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Punta Cana: Royal Suites Turquesa – NOT SO GOOD

12 Oct

Just returned from my birthday week in Punta Cana. Sadly, this resort was a BUST. I contracted a food poisoning bug on the 2nd day, but recovered somewhat thanks to some natural alcoholic remedies suggested by one of the locals. 😉 HaHaHa. What else can I say? Had a wicked SwimUp pool though?

As far as resorts go – I’ve never been sick in Cuba! And personally, I much prefer the Cuban vibe. The service is kinder, cleaner and the visitors (less, the Americans), are definitely friendlier, more open and warmer. It’s not surprising that Canadians love Cuba, it’s like an extension of the Canadian attitude. This DR resort definitely catered to the Americans, where everything had to be in US funds. I couldn’t even see the doctor without paying $175USD first. Of course I didn’t. But I can’t imagine what it’s like to live under that type of insanity. (So Happy to be Canadian!)

In spite of the food bug madness, I still managed to enjoy myself! Met some beautiful and kind people who helped me through it. A family from Kentucky, a couple from Detroit, New York and Berlin. It all comes down to the people surrounding you. Sadly the couple from New York and Berlin also suffered from the same food bug. What a shocker! We laughed and commiserated over the horror. The German man kept telling me stories about every aspect of his trip that were, “Not So Good,” and at that point I realized it wasn’t just me. Oh well…

By now, I realize that these resorts are a complete gamble… most times it will be a decent time, and you’ll meet amazing people, and other times, aspects will fail and you just have to make do somehow. I definitely made do.. I slept, and slept, and slept… on the beach of course… but I could totally do with another vacation right about now. 😀

But on this Thanksgiving weekend, just thankful for the ability and opportunity to travel, see the world, experience it with my madre, and be enlightened. That’s exactly what travel does, enlightens you to the realities, and makes you appreciate what you have in your life. Truly blessed!

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cabana

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sunset

hangin out

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Give Your Love As A Gift

9 Mar

The Story of Mariam

I frequent a particular make-up store, and have been recognized by one of the sales associates, Mariam. One day last Summer she asked me, “Where’ve you been? Haven’t seen you in so long!” I explained that I had been on a series of trips with my mum and friends, and she became curious.

We stood there in the middle of the store talking about life, love, traveling and family. She confessed to me that she’d love to go on a trip to Cuba, but was saving up enough money to see her extremely ill sister in El Salvador. This broke my heart. Both of us bawling uncontrollably, next to the eyeshadow and mascara.

We consoled each other, and I left her feeling a sense of fullness and emptiness at the same time. On one hand, realizing yet again, how precious life is, and how fortunate I am to have this time to share with my mum traveling around. And on the other hand, emptiness and helplessness, as I couldn’t help her situation, short of sending her to El Salvador.

I left and immediately wanted to lift her spirits somehow. I returned to see her three days later, with a little gift for her. It was one of those old school espresso makers attached to a pack of Cuban coffee. It was a souvenir from my last trip in May. I explained it was a little piece of Cuba, UNTIL she found her way there. More uncontrollable bawling, next to the blush.

Since that moment, I cannot tell you what an impact she has had on my life. It’s a privilege to know her and spend time with her. This experience has moved me in a way I had never expected or anticipated. That one gesture activated a series of exchanges, moments and gifts that never end… and now that I am on a medical hiatus, she has been so helpful and loving. I’m so grateful to thankful to know her. I didn’t and wasn’t expecting anything when I gave her that little token. I just wanted her to know that I was thinking about her and the situation.

The moral of this story has been repeated a million times, but I’m restating it. If you purposely and with intent, GIVE, no matter how big or small… it will come back to you in ways that you didn’t even know or realize you needed. Just Give Your Love as a Gift. It doesn’t have to be a physical gift, it could be a gesture or good deed. Just Give. You’d be surprised what happens as a result.

Stay tuned for The Story of Pearl…

lurve!

Jamaica, A Duality

12 Aug

Preamble: This trip was not an intended vacation.

It’s difficult to discuss such a beautiful island such as Jamaica without discussing the country’s economic, political and social situations. Everyone associates Jamaica with relaxing, fun and exciting because of its gorgeous beaches, amazing food, crazy parties and festivals, and other ‘indulgences.’ But the reality for its people and mine that I adopt while there, is quite a different scenario.

The truth is that Jamaica is quite a duality. And I realize that every developing nation has its flaws and weaknesses, and even developed nations have their fair share of corruption and debauchery. But when a country and its people have abandoned a sense of hope, and a vision for the future – that’s a different story altogether.

Jamaica IS a beautiful country with an abundance of talent, and obvious potential – but also has a very sad, dark side. The poverty, corruption, extortion, desperation, violence, and the imbalanced distribution of wealth, is just the tip of the iceberg. This insane ‘way of life,’ systematically suppresses its people and the reason why most seek a brighter future elsewhere.

I know it takes time for a country to develop – but exactly how long? How long do those at the top get, to steal every last dollar and leave their people behind? I’ve gone back numerous times in my life, and it’s quite sad to see such a lovely country with a wealth of creativity and beauty, be in the state it is today.

