Grabbing The Bull By The Horns

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I promised you that I would write something about my Spain adventure and here it is!  It was published today on Clutch, so hopefully you all like it enough to leave comments here…and on Clutch’s site :-)  Enjoy!

“I’m a bull running rock star!”

Those are the words I use to describe myself these days, but on July 11, 2012, the only words I could speak with certainty and sincere humbleness were, “Jesus keep us near the cross.” You see, before my rock star status kicked in, I was just one person in a group of people from the Nomad.ness Travel Tribe heading to Pamplona, Spain, to participate in the annual running with the bulls.

Yes, you read that right.

Lead by our friend and leader Evita Robinson, this group of black people and one Puerto Rican were preparing to go where very few minorities have gone before, and to say we were scared s#*tless would be an understatement. We were scared, not just by the thought of being gored by a bull terrorized from the knowledge of its own impending death, but by the fear of the unknown. There were no other black people we knew of personally to ask for detailed advice (although knowing that our friend Oneika, who did it just two days before, helped) and even watching countless videos and maps of the route and previous runs did little to squash our fears.

As we sat in our house in Madrid waiting for our bus and making small talk, you could feel the nervousness of uncertainty in the air. Even I had to admit that I might punk out at the last minute, and when talk began of writing down everyone’s travel life insurance info “just in case,” the faces of everyone in the room, even the few who chose not to run, wore the familiar expression of “ish just got real.”  The bus arrived and we hurried toward it like the bulls we would soon meet — aware of our fate, but determined to go strong until the end. We tried to ease the thick air on the bus by taking pictures and cracking jokes, but it was clear by the bible in my girl Kelly’s hand and the recently Vatican-purchased, Grandma-blessed rosary around my neck that our minds were really elsewhere. I couldn’t hear the thoughts of my friends, but mine were loud and clear: “Should I do this? We are crazy as hell! Black folk do not run with no damn bulls! I can’t believe we’re doing this! I can’t believe I want to do this! Jesus, just keep us all near the cross and help us make it out safely.”

When the bus made a pit-stop only a few miles from Pamplona, the individual talks with God started. We peed, we prayed, we prepared our legs to run for their lives. By the time the driver pulled into the city, darkness had turned into light and people dressed in red and white as far as the eyes could see stood before us. We hopped off the bus quickly, and after adjusting to the smell of vomit and urine that perfumed the air from all the celebrating in the area the last few days, we tried to figure out which way to go, stopping non-English speaking Spaniards along the way for directions. Once we hit the main square we stopped only to buy traditional red sashes at a nearby stand, the final piece to accompany our all-white outfits.

Then we were off!  Those not running barely had time to wish us luck before the rest of us dashed off, hearts pounding and minds racing toward our unknown fates. In the haste, a few of us get separated, but Evita and our friends Kelly, Bayyina, Tomika, Claire, Shaquay, Nailah, and I, and one of the two men running, Antoine, managed to stick together. We pushed past onlookers and ducked under barricades to head into the street where hundreds of drunk men and maybe two women (at least on our end; there were multiple starting points) sang in celebration. It wasn’t until the police officers came and pushed us all back before the start of the barricades that the reality truly hit us. Standing there, packed in with a bunch of men behind a police wall was the first time we noticed all the people in the balconies above us. Men, women, and even babies, dressed in red and white, perched high above the cobblestone streets, staring down on us with the same anticipation. Two young women in the balcony directly above us screamed down at us for some photos, we screamed up with our email addresses. Behind us, hundreds of men chanted “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes and pierced the air with their rolled up newspapers. To our left, a kind, short man who had participated in the run for years and had done it over the previous few days, gave us tips on how to run and told us about some of his past run ins with el Toro. To our right, hot Australian men were shocked, not only to see women running, not only to see black women running, but American women running. One asked us where we were from in that seductive accent only Aussies can produce, and when we told him we’re American, he said, “I like you. You’re American women with balls!” Aussies — gotta love them!  It was in that moment we realized something else. Now minus Antoine (who had gone off to find his only other male companion, Blue) we realized that not only were we running with the bulls, an insane, yet astonishing feat all its own, but we were women, black women, running with the bulls. There we were in Spain, somewhere statistics would have you believe we don’t belong or aspire to be, doing what other black people, minorities, non-minorities, aunties, uncles, mothers, and fathers said we don’t, won’t, couldn’t, and shouldn’t do: We’re running with the motherf$#king bulls!!!

