this is an ostrich---not as hairy as an emu---you can see the pens that are set-up to separate the males from each other.
curacao gets an A---loved the color, the history, the beaches...the crazy roads (which i found to be typical of every island)
all of the above people...and my mom---the matriarch of the fam....went on a cruise...we all flew to San Juan, Puerto Rico on Friday or Saturday and left on our cruise Sunday night....so we toured San Juan on Friday and Saturday...finished it up with a guided bus tour around Old San Juan right before we got on the boat (ship).
We stayed at a hotel about 2 blocks off the beach.
here are my impressions...some of which will totally out me as an ugly american....sorry.
there is a subway...sandwich shop---not train.... on every corner...and a walgreens just a block away.
san juan has beautiful beaches 1 block away from all those subways.
- san juan has narrow roads and crazy drivers...not a good combination.
- we were told that everyone has to take english classes in school---well---we were lucky to find the only people who didnt----our taxi drivers.
- no one really cares what the outside of their house/hotel/store looks like.
- taxi drivers dont have GPS ....or maps.
- easiest airport to negotiate EVER!
- STINKIN humid....but no worse than Houston or New Orleans or Orlando!
- lovely people....except for the taxi drivers.
- birds EVERYWHERE
This is my sister-in-law Shelley---we were sitting in a city-center type area when this man came up---handed her some birdseed---gestured to her to put her arms out---soon she was covered in bird!....as she tried to walk away, the birds followed her. creepy if you have seen Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds".
Puerto Rico has an amazing history of defending itself against foreign take-overs.... an incredible fortress that held back many an invasion...who knew? There is a 6 ft thick wall that nearly surrounds the island---built as a fortress to protect the citizens. OUTSIDE of this wall is a row of "squatters' houses"....essentially shacks that are owned by families---handed down from generation to generation...the minute any family doesnt have someone to inherit the house or wants to sell it...the government takes over possession...eventually allowing the island to tear down these hovels and rebuild better...these squatter's houses are right on the beach---open to every hurricane or storm that happens by. San Juan is trying to protect its historical buildings---but not the historical shacks!
- HUGE police presence in san juan---they were EVERYWHERE
this was a store labeled as "lingerie & booty parlor"....what the heck?
we saw the soccer stadium of the worst soccer team in the world.....really.....our tour guide told us that....
of course he also told us that the Equator runs right thru Puerto Rico.....yeah...no.
all in all...san juan gets a B....the beaches were great....hotels were inexpensive...but not as comfortable as we are used to for the price....walgreens is HORRIBLY expensive....roads are horrific and so is traffic.
an UGLY american
not that i didnt look darn cute in my cruisewear
but i am apt to show my arrogance at what we take for granted here in the good old u.s. of a.....and how surprised i was that citizens of other nations are PROUD OF THEIR COUNTRY---just like us! i'm going to express dismay at the lack of ENGLISH speakers in the tourism industry....and reveal that i was DARN happy to see a subway on EVERY corner of EVERY country....and judged harshly entire islands that drove on the WRONG side of the road....yes, i said it.....DRIVING ON THE LEFT SIDE OF THE ROAD IS WRONG.
so, reader....judge me not harshly....judge me not at all...for i confess...i am an UGLY AMERICAN.
so....about 20 years later, my mom's sister, Margo, took her children and their spouses (again, I'm assuming one each) on a cruise---not sure whether it was mexico or caribbean. Margo regaled my mother with stories of family togetherness (for good and bad)....
SOOOOOOOOOOOOO....my mom generously invited my siblings and our spouses (you know what i'm going to say here, so i wont say it) to an Alaskan cruise----5 years ago---it was terrific and amazing and thrilling...and sold us all on cruise vacations!
SOOOOOOOOOOOOO....lets do it again! my mom announced 3 years ago that we would be going again---we voted and chose the southern Caribbean...shipping from San Juan, Puerto rico to Curacao, Aruba, Dominca and St Thomas...ending up back in San Juan. We shopped for our cruisewear, planned excursions, obtained passports, made childcare arrangements (most of us are empty-or nearly empty-nesters....but my sister, Pyper, still has 5 at home....she got a late start...and she is 10 years younger than any of us). We had a terrific time---most of which is because we enjoy each other's company---it doesnt really matter where we are....imagine 6 of me---plus spouses----sitting around a table---hmmmm---that came out a little more arrogant than i intended----hmmmm....but i'm letting it ride.
I love family traditions---especially the kind that generous grandmothers start and generous mothers continue and...wait....oh---wow----we are the NEXT generous generation---rats---we had too many kids....and dagnabit...they have spouses.....i have 20 years to change that.
or save money.
The LDS (Mormon) faith has a long history of those who have sacrificed money, time and huge effort to be able to practice what they believe---whether it is to travel to a temple that is thousands of miles away once in their life or on a weekly basis to just go to worship with other Saints at a chapel.
may i add my story to the many?
We arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico early to see the island---anticipating boarding our ship Sunday late afternoon for our Caribbean cruise. How cool would it be to find a chapel and attend church Sunday morning! My sisters, Eden & Pyper, were in charge of this reunion (dont worry---you will figure out who is who during my cruise posts.....they had found the address of the chapel on lds.org.....there were 11 of us going to a 9 a.m. sacrament meeting---so we got into 2 taxis at 8:30...we were 12 miles from church....gave the drivers the address and we were off.
now begins the sacrifice....
it became very clear very early that we were lost---the cab drivers were all over the place---they were stopping other drivers to ask about the address....the 9 o'clock hour was quickly approaching. The drivers were obviously lost....so we were lost. We were all looking for something that resembled an LDS church---so imagine our JOY when we saw a spire with no cross (90% of the churches are Catholic---so no cross on the spire was the first hint)---and a sign! YAY!----wait----no cars---maybe one or two----rats! both taxis pulled into the small parking lot---we got out and knocked on doors---nothing---knock! knock! knock!---and YAY! 4 cute missionaries (you know---white shirts and dark pants) answered the door---we were at the mission office! RATS! We asked them to lead our taxis to the church---it was 9 by now---but they assured us we were no more than 10-15 minutes---some discussion about was it worth it---but we headed off on our journey---and, as with other Saints---we sacrificed one of our "wagons" (taxis)---my brothers Marc & Ace and their good wives, Pat & Judy---their taxi got lost in traffic---and headed back to the hotel----$66 poorer (see---we sacrificed time and money to be able to attend church.)
The other wagon (taxi) pushed on---following our scouts (missionaries) as they traversed the narrow roads of San Juan---finally (9:20 a.m.) arriving at a lovely 2 story building WITH A STEEPLE! yay! we had arrived just in time for the sacrament portion of the meeting---we scooted into empty pews near the back---but not before thanking the missionaries profusely!
The missionaries in the chapel saw us---our blonde-blue-eyed-ness easily marked us as visitors---one young man came and sat between David & I and interpreted the meeting. After two lovely young ladies had spoken, the young missionary looked at me and said "I play the piano for the congregation, but I dont know the middle song---so we'll just sing it without a piano"....i volunteered to play the piano---so i played the song IN SPANISH!
after the meeting we were greeted by many of the members---most spoke some English---one sister volunteered her mini-van and another family's to take the 7 of us back to our hotel---we thanked them and got a wonderful tour and history of the church in San Juan. We offered to pay their gas---of course they refused---so mom gave the brother some money to go towards his son's mission fund.
we sacrificed to get to church...time, money...effort.....we understood.
flash forward a week---cruise is over---family is all at the airport---except david & i---we check into our hotel (well--into the lobby---room isnt ready for 2 hours---so we sit in the lobby---which consists of 2 chairs)---so we understand----we call a cab to take us to a chapel---which, this time we asked the hotel to help us find---we mapped it out---we were ready.....yeah. Church starts at 1 p.m.....we got into the taxi at 12:25---
and got lost----lds.org is WRONG---WRONG PHONE NUMBER WRONG ADDRESS WRONG WRONG WRONG....we are listening to our cabdriver yelling in the phone to his dispatcher--- we have our mapquest directions---yeah----wrong----we pull into a church parking lot at 12:55----HALLELUJAH---wait---this all looks familiar----IT IS THE SAME BUILDING WE FOUND LAST WEEK! we go in----yep---there are the same missionaries who led us to this building---our cab driver promises to pick us up at 2:10---we will pay then.... so we find some lovely couple missionaries from Emmett, Idaho that sit with us.....i see the cd player up on the piano and volunteer to play for the congregation----IN SPANISH AGAIN! the Bishop speaks lovely english and tells us that he was converted by people he met ON A CRUISE!
SO---after a lovely testimony meeting---understanding about 1 of every 20 words----PLAYING THE PIANO IN SPANISH----we go outside and see our cabdriver waiting for us---whew---relief----he gets us back to the hotel in quick order----no getting lost this time...and announces we owe him $95 STINKIN DOLLARS! (we were told it would be about $15 each way)----OH MY STINKIN GOSH----HOW WE SACRIFICE FOR OUR FAITH....we argue that it is too much---he says he got us where we wanted---we argue he should have told us the address was wrong---he says we should be happy he finally found a church for us----the hotel clerk is interpreting it all---and trying to not be involved.....
if we give him all our cash---we have none for the ride to the airport in the morning----WE WILL BE STRANDED IN SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO FORSTINKINEVER!
no compromise looks to be happening---til he offers that if we pay him today---he will pick us up and drive us to the airport ($15 fee normally) tomorrow----HMMMMM.....so david counters that we will give him $80 STINKIN DOLLARS today---and pay him the $15 (plus bag fee etc) tomorrow (afraid he wont show up)......we all say "bueno"---shake hands....and go our separate ways.
we call it a day---no site-seeing for us-----we walk to Subway and then lay in exhaustion the rest of the evening......
we get up at 5:30 a.m. (again----MORE SACRIFICE) for a 6 a.m. taxi----HE IS THERE----and we arrive at the airport and successfully travel over land and sea to arrive at the promised land.
oh yes....we have sacrificed for our faith----we have untold miles in foreign lands....paid hard-earned cash....i now understand....
do you think they'll print my story in the Church News?