Love at First Flight

Good day, smut readers!

This is my first post whilst on my trip in West Africa. For those of you who follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter, then you know that I have been posting photos and such from my trip. I am currently in Sierra Leone and will be here until mid-March. I was very nervous about this trip for all sorts of reasons; one, it is part of my field research, so I’m not on vacation, I am here to do work and collect data and this will impact the viability of my thesis. Second, there were some logistics that were not yet solidly confirmed such as my short and long term accommodations and where in the country I would travel to conduct interviews.

Oh, and apparently, I’m engaged, so now I must think about that too.

I’m glad to say that it has all been working well. I stayed in a nice guest house for a few days before heading out to the most eastern region of the country, Kailahun District. This is where the rebel war of the 1990’s that had spilled over from Liberia crossed over in 1991 to overthrow President Momoh and displaced millions of Sierra Leoneans as they fled westward to the capital, Freetown, or to other places. A large part of the diaspora has yet to return, especially in a country that desperately needs educated, entrepreneurial, and reform-minded people to rebuild in a post-conflict and fragile setting. In 2014, this is also where the deadly Ebola virus had also crossed over and was the heart of the epidemic that soon spread to the rest of the country, and now people are rebuilding from that too. I plan on visiting some other districts along the South, and hopefully will make it to the Bombali district in the north too.

The good, the bad, and the ugly about traveling

Everyone has been very friendly to me, despite my companion and the family I’m staying with, warning me to view everyone as suspect. It is not in my nature to do so, however, I know that I am different and I look different, so I should be cautious. Especially at night and tonight I do plan to travel alone from downtown Freetown to my apartment in the Eastern side of the city. I am also the type of person who will forget to lock her (front) door and I never lock (I don’t think I ever had a lock and key, except for in the college dorms) my bedroom door. However, folks here take security seriously, even in the remote villages that I went to, its common to see 6 or 8 feet cement walls with barb wire and broken glass bottles on the top. As well as bars on the windows, all kinds of deadbolts and padlocks on front doors and each person’s bedroom doors. When I asked my companion why he felt it necessary to lock everything up, especially when he is living with family, I asked, “Are you afraid of theft?” He replied, that he knows that no one in his family are thieves, but this is Africa…etc.” There is suspicion of the other – that someone will try to harm you (physically or spiritually) or take something from you. As well as there are a lot of stories and rumors of people being robbed or kidnapped and such, in the States we call that news.

So, I do think this one person may be a little overly cautious, especially since I was betrothed (kidding) by a close friend of his to watch over me while I’m here. And he wants to make sure that nothing happens to me.

I can’t seem to escape…men problems

Speaking of my betrothal, my companion has taken a liking to me. I arrived very early on a Thursday morning where he met me and took me to my guest house where I stayed for a few days before moving into this apartment. He’s a very smart guy and politically involved and savvy, just the way I like ‘em. I would later find out, that he in turn, was surprised to see how young I was doing my postgraduate degree. There are many obstacles in Sierra Leone for young people to attain higher education, so to get a bachelor’s (a first degree, as they call it) is remarkable in of itself. But to see someone my age studying beyond that, is rare and very respectable. I guess he was not only surprised by my youth but also attractiveness. We talked a lot on Thursday about Sierra Leone politics, global politics, my thesis, my family,…etc. I felt very comfortable talking to him, of course, because I knew we would be doing a lot of traveling together and spending a lot of time together. Thus, it is good to get to know each other well. However, I may not have known that culturally I may have been crossing a line; by the next day he declared that he was falling in love with me and tried to kiss me. He really didn’t seem to understand what was wrong when I kicked him out of my guest room and threatened to christen my new Swiss army knife by slicing off his left nut.