Our nervous excitement was starting to get the best of us and we knew it, so Tomika lead us in a group prayer. As we stacked our hands one on top of the other (still to this day the realist moment on our adventure), we inhaled the significance of the moment and the prayer. Just as we let out a hearty “Amen,” the police dismantled their human barricade and allowed us on to the street ahead to pick our starting locations. With news cameras from across the globe capturing each runner’s every move and strangers and friends in balconies above cheering us on, fear turned into courage and determination. The time between the police releasing us and the first rocket going off signaling the release of the bulls felt like an eternity, even though it was in reality only a few minutes. But once we heard it we knew, and once we heard the second rocket sound less than a minute later, we really knew. There was no turning back now. It was time to come face to face with true Taurus power. It was time to run with the bulls — and for our lives.

Everything happened so quickly, yet in slow motion. First a trickle of runners, likely startled by the first rocket, then the second wave of runners came, bigger than the first, but failing to bring with them any sense of concern. And then we saw it, not the bulls, but faces. The faces of hundreds of people running toward us, their once happy features now replaced with etchings of terror and fear….

The bulls were coming.

Before we knew it there was one horn, then two, then six, and attached to them the creatures we’d been waiting to see. The bulls ran toward us with remarkable speed, their hooves scraping the pavement as they ran, parting the crowd like the Red Sea with their very presence. This was the moment we had been waiting for and we took off running like our very lives depended on it, because they did. Next to us, the short man got tossed like a football. Behind us, a man curled in the fetal position as bulls ran over him. In front of us, runners were able to see the terrified faces that moments ago belonged to others, but now belonged to us. We ran fast and we ran hard, some ducking behind the safety of the barricades lining the route, and the rest, toward the finish line, toward the bull ring.

Inside the ring, thousands of people waited for our arrival, and as the first bull entered followed by those who dared to run, the crowd erupted in thunderous applause!  A run that felt like it took several lifetimes was over in less than three minutes, and just like that life went back to normal. After separately watching the frenzied excitement in the ring, which included our boy Blue bravely and literally grabbing the bull by the horns, we all headed to our designated meeting place at the Ernest Hemingway statue.  As we walked, we each prayed that we would see at the end all the faces we saw in the beginning. Waiting for our arrival were our friends who didn’t run, but who were no less a part of the process. They congratulated us as we walked to them, grinning like Cheshire cats. The first words out of Evie’s mouth, “Yo, I saw a bull, yo. I saw a bull!” As the final runner in our group arrived at the statue, we praised God that we were all still alive. Then the silence came and the weight of the moment hit us yet again. We were all still alive!  We sat in a kind of stunned excited silence for just a second and looked at each other with expressions that said, “We really just did that crazy s#*t!” Then the silence was broken when one of us exclaimed loudly, “We just ran with the bulls! We did it!”

We came. We ran. We conquered!

After a few hugs, pictures with a stuffed bull, and many “I’m safe” text messages for family and friends back home, we spent the rest of our time in Pamplona eating, drinking, playing with local children, enjoying a carnival, and reveling in the fact that we did something that day that some people dream of but never dare to accomplish. On the bus back to Madrid the mood was very different. All the praying had paid off and now we were riding home happy, thankful, and triumphant. I didn’t know about anyone else, but after coming face to face with my astrological namesake, I felt empowered. I was a bull-running rock star! Hours earlier I was considering backing out and resigning myself to watching this incredible once-in-a-lifetime event from the sidelines. I’m glad I didn’t. Choosing to run birthed another event in my life that helped me realize I’m stronger and more fearless than I admit to myself sometimes. Individually and collectively, we each have a story, and I guess we could all come up with a million words to describe the experience, to describe the roller coaster of emotions we felt that day. However, I think Evita summed up it up best when she said, “Fear challenged faith on that Pamplona street, and faith won.”

Faith won indeed. Life lesson learned.

I’ve Been A Very Bad…But Busy…Dee

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I know, I know…I’ve neglected my poor blog :-(  But what can I say, life really isn’t that interesting right now lol.  Honestly, I’ve been busy trying to get my writing up, traveling and trying to have some kind of a life.  Sure these are all things I need to write about, but I think my muse is missing…damn her!  Anywho, just to prove I haven’t been a complete slacker here are some links to stories I’ve been writing over on Ebony.com.  The latest is on my fellow Tribe member Damon Jones over at Tha Seasoned Traveler.  He’s an O.G. in this travel game and I’m so glad he took the time out of his hectic schedule to let lil ole me interview him.  Thanks Damon!!

Here are a few links:

International Player:  J. Chase Harps

How To Photograph Strangers

Flying While Natural

Family Friendly Summer Escapes

In other news I leave for Spain in a few days and I couldn’t be more excited!!  I’m about to be a black girl that runs with bulls and I can’t wait.  Spain is one of the few countries that has has my heart so I’m excited to go back, this time with new friends and fresh eyes.  I’m sure we’ll have a ball.  And I promise I’ll write something about it here…if not, someone come look for me and force me to.  Hey, sometimes a girl just needs motivation lol.

