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My new favourite place… Panamá!

1 Nov

This May I had the pleasure of visiting Panamá.. and it was truly one of the best trips I’ve had since my mum and I started circumnavigating the Caribbean.

It has the climate and topography similar to Jamaica, with the addition of the lush rainforest and burgeoning citylife. It has a mixture of cultures and takes from a variety of other Latin American countries as well as Caribbean.

Small city next to a rainforest – next to a large city – next to the jungle – surrounded by a vast mountain range. Pockets of bliss! If you’re interested in an extremely diverse set of excursions – this is the place. 😀

The food was fantastic, the people were kind and genuinely happy.. But really -the only way to experience this beauty.. Is to go and see for yourself! 😍😍😍

 

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Santa Maria, my 3rd home…

8 Apr

It is no secret that I have a beautiful extended love affair with Santa Maria. Every trip to this region has been a dream, woven in a fantasy, woven in a dream. I was able to visit Warwick resort, last November, a perfect ending to the year’s travel season.

The resort was modern in style, fairly new and clean, however; it seems as though they lacked in trained staff. It also was designed poorly. Sometimes I wonder if the developers actually think about the hotels they’re building, the types of rooms offered and the location of rooms – and not just focus on genrating money. There were no elevators, all the updated high-end suites were at the far end of the resort, miles down the resort, and the suites on the top levels were inaccessible for anyone with a disability. Basically, we paid for bigger rooms, and didn’t get it.

Other than that major sh*t-show, it was lovely. The beach was absolutely fantastic, the food was great, the pool area was clean and up-to-date.

My mom and I took a tour around the island, did our shopping in the local plaza, scored some deals, and had our own little adventure. Due to a medical emergency, I had to be taken to Santa Clara hospital 1.5hrs away – very arduous and stressful trip.

It was something out of a horror movie. Like the aftermath of a doomsday apocalypse. The hospitals looked as though a bomb had gone off 60yrs ago, and nothing was cleaned or fixed since. Sad and scary. The doctors worked in this rubble and the patients were expected to heal in this insanity. I’m not sure how anyone is supposed to exist in this madness. At any rate, they did the best they could with what they had.

Despite the chaos, we made the best out of a horrific situation. It’s still gorgeous with some of the best beaches in the world.. always my first choice… but next stop… who knows!!

P.S. it has taken me since November to recover from the trauma of that trip! If you’re wondering why such a late post.

 

 

 

The Issue of Poverty Pt. II

15 Sep

Just returned from a 6-week stay in Jamaica… and as per usual the vibe and sentiment is the same.

I’m not going to complain about why there’s poverty or what government’s aren’t doing on this piece, because really and truly I’m tired of bitching about the same problems that are never solved. This blog is about APPRECIATION.

I have Giver’s Fatigue.  This is when you give, and give,.. and give and give and give from the heart… almost to the detriment of your own health and well-being. When your heart has been drained, your body, your emotions.. AND your pocketbook has also been diminished. And you are left completely depleted. People like me don’t think before they give. We give because we can, and because we feel empathetic to their situation. But it has occurred to me, time and time again, that while I’m giving and feeling all this empathy.. the people receiving aren’t necessarily feeling grateful or responsible for their behaviour that follows.

In Jamaica, and possibly other developing countries… there’s a sense of entitlement to presents and money when expats and family return. This movement is going to END. Not only do they expect the gifts, but they ask for gifts which are sometimes items I wouldn’t even buy for myself. Where do they think we pick up the money from? The money tree I guess. And when you give them presents,.. no expression of THANK YOU. None. They take it… use it… destroy it or finish it… and just keep wanting more. And NEVER in this process do they ever say, “Here Miss Staffeen… I picked this mango for you…” (because they’d never actually buy something) or “Here Mrs. Thompson, I got you a little something…” Nope. Nada.

I’m not saying to expats not to give, but like Ms. Honorine said… “Give when it’s convenient and logical for you to give…” I’m going one step further. Give only when it’s APPRECIATED. I don’t expect anything in return, except I do expect appreciation. Knowing that I didn’t just stumble upon this present, I actually went out and bought the thing with money that I have.

Sad, but I’m not giving anymore in that situation. I will be adjusting how it’s done. I’m done giving because my heart is heavy and I’m “soft,” as they say. I’ve been sucked dry from the expectation that life is difficult. Yes life is difficult everywhere. I have to start thinking about myself and build up my empire to support my family. I need to take care of myself. And I also realize when you give rewards for bad or undesirable behaviour, the behaviour doesn’t stop and it sends the wrong message. So the message will be altered as of now. Shift in the paradigm. It’s going to go the other way.

True, in theory, “Nobody has ever become poor by giving,” you may not become financially bankrupt, but you might become emotionally bankrupt. And that to me is worse than losing money.

time flies

The Issue of Poverty(AGAIN) PT. I

8 Jun

Been sitting on this one for the past week, been digesting it. Debating whether or not to sound off on it. But there is a burning desire to.

