¡Aqui No Mas! AND ­­¡Baja!- When Foreign Transportation Goes Wrong

I tell ya, teach a voyager a few local transportation sayings and she thinks she knows her way around the country.

Spending almost two weeks in Roatan, Honduras meant that remaining stationary in one neighborhood was not an option.  I stayed in an area called Sandy Bay and although I was in walking distance from a clinic, bodegas and small restaurants, I still wanted to get out and do a little bit of ‘sploring,’ ya know? I asked Mel, the owner of Roatan Backpackers, how to travel throughout the island and she willingly showed me how. That day, I was scheduled for a full body massage at Mel’s employer so, I took the taxi with her. She schooled me on the public transportation rules in Roatan which included:

Pricing:       Depending on pickup and drop off, a taxi ride could cost 30 Lempiras, which is equal to $1.50! A bus ride could be 20 lempiras!
Tipping:      Optional
Socializing: Keep it to a minimum with the driver, UNLESS you know exactly where you’re going and are familiar with pricing and distances.

She taught me a lot, but my most favorite lesson of all was using the commands ¡BAJA! or ¡Aqui No Mas! for signaling the driver where to stop. After this lesson, we parted ways, I got my massage, and then I had to practice what was taught to me.

I was ‘Aqui No Mas-ing’ and Baja-ing’ after I caught my first taxi on my own. I felt like I knew every nook and cranny in Roatan, until my arrogance got me lost downtown.

Watch me in lost action in the video below:

 

 

 

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SistaVoyage Vs The Caribbean Sea

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If you knew of a person who had 2 sets of private swim lessons PLUS a group swim lesson recently , wouldn’t you assume that person knew how to effectively swim? Probably so, right? Well, tell me what is MY problem, lol!  Apart from showering, brushing my teeth and taking baths, the water and I are not the best of friends. At the age of 25, I took my first set of private lessons (4 total) where I discovered if you give me a noodle and some fins, I could swim without stopping. On the flip side ,take away the noodle and the fins and it would be a DISASTUH.

The second set of lesson results (again 4 total) were a sad repeat of the first.  I was ready to practice my strokes, but I ended up nearly stroking due to the choking of water I seemed to always swallow. The only maneuver I could show off outside of the class was me pushing myself from the wall and swimming UNDER water. I couldn’t bring my head up for air to save my life!  While I didn’t give up, I left large quantities of la agua alone for a while. Then one day I got bold…kinda.

I remember it like it was yesterday. Well, it was just this year so it wasn’t much to remember, ha ha.

On Good Friday 2013 in Roatan, Honduras, me and two other ladies who were staying at the Roatan Backpacker’s Hostel decided to take a stroll to West End. We kept walking and walking and before we knew it, we were on West Bay Beach, where all of the action was happening. We noticed several people (mainly children and teens) jumping off of this wooden deck into the sea. ‘I want to jump in, but I can’t swim well,’ I announced to the ladies.  What did I do that for? ‘Well, I am going to dive in and I will help you out if you jump. I used to be a life guard,’ ‘J’ said to me.  I felt a mixture of nervous energy and curiosity throughout my body. She noticed my hesitance and started to mildly taunt me while mixing in a little encouragement. Nice.

So, did I suck up my sea fear or did I shrink back in it?  Well, I did a little bit of both, lol. See what actually happened in this short video clip below.

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Filming in France- When Video Recording Goes Wrong

Can you name one person that’s singled out for doing something THOUSANDS of others do on a daily basis? You know, like there can be 5 cars going 100mph in a 50 mph zone, but the cops just see you balancing between 49 and 51 mph and decide to pull ONLY YOU over? What the…

After visiting Sacré-Cœur in Montmartre, my family and I decided to take a stroll in the Château Rouge area, also known as ‘Little Africa.’ I was recording the sights around me, something I normally do when I travel (who doesn’t?) The next thing I know, I was shockingly confronted by a young lady who certainly did not approve of me recording.So… what did she say? I can show you better than I can tell you (see video below).

Have you ever been confronted by someone to stop recording or taking pictures? If so, how did you respond? Do you ask for permission before snapping or filming?

 

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Security Gate Germaphobia

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Going through security checkpoints at the airport are ‘mini mission impossibles.’  With commands like, ‘Come here, place this-n-that in the bin, put those in these Ziploc bags, take that out and throw it away,’ it can make you wonder what’s the point of packing anything at all!

