Life Under Construction

The World Needs a Little More Freshness

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Just in case you’re wondering what happens when Brazil wins a World Cup game ;)

Brazil: 2 
Colombia: 1

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Not even going to lie- making it to where Snoop and Pharrell shot this video in Santa Teresa, Rio was DoooooooooopE! It’s actually a 250-step staircase called the “Escadaria Selaron” or “Santa Teresa Staircase” with 2000+ tiles that represent the countries and continents of the world and people of the world.

It was started by Chilean-born artist Jorge Selaron, but let’s be REAL, most people just give credit to Snoop. Shizzle.

http://youtu.be/_FE194VN6c4

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Breathtaking.

That’s the only word that I can use to describe the view from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro. Even my most complex, overused, but always handy term, “Fresh,” has no place describing this scenery. I shouldn’t even accompany these photos with words because my words will undoubtedly pale in comparison. You get to the top of Sugarloaf by riding two cable-cars that allow you to see the most amazing skyline the world has to offer. What makes Rio so beautiful, aside from the gorgeous women, crystal clear waters, beach-front hotels, white sand,… (I could go on for days) is its geographical layout. Mountains stand in the middle of the city, while beaches line the perimeter.

One city, right? It’s incredible that one city has this much beauty. These pictures will never do it justice. My sentiments? You got to see it for yourself!

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Romance Novel—-

If for some reason I ever decide to write a romance novel… I think I got my diggs for the cover.

Dooooope shots of Rio from Sugarloaf Mountain in the background.

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Racial Stratification in Brazil?


Brazil might be one of the most, if not the most racially and ethnically diverse countries. Comprised of populations including indigenous people (Brazilian Indians), Portuguese, Dutch, Spanish, Japanese, Koreans, and Africans, the veneer of a successful melting pot looks convincing. But let’s dig a little deeper. In the 1500s, the Portugese “discovered” Brazil and saw its potential, thus capitalizing on it for sugar, tobacco, and other plantation purposes. These colonialists needed more workers because the native people were dying off due to war and disease. So where would they find more capable workers? Boom. Africa.

Slave trade, commence. While most people believe that the majority of enslaved Africans were brought to North America, the underlying reality is that most of the Africans were taken to South America. According to Exploring Africa, Brazil received the largest amount of enslaved Africans and it has the largest number of people of African descent in the Western Hemisphere. And most of these Africans were brought into cities such as Salvador, Santos, and Rio De Janeiro.

Like the US (Lord knows we still have our problems- most recently evidenced by the shootings Mike Brown and Ezell Ford), there are signs in Rio that made me question how stratified the city was and possibly is. I write this as more of a question than a conclusion: If a “melting pot” is heated, does the whole entity liquefy? Or do some of the ingredients combine while others remain solids? As a person of African descent, it’s hard to close my eyes to the evidence. The intersectionality of how race, class, and gender affects upward mobility is no more apparent than in Brazil. Most Americans are aware of our nation’s racist/prejudiced/segregated past, but few of us take the time to consider the larger context of the world and how the strains of colonialism have affected other countries.


For me, this strikes particularly close to home because a large portion of Africans forced into slavery in Brazil were of West African descent, specifically of the Yoruba, Ewe, and Fanti-Ashanti tribes. And on my mom’s side, I’m Fanti. And in certain African tribes, like the Fanti, you adopt your mother’s clan as your own, rather than your father’s.

Post Slavery?

Walking down the streets of Rio, I couldn’t ignore that many of the darker skinned Brazilians (who most likely had stronger roots in Africa/ who resemble me) were typically poorly dressed, working menial jobs, or begging for money. I found myself identifying with these individuals, looking for the semblance of African faces amidst the “racial integration.” Maybe I was caught in my perceptions, but I thought I could feel the looks from the more elitist (Caucasian-looking) Brazilians and I couldn’t help but feel like I didn’t belong. Maybe I was hyper-sensitive in a foreign land, but I couldn’t help but question- Is this what it feels like to be a darker skinned Brazilian?

Despite the mezcla (Spanish for mixture) of ethnicities in Brazil, I found it interesting that the Brazil Institute of Geography and Statics (IGBE) census still uses a system that classifies individuals into five primary ethnic categories based skin color: Brancos (Whites), Pardos (Browns), Pretos (Blacks), Amarelos (Yellow), and Caboclo (Copper Skinned Mestizos- Native and European descent). It was most recently used in Brazil’s 2010 census.

