Furaha Kwanzaa!

Kwanzaa is an African-Americans celebration of life from 26 December to 1 January. Dr. Maulana Karenga introduced the festival in 1966 to the United States as a ritual to welcome the first harvests to the home.

I have celebrated Kwanzaa for over 30 years and Kathy and I have celebrated together for the past 14 years.

Kwanzaa is a holiday rich in symbolism and culture. I love it’s rituals, principles and lack of materialism.

This year we celebrated Kwanzaa in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We hope this will be an annual event.

Kwanzaa has seven core symbols:

1. Mazao: Crops – Mazao symbolizes the fruits of collective planning and work, and the resulting joy, sharing, unity and thanksgiving part of African harvest festivals. To demonstrate mazao, people place nuts, fruits, and vegetables, representing work, on the mkeka.

2. Mkeka: Place Mat – Just as the crops stand on the mkeka, the present day stands on the past. The mkeka symbolizes the historical and traditional foundation for people to stand on and build their lives.

3. Muhindi: Ear of Corn – The stalk of corn represents fertility and the idea that through children, the future hopes of the family are brought to life. One vibunzi is placed on the mat for every child in the family.

4. Mishumaa Saba: The Seven Candles – Candles are ceremonial objects that serve to symbolically re-create the sun’s power, as well as to provide light. There are three red candles, three green candles, and one black candle that are placed on the kinara.

5. Kinara: The Candleholder – The kinara represents our ancestry, and the original stalk from which we came.

6. Kikombe Cha Umoja: The Unity Cup – On the sixth day of Kwanzaa, the libation ritual is performed to honor the ancestors. Every family member and guest will take a drink together as a sign of unity and remembrance.

7. Zawadi: Gifts – On the seventh day of Kwanzaa, gifts are given to encourage growth, achievement, and success. Handmade gifts are encouraged to promote self-determination, purpose, and creativity.

Kwanzaa celebrates what Doctor Karenga calls the Nguzo Saba  (the seven principlesl. These seven principles comprise Kawaida, Swahili word meaning “common”. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following principles.

  • Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
  • Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves.
  • Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together.
  • Ujamaa (Cooperative economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
  • Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
  • Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
  • Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Our Kwanzaa celebrations always include an opportunity for our guests to come up and speak on one of the Nguzo Saba and what it means to them.

Our Kwanzaa celebrations are always joyous events filled with lots of love and laughter.

Children are always a key part of our celebration. I hope we are creating memories and instilling pride in our rich culture.

Wherever you are you can celebrate Kwanzaa and most importantly, we can all practice these principles every day!

Our Colorful Chiang Rai Trip

Chiang Rai is known for its colorful edifices. Our lovely group of 10 set off from Chiang Mai to explore the Blue and White Temples and the Black House. We left at 6 am for the 4 hour drive to Chiang Rai in a comfortable air conditioned van. Our driver, Pituk, was friendly and helpful. We made one stop half way there at a local hot springs. There we had a restroom break and were able to purchase some local fruits, goodies and clothes.

Arriving in Chiang Rai our first stop was Baan Dam. Commonly known as the Black House it’s a park containing a diverse and sprawling series of buildings, displays, sculptures and installations. The park and highly eclectic contents are the life’s work of local and nationally renowned artist Thawan Duchanee. We spent a delightful hour exploring the grounds and exhibits.Our next stop was for lunch. Lesson learned: don’t ask your driver for restaurant recommendations. Leelawadee was overpriced with not very good service. The food was delicious though and we had a nice view of the river.Full from lunch, we ventured on to the Blue Temple. For me this breathtaking temple was the highlight of our trip! I understand that this is a fairly new temple. It is built at the site of a ruin of an temple abandoned 80 to 100 years ago. In 1996, the villagers decided to rebuild a temple here. The construction started in October 2005, the White Buddha was completed in 2008 while the main hall was only completed on 22th January 2016. There are so many intricate carvings and paintings to enjoy!Our last stop was the White Temple which is the most famous temple in the Chiang Rai area. I’m sorry to say that the temple was closing when we arrived. It turns out there is a special event there right now where they illuminate the temple in the evenings. As we only had our van until 10 pm we had to leave for the 4 hour drive back to Chiang Mai before the illumination began. We did get some good photos, both of our own and a very kind Thai lady who shared hers with us.Overall our trip was wonderful. I especially enjoyed the time spent with members of our beautiful Chiang Mai community and visitors!

BOLT Reviews: Lynchburg RV Resort

There is a long and winding road through rural Virginia to get to this resort but Oh! is it worth it! This is one of the most beautiful RV parks I’ve been to.

There is a lovely and tranquil lake with swans.

There are wonderful trees everywhere.

The campsites are shady and spacious.

There is a great pool, surrounded by plenty of lounge chairs.

There are two activity centers (family and adult) and both have delightful decks.

The lake has a beach and swim area.

There are outdoor activities like shuffleboard and playgrounds.

