Tuesday, July 24, 2018

A Long Weekend and We All Survived.

This was one of the best days the whole time!!
A man and his wife came to visit us from Hawaii these last few days. We have known the man for decades and his wife (second) for a little less than that. (His first wife died of cancer and we knew her quite well.) My husband hired the man as a graduate student years ago on a grant. They lived together on a boat in the harbor in Hawaii before their marriages, dived together, did lab research together and my husband probably even saved his life when he had an appendix attack in the middle of the night by carrying him to the car and carrying him into the emergency room. Together they were a good team. The man is a big practical joker and hubby went along on some of the actions including re-editing the Science Building calendar announcements to more risque messages for a few months until the University finally got a lock on the glass-encased board.   I write this just to give you an idea of how close the guys were.

This couple, after moving to Texas, now live in Hawaii and we visited them once a long time ago.  The man has recently retired and they are now doing some travel.  The man, let us call him Joel, is a tall thin cowboy type.  His wife is more the shorter wider version of a country girl (woman).  They came to spend four nights at our house as their first stop heading down the coast to Florida.

Since I had visited them many years ago in Hawaii and hubby had also reminded me of their quirks, I was somewhat prepared.  Quirks?  We all have quirks, right?  Well, on the first dinner I served chicken and rice.  The wife, Molly, said she really liked rice, but they don't eat it much anymore.  When I asked "why", she explained that you had to buy such large bags of rice in the big box discount store that they decided they never could get through them before the rice got too old.  (?)  Yeah, I know.  I did not say anything but watched her plow through her second serving with gusto.  She really liked my coffee and I wondered if they also did not buy coffee because it came in such large bags at the discount store.  (Kona coffee is marvelous.)

They brought in big boxes of cereal, a cooler of food, etc. since they were touring the entire southeastern U.S. via rental car, visiting friends and relatives.  I stowed it away for them.  While they ate most of what I cooked, they did eat cereal for both breakfast and dinner some days.  My husband who had stayed with them a few years ago said that Joel would eat nothing but cereal at every meal while hubby was there.

Joel and his wife liked to go to the local large hotel in Hawaii when they had live bands to dance.  He said they did not go for dinner because it was too expensive, but they did order dessert and then danced.  They stopped going dancing a while back for two reasons last year.  The dance floor got too crowded and they started an annoying $10.00 cover charge.  (Joel has over a million dollars in stocks for retirement.)

Hubby also cautioned me that they were very conservative in their political views and so we had to keep the TV off most of the time.  The only news channel they watch is Fox.  Hubby explained that we watch a number of news channels, but mostly Public Television and BBC since they are the most balanced in news.  Thus, we watched the weather channel and few detective shows.

To further complicate this visit my grandson was due to come stay two nights before they left.  This actually worked out really well, because grandson taught them card tricks and Joel had some good card tricks in his repertoire that he taught grandson.  

To further complicate the visit we had 5 inches of rain the first day, 2.5 the second day and rain off and on the entire rest of their visit!  We did take a few day trips, but they were carefully arranged around the many storms.

To further complicate the visit, Molly came down with a cold the first morning and Joel came down with it a day and half later.  They were brave to soldier on with a few trips, but we actually let them sleep most of the time.

Molly acted like a good-old-girl, but she was smart as a tack and I think she knew where we stood regarding our illustrious leader.  She kept complimenting me on food, the house, our letting them sleep in and I kept wondering if she thought liberals were usually not this "nice."

They left today, and we hugged and smiled and proved that people can get along when we admit we cannot change each other's mind.  I did wonder if they were thinking about how blind we were to the truth, because that was what I was thinking about them.

Oh, you can catch a cold from a conservative, because I am now soothing a scratchy throat with tea.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Some Electrical Stimulation

Air travel is less complicated these days in that we can actually check in online before we leave the house, but packing seems to be more complicated. The photo below includes less than half of the electronics we took on this last trip.

Hubby has been aging like fine wine and has the back problems to prove it. We had to take an electrotherapy unit to ease his lower back pain as well as a heating pad. Then there are the phones that need to be charged using the charging units we take. This photo fails to include the two e-readers and their chargers that we own as well as my various battery chargers for at least two cameras that I took on the trip. I did not take a laptop but I thought about it.  I now leave the Fitbit and its charger at home because it is too hard to take care of near pools and in tropical rainstorms.  Hubby has a headlamp that he sometimes brings, but it requires regular batteries.