The underlying question is whether or not this classification system has socioeconomic implications for individuals who identify as Brazilian. Are there disproportionate opportunities and resources for Pardos and Pretos? Is there a social hierarchy in mainstream media that favors Brancos and Caboclos? These are questions I can’t help but wonder as I crossed the streets of Rio with an African face and the skin color of my ancestors.

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Mission: Find Adrian Lima

So I’d be lying if I said, I didn’t have an ulterior motive for wanting to come to Brazil. Mission: Find and marry Adriana Lima. 

If you don’t know who my 2nd wife, Adriana Lima, is (Don’t worry Lupita Nyong’o, you’re still first on my list)- SHAME ON YOU. She’s a Victoria’s Secret Model and she’s Brazilian. Enough said, right? (This is not a male-testosterone-lust-driven post… she seems like a nice person too and she has an amazing accent). 

I’ll keep you updated.

Mission: Find Adrian Lima

So I’d be lying if I said, I didn’t have an ulterior motive for wanting to come to Brazil. Mission: Find and marry Adriana Lima.

If you don’t know who my 2nd wife, Adriana Lima, is (Don’t worry Lupita Nyong’o, you’re still first on my list)- SHAME ON YOU. She’s a Victoria’s Secret Model and she’s Brazilian. Enough said, right? (This is not a male-testosterone-lust-driven post… she seems like a nice person too and she has an amazing accent).

I’ll keep you updated.

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Gorgeous Shots of Copacabana Beach

Copacabana Beach in Rio is regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful beaches and here’s why!!

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CHURRASCO!!

At one point in my life, I solemnly affirmed, “Yes, when I get older, I’ll go vegan.” (You know watch the cholesterol/cut down the back fat/ save the baby seals- and all that jazz), but, let’s be real, God gave us cholesterol for a reason, right?? (I’d like to believe God diggs His steak medium-well).

And of course, trying authentic ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT Brazilian Churrasco (a Portugese/Spanish term used to refer to grilled-meat heaven) was a must! Bacon-wrapped fillet mignon, tenderloin steak, chicken breast, and more, more, more, and more!

These are the smiles (minus the non-smiling guy cutting my steak) of non-vegans in an ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT Brazilian Churrasco restaurant. #Winning

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The Reminder

"Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. And as Christ’s soldier, do not let yourself become tied up in the affairs of this life, for when you do, you cannot satisfy the one who has enlisted you in his army." 2 Timothy 2:2-4

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Quick Stop in Texas!

So I had never been to Texas… until NOW. It’s such a blessing to have family and friends in different places. My cousin/brother/friend and cousin/sister/friend (honestly, that’s how close we are—Hallmark moment, I know) picked me up from the Dallas Airport.

Got to connect with the rest of the fam and also check out the Cowboy’s Stadium (Random: But I wonder how many Oreos you could fit in there), grub on some BBQ, and catch some much needed R&R from my red-eye flight. Onward to Sudamerica!

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Why South America? But Isn’t It Dangerous??

Possibly in some places, but so is Dunkin Donuts- yet you still travel there… (yes, cream-filled donuts should be illegal). 

Why South America? Three years ago, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Madrid, Spain (feel free to scroll through previous blog posts- you’ll get there eventually) and I became aware of Spain as a colonial power. Spain had a powerful influence in Central and South America- linguistically, religiously, socially and culturally. So the questions began to simmer: How did Spanish influence and the formation of Mestizos affect native populations? Where would there be the highest concentration of people of African descent and was racial discrimination as prevalent as in the States? What kind of food could I get my paws on and would there be paella???

I became good friends with the dooopest Canadian cat I know (literally the only Canadian I know… they’re supposedly really good people)- Mr. Fayyaz Samji, while at Universidad Antonio de Nebrija in Madrid. We took trips to Portugal, Morocco, and Germany, both eager to improve our Spanish, but also explore beyond. Thankfully, he was also questioning just how far the paella influence had reached. We made a gameplan (it was actually more of me pressuring Fayyaz) to explore South America during the 2014 World Cup. 

Along the way there were challenges- health setbacks, financial issues, uncertainty, but the desire never died. We took a leap of faith back in December 2013 and bought our tickets unsure how to budget, how much time, if we’d be able to get tickets to the World Cup, and just how much South America might open our eyes.

Why South America? But Isn’t It Dangerous??

Possibly in some places, but so is Dunkin Donuts- yet you still travel there… (yes, cream-filled donuts should be illegal).

