Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Day Less Ordinary

It was a Sunday like any other day. Woke up. Contemplated bouncing out of bed bright eyed and bushy tailed. Decided to lounge and little and snuggle...because I can. So I did. Gym. Lunch. To Do list. More To Do list. Then off to Dave's (partner...the romantic kind, not the business kind) parents for a birthday dinner for his sister, Kate. Although a gray, blustery March day, we began our evening festivities with a quick hike up Mount Philo. The fresh air and whipping wind was a perfect reminder to get your a** outside even when you think it's too cold, too windy, too rainy, too this too that. Get outside. Nothing makes you feel quite so good.

"The Kids."
The Seavers.
The view.
Upon our return to the Seaver Homestead, the surprises began!
In Seaver tradition, hats came out, special birthday hats gone adorned, and the party could officially begin. Guatemala bound Miriam and Cow Girls Kate. 
Delicious wine swirled in shimmering glasses. 
And things got a little silly! 
Truth be told, we did have a little work to do. We helped the birthday girl get her last gourmet marshmallow packaged up and ready to send in the mail: 
With party poppers, blowers, and snazzy decoration, it was time to eat a tasty meal made by Chef Barbara (that would be Dave's and Kate's mom). Amazing! 
No birthday would be complete without a birthday song, sparkling candles, mouth watering cake, and special birthday gifts wrapped in colorful striped Spring paper.
We may both be 30 now, but we look like we're about 20! Ok, well Kate certainly does!
Happy Birthday Kate! 
Thanks for sharing your day with me! Thank you Seavers for spreading the love and sending me off with such warm, delightfully yummy memories!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Recovering in Sihanoukville-Clean Part Two

We planned two full days in Sihanoukville. With travel days on either end, it was a pitty that the majority of the first day was spend in bed. Still moaning, but thank goodness that was about it. We headed to the beach around sunset where "The Transformation" took place. 
Pre-sunset: beach chairs and umbrellas lined the entire length of the white sand beach. Vendors carrying anything you could think of on their heads or shoulders were there to see if you perhaps wanted lobster, bracelets, a manicure, a pedicure, and massage, a smoke, a magazine, a book, noodles, a toy mouse, sunglasses, ... 

At sunset, the lawn chairs disappeared and the bars, clubs, and parties slowly crept down the beach. First one row of brightly colored been bag chairs appeared. Then a second and third and fourth...until there was a skinny strip of beach between the emerging, hip restaurants and the calm ocean. 
Bright, soothing colors took over the sky and water as night descended upon the tourist hot spot of Sihanoukville. 

And with darkness in any tourist destination came a little bit of craziness, showing off, and well, any sort of marketing to get people to stop, have a drink or two or three and spend some money. Fire twirllers, roman candles, loud music, bonfires on the beach, dinner cooked before you in sand-pit bbq's, candles on tables, comfy chairs and alcohol flowing made a surreal, entertaining night. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sick in Sihanoukville-Dirty Part 1

I never get tired of telling this story. Perhaps I should.

It happened over a year ago while traveling around Cambodia. We had spent over a month in Siem Reap. Dusty, flat Siem Reap (as seen in photo below). I was ready for laying on the beach and swimming in the ocean. I was ready for coconut trees and tropical breezes. I was ready to be in my element. Sun-kissed and ocean frolicking.

What I was ready for on a subconscious level and realistically hoping would never happen in the three months that we were in Cambodia, did indeed happen in Sihanoukville. It happened as I was about to shine. And it instantly took all my glimmer away. Luckily, I could quickly laugh about it and hope it wouldn't happen again.

So, what exactly did happen, you might ask? Travelers bug. No, I don't mean a little bout of diarrhea or an upset stomach. I'm talking about 10 straight hours of losing your insides from both ends. And everything that comes with that while traveling in "foreign, far off lands." Might I add this happened to me in at home not too long ago. I was just way more comfortable at home...and somehow it is harder to laugh about it...hmmm.

The first bad decision we made was deciding to stay in a "boutique, modern" hotel. Upon arriving, it was obvious that it was neither boutique nor modern. It was though, still under construction. And the nice American owners assured us that they wouldn't start the construction until after 8:30am. Again, the boutique hotel was a very bad choice.

