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Girl Talk

with

Lillian Thompson

 

"I am a fan of culture"

                                          

At 31, Lillian Thompson, is living what some would call an adventure. One look at her home decor & it proves to be true. The array of photographs & art that fill her North side apartment tell an eclectic story of life & the celebration of it. Working by day & traveling by night has been apart of her story for some time now. At 16 she journeyed to Paris with a friend & has been exploring the world ever since. With 6 continents under her belt the Miami native has no plans to slow down. The jet setter is weeks shy of her trip to East Africa & fortunately she had enough time to share where she's been & going to.

 

It's Wednesday evening & while WCW's are being posted, there is one MIA. Working full time as a Speech Pathologist & Membership Chair for ASYP (Autism Speaks to Young professionals, an organization catered to Autism Awareness) the 31 yr old has no time for an account of her own. However she hasn't missed a beat with the latest drama to hit "the gram." We spend a brief moment on the Rob K. & Blac Chyna debacle before discussing her upcoming trip. Next month she'll be in Tanzania, an East African country known for its exotic wildlife. It's in her excitement  that she reminds me, there is still no place like home!

 

Lillian Thompson:"I have vivid memories of living in Miami as a child. Our city has a very strong Latin and Caribbean population. The music, language & food are all driven by their cultures as well as my own. To this day I can give a detailed comparison of peas and rice vs rice and pea’s vs rice and beans, lol! When my family moved up the road to Hollywood, which is about 20 minutes away, I was introduced to the strong Romanian, Canadian, and Greek population there. Many of my friends from South Florida do not share the same cultural background as me & I’m grateful because I've learned so much from them. It also encouraged me to have pride in sharing my own Bahamian culture. Whether it’s having the people I meet to try conch (a Bahamian staple) or sharing hilarious stories of my family dancing to Junkanoo, my hometown made me a fan of culture!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HGD: I love that! I think often times we overlook the contributions that each of us are making to the world. There is no one form of anything because all of our stories are so different.

 

LT: "Exactly! Exploring various cultures shows me different perspectives on universal themes. The experiences challenge me to think in new ways and fosters compassion and tolerance. The world becomes a lot smaller when you can recognize the uniqueness in others yet appreciate the unifying essence of the human spirit..."

 

HGD: Beautifully said, is that why you enjoy traveling so much?

LT: That & the food, lol!

HGD: I can only imagine especially given all of the amazing places you've been.

LT: "Yes, the best food to ever touch my lips was lasagna from a small cafe in Pisa. It was made with tears of Jesus and fresh cheese, I get hungry just thinking about it, lol. But in all seriousness I have to give credit to my mom & aunt. They were always traveling to these amazing places & bringing back these cool trinkets. It was also my mom that allowed me to take a trip to Paris at 16! She studied there & understood the importance of stepping outside of comfort zones & exploring. Witnessing her live life to its fullest inspired me to do the same. I will always be grateful for that!"

HGD: That's awesome!

LT: "Yea they were always on the go, whether it was for work or play!"

 

HGD: I'm happy that you mentioned that, work & play. How do you balance the two?

LT: "For me it's about having a goal. Once I become content on a certain destination I plan accordingly. I look at my schedule & try to book my flights at least 2 months in advance. This gives me enough time to mange my finances, obligations & bills. Thankfully I have a career that affords me to take paid time off so that I don't have to worry about cutting a trip short. As women we work so hard, we deserve to have that time to just relax."

HGD: I couldn't agree more! What is one of the longest vacations you've taken?

 

LT: "Probably my trip to Thailand! It's also at the top of my list for places I'd like to revisit. The city is absolutely gorgeous. It's filled with so many beautiful colors especially in their market place. As you walk you see vibrant hues everywhere, kind of like Hawaii, they're both remarkably beautiful.  The American dollar goes a long way there and the locals are also very friendly which is always a plus. One of my favorite things I did there was taking an elephant ride down the  River Kwai. It's definitely worth the 22 hrs it takes to get there!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HGD: 22 hrs, is that the longest flight you've taken?

 

LT: "No, Australia was, it took a day but it was also worthwhile."

HGD: Wow, I imagine the extra rest time coming in handy before you land.

 

LT: "It really does! I remember going to Alaska and not being able to tell day & night apart, lol. It was during their summer which meant 23 hrs of continuous daylight! That extra rest definitely helped because my body clock was pretty confused, lol! The sun was still shining, at 10 p.m."

 

HGD: That sounds like fun, lol! What are some other interesting stories from your travels?

LT: "Hmmmm... I have quite a few but one in particular comes to mind.  So, it would have to be the time a friend & I  chased a woman that stole my phone in South Africa!"

HGD: Wait, what!

LT: "Lol, yes we were in Cape Town and I had just left the restroom when I realized my phone was missing. I quickly returned and there was a woman in the stall. I asked if she could pass it to me & she says "there's no phone here", but I knew different! We were on her like white on rice the moment she stepped out. Patrons were clapping as we chased her through the dining stations. It was like something out of a movie but when it was over I had my iPhone back and she was behind bars."

HGD: Lol I can't, & jail for an iPhone?!

 

LT: "Yes, they have a very strict policy on stealing! Thankfully it didn't override my overall experience. We went on an amazing safari in Johannesburg. It was also during my birthday and the locals surprised me with a cake they made and sang happy birthday to me in their native sound. I'm not sure how they even knew but that was the highlight of my trip."

 

 

 

 

 

HGD: That's beautiful! Earlier we touched on the significance of culture & the role it's played in your life. Has it carried over to your travel destinations, the planning & so forth?