I especially love the many walking trails, both paved and dirt.

Kathy and I are very satisfied with our Thousand Trails membership. We have enjoyed exploring the states and having nice spots to stay.

Reflections…

A friend asked me about how Kathy and I began to consider prepare for and experience BOLT (Black Old Lesbians Traveling) life. As I answered her, I decided to also share my answers in this post.

Kathy and I have talked about a life of travel from the moment we met. It was something we always considered. We traveled a lot even while working. We found we travel well together.

In 2014, after years of caring for my mom (an ancestor now) and being at my job for 32 years, Kathy and I set our intention to be”home free” travelers by the time I turned 60 in September 2015.

It took us about a year of preparation and letting go of stuff, property, etc to be ready to hit the road:

  • We had yard sales, donated stuff, gifted things to friends. We sold our house and cars.
  • We made living wills as well as traditional wills.
  • We got bank accounts with no ATM fees (Charles Schwab is good).
  • We digitized all our important documents and keep them in the”cloud”.

A few guidelines and agreements we made:

  • We could each have one rolling bag, one backpack and one purse which must hold everything we need.
  • We limited ourselves to one bin of stuff to save: pictures, mementos from my kids, etc. These are in Kathy’s mom’s garage.
  • We made budgets and savings plans.

We talked a lot about what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go.

Then we set out. The 30 day cruise was the perfect way to begin world travel. We went to over 10 new destinations and traveled from Seattle to Singapore with no jet lag.

I still had too much stuff, broke our 1 rolling bag rule and had to give a bunch more stuff away while traveling. It worked out ok because the the cruise and hotel staff benefited.

After a year in Asia we decided to pursue another dream: RV travel. I love road trips and seeing beautiful North America has been wonderful. But full time RV life is not for me. I like mixing it up with long term stays in foreign countries. I have not found the same connections to community with RV life.

Somethings I’ve learned about myself are:

  • I don’t like fast travel. In the beginning we would stay places a week or less and they became a blur.
  • I like staying in places long enough to get to know folks, find meetings, activities etc.
  • Kathy and I get along well in small spaces but it’s important for us to have solitary time daily. I have quiet time in the morning and I take a solo walk daily.
  • I’ve always been a neat freak but in RV life it’s super important. A place for everything and everything in it’s place!
  • I’ve learned I don’t need as much stuff or variety of stuff as I thought… cosmetics, vitamins, hair care stuff, jewelry are some of the many things I carry only small quantities of.

I’m not sure if I answered my friend’s questions but these reflections have been rewarding to me and I hope helpful to someone. If you have any questions about a life of home free travel, please email us at boltraveling@gmail.com.

BOLT Reviews: Soledad Canyon RV Resort

As promised, here is another review of a Thousand Trails resort. Like the one we shared about in Palm Springs, Soledad Canyon is included in our membership.Soledad Canyon RV Resort is located in the Antelope Valley. It was a pleasant hour and a half drive from south Los Angeles.Its an enormous park with lots of full hook up sites to choose from.Its very cold here this weekend but I took a very nice walk and got a lot of pictures of the amenities.There are lots of cabins for rent.Im hoping it will be warm enough to get in the pool and jacuzzi today.There are cute little playgrounds throughout the park.The recreation lodge is very nice and well equipped with billards tables, puzzles and comfy chairs.Soledad Canyon offers RV spots that you can lease year round. These people have theirs set up very well.I love to walk and explore. I’m looking forward to checking out this walking trail when Kathy can join me.While the coldness is not ideal, Soledad Canyon offers a peaceful and spacious get away from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles. If you are interested in a Thousand Trails membership or have questions about the RV life please contact us at boltraveling@gmail.com.

Goddess Experience in the Hood!

There’s a little piece of heaven in Los Angeles, just east of Crenshaw on Olympic Blvd. The Olympic Spa is a traditional Korean style spa and a place of respite and bliss.

I used to come here a lot when I was primary caregiver for my mother, now deceased. For $15 I would enter, turn off my phone, sink into the mugwort tea hot tub and let all my cares float away. The $15 is now up to $25 which is still a great value. Called the “simple soak” it includes use of all the spa facilities including jade laden steam sauna, the hot “mugwort” tea pool, The Himalayan salt therapy room and the healing heat of the mineral sauna.

You can stay all day (the spa is open 9 to 9) and even enjoy a delicious Korean meal in the cafe. I always take a little nap on the heated jade floor too.

Thailand has spoiled me with regular massages. For this visit I decided to treat myself to the Goddess spa treatment.

According to the website it is
“the ultimate moisturizing experience. We start with a full body Korean Scrub to exfoliate the skin, followed by an aromatic seaweed body shampoo. Now relax and enjoy a wonderful Aromatherapy Massage to melt all those knots away. A rejuvenating essential oil scalp massage will instantly lift your spirits. It doesn’t end here, your face is then massaged with toxin releasing strokes and a purifying facial mask is applied to refresh and tighten the pores. After an aromatherapy hair shampoo and rinse, a luxurious body emulsion is soothingly applied to hydrate and moisturize. This treatment is exclusive to us and not available anywhere else.”