Hugs & Love!

Ladies First

We live in a world where image is everything. Where something as simple as wearing the wrong type of panties with a particular dress can have you blasted all over the internet as the #FashionFail of the day. In this image conscious world our celebrities (and in some cases pseudo celebrities) serve as a guide for some, if not most people, on how to dress, wear their hair, live their lives, etc. We’ve come to hold these otherwise normal people to a higher standard than most and often expect them to be the “gold standard” by which things are done. When Beyonce announced her pregnancy last year at the MTV VMA’s in an instant women everywhere saw her as an example of doing things the “right way” and increased the height on her nearly holy pedestal. Now I won’t get into the whole “right way, wrong way” debate, however I will say that Beyonce, and celebrity women like her have become somewhat of a dying breed.

There used to be a time when female celebrities carried themselves publicly like well, women. They carried themselves with a regal air that was hard to define; they were passionate without being loud, heard without really having to make a sound and their very presence in a room commanded respect. These celebrity women were and are the Lena Horne, Phyllis Hyman, Angela Bassett and Diahann Carroll’s of the world. They knew that the spotlight was on them at all times, so when they were done shimmying across a stage or filming a steamy love scene, they made sure that their public personas held to the same standards their work did, tasteful and respectful. Are they perfect, of course not, we’ve all got a few skeletons in our closets, but you never saw any of these women caught up in any violent, degrading or inappropriate situations in the media. Lena Horne would have never participated in anything close to a Basketball Wives show or movie and as divalicious as I’m sure Ms. Carroll is, just the thought of her being involved in some kind of sex scandal would’ve had her clutching pearls, why, because they were ladies.

Today, we have more women willing to act the fool in the public eye as opposed to carrying themselves with humility and grace. The cursing, the fist fights, the public drunkenness and “leaked” nude photos are all just a normal day in the celeb neighborhood and very few female stars heavy in the spotlight deviate from this “norm.” The celebrity idols of today are the Evelyn Lozada, Amber Rose and Rihanna’s of the world and not one of these women carry themselves with even a quarter of the class that the women who came before them have. They air their dirty laundry for the world to see and who they are on stage or on screen has become who they are in real life, and that’s not a good thing.

Some of today’s female celebrities or “celebrities” need to understand the difference between being heard and just being loud. Between being strong and not taking any crap and just being plain old ignorant. They need to remember that there is nothing sexy, graceful, respectful or ladylike about a woman who runs the streets acting like she was dragged up and not raised. They need to remember that it’s not just the spotlight and the producers with big checks who have their eyes on them, but little girls and fellow women who are looking to them as a guide.

Perhaps their role models need to be the Keri Washington, Zoe Saldana, Nia Long and Paula Patton’s of the world. Women who carry themselves with esteem and are known in the media for their talent and not their “talents.” Maybe if we paid more attention to women like this instead of supporting the foolishness it would become cool to be classy again. Cool to regal, strong, respectful and graceful….a lady.

It’s My Birthday!!!!

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See that picture up there ^^^? That’s what’s sitting in front of me right now.  Why?  Because it’s my birthday!  IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!  Usually I have some kind of deep, introspective post about all I learned and hope for…blah, blah, blah.  But this year…nope!  No deep talking, no introspection….just me, home (I NEVER work on my birthday), eating birthday cake right out of the box, drinking Spanish Cava right out of the bottle, watching Charmed on DVD…and doing absolutely NOTHING!!!

BEST.  BIRTHDAY.  EVER!!!

P.S.  I rang in my birthday with S.O.  Yup, THAT S.O…..talk about effing random….and awesome ;-)

My Big, Fat Thai Adventure (The Politcally Correct Edition)

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*Sigh…I thought this posted last week. Damn auto publish!!! Well, better late than never*

Ladies and gents it is finally here…a glimpse into my Thailand adventure!  Before I left I pitched an idea involving my trip to Ebony.com and they loved it, so today I grace their lovely travel section with my post titled The Bangkok Experience!  This post is very reader friendly and doesn’t explain even a 1/3 of the foolishness that went on during the trip…hence the ‘politically correct’ addition to this post’s title lol.  When I get two seconds to myself (especially with my birthday coming….WOO HOO!), I will most definitely sit down and spill the tea as they say, on the trip, in my voice and my way because it was way more interesting than what you’re going to read online lol.  How interesting…a waterbug crawled on my roomie’s face in the middle of the night at our last stop on the tour…hilarity doesn’t even cover it lmao!

In the meantime and in between time, enjoy my post on Ebony.com.  Comment, comment, comment and of course, tweet, post on Facebook…you know the drill!

*HUGS*

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