June Love Affair!

Love Affair is a little blog series that I'm experimenting with and am super excited to introduce. In a perfect world, these posts will manifest on the first of every month. In reality, as I'm a mom of two toddlers and run my own business, life...well, you know the saying.

Each month I'm going to share three products/items that I absolutely can't live without. And no, I'm not getting compensated for promoting any of these products (unless explicitly stated). I'm simply sharing products that I use and love. Working in the wellness industry, I'm often asked these sorts of lifestyle questions, so this is a great platform for me to organize my mommy brain and share my love affairs.

So here we go!

June Love Affair!



1) Marble and Milkweed Rose, Cardamom and Sandalwood Botanical Fragrance:

Can you say yummy! This is definitely NOT your grandmother's rose perfume. While the charming and endearing, heart opening element of rose is abundant, so too are absolutely sumptuous and otherworldly sandalwood notes. The two scents play off of each other and are grounded perfectly by vibrant, peppery cardamom undertones. You know I don't do chemicals, and what I love about this company, as stated on their site, is the fact that all Marble and Milkweed scents are made entirely from precious natural botanical oils, resins, concretes and absolutes. No synthetics are used- ever! Oh, and the fragrance sticks to you all day long- JOY!

2) Pacifica Kale Juice Cleanse Mask:

A few months back, I took a good look in the mirror and decided I needed to do something about my tired mom of two face. Sometimes coconut oil (my go to) just doesn't fully cut it. I was so relieved when I found this super gentle AHA mask. It makes my skin so soft. I use nightly after washing my face with coconut oil. The AHA's are naturally derived from papaya enzymes and all ingredients are 100% vegan, cruelty free, paraben free, formaldeyde free and sulfate free. The result, healthy, happy, glowing skin. 

3) Veriditas By Pranarom Women's Deodorant:

I swear by this deodorant! I'm a yoga teacher, I move all day long and I have never been stinky or felt weary of raising my arms with confidence. The deodorant is made from pure essential oils and nothing else! Nothing.... The essential oil blends smell blissful. Just to be clear, the men's deodorant is awesome as well. The women's scent is floral while the men's scent is woodsy. It's like wearing perfume. Every time you move, a lovely burst of fragrance wafts upwards. Veriditas deodorants are non irritating, easy to apply (they come in roll on tubes) and a little goes a long way. Love, love, love....

See, this series is so easy and breezy ,) I'll be back with more in July!

Have you tried any of these products? Anything tickle your fancy?


Mistaken for a Prostitute in Manzini, Swaziland

The knocks, persistent and aggressive, shook the narrow door. "Girls, are you in there?"

Slowly, the voice registered. Springing upright in our beds, Tamika turned off the television with a quick click of the remote.

"We want to spend some more time with you, go to the clubs, we've got money."


Wide eyed in hilarity and horror, we covered our mouths to stifle our confused laughter.

Mistaken for a Prostitute in Manzini, Swaziland....

It had all began innocently enough.

On a two week break from teaching in Inhambane, Mozambique, we were finally free to explore. After five months in our charming rural outpost, we were ready to see what else the country and its surrounding areas had to offer.

Our journey began in Mozambique's capital Maputu. After a few days visiting with friends and taking in the sights and excitement of the big city, we were ready to move onwards and see a new country.

South Africa, we couldn't afford on our miniscule teacher's salary, but Swaziland- The Kingdom of Swaziland (to be exact), was a short bus ride from Maputu and was a much cheaper option.

Without any real plan, we gathered our backpacks and made our way to the large central bus terminal in Maputu in search of a Manzini bound bus.

What was in Manzini, we didn't really know, but it was the second largest city outside of the capital, leading us to believe there would be plenty to experience.

Where we would stay and what exactly we would do, we had yet to decide. We only knew that we wanted to go. We'd met plenty of backpackers in Inhambane who had come through Swaziland and they had loved it. We'd traveled easily around Inhambane, Vilankulo, and Maputo in Mozambique without plan or purpose and had a wonderful time taking everything in as each city revealed itself to us. We spent a day in Johannesburg, South Africa with the same ease, surely Manzini would also prove to be a beautiful adventure.


