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.
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 email@example.com.
Compared to our last border crossing (Tijuana with a 6 hour line of cars and bomb threats), today’s crossing was a breeze. We left Puerto Penasco this morning around noon headed for the border at Sonoyta.
Sonoyta is a small town in the Mexican state of Sonora. It’s right next to Lukeville, Arizona. The crossing station is only open from 6am to 6pm daily and is little used. There was one car ahead of us when we crossed at 11:30 am.
We had our passports ready and encountered no real problem. A U.S. Department of Agriculture agent did come into Winnie and left with a carton of eggs, some frozen chicken, potatoes and soy chorizo. Had we known we could have left those things in Puerto Penasco. Here’s a link for what foods can be brought from Mexico to the U.S.
The drive after crossing was quite lovely. Lots of cacti and small towns. We took highway 8 all the way. Right now we are spending the night in Campo, California and enjoying a beautiful sunset. One great thing about RV life is that home is where you parked it!
I had lots of fun this week playing tour guide to some visitors to Chiang Mai. They wanted to see some temples and since I love temples I volunteered. We spent the day visiting three of the over 300 temples here in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Wat Doi Suthep is probably the most famous and most visited temple in Chiang Mai. It’s at the top of Doi Suthep (doi means mountain). From it you have beautiful views of Chiang Mai City. It’s beautiful but a little on the touristy side.
So, after the hustle and bustle of Doi Suthep, I wanted to show my guests the more rural and tranquil Wat Umong. I love the grounds here. You can climb to the top of the temple, explore the meditation caves, stroll along a small lake and feed the catfish.
Our last stop was in the centerof old Chiang Mai city. They got to see the moat that encloses the old city and then glorious Wat Chedi Luang. It was a fun last stop because when we came out Sunday Walking Market was in full swing!
We’ve been busy and life is good! I want to be better about blogging every week. I’ve decided shorter but more consistently posted blogs are the way to go. Hope you enjoyed this one. I’d love to hear from you…questions, suggestions for topics or anything about living a life of travel. Thank you dear reader!
Kathy and I were honored to be the guests of our friend, Wanvisa Inthep as she develops a program of Traditional Thai-Lanna Herbal treatments. For the last week we have been pampered, healed, restored and rejuvenated! It has been an amazing experience!
Inthakin Village is located in the jungle-forest of Mae Teang, just an hours drive from Chiang Mai. All of the buildings are in the Lanna style and made of reclaimed wood. Electrical power is solar and there is excellent wi-fi. It is the perfect setting for they type of healing treatments they offer.
Treatments are individualized for each person, after a thorough assessment and according to your individual preferences and needs. Another thing that makes Inthakin Village so special is that all of the herbs are grown, picked and prepared on the land. They are organic and pesticide free.
One of the many treatments offered is the banana leaves wrap. As you lie in the sun the leaves remove many of the toxins from your body. Best of all, you can begin and end the wrap with a dip in the Himalayan salt water pool.
The expertly trained staff provide massages and herbal treatments.
There is a lovely clinic area where the head doctor, certified in traditional Thai medicine, provides individual diagnostic assessments and a range of detoxifying and restorative treatments. There is also a steam and a dry sauna in this tranquil area.
The food at Inthakin Village is some of the best I have ever had and that is saying a lot for Thailand! The chef is well versed in vegan, vegetarian, Thai and western cuisine. A special treat was the many herb (grown and prepared at Inthakin) teas we were offered throughout the day.
I will do my best to explain the treatment above, unique to Inthakin Village. A specially prepared assortment of leaves, roots and herbs are laid on a bamboo table. Charcoal braisers are placed underneath. When the table and the leaves are quite warm, up you go! Turning on all sides of your body you are “grilled”. It was explained to me that this ancient therapy was designed to restore the many people who fell from elephants, the ancient Thai mode of transportation. It was perfect for me as I had recently fallen, hard, onto concrete steps in Chiang Mai. I arrived at Inthakin limping and bruised. I am leaving walking well with all my bruises gone!
The grounds at Inthakin Village are beautiful. There are many areas for walking, hiking and quiet contemplation. Our experience at Inthakin has been amazing and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a day, weekend, week long or longer healing get away. A website is being developed as I write this and I will share it with you as soon as available. In the meantime I am happy to connect anyone interested with Wanvisa. She will be happy to assist you in arranging a stay. Please contact me through this blog or at firstname.lastname@example.org
My dear friend the phenomenal Lacey Clark asked the question that inspired this post. She asked what does community mean to me. While I can’t give a precise definition I can share what community looks and feels like for me.
Community is embarking on a 5 hour pilgrimage up Doi Suthep Mountain for Visakha (Buddha Day) with the beautiful group above. Community is getting a Facebook shout out even though Kathy and I quit after 2 and a 1/2 hours.
Community is Sunday Dinner and seeing old friends and meeting new ones.
Community is cherishing friendships and having great memories no matter how far away the friends are.
Community is beloved family, near and far.
Community is hours spent at Cafe De JJ talking politics, philosophy, science and a bunch of other random stuff, not to mention enjoying the love on a plate served up by the fabulous Beer (top, right above)!
Community is making friends everywhere we go and doing our best to stay in touch. Hey Keiko (our friend met in Mexico, from Japan and currently in Canada)!
Community is exploring nature with friends. Community is something that must be built, nurtured and cherished. I’m sure community is something that looks different to each of us. One thing I know for sure is that true community feels so wonderful and is something I need. I am grateful to have found it here in Chiang Mai!