Remembrances: Your first time traveling abroad

The joys of traveling abroad on your own.

You find yourself alone on an international flight to Spain with a small traveler's guide you reluctantly bought at a Barnes & Noble. The pamphlet prepared you for basic cultural shocks like talking quietly, respecting historical churches by wearing shirts that cover your shoulders, and traveling in large groups to avoid harassment or incidents of theft. The reality is that when you arrive, you will be a stranger, a small dot of human matter now responsible for navigating yourself in a foreign culture, butchering the local language to an extent of embarrassment—thank goodness for being a stranger. Later, your friend arrives and you meet her at the airport.

Valencia, Spain

There is something oddly satisfying about being anonymous in a foreign country, sitting down to drink your first glass of Spanish wine, people watching the locals who are kind and gregarious. You repeatedly mumble "vale" and "gracias" to achieve a semblance of respect for the language and people around you, and they will appreciate that you tried. Bemused, you find yourself gravitating into stores, food markets, and candle shops just to smell and touch things, just to hear Spaniards buy their weekly share of meat and produce. You're warmed and elated by the children coming from their afternoon classes in their school uniforms, Spanish boys and girls running into ice cream shops as their parents walk behind. Normal people doing normal things will excite you as if you're a child on Christmas Eve, desperately waiting for the clock to strike 12:00 a.m..

Valencia, Spain

Waking up in a new Airbnb every morning, scheduling the next house you'll crash at while drinking espressos and smoking on a patio corner. Small things are delicate intimacies like seeing geckos on the sidewalk and recognizing florals and pastels worn by women around your age. You spend hours in a lingerie store with the softest lace and silk prints you've felt, secretly googling conversion charts for European sizes.

Valencia, Spain

You travel to Barcelona, the NYC of Spain, its cobblestone streets and wooden doors so intricate you think you're on a staged Hollywood set; every building standing like a poem as young men and women around you kiss, laugh, and eat. It will take a few days before you realize that lunch isn't at one or two, not even three. Meals are later in the evening, closer to night when the streets are filled with young women and men in large groups going off to dance and drink while you transfer more money into your checking account.

Sagrada Família in Barcelona, Spain

One night you enjoy seafood paella with tapas and sangria, another, black truffle pasta with red wine, and gelato for dessert. You run into a group of American students and share a round of beers, laughing about cultural nuances and the absence of tap water at bars and restaurants.

Barcelona, Spain

You and your traveling companion will bicker, exhausted and scared that you're both missing out on experiences and sights you're not privy to, stumbling upon a Flamenco show in the city. You buy your tickets last minute and end up in the very back. At the last moment, a host comes to your table offering to move you to the very front of the stage. A woman begins passionately tap dancing, elevating her arms like a ballerina, her body enacting the Spanish guitars and drums, her face solemn and beautiful as you sit mesmerized. Each dancer commands the floor, a new body, a new story, a new journey you're allowed to witness—"Olé!", the performers shout. You see a mixture of ballet, belly dancing, tap dancing, and flow art—you're seduced. Flamenco capturers the spirit of Spain—everything has led up to this performance. You spend the rest of the night recounting the wonders of Flamenco, its rich history in Spain, and its recent UNESCO recognition.

Flamenco in Barcelona, Spain

You send your friend off, and soon you get down to your last few days. You spend one night roaming the streets of Valencia, taking pictures of parks, doors, churches, cobblestone, and architectural embellishments you'll never see in the States. When the morning comes, your bags packed and souvenirs stuffed at the top of your luggage, it feels as though you need just one more week to metabolize Valencia and Barcelona. You reluctantly head to the airport stomaching the reality that you won't be able to return for some time, leaving as a lovestruck stranger. On your flight back to the States you watch a documentary about Federico García Lorca, followed by Carlos Saura's "Flamenco, Flamenco," (2010) followed by microwaved pasta and refreshments. A group of American high-schoolers behind you scream they're so happy to be in America again; one of them chanting "USA! USA!" You roll your eyes and think about ways to save for your next adventure, glad to be a stranger with a passport and the beginning of many stamps.

Valencia, Spain

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I don't know about you guys, but working from home has taken a serious toll on me. It started off really well. I was sticking to my usual routine as much as possible, but I've been slowly becoming less and less productive.

I noticed my sleep schedule had completely changed. I was rolling out of bed a few minutes before I was due to start work, and sometimes even working from my bed. I ate lunch at the desk and worked straight through my scheduled breaks. I was sleepier throughout the day, unable to focus as much, and just feeling less motivated overall.

