Rhode Island: Travel Bloggin’ Part 1

As salaam alaikum all,

Alhamdulillah, I just returned from my Rhode Island vacation earlier this evening. Since I took my laptop I decided to do a little travel bloggin’, recapping my day. Some of you may be scratching your head and asking why I chose to go Rhode Island. The answer is: I don’t know. For years know I’ve felt this inexplicable pull towards Rhode Island and Providence in particular. I’ve wanted to go for years now but never had the opportunity. I’ve also tried to get people to go with me but no one seemed interested. Finally an opportunity presented itself and I decided to go (and solo at that). Again, no one else had the time, money or inclination to go and I refuse to pass up an opportunity simply because no one else shares in my vision. So, I booked a flight, a centrally located hotel and off I went. Here are the journal entries I made:

May 28, 2009
I made it to Rhode Island at 11:00pm, hopped a taxi to my hotel and now I’m chillin’ in the room. The plane ride seemed like it would NEVER end. This feels like the longest domestic flight I’ve ever taken even though it’s not. (I’ve flown from Miami to Seattle). I think the reason the flight seemed so long is because I left Minneapolis at 2:30pm when it was sunny and bright and I landed in Warwick at night. Aside from that I had a layover in Detroit.

There isn’t much to tell so far since it’s late and I wasn’t able to see much on the cab ride over. The city looks pretty sleepy and the people I’ve met so far seem stoic. They don’t have the bubbly, over-the-top pseudo niceness that people in the Twin Cities have. I’m not sure which is better…maybe it’s a matter of adaptation. I don’t know. I’m anxious to get out tomorrow morning and explore the city.

May 29, 2009
I got up rather late today. I think I was jet lagged or something. Originally I planned to start out early, grab a bite to eat at The Creperie (off Thayer Street near Brown University) and then head to Jumah. However, since I couldn’t get up before 11:00 and since it was cloudy and rainy outside, I took the shuttle to the mall in order to get something to eat. I walked around for little while hoping to find a taxi stand. Eventually, I happened upon one. I had to peel the driver away from his group of friends (they were busy watching a woman who was passing by in skin tight jeans). I felt like I was back in Jamaica because I was all: “Yo, you wukking or wha?” (LOL).

Reluctantly, he bid his friends goodbye and we ventured on to what can only be called a death ride. Why was it a death ride, you ask? The taxi driver, like many Rhode Islanders, drove with wreckless abandon; running lights, nearly missing a car or two (cursing the other driver out in Spanish, lol), and speeding under wet road conditions. He couldn’t find the masjid and eventually gave up looking. I was thinking, What? You’re giving up? He pulled over and urged me to ask some young men that were in front of their house washing their car for directions. Again I was like, What? You want me to ask them? I felt a little shy to do so but since I really wanted to attend Jumah I knew I had to do it. Alhamdulillah, they were very nice. One of the guys had a GPS system and was able to provide us with directions. Wouldn’t you know the taxi driver still got lost?! He eventually called someone on his cell phone and asked her to give him directions. (I don’t know much Spanish but I understood ‘mi amour’ and ‘can you look this up for papi, please mami?’*wink*) Kiss the ground when I finally made it!

Jumah was cool. I wasn’t digging the separate men and women’s areas (esp. since the PA system kept going out) but I just said Alhamdulillah for being able to attend Jumah. The community in Providence seems very mixed. I saw Arabs, African-Americans, West Africans, Cape Verdeans and quite a few other ethnicities. No one ethnic group seemed to dominate. I didn’t speak to anyone. They pretty much scattered as soon as the salah was over. I just stood outside taking it all in.

Unlike the Twin Cities (and many other cities I’ve been to) there were no taxi drivers in attendance at Jumah. I usually see at least three when I go to Jumah. I was hoping to hitch a ride with one of those drivers. Fortunately, since I like to plan everything, even down to the smallest detail, I had written a few taxi numbers down in my notebook (just in case). I took a taxi back to the Providence Place Mall. Sidebar: Can I stop here to tell you I loved the Providence Place Mall? I found everything I needed and so much more. Stores like H&M had different merchandise from what we have at the Mall of America. I didn’t buy too much though- just a purse and two rings.

I walked around downtown Providence for hours. My feet were hurting so I thought it’d be a good idea to head back to the hotel and relax for a bit. However, once I was back in the room I looked outside and noticed it had stopped raining. Restlessness and curiosity took over instead of relaxation. I grabbed my camera and went across the street to India Point Park. I spent the better part of an hour there staring at the water, people watching and snapping pictures. I also conversed with a Muslim bro who was out in the park walking his dog. He told me about a Cape Verdean festival that is happening this summer. Insha’allah, I’d like to come back for it.

After that, I took the hotel shuttle to Brown University’s campus and found a place to eat. I love the area around Brown University. I kept walking up and down Thayer Street looking at all the little stores and doing more people watching. I probably looked like a real, live tourist. While I was wandering around aimlessly, I found The Creperie and insha’allah I’ll be returning for breakfast tomorrow.

A funny thing happened today: While I was walking down Thayer Street I ran into one of my friends from myspace. Since I’ve had this Rhode Island curiosity I started connecting with Rhode Island Muslims online and asking them about the community. It was weird to see a familiar face…my friend told me we should hang out some time before I leave. We’ll see…

Whew, what a day! My legs are burning from all the walking (these enormous Rhode Island hills!) and I know I’ll be doing it all over again, insha’allah, tomorrow. Time to start searching for seafood…

P.S. I love the Rhode Island accent and how so many people here keep calling me “hon.”

