Thursday, January 31, 2013

Say What?

My daughter rarely complains about food. She's a fish eating vegetarian, a pescetarian. When all else fails, she eats dessert, all kinds of dessert. Recently, I've been receiving text messages in which she has been describing her Curacao food experiences.

Her messages look much like this. "All the food here is disgusting." or "It's impossible to be fat here."

Since I found the food to be quite acceptable while I was visiting, I wondered what the problem was. She did recount a trip to Burger King for a veggie burger. She said it was passable, but she wouldn't go out of her way to get it. The best part of eating there was seeing goats walking around outside. There was also a Japanese restaurant with outstanding sushi in the Rif Fort area. The problem is, that fine dining is not in her student budget and this was a bit of a splurge.

I asked whether she'd shopped at the floating market. Venezuelan boats arrive daily with fresh fruit, vegetables and fish. She hadn't. She had only been to the "real" supermarket where she located some veggie meatballs and some burritos. Oh, and her salads consisted of a lot of spinach. Spinach was easier to find than lettuce.

Today, I received information from her about the water. Interesting. She's been drinking a lot of tap water since it's safe to drink and in her words, "sooooo good". It is distilled from the sea. When she bought bottled water, it too was "gross".

For all my rants about technology, I have to admit, it has its uses, many uses. For one thing, it's been nice to communicate from so far away by texting and the occasional email.

Tonight, a message arrived on my cell phone. Since I am not of an age where this phone is one of my appendages, I didn't see it immediately in order to come to the rescue. Judging from this, the salads too are starting to get tiresome.

Here's the message. I'm still laughing.

"My internet is broken, how do I cook spinach?"

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Writer's Block or Blockhead Writer?

 A number of years ago I went to one of those psychic fairs. A fortune teller or whatever they call themselves said I would have a new career late in life, kind of like Grandma Moses. He wasn't too clear on what he considered "late" in life nor did he say what type of career. Since that time, I have attempted cake decorating for fun, not profit. I have attended one, just one art class, I have done volunteer work although I don't think that's considered a career and I have written blogs. I even sent the occasional one to the newspaper, where it actually showed up in print.

I was notified recently that I would be writing a monthly column for our local newspaper. I was ecstatic. I was excited. I had sent in some of my writing which would be published in January and then I was to be responsible for one additional 400 word piece each month. My topic would be "community and human interest issues".

Realizing that my first submission (from a recent blog) was over 800 words, I became concerned. Who would be cutting down the words? I knew there were things I could remove and condense and still make my point. I requested the opportunity to do this and received kind notice that it would be fine. After struggling for an entire weekend, I managed to reduce my piece to 540 words and I resubmitted it. I have no idea what will happen to it now. I wish they'd just publish it as is rather than feeling the need to add what can only be an unflattering photo.

So now, the pressure is on. I need to find more writing topics. Has this ever been a problem for me before? Why am I stumped, frightened and confused now? Was this a huge mistake? Can I do it? Whatever made me think I could write anything someone would want to read? Hubby reassured me saying I probably have enough blog topics I could recycle for a year's worth of columns.

For February's column, I'll have to determine what is of community and human interest. Drat, Michelle Obama's hair will be old news by then. The cold weather will have eased off. Teachers will still be fighting the good fight, but nobody will want to hear about them.  Lance Armstrong...well, forget it. Hopefully, there'll be something new.

Wait, what did I just hear? A newscaster said "Alls I can say." Could this be a topic? Perhaps I can rant about the deterioration of the English language. Or, maybe I'll panic and just rework my silly piece about airplane seats. We shall see.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Curacao Part 4 - CMU Residence

The main goal of our recent trip was to help my daughter settle into her new environment. The secondary goal was to have some fun in the process. After two days of relaxing, we decided it was time to begin our chore. We rented a car, a Terios, and headed toward the Caribbean Medical University headquarters at the World Trade Center, Piscadera Bay. Before long, registration was complete and we took all the suitcases to

 the student residence at Andres Bello plaza. In keeping with the lovely colourful country, the building was a vivid yellow...attractive. It was a wise decision to say "no roomate".

