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Traveling with Algene Norwood

Wat Rong Khun - White Temple , Chiang Rai , Thailand.

Initially leading an active life in North Chicago, Algene Norwood, now retired, finds solace in her country home and garden on acreage in Lauderdale County, AL.  But her heart yearns for more; Norwood's traveling shoes are always ready. At 83, she still experiences the joy of being a world traveler, a passion that still burns bright. Despite the challenges of transitioning from bustling city life to a quieter retirement, Norwood's resilience and determination to explore the world inspire us all. I finally caught up with her so Garden Spices could share her exhilarating adventures.  Gate open. – Victorine


Algene in Brazil!

Norwood and her family were a part of the Great Migration, and they migrated from Alabama to North Chicago as children. It was there that she met and married her husband, Albert. They had two daughters, Angela and Andrea, who were commanding mommy duties, and Norwood wore that hat and many more. "I was President of the School Board for seven years; I was President of the Rotary Club; and I was President of the North Chicago Housing Authority, "Norwood indicated. She also wielded professional positions.

Norwood's 36-year working career included her last seven years as a Contracting Officer for the Naval Office of Great Lakes, IL. This position required travel, and the desire to travel "got in (her) blood. "Relocating to the South was her first destination.

The land close to her mother's home in Lauderdale County attracted the Norwoods to buy and build on the property. However, when she moved South, Norwood recalled," I was in culture and societal shock," recounting the experience.   "Albert would be working in his shop, and I had no social life." There was much to do with the house, land, the garden, and the chickens, which she enjoyed. But although she was within walking distance of her mother and welcomed their grandchildren, who visited annually, Norwood was ready to move on with their intention to travel during retirement.

Traveling with Albert

As a couple, the Norwoods traveled to Hawaii, Alaska, Jerusalem, Jordan, Jericho, and South Africa. Their South African misadventure changed Algene Norwood's travel style.

While watching a soccer game in Johannesburg, the travel group ordered pizza. Lured by the aroma of hamburgers at local vendor stands, Albert walked down to grab a burger.  Long story short, Albert ended up with severe food poisoning and was hospitalized.  News of his misery traveled.  "When we caught up with our group and assembled to eat, a cook came out to help Albert using local remedies.  He told him to eat a pineapple's core and drink a mixture of flour and water," Norwood recalled. "The entire experience was an ordeal Albert found hard to forget. He has not traveled out of the country since." That was in 2011.

Traveling Solo

Norwood did not travel for two years; finally, life in the South hit her. "I worked for 36 years," she determined. "I can't just sit up here and rot and do nothing. " She worked for and became the President of the Handy Festival, did substitute teaching, and is currently the manager of the Handy Museum.  Subbing, she met a teacher who told her about an Overseas Adventure Travel company. "The travels are educational and cultural," Norwood noted.  "Touring with only 15 people, they go into the homes and fields, it's all-inclusive, and they take singles at no extra cost.  Norwood described their offer for different levels of travel, depending on your ability. She began her solo travels with them.  "I take only one big trip a year," explained Norwood. "The other trips are with Albert and in the States."  Her trip to Johannesburg was with Overseas, and she also traveled with Grand Circle. Since Johannesburg, Norwood has traveled to over 25 countries.

Countries traveled!!

Norwood leaves no stone unturned; she also travels on excursion cruises. "I cruised the Nile in Egypt and also the Amazon in Brazil.  "I've done eleven trips with them." Two of her favorite trips took place last year to Serengeti and Zanzibar.

"We were in the bush and had indoor/outdoor grass outside our tents with outdoor showers. ( The host would pour warm water from a five-gallon bucket for showers).  The toilet was a wooden chair with a hole." Norwood remembers, "We were there for 28 days."

They met the tribes. "We talked to the tribe where women are castrated. It's their culture.  However, when the lady told us how they administered the surgery, she cried. She said it was their culture, but she asked God to forgive her." Norwood said the woman witnessed women die.  They also visited the Albino tribe in Tanzania.  Thought to be evil, Albinos are maimed, limbs cut off, and some babies killed.  "I just boohooed," said Norwood.

