Sunday, December 31, 2017

Farewell to 2017

Hello friends one and all!

It’s time to say goodbye to 2017 and hope 2018 brings much brighter things.

The biggest thing that happened this year was I had to say goodbye to my mother. In May, with no warning, she was diagnosed with cancer and given 2-4 weeks to live. Together we decided to follow the principle “if you only have two weeks to live...," which led to a profound 4 weeks of love and celebration of life that let my mom live out her last days surrounded by friends and family and delicious food, music and dance. The most meaningful moment was when her dance group came to dance for her can get a glimpse of here and here.

I had major gastrointestinal surgery in March, which honestly wasn't that bad, since it meant laying low at home recovering for a month and finally ending the terrible pain I had been in since my emergency surgery the year before.  

Beyond health and family, the year also will also be remembered for how my country and I responded to the Trump Presidency. After the 2016 election, I pledged to work on immigration issues and I have found a great group doing important work where I am volunteering now. It is called CUNY Citizenship Now! and it helps people with Green Cards apply for citizenship, a difficult process. I have spent some very meaningful Saturdays helping immigrants from all over the world fill out their paperwork and enjoyed seeing the changing face of America. It bolsters me against the racist anti-immigrant rhetoric being shouted from the White House. 

My political action switched from proactive Get Out The Vote work to resistance.  Reading the news these days feels unreal, as the values of our country get assaulted on a daily basis, but there is something amazing building below the surface which hopefully will lead to positive change in the long run. Attending the Women's March in DC with one million others was one of the great experiences of my life. It really solidified my thoughts about the power of women to make change and I believe we will reap the rewards of the energy it gathered for years as more women stand up. I have been marching throughout the year in NYC for science, immigrant rights, criminal justice and more and have watched many new coalitions form.  Although my surgery and mother's death have slowed me down a lot, I am keeping a close eye on the resistance and appreciate the people who have been newly engaged. Us oldtimers need the backup. In 2018, I ask each of you to find a new local candidate and help support their rise. We all have to engage in the rebuilding of our democracy from the ground up. 

Everyone expects me to travel and unfortunately my illness grounded me for 18 months, but I am finally flying away again, this time I spent a week with two high school friends in Germany to take in the excitement of the Christmas markets, along with the great street art in Berlin.  After I spent the holidays with my sister Catsou and her family in London.  

As much as, its been a really rough year, I'm doing ok. I'm finding my stride at the NoHo Business Improvement District, enjoying learning its history and watching its hip, trendy, fashionable future unfold. I continue to embrace fun things around me as Dick and Jane would expect. I’m very appreciative of all the support I received throughout these difficult times. 

May you all find love and community when you need it. 

And onward to a bright new year...


Saturday, December 16, 2017

Michael Jackson in Munich

Stumbled upon this random monument to Michael Jackson in Munich, set up across from the hotel he stayed at. It’s still lovingly cared for and even had fresh candles burning. We played a few of his songs in his honor, before moving on.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

2017 UN General Assembly Week

My job now forces me to focus on NY and medical and family circumstances have kept me stateside lately, but that doesn't mean that I still don't think about the wider world a lot. Each year I take advantage of UN General Assembly Week to get a small window into various international development issues. Today I'm attending an event about developing sustainable tourism in Africa. My travel in Africa has been eye opening, stereotype smashing, nurturing and helped me change my perspective on what is important in life. Travel builds understanding and I hope that more and more people will get a chance to visit Africa and to counter the misinformation about the continent and promote economic growth there. #2017unyearofsustainabletourismfordevelopment #unwto

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Who needs to travel when the French President comes to me?

I just got to say hi to French President Macron! Happy United Nations General Assembly Week! It's my favorite time of the year in NYC! The streets are literally filled with world leaders! Now if only I could find Justin Trudeau! #worldleaderheartthrobs 

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Peaks Island, Maine - Summer 2016

This year has been crazy with my surgery and Dick's death and then my mom's death so I didn't get to travel much. My one big trip was a wonderful long summer weekend in Peak's Island, Maine.

I hadn't been to Maine in a while and it was fun to enjoy its simple pleasures. Yummy fresh wild blueberries the are all the rage heathwise lately so I ate extra.  And of course, I had to have a lobster roll, since those were my mom's favorite Maine food.  Plus, plenty of summer ice cream to satisfy my nephew.

