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