Hooray, hooray, hooray! I received a nomination for my first blog award.
Since entering blogosphere, I realized blog awards are quite common and are given by other bloggers who enjoy reading your blog and are willing to recommend it to their blog community and viewership. This indeed is an awesome validation. Ospreyshire nominated me for the ‘One Lovely Blog Award’ and I cannot be more humble and thankful for the honor.
Naturally, I should explain how the award nomination process works. Here are the rules:
1) Thank the person who nominated you and link to their blog
2) Add the One Lovely Blog Award to your post
3) Share 7 things about yourself
4) Pass this on to as many people as you like (max 15)
5) Include this set of rules
6) Inform your nominees
Let’s get started on the things I want you to know about me.
I love to travel. Exploring foreign lands, sampling exotic foods, meeting interesting and indigenous people, and experiencing different cultures are some of the reasons travel is important to me. There are many facets to making the travel experience perfect. The biggest reasons most people cite for not traveling are affordability and time. Well, I have found ways to make travel affordable, not only for me, but for others too. Timing is totally up to the traveler. My goal is to seek out and enjoy the beauty that still exists and share my experiences as well as my expertise with others, after all, the world is my oyster.
Planner and Organizer. These are two of the most important tools I use in prepping for a travel itinerary. I love to research destinations, read current news of the travel industry, follow travel forums, listen to the opinions of work colleagues, friends and family members who travel often. The process of gathering information relative to the travel industry is never-ending but interesting, nevertheless. Social events, parties, weddings, cruises, you name it and I have a plan for it. Local events that I have planned and organized include: community health fairs, women’s ministries retreats, weddings, tea parties, showers (baby and wedding), Thanksgiving community dinners and church outings just to name a few.
Wild Flower by Skylark is my favorite song. I am probably dating myself here but if you hear or know this song you will know why I like it and you might like it too.
Hiking or going for an early morning walk is therapeutic for me, if not only for the exercise, it is one of the ways I relax. Whenever I go for long walks I am more impressed with the discoveries I find in nature. Even listening to the thump of my own heartbeat during a strenuous climb can be exhilarating. As I hike trails or walk the streets of my community, the further I go the more I use the alone time to meditate and pray. Typically, on these kinds of walks I can get much inspiration for my blog.
I tell stories via my scrapbook hobby. This is a great way to recount my travel adventures. A picture does tell a thousand words and says it best of all.
Reading has always been a love of mine from a child. Pouring over books, magazines, and anything I could put my hands on to read. The best and only book that I never tire of reading is the Bible – the Holy Word of God. It holds wisdom and instructions concerning practical, right living. It forms part of my daily devotion. It is the source of strength, inspiration, wisdom and the joy of my life.
I used to be a closet Trekkie. Yes, I loved the TV series – Star Trek. Actually, I find sci-fi films fascinating. Don’t ask me why. Maybe they appeal to my wanderlust nature to explore the unknown and to boldly go where no one has gone before.
There are many sites I find interesting along with travel. However, rule number four limits me from listing all of them. Therefore, here are my nominations for the One Lovely Blog Award:
There is no pressure to take part in this nomination, but I sincerely hope that all my nominees do. Recommending blogs I follow and/or like certainly have been my favorite to-do on the list of award rules mentioned above. Let me know in the comment section below your thoughts on blog awards and what they mean to you.
Don’t forget to select follow, like, thumbs-up or comment whenever you can. Many thanks to my followers, viewership and overall supporters for reading this post.
Flying can be an ordeal at times, especially when you have a hectic itinerary to fulfill as I have on my Ecuador and Peru travels. I chose to fly with Avianca, and I am glad I did. Here are some reasons why.
Their service is world-class. As far as I have witnessed, they approach their jobs with a level of professionalism that is commendable. They handle customers respectfully and patiently. So far on each leg of my travel itinerary, I received patient attention, answers to my questions and helpful directions to where I wanted to go. What happened next is a testimony of an airline crew par excellence.