They do not lie or exaggerate! Expensive by my Thai standards it was 1 hr 45 min of pure bliss for $155.


The Goddess includes use of all the spa facilities. In addition to the mugwort bath, I especially love the Himalayan salt therapy room. It is a super heated cave like room filled with Himalayan salt crystals. It is a great idea for detoxing and relaxing.


For obvious reasons, I couldn’t walk around the spa (naked women everywhere) taking pictures. So I grabbed the above images from the web. While doing so, I came upon this sister’s blog post. It’s a beautiful blog about her dance with cancer. Turns out the Olympic Spa was one of her favorite places. Rest in paradise, Caridad, thank you for sharing.

BOLT Reviews: Palm Springs Thousand Trails RV Resort

Kathy and I recently joined the Thousand Trails RV system. For about $500 dollars per year we can stay for 2 week periods at a wide variety of RV parks in California, Nevada and Arizona. Additional states can be added for under a $100. This seems to be a great deal for RVers. The average one night stay in most RV parks is $30 in California.

The Palm Springs park is our first Thousand Trails stay. I’ll be reviewing all the parks we visit.

This is a very small, basic park. It’s like a big parking lot. However, we find it quite pleasant. There are palm trees everywhere and I find them beautiful.

There’s a wonderful pool and hot tub…very clean, uncrowded with plenty of lounging areas.

There are nice, air conditioned areas for family and adult activities like games, poker and billiards.

There’s a very small playground but not much else for children to do. It’s very hot so the pool is the spot to be.

There are really cute little cabins that visitors without RVs can rent.

Our first Thousand Trails experience has been a good one so far. We will be here for a week. If you are interested in a Thousand Trails membership please let us know. We are happy to answer any questions or help you to arrange a visit.

Descanso, BOLT Style

Descanso means rest in Spanish. After 7 lovely days on the road in Baja California, Mexico we crossed over into the mainland. We are currently in the Mexican State of Sonora in the town of Puerto Peñasco.


Puerto Peñasco, also known as Rocky Point, is a Mexican fishing and resort city on the Gulf of California. It’s known for dune-backed Sandy Beach and Bahía la Choya’s tidal pools.

For BOLT, Puerto Penasco will be a place of rest. We have found a lovely RV park, just blocks from the beach, and plan to stay a month.

Sunset RV park has a beautiful salt water swimming pool, an area for barbeques, laundry facilities and everything else we need.

Kathy and I are looking forward to a wonderful month of descanso and exploration of this part of Mexico. We are very close to the U.S. so please come visit!

Thailand Road Trip!

I love a good road trip and yesterday was the perfect one! We set out in the morning from Inthakin Green Village in Mae Teang. We headed north, destination Chang Dao, just a few kilometers from the Myanmar border.

Most of the drive was along the Ping River which was lovely in itself. We traveled through small villages and lots of lush greenery.

Our first stop in Chang Dao was the temple /home of a local monk. It was wonderful to see him again, he had given us a special blessing a few months ago. We also got to see our friend, Pi Oi, who lives near the monk.

No road trip is complete without delicious food. The gyoza at this small restaurant is amazing!

After our bellies were full, we headed up to this amazing wat (temple) . Called Wat Tam Mung Na, it’s building it built onto a cave. There’s an easy trip up several levels of ramps to the top where you find the cave and are surrounded by soothing chanting and can join in sitting meditation.

Many people come to spend the night or several days in meditation and chanting. There were tents everywhere.

These are the views from the top of the temple.

The temple grounds were very beautiful with lots of amazing statues.

There’s even a cute little coffee shop, which also offered amazing views.

Kathy and I had a truly fabulous day, made even more special because we spent it with people we love. Thank you Wanvisa, Jen and Ajan Sai for a perfect day!

Living That Chiang Mai Life!

“Living that Chiang Mai life!” is a favorite expression of our dear friend, Ken. Kathy and I are truly doing that and it’s a great life!

Folks ask us all the time, where do all these Black folks in Chiang Mai come from?

The answer is the answer that is true for Black folks everywhere…from all across the diaspora.

Many of us are from the U.S. as evidenced by this election watch party, but even then there was a Canadian in the bunch.

We are from South Africa as well as other countries in the Motherland. Some of us are from Europe.

No matter where we come from, we find a lot of joy and community in Chiang Mai.

We participate in community theater; we work as teachers, digital nomads or entrepreneurs. We volunteer and we are students.

We are tourists and residents. Some come for medical care or spiritual growth. Like Kathy and I, many are retired. Some of us stay briefly and some are here for life.

I really wish everyone reading this post could come and experience the beauty of living that Chiang Mai life! Kathy and I are happy to help.