Miles and miles of open terracotta road spread before us. The sky, topaz, illuminated the morning with an ethereal spotlight. As our slow bus huffed along, red clouds surrounded us, leaving their mark on the windows, until the world became a charming blur of red.

Cows, great big fat meaty ones, ambled along the roads and through open fields. Clusters of mud homes appeared and disappeared along the way as we slowly rolled onwards, out of Mozambique and into Swaziland.

It was afternoon when Manzini revealed itself to us, surprisingly crisp, pious and modern in comparison to the fading Portuguese colonial architecture we'd left behind in Mozambique.

Mistaken for a prostitute in Manzini, Swaziland

Near the bus station was a small fruit market. We stopped for a snack before setting off by foot to find accommodation.


Up and down, purple and pink frangipani studded streets we roamed in search of a hotel, hostel or guest house.


The first hotel we approached was too expensive, the second had no vacancies, the third, a motel, a bit run-down, owned by a balding and obese pink faced South African was cheap and available.

"You girls are teachers? I'll cut you a discount then," he said with a wink, leading us up a darkened narrow stairwell to the third floor. "I'll let you have this room, one of our best for a reduced price."

The room, a glorified cement box with two twin beds was dark and smelled vaguely of smoke. Tamika and I looked at teach other- wanting to maximize our time to exploring and not looking for housing, we sucked it up and settled our housing dilemma in search of adventure.

After changing and washing our red dirt caked faces, we walked the quiet streets in search of food and something to do.

Wanting to get a better sense of this Kingdom called Swaziland, we asked around for tips on where to find good local food. We were consistently directed towards Nando's Chicken, a Mozambican inspired South African food chain, which delicious in its own right, didn't give us  the opportunity we wanted to experience the cuisine of Swaziland.

Eventually, we made our way to a nice hotel, which boasted a delicious, though not quite local menu. Hungry, tired, and in agreement that it was a step up from Nando's we decided to give it a try.

We were seated at a large table, next to a pool with a floating ice sculpture. After months of teaching in the Mozambican rural bush, it actually felt exotic to be in a gaudy air conditioned hotel.

Short on cash, we prioritized, ordering mixed drinks and an array of appetizers to share.

"You were on the bus out of Maputo."

Two well dressed Indian men appeared next to our table.

"Yes?" I agreed confused.

Had we met them somewhere on our travels?

"We were on the bus too. Do you mind if we join you?"

"Sure." For lack of a better excuse and perhaps because I was traveling and so were they, I motioned for them to have a seat.

More drinks and appetizers were ordered. They were South African, from Durban, both worked in IT and were in Manzini for the weekend, to get away. They came relatively often and promised to show us some clubs if we were interested.

After a long and lazy dinner, they walked us around the quiet and pristine city- pointing out the few points of interest and hot-spots along the way.

Everybody tried to get us to go to Nandos. It was as if it were the only option for food in all of Manzini.

This mall was interesting, merely because we hadn't seen a mall in months. There was nothing special about it that said- Yay, I'm in Swaziland however :/

It was clear that we had entered a much more conservative space than Mozambique

Mistaken for a prostitute in Manzini, Swaziland

Small, neat little markets popped up along the sides of roads. Unlike in Mozambique where the good were out in the open, the goods were wrapped in plastic.





"Why do you choose to come to Manzini?" Tamika asked. "Aren't there plenty of getaway places in South Africa? There doesn't seem to be much here."

It was true. Outside of the ubiquitous white walled church buildings and Nando's establishments, aside from a lovely mall and the odd market here and there, Manzini didn't seem to have much going for it as far as personality.

"It's nice to get out of the country," the taller one said, we accepted it, and moved on.

We went to a small lounge, had some more drinks while seated in lawn chairs outside so we could admire the stars.

Drinking and chatting with our new friends, we talked about life in the U.S. and life in South Africa. We talked about our jobs in Mozambique and about other countries we'd visited. It was nice, but they wanted to club-hop and we wanted to walk around and explore. Having already disclosed the name of the motel where we were staying, and having taken their cell phone numbers, we agreed to send them a text if we still wanted to hang out later.