Many of us in the community talking about global poverty, like it’s some issue to tackle on some high level. And while it costs big dollars to mobilize change, it’s really not rocket science. And while it does serve some governments to keep their people poor and uneducated, let’s abandon that notion and just deal with the bottom line… It’s not difficult to understand. The Poor exist and we need to fix it somehow.

Learned that over the past year, (and probably longer), there has been a homeless person living in my backyard in Jamaica. At first, I thought it was just someone “stealing” from me, but then learned that no, a person had been living there at night. Showering, using our water and taking refuge. Got a hefty bill of $30K JMD. Which is like $350CDN. Not much in the grand scheme of things. But enough to make me further comprehend how bad the situation has become in Jamaica. There are people who need a place to live. To shower. To eat. To sleep. To do bodily functions in private.

Those with millions and billions are trying to decide how best to spend their money on solving poverty on a global scale but honestly, in the time it takes to talk about it, there are people who need help right now on the local scale who are suffering and in need right now.

I understand that governments are corrupt, I understand that organizations are corrupt, I understand that some people are corrupt. I understand all of that. I am not attacking those trying to solve the issue, I suppose my anger is towards the Jamaican government AGAIN, for letting it get this bad.

I suppose it’s one more thing to add on my TO DO list…

I have more thoughts on this…
To Be Continued…

“DUSHI” / CURAÇAO

12 May

Just returned from another lovely trip to the Caribbean in beautiful Curaçao. Stayed at the Sunscape Curaçao Resort Spa & Casino. The accommodations were adequate, the food was great. The weather was gorgeous, the sea was amazing. And I was able to see a small portion of the island… and had a fantastic time!

However there were some dark moments, which unfortunately put a cloud over the entire trip. They say you never have a 2nd chance to have a 1st impression. It is sad that such a beautiful experience was marred by the action of a few.

What I experienced was very different and on a whole other level of ridiculous and unacceptable. And my story, along with other Black people, and other shades of Black, Indian – was unique to us. A group of us were systematically and repeatedly racially profiled on the resort, and consistently carded several times a day. In addition, my mother and I were attacked by a local in the casino – whereby the manager of the casino did absolutely nothing, denied any responsibility and took the side of the guy who accused us of stealing his slot machine card. On top of all this, we all felt an overwhelming nagging sense that the staff were too busy to attend to us. Like we did not belong there or something. It was a sad state all around.

And it wasn’t even “White” on “Black” racism, where one could identify it, and protest it. This was BLACK ON BLACK racism. My OWN PEOPLE were doing this to me and us. What for? They actually stopped us on the resort several times a day, asking our names and room numbers at a checkpoint. It was a degrading and tiring experience – as though we were intruding on their turf, or sneaking in without paying. When TRUTH be told, if you examined the bank accounts of the Black people on the resort you would see quite a different tale. Meaning, Blacks have MONEY. Get over it! We have money and we will spend it where ever we choose. But of course we’re not allowed to go anywhere nice.

Nevertheless, I spoke to the management about it and I wasn’t stopped again. And the other people who protested – they were also given a “pass.” But I know that’s just my situation, and our situation. Who knows when they’ll stop the next?

I have experienced the former type of racism in my childhood and youth, believe me, and was probably better equipped to deal with it, because I knew what it was. But even now, almost in my mid-30s, I’m still not equipped to deal with this sense that “I am not/should not be allowed to be somewhere or do something, because I am of colour.” It’s a notion I’ve never been exposed to in my life. I’ve always had opportunities afforded to me, and have never had any type of obstacle professionally or personally, in Canada. So, when I go to the Caribbean, where I feel like this should be my “second home,” and am treated like a 2nd class citizen, my heart breaks and that’s all there is to it.

Oddly I do not / cannot blame the people who did this, and the culture that surrounds them and how they treat people. How can I? They are a product of their environment, of their own history, and of their own slavery.  They are constantly reminded of it, and perhaps can’t escape it. They are a product of their own mental slavery.

Despite this tragic tarnish, I had a FANTASTIC time with my madre 😀 And enjoyed her hilarious antics when she threatened to beat the guy with her cane, and nearly did to the casino manager.  So at least I know I was well-protected! 😉

Onto the next trip!

😀

sunset2 mum & me 2 port dushi fire14 sign2

Jamaica: Small Shifts, Small Planes

24 Sep

What more can I say about Jamaica…

I have just returned from a 6 week stay in Spanish Town, Jamaica (end of July to beginning of September). Not much has changed, and by the same token, a lot has gotten worse. It absolutely kills me to see my second home in the state that it’s in. Sad and angry. The same sentiment as last year… And when I speak to native Jamaicans, some don’t feel the same way I do, because they’re so used to the madness and insanity, they don’t know anything else – and they wouldn’t even know how to go about improving it. However, Ex-pats who have lived abroad who return home to retire, share my views and don’t know how it got to that state. Other Jamaicans, share my views – and just give up hope. Which is usually the case.

