Authors Posts by Fly Brother

Fly Brother


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I arrived at Bamako, capital of the modern country of Mali, in the late afternoon under a hot and yellow sky. Outside the small airport terminal, greeters waited for friends and family, hotel drivers held signs aloft, and touts—quietly and at a distance—offered local SIM cards or to change currency at the black market rate. One of the touts, his hair cut in the newfangled mohawk so fashionable among youths under thirty around the world, asked me in English if I needed a ride or a guide. I had expected my hotel to pick me up, but we at least spoke for a few minutes about his long-ago trip to Washington. He impressed me with a few words of Spanish that slipped into Italian, which was even more impressive. Than a police officer shooed all the non-passengers away from the shaded terminal entrance and back across the virtually carless roadway into the sun.

After a while, when I guessed that my driver wasn’t on the way, I tried to call the hotel from my cell phone, to no avail and saving me the nearly $5 per minute charge. I asked a uniformed woman passing by if she spoke English—“Pardon, parlez-vous anglais?” being one of the scant French phrases I’ve mastered—and, upon receiving an excited “Yes!,” asked if she could help me contact the hotel. She took me to the baggage office where she worked to contact them and wait for the driver. She told me about her two daughters who live in Atlanta and how she worked for Air Afrique in the ‘90s.

Staring out from the wall of her office was a French fashion model, plump red lips parted by white teeth that protruded as if the model, as a child, sucked her thumb. The face was framed by a tempest of hair, capped by a beret, and the Eiffel Tower rose in the distance over one thin shoulder. “France is in the air,” read the airline poster, advertising the single daily flight from Bamako to Paris. The wan, pouting body in the image appeared lifeless, ghostly compared with the vivid and corpulent bodies in my immediate vicinity. From the taxi on the way to the hotel, I saw an Air France billboard advertising “royal shopping in Paris.” Economically, Mali is one of the ten poorest countries in the world.

Entering the outskirts of the city, tangerine-colored dust, reminding me of Tallahassee or Pietermaritzburg, glowed in the sunlight, and I looked at the faces of the people walking alongside the road, riding on Chinese-made motorbikes, or selling sundries in the scant shade: Auntie Rosemary, Tyrone, Keisha’s little sister, Deacon Jones, Dr. McLendon.

We crossed the River Niger during the afternoon rush hour, and I noticed the abundance of motorbikes and the abundance—not the majority, but a notable number—of women astride and driving the motorbikes in brightly-colored floor-length dresses, traditional West African headwraps, and high heels. Other women wore hijabs or hoodies protecting Beyoncé-inspired braids—blonde, of course—from the citrusy dust. The men, whose second-hand clothing spoke more to the relative economic standing of the country than did the ladies’, wrenched out any bit of style they could muster, be it a cocked and reversed baseball cap, an elegant knee-length shirt with a fedora, chic plastic-rimmed spectacles, or one of the stylish haircuts appearing in Belgian hip-hop videos. Whatever they wore, they wore it well.
I arrived at a clean, mercifully air-conditioned hotel run by an Ivoirian Frenchman and his daughter, had an unimpressive dinner, then read until jetlag sent me to sleep.

The next morning, I had plans to go out into the city after breakfast to take photographs and meet up with the American friend of an American friend for coffee. But at breakfast, I ended up meeting a middle-aged white man who had been born in the Belgian Congo sixty-five years ago. He was ten when the war of independence broke out in the Congo and took a children’s-only train to safety in Cape Town, with no news of the whereabouts or well-being of his parents for a year. They showed up eventually, and he grew into manhood in South Africa, marrying a Coloured woman, illegally. They had two children and could never live in one place longer than three months at a time because, just as surely as they had moved into a house, a neighbor reported the interracial marriage to the police, who took about three months to act on the complaint. He told me how he helped smuggle contraband to anti-Apartheid resistance fighters and about the karate dojo in the Indian section of Johannesburg where he took his children for lessons and where people of all four racial groups bonded under the shared love of a martial art and the ability to not think about race for a while, anyway. Eventually, Apartheid ended, Mandela was released, and the first general election was held in 1994. Shortly thereafter, they moved to Belgium, where his marriage dissolved. He then, finally, accepted that he was gay.

We remained wrapped—and I, rapt—in conversation for the entire day. It was Mandela Day.