 As it turns out, some rooms are considerably smaller than this decent sized unit. Prior attempts to find out what might already exist in a room were futile, so we brought what we thought was needed and whatever we could squeeze into suitcases.  Here's what we had to work with in the room.                                 

lawn furniture
two beds, one to be removed


 There was also a small fridge and t.v., a kitchen unit which consisted of a two burner range combined with sink another small fridge and a microwave. On either side of the "kitchen" were the bathroom facilities, shower and sink on one side and toilet sink on the other.
toilet on one side, shower on the other
small fridge and Spanish speaking t.v.



Since we had to remove some items from our overweight luggage, it was necessary to go shopping the next day when we no longer had a vehicle. We learned that the best shopping for household needs was at two stores. One such large department store was called La Curacao and had unusual hours. It was closed when we arrived around 1:30 with a sign saying it would reopen at 3:30. We also discovered that everything is closed on Sundays...civilized.

It was recommended that we go to Breedestraat, a neighbourhood in the opposite direction of the touristy shopping area. It seemed "seedy" by our standards but we felt safe enough. The buildings were a bit decrepit, not yet restored like much of Willemstad. We noted some construction work going on. Items for sale in this area were more suited to residents  ...appliance and furniture stores, grocery stores, kitchen and bath wares and some clothing. We loaded up on items we needed. The employees were incredibly helpful and unearthed whatever we asked for. One person even drew us a map of how to get to the residence from where we were. This was useful since we were now walking, carrying lamps, garbage cans, a scale, pots, a clock, a rug, curtains, groceries and more.

We were part way to the dorm when we were cooled off by a small downpour. After a few minutes participating in a Curacao custom, standing under a roof ledge waiting for the rain to dissipate, we made the decision to venture into the drizzle. Soggy hand drawn map in hand, we headed out and immediately got lost. Our shopping was getting heavy as we walked in a circle near a small plaza. A lady, waiting under another roof, asked what we were looking for. She wasted no time opening her umbrella and telling us to follow her. Through two fences, along a muddy secret pathway, around some trampled lizards, past a cemetery and there we were...Andres Bello plaza. The sun came out. We thanked her profusely. We made the same trip two more times over the course of the next days until the residence room looked like this.



Satisfied that we had done all we could, we returned to our hotel and relaxed for the remainder of the trip. We estimated that the trek to the stores, to residence and back to the hotel consisted of many kilometres each day. We definitely got our exercise while we were there.


Curacao Part 3 - The Hotel

Again, I wrote a trip advisor review of our hotel. This was the "fun part" of the vacation since much of our time was spent shopping, doing errands and moving into the dorm. We stayed at the Renaissance, Curacao. Here is a view of part of the hotel and infinity pool, taken from a ship on a previous visit.

"Great Hotel, Good Staff, Unusual All-Inclusive”
4 of 5 starsReviewed 17 January 2013


I recently stayed at this lovely hotel for one week. I selected the Renaissance because I had been in Curacao via ship on three prior occasions and always admired the colourful resort and the fabulous infinity pool. The location is perfect and central to the downtown tourist sites, entertainment and shopping areas. Most of the staff was wonderful and readily willing to help. We received some great advice and hints about the island.

Knowing that it was an expensive island for food and drinks, I purchased an all inclusive package for myself and my two adult children. We checked into the hotel and had the package explained to us. I have been to all inclusives throughout the Caribbean and this was considerably different. There was one buffet type restaurant, a bar, the Espresso coffee shop, the pool bar and the sit down Cru restaurant with specified hours for eating. We received a list of what was included and what was not included in our all inclusive. The liquor list was adequate and contained one type of beer. There were no wrist bands. We found out that we would be receiving receipts for everything and that these would require signing each time we selected any food or drink service. I found this stressful and time consuming at first. We sometimes sat in the buffet waiting to sign our bill so that we could move on. These receipts were then turned in to the front desk but we were never charged since we were all inclusive although I did go to the desk to check from time to time. Further, because of the large cost of the meals and charges on these bills, I was confused as to tipping procedure. I noted that there was a 15% service charge already added. I left cash tips rather than add anything else to the bill. The buffet food was fine albeit predictable. We ate at the Cru restaurant on three occasions but since there was only one vegetarian option for my children, it became a bit tiresome.



