So my staging went pretty well considering a little bed bug problem and having to evacuate my first room and an arm, thigh, left arm, right wrist, full of bed bug bites.

I am loving my new Peace Corps family and its amazing how any different backgrounds and we’re from all over the U.S.A. East to West. It will be fun to see whats in store for the future.

So what was staging (a.k.a orientation)

Staging essentially set the tone for what we would encounter in the Gambia culturally, individually, and as PC members.

It was there to remind us that where we’re going we are the foreigners.. and that’s ok. PC 3 goals are

  • To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women

  • To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served

  • To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans

It was clear that most of us are were so wrapped up in the first goal that we forgot that we are there primarily as cultural ambassadors. We were reminded that we can’t go in with a “Savior Complex” because we are there to help people help themselves and be their own resources and heroes.

We also got a crash course in Gambian cultural norms that will most definitely be expounded on when we begin our three months of pre-service training.
We learned about how gender roles are pretty rigid in Gambian culture in general but definitely more lax in the city. Where we are going, Up Country, gender roles are practiced almost without deviation and it was emphasized that, despite the fact that we are foreigners and there will be leeway, we will have to learn to navigate our host culture’s gender roles so that we can both assimilate and maintain our personal integrity

Other than the heavy stuff we played a bunch of ice breakers and fun games. I got to be a chicken.

Here’s my itinerary for our day’s journey to the Gambia on 10/14

9 am check out

9:30 board bus for JFK Airport in NYC

5:55 pm board Air Brussels flight

7:20 arrive in Brussels

11:20 Air Brussels flight 203

5:25 pm 10/14 Arrive in Banjul, The Gambia


A Night in Melba’s Harlem

So far I’v given my paternal (The Martinez family) side a lot of props for culture and heritage, so now its time to brag about my maternal side (The Crawford) of the family

Let the shameless bragging begin!!!

My Uncle Raymond “Music is Life”, Uncle Martin, and cousin “Choclatt” Jared are musicians (drummer primarily but they do produce). They were the forerunners of bucket drumming that started in the 90’s (I think) in the subways and on the street corners. Since then they have been a part of numerous musical events including but not limited to the (4) Tony Award winning musical “Bring in Da Noise/Bring in Da Funk”Melba’s Restaurant, and where ever else music is happening in NYC and beyond. They also produce but I’m not in the loop on that.

See “Choclatt” Jared perform here.

Melbas- me and Jared
Me & Cousin Jared @ Melba’s

See my Uncle Ray perform here.

Melba's- Me and Uncle Marky @ Melbas
Me and Uncle Marky @ Melba’s

More bragging here and here.

So now on to the actual story. On Tuesday nights  you can find my uncles and cousin performing at Melba’s. As for the other days of the week I don’t really know because they are always doing something.

So guess where I was on on Tuesday (10/6)?

Yeah, I was at Melba’s enjoying amazing food and the best entertainment in NYC (in my very biased opinion).

It was 3 hours of great food and great entertainment and it was packed from performance start at 8 p.m. until close at 11. They had a hard time getting people out.

I went with my Grandma Annette and we had an amazing time. She had the BBQ turkey meat loaf  & I had salmon with mac & cheese with spinach and it was AMAZING!!

Melba's Harlem- salmon
image courtesy of because I forgot to take a picture

They were performing live and because my video recording skills are abysmal and the room was dark (mostly I just technology suck) and since I know people don’t want to see snippets of my knee bouncing to the beat I wont embed the video but I’ll put the links up here, here, here.

—————————–> here too.

Oh, and over there <————————–

It was sort of a karaoke thing as well except with people with actual talent. You can hear them here and here.

Oh and Just ’cause I’m a braggart (I warned you all at the beginning of this post)

Aqui y mi prima Latice aqui.

So lets just end with I had one of the best nights ever at Melba’s and the next time anyone finds themselves in NYC definite make this a destination. Preferably on a Tuesday night of course ;p

Garifuna-Traditional Gathering and Mourning/Celebration of the Ancestors

As the title of my blog states I am Garifuna and there is a whole of tradition and ritual that goes with that. As the American part of the family has connected more with extended relatives we have been learning and participating in more family rituals and ceremonies.

On Sunday Oct 4 we had what was essentially a remembrance ceremony or deceased relatives, my biological father and my second cousin Eddie among them.

The day started with a 9:30 Mass at Our Savior Catholic Church

Mass- Chuch

Afterward we headed to my Auntie Carol’s house where the cultural ceremony would begin.

