Wednesday, October 24, 2012
You ever notice that when you're having fun time seems to fly by even faster? Well that was the realization that greeted me when I woke up on the morning of August 10th, my flight back to Trinidad would not be until Sunday morning, while my aunt, uncle and cousin would be returning to the States on Saturday. Granted I still had a day more than them, still it was a reminder that I would be saying good bye to the wonderful and blissful Happy Island. However there was still time left and the agenda for that day was a trip out to Baby Beach on the Southern tip of the island. This would be my second trip to Baby beach, again another place that I've been to more times in the last five years than I've been to Maracas Beach in Trinidad.
Baby Beach is just right outside of the city of San Nicholas, the very same place we had been to the night before for the Carubbian Festival. We passed through there to pick up some food (KFC) for the afternoon at the beach, while driving through I was once again on the look out for familiar landmarks that had been featured in An Island Far Away and Under A Blue Flag, by Daniel Putkowski. I had seen Charlie's Bar the previous night and was looking out for the others that were mentioned in both novels.
The beach looked just like I remembered it, blue water, white sand, except that this time as it was Friday there were more people on the beach than the last time. We rented the beach chairs and a cabana which provided shade from the sun, but it was still hot.
Going to the beach was a good idea for that day as back at CPV there were doing some work on the water plant system, which meant that they had to shut the water off from 11:45am till somewhere around 3:30/4:00pm. The plan was to spend part of the day out at Baby Beach, leave around the same time that they would be turning the water back on, get back to the hotel and take care of some laundry before and last minute shopping before commencing with the packing.
Some how time really flew by and before I knew it we were packing up our stuff, piling into the car and on out way back to the hotel. The water was back on which was great, however the laundry room was occupied with a lot of gruff looking women waiting for a free machine to throw their laundry into, guess no one wants to fly home with dirty laundry. That and the fact that dirty laundry takes up more room. My relatives went out to do some last minute shopping while I hung out in the room, monitoring the laundry room, reading and watching some ABC Family which showed Miss. Congeniality 1 and 2 back to back. When my relatives returned they found a washer and dryer than was available, I told them to take care of their stuff first then hand off to me when they were done. By the time I got through with my laundry it was well after midnight, and people were still running to the laundry room to wash their clothes. I only went to bed after all my recently washed clothes had been folded and packed away into my one suitcase. Packing tip, instead of rolling your clothing up into a ball or folding into squares, fold once and rest the flat, you actually wind up with my room that way.
Saturday morning marked my last full day on the island and the final few hours for my relatives. Before they left they made certain that my booking for the room I would be staying in had been confirmed. While waiting for the hotel staff to come over and move my stuff I killed the time watching Miss Congeniality 2....again on ABC Family. I was moved over just before it was time for my relatives to head for the airport to check in for their flight and return the rental car. I was moved from room 107 to 105, right next door. With my relatives on their way to the airport and myself moved over into room 105 I set about looking for something to do. First on the agenda was food, my relatives had left some food behind, two bottles of water, can of Pepsi, pieces of chicken and such I was going to need more than that. So I made the walk from the hotel to the Little Ceasers down the road. Originally I was going to walk to Wendy's but that would have involved a much longer walk, also I wanted to get back to the room to watch the Harry Potter movie marathon on ABC Family. I purchased a fifteen piece order of wings with two cans of coke, and while waiting I picked up a few doughnuts from the Dunkin Doughnuts. So I had enough to last me for the day and for breakfast the following morning.
Before chowing down and enjoying the movie marathon I went to the small store at CPV and picked up a few more souvenirs for the folks at home. The movie marathon for the Harry Potter movies were: Philosopher's Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Goblet of Fire and The Order of The Phoenix. Fell asleep somewhere during Chamber of Secrets but made it through the remainder. The movies and the food made me forget that I would be leaving a most wonderful island yet again. When it came time for bed I had switched over to a channel that was showing the Count of Monticristo, and feel asleep watching that, only to be awoken by the alarm from my phone. Showered, dressed and with a quick breakfast in my stomach I bid farewell to room 105 and room 107 on my way to the check in counter, my bill had already been taken care of the day before and they had already called a taxi to take me to the airport. I think I amazed myself that I did not cry on my way to the airport, I was sad about leaving but on the other hand happy that I got to spend seven days on Aruba; and felt optimistic that I would return again for another visit, hopefully the next time would be more than seven days. Mashe Danke Aruba!!! Mashe Danke!!!
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
August 5th- August 12th 2012
I woke up on Thursday morning (August 9th) still feeling amped from the night before, the trip on the Kukoo Kunuku went way better than I could have expected, while I neglected to take any contact info( or trade contact info) with the people that I met that night( still working my way out of that) I was still happy with the way things went. The ladies that I had hung out with had even invited me to go with them to a Carnival Show that was slated for Thursday night, unfortuantely as my aunt had already made a booking and paid for us to attend an event out in San Nicholas I had to decline, but it was still pretty awesome of them to think of inviting me.
