Thursday, April 26, 2012

Trying not to vomit in St. Lucia

Our day in St. Lucia on the cruise, we took an island tour with a company called Spencer Ambrose.  Spencer’s brother, Neptune, was our tour guide for the day, and he took a group of 10 of us (our group of 4 girls, a couple, and a family of 4) around the island in a large van all day. 

I really looked forward to this day as a day I would see panoramic vistas, charming local life, get to sample local foods, and enjoy a few key sights of the island. 

Unfortunately, I ended up sitting in the middle of the 3rd row of the van.  Even taking motion sickness medicine before (and during) the 6 hour tour, I spent the majority of the day staring fixedly out the front windshield, concentrating on the next bend in the road, trying to keep nausea at bay. 
**Important sidenote: my friends sat in the row ahead of me and I’m sure would have switched seats with me had I asked.  I didn’t ask.  So I really can’t complain much. 

I’ll let pictures do most of the talking for the day.  We did get to see a lot.  And when we stopped at the beach, a perfect stranger let me borrow her snorkeling gear after she’d finished with it, and it ended up being quite possibly the best snorkeling I’ve done in my lifetime.  Brightly colored fish, and water clear enough (and coral healthy enough) that I saw coral of varied hues too.   We also stopped at the “world’s only drive-in volcano,” which I didn’t think would be that exciting, but due to the guide’s humorous and informative spiel, I learned a lot, laughed a bit, and found it to be the most interesting part of our day.   

Looking back on Castries (the capitol)

Neptune explain how bananas are harvested

boys selling trinkets at our van's window

The Pitons

world's only drive-in volcano

One of the Pitons, as seen from Jalousie Beach, where we had lunch
and snorkeled 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Fun with Critters in Barbados

On our cruise, we stopped on 5 different islands.  One of the best days we had was on Barbados.  We lucked into a really pleasant taxi driver named Rodney, who agreed to take us to the Wildlife Reserve, then to a beach, and then to drive us through the capital city of Bridgetown—for a very reasonable price!  Rodney was great, too, because as he drove he explained the things we were passing.  We saw the hotel where Tiger Woods got married (rooms start at $1000 per night, and Tiger rented out the ENTIRE hotel for a WEEK.  Yipes!), a mansion owned by a Russian billionaire, the Mt. Gay rum distillery, and several pretty beaches. 

When we got to the wildlife reserve, Rodney helped us buy our tickets and told us he would meet us at the entrance in an hour. 

The reserve was really cool.  We walked along paths through a forest where animals roamed and lounged with no fences.  We saw tons of tortoises, deer, rabbits, and 2 peacocks!  They reportedly had monkeys, but we weren’t sure we would see them.  But after a while, the monkeys came running along the roof of one of the buildings, and suddenly monkeys were everywhere.  The cute little guys crossed the path right in front of us.  It was so neat that there were no cages.  (Well, there were a few snakes in cages, and some birds.)

These are mara--a cross between a rabbit and a deer, more or less.

Afterwards, we asked Rodney to take us to a beach where we might be able to swim with sea turtles.  His response?  “For sea turtles, gotta be the Blue Monkey.”  He took us to Payne’s Bay, right behind a hotel called the Blue Monkey.   When he dropped us off, we were met by another man, who Rodney introduced us to, and told us that this guy would be looking out for us while we were there.  Now, we didn’t see that 2nd guy until we met Rodney again when we were done at the beach, but still, the thought was really nice!

Once at the beach, Jenni and Kelsey went to sample the local beer, and Rachel and I grabbed our snorkels and hit the water.  For a few minutes we just swam around in the blue, looking for any sign of sea turtles or other sea life.  We didn’t see much besides sand. 

Off to our side, a catamaran was letting its passengers off to begin snorkeling.  Because so many catamaran tours on Barbados offer snorkeling with turtles, we drifted over closer to the boat and other snorkelers.  For another 10 minutes or so, we didn’t see anything. 

And then
A guy on the boat was suddenly yelling, “Turtle!” and all the people were crowding around the back of the boat.  Rachel and I wasted no time pretending to be part of the tour and swam right in with the group.  Sure enough, a sea turtle had come to the bait (the tour companies feed the turtles to ensure their patrons get to swim with turtles every time).  Soon there were 2 or 3.  Rachel got some good pictures on her underwater camera, and the experience was magical.  I didn’t expect the turtles to be so big—but they were probably 3-4 feet long.  They’re so majestic in the water. 

After some time relaxing on the beach again (and giving Jenni a chance to borrow a snorkel and head out to see the turtles), we met Rodney, and he drove us through the capitol of Bridgetown—which is called “Little England,” and has some cool architecture.  Then, at the end of a truly enjoyable day, we said good-bye to our friendly cab driver and headed back to our ship.    

Thursday, April 19, 2012


I knew even as I was walking towards the school’s entrance this morning that I’d made an error in choosing my outfit for the day.  My school director stopped his conversation with another teacher to say good morning to me, and when one of my 8th grade students said hello, she definitely looked me up and down and smiled a bit too wide.  By the time I reached my classroom, I had been told how nice I looked by 2-3 more people, and the halls weren’t even full yet. 

When I stopped into the office to check my mail box, the secretary asked me which awards show I was headed to, and when a male teacher said good morning, the intonation read less as “hello” and much more as “How YOU doin’?”  All of these comments were combined with a look that took me in head to toe rather than just meeting my eyes. 

