Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Caribbean Cruise


Jack and I just returned from a 7 day cruise in the Caribbean.  (I earned two free tickets from doTerra, the company I've been working with for the last year and a half.)  It was dreamy!

My parents flew out from California, and took care of Leo while we were gone. We flew to Puerto Rico, where we spent a couple days before the cruise.  We stayed in a hotel right on the water in San Juan.  We laid in a hammock suspended between two palm trees, watched the waves splash on the rocks, and enjoyed the warm tropical breeze and clear blue water. It was lovely. We had to keep reminding ourselves that it was January. 

 

The weekend we were there was the Festival de St. Sebastian.  Half a million people descended on Old San Juan that weekend for parades, dancing, food, and lots of drinking.  The old narrow streets were packed, many of the main roads were blocked off, and police officers were on every corner. But we were able to see the old forts- San Cristobal and El Morro- even with all the traffic obstructions. 




We ate some delicious local dishes- Monfongo (Fried green plantains that are mashed, then shaped into a bowl and filled with chicken and garlic sauce), and Churassco (Marinated skirt steak) served with yummy rice and beans. We loved it.  We also sampled some food from street vendors- some meat on a stick with, tostones (plantain or breadfruit fritters), and a deep-fried corn meal batter with chunks of garlic and herbs.  It was all delicious.   It was interesting to learn about the roots of Puerto Rican food-- with its influences from Spain, Africa, Latin America, and the native Taíno Amerindians.

 

Day 1: We boarded the ship, Adventure of the Seas, on Sunday. There were about 350 other doTerra people on the cruise with us. It was fun getting to some of them, and meeting people from all over the country.  (Can you tell how massive this ship is?)


Day 2: The second day we arrived at St. Thomas, a US Virgin island. We did a scuba diving trip in the morning.  The first dive was on a corral reef, and the second one was a wreck dive.  After that we returned to the ship for lunch and a shower. We spent the afternoon walking around the tourist shops, looking for some gifts for Leo.  (It was hard to find something that didn't have rum in it)  We finally found a cool little pirate store, where we found a few things that Leo would love.


Day 3:We arrived at St. Kitts, one of the British islands. We did a zip-line tour excursion in the morning.  They drove us across the island, where we stopped at their office. They trained us how to use the gear, and then we all put on our harnesses and helmets. We climbed into a big vehicle, and they drove us up the mountain. It was fun driving through the rain forest, and we even saw a few monkeys. When we got to the top, they hooked us onto the cable, one by one, and we zipped our way down the mountain. We got to do 4 different lines.  It was amazing!  It felt like you were flying-- over the rain forest, with the sparkling blue sea in the distance.  What a thrilling experience. We loved it! 


video


We returned to the ship, had some lunch, then took a cab to a beach (Friar's Bay) on the other side of the island. We rented some equipment and snorkeled in the crystal clear water.  There was a small corral reef that ran parallel to the shore, in about 6 feet of water. We saw tons of colorful fish, a sea turtle, and a baby octopus. It was so fun!  (We actually saw a lot more fish snorkeling than we had diving the day before.)


Day 4: Day at sea.  We napped and relaxed by the pool.  DoTerra threw us a party, and we also had a short training meeting.

Day 5: We arrived at Aruba, a Dutch island. DoTerra had set up a volunteer day for us. They split us into groups, and we went to some of the poorer schools on the island, where we did some service. Our school was led by this wonderful woman who had become the principal there a year earlier. She told us how the school was so run down when she arrived, and how she has slowly been able to fix things up, and get assistance from the government to help pay for it. This week she was getting a new roof, so we packed up everything in boxes, and moved out all the furniture. We painted bookshelves, and and played with the kids. DoTerra also donated a ton of toys, and some money for a new computer. 
 
The principal was so grateful for our help, and we were so happy to be there!
She told us: "They say we are the poorest school in Aruba, but I think we are the richest! Look at these children-- they are precious diamonds!"
 

I was amazed at how well the kids spoke English. Their native language is Papiamento (A creole language with roots from Portuguese, Dutch and English. It originated as a means of communication among slaves and slave drivers) In Aruba (and the other Dutch islands), as soon as they start school they start learning Dutch, English, Spanish. They are fluent in all 4 languages by the time they are 12-- they can read, write and speak them all perfectly. Wow.
 


After that we hopped on a bus and they took us all to a resort, where we had a huge lunch, and a fun afternoon at the beach. There was beach volleyball, snorkeling, some waterslides, and lounge chairs under cabanas. It was so fun! We snorkeled, and saw even more vibrant fish than we had before. There were these HUGE blue fish with big mouths- it looked like they were wearing big white dentures! We snorkeled for a while, and then played on the waterslides. We felt like a couple of kids! We were sure missing Leo, and wishing he was there to play with us. 

