#ALifeInTheDayinBelize: An Awe-Inspiring Trek Through The Ancient Maya Ruins of Xunantunich

The red ginger plant on the grounds of Xunantunich

Visiting Belize for me is a time for many things; a time to relax and unwind, a time to spend with family, but most of all, a time to uncover my roots, and the history of the country. For the past few years now, I have made it my duty to visit various museums, reserves, and archaeological sites in my trips to Belize, to learn more about the country’s rich, multicultural history. As the country is situated in what was once the center of the “Mundo Maya” (Mayan World), visiting various Mayan ruins is always a part of my journey. On this trip we visited the extremely popular, Xunantunich.

El Castillo, the main structure of the grounds

Xunantunich has always been on the top of my list of Mayan ruins to visit for many reasons. I had learned at a young age that the site has one of the tallest structures in the country, and that that structure happened to be called “El Castillo”. For me it felt like a duty of all Castillos everywhere to visit, climb to the top, and take in the glory of such a feat. And that I did.

El Castillo stands at 130 feet tall making it the second largest structure in Belize, after the structure at the ruins in Caracol. The structure is the center of the Xunantunich (Stone Lady) grounds, and is believed to be the edifice in which the kings lived. For this trek we had a lovely guide, of Mayan descent, who really gave us a full history lesson on Xunantunich, the rise and fall of the Mayan empire, and how that all equates to the current state of Belize. Our journey was simple; climb to the top of El Castillo, and learn more about it along the way.

The view on our way up the side of the pyramid

As I have climbed the ruins at Altun Ha and Lamanai in the past, I was not scared to embark upon El Castillo, but there was a significant height difference. Given the fact that this trek was years in the making for me, I did not let my nerves get the best of me, and pushed forward. The photo above shows the view looking up during our hike to the top.

The view from the top of El Castillo; just gorgeous

The stone steps leading to the temple’s zenith were steep and uneven, but sturdy nonetheless. As the space around me lessened, I will say that anxiety set in, but I wouldn’t let it hold me back from getting to the top. I took a quick break on the level below the top as I was sweating at this point, then made my way up the narrow stairs to the top.

What I was greeted with is what you see in the photo above; awe-inspiring greenery in an area of the country that is almost untouched. The site is less than a mile away from the Guatemalan border in the West, and you could literally see the country from standing on the top. I felt such satisfaction to have made it that far, like I was coming closer to finding some lost treasure. Maybe that will be in the next chapter of my travels?

Close-up of the frieze on the side of the structure

I took tons of photos, and had my brother take a few of me, which I decided not to include as I looked a bit tired and sweaty. I know, I know, I should have just included them, but I’m a little self-conscious, you know? I stayed at the top for about ten minutes, and I knew it was time to go down when this little thing called anxiety kicked in. For whatever reason, it was more difficult for me to walk down than up, as I imagined myself tumbling on one of the stones, and having a terrible accident. This, thankfully, did not happen, and I was able to take more photos, like the one above showcasing the detail of one of the friezes, depicting life of the ancient Maya.

When we were back on the ground, we took time to walk through the plaza, learn about the native trees and how the Maya used them in ancient times, as well as learn about their leisure activities. Exploring Xunantunich was by far one of the high points of my Belize trip. I feel satisfied that I made it, and am forever thankful to our tour guide.

But wait, the Belize stops don’t stop there. Look out for more adventures in #ALifeInTheDayInBelize!

*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo

#WOMANday Watch: Zoe Saldaña on “The Conversation With Amanda de Cadenet”

Zoe Saldaña has been one of my favorite actresses/public figures for some time now, portraying strong characters on-screen, and embodying that spirit off-screen. There have been clips circling the internet of Zoe lately in an interview in which she passionately expresses how much she enjoys being herself, and learning from her own mistakes. With the help of Google and YouTube, I’ve found the full interview, which is part of a series entitled, The Conversation With Amanda de Cadeneta program highlighting the female perspective.

Press play to hear Zoe’s unique, expletive-filled story. I hope it can bring some positivity into your day!

Introducing WOMANday! A Wednesday Feature To Highlight Women We Admire!

