S: LIFE THROUGH THE EYES OF MY DAUGHTERS
BC: DEPARTED | Hopefully this is only Chapter One | More to come!
FC: Paris, France Kyoto, Japan Amsterdam, Netherlands Benin, Africa | ARRIVED 25 DEC 2012 | This Photo Album is dedicated to my loving daughters, LaShaunda and Kaitlin to show appreciation for affording me opportunities to see the world without borders. I love you, Shaun & Mookie! Mom
2: Benin, Africa | Kyoto, Japan | Paris, France | Amsterdam
4: PARIS, FRANCE
5: Paris, France Spring 2009
6: Picnic on the Seine The Seine is a 776 km (482 mi)-long river and an important commercial waterway within the Paris Basin in the north of France | Alain, Shaun & Chris
7: In Paris at Alain's home. I enjoyed several dinners and champagne receptions while on my visit. Patou, "The Professor", Chris and Alain were key in making certain I had a wonderful experience.
9: Dinner Party hosted by Patou and friends. It was a wonderful experience of both African and French foods and culture (Francophones) The francophone culture beyond Europe is the legacy of the French and Belgian colonial empires.
11: Shaun and friends
12: Karaoke in Kyoto, Japan
13: Kyoto, Japan New Year's 2010 | Kyoto ("Capital City") is a city in the central part of the island of Honshu, Japan. It has a population close to 1.5 million. Formerly the imperial capital of Japan, it is now the capital of Kyoto Prefecture, as well as a major part of the Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe metropolitan area. Ranked as the 11th of the world's most livable cities in the magazine Monocle in 2012, Kyoto was praised for its history and compact city solutions such as its own subway system. Shaun & I visited with Katie while in her junior year of college, where she studied abroad.
14: Kyoto, Japan | ARRIVED 21 DEC 2011
16: Karaoke and good food!
17: There are some very old Japanese Temples which were established over 1,200 years ago. Today some of these very old wooden temple buildings still survive, however many have been destroyed by lightning, fire, earthquakes, storms or war and have been rebuilt over the years. We had an opportunity to visit a few of them and it was so beautiful to witness prayer and meditation ceremonies. We visited Shimogamo Shrine which is a common name of an important Shinto sanctuary in the Shimogamo district of Kyoto city's Saky ward. Its formal name is Kamo-mioya-jinja ().It is one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan and is one of the seventeen Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto which have been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. This is one of the homes we passed on the path up to one such temple.
18: Having fun means not taking yourself too seriously and living in the moment
21: The Mall - mini skirts, boots and permanent eye lashes | It's Universal - people love to shop! | We love to eat!!! | Noodles 40 ways.... | I got this all figured out | Yes - this is what I'm talking about!
22: SHIMOGAMO SHRINE
24: KARAOKE | We enjoyed a night out with Katie's friend Kaitlin and her family who were visiting from Texas.
26: Cotonou, Benin | ARRIVED 21 NOV 2011
27: Benin, Africa 29 November 2012
28: Breakfast on the beach. Simply amazing!
30: COTONOU | 3O NOV 2012
31: The name "Cotonou" means "mouth of the river of death" in the Fon language. At the beginning of the 19th century, Cotonou (then spelled "Kotonou") was a small fishing village. Though originally ruled by the Kingdom of Dahomey, in 1851 the French made a treaty with the Dahomean King Ghezo that allowed them to establish a trading post at Cotonou.
33: . | The Dantokpa Market is a market in Cotonou, Benin. It is one of the most important retailing areas in Benin, covering over 20 hectares. It is also economically important for the country, with a reported commercial turnover of over a billion CFA Francs a day
34: A prevalent mode of transport in the city is the motorcycle-taxi, Zémidjan.
35: One-third of the population live below the poverty line set by Benin, which suggests that close to 50 percent live below the dollar-a-day international poverty line.
37: Hotel Le Chevalier | Julien's hotel property
40: This is another hotel owned by Julien Gondonou, One of Shaun's dearest friends. Estimated date of grand opening: January 2013.
42: MR. GONDONOU'S HOME
48: Salsa dancing with my future son- in- law | Mouda, who was a gentleman and amazing host during my visit
50: At wax museum in Amsterdam ... and the red light district. Oh My
53: Nelson Mandela ...kindda looks real, doesn't he?