I recently celebrated a special day, you know, the kind of date that rolls around once a year, and what we call a birthday. I boarded Avianca flight 807 bound for Cusco from Lima, Peru. Little did I know that my day would go in an unexpected direction. Captain Luis Palacin, First Officer Christian Crosby, Cabin Pursers Ursula Zegarra, James Ysimura and Claudia Gonzales all played a part in changing the course my day would take.
Captain Palacin directed his crew to invite me and my traveling companion to sit in row 1 of first class. I practically jumped out of my seat and ran up front. As soon as we sat down we were given our drinks (that’s a sure sign that you are in first class). I am sure other passengers may have wondered why we were taken to first class, but they would find out a little later in the flight.
The flight to Cusco from Lima is just a mere 55 minutes flying time. In less than an hour Cabin Pursers Zegarra, Ysimura and Gonzales, respectively, showered me with attention. Captain Palacin and First Officer Crosby may not have known this but I was already flying on cloud nine even while they were navigating the aircraft high over mountains that made up a part of the Andes Mountain range.
It is not often you will hear your name announced on the aircraft’s intercom by the captain wishing you a happy birthday on behalf of himself and his crew members. It is also not on every flight you will receive a cupcake with your birthdate and a note saying “Happy Birthday” from AV Crew 807. These sentiments were not lost on me. This team went above and beyond what I could ever have imagined for myself that day. It was not a part of my plan or theirs, I am sure, as we certainly did not know each other before then. However, upon learning that it was my birthday, they all jumped into action to ensure the little time I had in their presence would be memorable and lasting. Even fellow passengers joined in offering their wishes of a happy birthday to me as they exited the aircraft.
I am not shy about birthdays and have welcomed them each year since I do not relish the alternative. I want to thank God for blessing me in such a wonderful way and allowing my travels to cross the flight path of Avianca 807 crew members. May God bless, keep and watch over them on all their journeys. I say thanks to them from the depths of my heart for making my day extra special. I want them to know, it will never be forgotten.
Blog followers and viewers, if you have had a similar experience on this airline or any other, please share in the comment section below. I like to read your comments, receive your likes or thumbs up, or you may select the follow button to be the first to know what I’m up to. More of my travel experiences throughout Ecuador and Peru will be posted this month. Thanks for reading my blog.
Today is independence day in Barbados or Bim (short for Bimshire) as it is known. Barbadians (colloquial names: Bajan or Beige) at home and abroad are celebrating 51 years of autonomy from the British Monarchy. Bajans from all walks of life will gather to celebrate their culture, foods and heritage.
Chorus to Barbados National Anthem
“We loyal sons and daughters all
Do hereby make it known
These fields and hills beyond recall
Are now our very own
We write our names on history’s page
With expectations great
Strict guardians of our heritage
Firm craftsmen of our fate”
– Irving Burgie
Here are a few interesting facts about Barbados you may not know:
So, how is Independence celebrated? Read on.
During the month of November, residents dress-up in the vibrant blue and gold colors representative of the nation’s flag. Government buildings and businesses are decorated in bunting of similar color. Besides an over abundance of entertainment that can be found on the island at any given time (a tourism slogan says “Never a dull moment in Barbados”), there is a month-long competition which highlights the creative work of local artists. The event is hosted by the National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA). Groups as well as solo performers vie for the “best-in-class” titles, and for awards in categories of: art, crafts, dance, drama, music, photography and song. On the evening of the grand gala, and before a sold-out crowd, stellar performances are rendered for the judges who select the final winners of each category.
Besides national entertainment, in every community there is a direct thrust for nationals and non-nationals to buy and eat home-grown foods. Residents are encouraged to use Bajan products and support local businesses. Farmers and vendors at various market places display a wide variety of Bajan fruits and foods: dunks, gooseberries, golden apples, fat-pork, ackee (genip), sea-grapes, yam, pumpkin, eddo, breadfruit are a few of the fruits and foods you will find around. Whether day or night, the aroma of foods such as: fried fish, fish cakes, bakes, sweetbread, pone and other culinary treats including the national dish – cou-cou and flying fish, may be found in any kitchen.