Some indicators that is was a bad choice:
*It was mid-upper in price range due to it's unique style, quaint bed and breakfast feel, and large, modern bar. By quaint, they meant that the walls were thin and there was only one other guest staying at the time. The bar was a bar. They were proud of it. It was empty. Even the owners didn't hang out ready to make drinks because there was no one to make drinks for. Sad. Lonely. Deserted.

*We quickly headed out to hit up some trendy restaurants with happy hours and loud music. Making an absolutely safe bet on food, we headed to the touristy Mexican restaurant where only whities (or Barang's as Khmer's call us...meaning "big nose") hang out. After fried rice and an Anchor Beer, we headed to a club and had a couple more beers before heading to bed relatively early in anticipation of a long day on the beach.
What I got was a long night. We went to our boutique hotel to quickly find out that the T.V. didn't work and the toilet ran if you didn't giggle the handle.

*At 3am my jolt to the bathroom hinted at a number of other problems with the boutique hotel. The first and foremost occurred around 6am when I'm sure that the other guests could hear me lurching my bowels into the unglamorous throne: the toilet altogether stopped flushing.

*For those of you with weak stomachs, I would stop reading now. If you can laugh about it, keep reading. At this point in the morning I was laying on the cold new tile floor. My hot cheeks squished against the cool, white tiles as I notices hairs and dust and other unidentifiable brown grime in the corners and stuck in the grout. Gross. While simultaneously vomiting into a tiny garbage can with a lever lid and filling the unflushing bowl with explosive liquid poop, back-splash began and the tiny, thin bag in the garbage can began falling down one side, then another, then the other.

I'm honestly not sure what happened after that. Somehow in my shaking, expelling body, I managed to stick my hand in the cold water in the back of the toilet and fixed the flushing issue. And I found more bags stick under the sink and continued vomiting and diarrhea and sincerely believing that I might be dying.

*The construction started at 7am. At least the other guests (if there were in fact other guests) hopefully heard the loud pounding rather than me throwing up and desperately moaning in the echoing "powder" room, "I think I'm dying, I think I'm dying, I think I'm dying."

At 8am, we packed our stuff up, I shook on the bed waiting for one more vomit session, after which we got the f**k out of there.
Lighter on my feet-12 pounds lighter to be exact, delirious, and feeling like I was going to lose my stuff in the middle of the street, we let a nice tuk-tuk driver take us the three more blocks to a large, multi-roomed, multi-leveled hotel (with breakfast included). The T.V. worked. The toilet flushed. The curtains opened. The bathroom was clean.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Cafe Concoctions

Ok, truth is, I've thought about and talked about opening a little cafe with friends. I mostly like the coffee shop/bakery idea. But, there's been a coffee shop with greenhouse/nursery idea, a coffee shop with local book shop and book exchange idea (I suppose that would be the local version of Barnes and Nobles or Borders), and coffee shop with art studio idea.

Yes, the common theme is coffee (and tea). It brings people together, makes them sit and slow down in the rat race of the "American dream" (which is ironic since we pour more caffeine into our bodies to go faster and do more and produce more and stay up longer and work more hours ahhhhhhh!!!!!).

Needless to say, I love good coffee shops. Ones that lack character seem like a waste of momentum. A pity.

And, I continue to be a dreamer. I hope you do too.

Visit with me the Saltmills Cafe and Diner in Provo, Turks and Caicos. I adored the brightly colored walls, the bright cheery signs for Coffee and Dessert, and the mix of chic lighting and modern diner feel. The words that entered my mind went something like this: "If I were to open a coffee shop, I'd have these bright colors, cute signs and purple lights. But I would have better natural light pouring in, smaller, cozier seating areas, and outdoor seating with lots of plants and soft cushions, and candles for night, and ...
Note the coffee chalk board in the center-left of the photo above. Too bad there wasn't any special of the day. If I had a cafe, there would always be a special of the day...and a new concoction of the day. That's what I would use a chalk board like that for.
The metal chairs are too cold and angular for my coffee shop. I'd go with the dark wooden ones in the left of the photo above. Along with a nice, soft cushion to sit my booty on for an hour or two or three.
Do you have any ideas for a coffee shop or cafe? Or have a coffee shop in your neck of the woods that you think is perfect? Let me know why. My dream is still in forming and I'm always looking for new ideas and different "material."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Filling Up The Streets With Garbage, Garbage, Garbage!