WOMANday

With the growing popularity of our Monday “MANday” feature, we felt it was the right time to launch “WOMANday”; a Wednesday feature on women in both the creative and business sectors that we admire. It is kind of a long time coming, as I am all for women empowerment, but I have learned not to rush things, and introduce things to the public in just the right time.

As the daughter of an incredibly strong mother, and surrounded by equally strong women in my family, and in my peer circles, I choose to celebrate the women who work hard, and follow their dreams. On this morning of the unfortunate passing of one of my favorite authors, Dr. Maya Angelou, I wanted to leave you all with a favorite poem of hers entitled, “Impeccable Conception“:

I met a Lady Poet

who took for inspiration

colored birds, and whispered words,

a lover’s hesitation.

 

A falling leaf could stir her.

A wilting, dying rose

would make her write, both day and night,

the most rewarding prose.

 

She’d find a hidden meaning

in every pair of pants,

then hurry home to be alone

and write about romance.

 

Rest in peace to one of the most phenomenal women writers of our time, Dr. Maya Angelou!

3 Years of A Life In The Day of Andrea, A Reflection.

I started this blog, A Life in the Day of Andrea, on April 18, 2011, not knowing what would become of it. I knew I had a unique voice, but I was unaware of how it would connect with people. In celebrating year three, I have realized that my experience and reporting of the things I love, do connect with many people, not only in my neighborhood, but worldwide.

Yuna and I.
Yuna and I.

Not only has this blog connected me with readers, but it has afforded my opportunities in the realm of freelance writing and entertainment. In May of 2013, I took on a contributor position at Concrete Loop, the first blog I ever read, and it was mostly on the back of the writing I have done right here on this site. I thank Angel Laws for the opportunity to connect with a much wider audience, and interview some of my favorite musicians.

AJ cleaning up a models eyes, NY Fashion Week
AJ cleaning up a models eyes, NY Fashion Week

In addition to writing and interviewing, I have been afforded the opportunity to build my portfolio of photography in different realms. I continue to take 99% of all photos for my site, but in this time I have contributed to my work to Concrete Loop and XXL, along with being allowed backstage access at one of New York City’s largest events, Fashion Week.

Running the musical show at Aqua Art Miami.
Running the musical show at Aqua Art Miami.

2013 was full of so many wonderful opportunities, but one that closed out the year that was the icing on the cake was Aqua Art Miami. As one of the premier art fairs during Miami Art Week in December (that hosts the largest fair, Art Basel), I was a part of a team called Audiophile Plus, that programmed all the music and live entertainment for the fair. Along with these duties, I served as event host to our live entertainment in the evening, and interviewed all the musicians for our channels as well as that of our media partner, VIBE.

There are countless happenings in the past year that have helped me grow as a person, and as a woman in business, and I am eternally grateful for them all. I look forward to the year ahead! I will leave you with an exclusive video that our team produced whilst in Miami, with our friend, MeLo-X.

 

I’ve Got To Be Honest…

Work by Stephanie Hirsch
Work by Stephanie Hirsch

…I would be lying to the world if I said that “I’m fine” right now. On this here blog, I cover a wide range of topics, but if you are a long-time reader, you would have noticed a slowdown in posts from November to early January. This is not because of laziness or complete lack of interest, it is because life happened in many ways during this time, and I am brave enough now to share.

The theme of loss has been rampant in my life during this time. In November I lost my paternal grandfather’s wife, a kind woman who accepted me as one of her own grandchildren, and my father lost one of his first cousins from a freak accident. The month went on, and on one of the happiest days of my life, the night of the Yeezus concert at Barclay’s Center, I received news the next day that my uncle had passed while I was at the concert of cirrhosis of the liver. He was 45 years old.

December came along, and I lost my job. I didn’t have anything set up on the side, so I can say that I’m still trying to make it. My heart was heavy pretty much the entire holiday season, and Christmas was particularly hard as within days of the holiday, I had lost a great friend from high school along with her two sisters due to injuries sustained from their house catching fire.

I’ve battled depression (which I am still going through) and have beaten myself up about all the occurrences of loss. “Why me?” , I asked daily, looking for answers to my problems in all the wrong places. It is so easy to become consumed by sadness, and I have let myself be at times, but I know I am stronger than that. I truly don’t know where I would be right now without the support of my family and close friends. They are empathetic, but are not enablers; they won’t allow me to wallow in my sorrows because they know I am better than that, and capable of greatness.

