Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Still Kickin' it in Kingston

Took an interesting, informative tour of Devon House today.
It's quite an historical site. "This chandelier is over 160 years old" "That clock doesn't work anymore but it's over 100 years old" "This sofa is over 100 years old" etc, etc.

I enjoyed learning about life in centuries gone by; 
it was amusing to hear about what upper-class people did in those days. 
For example, the orange sofabed in the photo above is actually a fainting chair! 
There was need for a fainting chair because ladies wore constricting corsets.
More photos below.

piano in the ballroom

very old chandelier on the ballroom ceiling

an actual corner chair, see how it is shaped for the corner

cool checkerboard floor

The lawns are spacious and a nice place to hang out
Jamaica 50 decorations still up in the courtyard
It's a huge house with much more than I photographed (and the grounds on the property are free to explore). Certainly a beautiful place that I needed to check off of my to-do-in-jamaica list.

Washington DC

You think of DC and you think of the "Washington" referred to on the news - negotiations in Washington, hearings in Washington, decisions in Washington. That's true. It's quite an influential district.

However, visiting DC as a tourist with my family last week showed me DC has a lot more to offer as our capital. In this tiny district all linked by the metro, an unbelievable amount of our history, culture, art and national narratives are displayed and celebrated. 

In large part due to the Smithsonian museum system, the public can access this interactive learning experience - free of charge. As I walked slowly through an exhibit on late 19th century America, I was excited to review all I had learned in American history, but I was more excited to see young children walking with their parents who explained things in simple terms, to see college students, maybe on a date, discussing historical events, and to see a single adult walking by themselves, stopping to read, to learn. 

I often become disappointed by what is often reported as our nation's lack of knowledge of our history, political system and international issues. But as I walked around DC, I was inspired by this city of education, and the transfer of education into domestic and international policy. The National Mall is such a fantastic concept. You can walk from the National Gallery of Art and see the only DaVinci in the country, admire fossils, and walk across the street to read the charters of freedom, or to Capitol Hill. It's a representation of the America we like to think of - full of opportunity. 

My First Cruise

This summer, I went on my first cruise with my family of eight. My parents had been on a cruise before, but my siblings and I had never been. The cruise destinations were Jamaica, Key West, and Grand Cayman. Many of my friends had told me about their fun cruise experiences, and I was so psyched to go on one (plus, it was my first time traveling outside the U.S.)!

The ship was both terrifyingly and marvelously huge; I finally figured out how to get everywhere I wanted to go on the last day of the cruise. There was so much to do - sports, shopping, spa treatments, exercising at the gym, relaxing and tanning, swimming in the pools and jacuzzis, going to deck parties and clubs, dancing, and among much else, eating! There were so many different kinds of food that was constantly available - there was even a food station that offered midnight snacks. Not all of the food was good, but it was fun to try new things: I ate escargot, shark, alligator, and frog legs!

I didn't get off of the boat when it reached Key West; our second stop was Grand Cayman, one of several beautiful islands. My parents had told us about the beautiful beach, but their descriptions didn't do justice to the white sand stretching for miles and the crystal clear blue-green waters that were perfect for snorkeling. I saw beautiful, colorful fish, reminiscent of Finding Nemo, and I could've spent weeks swimming and snorkeling in, as well as tanning at, the beach. Sadly, we only had about six hours to spend at each destination, which was one of the only things I disliked about the cruise: the time constraints.

Jamaica, our third stop, was mesmerizing. The mountains were covered with greenery, and the water surrounding the coast was sparkling blue. My sister, one of my brothers and I climbed the Dunn's River Falls, which were beautiful - and cold! Climbing the waterfall was an awesome experience, and I loved listening to people's Jamaican accents while we were there.

I was sad when we returned to Miami, although I had missed my friends and relatives. I hope to go on another cruise (hopefully more than one!) sometime in the future.

Have you ever been on a cruise? Where have you gone on a cruise? What locations, destinations, or attractions would you recommend?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Road Trip Memories

