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)

My Jamaica

In my youth, I would often visit Jamaica and even lived there for a few years.
 Many of the sights there were taken for granted,
but now that I am older, I can appreciate everything much more.
Before I arrived here, I thought that
I'd be writing tourism board-approved "Come to the beautiful island!" sort of posts,
but once here, I realized that would not suffice.
I'm down in Kingston right now, Jamaica's capitol. 
So much is going on all the time. It's beyond exciting to be here.
This vibrant place deserves more than superficial notes about beaches.
I feel that Jamaica is stereotyped too often as
somewhere where everyone looks like Bob Marley
and everyone runs track.
But the island has depth and I want to try to show that.
This summer I want to write something compelling.
I have a multitude of things to say about this country,
so this is just an introductory post.
I hope that through all my posts, I can show you my Jamaica:
a place full of character and heart,
somewhere that's not just about the beach.

Hawai'i, the local way

Each day of my stay in Hawai’i, I found myself saying, “what more do I need from life than this?” With every new day, I did things I had never done before, and witnessed unparalleled beauty.

I experienced the Big Island with two amazing friends I met on a youth trip in Ireland last summer. Because my friend has lived in Kona for as long as she can remember, we took trips, “missions,” to beaches, valleys, and sushi restaurants locals love, steering clear of tourist spots. Blasting “The Green” and B.o.B in the truck, we adjusted to the laid-back lifestyle, in our bikinis virtually 24-7.

Although Florida has a reputation for its beaches and natural sights, the clear water and vibrant reefs we enjoyed far surpassed the likes of Beach Place. Unlike many coastal destinations on “the mainland,” as Hawaiians call the continental US, the beaches of Hawai’i often require a long walk across lava fields or the strength of a 4-wheel-drive to reach. We were rewarded, however, with black sand, unbelievable green valleys and a plethora of fish.

Our friend took us to work once on her kayak tour, where we snorkeled and even jumped off a cliff! I was “stoked.”

As we drove around the island, we made the rugged hike through Waipio Valley to the foot of a thundering waterfall, climbing over mossy rocks, navigating through bamboo forests and wading through rocky rivers on the way, visited Volcano Village, went tubing from a jet ski, and so many more adventures.

Equal to my appreciation of the natural world was my happiness from living with such close friends, always having a blast even just driving in the car, or hanging out at home. Visiting friends, especially such an adventurous guide, made my vacation unlike any other.

Back home, I plan on discovering the best our state has to offer, and hopefully showing my friends the Everglades, South Beach, Key West, and our local spots soon. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012


This month I am staying in Marsh Harbour, Abaco in the Bahamas. This place is too beautiful to put into words, so I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.
The view from our front deck.
Waiting for the sunset I spotted a sailboat
My brother and I playing frisbee on the beach
The view from the back of the house
The only thing better than waking up to the smell of bacon: This view! :-)