Then there’s my favorite command: TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES.

My mother raised me to respect authority figures, but I must admit this command from the TSA agents used to have me looking around blankly and thinking: ‘Wait, you’re talking to me? My shoes? No wait, really these shoes? Take off my shoes and place my sweet feet on this floor?’

Oh geez.

Now, it wouldn’t be so uncomfortable for me to do so if I was a sock wearer on a daily basis, but I am not. When I travel, I try to accessorize and dress as light as possible. I wear flats or sandals with no socks, but because TSA is not changing their policy and since I love to travel, I knew I had to get creative. After checking into my flight and before going through security, I now put on socks that I don’t wear often. Forget the color, design, etc., I don’t care. I just cringe at the thought of my sweet feet touching that cold, tiled and yes, dirty floor. Once the TSA agents congratulate me for being a safe traveler, I take off those unsightly socks, stuff them in my luggage and head to my gate. I have had people stop and look at me to see what the heck I was doing. With a confused look, they probably were also thinking ‘hmmmm, good idea!’

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Volunteering in Belize: Holy Cross Anglican School

Banner at Holy Cross School in Belize

Banner at Holy Cross School in Belize

Traveling to Belize again (first time was on a cruise) was super exciting, but volunteering made it totally worthwhile and memorable.

My friend who was born and partially raised in Belize, created a daily itinerary for me and 6 other voyagers a month in advance of our trip. Not only did she schedule days of fellowship, fun and connecting with her family, she made sure to include volunteer work.  This would be my first time volunteering in another country and I was super excited, especially after speaking via email  with Lydia, the school’s volunteer  coordinator, about their needs and her expectation of us during our time there.

 

Me and Lydia

Me and Lydia

 

On the day of our visit, we gathered in the lobby of the hotel we were staying in and met our bus driver who transported us to the school.  Despite my hands being full with donations, my camera and oh yea, my umbrella thanks to the rain (read more about that here), I made it into the office accident free, ha ha.  Lydia warmly greeted us and began to explain the school’s history and concept while guiding us throughout the school.  Once the tour was over, we were able to interact with the children and assist the teachers accordingly. We were warmly greeted with hugs, requests to read books, chats, questions and the children were happy to pose for the camera!

Reading Time

Reading Time

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My Hair's Always a Hit!

My Hair’s Always a Hit!

We decided to leave right before school ended to avoid the ‘yay, we’re going home!’ rush and the children were not happy!!! They wanted us to stay and we wanted to stay longer too, but the bus was there to take us back to the hotel.

Honestly, I was not expecting the ‘noooo, please stay longer!!!’ reactions from the children at all. In my mind, I felt that our short amount of time there didn’t make that much of an impact, but it proved quality over quantity can be significantly meaningful. Since that day, I have kept in touch with Lydia because whenever I go back to Belize, I will spend more time at the school with the staff and children, helping out wherever I can. Matter of fact, I am making plans now to revisit. :)

*If you’d like to learn more about Holy Cross Anglican School in San Pedro, Belize, click the link here: http://holycrossbelize.org/  

To see more of the school in action, check out the video below:

 

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Parisian Pastries: Look, but Don’t Touch…OR Eat

angelinas2 Specially crafted and uniquely designed edible dishes are so visually appealing to me. They cause me to stop in my tracks, admire the skill it took create them and even feel a little giddy on the inside. :) You can catch me oohing and aahing at the creations followed by silent staring, similar to a child seriously viewing a cartoon show. It would be great if my admiration of these delicacies stopped there, but it doesn’t. Pleasing to the eye and probably just as pleasing to the palate, I just can’t bring myself to consume one, not even a nibble.  I feel that they must be preserved and it would be a waste for me to eat something so beautiful.  Most of my friends shake their heads at me, especially when I try to convince them NOT to eat them, too, lol.

blog2I have noticed that people tend to throw their restrictions out of the window when it comes to nom-nom-noming during vacation. What one refrains from in their home country, they are willing to try in another. Heck, diets are temporarily placed on pause, too.  When I saw these beautiful, tasty, tempting treats while strolling in Paris, I thought I was going to let all of my ‘preserve cute desserts’ inhibitions go; however, I am proud to say I kept my stance!  I ended up eating only the boring looking (albeit yummy) pastries  and I stuck to staring at and photographing the gorgeous ones.