They went to outdoor markets, helped prepare food, and ate with their hosts.  They visited their houses.  Guides warned them to zip up their tents and never to go outside at night.  "You could hear the lions," recounted Norwood. "And once the elephants came through and tore down trees."  Excitedly, Norwood said, "During the migration, the group had a big campfire. Beyond the fire, you could see what appeared to be yellow Christmas lights.  It was the eyeballs of the migration!  Miles long, a stream of them!"  Norwood recalled seeing kills, the craters, and the trees for spices in Zanzibar.  "They gave us natural remedies, like cinnamon, for diabetes." 

83rd Birthday Bash

Norwood was on a hot air balloon, flying over the Serengeti.  Upon descent into a field, there was a set up with champagne.  Then, traveling to the tent, she experienced all the celebratory regalia, including dancers.  "It was a big Birthday surprise for me; I had no idea! "Norwood exclaimed.  "When we got back to camp, the cook had baked me a cake, and all the guys that work there celebrated with me.  We danced, and everything was mind-blowing." 

Traveling While Black

With every trip, Norwood was the only Black. Why?  She surmised it could be the fear of traveling alone.

Her only trip where she experienced racism was in Florence, Italy. "We visited an exclusive shop, and they would not wait on me at all," Norwood recalled. She tried to get their attention to no avail, so she sat outside and waited for the others. They would only serve her table at a restaurant once the tour guide noticed their negligence. "Two sisters, Tannelle and Judy, from Dollywood, asked me how I felt about their (racist) treatment. I told them I didn't feel any way but didn't buy anything from that store." Even the street carts with pastries ignored her. The final evening was a dress night, and Tannelle handed Norwood a small package and told her to open it in her room.  It was a beautiful ring.  She bought and gave it to "Gena" for "being such a great trooper." A beautiful remembrance.

Her other incident was with another traveler, who continuously made racial quips. Finally, Norwood had to pull her aside to warn her. "You don't know me, and I don't know you. Stop it! The next time I have to say something to you, I won't pull you aside. The old me will come out."  Norwood was cordial to her for the rest of the trip but did not make conversation.

Morocco, Palestine, Palestine, with Palestinian Guards, In Morocco on camel

Where Would You Live?

"Two places I would move to are Morocco and Thailand," Norwood recounted. My magnesium level was low from eating no meat, but the food is incredible in Thailand."  Norwood is warm-weather, and the people from both places capture her heart.

Morocco's colors and culture were breathtaking, and the food was fabulous. "We went to a fancy restaurant with white tablecloths and had no eating utensils," Norwood laughed and pinched her fingers. (You eat with your hands.) I went to the Sahara Desert, I went to the bourkas out in the desert, rode camels and went up the sand dunes, and watched the sun rise and set."

Thailand temple, elephants, streets of Bangkok, White Temple, Kids in Palestine, Bridge over River Kwai


Where Next?

As Albert works in his shop and the garden and chickens beckon Norwood's attention daily, she and Albert will surely find time to travel to see their family. Last summer, Norwood visited New Orleans with her granddaughter as a graduation present. Legacy in action. But in the fall, when adventure calls, Algene Norwood will travel solo to Sicily, Malta, and Tunisia.

Chickens behind the great house, Algene & Albert, Algene and granddaughter in New Orleans


Algene Norwood

My Black History. 1st black woman to be president of North Chicago IL Housing Authority, 1st black woman to be president of North Chicago Unit School District, 1st black woman to sit on North Chicago Policemen & Fireman’s Board & 1st black woman to be Contracting Officer of Naval Hospital Great Lakes, IL

Victorine, Editor-in-Chief, Garden Spices Magazine

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2 comentários

13 de mai.

How ventures and exciting. Each story is so entertaining it makes you feel as if you were there. This has motivated me to expand my travel . Great story. Shirley A.


04 de mai.

Vicki , the article that you did on me: “ Traveling with Algene Norwood” was fantastic. I am so grateful to you. Please keep up the good works. Fantastic!

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