So I looked into what I could do that would help me out of my slump. I tried a few things. Some were so simple I never thought they'd make much of a difference, and some I wouldn't have thought of at all, but now I'm back feeling more productive than ever.

Here are my three tips for working from home:

1. Get up early

Yes, it seems so simple. But it's super important to stick to a normal routine if you can. Not only do I get up early, but I shower every morning and cook myself a nutritious breakfast before I start work. This definitely helped me feel more energized and motivated throughout the day.

2. Have a designated workspace

This is important because it separates your work from your home. Our homes are associated with relaxing, so designating a space that will be used only for work will help you concentrate on work while you're in that space. I also found that doing this helped me actually take appropriate breaks. When I left the space I was in relax mode, and once I came back, I was ready to work again.

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The elixirs are powders that you can mix into any beverage. The Prima Trifecta has a few samples of all three. The Brain Fuel elixir is to be taken in the morning, so I mixed it into my coffee, and I was awake and alert and able to throw myself into my working day.

Their Go-To elixir should be taken around noon. My daily midday productivity crash had gotten so much worse while working at home, but taking this elixir helped keep me sharp through the remainder of my work day.

The Rest Easy elixir is taken at night to help you get a good sleep. Since I started taking this my sleep schedule has greatly improved. It was so much easier to get up early again. It left me feeling well rested and ready to start my day.

I never realized how much simple things, like setting out a specific workspace, and getting up early would help me escape my unproductive rut. I wasn't expecting Prima's CBD supplements to help as much as they did, but they definitely had the biggest impact for me.

After trying the Prima Trifecta, I ended up buying the full size of all three elixirs. If you're having problems with sleep, focus, and productivity like I was, I'd recommend ordering the Prima Trifecta.

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Everyone knows that working out in ratty clothing isn't very motivating.

Studies have shown that the right workout gear drastically determines how hard we push ourselves on cardio or at the gym. But high-end fashion clothes are never high on our shopping list, and a well-fitted pair of spandex can run up a hefty price tag. But as quarantine has forced us all to reevaluate our workout routine, workout clothes matter now more than ever.

But instead of blowing the big bucks on white-owned brands like Under Armour, we should use this time as an opportunity–while BLM protests happen across the country–to put our money towards black businesses as much as we can. This, of course, includes workout clothes. So here are some reliable Black-owned brands that are high quality and won't break your bank.

Yema

Yema

Founded in 2016, Yema Khalif and his wife, Hawi Awash, opened this fitness brand to help educate and feed the latter's home country of Ethiopia. All proceeds go towards helping to educate and feed at risk children in Ethiopia, and their fitness offerings are all beautiful and hand-made.

Culture Fit​

Culture Fit

Designed specifically for black women, Culture Fit's sleek design and well-ventilated workout gear is worth the money. Designed by women of color, each matching pair of active wear also can include a matching yoga mat, so you can really be looking your best when you hit your zoom yoga class!

Vero Mastodon

vero mastodon

Made popular by men and women who served in the military, Vero Mastodon offers breathable, flexible fitness clothes for all the heavy lifters out there. Their exclusive app also offers training programs by certified trainers and power lifters to help you get shredded and transformed.

Pru Apparel

Pru Apparel

Focused on its message of community and pride, Pru Apparel is for every type of woman. Inspired by Africa's culture and rich history, the breathable clothing sets feature Kente cloth and come in a wide array of sizes. Not to mention, the prints are super trendy.

Glamourina​​

GlMOURINA

This gorgeous activewear was born for the culturally conscious. Made for women of all skin tones and shapes, the workout gear was designed for the sole purpose of empowering and motivating. Their high-waisted spandex and quality mesh provide a collection of breathable fabrics that move however you do.

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Inside Chaz, Seattle’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone

After nine days of standoffs between Seattle Black Lives Matter protesters and the police, at last the cops ceded the area to the revolution.

What is Chaz? Depends on who you ask.

Technically Chaz is the "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone," an area of Seattle that has become a quasi-experiment in what a completely police-free state might look like. After nine days of standoffs between Seattle Black Lives Matter protesters and the police, at last the cops ceded the area to the revolution.


"On an almost nightly basis, the SPD has indiscriminately used excessive force against protesters, legal observers, journalists, and medical personnel," read an ACLU lawsuit that played a role in finally pushing the police out of the precinct, opening space for a new experiment in government (or a lack thereof).

Now Chaz is the subject of ire, suspicion, rage, and hope. Its origins happened rapidly. After the police ceded the area, protestors set up boundaries and barricades to create a protected zone of about six square blocks.