Manzini's streets were quiet. The presence of street lamps made everything appear bright and safe. We walked up and down hills, admiring the quiet night, comparing the architecture to Inhambane's, noting the ubiquitous nature of white walled Anglican churches. A few hours across the border and we were in a different world. We traded Portuguese for our native English, we traded laid back friendliness for conservative stern faces, we traded Catholic churches, mosques and Hindu temples, for Anglican church buildings with signs warning of the deep sins of the unfaithful, and we traded in soft sandy roads, for pavement.

Then we met Paul. He was seated on an overturned white bucket outside a local club. He called out to us as we passed, we stopped, he introduced himself, we introduced ourselves and began chatting.  Originally from Zimbabwe, Paul had been in Swaziland, for the last few years and was supporting himself as an artist.

"Swaziland is cool man. Very peaceful. It's easier to live here than in South Africa. You just have to watch out for prostitutes and gangs."

Gangs? Prostitutes?

"I don't understand," I said, "it seems really calm and safe here. It's really quiet."

"Yeah, it's cool man, like I say, but there's a lot of prostitutes around here. You girls need to be careful. You don't want somebody to mistake you this time of night because if they ask for your services and you refuse, they can get violent."

"We don't look like prostitutes."

"No, but the only women walking around at this hour here in Manzini are usually prostitutes. Just be watchful as you make your way home."

Now that he mentioned it, we hadn't passed any other women as we rambled. I hadn't thought much of it before, but we were the only women walking the streets, minus a scantily clad group standing near the entrance of the clubs.

"And what about the gangs? Is there a gang problem here?"

"Well no, but yes. There is a lot of organized crime. The Chinese man, they run the prostitution. They pull girls from all over South Africa, Mozambique,  Zimbabwe, and they run them through here. You got them and some others running around and they can be a problem for girls like yourselves. I'm not trying to scare you, but you should know."

We said goodbye to Paul and walk/ran back to our hotel.


After chatting with the South African owner, who sat behind a desk near the entrance, we made our way up the dark stairwell, into our dimly lit cement box.

Tamika searched through the television static attempting to find a channel or show that could be both understood and seen clearly. Eventually we settled on the BBC News, which was fine with us, since we hadn't seen the world news for months.

No sooner had we settled into the broadcast, than the knocks were heard at the door.


Sitting now, with our hands over our mouths, Tamika hopped over to my bed.

"They think we're prostitutes!" she whispered

"You locked the door?"

She nodded.

"Turn off the lights. They'll go away." I suggested

And eventually, after spending a portion of the night in darkness, they did.





Jobs in Ghana: How Volunteering as a Teacher in Ghana was One of the Best Decisions I Ever Made!


Considering working or volunteering abroad? I spent a little over a month working as a volunteer teacher in Cape Coast, Ghana back in 2005. It was one of the best decisions I ever made! Jobs in Ghana: How Volunteering as a Teacher in Ghana was One of the Best Decisions I Ever Made!

Taking a break with Beji


Eagerly, they jumped and wiggled in an assortment of miss-matched raggedy clothing. From where I was standing, by the front gate on the hill, I couldn’t distinguish the male children from the female ones. Ambiguously uniform, they sported short-cropped hair atop skinny boyish figures and faces lit immaculately with smiles.


 So this is Ghana. My first impressions registered slowly. The red dusty earth, so fine, it coated everything with terra-cotta powder, the humidity, so intense it seemed I could drink the air, the continuous comforting aroma of burning wood, the constant presence of sweat beads above my upper lip, and now, effervescent children with half moon smiles.



I stood in the yard of the New Life International Orphanage taking it all in. I had just finished my third year as a middle school English teacher and instead of spending the summer in the sweltering cement vacuum that is Manhattan where I would inevitably spend too much money and bounce aimlessly from beach to brunch as was the case the summer before, I chose to travel to Ghana and volunteer teach. It was time for me to do something greater than myself.


Always ready for an adventure, I traveled regularly, but I’d always played it safe. I had been to places like Canada, a handful of Caribbean Islands and many of the major cities in Europe. Africa, however, was a continent wrapped in mystery. Intrigued since childhood, Africa had been calling my name for quite some time. I did my research and decided that Ghana would be the country to introduce me to the continent. Ghana was full of history, there was a thriving arts scene, the country boasted a diverse landscape, the main language was English and being the first African country to gain colonial independence, the political climate was very stable.