Apparently, “being open” about yourself is a sign that you like a person, so talking about my family and myself…etc. He may have misread that as me falling in love. Thus, I made a call to a friend in London, who has spent some time in Senegal on his experiences. His advice:

  • Love doesn’t actually mean love. The word love is sometimes overused, when it really means lust or just really liking a person to date him/her. Westerners are much more reserved in using the word love until we know this is the person we want to settle with for life.
  • Men in West Africa, can be more aggressive. Not just in pursuing women, but in other aspects too. For example, I noticed that when my companion speaks with younger cousins around his compound “he orders” them assertively to do things (fetch water, boil water, sweep his room…etc.), now there is a respect for age and education, so as the oldest male relative, he does get to boss his younger brother and cousins around to do things for him, but heesh! As well, since he is an educated person (first degree) when we go to buy things from local shops or hop on the bus, he “demands” that they take us this place, or when they are going too fast or slow, or to give him his change now. In terms of love, if they are feeling something, its best to let the lady know upfront and now, hence why I found out from him so soon.

We talked a couple days later and decided to remain friends but even that has had tension and clashes. Like hand-holding (all sexes) is a common sign of close friendship and I had many times refused to hold his hand, which made him upset and wondered why I would refuse this. Not to mention, in one of our trips we had to share to a room.

These last couple weeks, he had let it known that his feelings had not changed, and even had gotten stronger the more he has gotten to know me. Even to the point of telling his mother that he was falling for me. His mother confirmed this over the phone to me too. On our last night before heading back to Freetown he said he had been talking to someone before he met me, but it hadn’t gone far. OK, I don’t give a shit. Really, we just met last week or so, and I’m pretty sure you had a life before me, anyway I’m glad he’s an honest Joe.

Sigh…More problems, am I in Nollywood?

Well, on the day of our return, when I was transitioning to my new apartment with a lovely older couple, he said he was going to introduce me to a female friend, someone my age that could keep me company in my new neighborhood, as the couple’s own daughter was away in medical school. He showed me a picture of her on his phone, then another picture, and another and another…and WTF, how many pictures of this female friend does he have on his phone?! I inquired deeper into their relationship, and it turns out she was the girl he was talking to…for two years!

Who the fuck does he think I am? Nobody “talks” for two years.

To be continued…

Everything You Need to Know About Online Dating

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Digital technology like smartphones, tablets and computers have changed the way people connect. They’ve also changed the way people date. If you’re single and ready to date, you should consider internet dating as it lets you interact with like-minded people before having to meet them in person. But what are the pros and cons, the advantages and dangers of these internet platforms? Here’s a look at how you can get started, protect yourself and find your match from your mobile device or computer.

Your Profile

Every online matchmaker site requires a personal profile for each person. Most of these sites will guide you through the profile creation phase once you sign up, but there are some tips you should consider. First, be honest about your intentions and your lifestyle. This can be a snapshot of who you are and your everyday life. Also, only post profile pictures of yourself. If you post one picture of yourself and many group pictures it can confuse those who look at your profile. Second, don’t list your ideal partner — that person doesn’t exist — instead include the type of values you have and cherish, this will attract similar people. Lastly, check your spelling and grammar. Attention to detail is key.

How You Connect

When you’ve chosen an internet dating site, how do you connect with other users? People love to talk about themselves, so personal questions about someone’s life is always a sure bet. Or if you’re more blunt, just ask someone if they want to have dinner or a drink after work one night. Remember, people are on these sites for this very reason, oftentimes there’s no point beating around the bush. If you’re a flirt start a game with the person you message like Would You Rather. This can get as intimate as you and the person messaged let it.

Precautions, Catfish

There are certain things about yourself you should never disclose online. Personal information, your address and other sensitive data shouldn’t be included in your profile. Another precaution you must keep an eye for is catfishing. A catfish, in the online dating world, is someone who pretends to be someone they aren’t and lures a person to fall in love with the idea of the catfish avatar they’ve constructed. Whether for manipulative power or financial gain, why some people do this is largely unknown. To protect yourself, demand an online video conversation on your computer or smartphone once you’ve had a few conversations; the iPhone 6s smartphone and similar models come with FaceTime installed making it easy to connect via video chat. If the person continually makes excuses for why they can’t speak face-to-face, it’s best to move on.