 
We spent the rest of the evening lounging on some chairs, reading, napping, and meeting some new friends. We watched the sun set over the ocean, and then headed back to the ship. What a fun, relaxing day. *sigh*


Day 6:  We arrived at Curaçao.  We were booked on a catamaran trip with snorkeling that day, but when we woke up that morning, we were beat.  After 3 full days in the sun, we wanted to do something more low-key.  We switched to a tour of the island.  Our van driver/tour guide was funny and informative. It was a great way to see the island, and learn more about its history and culture. 

He taught us about the historic buildings in the bright, cheerful colors that Curaçao is known for. They were built from limestone, covered with plaster, and painted in bright colors. (allegedly because the original mayor got migraines from bright white buildings-- so he mandated that colored paint be used instead)  The problem is that every time it rains the limestone absorbs a lot of water. When it stops raining the limestone dries quickly in the hot sun, causing the plaster to blister and crack.  They call it "Wall Cancer".  These historic buildings, by law, cannot be altered.  They must also be maintained to look their best-- this requires a complete replacement of the plaster 3 or 4 times a year!  And painted even more often than that!  Because of the expense, only lawyers and tax offices can afford the upkeep. And if they don't, the government takes the building back.  Pretty interesting, isn't it? 



This is the pedestrian bridge that floats on pontoons. It opens up throughout the day to allow ships into the harbor. An orange flag means it will be open for 15 minutes. A blue flag means it will be open for an hour and a half... so if you see the locals running, you better run too!

 

Day 7:  A day at sea, on our way back to Puerto Rico. It was good to have another relaxing day on the ship. We saw an ice show (yes, they have an ice rink),  sat by the pool, and took a long nap.  We felt the ship rocking and rolling a lot more this day-- they tell us its because of the currents that come together there, where the Atlantic and Caribbean meet.

We ate breakfast in the dining room for the first time. (usually we were headed out on an excursion, so we had to eat at the buffet)  It was nice to have a more leisurely breakfast that day.  Speaking of the dining room... our nightly dinners there were pretty spectacular.  We made some great friends- Lisa and Lacey, Janet and Chad, Jeff and Trish.  We ate together almost every night, and had a great time!  Jeff would always order 3 or 4 appetizers, and a couple of desserts... so we all started doing that. It was fun to try so many different things.  (and for free!)  We were in the "late" dinner seating, which meant dinner started at 8:30, so we didn't finish until 10:30.  For a couple of early birds like us, that was tough. We had to take naps in the afternoon, and have a snack about 4:30, so we could hold out until then.

Day 8: We arrive in Puerto Rico. Our flight isn't until later that day, so we took a tour of Puerto Rico. We were the only ones in the group, so we had a private tour.  Our guide was great. He took us around Old San Juan, which seemed totally different to us without all the Festival crowds.  He also took us out of San Juan, and we saw some of the beautiful beaches, and areas that we hadn't seen before. It gave us a totally new perspective of Puerto Rico.  We had an amazing lunch at a restaurant he recommended, and then he dropped us off at the airport.  We flew home, and my mom picked us up at the airport. It was pretty late, so Leo was already in bed- but I was sorely tempted to wake him up!  We missed him so much.  We couldn't wait to hug and kiss that cute little face!


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"It's a FIRE STATION!"


For Leo's birthday we decided to build him a fire station.  For the last two weeks Jack and I would sneak into the basement after putting Leo to bed, and work tirelessly on our creation. First Jack built the box, then we added trim and doors and a shiny silver pole.  I kind of got obsessed with finding miniature accessories online.

Finally, his birthday arrived, and it was ready.  When Jack got home from work we were going to wrap it in a large box, and let Leo tear it open!  We couldn't wait to see the look on his face when he saw it!

About an hour before Jack got home, Leo was downstairs in the basement playing. Apparently he snuck his way into the storage room, because all of a sudden I head a sweet little voice say:   "It's a FIRE STATION!"  

I ran down the stairs and found him there, with his eyes wide, carefully examining the fire station.
I called Jack and said "I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that Leo found his fire station. The good news is that he loves it." 

So I carried it upstairs, and Leo has loved playing with it.  Our cute little fireman!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Fireman birthday

For Leo's third birthday he wanted to be a fireman.  We bought fireman hats and moustaches for all the guests.  Nothing says "PARTY" like a fuzzy black moustache.

 Leo enjoyed having some friends over, and new presents of course, but the cupcakes were the highlight for him. 

Actually, it was the frosting on the cupcakes that he really liked. He ate the top layer off one cupcake, and then helped himself to another, and another...  leaving a trail of cupcake stumps behind him.