 

LT: "It definitely has. When I'm visiting a foreign land I try not to go in as a tourist but as a long distance relative! I spend time with locals & try my best to connect with them so that I am making the most of my experience. I actually stayed with a family once, when I visited Cuba. It was so exciting to witness their traditions up close. Having that as a memory gives me so much joy because this woman opened her doors to me and treated me like one of her own. I am grateful for moments like that & others that allow me to experience the beauty of the land I'm in. It is the people that create culture so who better than them to learn from."

 

HGD: Amazing, this also brings me back to some of the things you mentioned about taking pride in sharing your own culture because you were constantly being exposed to others. What are some other things you'd like to highlight about your roots.

 

LT:  "Thank you for asking that & I'd have to say that having my families heritage being instilled in me as a child shaped the woman I am today. Although I didn't visit the Bahamas much as a child the traditions I partook in there were identical to those back in Miami. Our holidays were filled with Caribbean culture. Thanksgiving & Christmas were synonymous with Conch Fritters, Bahamian Macaroni and Peas n' Rice.  I didn't realize until I was older that these weren't traditional American holiday foods, lol. Also, music and dance is also a huge part of most Caribbean cultures. My grandmother lived to be 90 and would literally use her walker as a prop to dance if a good Calypso song came on. She used to lead the Conga lines when we vacationed there! It's no surprise why my love for music and dancing is so great when I think about it, lol."

HGD: I can definitely see how that has cultivated your personality especially the music part! As of now you've been to 27 countries, have you ever felt unwelcome in any of them?

 

LT: "Not at all! I've been to 27 countries and have never experienced  prejudice. Neither my color or gender has worked against me in the places I've been, what they do see is an American and that constitutes as freedom! Unfortunately that isn't the case back at home in the States. Now if you want to hear about some of  my encounters here,  I have plenty!"

HGD: Trust me I don't need any convincing, smh. It's such a contradiction against what our nation is supposed to represent. The fact that you can be accepted with open arms in a foreign land is mind blowing. However it doesn't mean that those issues don't exist around the world. I mean the apartheid that took  place in South Africa is an example of that. We see now that they have an ongoing issue with colorism and skin bleaching. Do you think the locals feel as respected as the tourists that travel their homelands?

LT: "I have to remain honest & say that unfortunately tourists are treated better than natives in some places. I think a bit of it has to do with money! Earlier I mentioned the whole iPhone incident. It isn't one of the greatest stories to tell but it happened! The things we consider to be valuable here are just as valuable if not more in other countries. Often times we think of places like Paris, Brazil & Africa and forget that they have class systems just like we do. Some of the worst poverty I've witnessed in my life have been in places that we consider to be the most beautiful! Another thing to answer your question is that although we are all human sometimes humans do things that aren't right. One example I have of this comes from a tour guide in South Africa. I hate to use "racial" scripts but the driver was white. During the ride he began giving a "history lesson" by telling us how the indigenous people weren't black but fair skinned. He also said this caused the original fight between darker Africans and European tribes. I was disturbed to say the least because when you take a look back at history this couldn't be further from the truth. Unfortunately the aftermath of the apartheid allowed rhetoric like this to happen. Natives didn't have access to a lot of resources & were not allowed to watch television which created a certain ignorance of truth. The history of their land was being rewritten and told with a certain agenda!  I sat there in disbelief because if I had not been aware I may have accepted it as the truth also. FYI, just another reason why I love Mandela so much, lol!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HGD: It's been a hour since our talk first began and only nine of her expeditions have been mentioned. Fortunately she is just as eager as she was when the first hello was exchanged. Before I can ask my next question she has one waiting for me!

LT: If you could go anywhere in the world where would it be?

HGD: Without hesitation I reply, Florence Italy. I have yet to leave the country but my heart is set on going there first. Being the nerd that I am I often watch travel shows especially the ones that involve food. Just recently I came across one that highlighted the gems that many tourists overlook there. Needless to say they were exquisite, even the gelato shops were beautifully crafted. And I'd be remiss to not mention that as Lillian said earlier, the locals were at the center of the city's beautiful culture! It's not long before we begin discussing more of her travel stories & before it comes to an end, there is one that has to be mentioned. Lillian and a close friend of hers traveled to Iceland recently, in hopes of seeing the Northern Lights.  I listen in awe as she shares her experience.

LT: "For anyone who has never seen them you have to go out at night. My friend and I were soooooooooooo excited that we got to the location early. It was also told to us that if its snowing the lights won't be visible & guess what it was doing when we got there, lol. We went back inside the local station and for a short moment a feeling of sadness came over us. There were people coming in with intentions of leaving because there had been no sign of them. With the little bit of hope we had left we looked up and noticed that the snow had stopped. And then it began. First there was this tiny streak and then another and another. The locals said it was the best show they'd seen all winter! It literally looked like God was taking his finger and scribbling in the sky. It was in that moment that I honestly saw God. I thought I knew his excellence and power before but seeing that made it so so real! I also felt him saying to me that if you remain faithful even when things seem hard & are not going as planned, if you hold on to the little bit of light I've given you &  just wait I'll give you more than you could ever imagine."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HGD: As I attempt to pick my face up I can't help but relish in the moment with her. After basking in the experience a little while longer we come to the realization that even then God & his presence was in the midst of our conversation.  As our Girl Talk begins to settle I ask Lillian, what's next on her Trip List & what advice does she have for other Hey Girls who want to take  joyrides of their own.

LT: " I'd have to say Bali, I'm itching to get back to Asia but I may have to get there first. I also have been thinking about Croatia, either way I'm always open to new adventures, lol!"

-Lillian Thompson

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