Currently the area sounds like a utopian dreamscape, a commune slash co-op that comes complete with film screenings, free food, and a growing People's Garden. There's a medical tent and a makeshift Mutual Aid library. There's a medic station, a "No Cop Co-op" where people can get free supplies, a shrine made up of candles, flowers, and pictures of George Floyd and the countless others who have been killed by police. Protestors have screened films including 13th and Paris Is Burning. Murals and paintings fill the street.



What Is Chaz: A Block Party, an Antifa Hub, or a Revolution Waystation?

Conservatives, of course, are absolutely losing it. Trump described the protestors as "Domestic Terrorists" who "have taken over Seattle, run by Radical Left Democrats, of course. LAW & ORDER!"

Twitter has become completely overrun with conspiracy theories about the town and what it means. One Twitter user started a rumor that a SoundCloud rapper named Raz was becoming the zone's "Warlord," which was simply false.

Others are horrified, calling the town an Antifa stronghold, or an anarchist establishment that's threatening American democracy.

Reports from people on the ground beg to differ. "The CHAZ is not communist. It's not socialist or anarchist either. Most people here might subscribe to one of those ideologies, but mostly it's just an extended BLM block party," wrote one Reddit user.


The Future of Chaz

No one is exactly sure what Chaz will become. Some believe that the police will eventually retake the autonomous zone; but for now, the town will stand as a testament to the power of protest and possibility.



Others want Chaz to become the beginning of a momentous change. Some of the zone's inhabitants have drafted a list of 30 demands, which include abolishing the police, banning the police's use of arms in between now and when they are abolished, ending the school-to-prison pipeline, providing reparations for victims of police brutality, decriminalizing protest, providing a retrial for all people of color convicted of violent crimes, demanding release for anyone incarcerated on charges relating to marijuana, and much more.

Organizers are beginning to shape a makeshift government in order to actualize these goals. At Chaz's first Town Hall. "The goal was to hear speeches from local Black and Indigenous leaders, and then to break up into small groups to brainstorm ways to address concerns about trash, traffic, helping small businesses, establishing accountability structures within a non-hierarchical social arrangement, and whatever else came up," writes Rich Smith in The Stranger.

The main question the organizers grappled with at the meeting was what to do with the empty East precinct, but certainly bigger questions will come up. Some want to see the zone establish its own council. "It's very important that we get a council going of elected representatives of the CHAZ zone," said a protestor and Chaz resident named Malcolm, who works with Black Lives Matter Seattle. "Since you guys are going to be our sovereign state, you guys have to get that going immediately."

But some members want to avoid picking organizers, preferring to stay away from the fragility and corruptibility of leadership. Some approve of more anarchist models of organizing, others focus on anticapitalist ideals, and others keep returning to the movement that launched Chaz in the first place—the anti-police-brutality Black Lives Matter protests launched by the killing of George Floyd and 400 years of oppression.

Most organizers emphasized prioritizing Black and brown voices, but still, the town is certainly not free of the racial tensions that inspired the movement that created it. Some already fear that Chaz and its white occupants, in particular, are distracting from the Black Lives Matter movement, applying their own agendas or even treating the commune like the dreaded Coachella.

"As the protests continue across the United States, we risk finding ourselves lost in the same pattern of unproductive behaviors that have long plagued the country. An obsession with modes of racial protests rather than with the meaning of them belies an unwillingness to face the flaws they expose in the nation's ability to live up to its ideals and fulfill its obligations to the citizenry," writes Theodore R. Johnson in The National Review.

Similar problems plagued another memorable movement-inspired village: the outpost that cropped up during the Standing Rock protests in 2016. In those years, Standing Rock turned from a place where Indigenous tribes could reunite to a sort of gentrified Burning Man, forcing leaders to request that the encampment's white occupants learn to listen more and request fluoride-free water less.

At marches across the nation, Black Lives Matter organizers are reminding the thousands of people who have shown up for the cause that this movement cannot be an Instagram trend or another hashtag. Racism isn't something that can be shut off after a few weeks—it's lifelong and pervasive—and hopefully everyone showing up will stay in the fight long after the initial whirlwind has slowed.

The same fate could befall Chaz if things go south. On the other hand, perhaps this new settlement will fare better. Perhaps it will be the start of a new world—a new America where the police are replaced by mental health counselors and free food. Most likely the result will be a combination of both, but for all intents and purposes that seems to be Chaz's goal: to see what might happen in a world free from police violence, where people keep each other safe as long as they can.