I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, but if I can be a testament to anything, I want it to be that of rising above life challenges, no matter how heart-breaking they may be. I see great things ahead for the year of 2014. Walk with me…

 

*Photo by Andrea K. Castillo

Meet Alexander, my Nikon D60

Meet Alexander, my Nikon D60.
Meet Alexander, my Nikon D60.

Call me strange, but I like to nickname my electronics. My MacBook Pro is Matthew Parker, my iPhone 5 is Boo Boo, and my Nikon D60 is named Alexander. I acquired Alexander last year around this time from my uncle Stephen, AKA Big Steve. Big Steve (who also happens to be my godfather) has been an avid recreational photographer my entire life, documenting my family over the years with only the best equipment that Nikon has/had to offer. He would make every family dinner, birthday, and holiday an event, shooting with multiple lenses and capturing moments, both candid and posed. It was he who inspired my love of photography, gifting me a point-and-shoot Nikon for my high school graduation. From that moment forward, the rest is history.

Alexander (center), hanging with the homies. Nikon N60 35 mm on the left, and Nikon Coolpix P500 on the right.
Alexander (center), hanging with the homies. Nikon N60 35 mm on the left, and Nikon Coolpix P500 on the right.

My uncle has been away for some time now, so I was a bit nervous to ask if I could use his camera. What would he think? Would he see me as being an opportunist in his absence? Would he think I would misuse his equipment? These thoughts ran rampant in my head, but thankfully, he kindly obliged to my wishes.

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Springtime in New York City…

I love springtime in New York City. It is the time before our hottest, most socially enthralling months of summer where we plan, observe, and take in the crisp, fresh air. We watch trees and flowers slowly blossom, and heavier layers of clothing lifted in the lukewarm breeze. It is a time that is incredibly inspiring, creative, and hopeful.

Cherry blossom in the neighborhood
Cherry blossom in the neighborhood

Smiles appear across faces with a glare of sunlight. New lovers play-fight while taking a stroll in the park. Cherry blossoms are abundant and nestled among private residences and public spaces alike. Springtime in New York City represents growth and the transformation of scenery from one that is bleak and barren in to one that is colorful and bustling.

Daffodils abloom.
Daffodils abloom.

Springtime in New York City is a time of collaboration. Those we may have missed in the winter months are out of hibernation and willing to mingle and create something larger than themselves. Dreams are limitless, but certainly attainable as ideas flow like water. Eyes are open. Ears are open. Minds are open. Hearts are open.

What are some of your favorite springtime moments?

Chelsea, Lately

Untitled (Two Heads on Gold), 1982Jean-Michel Basquiat
Untitled (Two Heads on Gold), 1982
Jean-Michel Basquiat

Spanning from 14th Street to 30th Street between the avenues of 8th and 11th in Manhattan lies a neighborhood called Chelsea. Popular for its cobblestone streets and nightlife, Chelsea is a cultural destination as it houses a plethora of art galleries. I decided to take a trip to Chelsea over the weekend with my friend Indira to check out one of the many galleries in the area.

We took a trip to the Gagosian Galleryon West 24th Street between 10th and 11th avenues. The Gagosian currently has over fifty works on view by the prolific Jean-Michel Basquiat until April 6th, which I HAD to see as I missed his Brooklyn Museum exhibit a few years back. The space was filled with massive mixed media pieces spanning his short but monumental career.

Cassius Clay, 1982. Jean-Michel Basquiat
Cassius Clay, 1982. Jean-Michel Basquiat

As I was hounded by security guards for snapping photos sans flash, we made our way through the exhibit with less visual momentos than I would have liked, but left with a better understanding of Basquiat as an artist and genius of his generation.

Just kickin' it outside the gallery.
Just kickin’ it outside the gallery.

I had to stop for an outfit shot as we left the gallery to remember the moment. I wore my Notorious B.I.G. tee as it Saturday the 9th was the anniversary of his death, and it was the Brooklyn thing to do. What I’m wearing:

  • Carrera sunglasses
  • Puma Jacket
  • Banana Republic Denim shirt
  • Brooklyn Mint “Notorius” tee
  • Romeo & Juliet Couture jeans
  • Puma Sneakers
Obey the graffiti.
Obey the graffiti.

