can be sitting on the couch, sipping on tea, watching one of the myriad of talk shows and out of the blue my heart starts pounding in my ear. My heart pounds so loudly that I can physically feel and see the elevation of my chest. The pounding increases until it drowns out the sound of the talk show guests. When this first started happening, I was scared. I thought I was having a heart attack. But now, I’m so accustomed to it so that when it comes I now use it as a moment of clarify. A moment to breathe deeply, focus my thoughts, and connect with the universe. I use it as moment to be grateful and acknowledge all of the focuses working for my greater good. And I move forward knowing that it temporary.

So you must be asking, with all of these physical barriers why do I want to move to Johannesburg? It simply. Just because I do. Just because I can. And honestly, why not? I’m 33, smart, single, child and mortgage free and I want to leave in Africa. And so I will. A more complex answer to that question is, to embrace and strategically deal with fear. Fear has held me back for years and I’m over it. I want to move forward and accomplish goals and most importantly, live a robust life. Fear and anxiety are neutral emotions, neither good nor bad, but rather attachments to life’s ups and downs. So for me this is as good of a time as any to learn to deal with it. To neutralize it. And hopefully to conquer it. I chose to face this fear with courage. Courage to curate the life I want. Courage to be me. And the courage to, as my personal God Maya Angelou says, “Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it!”

I am emotionally, spiritually, and physically preparing so excitement will come. When it does, I will embrace it.

 

Bianca Mońa is an arts administrator, curator, educator, advocate, and artist. She was a consultant for the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (Manhattan), the Sauti Yetu Center for African Women (Bronx), and gallery manager for City Without Walls (Newark, New Jersey). Most recently, she served in the education department at the Studio Museum in Harlem while founding the Newark Black Artists Oral History Project. Her artwork has been featured in the Gallery Aferro and Bushwick Open Studios. She holds a bachelor’s degree in arts administration from Dillard University (New Orleans), and two master’s degrees (art education and interdisciplinary studies) from San Jose State University and Teachers College, Columbia University.  Ms. Mońa is currently embarking on her next adventure,  relocating to South Africa.

Maine in Sight

•August 20, 2013 • 1 Comment

Maine, has so much to offer the person that enjoys being outdoors. I spent the majority of time in and around Acadia National Park and today I wanted to share with you a little bit of eye candy! Over the last few days, being outside the wealth of Maine has to be its natural landscape. I do not know the future, but I do hope that I get to return again and again to this magical place.

PLease enjoy and I can’t wait to share more about Maine this week!  I hope that these pictures are making you put Maine on your vacation list!

 

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I am obsessed with fungi!

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Just another beauty at Acadia National Park.

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One of the many views at Eagle Lake.

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One of my favorite places at Acadia National Park, Eagle Lake.

 

 

 

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The “little” Lighthouse, found on our way home.

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My partner, the “birder”.

 

 

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The fungi of Acadia.

 

 

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I thought about snakes shedding their skin. Maybe, it is also time for me to shed some skin?

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More fungi, please!

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How often do you see fungi getting eaten?

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Cadillac Mountain at Sunset

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Two in One!

Maine is Wicked Awesome!

•August 19, 2013 • 1 Comment

The vacation jar filled up and our stress levels were too high, it just seemed like a great time to get away from New York City. I love the City, but the tension (stress) that I carry in my shoulders is one of the things that I accept about this place. The idea of vacation and relaxing were welcome, I realized that I had not been one vacation in about a year. Maine was decided upon and being outside, around Acadia National Park,  was a central theme to my time in Maine. This whole week, I will be sharing what to do, eat, how dog friendly Maine was and the lessons that I learned when I took time to enjoy the larger things around me.

I did not realize that I needed a vacation until the stress melted away after my first night sleeping in a tent. Acadia National Park, offers two campgrounds that are outside of the park. Since Blackwoods were completely booked, the Seawall was our second choice. We happened to get the last campsite for the night at Seawall and met great people during our stay in the campground. I highly recommend the Seawall, the only downside, is if you want to be closer to Bar Harbor, try to get to Blackwoods.

Lesson 1: I am crazy for not taking a vacation earlier. I live in one of the most stressful cities in the world. Skyscrapers and buildings are beautiful, I do love urban living. Yet, country living filled with stars, sunlight and fresh air are exactly what I need to disconnect.

 

Eagle Lake. I wish this was just a few minutes away.

Eagle Lake. I wish this was just a few minutes away.

Lesson 2: The colors of Maine are amazing! The colors that you see in Acadia National Park and on the Mount Desert Island comfort and excite you. They make you realize that only Mother Nature, could have produced these rich tones. These colors never get old.

 

The rocks alongs the Eagle Trail.

The rocks alongs the Eagle Trail.

 

 

Lesson 3: Lobster, shmobster…I’m just not that into the lobster roll. I definitely don’t think I am a fan of the “naked lobster roll”. In Maine, the lobster is uber fresh, but I just did not appreciate the lack of sauce. I did find out, that I love haddock.  I think the best haddock sandwich that I had in the area, was served at Maine-ly Delights!  The haddock fillet was thick, seasoned and fresh. The view was filled with water, boats, and a bald eagle happened to fly by during our meal.

I'm just not that into you lobster.

I’m just not that into you lobster.

 

Haddock, I really like you!

Haddock, I really like you!

 

This week, all things Maine! Come back to get more information on Bar Harbor and why you can actually bring your dog along with you for the ride. Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Immigrants New Home

•August 2, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I realized the blogging has become a bit more difficult, in between all the password resets and just making time to share with you all, I got “busy”. I really have wanted to share and this morning, I told myself it was time. Yesterday, on my way to my parents home, I bumped into a Haitian woman, who inspired this poem. I thought about her the entire day and I started to reflect on the immigrant experience. I went into my parents garage and found a Kodak Carousel Projector.  I could not believe that it was still working!  The pictures of my family in Haiti and America, during  the 1970s and 80s, their first ten years in America was incredible. I didn’t have time to look through all the slides, but my father told me to take it before someone “accidentally throws it out as junk”. I thought about the woman, that I bumped into that was not yet comfortable with her new home and I wrote this.

Bonjou!‘ Good Morning.

She was lost.                                                                                                                                             The abandoned gray and brick warehouses littered with dog shit , weeds, and hipsters passing by were the streets she was used to walking

Her face was one of my parents homeland.

Bonjou!

Her ears perked, slight goosebumps raised, her body stood still

“Bless you my child, God will take care of you!”

She longed for more words of Kreyol to be exchanged

I longed to  talk for hours and take her to my parents home

She longed for her homeland

I longed for my parents homeland

She longed for mornings where she spoke to others with ease

I longed for mornings filled with coffee, kassav and talks filled with analysis of last night dreams

It was summer and she still believed New York would always be cold

I carried my sweater everywhere because in AC land it was always colder than necessary

In an instant she alone again in her new home, America but longed for her real home.

 
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