I'm not usually the type of person who loves long road trips, but spending ten days on a bus with my closest friends traveling the East Coast is an exception.
This summer was my last year as a camper at the sleep-away camp I've gone to for the past seven summers. Part of the culminating eight-week experience is a ten-day bus trip with everyone in our age group. We went everywhere  from D.C. to the Philadelphia Rock Gym to Virginia Beach, making countless stops to sightsee, visit museums, shop, and have a great time with each other.
I'd been to a few of the places before with other groups, but this trip was completely different. I noticed it most at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., which I visited in seventh grade during a trip to D.C. with my school. This time, I was there with a group of 61 other Jewish teens who I've grown up with at a Jewish sleep-away camp. It really was a moving experience, especially because, after all, we are exactly what the Nazis had tried to wipe off the face of the planet.
While in D.C., we also had the rare opportunity to go onto the House floor, into the very room where the President gives the State of the Union address. (Side note: it looks bigger on TV) Two of the girls in my age group are the twin daughters of a Congressman, who made special arrangements to get us onto the House floor. It was really exciting to be in a room where so many major decisions are made!
On another day, we went to see the Liberty Bell and ended up starting an unintentional flash-mob. A few of us started dancing to music playing from a presentation that was setting up outside, and by the time we left, nearly everyone in our age group was up and dancing, as well as some passers-by who joined in! Who would have thought we would end up dancing on the grass in front of the Liberty Bell as onlookers snapped pictures of us?
The whole trip was amazing, and all the memories I made with my camp friends will last me a lifetime. Being with my friends in camp is one thing, but having the chance to be out in the "real world" with them made our friendships so much stronger. Camp is a very secluded environment with no cell phones, no computers, and no TV, and even though great relationships form there, it takes some time spent outside camp to really solidify those bonds.
Even with all the places we went and museums we visited, the most important thing I learned was not in any exhibit. I learned that the best memories often come from the littler things, and  how much fun true friendship is. I hope I stay friends with these people for a long time to come, and to make many more memories with them over the years.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Land of Wood and Water

The parish of  Portland is on the North Coast of Jamaica

Last week we took an awesome trip to Portland.

We stayed at an alternative resort called Great Huts. The property is full of trees and all sorts of wild plants. All of the rooms are interesting houses made of stone or bamboo. It's right off the beach so the salty air and sweeping views are not far behind.

Rock pools at Great Huts

View from a room at Great Huts
Steps leading up to cliff dive at Great Huts

Great Huts has a magical feeling because the design of the whole place is like a jungle and it shows you a radical way of living. Most rooms only had curtains for doors, even the bathrooms are outfitted with bamboo. There are tropical birds and fish and it's a really cool experience to be there. One of the best things about it is that they support local artists so the resort is full of real Jamaican art.
On our trip,
We became waterlogged from all of the beach, pool, and river experiences. We went swimming every day for several days. Pictures below.

Vines over Somerset Falls

Blue waters of Somerset Falls

You can get a boat ride at Somerset Falls or jump into the icy river water if you dare 

Blue Lagoon

By far the coolest body of water in Jamaica, Blue Lagoon is fed by a river and the sea.
It's cold on the surface but just below is warm salt water. The calm waters are relaxing. We swam across it several times; there's a spit of sand on the far side of it and a tree which you can climb and jump off of. Blue Lagoon is a unique, beautiful site.

You can get a boat ride at Blue Lagoon, too.

Long Bay Beach, this photo credit to Nakazzi
Long Bay Beach had perfect waves for surfing and fine white sand. 
"Come to the beautiful island" The water's fine!

Jamaica 50!

             All year long and especially all summer, there has been great excitement about Jamaica's 50th year of independence. Out here, Independence Day is bigger than Christmas and this week the whole island was decked out in black, green and gold. It was incredible to see people painting up the shops and draping the streets with our colours just days before the big celebration.
             Last night, the storm hit and Kingston was gone. My friend had asked me if it was gonna ruin all the festivities and I replied "Independence is onnn". Tonight, the celebration goes on in true Jamaican style. At the national stadium the fireworks went off and the music, still blaring, can be heard for miles around. Jamaica still has a lot of work ahead and much to learn but after all these years, we do know how to party!
Fireworks view from Jack's Hill

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Hanging Out in Kingston

It's becoming increasingly difficult to faithfully update this blog because I'm having more fun than I can keep track of here!
I'll try to break it down.

Last weekend

boulder near Hope River
 On Saturday, we swam in Hope River and Mammy River.
It was awesome to jump from rocks into ice cold water and take in the sights of waterfalls and boulders.
Both rivers were beautiful but I was saddened to see how pollution had devastated the areas. 
Loads of cans, bottles, boxes and even random pieces of scrap metal disturbed the flow of these great waters (downstream).
The river is a valuable natural resource that we should not take for granted.

Environmental awareness aside, on Saturday evening, I went to dinner with friends at a "Mexican" place called Chilitos. The vibe could be compared to Florida's Tijuana Flats in that there was funky art there and the atmosphere was relaxed; it was cool. The food was excellent, too.