The salt water infinity pool was more like a beach than a pool. It was particularly nice since there was no concern about wildlife under the water. It was easy to get towels and chairs and the food at the beach bar was great. The staff got to know us and ran a tab rather than make us sign for every food and drink order. We appreciated that. The food choices were most to our taste at this location. Particularly interesting was watching the movement of the massive ships in and out of the bay. 


The hotel has a modern gym, Budget car rental and a tour office. There was some entertainment...a band in the lobby, a smokey casino, and a movie theater on the grounds.

We had a great week at the Renaissance. I would return here, knowing now what to expect.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Curacao Part 2...I'm baaaaaack !

I have returned from Curacao. My next few blogs will be photos and comments about this most magnificent of islands.

I wrote a trip advisor review about one of our activities, "Eric's ATV Adventure". This is it.  Photos below.

“Awesome ATV Adventure!”
5 of 5 starsReviewed 17 January 2013
I had seen the many excellent reviews on trip advisor and decided that this might be a fun thing to do with my two adult children. Since we were going to be in Willemstad for a week, I emailed Eric and requested a morning tour. I decided that morning would be a better choice because of the sun and heat. He booked us on a day with no cruise ship tours. Besides the three of us there was only one other young man in our group. Excellent. We were picked up by Eric himself at our hotel. On the way, he regaled us with fascinating stories about Curacao, his diving days, and his many friends. What an interesting and friendly man!

Our guide Marco started us off with a brief lesson on the care and feeding of the ATV. From then on, it was trial by fire as we immediately headed down a steep rocky hill. I got stuck, or perhaps paralyzed with fear. In fairness, I was the only driver over the age of 60. Besides, I was carrying a passenger, number one daughter. When my son yelled from his ATV, "stop driving like a granny," it was game on. Over the water, down roadways, through the bushes and splashing through puddles I went. Most fun I've had this year.

Along the way, we saw, luxurious Curacao housing. We then rode past the island's prison. We passed animals, dogs, chickens, goats. Then, we went to a scenic lookout which had a painting of a pair of eyes. When we headed to an aloe plantation, we received drinks, asked questions, and used restroom facilities. I purchased some anti-aging cream at a 20% discount and I already feel much younger. I can just imagine how great it'll be when I actually start to use it. Next we zoomed through an area which reminded the young'uns of a Mario kart game...winding pathways through water hazards. Our subsequent stop took us to an area where we walked uphill, then scaled a bit of a rock face. I hesitated, but was eager to see what was up there. It was a cave, a bat cave filled with bats and guano. Wow! As we exited the other side, we went up another path and found ourselves on a the edge of a cliff. Yet another fabulous view. There were colourful birds flitting through the trees. Climbing down was a bit more challenging but I made it. Along the way we saw lizards, snails, crabs and more. Yes, unfortunately there were some piles of trash as one reviewer noted, but that did not detract from the wonderful time we all had.

After we returned to the hotel, we washed off the mud and laughed at our unusual spotted suntans. Eric delivered a cd of photos to help us remember our adventure. He even came back a second time when he located my windbreaker in a compartment in the ATV.

Closed shoes are recommended and do not bring a lot of baggage. A small purse with a long strap, or if you must, a backpack would be best.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Carrying Chattels to Curacao

I'm starting the new year off with an adventure. Actually, it's not my adventure although I have volunteered my services as a participant. Let me explain.

In June 2011, (Graduation Part Deux), I reported that I thought my daughter was finally finished with her education. Apparently, I was mistaken.

A few months ago, "the girl" grinned as she announced that she had applied to CMU medical Curacao. I was in shock. I couldn't fathom this since she had earlier refused my generous offer of a one way drive to Alberta for chemical engineering employment opportunities. She made it clear back then, that she wasn't venturing far from hearth, home and her menagerie. She then returned to school and decided that a business career might be more to her liking. It wasn't.

I remember asking, "What will you do if you're accepted?"

"I'll go," she responded.

 And go she will. Her first semester begins on January 14th.