So that for part of Thursday we went to Moomba Beach where we had to make do with shade from a coconut tree, and once again my feet wound up with a baked look. But it was still a cool time there. There was also something that I noticed, I had been to Moomba Beach more time in the last ten years that I have to Maracas Beach in Trinidad. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at the Chinese Grocey just down the road from the hotel. During my previous vist we had gone there almost every day, this time around I was to make just one visit. The owners had changed the place around since the last time I was there, picked up two 20oz bottles of Coke( which in Aruba tastes the real way that a Coke should, same for Pepsi) two packs of peanut M&Ms, and a bag of powdered soap for laundry on Friday. On Aruba the majority if not all of the grocery stores on the island are Chinese owned and operated. From what I was able to pick up, the majority of them had originally come to Aruba to work in construction, and instead of returning home sent for their families to join them and started a business. Be it a grocery, restaurant, appliance store or what have you, they saw an opportunity, grabbed hold of it and ran with it.
The agenda for that evening revolved around dinner at the hotel, followed by a shuttle bus ride out to San Nicholas for the Carubbian Festival. San Nicholas is the second largest town on the island and located on the South Eastern portion of the island. The town was built up around the Oil Refinery that was run by the Lago Company, to suppliment the local workforce, and needs for the refinery outside labor was brought in, a great majority of whom were brought in from the English Speaking Caribbean. It was in San Nicholas that the local carnival was to have its origin when workers from Trinidad and Tobago who found themselves away from home during Carnival decided to organize their own. The festival takes place every Thursday night all year round come rain or shine. It's even held during lent, although I do beleive that they hold off on it for Holy Thursday observances. The main street in San Nicholas was closed off allowing for pedestrians to walk freely and for vendors and business owners to conduct additional trade.
The highlight of the evening was a concert featuring local bands, dance groups etc. Once again the contribution of Trinidad and Tobago was left out by the masters of ceremony, they even had a Dollar Wine Competition and still failed to acknowledge where it came from. Sigh!! I do give them points for involving the audience, the conga line through the audience was cool. For once I was not seleceted to join in, that honor went to my aunt. Anyhow at the end of the show everyone in the audience, mostly the tourists that had been invited to join in a small carnival parade up main street behind a brass band and costumed masqueraders. Once again Blue Boy's Ethel was the song of choice, I seriously beleive that if he were to go there and perform that the people of Aruba would welcome him with open arms; heck I wouldn't be surprised it they tried to keep him. Compared to our masqueraders their dancing was more choreographed, maybe if they need to take a lesson from our people when it comes to dancing while in costume. The festival was a worthwhile experience, I would like to experience their Carnival one of these years to compare it to T&T's Carnival.
Almost forgot to mention, during the show which featured local dances guess which dance showed up? The Ribbon Dance.
More to come.....To be continued.......
Monday, October 15, 2012
So along comes Wednesday and on the agenda for that day was a drive out to Frenchman’s Pass, which was to be followed by a drive to Hooiberg where we would make the attempt at climbing to the very top. After which we were going to come back to CPV in order for me to receive my call and get ready for the evening ahead. Getting to Frenchman’s Pass took some doing as we made a wrong turn getting there and got turned around. Thinking that we had taken a wrong turn it turns out that we were headed in the right direction after all, we were expecting to see a lot of birds and stuff in the trees but no luck in that area. Maybe we were there at the wrong time for bird watching, or maybe it was that we had turned around too soon before getting to the Bird Refuge? Anyhow we wound up getting on the highway that took us back towards the airport( which was a reminder that I would be seeing it again on the 12th) and into Oranjestad before locating the road that would take us to Hooiberg.
I also came across a short story written in three parts which is set on Aruba and features Hooiberg. It runds in the Aruba morning news in the issues from the 12/10/2012 to 15/10/2012. It's a cool story, if you're interested you should check it out.
Once Mama showed up, collected the rest of my payment and got me on board the bus we were on our way. Being the last person on the bus I was seated near the front next to a couple that was visiting from Deleware, and just right behind the Jonhson family who on that evening was marking the 10th time on the Kukoo Kunkuk. Not so sure if this was a coincidence or not, but the few black people on the bus were all up near the front. Hmmm? Anyhow the bus was packed with people that were ready to party, and judging by the level that they were singing and carrying on it was fair to guess that some of them had begun drinking long before they got on the bus. Our first stop was the beach just below the California light house on the Northern tip of the island to make the sunset toast, receive our briefing on the events for the evening, and take out a group picture before boarding the bus and proceeding to the Ambassador's Residence in Noord for dinner.
