The Extinction of My Volunteer Elitism

sandybay
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.

skype

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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Why Did You Stay There? That Place Looked Expensive!

At The Phoenix Resort, Belize
At The Phoenix Resort, Belize

When people view my videos or pictures of my experiences overseas, a question I tend to answer a lot is why I chose to stay at a certain resort/hotel.  Right after I am asked this, the comment that typically follows is ‘that place looked expensive! I can’t afford that.’

Of course, expensive is relative as one person may believe $150.00 per night is a steal while another may view it as if their money’s being stolen. It all boils down to what are important preferences to you.

Sooo…Why Did I Stay There?

I visit www.tripadvisor.com to help me narrow my lodging options down based on user reviews, pictures, and videos.  I purposefully choose the top rated accommodations for my initial visits to a particular country and I try not to stay over a week. Once I become more acquainted with the area, I then scope out cheaper options for my future travels , making sure I don’t skimp on quality and safety. For example, for my first visit to Roatan, I stayed at a luxury resort called Barefoot Cay (read here). The next time I visited I opted for the cheaper accommodation of Roatan Backpacker’s Hostel (read here). By me preferring to travel alone, I believe this is a smart move on my part. On top of this, traveling’s a treat for me and where I choose to lie my head reflects this. After preparing for my voyage, flying hundreds of miles to my destination and braving customs (whew!) the last thing I need is the headache of canceling reservations on the spot and trying to figure out where else I could stay.

 Question: How do you choose your lodging options?

 

 

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What Do TripAdvisor, San Diego, Pizza and Sista Voyage have in Common?

wholepizza

Well, Trip Advisor crowned San Diego as the city with the best pizza and Sista Voyage got to taste a slice…or two… OKAY, half of a pie!

Before the best pizza poll was announced, I took a mini voyage to San Diego, California to spend time with a good friend and her wonderful family.  She knew that I loved pizza, so she suggested dining at an Italian restaurant called Filippi’s Pizza Grotto in an area called ‘Little Italy.’ Parking was a pain, but that was a welcomed sign that the food was good!

littleitaly

sista
Me, so happy for pizza!
My friend
My friend

The menu selection was certainly grand, but being that I am a sucker for all things bread, cheese, and marinara, we ordered a pizza with her half as pepperoni (underneath the cheese) and my half as veggie. I know that pizza is fattening, but I trick my mind into believing that the elimination of meat and the substitution of veggies makes it less likely to clog the heart. Yeah…my mind works in mysterious ways, lol.

pizzasliceMy friend had such self control. She stopped eating before feeling full. Me on the other hand, when it comes to pizza, my brain sends a message to my gut to expand about 5 more inches to accommodate the fatty goodness it’s about to receive.

greasymouth

Yum!
Yum!
Yummy!!!
Yummy!!!

Clears Throat…Now For the Cheesy Controversy:
I will admit the pizza in San Diego was good, but saying this city has the ‘number one pizza in AMERICA???’ Ummm, no. One reason why I can’t crown it king is because I haven’t tasted EVERY pizza in America, but from my past experiences with this ooey, chewy goodness, Chicago’s deep dish and New York’s thin and big slices are definitely neck to neck for first place! Sorry San Diego pizza…I still love ya, though! 😉

What do you all think? Did the pollsters get it right or wrong? What city do YOU think has the best pizza? *Keep it clean, ha ha!*

See if your city ranked for best pizza here

 

 

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So, How Did I Spend My 34th Birthday? (Plus Contest Winner Announcement!!!)

 

We Are Family!
We Are Family!

I went to Virginia and Washington to spend time with family and friends, as most of those who participated in my giveaway suggested. I was only there for a short time, but I definitely made the most of it!!!
The plan was hit up King’s Dominion Amusement Park during my visit, but the weather, TRAFFIC on I-95 North and South, my family’s work schedule and my friend’s sickness ruled in favor of ‘No.’ Nevertheless, I still had a blast because:

The flight attendant surprised me with my FAVORITE treat on my way there!!!
P1040116I met a new family member, Miss Shay!
P1040119I went to free, jazz event in Washington, D.C. (and you all know I LOVE jazz!!!)

P1040152P1040147
I saw an impressive building and I had to take pictures of it…with me in the pictures, of course :)
P1040136P1040139P1040142I wanted to visit the Washington Monument, but the walk was far and the air was HUMID! I decided this picture would suffice, lol.
P1040155

It was great seeing my family and friends again. I hope to make it sooner than later in the future. Plus, I am now considering a relocation to the North Virginia and Washington, D.C. area :)

NOW ONTO THE GOODY GOOD STUFF!
The winner of $50 E-Visa or Paypal Cash from the ‘Help Sista Decide’ contest is…

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks to all who participated. There will definitely be more giveaways here in the future!!!

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My Natural Hair Raised the Suspicions of a TSA Officer

hairsearched!

‘Now let me check the back of your hair,’ the TSA officer stated.

It took me totally off guard. I knew she was just doing her job, but I couldn’t help feel like ‘really?’ What in the world do you think I have hidden in my hair? Honestly, I didn’t feel like it was that necessary. I had already placed my hands behind my head as if the police force were requiring my arrest in what I call the ‘airport MRI’. Isn’t that sucker very detailed as is?

On top of that, the ‘hair search’ was HAIR-lariously short. Not saying I would’ve rather received a full follicle examination, but the fact that it was so short further proved that it was just silly and it wasn’t a threat. Then there’s the thought of where those gloves have been- ICK!

I wanted to see if others have been subjected to this ‘procedure’ so I typed in ‘tsa searching hair’ on the internet. The results proved I was not alone. I also noticed it’s mainly women who have natural, thick hair who receive the scrutiny.