55: Astrid and kids in Amsterdam Madame Tussauds (Amsterdam) (UK /tsdz/, US /tusoz/; the family themselves pronounce it /tuso/ is a wax museum in London with branches in a number of major cities. It was founded by wax sculptor Marie Tussaud and was formerly known as "Madame Tussaud's", but the apostrophe is no longer used. Madame Tussauds is a major tourist attraction in Amsterdamn displaying waxworks of historical and royal figures, film stars, sports stars and infamous murderers. We had a blast!
56: There were no places I saw while in Benin which touched my heart more than my visit to Ouida and to the family Jah school. Ouida is where the route of the slaves reaches the ocean. There is a memorial to the victims of the Atlantic slave trade -the door of no return, where captives were loaded on to ships for the middle passage to Haiti and the Caribbean Islands. Neuer Deutscher Biergarten (The Beer Garden) - restaurant and grill on the beach (you can sit and sip cocktails on the beach while watching the waves). Not far from Hotel du Lac, but you will have to ask where it is, as it is a few blocks in and not visible from main road. We had the luxury of being able to walk from Shaun’s house a few blocks to it. Breathtakingly beautiful!! It's on the coast, on the other side of the lagoon from the port. Ask for 'Quartier Jacques' then keep going towards the beach! You won’t be disappointed. Shaun also introduced me to the Benin Marina Hotel. Boulevard de la Marina, Cotonou BP 1901, Benin (Formerly Benin Sheraton). We enjoyed a nice buffet-style lunch and good conversation with the local waiter. He was very knowledgeable about the history of Cotonou and insightful about the plight of its’ people and cultural shifts. He was a very proud Black man, and I really enjoyed having his energy around us.
57: Jah-family repatriated from Guadelupe to Benin about ten years ago and started living here in the spirit of Panafricanism and spreading their beliefs. He and his wife, Mare Jah built their own living quarters and a school by the lake, natural economy is what they rely on. Virtually everything they have on the table is from their vast gardens where in the plant avenues there are signs depicting names that are historically important for the Rastas, the flowers combine a map of Africa. “Madagascar included,” Father Jah specifies. Father Jah explained how Africa should be a unified state. Africa is the birthplace of people and it should be kept and loved as a whole. Although the Bible talks about the Garden of Eden, we all know that it's Africa it's really talking about. Why should we have the frontiers that bring anger and wars if we could share the opportunities and produce what Africa has to offer? They prepared an amazing lunch for us of Okra stew, mashed Yams, garden salad, fruit juice - all organically grown in their massive garden.
59: What I learned about cooking in BENIN (Culinary speak) Nutmeg. Forget about it! Two food items I searched and searched for were Nutmeg and Celery. Never found nutmeg (or anyone who remotely knew what it was) but I did find celery not celery stalks, but celery leaves. Meat, vegetables and fruits are usually purchased in open markets, but supermarkets sell dry and canned goods. Local livestock includes chickens, guinea fowl, ducks and goats. Fresh fish are plentiful and is dried, smoked, deep fried (whole) and grilled. Hunters sell “bush meat”, which is also usually smoked and dried; this might be antelope, grasscutter (groundhog), porcupine, or other wild animal. Because chickens are not grain fed and are physically active, the meat is very tough. You have to be creative in breaking down the tissues until they are tender enough to digest. I braised a chicken and baked it for over 2 hours, before it was edible. Not very tender by our standards, but everyone enjoyed it. Staple is Yam – not what we know as sweet potatoes or yams. I attempted to prepared candied yams and ended up with a pot of candied starch, suitable for scrapbooking paste but definitely not eating! They are a large tuber with a thick bark that must be removed with a knife; several varieties of yam are available in Benin. Cassava is also a staple. Both can be prepared in various ways, including a dried powder which is soaked in water, combined with hot water and whipped up into a fluffy form, or with its starch extracted. Starch is particularly popular in Benin. Rice is not native to Benin, but it is one of the most popular staples available. Vegetables include water leaf (efo – a spinach-like green) and okra. Cabbage, cucumbers, potatoes and carrots are available, but still considered foreign food. They grow well in Benin. Pineapples – which up until now, I had only associated with Hawaii – grow everywhere and are as sweet as sugar. Mangos, passion fruit, and oranges are incredibly good. Pounded yam (sliced, boiled, then mashed till smooth and elastic with a mortar and pestle) is a typical Benin dish, served with a soup. I attempted to bake cornbread, but it didn’t rise like it should have. It was good, though. Crayfish (or dried shrimp) is used a lot to season soups and stews. And of course, Maggi seasonings or broths remains King.