Boring, Yummy Treats That I Ate

blog3blog1Exciting Treats I Didn’t Eat!

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Now be honest, could YOU bring yourself to EAT one of these fine, trophy looking treats or would you preserve them for viewing pleasure only?

 

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The Extinction of My Volunteer Elitism

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Orphanage in Honduras

I have a confession to make that I am not very proud of.

You see, there was a time when I believed that volunteering my time and services to others in need ONLY extended within the United States and even then, there were stipulations of WHO should receive my help.

In short, I was a ‘volunteer elitist.’

Several years ago, I held tight to a mentality of ‘them over there vs. them over here,’ which developed over the course of time, sparked by debates with others on various subjects. One hot topic I remember discussing amongst my peers was Americans adopting children from other countries when there were children here in the United States who needed a home, too. ‘You shouldn’t take from one child and give to the other’ was a common retort that kind of shut others up who believed it was absolutely okay for those who decide to adopt to do so in other countries. I must admit, noticing this comment receive nods and ‘umm hums’ from the majority caused me to dismiss how I truly felt and I ended up believing the ‘shut em up’ group had it all right and I had it all wrong. Nevertheless, my mind still pondered ‘umm, isn’t this decision that of the those who adopted and them only?’

Fast forward to a few years later.

I got older (inevitably) and started to TRUST my own beliefs, opinions and instincts. I realized and accepted that my total allegiance in assisting others is NOT solely within the confines of the U.S. If time, money and effort exist in my life, I can donate it to whoever is in need or want, no futile debates necessary, no explanations to anyone on my part. Who cares if I am separated from others via miles of oceans, seas, jungles, mountains when I can hop on/in trains, planes, boats and automobiles to arrive at my destination! Despite there being several layers of cultural, race, religious and language differences, it has never discouraged me from giving/receiving and vice versa.

Thankfully, this mentality guided me to volunteer at the Holy Cross Anglican School in San Pedro Belize and later at Sandy Bay Lighthouse ministries and Clinica Esperanza in Roatan, Honduras. I meet several AWESOME people during these times, ranging from children to adults. Now, whenever I plan a voyage, I make SURE my itinerary includes volunteer work before I enter into a country. I try my best to lend my skills, time, experience and generosity to others who share my same geographic location and to those who don’t.

A beautiful, meaningful song (circa 1985, not the recent auto tuned remake, but I digress :) ) comes to my mind when I think about the impact, small or great, we ALL have the ability to make GLOBALLY:


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I Skyped for the First Time…

and I liked it.
I liked it a lot.

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I bet you’re thinking, ‘Sista Voyage, you are so late!!!’ To which I would reply, ‘yes, yes I am, BUT it’s definitely better late than never.’ Plus, I have a great excuse as to why I am just now jumping on the Skype bandwagon despite me knowing about it 5 years ago. The great excuse is…

I really don’t like new avenues of communication and new inventions of electronics. I never owned a beeper and I didn’t own a cell phone until 2000 and that was given to me.  It was so bulky, strangers would laugh and look at me crazy. Of course, I returned the look favor :) . I just upgraded to a Windows Nokia phone, but if I could purchase a decent, super refurbished flip phone, I would go for it full speed. I am the one who has not been tempted to even purchase an IPAD, Nook, Kindle, etc. I mean, are laptops THAT outdated? Are books that much of an inconvenience? As a result, I carried this same resistant attitude to Skype 5 years ago. I believed that if I could speak with you via email, postal mail or the phone, this was sufficient enough; however, something remarkable happened on September 21, 2013 and it lasted over 2 hours.

I Skyped a loyal reader of my blog who resides in Tegucigalpa, Honduras…for free. I know she thought I was off my rocker, because when I connected and I could see her and she could see me, I celebrated by performing my ‘Super Duper Happy Dance’ at sporadic moments during the conversation. Oh and check this out- she was able to even send me an instant message WHILE we were talking. Can you say super surprised and excited? If you can, that was me on September 21, 2013, lol.

Skype is Alright with Sista Voyage :)

Do you Skype? If so, why? If not, why? Do you use other modes of communication locally or internationally?

To find out more about Skype, click here.


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