Offline Meet Up

Once you’ve messaged someone for a while and have a good grasp of who they are — that they are a person you’d like to spend time with — initiate several FaceTime sessions and then schedule a meet up. This can be any type of activity: a drink at a bar, an afternoon in a bookstore or a picnic at the local park. The most important aspect is that you meet them for the first time in public, as you likely don’t know enough about them to meet them at their house or yours.

Best Cities for Singles

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Where you live can play a big role in your dating life. While some cities seem to have a dormant social scene, others offers singles a lively locale — much of which is dictated by the surrounding area and the activities those areas hold. If you’re in the market for a new place to call home, as well as a great place to meet someone special, consider these cities.

Atlanta

If you enjoy the nightlife scene, Atlanta could be the place for you. For instance, Victory Sandwich Bar in Inman Park offers kung-fu movies, cheap cocktails and some stiff ping-pong competition. The Porter Beer Bar, on the other hand, offers over 700 bottled beers and a total of 44 taps, making it a hip place for beer drinkers. The population of this city is nearly 70 percent single, which makes the pool you pick from extensive. While costs are on the rise in Atlanta due to its younger crowd and general hipness, you won’t see your bank broken for a modest apartment or studio.

Miami

From miles of beaches to the nightclubs that thump with life seven days a week, Miami offers a scene for both relaxed and active singles. Cycle groups can be found throughout the city, bookstores like Books & Books hosts author readings as well as novel discussions and book clubs, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Miami is a desirable place for singles, which drives up prices as well as the scarcity of apartments. If Miami seems like the place for you, keep an eye on apartments until you find the one that fits your budget.

Austin

Austin is a college town known for its music scene and barbecue. However, these aren’t its only credentials for a wonderful city for dating. For those who enjoy fine wines, the Dripping Springs Wine Trail offers eight wineries to visit that are just a short drive from downtown Austin. Instead of going out to dinner, take a cooking class with your date. You can find classes that are hands-on or ones that offer a more laid-back approach (i.e., sit back and watch the professionals cook right in front of you). If you’re wanting to flex your creative muscles, Painting with a Twist provides the tools and instruction for you to create of masterpiece. Bonus: It’s BYOB.

Seattle

There simply aren’t many places where you can kayak and climb a mountain in the same day. The Puget Sound area has many islands you can explore by bike or car, a thriving night life and some of the best coffee in the world (and that doesn’t mean Starbucks). On Capital Hill you’ll find entrepreneurs on computers hard at work on the next big thing and a night life that features the clown bar Unicorn, Korean karaoke bar Rock Box and much more. It’s no surprise that this tech-savvy city has more online daters than any other, and with a coffee shop on every corner there’s no lack of places to meet people. While Seattle has a lot that makes it desirable, the over all cost of the city is already high and continues to rise. You’ll likely need some deep pockets if you plan to take advantage of all this city has on offer.

That’s my quick list of cities for singles’ dating. Did I miss a place, or perhaps for my international readers, is there a city that you think should be highlighted? Tweet it to me @ReporterandGirl or post it on my Facebook wall.

Dirty Thirty

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As the creep into September begins (already began!), we are transitioned out of summer and into a new season of orange and brown, or plums and greys if you’re fashion savvy. The bathing suit that arrived the day after the 90F heatwave, and now hangs in my closet regrettably waiting for “one more day” because the leaves go.

While it seems like the rest of the world is all “back to school” and “back from vacation” (and well technically, I am too) when September creeps in, I am reminded of me. It always catches me off-guard when people start wishing me a happy birthday, days before its arrival. I don’t usually remember or even plan for it, but it still comes around. This year is a little special because I am saying goodbye to my 20’s. When I started the blog, I was at the peak of this fabulous decade, and blissfully lived in denial that I would never reach this moment.

In fact, you may remember from my past birthday posts, how I wrote about all my upcoming hopes, dreams, and goals for the year, etc…whereas for this post I am ill-prepared to do so. In fact for this decade, I am lacking ideas in the goals, hopes, and planning department.