A must-have and the star of the season is a sweet delicacy called conkie or stew-dumpling. Made only during this time, families gather to make and share these delicious treats, which in my estimation are labor intensive. You must grate pumpkin, coconut and sweet potato in preparation for the conkies. The grated foods are then combined with other ingredients such as: cornmeal flour, sugar, butter, essence and several spices. Once combined, spoonful’s of the mixture is wrapped in a singed banana leaf and steamed. Other the years, this recipe has evolved to include other ingredients such as: raisins, eggs and milk. I am partial to the authentic conkie and therefore cannot attest to the taste or flavor of a conkie with the latter ingredients.
On the morning of November 30th, all eyes turn to the national parade of combative and non-combative arms of government. Troops assemble at the Garrison Savannah, home of horse racing, for the official independence ceremony. Before large spectator crowds, speeches are given by government officials, the national anthem sung and the national pledge recited. The troops then parade before onlookers and are inspected by the Governor General – the head-of-state and the Queen’s representative on the island, and the Right Honorable Prime Minister. A gunfire salute is given to the cheers of hip, hip, hooray, and the parade begins its final march through the streets to government headquarters to the beat of Barbados’ Police Force and Defence Force music bands. People line the streets securing every vantage point to catch a glimpse of their favorite detachment or to see and support a family member marching in the parade.
After all the national pageantry, crowds head to the seashore to fun and frolic. You might hear senior folk reminiscing of the olden days. Still, you may find others at social parties talking of pastimes, reciting old sayings, singing heritage songs, and playing games like: picksup, scables, tip fuh two, pitching, tic tocs and rounders (words are spelled in local vernacular)
Every island has its own charm, claims to beauty and uniqueness. The same can be said of the land of my birth. It has been a favorite destination for members of the British Royal family and former US Presidents: George Washington, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. It is the playground for regular A-list visitors like: Kerry Packer, Oprah Winfrey, Simon Cowell, Tiger Woods, and home to superstars: Rihanna, Olympic Bronze medalist Obadele Thompson, musician Eddie Grant, cricket legend Sir Garfield Sobers, and a Guinness book recorded checkers champion Ronald ‘Suki’ King to name drop a few.
While many people may think of Barbados as just another destination, to me it is paradise and a place called home. While many go there to enjoy the sea, sun and sand, I go there to enjoy all things Bajan. It is the only place where the term “Only bout hey” is understood by all and sundry. Even though distance separates me from this land, it is always enjoyable recounting memories of the things that helped to make and shape who I am today. I want to wish my homeland a happy and blessed Independence Day. I love you Barbados. Happy birthday!
I hope this post peaked your interest and caused you to add Barbados to you bucket-list. Remember to drop me a comment in the section below or like. I look forward to hearing from you.
A week from today, my travels to Ecuador and Peru will begin. This will round out all travels for 2017 (see ‘Coming to a Place Near You’ page on http://www.traveltinerary.com) and I will be able to add them to the list of countries visited. The itinerary planning and research for these destinations have been extensive having read everything I can on both countries. After perusing other travelers comments and tips online, and talking with Ecuadorian friends, I had to concede (more like have a travel conniption) that I simply cannot do all the things I would like to do, or go to all the places I would like to visit within the allotted time-frame of my air ticket. Consequently, I had to make some changes to my plans. It would mean trimming the itinerary in a way that would afford me the most bang for my buck. Hence, The Galápagos Islands would become the “fall guy” because of time constraints, but Machu Picchu would remain on the must-see list.