One fun silly activity on Peak's Island is to rent a golf cart to tour the island with. For two hours we drove the perimeter of the island and up and down the interior streets. Mostly that meant beautiful coastline views, rock pile sculptures, pine forests and creative mailboxes. My brother has been going to Peak's Island for a long time, so he also knows all the special cool places like an old World War II military installation built to protect Casco Bay which was a major location for military shipping. Battery Steele is an example of the largest battery ever built anywhere in the United States. Now its a relic and covered with graffiti... but its interesting to think about its history and to think about World War II on this side of the ocean. Another special place my brother took me to is the Umbrella Cover Museum.  Yes, you heard that right, a place with 700 umbrella covers from around the world. The kind of place that could only exist in a sweet little place like Peak's Island.

Mostly being in Maine meant quality time with my brother and his son, which made the trip even more fun. I think this is a trip I might have to start doing more often.

Here are some photos from my trip.

Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 End of the Year Update

Good Riddance 2016! Yay 2017!

This year has been filled with a lot of ups and downs, which I suppose is the normal routine in life, but it feels like its been extra bad for me and I'm ready to see what the New Year will bring and hope it comes with lots of fresh new energy to propel us all forward!

On the bright side, I end the year with a new job. I'm now the Executive Director of the NoHo Business Improvement District. I've been trying to get a job like this for a long time and am especially happy to land in an area that I spent my elementary school years in. NoHo is emerging as a hip area filled with fashion, tech and design. I even get to see new street art that pops up along the streets nearby. Getting up to speed is slow going, but I feel like bright things lie ahead.

Not to dwell on the bad stuff but... This year I experienced my first emergency surgery (and in Beirut no less!) I'm not going to lie. I kind of have been enjoying the whole experience except for the pain. I guess all those years of watching medical dramas have made me curious what the inside of hospitals really look like. This year I also lost my stepfather, Dick Roberts. Dick lived to a rich old 86 and certainly experienced a full life. He was always a lucky man and even his death showed that. He was healthy and then declined over a period of 6 weeks. He was lucky because, in the last weeks, he was constantly surrounded by family and friends and we were able to spend lots of quality time talking about life and listening to his favorite American Song Book, singing along all the way.

And of course, Hillary Clinton... Last year I told you all that all I wanted for Christmas was a woman President. I ended up spending a large part of 2016 trying to achieve that goal. I spent two weeks in Iowa before the Caucuses. I had a grand old time in Philadelphia during the Democratic Convention. Then I spent many of my fall weekends in Pennsylvania. I loved going door to door talking to voters. I particularly loved meeting so many new citizens, who were so excited to vote for the first time. I also really enjoyed being part of Executive Women for Hillary and helping women around the country activate and organize their friends. I thought I felt the glass ceiling cracking, but apparently it was shatterproof glass! Moving forward, I am horrified by the rhetoric and unpredictability of Trump and saddened by the divisive vitriol, but also have been going to lots of different organizing meetings and am seeing so many people wake up and find their voices. My hope is that out of the ashes will rise a stronger Democratic Party that is more sure of its ideals and more clear about its agenda. In the meantime, we all have to be sure to fight. I continue to be committed to working on immigration and racial justice issues, two things I care deeply about that I fear Trump is going to do real damage to.

Travel... yes, you are all wondering where I went this year.  My international trips included a great trip to Puerto Rico to explore their dynamic street art scene and I know, they are part of the USA, but it still felt a little foreign and I got to work on my Spanish! In the summer I took a  trip to Cairo, Egypt and Beirut, Lebanon, wo very very different Islamic countries. I really enjoyed the contrast of how religion is practiced and loved digging deep into the political situation in both places. Learning about the Arab Spring Uprising first hand in Egypt was fascinating and eye opening. And seeing the Syrian refugee situation up close and personal in Lebanon, the UN guarded border wall between Israel and Lebanon, plus the bullet ridden remnants of the Lebanese Civil War in between this soaring highrises of the international elite, showed me what a complicated hotbed that area of the world is once again. Domestically I enjoyed family trips to Water Island, USVI  where my grandmother used to live, a family reunion in Chicago, a weekend of friendship and street art in Detroit and a week in Cape May, which when added to my time politicking gave me a lot of interesting American experiences too.

In the New Year, I send wishes that we all are open to new experiences and find new passions to fill our heads and hearts. 

Wishing you well!