I found it just fitting that I stumbled upon this lovely piece of graffiti as we left the gallery.

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What I’m Reading: “Damn Good Advice (for people with talent!) by George Lois

photo 2 (1)…or should I say, “What I just finished reading”. Let’s start off like this. I am a huge fan of arts’ book publisher Phaidon as I connect with a slew of the titles they publish. I am drawn to their advice-style books for creatives, so when I saw this title by the revolutionary communicator George Lois, I knew I had to purchase it and read it immediately. I impulse buy books; call me a nerd or something like that.

“Damn Good Advice (for people with talent!)” gives the reader a list of 120 bits of exactly that, damn good advice! Lois’s no-nonsense tone helps light a fire under your ass (for lack of better words) for the creative individual that needs some direction, as he gives concrete examples of his experiences and results throughout the book. I was drawn to this book as I feel I always need a dose of advice from someone who has realized their creative endeavors. Here is a snap of one of my favorite tips from the book:

photo 1 (1)Check out the video below of Lois’s thoughts on his book.

Available at Phaidon, $9.95.

A Life in the Day of Andrea is 1 Year Old Today! Reflections on the first year.

House of Balloons cuz it's ya birthday!

On April 18, 2011, with the encouragement of friends and family, I started this little blog called A Life in the Day of Andrea. Here is a screen shot of what my first post looked like:

I remember how long it took me to compile that short post because I wanted it to be perfect. I noted that I named my blog after one of my favorite Andre 3000 songs, “A Life in the Day of Benjamin Andre”, and in doing that, realized that the mp3 was not on Soundcloud, nor was there a legit video on YouTube I could embed, so in turn, I just posted the link. Sounds complex for such a simple post, huh? But my life was never simple, that’s why this is the “Life in the Day” and not “Day in the Life”.

Instead of using this post as a means to party, I want to take the time out to reflect on my first official year in the blogosphere. My intent in creating this has been simply to show what the title states, bits and pieces of my life. This is driven by music, fashion, art, culture, food, and everything associated with that. It is my point of view, which along with my interests, is deeply rooted in those that inspire me, whether it be family members, fellow creatives, or celebrities. My aim has always been to be myself, and I hope that rings true for you, the reader. I’ve passed up a good amount of possible features here and elsewhere because it did not work with what I am trying to achieve, or more simply put “because I didn’t like it”.

“Being myself” and slowly coming into my own has/is having its benefits. With that being said, I want to thank a few people who gave me opportunites simply for being myself.

  • The folks at Fashion Ledge for allowing me to cover Hot 97 Summer Jam 2011 as a newbie
  • The Fire 4 Hire squad for always being in my corner
  • The Eclectic Ride for having me as a featured host of their Music Bloggers & Writers mixer
  • Amy Andrieux for seeing my talent and putting me on board as a writer for STARK 
  • My homie Frankie P. for reaching out and becoming my first official interview on the blog
  • Endless Noise NYC and Meant 2B Famous for featuring me on their blogs
  • The Yoana Baraschi PR team for finding me and inviting me to my first designer press preview
  • The Ill Banger crew for having me guest host their dope parties…I’ll be back soon!
  • The Jeffrey Campbell Shoes team for having me as their April 2012 guest blogger

There are countless others, and you are appreciated. In this time, I’ve gained readers outside of North America, notably the UK, Australia, and Philippines, and it continues to blow my mind. Yes, I know the internet is a global medium, but is a different thing when you have conversations with people in different parts of the world who have read something you wrote. It shows me how important our words are, especially when they come from a real place.

I want to thank each and every one of you who have ever read this blog or tweets, shared a link or suggested it to someone–I want to thank everyone who has shown their support to me and this venture. I’ve learned how hard it is to keep a site afloat as an army of one, but I’ve also learned that there are communities out there for people like me. Thank you to the wonderful folks at the Bloggers Collective for their support and collaboration. This is just the beginning!

And for a dance break, “Happy Birthday” by Stevie Wonder.