These intricate items all have to be carefully put into net bags or Ziplocks when packing so that we can keep them together and so that we don't mix them up with the grandkids and kids various electronic devices.

I was just wondering if we could take a trip to a place that had few electric outlets and would we survive?

Or do we just need a cold beer?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Always a Travel Post About the People

My trip to St. Kitts happened to fall on a three-day musical festival at the Arena in the capital. We did not get tickets as being in an arena with tons of people is not my idea of a vacation. Patti LaBelle was the only name I recognized and the majority of singers, band, etc. were Reggie, rap, etc. Yes, they were mostly black folk. What this meant is that for one of the few times in my life I was in a high-end hotel and I was in the minority regarding my ethnic background. This had happened in Egypt years ago, but the Saudi Arabian men were haughty and rude and one actually shoved me aside much like Trump had done with the Prime Minister from Montenegro last year while I was trying to check in! 

These black tourists from all across the globe were much nicer, and really much better dressed.  I wished I had upped my evening wear, and exercised more by the end of the week when waiting for our driver at the front of the hotel.  I saw tons of really interesting and exotic hairstyles, dresses clinging to barbie doll bodies but did not think it appropriate to snap away, so you will have to take my word for it.

There were many other people there as well and below is a brief montage of those whose path I crossed, or who crossed my path.  (The vibe was much nicer than when I went to Jamaica a few years ago.  The economy and the tourist trade seem to be responsible for that.)

Our driver, Nigel, who was absolutely the key to our having great food and a wonderful time.  Getting married this August for the first time!
A nice collection of young ladies on the beaches!
I think these folks said they were from Cleveland (?)...maybe here for the music festival.
They might have been here for an anniversary or some such.  Maybe they were famous musicians!
A young couple who took the boat to Nevis with us.  I think from New York.
A small example of the lovely hairstyles.
A local who works in the tourist trade.

We took the local train on St. Kitts and this was the tour guide.  She had an excellent background in the history of the area.  I think she said she had a graduate degree.
A trio that sang for us...wonderful harmonies, slave songs, spirituals and some oldies but goodies.
While eating lunch I was trying to catch hubby and this fellow apologized for photobombing the event.  He was from Chicago on vacation and fun to talk to. 
It is always all about the people, is it not?

Monday, July 09, 2018

That Lonely Walk on the Beach

The photos from that quiet morning walk are below. Vacations with families (at least mine) are usually filled with lots of activities, tours and restaurant stops. All pre-planned by the two executives (both in their jobs and their lives) and we grandparents make a good attempt to tag along  keep up.

Thus the morning walk by myself was just the tonic I needed. As I mentioned the beaches were not being used by the people staying at the resort. The resort did provide free shuttles to two other beaches on another side of the island that were not covered in sargassum grasses and while not having any lifeguards these beaches did have restaurants and restrooms.

Back at the resort, you can see from above, perhaps, how soft this sand is. The footsteps have been easily softened by the ocean breezes. It is like walking on pillows! Good workout for ankles and knees, but requires one to walk more slowly for careful balance. When I had gotten around the point of the beach and into the more remote areas, this was one of the first beach signs I encountered. Not exactly drawing me in as it reminded me of a death memorial!

Just ahead were the horses...not the donkeys, tied to the edge of the coast with small plastic tanks of water nearby.  The photo below gives a good example of how rural the area was.

I walked some more and came upon an abandoned sea moss research laboratory. Sad in so many ways.  I think it was initiated in 2015 to encourage cottage industry for the locals.  There is a sea moss cocktail/drink, which I did not try, which is supposed to help with male fertility.  There were some buoys still offshore, so maybe something is still happening.

I came across a very few sandpipers (I think) scurrying along the second point that I rounded in my walk.  Conch shells washed ashore are in abundance.

There was no noise on this side of the island.  Just the sound of the wind as it moved along the coastline even muffling the sound of waves.  It was extremely peaceful.  

I did not collect this beautiful conch shell as I did not know the rules for collecting shells, did not have room in my luggage and have passed that time in my life as I have an extensive shell collection already.  I did eat some fried conch that week.

As the island curved out again, the beach appeared to have come to an end.  I paused and explored some of the flora and fauna and then regretfully had to return to the resort as I was out of my water.  The horses were even less curious about me on my return.

Slowly I re-entered civilization.

Maybe ready for a nap before lunch?  Hoping you got a bit of the atmosphere and mood of this tiny island in the Caribbean.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

A Sargassum Sea

Above is what one expects at a resort on the beach. The only unusual part is that no one is there. Actually, very few people are there.  

