Wednesday, May 25, 2011

both sides of the coin....

The first stop on our Caribbean cruise was San Juan, Puerto Rico.

I was so excited to visit my first island.

We found a great spot to watch us dock.

My first impression of San Juan

was that it was very congested and

kind of dirty. I could not believe how many cars

were packed onto one narrow street!

I did really like the colorful buildings though.

The balconys on many of them

reminded me alot of New Orleans.

It was dreadfully hot on the day we were there, even at 5:00 pm.

Mom and I walked the streets for a bit

and visited some local shops.

Because we docked on Mother's Day

which is a big day in Puerto Rico,

alot of the attractions were closed.

So after getting our fill of

what was accessible by foot,

we went back to the ship before dark

and enjoyed a party under the stars on the pool deck

that evening.

Stop #2 was a beach day!

We docked in St. Thomas which I thought was

stunningly beautiful!

The water was a gorgeous turquoise and

the beaches were almost as sugar white

as Pensacola's beaches are.

I would love to spend more time on this island.

I was surprised at the prices of the homes
there. Even the ones with fabulous views

were listed at around $600,000!

We took a tour with a guide who dropped us off at

a local beach. But first she drove like a maniac to the top of a mountain!

In St. Thomas they drive on the other side of the street

but they have American cars so their steering wheels

are in the same place as ours.

It would take some serious getting used to

if I had to drive there!

After the gorgeous views on the mountain,

we descended into a slummy looking neighborhood.

It definitely didn't look like a place tourists would go.

Our guide told us that the best beaches to visit were the local ones and

Coki beach was definitely local!

As soon as we rounded a corner,

we were relieved to see that

it was indeed a beautiful beach

and there were other cruisers there as well.

Mom and I ordered fruity rum drinks and

a fish dish that is common on the island.

I'm not sure wha thte fish was called,

but it was soooo good!

We snorkled and enjoyed the water at Coki beach.

They gave us a dog biscuit to break up under water

as we snorkled

so that we could see the fish close up.

On the surface, I didn't think we'd see much

because even though the water was pretty clear,

there didn't seem to be much fish action.

As soon as I went underwater though,

I was greeted by dozens of yellow and blue fish

who apparently loved dog biscuits!

Our third stop was Samana, Dominican Republic.

We were given a tour through typical neighborhoods

in Samana. Our guide kept telling us that we would see other people

from our boat on the tour.

The deeper we got into the back roads

the more he told us that.

We were beginning to think that he was

just telling us that to keep us calm

so they could eat us!

I was even starting to size the guide and driver up

to determine whether I or another tour mate could take them,

but alas, we saw lots of other cruisers

and our fears subsided.

Tourism is the only industry in Samana

and the people struggle for everything they get.

I saw the skinniest dogs I have ever seen there

and lots of children eating fruit off of the trees in their yards.

There were children everywhere

and all of them wanted gum or lolli pops

from us.

Mom brought a bag full to give away.

Local helpers assisted us across creeks

as we walked through the "jungle" to

see a waterfall.

The locals walk beside you the whole way

ready to assist you if you need help navigating the rocky part of the path.

They had hopes of getting a tip for their guidance.

I think my helper was in training

because I had a 13 year old boy hold my hand the entire way.

At the beginning a woman said something to him in spanish

and he grabbed my hand and didn't let go.

Mom and her helper Naomi walked in front of us

and Naomi often looked back and laughed at

my helper who was holding my hand even on long stretches

of flat ground.

I'm sure that woman told him, "Grab her hand and stay with her

so you can get a tip" or something like that!

I did tip my funny escort.

The shacks that the people of Samana live in

are in stark contrast to the beauty around them.

They live with so little which is such an eye-opener

to us Americans who have been blessed with so much.

I would love for my kids to experience something like this

and see first hand how other cultures live with so much less

than we do.

In St. Thomas, I felt like I was in shopping heaven

and I found so many things that I wanted to buy.

In Samana all I could think of was what I wanted to give.

Samana was my favorite port.

It was so meaningful to me to see both sides of the coin.

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