When I was young, I had expectations about how my life would be and all the things I would accomplish: finish college, buying a home, travel to every continent in the world, executive-level career, etc…the problem is, I imagined that I would do all these things in my roaring 20’s. In hindsight, I know that is highly unlikely to reach such goals at a young age, not to mention that some of my goals have changed. I have to admit, even my move to Europe was part of an effort to live a dream that I had for many years, and wanted to do it while still “young”, “vibrant”, “creative”, and “free”.  Though, I had plenty of days where I did not feel like that, and looking back at this eclipsed decade, there are some things I wish I did differently, but I’ve taken the time to learn from those mistakes and make improvements. Hopefully, that wisdom will show in this next stage.

So what are the thirties going to look like? Well, if history tells us anything, it was a time of economic depression, rising nationalism, and ended with the outbreak of violent conflict. Yep, just the way I see the next ten years: flat broke, kicked out of the U.K, and a bloody end to it all in a pub. However, I can look forward to a new career path, more stamps on my passport, and experiencing good wine; all of which will bring new experiences.

And while I do have a few immediate goals, like finishing this postgraduate degree, and squeezing in a trip to southern Europe before it gets too cold to test out the new swimsuit, I have largely dismissed and ignored societal pressures to conform or reach certain “life-changing indicators”.  Depending on your perspective, you can interpret that any way you want, either I’ve matured enough and feel confident of who I am as a person or I have completely devolved in character and given up on life. But I’m keeping the glass half-full tonight.

Of cider.

Happy Birthday to my fellow Virgos, and if you have written a birthday post, let me know so I can visit and share it!

 

That Pub Life

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Apparently going to the pub is not always about getting hammered (or pissed). These commercial locals are also about building bonds and friendships, sharing memories, and generally are very community-oriented places, where members will loyally visit this establishment several times a week, and get to know other members too.

So here’s what happened to me

There is a pub that I like, as they have good drinks and food at a cheap price, as well as they serve food at the latest hour that I have seen so far in London (11pm). So on Wednesday night about two weeks ago, I came down before the kitchen closed to put in my order for food and a drink.

Now contrary to the definition of “pub life” that I gave above, I was not feeling social during this visit. Rather, I just wanted to take a break from the books, and get some food while mindlessly staring at the TV or people-watching. Now, I had sometimes felt that people would watch me too, but I always brushed it off. I only come once every couple weeks at most, so I don’t recognize anyone, and surely no one recognizes me.

As I went to the long table, I sat in someone’s seat, and an older gentleman next to it told me he was waiting for his friend to come back. I apologized, and then took the seat next to it. I made a joke to him about my mishap (I don’t remember what I said), but sure enough, his lady friend did return and I was invited into the conversation. This girl was piss-drunk, and introduced me to random people who so happened to walk by us.

I couldn’t help wonder why she seem to know so many people at the bar…but, this is my American bias speaking. However, when I’m figuring out how to go soon, another gentleman sits across from us, and inserts himself into our conversation. He’s polite, but remember, I’m not feeling especially sociable. He ends up asking for my number, and I settled by adding myself to his LinkedIn profile.

The pub life, outside of the pub

So, this brave gentleman– we will call him Paul, does end up taking me on a date a few days later. And you know what, it was a great date! What I thought would take 2 maybe 3 hours at the most, was like 6. Wine and conversation at a jazz bar, a ferry boat ride back to the original pub where we met, and then a late dinner where he spoon-fed me pieces of his steak. Then, the romantic text message the next day….and the next…and yeah.

But I’m not into him.

He wanted to meet again, but I gave a white lie about having my tournament all weekend (I was lined up to play, and so was the team, but it fell apart last minute). The following week, when I stepped into my pub local, people were definitely staring at me. Some even came up to say hi, and asked if I remembered being introduced to them. This week, I had a late night meal with an acquaintance who wanted to offer me freelance work, and we were at the pub. Paul happened to stop by and he came to us to invite me over to his table. I replied that I’m on my way out, and when I’m finished with my meeting, I will stop by briefly to say hi to him and his companions.