The next day, not having seen very much of Bamako at all, but determined to return again during the five-year duration of my visa, I went to the airport around lunchtime to check in to my onward flight to Dakar. The airport was virtually empty of passengers, and three immigration officers stood behind the glass partition sharing a heap of barbecued ribs wrapped in brown paper, just like they do at Jenkins’ Bar-B-Q back home, except the ribs were covered in onions rather than mustard-based barbecue sauce. We all laughed; they offered me some, but I had just eaten lunch and didn’t want to get my passport greasy. One of the officers used his ungreasy hand to process me out of the country and stamp my passport.

My people.

-Ernest White II

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On this episode, I talk with Charles Snyder, native Californian, poet, playwright, actor, educator, and all around Renaissance Man now living in Spain. Charles’s poetry has been published in Abernathy and A Gypsy’s Journal, and just this month, his essay “Negotiating Worlds Black and White,” a piece on being bi-racial in America will be published in the 2Leaf Press collection, Beiging of America. We’ll talk all about life in Spain, straddling the color line in America and abroad, writing, self-love, breathing, bodies, and a whole lot more. Tune in and get lifted!

“My Favorite Things” – John Coltrane

Fly Brother Radio Show Theme Song:
“La Femme d’Argent” by Air

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Have you ever thought about flying to Easter Island? Or from Australia to Chile? How about Brazil to South Africa? Well, with its recent route between São Paulo and Johannesburg, LATAM Airlines now flies across two of the planet’s three southern oceans, and one of only a few airlines to connect the Southern Hemisphere. Based officially in Santiago, Chile, LATAM was born in 2012 from the merger of Chile’s LAN Airlines and TAM of Brazil. While the name and livery aren’t the most original creations in the world, LATAM competes directly with Panama’s Copa Airlines and that other multinational behemoth Avianca of Colombia for the millions of passengers coming to and through Latin America, hence the name and logo, a stylized map of South America.

LATAM’s main intercontinental hubs are Santiago, São Paulo, and Lima, but the airline operates huge domestic networks in several countries throughout the region. Still, it’s the far-flung destinations that make LATAM so interesting: LATAM sends its brand-spanking-new Boeing 787 Dreamliners to Frankfurt via Madrid and Sydney with a stop in Auckland. Flights from Santiago to mysterious Easter Island continue on to Papeete, capital of Tahiti. New York and Los Angeles are connected to both Lima and Santiago, while Miami and even Orlando get served from capital cities across South America.

LATAM’s Intercontinental Routes from SCL and GRU

The addition of Johannesburg to LATAM’s portfolio expands the network to near-global status and offers an alternative to South African Airways’ 11 weekly flights between South Africa and Brazil, a particularly useful option for OneWorld Alliance frequent fliers. In fact, combined with the route networks of American Airlines, Spain’s Iberia, British Airways, and Qantas of Australia, OneWorld flies more people to and from Latin America than any other alliance.

Next time you’re feeling adventurous, take LATAM up on one of its flight deals across the Southern Seas. Your friends will think you’re the coolest person they know!

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On this episode, I talk with Sophie Ibbotson, British entrepreneur, traveler, writer, and lover of wild places. Sophie runs her own consultancy business, Maximum Exposure Ltd., is the author of five Bradt Travel Guides, and has worked in dozens of countries, from Afghanistan to Sudan. We’ll talk all about languages, guidebook writing, and travel to some of the world’s least-likely tourism destinations. Tune in and get lifted!

“Back in the U.S.S.R.” – The Beatles

Fly Brother Radio Show Theme Song:
“La Femme d’Argent” by Air

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Human trade and culture have traveled through Central Asia for thousands of years. Throughout antiquity, traders, treasures, and tragedies threaded their way through the mountains and across the seas of the region in successive waves, mixing traditions and beliefs from East to West and back again. The modern country of Tajikistan sits high along the northern crest of the Himalayas, and its peaks and valleys have witnessed the rise and fall of religions and empires, from Zoroastrianism and Buddhism to the Mongols and the Soviets. Around each mountain pass is a story, through each tunnel, a tale. It isn’t the cities and settlements of Tajikistan that hold the secrets of time, it’s the places between the places where the whispers shout loudest.

World’s Second-Largest Flagpole, Dushanbe
Karotegin Province
Seven Lakes
Shakhristan Region
Khatlon Province
Zarafshan Valley
Karotegin Province
Seven Lakes
Iskanderkul, named for Alexander the Great. Yes, he was here, too.

