Celebrating Culture Through Traditional Dress is a Form of Travel

Whether you wear your traditional clothing from the motherland while exploring, or you are celebrating your culture in your hometown outside of the motherland, both are equal forms of travel. Maybe you are performing a Folklórico dance at an art museum in Philadelphia you have never visited. Maybe it is “International Day” at school in California. Maybe your spiritual center is offering a cultural day where you get to show your pride, and learn about other countries in Michigan. Maybe your cultural dance group gets to travel to the next city over in Florida to perform. These are some of our favorite photos to feature considering the fact that it feels as if one is transported to the motherland when shared with others. Through these different photos, you allow people to see a small snapshot of what it feels like to be visiting the country you or your family are from.

“No dejes que te roben tu alegría, tu orgullo, tu poder” -@amandaalarah
“I am my Ancestors’ Wildest Dreams” -@marley_marz

BONUS! The funniest outfit award for celebrating culture goes to:

Pre-Carnavales Under the Mango Tree

One of the most famous carnivals in the world is in Barranquilla, Colombia. The secret I have to offer is that Colombia’s Carnival celebrations span anywhere along the Caribbean coastal region near the cities of Cartagena, Barranquilla, Santa Marta, and Riohacha. I happen to be living in Dibulla, La Guajira, a coastal pueblo near Riohacha for my Peace Corps service. Never did I think I would be enjoying the charm of Colombian carnival season for longer than a month starting with the weekend after Three Kings Day, and every weekend leading up to Mardi Gras.

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Casetas
Every Saturday during this season, people go out to celebrate “pre-carnavales” in a “caseta”, which are enclosed spaces used to celebrate during carnival season. These spaces could be a bar, discoteca, or an empty lot that is only used for carnival alone (like where I live in Dibulla). Each city has many of them, and each pueblo might have one or two. My pueblo has one that just happens to be next door to me, called KZ Lesvia. This venue is in my neighbor’s back yard, where it was used to screen movies back in the day. Considering the fact that there is a mango tree that looks over the entire venue, and the screen-turned-stage is perfect for the DJ to do their thing, it is an enchanting carnival experience. The best part of attending this venue every Saturday night is seeing how people dressed up more and more as time went by, including more bright colors.

 

If you ever attend a caseta (aka in Spanish “KZ” for short), there are a few things you need to prepare for before you arrive. Colombians celebrate any party by throwing flour or baby powder, foam, or water. Many women wear hats in order to protect their hair from most of these elements, but there is no getting away from the amount that gets on your face and clothing, so come prepared knowing you can’t do anything about it. It’s all in good fun, and there is no point in getting upset if you know what to expect.

 

Parades
I was surprised to see a parade on a random Friday, three weeks before actual carnival. The mayor’s office organized a small parade with their office workers and some mobile speakers. They walked down my street, and I was more than happy to join in on the dancing and celebrating for what I thought was a random surprise. Apparently, there is a parade every Friday a couple of weeks before carnival. The week later, the parade grew to include at least 5 “comparsas”, or parade groups, that comprised of the hospital, the mayor’s office, the school, and a couple of other groups. To top it all off, there just happens to be mango trees that line the streets and met us every step of the way we paraded, no more than 2 miles around the small pueblo.

 

I had the distinct honor of parading with girls that I have been giving dance classes to. I was even more excited that they decided to make red leotards that matched mine. It made me super happy to see them organize, sell desserts, fundraise, and have their new dance outfits made all within one week and with barely any of my help or council. They also made sure to place me right next to their comparsa.

 

Music
Growing up with a Colombian Mami, Checo Acosta was well known in my household for the song Ché Mapalé, which always got everyone who is anyone up off their seat to dance. This is still a largely favorite song to play during Colombian carnival, but there are many more classics as well as new songs that everyone listens to in the Casetas. If you want to listen to some of the music, click on the links for the playlist created for the Carnaval de Barranquilla, and El Heraldo’s song competition for the 2017 Carnaval song. The music spans from traditional Cumbia, Puya, Mapalé, and Vallenato to more modern sounds like Champeta, Reggaeton, Tropi-pop, and more.

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The Caseta when it’s empty and quiet, being set-up with the huge “Picó” speakers. Notice the mango tree in the venue, and behind the tall white wall (that’s our patio mango tree!).