The terrain of Ecuador and Peru does not allow for easy over-land travel. Internal flights are available but can be pricy for non-nationals. To capitalize on multiple territories, I purchased an open-jaw ticket, which in this case, is heavily bundled with travel connections, but the price could not be beat. Since I chose the low-priced ticket at the expense of much-needed travel time, flexing on the itinerary then became my next priority (see tips on ‘Itinerary Planning’ page). Once committed to a budget, one has to be willing to alter plans, if necessary. This is the way it works for budget travelers who do not want to break the bank, figuratively speaking or literally, but instead, wishes to enjoy as much of their destination as do their wealthy counterparts who spend heftier sums. Currently my budget is on track and well below the allotted self-imposed spending limit of $1,500 per country. I must interject here that this amount goes a long way in some parts of the world than in others. More spending power is available to me on this trip than would be on a similar trip to Europe. Still, if properly navigated, travels can be had within the budget you set.
“He who will not economize will have to agonize.” – Confucius
While I may forego The Galápagos Islands at this time, God willing, I hope I will get another opportunity to revisit Ecuador on a longer timetable. The flight schedule as it stands below promises to be quite hectic. To date, I have received one airline change to the ticket schedule since purchase. I hope there will be no further changes.
New York → Bogotá, Colombia
Bogotá, Colombia →Quito, Ecuador
Quito, Ecuador → Guayaquil, Ecuador
Guayaquil, Ecuador →Cuzco, Peru
Cuzco, Peru → Lima, Peru
Lima, Peru → New York
Following the pre-travel checklist posted last month has served to: keep my plans on track, keep travel essentials in view and keep travel acuity of the region high. Below are my last to-dos before I jet off to find the spot where I can stand on the GPS location – latitude: 0°, 00′, 00″ known as the middle of the world.
Pack travel bag
Check weather conditions
Give copies of itineraries to family members
Print boarding passes
Am I excited about the adventures ahead? A resounding YES! However, I do have a few reservations. Will I acclimatize in time to accomplish all the hiking I would like to do? Will my plans be sabotaged from altitude sickness? Will I enjoy the food in either country as appetizing as they look? I am no Bourdain or Zimmern, I draw the line on what goes into my body temple. So, no guinea pig thanks (pun intended). Will I feel safe walking around at night? Only time will tell the answers to my questions.
To all my blog peeps in WordPress, LinkedIn, Google+, stay tuned as I bring you the most impactful experiences and scenic photo shots. As always, I love to read your thoughts/recommendations on my post. Please write your comment in the section below. Shy? You can select the buttons: follow, like, thumbs-up, or email to convey your encouragement.
Keep it real all.
Yesterday I looked outside my window and saw snow flurries. Thoughts of traveling to a sunny, exotic location, lying on a beach, sipping a cool mocktail or reading a book, began to fill my mind. Reality check. This is peak season to destinations like that and the costs of airfare, hotel, etc., would probably blow my travel budget into smithereens. It’s just a pipe dream. So, if this is your dilemma what can you do and where can you go? I propose a staycation.
I am especially fond of the holiday season, albeit cold. Usually around this time, my travel plans whether using bus, car or train, are limited to the Northeast for these simple reasons: It is a time to enjoy my colorful backyard, a time to give thanks, a time to enjoy Christmas, and a time to spend with family.
I live in the Hudson Valley and at this particular time of year it is a picturesque place to be. 70 miles north of New York city, you can begin to enjoy nature’s foliage as you drive along any of the major highways to the upstate suburbs. If you pack a lunch basket, don your walking boots, you can take your family on an outing to witness the explosive kaleidoscope of colorful leaves. Browns, reds, oranges, yellows splash across the mountainside and along the rippling Hudson River banks like Holi (the Hindu festival of colors). I especially like to take the ride up through the Taconic State Parkway or the Palisades Parkway. These two routes present some of the most advantageous views and scenic photo ops for both the professional and amateur photographer. Hiking on Bear Mountain and the many national parks that make up the Harriman State Park is another great way to witness the colorful leaves and explore the trails.