This week
 I spent a lot of time up in Jack's Hill.
I enjoyed more sweeping views and goat crossings than last week.
It's much cooler up there and my hosts were reluctant to return to level ground.
We did venture back into the city to purchase a quart of ice cream from Devon House (which I also went to last Friday and will probably go again next week) because that ice cream is the best in the world (yes, I said it) so it was worth the trip.
view from friend's home in Jack's Hill

Yesterday I went to Sovereign Centre, the fantastic three-story mall which has a movie theatre in it.
I had gone there with friends to see the latest Batman movie (it was great, by the way) but we probably should have gone to an earlier showing.
At midnight, sitting in the parking lot staring at the moon as all of the lights turn off is more frightening than poetic. I advise you to go home before 10 o'clock, maybe even before eight since many stores were closed at that time.
Anyway, the theatre in the mall (or "shopping centre") is neat. It's small, there are only two viewing rooms, but it's a fun experience to go to the movies and the mall simultaneously.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sojourn in Sopot

During my five-day stay in Sopot, the weather violently ricocheted between dappled sunshine and bellowing, sea-churning tempests. Though the wavering weather (literally) dampened any plans I had to aqcuire a tan in the Baltic beach town, I still managed to have a rollicking good time.

A hefty boat, its prow poised to enter the waters.
The entire city exudes a nautical air, although I doubt it was ravaged by the swash-buckling, sea-faring pirates that now offer rides to tourists. Still, restaurants peddle delicate halibut and pungent cods; the walls are festooned with chipped seashells, and fishing nest dangle from the rafters; streetside vendors squall for attention to jewelry strung from amber, which is strewn across the beaches.

Also strewn on the beach? Green glass shards, cigarette cinders, discarded plastic bags. It's a far cry from Miami's own porcelain beaches, lapped up by the foamy white lace of turquoise waters. Despite being roughly the size of New Mexico, Poland encompasses within its borders nearly all appeasing landscapes - beaches to the north, purpled mountains to the south, and a vast patchwork of plains in the middle. But if such flippant disregard for the Polish ecology continues, it might be drained of its beautiful views. Though, admittedly, environmental destruction is a malady rampant everywhere, not just Sopot.
An impressive boat display in Gdynia, Sopot's next-door-neighbor.
Sopot is snugly nestled between two other cities teeming with culture and curios. In Gdynia, a ravishing boat display gave me ample opportunity to take a few snapshots (above). The other city, Gdansk, was a garden of sights and sounds and smells that was mine for the reaping - I traipsed from bookstore to bookstore, cafe to cafe, enlivened by the surging spirit of the city.                                                                    
Gdansk - a kaleidoscope of colors.
At the heart of the city, Poseidon is on a constant vigil.
I was completely enraptured with the Gdansk, especially with the stary miasto, or old town, which predates the one in my current lodging, Warsaw. Next year I want to dedicate more time to exploring its winding streets, chock full of vendors' stalls and cozy corners. But, unfortunately, my stay was cut short by the looming promise of a new adventure.
Sweeping views of Gdansk - somewhere, beyond the Baltic sea.

Next stop: Vienna, Austria. The habitual residence of constellations of musical, literary, and philosophical stars - and my Aunt Apa and Uncle Tadek. Apparently, in the coming days, I have an itinerary filled to the brim with excursions to palaces, galleries, and museums. Until then - adventure beckons!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Breakfast in Jamaica

This morning I made Johnnycakes with my grandfather.
The recipe is simply:
baking powder
But to get the specific quantities is a bit of a guessing game, aha.
After rolling the dough,
fry the cakes in a shallow pan of vegetable oil.
 Like you do with pancakes, you have to learn to cook this through experience and gauge the time to turn them over.
Golden brown! Ready to eat!
Sorry my recipe wasn't too complete but I hope you liked the pictures. has a good recipe which includes butter.

We also had ackee and saltfish for breakfast.
Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica.
And Ackee and Saltfish is the national dish.
This fruit has a strange texture that could be compared to scrambled eggs.
Grandma has an ackee tree in her backyard

Ackee turn red when they are ripe
Have a great day, eat well!

Nice North Coast

Jamaica is the third largest island in the Caribbean.
Yet, it's small enough that you could drive around the whole island in a day.

The More You Know~

Monday, July 16, 2012

I understand that the travel blog may be expected 
to be all about beautiful destinations and sight-seeing 
but I feel that it should also include insights from experiencing new cultures 
and gaining deeper appreciation for the world.

This island culture is different from the consumer culture of the States. 
People don't throw things away here and scramble to buy new things.
They do with what they have.
It is a way of thinking that I wish more Americans would adopt.

I know poverty is a huge issue that I cannot even begin to write about but 
I thought I would mention it in that previous post because it needs mentioning.

I feel that we, as young people, 
need to be reminded that there are bigger issues (health, education, housing) 
than missing our favorite television shows or not owning the latest smartphone.
And these are issues that we can take on.
My friend was telling me about how she had been volunteering all summer 
and I felt ashamed that I had not been doing the same because
it's so easy to get up and help people.