I’ve had my ups and downs these past 366 days, but I know this is one of the things I am supposed to do. Take a ride with me…

Welcome to MANday!

It’s for you boys…get excited. Mondays on A Life in the Day of Andrea will be MANday, the day to start off your work week with all posts (aside from events & re-caps) dedicated to men’s style. For those of you that have been reading for a little while, you would have noticed my mild obsession with menswear and men’s style. “Where does it come from?” you may ask. And I will answer you in photo form.

This MAN

Peep the collar. Style? Effortless.

Rudolph Ignatius Lewis

Born 1928 in Belize, Central America

Tailor/Garment Cutter/Fashion Plate

My maternal grandfather

This MAN

1980something. Aviators indoors. So Flashy.

Derrick Hargreaves Castillo, Sr.

Born 1954 in Belize, Central America

Ex-Navy man/Artist/Philosophical Mind

My Father

These GUYS

One is not quite like the other. L-R: Delbert, Derrick, Stephen, and me.

Derrick Hargreaves Castillo, Jr.

Delbert Walter Castillo

Stephen David Castillo

My three older brothers

All of these men in my life have been, and continue to be a great style inspiration for me, from a man’s perspective. MANday is the day to celebrate this; style, brands I love, advice/how-to’s, and more. Let’s hear it for the boys! 🙂

Notorious B.I.G.: 15 Years Gone, but never Forgotten

The Notorious.

On this day fifteen years ago, Christopher Wallace (A.K.A  Notorious B.I.G., Biggie Smalls, Biggie) left this world before his time. He is considered one of the greatest rappers of all time, and for good reason; the Notorious was a skilled storyteller, painting detailed visuals with his words. As with the majority of the music of my childhood, Biggie was forced upon me by my older brothers at the age of eight in 1994. We would listen to “Ready to Die” on repeat, watch his videos on Video Music Box and Rap City on BET, and keep our ears open for his interviews and freestyles on Hot 97. Upon first listen, my virgin ears believed he was quite vulgar, but the more I listened and watched, I noticed that he had a gift. Biggie is by far one of the most relatable rappers (aside from another one of my favorites, Jay-Z). His tales of the struggles he faced growing up in pre-gentrification Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, his positive words to youth, and the high life that he adopted from sharing these stories, was something we could all connect with. Hearing these stories via his music were the first visual and audible accounts for me of Brooklyn “making it”. Because of his music, my ambition, and the support of my family and friends, i choose to push forward, and never give up on my dreams.

I could make an extensive playlist of all my favorite tracks, but I choose not to. His lyricism was a true gift. Let me share some of my favorites via the themes he covered in his music, with you.

STRUGGLE

I know how it feels to wake up fucked up. Pockets broke as hell, another rock to sell. People look at ya like use to used, selling drugs to all the losers, mad buddha abuser– “Everyday Struggle”

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A Life in the Day of Matthew Evertsen

Matthew Evertsen

Your name (nickname if necessary)

Matthew James Evertsen

Where are you from, and where do you currently reside?

Born and raised in Schenectady, New York, currently residing in the Bronx, NYC.

What do you do there?

I am a creative brand strategist and music supervisor for a boutique collective in Midtown Manhattan.

The workplace

Describe what a normal day in the life is for you. (ie time you wake up, foods you eat, errands, meetings, etc)

My normal day begins between 6:30 and 8 AM, depending on the happenings of the night before, into the office for 9 AM until usually around 7 PM.  During the week my evenings are spent having meetings, attending industry events, and seeing shows.

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A Life in the Day of Ashley Rudolph

Ashley Rudolph

Your name (nickname if necessary): 

Ashley

Where are you from, and where do you currently reside?

Originally from New York, currently living in Palm Beach, Florida.

What do you do there?

I’m a blogger (REPRESENT!). By day I work for a non-profit, managing social media with a dash of marketing, sponsorships, and PR.

Blogging

Describe what a normal day in the life is for you. (ie time you wake up, foods you eat, errands, meetings, etc).

I wake up at 6:30 AM, try to convince myself to go exercise, decide to hit the snooze button instead, and head to work. When I come home I usually prepare my blog posts, respond to comments on my blog, or network until I pass out.

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