Jamaican me crazy….

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My random, split second decision to leave the country to get some perspective on the “thorn in my side” and spend some quality time with my mom and sister lead me to the island country of Jamaica.

Now, I wish I could report that I did something noble like a mission trip or working to better the lives of the poor….but that was not the case.

You see, my little sister is getting married next year and has decided to do a destination wedding in Jamaica at a 5 star all-inclusive resort. They were on a reconnaissance mission and I was invited along.

While my sister and I were raised in the same house, we are as different as night and day. I travel light, I stay in cheap hostels around Europe, I like to get into the culture of the country I’m visiting. I swear there is some gypsy blood in me somewhere, as I’m always on the move. My sister is my complete opposite: she does not travel much, but when she does, she stays in resort areas with a suitcase that would last me months. All-inclusive translates into the cost of the resort includes all your meals, drinks (from water to liquor), and the use of their butler service. Basically, it’s like being on a cruise on land. This was my 1st foray into this mode of travel.

This was also the 1st time my mom left the country. I don’t count Canada. This is the only country my sister has visited. Again, Canada doesn’t count.

I ate meals fit for royalty. I drank like a sailor. Well, I wasn’t walking around intoxicated, but having a drink before lunch became the norm. There was a bar you could swim up to, which was awesome. And when you’re sitting in a meeting about floral arrangements for a wedding that’s not yours, a drink should be customary.

Best parts: spending a summer afternoon with my mom and sister. We sat out drinking and sunbathing by the pool, ordering fruity drinks, talking about everything. We laughed a whole bunch and enjoyed each other’s company. It was one of the most perfect moments we’ve had, bonding as mother and daughters. I wish I could have bottled it up and relive it when I’m old. I shared a room with my sister and wow that girl can talk! We had a lot of good conversation and I feel I got to know her better; she’s got a pretty good head on her shoulders. We tried our best to avoid each other when we lived under the same roof.

Worst parts: Driving to the resort. Jamaica is a very impoverished country. I felt guilty dining on lobster and steak and helping myself to a buffet all day when it’s obvious that the typical Jamaican does not have access to things I take for granted here in the States. It was very sobering. I wanted to venture out beyond the resort to explore the country as I do in Europe, but that was heavily frowned upon. With the poverty comes the crime: with my light skin, I might as well tattoo “American Tourist with Cash” on my forehead. $92 Jamaican = $1 USD. I’d be an easy roll.

While the resort was on the ocean, I did not like their beach. There were no waves, thus no surfing. The beach was roped off so you could only go out shoulder deep. I do not like being ‘caged’ in. All the sand there is imported….the natural landscape goes ocean-rocks-land. There is no ‘beach’ like there is here in the Carolinas. Kure is still my favorite.

I return next year with my General for the nuptials. And I must say I’m looking forward to sharing this experience with my husband.

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The Key West Adventure

The Key West Adventure

For our 5th wedding anniversary, The General surprised me with a trip to Key West/Key Largo. Here’s a snapshot of what trouble we got into!*

* Trouble may include a BnB swimming pool, random roosters that roam the city, canoeing in a mangrove lagoon, eating key lime pie (gotta prevent scurvy somehow), watching the sunset, relaxing on a very still ocean reading a great book, and drinking frozen fruity drinks in between sunsets.

Eire/Schland aka Ireland/Germany

Now that my body is operating fully on Eastern Standard Time, here are the updates from my trip!  Because 2 weeks is a long time, it’s going to take me awhile to digest everything.  I would have blogged from the road, but internets were hard to come by.  We traveled sans phones because our phones were too old to be used overseas.  So we kicked it old school with maps and false starts: but it went well.  I am even more in love with my husband after this journey — which is good — considering we were together the entire time we were there.  We work really well together and this trip proved no different.

Because this is so expansive, I am going to break it up into small posts as I recall stuff so no one is completely bored with my drivel.

I will say this:  I miss Europe.  It’s been like 72 hours since I left and I’m already pining for when I can go again, which won’t be for quite some time.  I love the culture, the people, the food, the traditions — it’s so different from the USA.  I know this is a broad assumption on my part, but I feel that they have a better handle on things over there.  I know it isn’t so, but to me it is.

So here’s the journey….

Land of the free, home of the brave

I love how every time I plan to go to Europe, something happens.  Shoe bombs? Why, yes, I’ll take off my shoes at security, circa 2004.  Subway bombings?  I’ll be riding them within the month, as I did in 2005.  Of course I’ll stow all my liquids in a cute little baggie in 2006.  And I am not on a no-fly list, here is all of my information Mr. Airline – in 2009.