I chose a placement in the Cape Coast region because I wanted to be near the water. I opted to work at an orphanage instead of a school to get a different teaching experience. The orphanage, located in a rural suburb on the outskirts of town was modest at best. A singular, flat, un-painted, concrete structure with an open courtyard, it was home to twenty children roughly aged between one and thirteen. Many of the children had living parents who could no longer afford to take care of them. Some of these parents visited weekly and helped out where they could. Under funded, under-staffed, and under-resourced, the orphanage relied on volunteers for everything.

During the school year a local teacher essentially volunteered his time to work with the students. Over the summer, the facility relied on international volunteers to fill in the gaps. There were many gaps, as Madam Grace, the elderly headmistress and her staff of two had their hands full.



One of three volunteers this summer, I took over the care of the primary group. My students ranged in age from one to three. Irresistibly adorable and affectionate, I happily adopted this group. Because I had the youngest section and because there was only one classroom that the mid and upper grades split, my group spent lesson time outside beneath the shade of a very large tree.


My little ones, six in all, were feisty and enthusiastic. Having worked primarily with teenagers, it took a while to adjust to children that small. Every direction had to be broken down into tiny digestible pieces. We jumped around constantly, getting our wiggles out, re-focusing short attention spans.  Despite English being the official language of Ghana, my students learned to speak Fante, the local language before English. Only a few of my toddlers could communicate in and understand English. One little girl named Gifty, who had just turned one, wasn’t speaking yet at all.


I arrived ready to teach. I mapped out lessons. I scoured the central market for books and supplies. But, as is typically the case in education, academic lessons were only a small part of the ever growing list of critical needs facing my tiny pupils. I was often overwhelmed by the enormity of their situations. The children needed proper nutrition, their daily tin bowl of cassava porridge and rice was filling but devoid of nutrients. Dressed quite literally in an array of colorful rags and shredded clothes that were too big, they needed proper and clean clothing. They also needed a proper educational foundation in their native Fante, a language I didn’t know, and they needed love and attention.


It was difficult to accept the fact that as one person, an outsider, with limited linguistic and cultural contexts from which to operate, I had no control over the fulfillment of all of their needs. I swallowed daily doses of guilt and frustration until I learned to focus on the things I thought I could instead control.


I was a teacher, I may not have known Fante and my young students may not have been fluent in English yet but we learned our ABCs and counted beneath the shade of the willowy shea tree using a stick to mark the red earth, our impromptu chalk-board. I became a master of improvisation. Tracing shapes in the moist earth we learned vocabulary words and made up stories.


A child on each hip and several hanging off of my legs we danced and swayed, singing songs and playing hand games. Leaves and sticks were collected and used as building blocks. We created good times and shared many wonderful moments. Moments like the time Judith, a shy two year old, put together her first broken sentence in English, “No. Me up. Take me up.” She demanded one afternoon arms outstretched.  Or when Lisbeth, a bow-legged three year old, finally caught someone during our daily game of tag. The mischievous look on her face - priceless.


Slowly we fell into a routine, circle time, game time, lesson time, song and dance time. Despite the orphanage being a bleak place, there was so much life radiating from the little ones. The children seemed genuinely happy finding joy in the simple moments and in each other instead of in things. It was humbling to be in their presence. If I found myself complaining about the fact that my sandals were always filthy and covered in red dirt, I needed only to look at my barefoot students to feel gratitude. If I felt the urge to complain about being ripped-off at the central market, I needed only to think of my students and their reality, about the fact that if people were earning a livable wage, they wouldn’t need to rip tourists off. If families could take their earnings from the marketplace home and adequately feed and cloth their children, they wouldn’t need to place them in orphanages so that they could be fed and get a basic education.


“I want. I want. I want Benny. I want Benny to come and dance with me.” They would sing. Clapping as the named child performed a dance to the beat. “O how fun. Oh how fun. Oh how fun to come and dance with me.” The chorus continued until everyone was consumed with contagious laughter. They laughed despite having no toys, or a mom and dad to care for them, or the security of a comfortable bed and three nutritious meals a day. They seemed to giggle and smile simply because they were alive, and for the time being together, and feeling well. 