The costumes, colors, colors and more colors
There are particular Carnival costumes that are popular in Colombia, but here are some more that were found particularly in Dibulla:

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I attended the 2017 Carnaval de Barranquilla starting on February 25th, so click on the link to explore the largest most famous Carnival of Colombia.

WEPA CARNAVAL – QUIEN LO VIVE ES QUIEN LO GOZA

 

 

“Hiking” Clothes: Not Just for the Outdoors

It’s the worst travel secret to have, and today I admit to the world that I am a horrendous packer. I wait until the last possible second and struggle to figure out what I’ll actually wear. I’m always too hot or too cold, hate carrying things, and usually end up overpacking. As a result, my luggage is always overweight and the fees mean one less cool thing to do.

Last month, I had a lightbulb moment during the #FYPx Expedition that has solved my packing problems. Columbia Sportswear and REI helped outfit the team and I for our journey, and that’s when I realized that “outdoor” clothing is so much more! Moisture wicking, lightweight, and high tech fabrics take out all the guesswork, and it’s the perfect thing to bring when you’re on a global adventure.

We were in San Francisco and Yosemite during a record smashing heat wave, the kind of weather that was last experienced 46 years ago. The days were blistering and sweaty, but by night time we were FREEZING. Even moving into a valley meant a change in temperature, but not once did I agonize. I was pleasantly surprised at how effective one shirt could be at keeping me comfortable, and how my lightweight layers were an easy solution to my needs.

One bonus secret from REI was about the power of wool socks and a good fitting shoe. Socks should be pulled up with no sag around your toes and laces should be snug from the bottom up, meaning careful adjustments every time you put them on. I’m rough on my feet, but not once did they ache or have blisters after a day of journeying.

I don’t know why I thought this stuff was *exclusively* for the outdoors, like for the kind of person that might go on marathon camping trips where every ounce counts, or a hiker that needs their clothing to perform in any weather. Travel clothes also require the same things, and they both have a lot of moving around required. Literally.

Don’t fear changing up your travel game because of style! I was worried about looking kinda goofy or weird, but was surprised yet again to see some of the great options in active wear available. I def won’t be shy about telling someone a great sweater is from REI, or that my fun sneakers are from Columbia Sportswear. I’m so sold on changing how I pack and my next trip will mean one less scramble.

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Puffy vest=yes. (Photo by Victoria Ramos)

Much thanks to my #FindYourPark friends featured here!
Check them out:
Victoria Ramos, Faith Briggs, Erin O’Grady, Mario Villanueva,
Edgar Woo, and Geoff Livingston

What are some of your packing trips, or essential items of clothing for travel? Did you already know the secrets of active wear? Let us know in the comments!

 

French Men’s Fashion

Need I really say it? It is better. The men here know how to dress, and it is not feminine. In fact, I would describe it as a James Dean look (SEXY), or a Thunderbirds look from Grease. A lot of the men wear the look straight out of a Levis commercial, a jean that is very popular here (note the American classic brand!).

Cigarette and all.

Cigarette and all.

Levis

Levis

Aladdin Pants

So, there is this new fashion. This has to be the ultimate sin in the name of Crimes of Fashion. Not only do young french women only wear only black (see previous post), but they wear this, and I have mostly seen it worn with those black velvet Vans. Huh? I mean at least most of the women are so classy and elegant with the black, but THIS? :

I like to call them Aladdin pants, and I have heard people call them Genie pants, but I think the actual term is Afghan pants. it’s all the rage here in Europe. If it arrives to the US, please shoot me.

Credit to: Aladdin-Pants.com

UPDATE in 2019: This is possible the least culturally sensitive observation I’ve made about French/European fashion, but then I should have actually talked about how this fashion statement could possibly be cultural appropriation of Middle Eastern styles….

Black and Grey like the Michigan Winter

What, did someone die? Just when I was starting to enjoy the year-round nice weather here, I have the constant reminder of black and grey STILL, but by what the women’s fashion is here (comparable to Michigan weather in the winter). It is all they wear. No color. For those of you who know me well: how often do I REALLY wear black or dull colors for that matter? AYYY ma life.

I acknowledge that it is a fashionable, stylish, and inexpensive to use the color. But still, I miss my colores vibrantes!