Second period when my students came in, I was seated at my desk.  Even so, they commented on how nice I looked, and asked where I was going.  (Why is that a common question when one looks nice at school?  If I had a date after school (as many of them apparently guessed), chances are I would not go directly to it without going home first.)  My 8th graders 2nd period were waiting for me to stand up so they could ogle the entire outfit.  I joked that I thought I would teach the entire class from behind my desk, but eventually I had to stand and pass back papers.  As I did, the entire class let out a whooping cheer.  I’m serious. 

When I left the house this morning, I thought I looked nice, and I expected a few compliments.  I did NOT expect to feel like I was being looked at like a sex object in the workplace.  The last thing I need is to be told I’m sexy by 8th grade boys.  (Yes.  This did happen today.  Multiple times.) 

Needless to say, I will be going to school for the next week in baggy sweaters and a turtleneck pulled up to my ears, if I can find one, as well as baggy, shapeless dress pants.  I’d rather be dowdy and fashion-backwards than receive the kind of attention I got today. 

This was the dress in question.  I wore a tank top
under it (so the neckline wasn't low)
and didn't wear a necklace.
I really didn't think it was scandalous...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Week's Caribbean Escape

I’m falling a bit behind on this blogging thing, and it’s not because I have nothing to say…it’s because I have too much to say.  Last week I was on a 7 day Caribbean cruise over my spring break.  The problem with blogging about great vacations is that I prefer to tell stories rather than chronicle events.   And with a week’s worth of events, it’s hard to choose which stories to tell. 

Our trip started (and ended) with 4 girls and lots of luggage.  It probably took us close to 15 minutes to figure out how to fit all of us and all of our bags into Heisha’s car so she could take us to San Juan on Sunday.  But we did it!  All of us had bags at our feet and on our laps, but we made it fit.  (Later in the week, all of this luggage translated to a very messy stateroom). 

Here are some highlights of life on the ship for the week:

-Rachel and I knew the ship really well.  Which meant when we led the group, we generally ended up turning around once or twice.  J  But by about halfway through the week, we had the route from our stateroom to the dining room for dinner DOWN.

-Kelsey loves the Promenade. 

-Carnival’s warm chocolate melting cake is DELICIOUS.

-Using the Fun Elevators (glass elevators over the lobby) was all the coercion needed to convince me we didn’t have to take the stairs. 

-Sometimes towel animals are hard to identify. 

-It’s a good thing Carnival had a laid-back, unpretentious atmosphere, because our laughter got pretty boisterous at dinner several nights. 

-On Day 5, Rachel and I realized we’d over-packed, and attempted to wear as many outfits as possible in a single day.  I think we each managed 5.  (I still had clothes at the end that I hadn’t worn). 

-Sometimes even a 7 day cruise can seem too short. 

Stories from the ports coming soon.   

Sunday, April 8, 2012

If It's Not One Room, It's Another.

If it’s not one room, it’s another.  I have talked before a bit about the fact that my house here has some quirks.  Some, of course, are easier to live with than others.  (I prefer the little lizards that make their way inside to the leaky shower stall, for example).  But for the most part, our house is live-able and I have very few complaints. 

Around Thanksgiving, we started having problems with our wiring.  It began with the hanging lamp over our dining room table.  It just stopped working; and it wasn’t a faulty light bulb.  We put up with this for a while.  But then in February, the other light in our dining room also stopped working, as did the outlet on that wall.  Illuminating the dining room became a process of bringing a lamp, cord stretched to the max to fit, on a table by the window…making the dining table dimly lit, at best. 

And then our fridge turned off.  As did the microwave, which uses the same outlet as the refrigerator.  This is where we drew the line and insisted the school come and fix the problem.  Though the refrigerator would turn back on at random, going 7 hours with no power made us nervous about losing our food. 

It took the school’s electricians 2 days to fix the wiring in the dining room.  In regards to the refrigerator, they found a mouse in the outlet (remember that mouse problem from January?), and told us we would just need to flip the breaker if the outlet went out again.  In the dining room, the fix was more extensive—and more effective. 

But the wiring in the kitchen still wasn’t right.  At random, certain outlets wouldn’t work.  It was like play roulette:  Will the toaster oven work this morning?  Or will it be the coffee maker?  Place your bets now!  Sometimes the main light wouldn’t turn on.  The wall light would turn on, but only stay on for about 5 minutes before it would start blinking and then go out.  Then, the main light and ceiling fan decided to simply…not shut off.  No matter how we flipped the switch or the breakers, the light and fan stayed on.  For three days.  (That’s how long it took to convince them at school that we really did need a visit from the electricians). 

This time, the electricians were at our house for nearly 4 hours.  When they left, they assured Jenni that the refrigerator will always stay on now.  To use the coffee maker, the main light must be on, or it won’t work.  (Our range hood has always worked the same way).  Also, for some reason they had to disable the outlet in the bathroom and move the light-switch.  On the plus side, we still have lights in the bathroom.  However, we no longer can use the fan, the dimmer switch, or the outlet.  Granted, it’s too hot and humid to straighten or dry one’s hair in the bathroom, so we never really used that outlet, but it was nice to know it was there.

We thought that was the extent of it. 
But when I went to bed that night I discovered that none of the outlets in my bedroom work. Awesome. 

I complained about this for about 2 days, before I finally put on my big girl pants, went in search of extension cords, and, by connecting 2 cords to my lamp, and plugging them in in the guest room, restored some light to my room.  I’m even getting used to relying on my cell phone as an alarm rather than my alarm clock and charging my phone and camera in other rooms of the house.

Still…my fingers are crossed that when I get back from the cruise (for which we leave today), electricity will be magically restored to my bedroom. 
But hopes are not actually high.