The first time that I ever went to Aruba was in early August of 2010. My first visit was excellent, the most relaxed that I had been in ages and just as I was getting into the swing of things it was time to fly back home to Trini. Four days was not enough to really get the true Aruba experience, but in those four quick days I fell in love with the country; and it was only my first visit. If someone were to offer me the opportunity to live and there during my first visit I would have Yes in a heartbeat. However getting to live and work on Aruba is almost as complex as migrating to the U.S., Canada and the U.K. So it looks as though I would have to be content with just being allowed to visit, and that was would I would do.
At the end of my first visit I told myself two things: 1. I would return to visit again sometime in the future. 2. I would try to stay longer the next time, anywhere from a week to two weeks if possible. It would be another two years before I would return to Aruba. When my aunt told me that herself, husband and son would be heading to Aruba for a week in August I was, Happy to hear that they would be going back, because that meant I would be able to go as well. Secondly I was a wee bit disappointed that they would only be there for a week, I was hoping for two maybe three weeks at most. But a week would be sufficient. They were confirmed to fly into Aruba on Saturday 4th August 2012 and would be returning to the States on Saturday 11th August 2012. Right away I knew what my plans would look like , I would fly in on Sunday 5th August, the return was going to be the tricky part. You see in going to and returning from Aruba I have to fly through Curacao by Suriname Airways, and said airline only flies that route on Sundays, and Thursdays (and I think also on Tuesdays but I’m not too certain about that). As returning on the 9th of August would mean another quick four day trip I opted for the next best option, to book a hotel room for the extra night and return on the 12th of August. Luckily I had discussed this likely hood with my aunt and uncle and the arrangements for the additional night had already been booked way in advance.
Sometime in mid-July I made my travel arrangements and was all ready to go. All I had to do was count the days till the August 5th. Once Emancipation Day (a public holiday here in T&T) came and went the countdown to the trip was on in full earnest. Prior to that I had picked up some additional articles of clothing, shorts, t-shirts, polo shirts, and a pair of flip-flops , in anticipation of the trip. As my aunt and company were flying into Aruba on the 4th I was attending a small anime and comic themed event, picked up some interesting graphic novels which helped to pass the time for the remainder of that day. Now here is something that I have yet to mention to my family, although I had all my things organised for the trip, I did not locate the small suitcase that I normally travel with till Sunday morning, which was when I finally finished my packing. Anyhow for those that know me it does not take me all that long to pack. I knew from two weeks in advance what I planned to take with me and that was what I packed into my one piece of luggage. My backpack was a whole different story. Guess I should make mention that I do A GREAT AMOUNT OF READING!!!! Which means that at any given time I’ll be reading more than one book at time, earlier this year I purchased a kindle fire from amazon.com , and having it helped to cut down on the number of books that I would carry around with me. Even though I have a kindle I still purchase regular physical paperbacks and hardcover books, you see there are several authors and publishers that have not made their books available on kindle, which means I still have to go into the local bookstores to purchase them or order them online.
I figured that with my kindle I would not have to carry more than two additional novels with me, and that as a result my backpack would be relatively light…even with my laptop included. Well to make a long story short, I added four more paperbacks to the backpack, which had it feeling heavier than usual. But that was all pushed aside as I loaded all my one small suitcase and backpack into my Step-father’s van and with my mother along for the ride made my way to the airport.
Check-in for Surname Airways flight PY743 was rather quick, one minute I was near the entrance to the line filling out a departure form and writing up stickers for my luggage and the next thing you know I was being handed back my passport with my boarding pass. As someone that has travelled into and out of Piarco International Airport on weekends I knew what the place could be like, CHAOTIC!!! So after a quick pass by the newsstand in the main atrium I made a quick b-line for the International departure area. Before hitting the security check point I ducked into the newsstand /bookstore to see if they had anything that would grab my interest. Yeah I know I already had the four paperbacks and my kindle in my backpack, and that there was no need for any more additional reading material. But it just so happened that they had a Sci-Fi anthology novel that I was interested, so out came the cash, into my backpack it went and off to the security check I went.
This proved to be an interesting experience to say the least as I found myself going through right behind some ladies from Curacao and smack dab in the middle of some Chinese Fishermen who knew little to no English who were all on the same flight to Curacao. The Airport Security Officers need to understand that yelling in English will not get non-English speakers to follow your instructions. I could not help but feel sorry for the fishermen, one of the guards was about to yell instructions to me till he took a good look at me, noticed my passport and realized that I was a local and that there was no need to YELL at me. With that behind me I made my way to Gate#6 and settled in for my flight to arrive and board.