I thought back. Why would she feel so confident about going to Curacao and be so hesitant about other places? Then I remembered.

In May, 2009 she and I were on a cruise. We went to some nice places, some not so nice places, and, we went to Curacao, one of the Dutch ABC islands in the Caribbean. As we stepped off the ship in Willemstad, it seemed like another world. Buildings looked like doll houses. People appeared to have stepped from the pages of fashion magazines. There was a sense of formality. There was organization. My daughter loves both. 
  As we walked, we saw plaques describing the people, the languages and the culture. There was art on the  walls. There were chimes and bells, flowers and sculptures. There were historical sites and a fabulous museum describing the history of slavery.

There's a pontoon bridge, the Queen Emma Bridge, built in 1888 and connecting two districts in Willemstad. It swings open using powerful ship motors and allows pedestrians to cross. When the bridge is open, ships are able to go through from the harbour. Pedestrians are then ferried to the other side using water taxis. (See blog "Captivated in Curacao" Feb. 2, 2012)

Large maps are very helpful to assist tourists negotiate the city of Willemstad. In fact, we laughed when we discovered the police officer standing on the exact same corner as illustrated on one of the maps.
    We enjoyed seeing the large open air fruit, vegetable and fish market. Yummy mangoes, papayas, bananas and watermelons tempted us. Alas, we were not allowed to return to the ship with any produce in tow. We watched as some older ladies shopped while dressed as elegantly as if they were attending a wedding. Going to the market was not just an outing, but a celebration.

And so, the adventure begins. We will be leaving in two days and staying in Willemstad for a week. There'll be treks to CMU at Piscadero Bay to make deliveries to the dorm.
We'll enjoy the climate, the culture and the Caribbean. We'll also enjoy the food.

Some parents load up their vehicles to help transport their children to institutions of higher learning, I on the other hand have crammed as many essentials as possible into a much smaller space. I have a suitcase containing 50 pounds of imports. I am carrying "the girl's" chattels to Curacao.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

What's Your Resolution?

Did you make a resolution this year? Every January, it's the same old thing. People make resolutions which last for varying lengths of time. Their resolutions rarely become a lifestyle change.

The stores are laden with "on sale" exercise equipment for those who think that this is the year when they'll finally get fit. People will haul home treadmills, elipticals and weights only to discover after awhile that these items are a massive waste of space. Just like the kids' toys at Christmas, interest eventually wanes. Hurrayyy for all those garage sales a few months later! There are bargains to be had for anyone who wishes to hold off on, or restart their resolution in the summer. Similarly gym memberships skyrocket and the "regulars" have to fight for their favourite machines in January. Not to worry. It doesn't last that long, although I must say that last year, there were holdouts well into Valentine's Day before things returned to normal.

Then there are the people who vow to quit something. Quit smoking, quit drinking, quit eating in the car. The quitters. The easiest thing to do is to quit. Let's quit trying.

I was reminded of another favourite as I walked through a store today. Many deem that this is the year that they'll get organized. The bins, the baskets, the storage containers are everywhere. I have at least one friend who has a mountain of empty bins. They're being stored, waiting. What are they waiting for? Perhaps next January's resolution. After all, she'll have a head start because she won't have to go shopping for bins first right?

Interesting isn't it? Our values seem to change somewhat as we age. Gone are the promises to cut out bad habits. We've all heard the joke "I resolve not to make any resolutions ha,ha" once too often. Instead we keep our ideas to ourselves. Perhaps we have thoughts of resolutions of a more intrinsic nature. Try to be a better listener, or perhaps a nicer friend, try be kinder, more generous and so on. Whatever we decide, we no longer like to tell. On the other hand, if we've become cynical, we lose interest in even trying to better ourselves by making a resolution. After all, we know how it will most likely end.

So my resolution this year was an easy one. It was one that I knew I could keep. I resolved to keep experiencing new things. Today, I had an unusual occurance. I had my first visit ever to a physiotherapist. I can't imagine why I haven't wanted to go sooner. What better way to spend the morning than to have toilet plungers pulsating on your aching knee? At least this activity has helped keep my resolution intact.