Monday, 30 January 2012

Sunday

What a day, one where I had an interesting Caymanian cultural experience. Not one I would want again, funerals are not something I attend lightly. Carol's brother had passed away, a sudden death of a relatively young man and a big shock to his family. It was interesting talking with my friends here about how we deal with death and funerals in our different cultures.

In New Zealand families can have their loved ones at home or at a funeral home. In Maori culture, the deceased are often laid in the wharenui (meeting house) for a three day tangihanga. Everyone comes to pay their respects, the body is not left alone. Everyone plays a part from sitting alongside the family to feeding the masses that arrive. It's also a cultural experience and one that my friends were surprised about.

Today there was the sharing of life's stories, tributes, prayers and singing in a lovely, small white church on the sea shore. The singing was amazing, a choir singing praises and gospel songs then at the end a gentleman sang one of his own songs about going home. The poem, The Touch of the Masters Hand requires more reflection. I was going to copy it here but the website shows it so much better. It was a sad day for Carol and her family with their community gathering for support and a celebration of her brother's life. Funerals provide that final goodbye, only time can help with the healing.

Taste Cayman

Taste Cayman was an experience. I couldn't imagine where so many people had come from, the venue was packed. I also couldn't believe how many people I knew or recognised as we wandered around. I'd been out sailing for most of the day, a training sail where I learnt more about mainsail trimming. Very helpful having more experience to hang the learning on. It was exhausting and I shut my eyes for a moment when I got home. An hour later Jane was there to pick me up, I wasn't quite awake.

There was a queue to get in and most were not too patient with this, funny really hearing the comments. We were a little more philosophical, I enjoyed the people watching. The stalls had people lined up too, so many people. The space was smallish so that probably contributed. The food was yummy, conch fritters with plantain baskets of spicy shrimp; pumpkin and ricotta tortellini with semi dried baby tomatoes served with fresh orange juice and ginger; tuna tartar and lemon meringue pies, small tart lemon treats that left me wanting more. There were lots of more meaty treats as well and the Mohitos were excellent.

I suspect I may have to try out the restaurant with the pasta, it was divine. There were fireworks, Cayman does fire works well and this was no exception. It was nice to go out and wander at Caymana Bay. The concept is fantastic and there's plenty of places to eat where you can relax and watch the world go by. The plan is to do that more often. For now there's plenty of other things that require my attention. Work is all consuming, in a good way because we are making such progress. The next trip is coming up soon, very exciting. I'm so excited that I'm getting to see everyone, not so excited about the journey. The trip is a long one going from Cayman to Miami to LA to Brisbane to Christchurch to Melbourne to LA to Miami to Cayman. I know it will be worth it and I'm counting the days.
A sleepy Cuban lion 

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Cuban folks

The nut seller hamming it up for the camera, she had the most amazing voice!

Turning 15 is a big event for the girls, they dress up and celebrate

The sights you see out wandering

Long weekend

It's the end of a long weekend. I'd like to have one of these every week, time to read and relax, time to get caught up on the bits and pieces I don't get time for. Take cooking, I don't tend to cook too much during the week. I don't even do groceries that often, eating out is cheap enough and there's no waste. I often work late, going out for dinner works for those of us who also do. Tonight I've excelled myself. Baked salmon filet with spicy chipotle coating on a rice with stir fried ginger and chili vege. Yum. I'm full right now and the best thing, tomorrows dinner is in the fridge. The start of healthy eating me thinks.

And the exercise, well not too much today just a little living room yoga and a small wander. Tomorrow morning there will be a 5k walk, hopefully with Jo because it goes faster when you're yaking and we keep each other honest with the pace. Yesterday there was a 5k walk plus an hour or so in the water snorkeling. I'm a little pink on my back, another tan line. So I'm sitting here feeling a little virtuous.

I got to talk to Sasi and Eve this evening too, a huge bonus. Eve is such a digital native, she knows just how to talk to the grands on Skype. She stands up at the couch and coos and giggles when I talk to her, there'll be trouble when she begins to speak in earnest. I suspect that she will be a very good communicator, she seems to know what that's all about now. I can't wait to see her in person, it's only a few weeks before I fly in that direction.

What I lived on in Cuba, yes that whole lobster tail is all for me,
and there was steamed vege, rice and all the trimmings
I got some work done today as well, just a few hours to make the week easier. So, it's almost 8pm and I'm thinking of heading up to my book and an early night. I'm so boring. I love it, this quiet time to myself. My weeks are hectic so I'll just go and enjoy. Hopefully I'll have time for more posts next weekend, I'm not sure yet what's on the agenda.


Monday, 23 January 2012

Iron Lady

Margaret Thatcher was an amazing woman. I've just been to see the movie of her life. I couldn't believe the times she lived through, the history that was made on her patch. She was certainly formidable. Meryl Streep is a fantastic actress, such a hard role done so very well. Here's a taste.

Habana waterfront




Here's a selection of photos I took people watching from the sea wall. The water was an amazing blue, a deep colour that contrasted with the sky.

Sunday musings

A quiet weekend was called for, the last few have been far from quiet. The weeks have been hectic as well, long hours at work ticking off the to do list. The problem is that many things get added to this so it's three steps forward and two steps back along with that one that goes sideways. Times of change are exciting times although exciting can be totally flying by the seat of your pants, as the expression goes.

This from my horoscope for tomorrow:

"You'll take on projects that you have no idea how you're going to complete. But the first step is just to move. Don't worry about the end game right now. Just get in motion"

That sums it up really well, I'm in motion and have several other project to get moving while working on the current ones. Contrary to belief, not being able to multitask is not just the domain of men. I struggle in seeing so many things on the list, at least there are some major ticks now and some of  these can be seen here, another tick in the box. There's more to be done, added and edited but at least we're live now. And the huge bonus, I have a fantastic team so the multitasking load is shared.