Do not feel left out if you live alone. Plan a surprise visit to a friend or family member and spend Thanksgiving or even Christmas with them. Choose a destination away from your town so you can see some different scenery. Drive half hour or more if you have to. I am not talking turkey when I tell you that I love Thanksgiving. On such occasions, I drive two and a half hours just to be with family. Here are my reasons why. Giving thanks is a priority when my family sits down together for our meal. We acknowledge in our daily devotions thanks to God for being our provider, sustainer, protector and redeemer. Thanksgiving day is no exception. When we gather at a pre-selected household to break bread, before laying into the delectable spread, every person present is afforded the opportunity to give thanks. Sincere expressions of thankfulness for: kindnesses received or given, thoughtfulness of and to others, love-in-action demonstrated by friends and family are often recited. The food, though mouth-watering, is not the priority, as one by one we tell each other why we are so thankful. Sometimes these moments can be very nostalgic, moving each other to tears (happy tears), or being outright hilarious. After all is said, one person says the corporate pray of thanks giving to God for us all and then we dig in. It is a beautiful, special moment with family.
Christmas is another favorite holiday of mine. If in the city, a great travel plan would be to attend a local concert. Many church choirs in the area renders the ageless Handel’s Messiah or the Hallelujah Chorus much to the delight of their audience. If you like the ballet, The Nutcracker is another staple performance for theater goers. I attend a choir concert or two just to enjoy the music of the season, but it begins for me much sooner than December. Every September 1st, I swap out all the music in my car to only play Christmas songs, carols and hymns as I drive. My friends think it is strange (you might think so too) to be playing this holiday music so early, but I think the month of December is not long enough for me to enjoy them. Besides, my quirk was adapted to de-stress after a long, hard day. The combination of listening to favorite carols, watching twinkling lights, feeling crisp cold air, and seeing snowflakes fall, helps to make my travels extra special as I whiz up and down the highways.
Although mentioned last, spending time with family is by far the most important reason for liking the holiday season, whether Thanksgiving or Christmas. Without the love of family and friends, and the ability to share with them, all the aforementioned would probably be less enjoyable. According to Statisticbrain.com it is estimated 39,000,000 people will travel this Thanksgiving day. I like the fact that travelers will crisscross the nation to see and be with their loved ones. Too much cannot be said about the value of being with family during this season. Quality time spent with the people you love and appreciate makes great, unforgettable memories later on.
Here’s a question for my blog followers and viewers. Do you have a favorite holiday plan you would like to share? Please let me know in the comment section below. I find your comments very interesting. Don’t be shy to drop me a note via my website, Google+, LinkedIn, or email. If you have gotten this far, thanks for reading.
Trinidad and Tobago is undoubtedly, in my opinion, the party mecca of the Caribbean. Dubbed the land of the humming bird, boasting the greatest show on earth – Carnival, and giving the world calypso or soca music are a few of its cultural peculiarities, but I’m not going to talk about that.
I first visited this twin-island nation (whose soccer team recently beat the USA team at the 2017 World Cup, 2-1) with a gal pal on a get-away trip. We were eager to escape our routine lives in exchange for a little adventure and to explore a nearby island. So, we packed our bags and left on a 17 day vacation to T&T to chill with close family friends.
Traveling with a friend can be fun. We shared laughs and encountered many firsts together. Back then neither of us could call ourselves experienced travelers. We didn’t have an itinerary, specific travel plans or even carried all the travel essentials that we insist on carrying today. We only knew we wanted to see places we had often heard spoken of like: Arima, Maracas, Port-of-Spain, San Fernando and Tunapuna to name a few. Reminiscing with my friend about this trip brought back memories I had completely forgotten, nothing sinister, but better left unsaid. It was also interesting to note what impacted her the most.