While I want to give you the travel magazine "come to Jamaica!" message in my posts, I also want to reach out to you and encourage you to get up and help people this summer.


Two weeks ago, (still in Kingston) I went to a children's home with my grandmother and her charity group to throw a party for the children born in June. I was sad to see how the children there were so starved for attention and stimulation. It made me reflect on the way I thought of my mother's overprotective tendencies, so I decided to change my perspective on that. The next time that I think "Oh, she's so annoying" I'll have to remember "Well, she cares about me so much."

I also noticed that many of the children didn't have any shoes or clothes that fit them well. Looking at my life in America, I see that I am living in excess. I have loads of clothes and shoes which most young people like me take for granted.

Barefoot man struggling to walk the scorching sidewalk
Living in the suburbs of south Florida, I find my life to be very sheltered. Most of my friends live in gated communities and we don't have much to complain about. The thought of not having any shoes: horrifying. Comforted by the whirring sounds of our laptops and air-conditioned rooms, it becomes easy to forget the issues many other people have to face every day. I almost forgot, while writing this, that the same misfortune I was going to talk about in Jamaica is also in America. 
I suppose, I can do a better job of ignoring it in America but when I'm in Jamaica it's nearly impossible to push the poverty out of my mind when it's staring me right in the face begging for change.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

When in Warsaw

With the half-point dawning on my summer, I've swapped breezy palms for cobbled streets, curling spires, and sprawling castle turrets. Florida's oppressive heat, however, has proven to be unshakeable, as even now, thousands of miles away, I'm wallowing in rare ninety-degree weather. And thus I inaugurate my five-week exile at my grandparents' in Warsaw, Poland, with upcoming pitstops in Sopot, Vienna, and Paris. 
Warsaw's mottled buildings are strung like pearls on a necklace.
I know Warsaw doesn't sound like the most auspicious vacation destination, what with its complete demolition in World War II and decline into Socialism during the latter part of the twentieth century. But I've embarked on month-long stays every summer with my Babunia and Dziadek, and now I can pinpoint all of the city's hidden gems: ravishing landscapes, bohemian enclaves, and historic monoliths depicting the Polish human condition.
Remanants of a castle in Stary Miasto, or Old Town.

Ornate molds atop a building.

Churches and cathedrals are sprinkled throughout Poland, a predominantly Catholic country.

Since my arrival two days ago, I have immediately sprung into action, noshing at all Polish cuisine in sight. The streets are seeded with cafes, serving traditional Polish fare like  pierogi -kneaded, stuffed dumplings- and placuszki - potato pancakes swathed in cream. I should start restraining myself, lest I pack on the pounds before I can splurge in Paris.
My lastest haunt - cafes serving Polish specialties.
A platter of pierogi garnished with bacon at Babcia's Restaurant.

Typically, I recoil from air travel and approach adventure timidly. Yet Warsaw has animated my traveler's verve, and has me scrounging at the city's every nook and cranny in hot pursuit of new experiences. Tomorrow I find myself on the road again, this time to northern Poland waterfront, Sopot. If it even halfway rivals Warsaw, I'll consider it a worthwhile visit.
Me, out on the city. Photo cred: Monika Rowinska

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Blue Horizon

When I think about Jamaica,
the most memorable thing is the mountain range.
From anywhere on the island,
the magnificent mountains come out to greet me.
There are so many trees here!
It's so green and awesome wherever we go;
a far cry from the dry, flat land of Florida.

The mountain range that runs through Kingston (pictured above)
is called the Blue Mountain Range.
Blue Mountain Peak is the highest point on the island.
I didn't go up there this time around but it's cool (jacket recommended!)
and a lovely place to hike. Up in those mountains
is where they grow some of the best coffee in the world. 
(Jamaican people can never have enough coffee lol)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Big City, Small Island

The city of Kingston is one of the most densely populated areas of Jamaica.
If you thought south Florida driving was insane,
a few minutes in Kingston should give some perspective.
Regardless of how the traffic is, people drive at unreasonable speeds.
(Not pictured but certainly experienced with much fear)
And many citizens brave the streets in attempt to make a living.
One of the hundreds of salesmen around town
-traffic mode: lunchtime rush hour-
There are also hundreds of pedestrians,
all of which believe they own the road
and will cross anywhere and at any time that it suits them.
Dealing with the users of the road is one thing
but dealing with the limestone roads is another challenge.
Potholes in Jamaica bare few comparisons elsewhere.
If there were levels beyond "extremely difficult"
in driving games, those levels would be called "Jamaican countryside"
bonus level: dodge the animals (not pictured: goats)