And now this.  All the civil unrest in the Muslim world and where am I heading?  Germany.  They overtook the German Embassy in Sudan, which is a far cry from Berlin proper, but I must say I am slightly alarmed at everything that is going on.  I’ve been reading the Berliner Zeitung (Berlin Newspaper) and so far, all’s quiet on the western front (please ignore the WWI pun).  I went to CNN today to see there are riots now in Australia.  Good grief.

I must say, though, despite the chaotic world we live in, I have never had any sort of problem overseas <insert knocking on wood here>.  I remember seeing a solider with a large machine gun on a street in London’s east end while I was there in 2004 – that was a sight to behold!  And even then, in “downtown London” there was a huge protest against America; they claimed absurd things like President Bush was killing babies and protested our paradoxical oil interests.  Some of it was true, some of it wasn’t.  I ignored all of it by walking on the opposite side of the street.

It’s often been said to me while traveling in the post-9/11 world to downplay the fact I’m an American.  “Say you’re from Canada,” various advisors said.  Like most in America, people assume one person or group speaks for the entire population.  “Oh, you’re from America so you think you’re better than everyone else.  You hate Muslims.  Your country has no business being in Afghanistan, you just want everyone to be like you.”  It’s much like how the south is characterized by a bunch of uneducated rednecks.  And there are some out there, believe me, but the vast majority of people here are not only educated to some degree, but also incredibly kind.  This time, however, I find myself trying to figure out ways to not only distance myself from my American citizenship, but also my religion.  I’m not wearing the cross I usually wear when traveling, nor am I bringing a Bible or my journal (too much to pack, really).  The small purse I’m bringing says “Wrightsville Beach, NC” on it and now I’m going to try to find one that doesn’t have writing on it.  I don’t want to draw attention to the fact that I am not from there.  Or than I’m a “practicing” Christian.

The one thing I have going for me is my face.  A friend of mine who immigrated here from Southeast Asia once commented that I don’t look American.  My features are very chiseled, my eyes are deep set, and I have a straight brow and a large nose: I look very German (thank you Great-Grandma Magdalena and Great-Great-Grandma Julia).  My husband, took after his mom’s side which is all Polish (mixed with Scot-Irish), so he looks European.  And I can speak a little German, not very well, but I could get us around.  I hope. “I’m going to blow my cover the moment I open my mouth, ” says The General, who’s very American accent is a mix of northeastern slang and southern drawl.  “I’m just not going to say anything and let you do all the talking.”  The General is very worried he won’t be able to read a menu or find things in a store because of the language barrier.  This coming from the guy who navigated Stockholm like it was his hometown.

There’s a lot of anxiety on this trip.  I keep pulling The General out of his comfort zone – and mine as well.  The Islamic world is on fire and I hope we don’t get caught in the cross-hairs of unfriendly retribution because of what my passport says.  I’ve never been to Berlin before.  We’re going to a country that speaks the language of our ancestors, but my only training is from a high school German class 15 years ago, Jersey Shore, learning modules on Rosetta Stone, and random German TV shows.  Needless to say, I sent an itinerary to our friends and family in the unlikely event the fit hits the shan.

Nonetheless, I plan to fall more deeply in love with Ireland and embrace Germany like it is an old friend.  I love adventure and this trip is surely going to bring it.

The balsa wood plane has ice on the rubber band

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“Wasting away in the Rust Belt, looking for my de-icer and scraper. People say it’s a snow storm to blame, but I know it’s just too damn cold.”

Our puddle jumper prop plane out of this winter wonderland has ice in the engine and so we wait for a technician to show up….who’s about an hour away. Granted, I’d rather be delayed 2 hours than to find this problem via the black box. Still, when one sets an alarm for a 0345 wake up time, one expects to be on their way to the sunny skies of the Carolinas within the hour. Ah, such is life – complete with my curse – an unhappy toddler is on my flight. Yay.

My visit here with the General’s parents was awesome. I am so relaxed; my brain is rested from the lab chaos, I gained 10kg because my MIL is an amazing cook, and between the chocolatiers and the price of booze, I could hang my hat here for awhile. We’re going to miss the monstrous snow storm heading this way – if we get on a plane soon. Some more highlights:

* My 18 year old nephew is a self proclaimed atheist.
* I would test positive for GSR. Got to exercise my 2nd Amendment rights with 2 hand guns and a rifle at a shooting range.
* Saw a community dinner theatre Xmas musical that had great singers and terrible scene changes that required no set movements. They should have been seamless. Lots of good songs, tho!
* Saw the inside of a semi truck sleeper. 10 gears? I could do it.
* Drove with the General in a Chevy 4×4 through snow-packed country dirt roads to go skiing….but the trails were closed due to hunting. The scenery was breath-taking.
* Saw the Twilight movie Eclipse.
* Spent some quality time with the couple who raised an amazing son.