We spent our first 10 days in Trinidad visiting the bustling city – Port of Spain. We rode the “Priority” (our first experience of riding a bus going faster than 30 mph as in our homeland). We visited the world famous cricket grounds of Queens Park Oval (it brought back memories of a popular poem written by Paul Keens-Douglas “Tanti at De Oval“). We ate callaloo, all kinds of flavorful roti and a variant version called “buss-up-shot”.
The next seven days we spent in idyllic Tobago. There the pace was much slower. Tobago is the retiree’s haven, the rich and famous escape destination, the ‘do-not-disturb’ person’s kind of place to go and relax. Driving in the countryside at night along the winding, narrow, hills and valleys with no street lighting other than the stars and moon was rather perturbing. Scarborough, the city, was not much to talk about at that time, however, this little island possess some of the most beautiful beaches you will find in the world.
Among our many firsts in T&T here are three experiences you may find hilarious as I still do today.
After spending the day sightseeing and walking around in Port-of-Spain, we tried to hail a taxicab to take us home and were shocked to see others jumping into the cab ahead of us. We couldn’t understand why total strangers wanted to share our ride. It took a few taxicabs leaving us behind before it became clear that this was a transportation sharing method to keep the fares low. To back-up our belief, written on a wall in big, bold letters not to far from the taxi depot were these words, “Taxi men keep your fares low or blood will flow.” Those words were indelibly written on my mind for fear of impending violence, also it was my first introduction to graffiti. I know by now you’re probably wondering where was I living all this time. LOL. A sheltered life no doubt. A family friend eventually rescued us and we were able to ride home in the cab that we wanted.
Another first occurred in Tobago while we were staying at our host. The island had experienced a few earthquake tremors and, I don’t know if the two were related, but the houses in the neighborhood, including ours, had no water. The problem existed for about two days, but it felt like a lifetime to me. The locals were going down to the river to bathe, but would soon return saying, “De river come down.” I didn’t understand this statement. Aren’t rivers suppose to flow downwards? Well, again I learned that due to the heavy rainfall high up in the mountains, the riverbanks would usually swell and overflow, bringing with it mud, debris, rock, etc., making the river inaccessible for bathing, washing or catching clean water, hence, de river come down.
My final recollection was new to both my friend and I. It was our first sighting of the gecko, a white version of GIECO’s green lizard. For the entire night we stayed up watching the ceiling to see where those lizards would go. We huddled in the middle of the bed and didn’t get a wink of sleep, for fear that those lizards would come near to us. When we told our host the next morning we had lizards in the room and described what happened, they laughed so hard we could only join in and laugh too as they explained about geckos. Suffice it to say, we didn’t give the geckos any further thought for the remainder of our stay.
In retrospect, Trinidad and Tobago lived up to our expectations and more. We were young, impressionable and enjoyed every minute of our stay in that Republic. I’m sure much has changed since our visit but the adage is still true, “The more things change the more they stay the same.” If you take a trip there today you will certainly find roti, callaloo, buss-up-shot, carnival, calypso, soca, hummingbirds, cricket at the oval, and many other interests that help to make up this vibrant destination. I enjoyed looking back on this vacation and recounting it to you, so don’t hold back on your comments. Who will be the first?
Today new security measures are being implemented for all inbound flights to the USA. The travel process includes: screening passengers, checking laptops/electronics, thorough questionings, etc. What does it all mean for travelers in terms of safety, packing, and check-in times?
Obviously safety is the number one priority that is driving this new demand. Airports and airlines in every country around the world, like it or not, are scrambling to make the necessary adjustments to comply with these US demands. These new measures, considered by many to be a direct outpour of the travel ban against several predominantly Muslim countries adopted earlier this year, will enhance security. It is therefore needless to say, that every passenger, anywhere in this world, would undeniably agree that when flying, their safety is paramount.