If the Jamaican Government, doesn’t make some significant policy changes, the problem will just continue to escalate and the suffering will continue. I think it’s past the point of fixing. Already it’s getting to the point where there is systematic legalized child sex-abuse, legalized violence against women, and the general violence is out of control. Their policies are absolutely ridiculous, with a lack of regard for humanitarian needs, a general misconstrued idea of priority (putting tablets ahead of food and education), and furthermore…a general lack of education among the people, to know what they’ve been conditioned to believe untruths. The propaganda the Government feeds them is out of this world. I often wonder if people are able to think for themselves…

And for myself trying to understand the situation, I can only comment on what I see. I do not live there full-time, so I cannot even attempt to make suggestions, based on flawed policies. So I find myself locked in a vicious cycle. Trying to help even on a local and personal level, becomes more and more difficult, because everyone still needs to adhere to a higher system that they’ve been dragged into. So when I suggest a different method, which might work in a modern and mechanized “Canadian” world, doesn’t work there, because the system does not work. Even when I suggest something as simple as, “read more,” it is a problem. The Jamaican system is broken. But it works broken. And trying to fix the broken wheel, will not make the entire ‘bike’ run any smoother, so to speak.

If you want to get a picture of how the country really is, go to Hellshire Beach and talk to Vernon, my Dreadlock friend. He will tell you everything you need to know, and then some. Talking to the people who are on the pulse is the best way to get a sense of the undercurrent of a country. Every story has a similar thread: inflation, no work, higher prices for education, fees for everything, long waits for everything, theft, violence, .. it’s the same story over, and over, and over again.

I always visit during their Independence Day, August 6th, and every year I just shake my head. What did they gain independence for? To be an impoverished, non-improving state? I don’t know what will become of Jamaica. All I can do is pray that a positive wave interjects soon, and at least attempts to shift the pendulum the other way.

I wanted to encourage a shift in thought on a small level, and have a greater effect on more people, but any change would need longer than 6weeks. I need to go for 6 months and see what I can achieve. And I just don’t have that time right now. I might have achieved a shift on a very small plane, and I’m really happy about that… but any large shift in the paradigm will have to come over a longer people of time I suspect. I’m still thinking on it…

Regardless of the political and/or my humanitarian efforts… I still had a blast. The sun, air, great food, great people… make enduring the chaos all worth it. It’s paradise, despite the insanity one has to live through. Of course if you’re on a resort(unlike me), it’s a much different vibe, but I like my set-up. It works for me. I would go just for the food!

And as always… onto the next trip! Punta Cana, you best get ready for Ms.Stef. 😉
shopping sky 4 Hellshire 3

Movie on the Marina

1 Jul

And so our circumnavigating the Caribbean saw us again in Cuba… it’s becoming my 3rd home. And while each trip has its indelible moments, this particular trip seemed to bring the most joy and comfort. I went to visit a friend who works in Cuba, and chose Marina Veradero because it was closest to his home, and because it was a newly built resort.

The resort itself, was fantastic, clean and spacious, friendly staff… but the details are what makes the experience. And while I am satisfied with bare bones accommodations, I think certain improvements and higher standards would have made it an exceptional experience. If you raise the bar – you’ll get higher! 😉

It’s apparent that there is a forward-thinking strategy occurring with the building of this type of resort. Anticipating perhaps a new clientele in the future… from a very close, yet distant neighbour? It’s very ambitious. But they’d need to increase the wow-quality if they want to ‘keep’ them. The resort had three distinct vibes, the pool vibe, the beach vibe, and the marina vibe.. which resembles the St.Maarten boardwalk scene – with supermarkets, small shops, cafes, and places to lounge around.

Again, I met amazing people on this trip, from Toronto, England, Germany, Switzerland, and of course meeting the Cubans. The highlight of meeting new friends is what makes the experience fulfilling. I love the Caribbean vibe the most, because it’s more community-oriented, sharing and giving. We went around, bummed on the beach, and another  purpose of the trip was my health recovery, so I attempted to do that.

I am a great supporter of traveling, I feel it’s the best form of education you can achieve. You learn about other people and their cultures, gain breadth in your thinking and mindset, hopefully become open and available to new possibilities for yourself and for others, and again hopefully recognize what you have and become thankful for everything even more when you get home. I think if more people traveled, they’d be more enlightened, more appreciative, more accepting of others, and less judgmental. Or perhaps each has their own journey to have and lessons to learn, and either way.. traveling just enhances that experience.

I think of trips as mini-movies, where you can lose yourself for a moment, become that lead protagonist and have that star-quality moment and shine. I always feel more confident when I return from a trip, always ready for the next one. 😉

Are you ready for the next trip? I’m packing! 😀
condo view

the marina3

beach hat

on the beach