Boarding was relatively smooth, even the fishermen rushing to board did not put a damper on my mood. I was so close to getting to Aruba that I was not going to allow them to kill my good mood. Found my seat with no problem, surprised that other passengers had some difficulty finding their seats. It’s simple really. On the ticket there is a heading that says SEAT and underneath it there is a number which indicates seat row and a letter which indicates if the assigned seat is on and if it is the seat by the window, in the middle or on the aisle. Simple right? Not for some of these people, especially the ones who brag and boast about being accomplished and experienced travellers. There was a couple ahead of me whose seats were 10B & 10C. They walked right past them and it was not until they reached row 25 that they realized they had passed their row. Would you believe that these oh so intelligent people wanted me to turn around so that they could get to their seats? And this was as I was putting my backpack into the overhead bind before I took my seat. I asked them to hold on for a few seconds, slipped into my seat and allowed them to pass before getting back up to take a novel out of my backpack to read during the flight. With the way they were glaring at me you could sworn that I told them to wait for ten minutes or so. And people wonder why I sometimes can’t stand being around my own people? Anyhow, with the passengers on board we took off for the one hour and fifteen minute flight to Curacao. Immigration Cards were given out as soon as the flight had levelled out and before we even got the free drinks.
The flight was smooth going over and I think I managed to nod off for about six minutes or so before the Captain announced that we would be landing in fifteen minutes. Talk about quick? Must have had a strong wind pushing us towards Curacao. Just like Trinidad I managed to breeze through Immigration and as my one piece of luggage had been tagged to go straight through to Aruba I did not have to pick it up at baggage claim. With this being my third time flying through Willemstad International I knew where to go and what to expect. For starters there was a lot of Dutch, Spanish and Papiamento being spoken, and for some reason I was mistaken for a local. Can’t say that I blame them, there were a lot of light skinned black people all over the place. Whenever someone spoke to me in either Dutch, Spanish or Papiamento I gave them my confused I don’t know what you’re saying look; and then they realize, “Hey wait a minute! You’re not from Curacao are you? You look like a local!!”
Now before going through security and immigration I had to stop by a little window to pay the airport tax. For those who are flying right out of Curacao the cost if about $35.00US, for transit passengers like myself the cost was $2.00US. With that taken care of I made my way through security, emptying my pockets and shoving the contents into my backpack, only putting them back in once I cleared immigration. Well I did have to put my belt back on, my jeans were slipping down on me, don’t know how rappers can perform entire shows that way. Anyhow, made it inside the departure area, I wanted to take a look around but decided to scout out my departure gate for Aruba which was Gate#7. Found it, it would be another three hours before my flight was due to board so I turned around and began to check out the souvenir stores. Picked up a book on the ABC islands, some pendants and a magazine before going to the waiting area by Gate #7 to wait for the boarding of InselAir flight 455. Boarding was to commence at 7pm with the flight to take off at 7:30pm.
The last time I flew through Curacao on my way to Aruba I had to wait by the very same gate, which was close to a gate where passengers going to Holland were boarding; that many people in the vicinity made it feel like a hot box. Even with the gigantic ceiling fans above it still felt hot as Hades. This time around sure enough there was a flight boarding for Holland not too far from gate #7, somehow all the passengers for that flight had not assembled when they began boarding, which explained why it did not feel like a hot box this time around. For some reason I found it difficult to focus on the books in my backpack, I would read a few pages, get bored with it then exchange it for another one and so it went for the next few hours. I think the excitement about being so close to Aruba and a few hours away from boarding had overwhelmed my normal reading mode. I just wanted to get going, the hours that I had spent waiting for the transit flight was time that could have been better utilized on Aruba if there had been a direct flight there from Trinidad. Eventually I managed to focus on one of the paperbacks which helped the remaining hour till boarding to fly by. When the announcement to board was made I was among the first group to start lining up by the gate with my ticket and passport in hand.
Looking around I could not help but notice that there were a lot of people in line for this flight, the last time I flew over there were about eight of us on the flight and it was in a really small aircraft. How small you wonder? Myself and all my fellow passengers could see out luggage in the back of the aircraft. Forget going to baggage claim we could have taken them then and there if we wanted to…well not really…but it sure felt like it. With the current flight I was surprised by the amount which should have told me that this flight over was going to be on one of Insel’s bigger aircraft. That and the fact that my boarding pass listed my seat as #22B alone should have been a huge hint that we would be flying over on a big aircraft.