You can click any links above or check out my blog to see pictures and hear even more about my travel this year.
Or follow my street art Instagram feed at @streetartisallaround
And my economic development and urban planning rumblings on Twitter @cordeliaNYC

Sunday, November 06, 2016

The Uplifting Power of Immigrants in America

Yesterday in Allentown, PA, I found the most amazing little grocery store filled with fruit, vegetables and food from many nations and packed with immigrants. The food was fresh and healthy and the store was such a bright comparison to the other poor food choices available for sale at the other bodegas in the neighborhood. When I got to the register I noticed photos of the Middle Eastern owner's son who was a US soldier who died in the Iraq War. To top it off, the woman at the register was from Syria and has been here five years and is working towards her citizenship. Who says immigrants aren't patriotic and don't make our country better? #americaisgreatalready #strongertogether

Monday, June 20, 2016

World Refugee Day

Syrian Refugee tents in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon

Today is World Refugee Day and after my travels in Lebanon the harsh reality of the refugee experience feels much closer to me. As one drives around the Lebanese countryside there are tents sprinkled all over. In fact, more than 1.2 million Syrians have poured into the country since the start of the Syrian conflict, an amount that equals about 25% of Lebanon's total total population. I just can't imagine how difficult it must be to feel like you have to leave your community because of war or economic hardship. I pray that the world invites these people in and helps them heal and that we figure out ways to spread economic prosperity and peace, so that in the future there will be less and less need for migration.

Click here to see a UNHCR Profile of the Refugees in the Bekaa Valley

Click here to see a good piece on Vice about the Syrian refugees in the Bekaa Valley

Monday, June 13, 2016

Photos from Lebanon - May/June 2016

My trip to Lebanon may have been interupted by my surgery and hospital stay, but I still got to see a lot of the country including learning about the complicated history and politics, enjoying the vibrant social scene in Beirut, traveling around the country to see Roman ruins, the onslaught of refugees all over the countryside and the balkanized border with Israel, searching for street art and wine tasting at a local vinyard. Not bad for a country the size of Connecticut!

Click HERE to see pictures from my trip to Lebanon

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Refugees in the Frankfurt Airport

And yet another news story happening live before my eyes... I just burst into tears in the Frankfurt Airport watching a large group of refugees gathered with a representative from the International Organization for Migration. As I feel the excitement about finally being able to go home, to my safe, warm bed and loving family, I feel extra pain for all the people who are not so lucky. I hope these people will be welcomed by their final European destination and be able to find new homes and quickly find a sense of balance and safety.

Lufthansa Business Class

Hard to say whether it was worth emergency surgery and a week in a hospital to make it to the Lufthansa lounge and an upper deck business class seat in an A380??? Nah, who am I kidding? It's easy to say, YES! I feel like a country bumpkin though because no one else seems the least bit excited about all the free amenities of this kind of fancy travel. Nice things are wasted on the rich! (And thanks #TravelGuard travel insurance for taking such good care of me through all of this and giving me a flight home to remember!) #PleaseDontMakeMeGoBackToCoach

Ramadan Is Here. What Islam’s Holiest Month Is About

I left Lebanon as the sun was rising onto the first day of Ramadan, but watched the celebratory preparation in both Egypt and Lebanon. This is the 5th time I have been in the Islamic Word near or during Ramadan and I was struck how differently each area marks it. While the facets of prayer and reflection are the same, other things change. For instance in Lebanon streets and lampposts were decorated with overhead lights and colorful designs, like our Christmas street light decorations. Happy Ramadan.

New York Times, June 5, 2016

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Listening to Call to Prayer in Baalbek, Lebanon

One of my favorite things about visiting the Islamic world is listening to call to prayer multiple times a day. I like that it makes me stop and reflect on my life and my blessings. Hearing multiple mosques calls echoing over the Roman Ruins at ‪#‎Baalbek‬ in ‪#‎Lebanon‬ was a beautiful, spiritual, peaceful experience. ‪#‎islamiccalltoprayer‬ ‪#‎calltoprayer‬

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Streets of Cairo

I ended up having coffee in a cafe next to a souvenier shop and the whole time Egyptian girls were stopping by trying on the old fashions from way back when and taking selfies. Eventually these girls asked me if I would be in a photo with them. I clearly am underdressed! 