One inside we were divided up to sit at different tables, the couple that I had been sitting next to went to one table, while I wound up at another table, with one married couple and three sisters that were originally from NY who now called Florida home. They were cool and nice, included me in the conversation and discussion about the island and the trip so far. The food was good, interesting local meal. Drink wise I had a drink known as a Sex On The Bus, which was vodka, rum and fruit punch mixed together. To counter this I drank several cups of water and made certain that the water bottle I purchased from the souvenir counter was filled with water. With dinner out of the way we were all loaded up onto our respective buses and commenced with the bar hopping and partying. As we were making out way onto the bus we were presented with Drink Tickets, at each of the three stops we would present out drink tickets to the bar tenders and we would get a complementary drink, everything else after that we would have to pay for.
With the music pumping, enthusiasm amped, spirits boosted with some alcohol from dinner at the Ambassadors residence( or long before in the case of some attendees) and the encouragement of Mama we headed off towards out first stop of the night. It was a small bar, but a good enough size for the number of people on the two buses, they had the AC cranked up and the music was blaring; and what could I hear upon entry into the bar/club...SOCA!! Not just any Soca, but Destra Garcia and Sean Paul's Free It Up!!! (If you're interested in hearing it just click on the link below)
You could imagine how good my soul felt to hear music from my home at the first stop, imagine how I felt to see all these people from the two buses letting loose on the dance floor to this. If I had not been aware of where I was I could have sworn that I was at a party in Trinidad just judging by the number of dancing and wining white people on the dance floor. There was this one pretty young lady in a long sleeved white shirt, blue cutoff denim shorts and heals that went down to the ground, that there was one American that would fit in really easy with the partying crowd in T&T. It would take a good couple minutes before yours truly found himself on the dance floor. For a while it looked as though I would spend the entire night as a spectator on the sidelines instead of an actual participant. Then the most interesting thing happened. One of the ladies from my table from dinner was out on the dance floor partying with her sisters when she noticed me standing by one of the pool tables looking on. She waved, I waved back, she came off and asked if I wanted to dance and hang out with them. Of course I said Yes and joined them out on the dance floor. This would be my first time dancing out in public in....ages. They played all sorts of music, from Latin samba, hip hop, soca, etc. If they had it and it was party related they played it. Used my drink card to fill up my drink bottle with water.
We were at the first bar for an hour or so before we moved onto the second one, more music, more dancing, more drinking and more fun. It was at the second bar that I was introduced to a dance known as the Wobble, which is very popular on Aruba. The best way to describe the Wobble would be as an updated version of the Electric Slide( wonder when it will catch on in T&T?) There is an official video and several how to videos, which I have posted below.
I followed along as best as I could, luckily I was in good company as there were many who were now learning how to do the Wobble for the first time. But it was a good effort and fun was had by all. It was during the second stop that I would have my only beer for the night. I had a Balashi, a local beer that I had heard a lot about, figured that I would give it a try. Pretty Good actually, don't really see it give Carib or Stag much competition, but still good. I was also asked to become something of an unofficial photographer for several people during the second stop. Guess it meant that I was not invisible and that they trusted me to take some good pictures with their expensive digital cameras. Got no complaints, mostly a whole lot of 'Thank Yous', which was cool by me. From there it was off to the third and final stop which was a bar with the most cool name. "U-Wanna Beer" The name says it all.
We met up with the folks that were on the Bar Crawl and their guide who was known as Big Daddy. People were dancing on the dance floor, which was just about anywhere in this club and on the bar. Actually dancing on the bar was encouraged. Stuck to water on this stop as I did not want to get too tipsy and do anything silly. There was one part of the night when Mama and the cute guide from the other bus selected some guys to go up on the bar to do the Chicken Dance, albeit a bit more perverted version. The song then quickly transitioned into Y.M.C.A. and the brave guys on the bar soon lost their shirts and were dancing around bare back. Better them than me. The DJ threw on some more great tunes, he even played Don't Stop Believing by Journey and Sweet Child O Mine by Guns and Roses.
They say all good things come to an end, and that was what happened, the night came to an end and they loaded us up to take us back to our respective hotels. Before boarding I thanked the three ladies who included and made me a part of their fun that night. Just when I was ready to count humanity the three ladies made me want to give them another try. Who knows how the night would have gone for me. As I was the last person picked up I was the last one dropped off, small price to pay for a fun filled night. Being the last person on bus it gave me an opportunity to talk to both Victor( the bus driver) and Mama, they both recognised my accent and were able to place me as being from T&T. They said that the next time I was in Aruba to request them when next I wanted to go on the Kukoo Kunuku. Rest assured I most certainly will.
Going on that trip made me realize that I needed to go out more often, and not just wait till I come to Aruba but to do it more at home. All it takes is to just step outside of my comfort zone and to take some risks in the process. The end result being a fun time that's had by one and all, especially yours truly.
Stay tuned, still more to report on. Another trip to Moomba Beach and The Caruban Festival in San Nicholas.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012