Is it a fish? A little shrimp? A jellyfish? No, no, it's trash. It's a plastic bag that was half buried and heaved in and out as waves lazily breathed on shore. 
We had driven to the tippety tip of the island of Providenciales in Turks and Caicos. Down a long, windy, one lane trail (I wouldn't call it even a road) we found North West Marine National Park. The name says it all. The resorts disappeared as bushy shrubs and cacti took over. The trueness of the island showed it's hot, dry face. 
Although we were miles from where any human lived or resorts resided, the huge garbage of the ocean left indications of humans ugliness washed up and scattered along shore. 
Provo has a landfill dug out of the white, chalky limestone in the interior of the island. Although development began fifty years ago, they are just beginning the planning stages for recycling. With an overwhelming abundance of sunlight and wind, it is astounding to me that an island wish such limited "resources," including space to put trash, it is hard to understand why the resorts have not taken further advantage of sun and wind power. 

I'm slightly embarrassed to say that without the trash washed up on the shore, I wouldn't have felt that I was in a foreign, developing country. I suppose everything can be romantic...

Either way, whenever I see litter and garbage strewn about, a song my Uncle Tom used to sing dances around in my head, "Filling up the streets with garbage, garbage, garbage, garbage..." 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Making Sense Of It All

Traveling makes me learn like nothing I've ever experienced. These are some of the epiphanies and ignorant transformations I have made in the week on Providenciales, Turks and Caicos. 
1. Having an island in the Caribbean does not mean that it is "tropical." I have to admit that I imagined stopping at roadside stands to buy local mangoes, papayas and bananas. The climate of Turks and Caicos cannot produce such fruit. Almost all of the food was imported...tons from the U.S. Even Cabot Cheddar! 
2. There seems to be two types of expats-one type that has chosen to live outside of their home country and is at peace with their life, which exudes onto others. Those seem to be rare. The other type is pretentious and exude superiority over other travelers. I don't get it, but have experienced it in every country in every part of the world where I have been. If you are or have been an expat, please shed some light...
3. Drinks make everything better. I'm not only talking about the alcoholic kind either! On Turks and Caicos all their water is purified through desalination. This is expensive. Very expensive. We are so fortunate to have clean drinking water that is affordable and plentiful. 
4. The beaches and blue-green waters were unbelievable. So very unreal. When our soul purpose was to be in and around the water, nothing else seemed to matter. Unfortunately our winter bodies (mine specifically) needed breaks. And the breaks opened our eyes to the whole of where we were.
5. In the midst of the dry, limestone island, there was always beauty lurking around the corner.
6. Beauty-from the blooming cacti, the complex mix of "locals" speaking Spanish, French, Creole, Caribbean slang, and English, to the timelessness frozen in the limestone.
7. David Seaver is an amazing photographer. I'm lucky to have him as a boyfriend, to learn things from him, and that he lets me use some of his photos on my blog. Check out his website:

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sailing Paradise

We decided to venture down the 10 miles of the North/Northwest part of the island we hadn't explored. A woman at the car rental agency told us not to go on the dirt roads because you need four-wheel drive. We went anyways. You did NOT need four-wheel drive. You did, however need to know how to drive on bumpy, uneven, sandy terrain. 

When the asphalt turned to dirt and bare limestone, we instantly were driving through nowhere. It was HOT, scrub brush, and nothing else for miles. It gave us an idea of what the island looked like pre-development. It is not tropical island dripping with fruits. It is hot, dry and the only palms it has are small date palms along the coast. Otherwise there are a variety of gorgeous cacti...
We drove and drove until we went all the way to the end of  National Park, which eventually ended at the coast.
Hot, warm water and slight breeze. It is the one day we didn't pack water. Lesson learned.
After wandering around, cracking washed up coral below our feet, and wading out into the ocean, it was time to go. Besides a near head on collision (as the sand road in the park was only one lane), we headed back to the Y and took the other leg of it, which went either to a rocky bay, or the super duper expensive all-inclusive Amanyara Resort-$1550 to $1959 per night. Yes, per night. To th beach we went. Crashing waves, rocky shores mixed with golden sands. Cool breezes.