Why South America? Three years ago, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Madrid, Spain (feel free to scroll through previous blog posts- you’ll get there eventually) and I became aware of Spain as a colonial power. Spain had a powerful influence in Central and South America- linguistically, religiously, socially and culturally. So the questions began to simmer: How did Spanish influence and the formation of Mestizos affect native populations? Where would there be the highest concentration of people of African descent and was racial discrimination as prevalent as in the States? What kind of food could I get my paws on and would there be paella???

I became good friends with the dooopest Canadian cat I know (literally the only Canadian I know… they’re supposedly really good people)- Mr. Fayyaz Samji, while at Universidad Antonio de Nebrija in Madrid. We took trips to Portugal, Morocco, and Germany, both eager to improve our Spanish, but also explore beyond. Thankfully, he was also questioning just how far the paella influence had reached. We made a gameplan (it was actually more of me pressuring Fayyaz) to explore South America during the 2014 World Cup.

Along the way there were challenges- health setbacks, financial issues, uncertainty, but the desire never died. We took a leap of faith back in December 2013 and bought our tickets unsure how to budget, how much time, if we’d be able to get tickets to the World Cup, and just how much South America might open our eyes.

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The Essence of Travel: 3 Reasons to Join the Brigade

I’m an addict- one of those hardcore junkies who just can’t kick the habit. Strung out, half-delusional and eager for that next fix, I’m coming to you as an open book. Maybe it’s time I sought help, but somewhere between curiosity and overdose, I’d like to think sharing my journey with you is my therapy (minus the Coldplay music and stress balls). 

You see, I’m the byproduct of two world-class travelers who made the trek from Ghana to the US by way of Germany, England, Scotland, Italy, and other countries included on that “where’s where” list. 

My mom started us young. I’m not sure what kind of pre-Dr. Phil, child-psychology manual convinced her that taking a 1 year-old, just shy of his 2nd birthday on an international flight was a rational idea, but hopefully it was worth the Barnes and Nobles gift card (You’ll get used to my run-on sentences). At the time, Jay Leno was on the brink of replacing Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, Boris Yeltsin had just been elected President of the USSR, and my favorite expletive at the time (“shutup”) was being fired off extensively at my aunt in Ghana.   

Flash-forward 23 years and that seed that was planted and watered with international trips every 2 to 3 years has developed into an internal curiosity about the cultural dynamics of the world at large. 

Why should you be curious and why should you join the travel brigade? 
1.	Design Your Lifestyle: Whether or not you think about it, you have a lifestyle pattern. You get coffee from that bungalow-spot on Silverlake Blvd every morning. You take the streets because it’s supposedly more scenic. You get your haircut from the same stylist that you’ve had since before you had hair. 

Traveling allows us to break free from the chains that bind us to familiarity/stagnancy. We change. And those internal changes manifest into developing new lifestyle patterns. 
2.	Explore Beyond the Scope of Media: The great thing about the 21st century (…besides Subway cookies accompanying every footlong)? Media. The bad thing about the 21st century (…besides Subway cookies accompanying every footlong)? Media. 

Media has an agenda whether it’s intentional or not. TV shows, movies, online periodicals, books, magazines- these sources inform how we view people, cultures, and places we’ve  never met, seen or been. Without even having traveled to Mexico- “drug cartel” and “immigration” are the primary headlines that I think of. Ethiopia? The static image of flies swarming around a “Feed the Children” baby. Australia? Sun, surf, and kangaroos. 

Traveling allows us to step out of the mind-control that mainstream media can often initiate and shape our own perceptions. 

3.	Fuels Your Purpose: When we travel, we consciously and subconsciously search for ties that unite us and the things that make us aware that the world is an imperfect place. A doctor or future doctor might travel, curiously examining the healthcare system in a developing nation. A designer or future designer might be inspired by the textures, patterns, and colors that could be better marketed. 

As an actor, I know that traveling and experiencing is essential to filling the inner-well that I draw from, deepening the source from which I create. As a writer, I can’t but help but question how media portrayals help or hurt self-perceptions. 


10 Travel Tips (that I’m still learning):
1.	Start Small- You don’t have to travel to a new continent to have a new experience. Weekend trips to nearby cities are a great start. 
2.	Learn to Laugh at the Things that Make You Want to Cry- Not everything is going to go according to your plan. 
3.	Always Keep a Spare Toothbrush and Some Toothpaste
4.	Check the Weather Before You Leave
5.	Pay Your Bills Before You Leave (Still hurting from this one)
6.	A Smile Goes A Long Way
7.	Try the Dish that Makes You Want to Cringe- you might just like fried octopus legs with ceviche and pico de gallo. 
8.	Keep a Journal and share your journey- your experiences don’t just belong to you
9.	Purchase Medical Insurance for International Trips
10.	Your Mosquito Spray May or May Not Work Inversely

The Essence of Travel: 3 Reasons to Join the Brigade

I’m an addict- one of those hardcore junkies who just can’t kick the habit. Strung out, half-delusional and eager for that next fix, I’m coming to you as an open book. Maybe it’s time I sought help, but somewhere between curiosity and overdose, I’d like to think sharing my journey with you is my therapy (minus the Coldplay music and stress balls).

You see, I’m the byproduct of two world-class travelers who made the trek from Ghana to the US by way of Germany, England, Scotland, Italy, and other countries included on that “where’s where” list.

My mom started us young. I’m not sure what kind of pre-Dr. Phil, child-psychology manual convinced her that taking a 1 year-old, just shy of his 2nd birthday on an international flight was a rational idea, but hopefully it was worth the Barnes and Nobles gift card (You’ll get used to my run-on sentences). At the time, Jay Leno was on the brink of replacing Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, Boris Yeltsin had just been elected President of the USSR, and my favorite expletive at the time (“shutup”) was being fired off extensively at my aunt in Ghana.

Flash-forward 23 years and that seed that was planted and watered with international trips every 2 to 3 years has developed into an internal curiosity about the cultural dynamics of the world at large.

Why should you be curious and why should you join the travel brigade?

1. Design Your Lifestyle:
Whether or not you think about it, you have a lifestyle pattern. You get coffee from that bungalow-spot on Silverlake Blvd every morning. You take the streets because it’s supposedly more scenic. You get your haircut from the same stylist that you’ve had since before you had hair.

Traveling allows us to break free from the chains that bind us to familiarity/stagnancy. We change. And those internal changes manifest into developing new lifestyle patterns.

2. Explore Beyond the Scope of Media:
The great thing about the 21st century (…besides Subway cookies accompanying every footlong)? Media. The bad thing about the 21st century (…besides Subway cookies accompanying every footlong)? Media.

Media has an agenda whether it’s intentional or not. TV shows, movies, online periodicals, books, magazines- these sources inform how we view people, cultures, and places we’ve never met, seen or been. Without even having traveled to Mexico- “drug cartel” and “immigration” are the primary headlines that I think of. Ethiopia? The static image of flies swarming around a “Feed the Children” baby. Australia? Sun, surf, and kangaroos.

Traveling allows us to step out of the mind-control that mainstream media can often initiate and shape our own perceptions.

3. Fuels Your Purpose: When we travel, we consciously and subconsciously search for ties that unite us and the things that make us aware that the world is an imperfect place. A doctor or future doctor might travel, curiously examining the healthcare system in a developing nation. A designer or future designer might be inspired by the textures, patterns, and colors that could be better marketed.

As an actor, I know that traveling and experiencing is essential to filling the inner-well that I draw from, deepening the source from which I create. As a writer, I can’t but help but question how media portrayals help or hurt self-perceptions.


10 Travel Tips (that I’m still learning):

1. Start Small- You don’t have to travel to a new continent to have a new experience. Weekend trips to nearby cities are a great start.
2. Learn to Laugh at the Things that Make You Want to Cry- Not everything is going to go according to your plan.
3. Always Keep a Spare Toothbrush and Some Toothpaste
4. Check the Weather Before You Leave
5. Pay Your Bills Before You Leave (Still hurting from this one)
6. A Smile Goes A Long Way
7. Try the Dish that Makes You Want to Cringe- you might just like fried octopus legs with ceviche and pico de gallo.
8. Keep a Journal and share your journey- your experiences don’t just belong to you
9. Purchase Medical Insurance for International Trips
10. Your Mosquito Spray May or May Not Work Inversely

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"Think about it- when you’re in the process of building your lego creation, you pull from the clutter. You search through the chaos and you take what you need from it to build a better structure, one that is fashioned and formed purposefully." 

If you questioned the trajectory of your life in 2013, this post is for you. Click the link in my profile or visit beingencouraged.com to read the rest of this post :) @BeingEncouraged

"Think about it- when you’re in the process of building your lego creation, you pull from the clutter. You search through the chaos and you take what you need from it to build a better structure, one that is fashioned and formed purposefully."

If you questioned the trajectory of your life in 2013, this post is for you. Click the link in my profile or visit beingencouraged.com to read the rest of this post :) @BeingEncouraged