Before boarding we were all herded onto two air-conditioned buses to take us out to the aircraft, the last time we had to walk out to our flight. And unlike the last time there were more Trini’s on the flight going over to Aruba( they had been on the flight from T&T to Curacao). I made my way up the steps to the cabin feeling more and more excited at the prospect of getting even closer to my destination. Upon boarding I asked one of the flight attendants if this was the flight to Aruba? He replied, “Yes! But we have to make a ten minute stop on Bon Aire before continuing onto Aruba.” I shrugged and said, “Alright, sounds cool as long as we get there tonight.” To which he then said, “Just kidding with you! This flight is going direct to Aruba, wish that I had more passengers that were as mellow as you!” As I explained to the guy, “Hey! I’ve been waiting to make this trip for two years!! One stop on Bon Aire would not make that much of a difference!! Just knowing that I’m on my way back to Aruba is enough to make anything seem minor!”
Flying time over to Aruba was fifteen minutes, and as it was a bigger aircraft I honestly thought that I would have received my immigration card to fill out in advance of landing. Apparently InselAir has a problem with the issuing of immigration cards to passengers, they did give out card to fill out, but this was for the chance to win a free round trip flight with them the next time that we flew with them. Well I’ll cut to the suspense, I did not win the free ticket. A young woman across the aisle from me was the lucky winner. Anyhow upon landing after the normal welcome and all that stuff, there was no mention of immigration cards or where we could get them. It felt like déjà vu all over again, except this time there were a lot of us as compared to the small handful the last time. As if that was not bad enough, passengers from another flight that landed right after us, who were lucky to receive their immigration cards before landing were greeted with the confusion of us InselAir passengers filling out the cards while standing in line. Lucky for me I was in between a couple fellow Trinis, who were cool with what was going on. Here’s an interesting comparison between airports, Willemstad on Curacao has very few areas that are air conditioned, those areas being the security check, immigration( when going to the departure area), and inside the souvenir stores. The airport on Aruba, EVERYWHERE is air conditioned. So much so that I was tempted to put on my sweatshirt while waiting to go through immigration. Forget Hot in Here it was more like Bloody Cold!!
A few minutes later I had made it past immigration, found my one piece of luggage and then made my way outside where my aunt was waiting. My uncle and cousin were in the rental car making the rounds but they were soon back and once my suitcase was in the trunk we were on our way to Caribbean Palm Village in Noord. For once it would have been great of I could have arrived during daylight, but that did not matter as I was finally back on Aruba. Our route to the hotel took us through the capital city of Oranjestad, and also through the Palm Beach area; which regardless of time or day was abuzz with people (mostly tourists) going here and there. I recall reading online that there was a Sunday night dance party on Moomba Beach near one of the hotels. If I had gotten in earlier, by a few hours or a few days I would have made an attempt to go. At that moment though I was ready to reach the hotel, unwind and get something to eat.
Here is an interesting fact about Aruba, on Sundays they have what is known as the Sunday Barbecue, where many vendors will cook and prepare traditional Aruban Barbecue. The meal itself is HUGE. You get two pieces of chicken, two racks of ribs, two pieces of corn, rice, cold slaw etc. My fondest memory of my first visit to Aruba was the Sunday Barbecue as my first meal. It lasted me till Tuesday morning. Knowing that my relatives were going to be there a day before I made the request for them to get me an order form the Chinese food restaurant down the road from the hotel. On the way to CPV my relatives informed me that the folks at the restaurant no longer do the Sunday Barbecue, and that they had to get it from somewhere else. I’ll admit upon hearing that I was a bit disappointed, but then
told myself say what, I’m in Aruba so it’s all good.
Got to the hotel and headed straight for the room, which was not the same room that we had stayed in the last time that we were there. Instead we were staying in the room that they had booked as part of their timeshare agreement. Living room, kitchenette, bedroom, two bathrooms and a porch/gallery area. I would be bunking on the fold out couch in the living room, no big deal as long as I was there, air conditioning worked and the cable had some decent channels. Then came a pleasant surprise. The barbecue was from the Chinese Restaurant, my relatives had tried to play a trick on me. Good attempt but it really did not make that big of a deal. So dinner that night was excellent, glad that I did not fill up with too much food from earlier in the day. I had considered going to Wendy’s at the airport in Curacao, but then changed my mind and decided to wait till I got to Aruba. Good thing that I did.
The rest of the first night there was a mix of channel surfing to find my away around the channels, watching some of the Olympics, figuring out how to get the couch bed out and going over some of the things and places that I wanted to go and see. This time around seven days would make a lot of things more possible, no rush.
Part 2: Moomba Beach, Soca Music all over, Eating out, Hoolberg, the Kukoo Kunkuk and more!!!