To put it simply, by my eloquent mother: “Coming here just brings on vexation & heartache.” And it’s true. The entire situation first leaves you angry, and it leaves you sad and helpless.

However, despite the obvious struggles, angst and anxiety that one has to endure while there, I managed to have some good moments with my chosen family. That is, I made sure that despite the insanity – I injected my own version of ‘normalcy’ into the mix. And that’s the only way to survive – is to create your own world within the madness. So I kept a low profile, had my fish & festival by the sea, did my own thing with my friends and family, and came home with a new sense of purpose and hope.

And so because I don’t think one can talk about a country with such candor, without offering a way out – I’m going to attempt to provide one. Out of this experience, I’ve resigned myself to a new Philanthropic project, which is a Foundation, that I hope will benefit those who are creative and want to do better for themselves, who have the talent and see themselves rising above it, and for those who like me, do see a brighter future.

looking out

Intangible Santa Maria, I Love U.

18 May

I truly believe a place can hold a special energy that can actually help you heal your soul. In the months after my father’s passing, I took my mum to Santa Maria, a little island off the main island of Cuba, all in an effort to lift the veil of grief a little.

We went for two weeks, and during that time I met some amazing people – who are still a very important part of my life today. One specifically who has helped me heal my spirit and body tremendously. It was a life-changing and life-saving experience. 🙂

Perhaps it was connecting with these people and forgetting my sadness for a while that made me want to return to recreate a similar experience. So, soon after we returned from St.Maarten, we set out again in the quest for more healing, more culture, and more connection…

This time to Melia Buenavista, for an equally powerful experience. If you’re searching for a party resort – this is NOT for you! This is for the person who wants to decompress, de-stress, detach, but connect with something else…

BUENAVISTA is small, peaceful, beautiful, remote, and minimalist. It’s located on the very tip of the island of Santa Maria. It has a personalized concierge service that brings intention to your stay. There’s yoga and a spa – which is fantastic, but the entire space (air, space and water) is spa-like. The stretch of beach along the coastline is just other-worldly. One really has to wonder… One could walk for hours and just lose track of time. I spent my days playing beach volleyball and sailing at the other resorts with thousands of people, then returned to my peaceful zen resort in the afternoons. A great combination. And the music. Always soulful and transforming for me – all you need is some SiCK Salsa music!! 😉

But apart from all the tangible things – there’s something about Santa Maria that I really haven’t been able to capture with words, I’ll just leave it here and sum it up to: MAGIC. And let you experience it for yourself! 😉 There’s a metaphysical pull, something that will always bring me back there.

santa maria beach

Along the coast of Santa Maria. En Route to Barcelo.

view from hammock

One of three beaches at Buenavista Resort.

the bay

The very tip of the island of Santa Maria; The Bay at Buenavista Resort.

 

Oh my Sint Maarten!!

17 May

With so many beautiful destinations to see, it’s so difficult to decide on one… but this was easy. I was inspired by the landscape of St.Maarten! The majestic view I had seen so many times, I just had to see for myself!

So this past April I went with my mum and a friend of mine for an all-inclusive week at Maho Beach Resort. It had gorgeous weather and the Hotel was at a prime location – right next to a Casino, a club and shopping strip. It was also prime time as we went right at the beginning of their Carnival! Days were spent shopping and lying on the terrace or the beach, and nights were spent sat up in the casino with Jules blowing my $20 or partying at the club… I’m a HIGH ROLLER BABY!! 🙂 And I don’t even party.

Now, we knew about the airport being right next to the resort, and saw pictures of people standing on the beach literally waiting for planes to land exactly 3 feet above them – but seeing it in person was a little disturbing. Why would people do this to themselves? Why did I find MYSELF standing on the beach waiting for the plane to land atop my head? And why did I stand on the beach and get blown away from plane exhaust? Why? I mean really, why? Because at some point in our lives – WE ALL NEED TO BE BLOWN AWAY!! That’s why! It was definitely an experience. Probably won’t EVER do it again… but it was good for the experience that it was!

We also took a trip to the capital Phillipsberg, and visited Great Bay Beach Resort… for a little variety. We watched the cruise ships dock, and cruised their extensive boardwalk lined with boutiques, jewelry shops and food… definitely for the shopping-inspired. Absolutely fantastic view if ever there was one!

The only down-side to the trip was that the Canadian banks didn’t accept Canadian funds. A little strange and insulting, but whatever… THEIR LOSS!!

All in all, a great trip – an experience that I will be talking about for many years to come. I’m SOO glad my friend deleted the video of me being blown away by the 737 jet. I don’t need that incriminating evidence coming back to haunt me later in life. 😉

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Great Bay Beach Resort

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Phillipsberg Boardwalk

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Phillipsberg Boardwalk

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THE RING!

‘Systematic Madness’

27 Jun

STABILO point 88 fineliner pen | 0.8mm tip, 0.4 line

All pieces composed by Staffeen Thompson © 2011

'Systematic Madness,' 2011

my reaction to stimuli

26 Jun

STABILO point 88 fineliner pen | 0.8mm tip, 0.4 line

All pieces composed by Staffeen Thompson © 2011

'In The Veins,' 2011

'A Creepy One,' 2011