(Sorry no pictures allowed of the table)

-Setting up the table for the deceased. It has pictures of the most recently deceased. Eddie was in the center with the largest photo because he passed in November 2014 and my father had the smaller photo because he passed in October 2012

Formal: candle, rosary, crucifix, Santa Barbara, Blue roses

Personal items/food/drink/ of the deceased- Corona was one of the things Eddie and my dad liked to drink, photos, etc.

-Because this is a celebration of their lives as well as a remembrance there’s LOTS of food

Mostly traditional food like and other

Hudut- green & yellow plantain mash with fish in a coconut soup (image from
Hudut- green & yellow plantain mash with fish in a coconut soup
(image from

Traditional breads including but not limited to

Johnny Cake (image from maxresdefault)
Johnny Cake (image from maxresdefault)

Rice -rice & black beans, rice and red beans, rice and shrimp, white rice, rice and beans.

Curry chicken


Pork ribs

Here is the ceremony conducted my the elders, PrimoDeki and his mother Tia Paula.

Plates of food are placed in the remembrance table my the parents of the deceased first then the rest of the relatives. These full portion plates too. The deceased have to have received their portion of every prepared food item before the living eat.

Then we EAT!!!

I had every kind of rice on my plate so I had to go back for chicken.

After everyone eating the ceremony, led my Deki and mostly in Spanish.

Our Father Prayer

-Oracion de Santas read by Tia Paula

-prayer and words by Deki

-Individuals go up and say their words of remembrance etc

Auntie Velma (Eddie’s mother) took it very hard and I had to get the Florida Water (Spanish people know what I’m talking about)

Then there is the blessing ritual.

Then we can go share the food from the remembrance table.

It was an emotional experience for everyone but we were all better for it. I was able to see my new cousin Christian (2 yrs old) for the first time and a lot of new relatives as well.

To my family, if I got anything wrong let me know so I can fix it.

On My Way to NYC

After my Uncle Miked picked me up from the airport I spent the night at his and my Auntie Marilyn’s house in Pennsylvania. I sat around the rest of the night and Saturday just watching movies and bonding with my cousins.

Sunday (10/4) we headed to NYC for mass and Garifuna cultural ceremony remembering the dead, specifically my biological dad and cousin Eddie because they passed the most recently, but its honoring all deceased relatives.

For those of you living vicariously through me here is what you would see entering the city.

Oh and tolls are $14…ONE WAY!!!

Here the George Washington Bridge that crosses the Hudson River into Manhattan. Two tiers of pure NYC traffic and more congested than a hypochondriac during flu season.

After crossing the bridge we finally got into the city and made our way to the Church in the Bronx for mass

Just a pic of the city
Just a pic of the city

The Great Airport Adventure

I was finally able to begin my journey toward Peace Corps and at the rate things were going I was beginning to wonder if my journey getting to Peace Corps is gonna be more difficult than serving.

When I got to Flint airport on Friday (10/2)  my bags were overweight and had to leave some items behind. Even after losing 16lbs one of my bags was over but that’s okay because my mom and sister can just mail them to me.

Thanks mom for paying the fee for overweight bags!!!!!

It was a smooth 1.5 hour flight from Flint to Chicago and then the trouble started

Here’s what was supposed to happen

-10a.m. 11:30 a.m.-flint to Chicago 1.5 hours

-11:45 2:40.m.- Chicago to Philadelphia 2 hours

-Philly, PA to Aunt & uncles house 1.5 hours


So this should have been a six hour adventure with the day winding down around 5. here’s what actually happened

-10a.m. 11:30 a.m.-Flint to Chicago 1.5 hours

-11:45 2:40.m.- Chicago to Philadelphia 2 hours

-11:45- 12:30 Delay

-12:45- Woman leaves her bag unattended & because she forgot her credit card

-1pm- man reports unattended bag to TSA

-1:15- TSA brings in the cutest drug/bomb Chocolate Lab

-1.20- bags confiscated and I have no idea what happened after that

(still delayed by the way)

-1:20-2:30 -Delay man begins to scream about attendant while I eat a cookie

-2:30-3: I go for a walk and buy sugar free gum without aspartame, who knew

-3-5-Still delayed and I spend more money food

-6-8:10 We finally board and take off and I arrive in Philly

I would like to thank Hurricane Joaquin. You may not have hit the U.S. but that didn’t stop you from sucking.

Air traffic control in Philadelphia grounded all planes that were taking off or landing.

That translated into a 6 hour delay and $30 in airport food that I didn’t plan on spending.

Airport Salmon flat bread pizza was so worth $12-I'll probably never buy it again.
Airport Salmon flat bread pizza was so worth $12-I’ll probably never buy it again.