Dushanbe (DYU), Tajikistan’s capital city and principal air hub, is served thrice weekly from Istanbul by Turkish Airlines, with onward connections to the United States.

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By Killarney’s lakes and fells emerald isles and winding bays
mountain pass and woodland dells mem’ry ever fondly strays…

This year, Fly Brother publisher Ernest White II will be joining a slate of established and engaging journalists, industry experts, influencers, and—naturally—bloggers to speak about the ins-and-outs of travel at TBEX Europe 2017. Bonnie wee Killarney, a town of 14,000 in the southwest of Ireland, is the site of the shenanigans, as several hundred presenters, tourism bureaus, travel companies, and travel junkies come together for networking and business opportunities, as well as learning to be more astute travelers and effective storytellers.

This event threatens to be a magical one, though, taking place for the second time on the Emerald Isle, and the castles and culture of fabled Killarney only enhance the allure of the experience. The people of Ireland know how to do three things particularly well: tell stories, dance, and welcome visitors. Fly Brother spoke at TBEX Europe 2013 in Dublin, so he has succumbed to Irish hospitality and has lived to tell the tale. Why don’t you come and live it for yourself? 😀

TBEX Europe 2017 is in Killarney, Ireland, from October 3-5, 2017. Register today!

Shannon (SNN) is the closest international airport to Killarney, with daily seasonal service through October from New York-JFK on Aer Lingus and Delta Air Lines, and from Newark on United Airlines. Bus service is available from Shannon Airport to Killarney, a journey of 2-3 hours.


Image credit: Sami Pyylampi via Flickr

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On this episode, I talk with Ronnell Perry, traveler, former Peace Corps volunteer, and founder of AfroBuenaventura, a travel portal inspired by communities descended from enslaved Africans that disembarked at ports throughout the Americas. We’ll talk all about volunteering in Latin America, cultural pride, identity, and a whole lot more. Tune in and get lifted!

“Somos Pacífico” – Choc Quib Town
“Cores” – Da Lata

Fly Brother Radio Show Theme Song:
“La Femme d’Argent” by Air

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This summer, Europe gets that much closer when Norwegian Air starts its new routes from the Northeastern U.S. on its brand-spanking-new Boeing 737-MAX jets, augmenting its already extensive 787 long-haul transatlantic service. The airline officially announced the routes in February, along with introductory fares as low as $65 each way—and you can still find some cheap tickets if your dates are flexible and you’re open to discovering a destination you hadn’t considered before.

Image by Eric Salard via Flickr.

In fact, by flying a smaller, more fuel-efficient airplane, Norwegian is connecting cities in the U.S. and Europe that had never, or very rarely, had transatlantic service up to now. Beginning in June, you can fly nonstop from Providence, Hartford, and New York’s Stewart International—about 60 miles north of Manhattan—to Cork, Shannon, and Dublin in Ireland, Belfast in Northern Ireland, Edinburgh in Scotland, and Bergen in Norway (above), all cities on the western edge of Europe and just barely longer than flights from the Northeast to Los Angeles. In fact, you can’t even fly nonstop from Providence to LA…but you can to Ireland!

Norwegian’s new 737-MAX transatlantic routes.

Check Norwegian’s website for fares and flight times, then off you fly!

Also, listen as Norwegian’s senior public relations manager Réal Hamilton-Romeo talks travel on the FLY BROTHER RADIO SHOW.

Bergen image by Andrés Nieto Porras via Flickr.

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On this episode, I talk to Réal Hamilton-Romeo, senior public relations manager for low-cost international carrier Norwegian Air, lifelong airline brat, and traveling mom. Having built a public relations career with start-ups and young, dynamic companies like ShopKeep, JetBlue and now Norwegian, Réal spends her days advocating for increased connections across borders and boundaries. Tune in and get lifted!

“Return to Paradise (Mark de Clive-Lowe Remix)” – Shirley Horne

Fly Brother Radio Show Theme Song:
“La Femme d’Argent” by Air

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Russia got Hungary, ate Turkey, fell on Greece and broke China. We learned that little ditty in nursery school, and while it may not have happened in that order, there was obviously some allusion to the Soviet Union’s global sphere of influence during much of the 20th century. As menacing as that may have seemed, the glories of Mother Russia were still extolled to many a traveler, as evidenced by these lovely vintage travel posters. Добро пожаловать!


Have you been to Russia?