This is the beach at the resort where we stayed.  Part of the reason no one was there was because it was the "off-season."  This place gets really busy in the winter.  But there was another reason...

The islands of the Caribbean are having a major problem with seaweed abundance.  Large blooms offshore entangle swimmers, turtles, etc. and then drift up upon the beach covering the sand.  It was at least a foot thick all along the shoreline.

Every single day a scoop was out removing the seaweed and working its way up and down the beach.  There was no off smell as the news reported...just a little pungent saltiness in the air.  Maybe that was because they worked each day to remove it.  As a gardener, I was hoping they were taking this truckload somewhere to enhance the island soil!  

This plant is called Sargassum, a brown seaweed, that grows in the open ocean. There does not seem to be a certain answer for why this north Atlantic plant now is in abundance down south, although one marine scientist thinks it is more closely related to another species of Sargassum off the coast of Brazil.

“Nobody has a definite answer.  Nutrient inputs from the Amazon River, which discharges into the ocean around where blooms were first spotted, may have stimulated Sargassum growth. But other factors, including changes in ocean currents and increased iron deposition from airborne dust, are equally plausible. It’s all “educated speculation,” Hu, an oceanographer from the University of Southern Florida states.

This was the second day of our vacation the family went out on a boat to snorkel.  Since they were going on the windy side of the island and I get seasick, I opted to stay at the resort.  My walk of a mile or so down the Sargassum beach was really good exercise.  There was no one else once I left the resort area and I was not fearful of crime as I only had my small point and shoot camera and the island is "relatively" crime free.  (More on that later.)  The sand was very soft and gave me one heck of a workout as well as the solitude I craved.  Come back again and I will take you on the walk.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Revisiting an Art Form

The above batik is hanging in the powder room off the stairway in my house. It is something I did over 35 years ago when I lived in Jogjakarta, Indonesia. The dyes we used were from Germany. The bamboo room where I worked at the foot of the Palace smelled like pine from the rosin that was melted into the beeswax and paraffin mixture. If you want to read about that time in my life, you can go here.

I wanted to see the batik culture in St. Kitts which was on a hill near an abandoned sugar plantation.  They drive on the "wrong" side of the road, so we got a driver at the hotel who ended up being our guide most of the other days. 

I was somewhat disappointed, as I knew I would be because it was really very commercial with only a very simple view of what they did with an emphasis on selling stuff.  Their work is very bright, colorful, and simple in nature.  We got there in the offseason which was WONDERFUL as the store was pretty small with examples of the stages of batiking and photos of celebrity visits such as Prince Phillip.  Inside was close and stifling even with the various fans running.  There were no exotic odors...just bored salespeople.  I bought two small neck scarves as this style is not my style...

The area around the store has lovely gardens and a famous 400-year-old tree probably photographed millions of times!  It is a Saman tree which is in the pea family.  Sometimes it is called a monkeypod tree. The blooms are fuzzy balls (like something I have seen called a bottlebrush tree in the tropics) but it was not blooming when we visited.  Can you imagine what this giant has seen??  Yes, that is hubby in the blue shirt down below.  Try as I might I could not get the entire tree in the frame even with my wide-angle lens.

We walked around the gardens and even sat a bit since we were on our own this first day, without hungry and restless grandchildren and with rum drinks everywhere---virgin for hubby.

Temperatures were in the mid to high 80sF with the wonderful trade winds.  Much more comfortable than here at home in the mid-Atlantic.

Another labeled tree on the grounds was the calabash which is used for medicinal purposes with the outer shell dried and made into bowls.

All of this is situated on the Romney Manor, owned originally by Earl of Romney when colonial life was elegant and guilt free.  The manor and sugar plantation were later owned by Sam Jefferson the great, great, great, grandfather of the third President of the United States.  Family wealth built on the backs of slaves living and dying on a former sugar plantation.

Next post about the beach and climate change.

Monday, July 02, 2018

First Full Day at Home

Exhausted and going through all the details of re-entry. Laundry is halfway done.  Catching up on bills. I had a very nice time as I went on the trip with no expectations except visiting the batik factory as I used to do batik many years ago in Indonesia at the Palace in Jogjakarta taught by Balinese young men--yeah, that was cool.

Everything else on the trip I either joined in or opted out!!

I will sort photos and share a few in the coming week. Thanks for being interested, by the way!