Packing is a sore spot of contention for me (especially traveling to see relatives) when my bags always weigh more than the allotted 50 pounds. Still, I am well aware there are rules to be followed and I usually fall in line. After today, I will now have to consider how important it is for me to add my electronics, laptop, iPad, etc. to my checked luggage. I don’t know how comfortable you feel about that, but I believe most people don’t like the idea of packing their electronic valuables into there checked bags for fear of theft. Yes, this is a reality. I’ve seen enough hidden camera’s exposé on the subjects of “baggage tampering” and “missing valuables” not to be fearful of a similar likelihood happening to me.
What is one to do if one’s electronics are missing from their checked bags? Is the answer more insurance coverage? Will we see a proliferation of missing electronics insurance claims? Let’s wait to see what happens on that score. To avoid packing electronics, maybe this could be a new entrepreneurial “Amazon International” opportunity (short-term electronics rental stores) for travelers to and from the US. Contact me for the details (being facetious).
Airport check-ins as it stands can be a hassle at times. You must be checked-in two hours prior to boarding for international flights. Some countries are already requesting travelers bound for the USA to check-in up to three hours ahead of their flight schedule. This course of action must be taken to expedite the newly adopted screening process, and on top of that, passengers are warned to expect delays.
My plans to carry my favorite electronics on my upcoming trip will now be pared down to one or two items. I suppose that by the time I’m ready to return to the USA from my travels abroad, I will not encounter much delays or processing hiccups. It will have all become a seamless process, much like taking off my shoes, belt, jacket, etc. at the TSA check point.
What are your thoughts on these new measures? Drop me your comment on “to check or not to check electronics.”
As always, thanks for reading.
The countdown is on!
On my projected vacation page ‘coming to a place near you’, I have selected Ecuador and Peru as the destinations to close out my travels for 2017. I am now 43 days away from fulfilling that plan. I have chosen Ecuador specifically to visit the Galápagos Islands, and Peru to visit Machu Pichu and the Sacred Valley. I can barely wait to see nature’s wonders in this part of the hemisphere.
I can feel the pressure building as I start to compile a checklist and gather all my must-haves to take with me. So, to help me manage my anxiety and excitement I will follow a simple plan. I’ll prioritize what I need to focus on each week as the departure date draws nearer. Here is my checklist of all that I must complete prior to leaving.
Did I leave anything out that may be important to this trip? Tell me if I did in the comment section, and I’ll let you know if it has been added to the list.
Southwest Airlines Flight 5427 from Houston to New York.
Cabin stewards Anthony, Clarence and Frank took away the blues everyone may have been feeling that evening.
It had been raining all day. The weather was showing some solidarity with my mood. I had flown from San Antonio to connect in Houston bound for New York. I was leaving family members behind and heading Northeast, not knowing when I would see my loved ones again. I was sad.
Due to a boarding irregularity (the lights along the jet bridge not working) we were delayed with the hope that the matter would be resolved quickly. With an hour to spare, I wandered aimlessly into the nearby shops browsing the shelves and began to wonder what would make people pay high prices for tchotchkes. That is another blog posting for another time.
While waiting to board, airport personnel found a viable solution to the unexpected anomaly. We were switched from gate 33 to gate 32. In no time the boarding process began, everyone was seated and ready for take off.
Then the show began.
Our all male cast (stewards) made everyone on board forget about the delay. They managed to deliver their safety monologue, a serious message, in a humorous way. I believe they used their class act and humor to charm their captive audience. It worked. From the chatter and occasional laugh I could tell there was a sense of ease the entire trip.
We were told that steward Frank was in training and that he was on the job just a mere four days. If that was really true, he had found his calling. His jokes caused outburst of laughter and many times received an applause (we were certainly off, off, way off Broadway). Frank and his cohorts served the passengers with such flair that we forgot we were flying at an altitude of more than 35000ft. I don’t recall experiencing any turbulence on that flight as I did on the earlier flight from San Antonio to Houston, but maybe I was to busy laughing that I may have missed it.
