Tag Archives: travel

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.

 

 

 

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“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

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

fanta_swimup

sunset

hangin out

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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

 

2013: The BIG Mentions!

31 Dec

I can’t even begin to describe the year I’ve had. It was a year of personal growth, rediscovering who I am, where I want to be, and how I want to fulfill my dreams. I’ve touched on just a couple of topics here.. the rest are either TOO big to be spoken of, or too insignificant to mention.

TRAVEL & CAREER
I became a Pirate of the Caribbean with my mum, and dear friends. Circumnavigating the Caribbean sea, first to St.Maarten, then Santa Maria, Cuba, next Jamaica, and then finally to Holguin, Cuba. Of course, I LOVE the sun… but traveling for me is more than just relaxing on the beach… it’s about connecting with people outside of your circle, learning different cultures and discovering where you fit into their worlds and how you might impact their situations. I also find myself being more creative in that environment… ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!

In my case, it’s not enough to simply travel, enjoy, take and then come home and forget about them. How can you? The experiences I’ve had on my trips have left me with even more questions and have subsequently created a deep need in my life to fulfill and resolve. There’s just more to life than what we experience here at home, and I wish I could explain in more depth what I mean by that, but I don’t want this to be an epic saga on why I think we should do more for others and make giving back a mission. This has been my personal take-away from journeying around, and has lead me to my next career move in Philanthropy. 🙂

I have also been teaching/mentoring a young student, which has been its own reward. I’m proud of him and what he’s accomplishing, and how he’s growing! I’m a proud momma! 🙂

FITNESS & YOGA
I’ve never had specific goals, like losing 20lbs or being any particular size, I don’t think it’s healthy! I think feeling great about yourself and being healthy should be the goal. I started playing badminton 3 years ago, and started to shed the weight.. And now adding in weight training, have gone from size 12 at 160lbs 3 years ago, to size 8 and 170lbs now!! I’m extremely happy, feel amazing and more comfortable now than I did 10 years ago in my 20s. Also more confident and probably to a degree (according to one in particular…) a little vain about it! :p

I attribute most of my growth and healing to yoga and meditation, and in particular, hot yoga. It has been a source of stability and calm for me – being able to focus my mind on what I need to accomplish, and to help me make decisions that are good for me. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, it is THE secret! I’m urging everyone to try it! 🙂

FRIVOLITY
While I was in JA, I dyed my hair RED. HAHA! 🙂

FIN
And to cap it all off we were stuck in the dark for 6 days last week. Oh that was fun, but ridiculous. That’s where you learn who your true friends are.

MY WISHES FOR YOU IN 2014
Thank you to those close and far to me in my life… To everyone I’ve met on my journeys, and those who are still journeying with me. I Love You! I wish everyone continued good health, prosperity, mindfulness, and compassion.

Here’s a KISS from ME TO YOU!

steffi

Holguin is Paradise, Paradisus Rio De Oro was NOT!!

16 Sep

Just spent a week in Holguin at the Paradisus Rio De Oro, part of the Melia group of hotels – had a CRAPPY time! I’m surprised at the accommodations and level of service for a so-called 5-star resort. I’ve stayed at 4.5-star resorts in Santa Maria that were a million times better than this.

THE ROOM – INFESTED with ants and insects, in the bed no less! We spent 3 days moving, packing and unpacking. The room was dirty. The service was non-existent, days waiting for anything you requested – for simple things like bottles of water.

CLEANLINESS – DURRRTYYYY! One of the dinner servers was seen playing with her hair and picking her nose and then setting the table. Unclean. The food was often reserved – making some people sick. I mean, I’d rather just have a smaller selection of food, than reheated and stale left-overs!

The UPSIDE (if you can call it that) – Because of this universal lack of service – we actually commiserated with one another to lessen the agony. But in doing so, met some amazing people! Pearl from Toronto – my new Yoga buddy, Serge from Montreal – my gym buddy, and a couple of British couples who’ve invited me to London for a visit!

I’ve been to Holguin before – it’s a gorgeous location. It’s unfortunate that this has marred my experience of it. Sadly, I’m reminded that our experiences are all relative – and some people actually loved this resort, because they had only experienced worse!! So this was an upgrade for them?! I shudder to think where they’ve been staying!! *wince*

I’ve already written a scathing letter and sent it to the Melia Head Office. Received a note that they’re “reviewing my query” – let’s see what happens with this… Not expecting anything. Just going to stick with Santa Maria, where my heart belongs…

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