Later, as he walked me to my building, I explained that I’m not interested in seeing him romantically. He was a great guy and a great catch, but I’m not interested. I don’t know why, maybe I’m very preoccupied, but I really didn’t connect on this level. We finally ended with a hug and he asked to give it a chance, and I simply said no.

The moral of the story…

So pubs are very community-oriented, it was likely that the stares were not just my imagination. After telling my story to some folks, I was told that many local pubs have a strong loyal customer base, where the patrons usually recognize each other. Thus, it’s possible that as a newbie, I received some curious looks– especially after going on a date with Mr. Paul. Because of this close network, gossip and news also spread quite rapidly in pubs too; which may help explain why a few people had came up and asked if I was “the American”.

Also, saying, “No”, and I did it rather quickly. It has been some time since I dated, however, I do not feel pressured to date or be in a relationship with someone.

Being new to London can be lonely, my social life had not picked up this summer, even while joining sports clubs or all those folks who said they would call me to go to a beer garden. So it was very tempting to finally have someone that wanted to take me to eat and drink a few nights a week and have great conversations.

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However, as much as I wanted that, it wouldn’t be fair knowing what his intentions and feelings were.

Guys, a little advice; a woman usually knows within 30 seconds of meeting you, if sex is a possibility. I knew when meeting Paul, and especially knew after our first date. “Giving it a go” just means lowering our expectations for any blossoming of feelings.

It’s weird, especially as I close in on my thirtieth, it does seem that more guys that I come across are willing to “try” and “give things a go” even when there was nothing to begin with. Like, trying to start a fire with damp wood.

Girls, always go with your gut instincts, don’t string him along. If you’re not into him — tell him up front. It’s hard, and I know it is, but its the right thing– especially after learning from past experience, it’s never good to revert to those habits. However, it doesn’t mean that good conversation can’t happen over lunch instead of dinner.

Oh, and what did I learn about pub life? Well, I’m just going to keep bouncing to a different pub and keep these Brits guessing, heck, I may show up as a Canadian next week, eh?

So do you have a pub life or a first date experience? Tell me about it @ReporterandGirl or on Facebook.

 

5 Romantic Ways to Spend Valentine’s Day in New York City

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The Big Apple is chock full of romantic and fun things for couples to do on and around the day devoted to love. This is a tribute to my fans who are in my hometown this Valentine’s Day weekend. I hope these following tips will help you make the most of it!

See a Broadway Show

Do you love musical theater? Then going to a Broadway show is the perfect way to spend Valentine’s Day in NYC. But if the idea of standing in long lines only to find your show is sold out has you feeling a bit nervous, check out the Telecharge website to buy your tickets ahead of time. You can browse through the available shows, pick your seats and buy your tickets with just a few clicks, which will put your minds at ease and give you more time to enjoy the city.

Go to a Dine-in Movie Theater

While dinner and a romantic movie are a nice (if not cliché) way to spend Valentine’s Day with your honey, try a twist on this classic date idea this year. Syndicated, a premiere dine-in movie theater in New York, lets you purchase and enjoy cocktails, a scrumptious meal and the movie all in one place. Movie tickets are an incredibly reasonable $3, and you can dine on dishes like popcorn tuna and slow-cooked lamb ribs. If you need popcorn to enjoy a movie, Syndicated also sells a variety of gourmet flavored popcorn.

Book a Dinner Cruise

If you enjoy sailing, book a dinner cruise with the Hornblower company. The romantic party on the Hudson runs about $125 per person and includes a delicious three-course meal and incredible skyline views. Enjoy dancing with your sweetie and standing at the rails gazing at the views and into each others’ eyes.

Play Board Games

If you and your valentine prefer quiet evenings at home, you can find a romantic and more subdued option in the bustling city. Head to Camp in Brooklyn for a camp-themed retreat. The Boerum Hill bar at Camp resembles a rugged and romantic cabin in the woods. Snuggle (because it will be cold on Sunday) in front of the fireplace with some s’mores, and enjoy an evening of classic board games like Connect 4. If you would like to toast your love, keep the s’mores theme going with a chocolate, graham cracker and marshmallow flavored martini.