Even though we arrived at our destination one hour later than scheduled, no one was rushing to get off the aircraft. People were still chatting with their neighbors and helping others with their bags from the overhead bins. This particular Southwest flight crew deserve special mention and a huge thanks for making the journey a memorable and lighthearted experience. Obviously they love what they do and that evening they took flight attending to another level. Thank you guys.
Today starts my ‘retrospection blogs’ series of countries I have visited many years ago and possibly won’t get a second chance to revisit. The first country I will reflect on is Venezuela.
Apropos, this embattled South American nation has been in the news for some time. Information of inner turmoil, food shortages, educational neglect, anti-government demonstrations and political fallout have been reported. The most recent diatribe is that they have been added to the list of banned nations whose citizens will not be allowed entry into the USA. My recollections should not to be considered a political gambit or posturing.
My introduction to the Latin culture began when I studied Spanish as a second language. The curriculum presented opportunities for interactions with the Venezuelan Cultural Center and its teachers which prompted my visit. So off I went on a fact finding mission to Venezuela.
I arrived at the Simón Bolívar International Airport eager to find out more about Venezuelans, practice my Spanish and learn more about their culture. En route to the hotel from the airport I could not help seeing the shanties. Not the welcoming sight I expected, but that image would soon give way to beautiful boulevards, tree-lined streets, plazas, and pedestrian only avenues. Even though my understanding of Spanish was good, not fluent, I wasn’t quite prepared for the onrush of the language. I couldn’t understand a thing. It took me a day or two to adjust to the accent and delivery speed. After a while and for obvious reasons, I realized speaking with children was a lot easier than talking with adults.
I rode the metro train to popular places like Chacaito and Sabana Grande (pedestrian only avenues geared for fashionista shopping), Plaza Venezuela (a public square for relaxation) and Parque del Este (an oasis in the heart of the city) just to name a few. I recall the very first time I exchanged US dollars at the cambio for Bolivars (local currency). I received so much money I felt like I had become an instant millionaire.
CULTURE AND CUISINE
Outside a building I noticed a large group of people. Curiosity got the better of me, so I inquired on what was going on. I was invited to go inside and to my surprise I discovered it was a cinema. We sat down to watch the film and every time I laughed the audience laughed a few seconds later. I then realized while I laughed at the jokes in real-time, it took them a few seconds to read the Spanish subtitles. Back then only English films were shown.
The food was another interesting revelation. Three major cuisine staples that were prevalent in most restaurants, or at least it seemed so to me, was Paella (rice dish flavored with mussels, seafood and peppers); Arroz con pollo (rice and chicken); and Arepas (a maize flour dough made into little cakes) eaten at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Even McDonalds offered Arepas as a side-order.
I would often stop to watch young and old couples salsa dance in the plazas. There I learned to perfect my salsa moves because of my willingness as a volunteer partner.
IN THE CLOUDS
Venezuela boasted a gondola lift (Teleférico de Cararas) which transported small groups of people to El Ávila Mountain. It took about 15 minutes to reach the top. The cable operator stopped the car I rode in half way up and allowed us to feel the gentle bounce on the cables for a few seconds. The feel of the gravitational pull evoked an un-rehearsed unanimous gasp. Scary? Undoubtedly. I must say we we were given a heads-up, as well as, an adrenaline rush. At the top of El Ávila the views of the city of Caracas and the surrounding valley below were breathtakingly spectacular. Occasionally, clouds would descend and block the view below. Telescopes along the perimeter allowed for a better view of the city and its neighboring communities like Galipán – known for its exotic flower industry, and Macuto.
My trip to Venezuela was short, sweet and unforgettable. Indeed, recounting this particular travel has brought back fond memories. Back then, I didn’t have an itinerary plan, cell phone, iPad, laptop or even a simple map, but only a Kodak camera. Google and the internet were not a part of my travel experience. I simply relied on communicating with the people around me. I am sure many things may have changed since my initial visit many years ago, but for now, I will continue to keep alive the memories of the Venezuela I once knew.