I know there are several thousands of other passengers who fly that believe the mantra of ‘safety first’ while simultaneously have thoughts of ‘is THIS really necessary?’

I am going to write the TSA to ask them what type of hair alerts the officers to pull one to the side after already going through an extensive search.  Is it hair in a ponytail? In a high or low hair bun? Would they had been so suspicious if it were straightened? I will also provide them a detailed explanation of what happened that day. Once they reply, I will let you all know.

My bad for having thick, naturally wavy/ curly hair. Next time I am going to put a ton of hair oils, gels, and spritz in it when I fly again. This would make for a super fun search 😉

Question: Looking at the picture above of my hair, would you consider it a threat?

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My Doctor Said ‘Malaria.’

                                                      Source
Source

I can attest that being a pharmacist definitely has it perks and problems. One perk is the amount of knowledge I have when it comes to both prescription and nonprescription drugs. One MAJOR problem is I know TOO much to the point where I am a physician’s worst patient. While I’ll agree to testing and examinations recommended, I am not so willing to take pills. Imagine my resistance to my physician’s plea for me to not just consider, but to actually take ‘for real for real’ antimalarial pills for my 2 week stay in Honduras.

What are ‘for real for real’ antimalarial pills you ask? An example would be Doxycycline vs Malarone.  Doxycycline, an antibiotic, has several indications, ie, treating acne, skin infections, lyme disease in addition to preventing malaria. Malarone is used to treat AND prevent malaria, thus it’s a ‘for real for real’ antimalarial pill.

I’ve taken Doxycycline in the past for a previous trip to Honduras, but I was only there briefly. The instructions were for me to take it at least 2 days before arrival and continue for the next 28 days after departure, but like I said earlier, I don’t like taking pills. Right before I left the country, I stopped taking them. Plus the side effects, ie, sun burn, yeast infections, nausea/vomiting, etc were not what I wanted to deal with while away.

Staying for 2 weeks in a CDC-warned malaria area of Honduras was a bit more challenging, though. I had to look at the facts and totally ignore my feelings.

Fact one:   Mosquitoes love me.
Fact two:    I hate mosquitoes
Fact three: Mosquitoes love me despite my hate for them and this increased my chance of acquiring malaria.

Image courtesy of [SweetCrisis] http://www.freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy of [SweetCrisis] http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

I had a choice to make- prevent malaria or possibly contract malaria. Facing reality and reading about victims of this disease, I decided, albeit reluctantly, to wave the white flag to my physician and fill her prescription of (my choice) Malarone. I figured that the inconvenience of taking a tablet at the same time daily with possible minor side effects here and there was definitely worth not hearing my doctor say ‘you have malaria,’ which can be fatal.

Have you taken anti-malarials in the past? Why or why not?

Are you planning a trip out of the U.S.? Unsure if you will be entering a high risk malarial country? Need help deciding which prophylaxis would be appropriate for you? Check out the links below so that you and your health care provider can make an informed decision about your health and well-being concerning this matter.

http://www.cdc.gov/MALARIA/

http://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/advice/malaria.aspx



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Sometimes, HOSTEL-ity is Necessary

When you come back here, think about staying at my hostel,’ Mel, the owner of Roatan Backpackers stated to me in 2011.

Wait.
Maybe I heard wrong.
Just maybe she flipped the letters ‘s’ and ‘l’ around and meant to say hotels.  I mean, didn’t she know anything about ‘Hostel,’ the movie? Absolute travel terror. I knew more about that movie than the actual hostel option itself. Heck to be honest, I thought the term was only made up for that movie.

While I replied with a smile, nod, and the most fake ‘okay’ to her suggestion, my brain was like ‘no way, Mel-A.’

Me and I in 2011 at Barefoot Cay Resort
Me and I in 2011 at Barefoot Cay Resort

Fast forward to 2012. I decided it was time to begin my travel fund so that my future voyages would be paid for with cash and not credit. I saved up enough to purchase a round trip flight back to Roatan in 2013 for Semana Santa, with the remaining balance planned to be used for lodging, spending money and other extras. Gold star for me!!! Next step on the list was choosing where I would stay.

My fantasy was to go back at Barefoot Cay or another resort/hotel on that same level, but my remaining travel fund balance quickly brought me back to reality. I will be honest with you, Good People. I was SO tempted to slip into my old charging habits, but thankfully, I overcame it!!! I contacted Mel and booked the one-bedroom apartment of her hostel for one week for only $220 and I still had money left over in my travel fund! I even extended my stay and assisted her with running the hostel. This gave me business experience in a foreign country and definitely challenged my pequeño knowledge of Spanish.

IMG-20130729-00138
Bathroom in one bedroom apartment
IMG-20130729-00140
Sitting area next to kitchen
Kitchen in one-bedroom apartment
Kitchen in one-bedroom apartment

I really appreciated the feel and location of the hostel. It’s close to a main road where tons of buses and taxis drive, close to tourist attractions, the beach, and locally owned restaurants and bodegas. Because it’s in a residential area, it was easy to convince myself that I actually lived there, lol.

From interacting with good people from all walks and purposes of life:

Hostel guests
Hostel guests

Mel assisting me with volunteering as a pharmacist at Clinica Esperanza:

Nurse Carla, me and Miss Peggy of Clinica Esperanza
Nurse Carla, me and Miss Peggy of Clinica Esperanza

and enjoying a fun dinner night with Mel’s family other guests:
foodnight

Mel and I in 2013
Mel and I in 2013

staying at Roatan Backpacker’s definitely provided me with more of an authentic Roatan experience than a high end resort ever could.  Plus, the cost was super light on my pockets. I am glad I was hostel with my lodging approach. Traveling mission accomplished. 😉

 

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