Treat Your Sweet to Sweets

Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be complete without some amazing chocolate, and New York City has plenty of places to find the perfect love-themed confectionery. Jacques Torres chocolates can be found throughout the city, and you can purchase a few adorable “love bug” chocolates complete with red lady bug logos. Spring for a chocolate “Do Not Disturb” sign that you can hang on your hotel room door — or nibble on in your room.

Dylan’s Candy Bar in Union Square is another good option. The flagship 3-story store features bright colors, delicious candies and chocolate-covered strawberries that are to die for. If you are feeling on the romantically naughty side, spring for a candy bra or edible chocolate body paint.

So what are your plans (if any) for Valentine’s or Single Awareness Day?

Tell me@ReporterandGirl or on Facebook.

Staying Warm during Cuffing Season

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Autumn is here, and you can’t deny it. Most of your favorite shows have started in the last couple of weeks:

Walking Dead

Empire

Orange is the New Black

It is also the time of apple picking and pumpkin patches, and all those nasty-flavored pumpkin and apple beverages (really, Starbucks – pumpkin spiced latte)! Its sweater weather, and mix that with leggings or jeggings and those new boots that mamma bought and voila, all the dogs come barking to the yard!

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But cuffing season is more than just the weather getting cold, its about shacking up with someone through the winter.

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So what is cuffing season? It a phenomenon that’s been anecdotally coined, since there hasn’t been any academic study on it. HelloGiggles.com defines it as, “cuffing season is a portion of the year when men shed their summer bachelor skin and start to feel lonely as the weather turns colder.” A little sexist, as I would like to think that some women do get lonely and seek out partners “to cuff” for the season as well.

But nonetheless, as the last memory of summer disappears, and the skies turn cloudy and darker, hours earlier than before; single people may get lonely, as there aren’t many outdoor events to socialize at, and watching three hours of television after work, at home alone- may be lonely.

When winter really hits, and its just too crappy or cold to venture outside, humans, like most mammals, prefer to stay at home with a hot mug of cocoa and snuggled up next to someone (until April).

Finally, the last catalyst for this height in mating, is the upcoming holidays, literally one right after another. I’m sure we’ve all been through a Thanksgiving or Holiday dinner reunited with extended family members, and that one person asks you who are you dating? When are you finally going to bring someone home? Or my personal favorite, “So-n-so just had a baby, wouldn’t you like to have one?”

Right, I’ll just get to work on that. It was on my Friday to-do list, must have overlooked it when I was crossing off, “buy stamps”,  “asking out the mailman” and “wrapping his package.”

So, Thanksgiving through Valentine’s are the major coupled holidays, and less important would be Easter, but generally as the weather warms up, people emerge from their caves, and basketball starts again, thus the desire to be single again springs.

So how can you avoid becoming a victim of cuffing season?

Recognize the behavior, exes or the guy that you talked to over the summer, is all of sudden blowing up your phone and “showing up” places where you normally are.  Apparently, we have not seen the worst of it, it gets most aggressive the last week of October through November.

Play it cool and watch the behavior carefully.

Also, cuffing season isn’t for everyone, if you can’t throw the ball — step to the sideline, please.

There is always the potential for love. Not many people will “consciously” start relationships for cuffing season, but there are primal instincts that drive this behavior. However, it is just as likely as any other relationship to fail.

Some top examples of cuffing:

September is the busiest month for weddings.

Everyone is announcing their engagements on Facebook.

Everyone is announcing their pregnancy on Facebook.

Ex-boy(girl)friend texting you out of the blue asking, “how stuff is.”

You are receiving random invitations to BBQ’s or other functions from a suitor.

So, have you been a victim of cuffing season? Or are you a seasonal player? I’d like to know your experiences.

Tell me @ReporterandGirl or Facebook or G+