Then our little routine was disrupted. From the beginning I noticed that mosquitoes were ravaging the children. They would come out at night, long after Kathy and Jamie (the other two volunteers) and I had left for the day and by morning, when I arrived to teach, the little ones would be painted in raised red dots. As the months transitioned from July to August, I transitioned from teacher to nurse.


Having hypochondriac tendencies, I brought a massive first aid kit with me from New York just in case. Never did I imagine the important role this kit would play.


It began with the scratching. Visibly wiggly and uncomfortable, the children scratched their little legs and ankles until they were covered in sores. This was made worse by the absence of shoes, and running water. Impossible to protect or keep clean, the sores began to get infected. My kit went to work with me daily. I set up a nurse’s station on the corner of the sunken wrap around porch. Every few hours, I was disinfecting, applying Neosporin and changing bandages. Despite my efforts however, things got much worse.


My nursing station. What a cheerful patient I had.


In my primary group there was a little boy named Jack. Jack had the largest most pensive brown eyes I’d ever seen. Jack’s sores were also refusing to heal. Raised and raw, they began to ooze and puss. Jack grew lethargic and cranky. He no longer joined in the group games opting instead to curl up next to me at my makeshift nurses station. Days went by and it became clear that the situation was critical.



“I have no money for a doctor. Transport is expensive. Medicine is expensive.” Madame Grace explained looking worried and defeated.



 Jamie, Kathy and I offered to pool our money together to pay for the services and were granted reluctant permission to transport Jack into the city to the hospital to be seen by a doctor.



The doctor, an American woman from California was very sympathetic. She’d seen cases like this before. She tested Jacks blood for infections and parasites then drained, cleaned, and dressed his wounds. The doctor gave me a crash course in dressing wounds and donated a box of medical supplies to the orphanage.

Jamie and Jack at lunch


After treating Jack to lunch in town, for being such a good boy we returned to the hospital for the results. He had a staph infection, the worst-case scenario. He needed anti-biotics and several follow-up visits. Prescriptions were filled and we returned to the orphanage with the news.


The next day two other children came down with similar symptoms. Their wounds refused to heal. Jamie and I brought them to the hospital where they too were diagnosed with staph infections. Two more children fell ill after that and my new schedule of shuttling children to doctor appointments began.


The yard was no longer filled with laughter and activity. Lessons no longer took place. The orphanage had temporarily been turned into an infirmary. Even one of the adult staff members, the cook, fell ill.


I did what I could and filled in where I was needed. Sometimes that meant giving a bath, other times rocking a crying toddler or showing some of the older children how to dress wounds. After two weeks of uncertainly, we were clear of staph infections.


By late August a full chorus of “One elephant came out to play, upon a spider’s web one day. He had such tremendous fun that he called for the other elephants to come” could be heard all afternoon long. The verses would repeat as the number of elephants grew and until the yard was full of the children swinging their arms in front of their noses like elephant trunks.


My summer volunteer experience as a primary teacher had not gone quite as planned. My students didn’t learn to speak English or count. They couldn’t all recite their ABC’s on cue. Many of my planned lessons went un-taught. My summer in Ghana was about so much more than simply exploring a mysterious new country while volunteering at an orphanage. I had been shaken. The way I approached the moments in my life had been altered. My neurotic, impatient, controlled, New Yorker tendencies subsided a bit making room for a much more appreciative, balanced and patient person. A person capable of improvisation and going beyond the call of duty in order to advocate for a group of children whose voices and needs were rarely validated or addressed. I had become stronger, braver somehow.


Being in Ghana was so exquisitely different from anything I had ever done.  From working at the orphanage to touring the Cape Coast Castle, to visiting the rain forest canopies further inland, to living with a host family, to traveling to a traditional stilt village and forming lifelong friendships with some amazing locals and passionate volunteers, I had changed. 


When I think of Ghana, I remember the red earth, the humidity, and the savory smell of burning wood but most importantly I feel the spirit of the children I was so fortunate to have spent time with.


From them, I learned that its better to smile through pain, through obstacles and hardship than it is to scowl and frown. I learned to sing and clap my hands and to appreciate the little things, life’s finer moments.


Like little Buddha’s, they lived impeccably in the present, drinking the most from each second with the wise knowledge, far beyond there years, that tomorrow was not promised and there would be no way to control what it might bring.


*This piece was originally written in 2012 for an anthology of essays about volunteer tourism