Part 2 tomorrow, insha’allah…

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12 responses to “Rhode Island: Travel Bloggin’ Part 1

  1. As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    Surprising to hear about Cape Verdean Muslims. Are there a lot of them? Are they converts or of long standing? CV is a former Portuguese colony and is mostly Catholic (a lot of people seem to think it still is part of Portugal, like the Azores, particularly staff in bookshops). Apart from northern Mozambique, the Portuguese-speaking world doesn’t take in many Muslim areas.

  2. Thanks for putting your travelogue up-I’m adding you to my mental category Muslim sistas on the road. I love that you did this trip solo.

    My girlfriend is moving from LA to Rhode Island for a job so hopefully I’ll be visiting the area too! Keep us posted about what’s good to see there.

    Safe travels.

  3. yusuf, walaikum salaam. I read that Rhode Island has the largest Cape Verdean population in the United States. (Which is probably why the festival is there). The brother I met in the park is a C.V. Muslim.

    I’ve also met some Muslims from Mozambique (not in Rhode Island though). I was suprised by what was happening as far as Islam there. At my old job we hosted visitors from Mozambique and the imam amongst them wanted to speak with me personally about domestic violence in the Muslim community since he was starting an organization there. They welcomed me to their country and offered to put me up. 🙂

    Samira, I’m not finished travel blogging as yet. I actually enjoyed going by myself. I got to do what I wanted without the hassle. LA to Rhode Island? Wow, she’s in for a huge culture shock.

    I think I’ve been bitten by the travel bug now.

  4. Samahoo7

    What are you doing in my hometown LOL. If you went to india point park then you were about a block from where I was born. Rhode Island is a beautiful state but it can get a little slow.

    So you’re learning a little Cape Verdian history huh. There is an excellent movie on us called ” A Funny Kind of Porto Rican” that has won many awards. There are many clips of my family in it

    Go buy the Islamic Center in Rhode Island around Classical High (right up from down town) and give salaams to Imam Abdul Hamid. He is a long tome friend of mine.

  5. Oh, I messed up. I see you’re back home by now.

  6. wow. good stuff! i should have done this when I went to san francisco! 🙂

  7. Abdur Rahman, I loved Rhode Island and definitely want to go back, insha’allah. It was slow but it was a good slow. Are you from Fox Point?

    I’d like to go back for the Cape Verdian independence celebration, insha’allah.

  8. WHAT!!! Hell yeah I’m from Fox Point! LOL.

    samahoo7

    I posivtively loved this series of posts. It really warmed my heart listening to you describe my home town. You almost made me home sick. I went to that very elementary school on the other side of the India Point Park bridge.

    Let me also tell you something. I was born in the same house as George M Cohen, the writer of “I’m a Yankee Doodle Boy”. The house has since been razed, but it was located at the sit where the Boys Club is now.

    Man oh man oh man girl. Thank you also for talking about about us Cape Verdians because for a long time no one really understood us. As you can see we have an interesting form of Black/creole culture.

    If you watch the entire documentary I sent you, you will see that the entire Fox Point community, almost entirely black, was destroyed through gentrification.

    I’m probably going to have more to say after I collect my thoughts better. This post hit very close to my heart.

    Thank you.

    • AR,

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. Again, I LOVED Providence. I didn’t get to explore Fox Point as much as I’d like to but I still saw plenty of Cape Verdeans there. (I used to be addicted to studying Cape Verde- I don’t know why). I have music from there and everything.I find the culture fascinating.

      I went to Jumah at the Al Kareem masjid it. You know it?

  9. So you’re learning a little Cape Verdian history huh. There is an excellent movie on us called ” A Funny Kind of Porto Rican” that has won many awards. There are many clips of my family in it

    Ahem … why Porto Rican? Is that just because people confuse the names because they’re two-word Latin-sounding names? Different language (no, Portuguese doesn’t sound like Spanish even if it looks like it), other side of the ocean.

    • Maybe it’s called that because people see these “Puerto Rican-looking” people speaking a language similar to Spanish (in their minds anyway) and they assume the people are from Puerto Rico.

  10. samah007

    “Maybe it’s called that because people see these “Puerto Rican-looking” people speaking a language similar to Spanish (in their minds anyway) and they assume the people are from Puerto Rico”.

    Yes, that is absolutely correct, but if they are actually speaking creole they are more than likely new arrivals from the country. Unfortunately, those of us whose ancestors have been in America well over a hundred years have lost alot of the old world culture. In the crucible of American racism, a more distinctly “Black American” indentity came to be formed. For example, my grandfather was in a Jim Crow army unit during World War 1, and experiences like that tended to break down whatever differences we may have had with other blacks of American slave ancestry.

    Additionally, because the New England black population was never very large to begin with, there was quite a bit a intermarriage between the two groups at the expense of the Cape Verdian culture, If I can put it that way. Perhaps the best example of what I’m talking about is the once very popular R&B/Disco group Tavares, and more recently, the actor Micheal Beach (soul food).

    It’s been decades since I’ve lived in Providence so I’m not really up on the names of the Masjids. Whenever I’m in town I attend the community off Broad St led by an African American imam named Abdul Hamid. If you saw a Burger King on the corner and a high school across the street from it, then thats the one I attend.

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