After exploring in the "outback" of Turks and Caicos, were were both slightly sunburned, dehydrated and ready to find some water to drink. The closest possibly. And that's when we came upon Sailing Paradise.
 Set among a group of small, brightly painted buildings along the turquoise ocean, we found our paradise...and the closest piece of local around.
With a sweet Dominican bartender and $1 bottles of water, and $3 bottles of Red Stripe, we had found our spot. Being the only tourists in the place felt like home. Spanish and Creole surrounded us and people walked by, ordered food, hung around...did what locals do on the weekend.
We went back the next day. And plan to go back on the way to the airport. They know us there. Already. The white people hanging in the local scene. It's more comfortable that way. It makes sense. We are traveling, after all.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Shady Business

There's lots of shady business done on Provo.
Evidence 1: Our second car rental from a place called  Scooter Bob's, which is run out of a bate and tackle shop called MasterBates. Funny! Kind of.

We have hit the more "local" the car has a back bumper that is clearly falling off, multiple burn marks on the upholstery and enough scratch marks on the body of the car to consider it modern art.
After a full hour and a half in the mid-day sun swimming and snorkeling at Taylor Bay, it was time for a break.
Shady business...of trees that is.
I though, am talking about a shady business that is far more innocent. The conscious act of taking a time out from the sun and finding some awesome spots of shade. Generally, I'd want to chat with other travelers, give them suggestions (our two and a half days along with a car and a need to see it all has given us some "expert" experience). Yes, the island is small. And my morning routine has been to go for a walk or run along the beach and sidewalks, stretch, shower or jump in the ocean, then return to the hotel to wake Dave so that we can make sure to get our free continental breakfast before 9:30am (when breakfast disappears).
This morning I needed to give my skin a break and wanted to continue my post-breakfast reading time. So, I ventured away from the pool and into the thickness of the jungle (super sarcastic here, as trees only exist where there is landscaping, as small scrub brush and cacti are the only native plants).

In actuality, I decided to see what the "Smoking Area" was all about. To my surprise, a little shaded sanctuary was waiting with walking palms, tropical flowers and, well yes, old cigarette's all part of the charm.
The "Smoking Area" shade sanctuary: one side of the path has a picnic table, the other has a small, wooden coffee table surrounded by two benches and two chairs. Lovely breezes really pleases! 
Needless to say, it's time to slap on my third application of 70 SPF waterproof/sweat proof sunblock and get ready for an afternoon swim in the ocean. 'Cause it's all about the beaches and the water. Here I go...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Day One in "Paradise"

Paradise comes in all different forms. The Turks and Caicos is an island with the most amazing Caribbean water. Beaches that stretch and stretch, but do come to an end when you hit ragged limestone rock, which inevitably will lead to anther gorgeous beach and then more jagged rock, and so on. There seems to be a mangled culture on Provo, therefore lacking a culture altogether. I'm obviously simplifying, but you don't visit this place because of the culture or the delicious tropical fruit or the interior rain forests - none of those really visit Turks and Caicos for the beaches and the water. And the water and the beaches. And the Beaches and the water. Get the point?
Dave on a limestone bluff overlooking the Caribbean.
The view behind Dave while standing on the bluff shooting the Caribbean. We first thought it was a resort. Upon further investigation it is actually two super-huge vacation homes with the Caribbean on the left side and a human-made marina on the right side. Paradise? Not for me, but certainly out of this world!
For our first full day here, we rented a car to explore the rest of the island. 25 miles long and only a couple of miles wide, by sunset we had seen it all...with a stop for lunch along the way. With the car, we were able to "discover" a couple of more hidden beaches on the Caribbean side of the island, along with Chalk Sound National Park (above photo), where a thin peninsula creates a super shallow "inland" water way. Spectacular, and surrounded by huge vacation homes.

Lunch at Horse Eyed Jacks. Great, friendly service, and a great Jamaican jerk sampler platter to split. The cheapest restaurant meal thus far. And the best views. Yes, we are on a budget. No, we didn't stay at an all-inclusive.
Fun with sunset and cameras at Taylor Bay-Caribbean side.
More fun at Taylor Bay. This is a long exposure, giving the motion of the water a ghostly effect, as Dave illuminates his face with the flash.

As always, a huge shout out to Dave and his spectacular camera work and allowing me to use some of his photos on my blog: