21 October 2013

Bye-bye Bermuda

For my last morning here I only had two things on the agenda.  The first was to see the world famous Johnnie Bonds.  I first heard about Johnny Bonds from a lesson my son's school did about happiness.  Johnny Bonds was named "the happiest man in the world".  He got this title by making it his life mission to spread happiness, and he does this from the small yet big-hearted island of Bermuda.  Every morning from 6am- 11am (right before it gets too hot) this always smiling 80+ year old man stand on the side of one of the countries busiest intersections blowing kiss to those who pass shouting out "I love you!"  He immediately captures the hearts of local Bermudians, tourist, and travelers.  Where I come from this outright act of love and kindness would be associated with mental illness making us very uncomfortable.  But when you look at Mr.  Bond's actions from a spiritually perspective and from the heart you see that he may be one of few rooted in reality in a world that seems to be becoming sicker and more dangerous.  Unfortunately, I was a little too late to see Mr. Bonds this morning.  The life-size statute that the government has put up of him however stands tall and proud in his place as a reminder (to those of us who don't get to see him in person) that love and kindness is the purpose of life.  
My second and final item on my list was to drop off post cards for loved ones back home.  Since I'm always on such a tight budget one of my money saving tricks is to send postcards home from my destinations.  People actually love this gesture.  It always surprises me when I visit my parents or friend and I see a postcard from 9 years ago tucked in the frame of their bedroom mirror.  Buying a t-shirt for everyone cost way too much and creates more baggage for me to bring home.  Post cards however have a beautiful picture, let's people know that they were on your mind enough to write them a thoughtful message, and even if they arrive a week after I've return it always a pleasant surprise to find amongst a stack of bills.  Yesterday I bought 4 postcards for $1BD and it cost me $2.80BD to send them off.  Even though I'll be home in 3 hours, those postcards will make 4 people smile when they arrive in a few days or weeks.  
Right now I'm at the airport for an early check-in.  My belly is full, my heart is content, and I have one hell-of-a view from where I'm sitting and chilling.  As soon I get home I will start budgeting and planning for my next trip (btw apart from the plane ticket) I spent less than $100 in these 3 days, I would have spent twice as much at home in gas and groceries.  I think I just came up with my new travel motto, "travel cheap, travel often".  Let me know what you think of it or please share if you would like to donate a motto that describes Echo and her Journeys.

20 October 2013

A ferry beautiful day!

 Once again my lazy butt slept in late.  I must really need this rest!  I must admit though, I do miss the boys and AlphaPoppa.  Next visit here hopefully they all will join me.  I'd love them to spend the day making new friends and playing with the kids here.  I think they'd learn so much, just like I have!
 Today's journey was another gem.  We took the bus to downtown Hamilton and bought a ferry ticket to the Royal Naval Dockyard.  While waiting for the ferry we shopped in the downtown area, mostly just looking at outrageous prices and taking pictures.  Once we returned to Hamilton Harbour I saw that the ferry was much more than I'd expected.  For just $4 it certainly couldn't be that much.  Little did I know!  It was pretty bad-ass!   The air conditioned bottom deck was packed with passengers from a docked enormous Norwegian cruise ship so we sat up stairs in the shaded deck.  The 15 minute ride was breathtaking.  I took pictures and videos for just about the whole trip.   We passed mansions, yachts, wind sailers, islands, a ginormous  barge passed by us roaring like a fat snoring old man....  When we finally arrived I'd decide that those 15 minute had already made the rest of the day perfect.  Once we go back to solid ground we agreed that Ice cream was needed.  We ordered our cones and decided to look at the forts and the dockyard.  One thing I hear often from the people I visit is that having an out if town visitor is always a pleasure they get a chance to see their city as a tourist and momentarily escape from the monotony of everyday life and it's responsibilities.  Rhonda was no exception.  I try to always be a good guess.  Paying for everything I can, helping wash dishes, holding good conversation.  I save so much by not paying for a hotel that a homestay is a win-win for all.  Unfortunately we'd jut missed the last dockyard tour but we were able to see te fort and the local art for sale.  We decided to take the bus back to Hamilton  Harbour.  By the time we finished stroking and talking it was staring to get dark so we hopped in a taxi and headed home.  
I leave tomorrow afternoon so im still thinking of how I should spend my last morning here.  As always I'll make a flexible plan then just wait to see what life gives me. 

Go slow

My first morning in Bermuda started out niiiice and slow just like I wanted it to. I slept on what must be the world's most comfortable futon and woke up at about 11am (10am EST, Bermuda is one hour ahead of Atlanta). Rhonda had been up for hours cooking, grading papers, and cleaning.  Women, we work hard all over the world!!!  We keep households going, kids on track, and husbands happy.  The way we do this varies from culture to culture, country to country, language to language, but ultimately it's the same act of love, strength, and ingenuity.  We truly are powerful creatures.  After eating a quick breakfast I helped my girl grade papers while she got her weekly lesson plans out of the way,  I was so happy to be able to help.  We bounced teaching strategies off of each other, shared successful assignments and tips, and laughed at the crazy things our students say and do.  It was a peaceful productive morning.  At about 1 we decided to hit the road to sightsee.  We walked to the closest bus stop and found a wild "cherry" tree bush on the way and couldn't resist stopping to eat a bunch.  Now these were not "cherries" like what I buy from my neighborhood supermarket in Atlanta.  I believe they are referred to as Suriname Cherries and they look like teeny tiny tomatoes, their taste however is indescribable.  They are almost nasty then something sweet and delicious kicks in making you want to eat one more.  Then you eat one more and want one more again.  Rhonda says her daughter gets caught at the bush everyday on her walk home from the bus stop and she eats cherry after cherry just as we were.  After getting a majority of the reddest cherries within our reach we moved on to the bus stop.  The roads here are winding and only one lane in each directing offering very little room for where a sidewalk would be.  Mini cars and mopeds zoom by like busy bees and create a really busy little vibe on the island.  Bermudians are only allowed one car per household and there are no car rental allowed here.  You can rent a moped but they have proven to be deadly killing many tourist in accidents.  Luckily Bermuda has a well planned efficient public bus transportation system.  Once we got on our bus it was a great opportunity for me to see and soak in my surroundings on our way to St George's historic district while not having to worry about driving.  Like in my recent visit to Japan the bus driver sits at the right side steering wheel, and cars drive on the left side of the road.  In typical British style there are also plenty of road abouts.  The bus was so efficient that we even got a transfer to switch buses at the end of our route.  I took that as a photo op chance. Most, but not all, of the bus stops are in stone structures to protect passengers from the elements.  
We took our next bus to the end of route/ bus terminal and becided to walk down hill into the historic district.  On that route, which was also new to Rhonda we saw a split shady high/ low road that we decided to follow.  We followed the path passing people here and there until we came to a hill that overlooked an amazing beach.   It was almost as pretty as some of the beaches we used to see while living in Virgin Gorda in the BVI... Almost! While oohing and ahhing over the beach Rhonda recognized the jeep parked in the drive way of the closest home to us and knocked on the door.  The home belonged to one of her coworkers who also rents out rooms in her house to tourist.  Her lovely friend invited is in for a cold lemonade and we chatted for a while.  We discussed the economy, teacher furloughs, and must see places in Bermuda.  I later got a tour of her rental apartments and rooms and promised her that I will definately share her info with my traveler friends.  Her apartments were lovely, great price, and right there at that amazing beach!  
One the way to town we also stopped at "the unfinished church" site and the old city square.  The unfinished church was a   Church that they started constructing in the 1800 and construction had to be stop repeatedly for different catastrophes; hurricanes, fires, lack of funds, and structural errors.  Finally it was decided that this place was not meant to be finished and it was gated closed as a historic site.  The old city hall still displayed old slave torture devices and are still used in weekly reenactments.  
For lunch we had sweet and sour lobster with pineapple, that was to die for!  We hopped on our bus and took a tour of the rest of the island, by now the bus was packed.  Happy people would step on board and shout out "good afternoon everyone!!"  All would reply "good afternoon!" then return to their busy happy chatter.  The Bermudian accent is extremely contagious.  It's very British with a hint of American and a dash of Caribbean.  I've been here less than 24 hours and catch myself saying "hell-oh" and "no-oh" just like a Bermudian!  This always makes me laugh.
Once we got back to our side of town we visited neighbors and I was served a delicious mix of Black Bermudian Rum and Ginger Beer.  I immediately named this mix "trouble".  It taste great enough for you not to take cautious with its strength.  I finished that drink in no time. For those of you who know me know that I'm a lightweight when it comes to alcohol and that right there is double trouble.  Luckily we were at the neighbors long enough for the alcohol to wear off a little and most importantly for me to NOT embarrass myself.  
While there Rhonda's husband returned home from an oversees trip and the 3 of us spent time catching up and hearing about his trip.  
Later on I happily returned to my favorite futon to update the blog, IG account, and FB pages.  I spent the night dreaminbif how I can make this whole travel thing a second career.  Like an Anthony Bourdain or Andrew Zimmern but not eating so much,  I gotta keep these and, babe!  But just traveling to meet the amazing people of the world and learning about their culture, language, art, point of view, music, and dance... And of course a little bit of food through these amazing people.  Hmmmm...  I'm putting it out there... I'll let you know when CNN or The Travel Channel call!  Ha!

I am not a mule. Candy land. Rooftops.

The flight was awesome!  I was bumped to first class and I actually got a chance to sleep peacefully during the flight without Dude harassing me, wiggling, orkeeping  me awake .  Flying has an effect on me that, well... Pretty much puts me to sleep IMMEDIATELY.  A couple years ago as a Christmas present AlphaPoppa sent me on a discovery flight as an intro to earning a pilot license,  it was beyond thrilling and I loved it.  Only one problem... I got sleepy as soon as we got in the air.  I'd love to be a professional pilot, but who the hell wants a sleepy pilot?!?!   I guess that's not my calling.
Anywho, I slept, I ate, and I slept again. The flight was only 2 hours and 15 minutes from Atlanta,  I promise you I've spent longer periods of time stuck in traffic on 285 during rush hour.
Next I had to pass through immigration to enter Bermuda; in doing so you have to provide the address of your intended stay, one freakin' problem!  My phone, for some reason, couldn't get a signal, meaning I couldn't get into my FB messages to get Rhonda's address.  The immigration agents took me to a back room and were very helpful looking up the correct information for me.  I usually take a screen shot picture of all important info sent to me in case I cant get wifi, I'll never make the mistake of forgetting that again!  After getting my passport stamped I was sent in my way to customs only to be stopped again. 

"Hello miss.  Do you have anything to declare?"
"Are you traveling alone?"
"Miss please step over here a moment so we can further check you."

All I could think was welcome back to traveling solo!!!  Some of you may have figured out why I was stopped but for those of you who don't know, allow me to explain.  I am an immigration/ customs/ international travel red flag alert.  Why? I fit the discription of a drug mule.  Or drug trafficker.  Often young women are chosen to transport drugs in their belongings or in their bodies in order to move drugs from one country to another.  Usually these women are at the least semi- good-looking, and they travel alone.  The fact that I have dreadlocks just made me triple suspicious.  Dreadlocks = Rastafarian = marijuana= drug dealer... I believe all immigration a use this exact equation.  Since I know the routine, I patiently waited as the officers went through my bag and asked me about who,what, why and for how long I was to be in their country.  I understand they are just doing their jobs and at least the officers here put my stuff back in the bag unlike other places I've been. 
After these two delays I finally made it out of the airport where my driver was waiting for me holding a sign with my name. My driver clivey was quite a delight. He teased me about trying to "drive his car" when I tried to get in on the right hand side.  As a British territory all cars have the steering wheels in the right, passengers sit left.  I apologized embarrassed but still liked his sense of humor.  The plan was for clivey to drop me off at the school where Rhonda teaches.  She is also a high school Spanish teacher.  Clivey however was in a talkative mood and decided to give me a long tour of the whole island first,  and boy was that a treat!  First off I did not know that the famous actor Micheal Douglas is from Bermuda, born and raised!  Also NYC Mayor Bloomberg and Ross Perot have homes here.  Bermuda is so freaking colorful it just automatically made me happy .  Every home is painted a different bright color, it's like that old school game candy land.  I love it!  My favorite part of the tour was learning about the  bermudian rooftops.  Each and every rooftops here is made of white limestone and built in a sort of staircase design.  As it rains the water is purified by the limestone as it rolls down the roof and is collected through a plumbing system that routes the purified rainwater through the house as drinking and bathing water.  Now how genius and Eco-friendly is that!  Little things like this keep me hooked on travel.
After my hour long tour we made it to the school. I was just in time to sit in on the last 15 minutes of Rhonda's last class and to meet some of the students and teachers.  The school was lovely, and predictably teenagers are the same all over the world.  Ha!  
Once we got to Rhonda's house we went into full catch-up mode.  We hadn't seen each other in 3 years and we had plenty of laughs to share.  Her 7 year old daughter and I took selfies and talked about her transition from living in the BVI (where I met her mother while we were both teaching Spanish in a local school) to living in Bermuda.  She gave me the low down on everything in her prim and proper new Bermudian accent. We walkld around and visited neighbors, went to the grocery store (prices are double and triple of those in the US!!! OMG!),eat and chat the rest of the night.  I checked in on my crew in Atlanta and hit the sack.  I'd been up since 4am Atlanta time and even though I took naps I'm going to make the most of fully resting while I am child free.  Enjoy the pix peeps!