Friendly Faces in Cairo

The friendliness in Islamic Cairo was so great! I never wanted to leave! 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Photos from Egypt - May 2016

Last month I visited Egypt. These days tourists are mostly going elsewhere, which left it less crowded and perfect for me! I loved the bustle of the big city. I loved the uber friendliness of the people. And most of all, as a political person, I loved having conversations with everyone I met about the Arab Spring, Tahrir Square and Egypt's future. As an experiential learner, there is nothing better for me than seeing it and hearing it first hand.

Click HERE to see more photos from Egypt

Visiting the Giza Pyramids - the Last Surviving Wonder of the Ancient World

I was told by some that seeing the Egyptian Pyramids is a bit of a let down after seeing so many pictures and I wasn't sure what to expect. In one way, I think those people were right since I knew exactly what they looked like, so that wasn't quite as dramatic as I expected. Instead I think what was interesting was seeing in person something I have heard so much about in the past. When they pop up out of the Giza skyline I couldn't help but get excited. And although my attraction to Egypt at this time was that tourism was so far down and I was hoping to have the place to myself like I had read about, I think the fact that the main complex was actually really busy may have added to the experience. I arrived at the same time as at least 100 people dressed in neon green and their excitement reminded me what an unusual opportunity this was. The horses and camels for rent we moving all over the site and people were climbing everywhere and I just couldn't miss that this place was special. 

The best and most impressive part to me is that there are many pyramids in the valley. You can see them on the horizon from huge distances away. Some are soaring and some look more like piles of stones and they are all different sizes, but altogether they are quite a sight.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Shadows of Tahrir Square - Cairo, Egypt

Stencils like these of the protestors who were killed were all around the Tahrir Square area
Faces of the Arab Spring near Tahrir Square

The West's misunderstanding of Islam and Arab culture keeps hitting me. I need a better understanding of what people were fighting for in Tahrir Square and elsewhere. With a history of kings, pharaohs and dictators and from the perspective of people I have spoken to here, it's not clear to me that the majority wants to actively participate in governing and instead many mostly want to be able to live their lives safely with enough prosperity to take care of their families. They are not looking for "Democracy" like we believe in in the West. And frankly, with the rise of Trump in America, I don't even feel we are qualified to understand what Americans want so I certainly don't think we can lecture Egyptians about what they should want. 

What I hope for Egypt is that things stabilize and tourists come back while they also diversify their economy a bit more to not be so dependent on tourists. I hope Sisi really is a leader who is listening to everyone and guiding the country through tough important necessary change. Egyptians understand that change takes time. They have almost 5000 years of history to look back on. 

Tourism after the Arab Spring in Eygpt

Arriving in Egypt 12 hours before the mysterious Air Cairo flight disappearance was a rather surreal start to my trip.  In fact, I was the one who informed my tour guide that day it had happened and it looked like I punched him in the stomach. While the tourism numbers show about a 75% drop in tourism since the political uprising of 2011 and a continued sharp drop from last year to this year possibly because of the terrorist incident in the Sinai in the fall when a Russian airliner was taken down by ISIS, the government party line is that things look bright ahead and they were getting through the slump. In fact, almost everyone I have spoken to seems to feel that Egypt is stabilizing and Sisi is doing a good job running the country.  While there is still work to do I get the feeling things were looking up. (I realize that might be a targeted message for people like me.) But in a country where 12% of the population makes their livelihood from tourism this plane crash is a sign of more tough times ahead. 

Meanwhile I don't really know what is happening behind the scenes, but my tourist experience has been wonderful. Egyptians are open and friendly. Cairo is bright, busy and energetic. It's population of 20 million bursts out into the sidewalks of every neighborhood. Seeing the sites is easy. There are plenty of tour guides to teach me history and culture and to thankfully share their opinion on politics and Egypt today. The streets feel very safe. Jane Jacobs would like seeing all the "eyes on the street" that keep everyone safe and looked after. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Why I Travel

Many times the reason I go on a trip is because I need to revive my inner confidence. My real life has a way of beating me down and travel builds me back up. I need to boost my brave, adventurous core, so that I can face life's daily challenges at home. Travel makes me face different kinds of situations and not only survive but usually find possibility I didn't know existed. It reminds me the incredible benefits of an open mind. It shows me that just because I look at something one way, others see it differently and that helps me step back and get a larger, new perspective. It freshens me up and makes me a better, stronger person when I get home.

You Think I’m Weird Because I Travel Solo