Tomorrow is a holiday here, Hero's Day. A genuine celebration of local heros that people have worked really hard to organise. I may not attend the celebrations, the thought of an uninterrupted office day is more than tempting. If I can just get a few tasks completed, a few more begun my week may work. We begin another round of training evenings on Wednesday, three months of intensive work as we implement the new curriculum. It's not quite written yet, a job for tomorrow. So, writing is what I do all day every day at the moment. It will settle, I'm sure.

Now my down time is usually not spent writing. It's spent sailing, snorkeling and reading, not having to use my brain, books. Oh and dining with the odd drink. Today Jane and I took advantage of the lovely weather and went for a snorkel around Smiths Cove. There were plenty of fish there today, really big ones and schools of colourful fish darting in and out of the coral. Very beautiful. I was inspired to get the dive course done. This evening I'm off to the movies to see Iron Lady. A nice way to spend the evening. 

Monday, 16 January 2012

Racing!

What a great weekend out sailing! The wind was on the edge of safe, the sailing was close and dramatic at times and there were nine 22's out. Amanda was back so no foredeck for me thankfully. We managed the whole range on Saturday, first to last, with a forth overall. Today was not so good, the spinnaker tore to shreds in the high winds and we had a hasty take down. Very lucky it wasn't worse, others broached, lost crew and had theirs blow out. We had to be content surfing our way to a sixth on a jib rigged for maximum speed. Fun, frustrating until we saw others go too. 

The stories at the end were worth telling over a beer, for now Yahoo needs some sponsorship. The spinnaker is shredded, the skipper lost his watch, the boom decided to wait until we were docked to fall off. Interesting! All's well that ends well, it was wet, wild and windy and lots of fun. There are three of us kiwis sailing plus family, nice to understand the accent and be fully understood. I did learn tonight that one of my fellow countryman is half Australian and the other has Aussie ancestry, hard to find the perfect kiwi. I joined the club today and hope to enroll in a learn to sail course soon, that might help. For now, it's a hot shower and bed, I'm shattered! 

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Cuba

The flags, now they do have a story worth telling

Mohitos at Hemmingway's favourite bar

It's that car again, a bit like the X-Files

We rode this lift, just because we could and it was cool

Stories will follow, promise. My new years resolution, the exercise one, is making me sleep well. All that early morning walking, so not a morning person. The other one is best not spoken about ten days in. Maybe next year. Yeah right!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

On traveling

One final comment, the last word. I promise. Las Cascades has a collection of National Geographic magazines for it's guests to browse. I came across this gem in one:

Photography is one of the greatest pleasures of travel and travel is one of the greatest pleasures of life.

Chris Johns, 2003.

I couldn't agree more. 

More on Honduras

Before I go onto my next adventure, I thought I should finish sharing about Honduras. I'm up to the day out mountain biking . No photos please, I had to use a canoe helmet so it wasn't pretty. Note to self, travel with ones bike helmet whenever cycling is an option.

As I shared previously, the ride up was a treat. Commentary from our guide and driver were useful in helping us to get to know the place and the people a little better. Watching from the jeep, I reflected on how different our lives were. I was watching other peoples lives while taking a break from mine. I wondered what those watching these mad tourists thought of our expedition through their lives.

Horsepower

Kristen and Erin joined Jo and I with Ash guiding. Well, carrying the food, waiting for us at times and buying the cokes. Coke in a battered, recycled bottle tasting deliciously old fashioned like coke used to. The road down was fun, an easy ride with a couple of uphills that had me puffing. It was fantastic to get on a bike again and be out in the wilds. The helmet didn't work so well with my glasses so that I rode without them, adding an extra challenge as I couldn't see too far in front and the big ruts looked flat until I got close so my reactions got a workout. Must get some new contacts.
Looking down the Rio
We stopped for lunch where some locals were having a wash in the river, the men showing off for the girls. The flat rock gave us a good look at the more fierce rapids on Rio Cangrejal, some that had to be bypassed in most water flows. We climbed quite high, the photo doesn't do it justice really. The view was stunning and made the climb worthwhile. Then came the next treat, a ride over the river in a cage to visit the the Women's Co-op on the other side of the river. The cage has been around a while and holds four people. We whizzed down the wire then Dona Rasario winched us to the getting off place.

As we crossed the river, another trip in a similar cage came to mind. One of our family adventures, when the kids were still trusting enough to go tramping in the New Zealand hills with us, ended up in some of us getting canoe rescued from the south bank of a fast flowing river. One of the boys winched the cage so hard it flipped off the rail leaving us stranded. Come to think of it, that was the last time they did come on adventures, I wonder why? Being canoe rescued from the wrong side of a snow fed river was a bit chilly.
Jo, Erin and Kristen in the cage
I digress, back to the Co-op. Dona Rasario, her daughter Jenny (Olvin the chef's wife), Joan and Leslie spend their days sewing, designing and making works of art with their sewing machines. Colourful appliqued quilts, wall hangings and small pieces like pot mitts. They look out over the picturesque river as they create for the local tourist market. I suspect Olvin jnr was not much help, he's about Noah's age and very cute.  I didn't get the full story but my understanding is that the Co-op was begun by Dona Rosario a few years ago to provide work and an income for the women of the valley and has been very successful. 

The ride across the river is no novelty to Olvin and his family, they do it each day often at night in Olvin's case. I was humbled that he rode so far down to the lodge, spent his day cooking for us then rode home to his family, crossing the river in the dark. The people work amazingly hard and are welcoming of the tourist operators in their communities. As we rode through Las Mangas the next day on the horses, Sylvia was greeted by all. We had the same experience when traveling with Ryan.
Dona Rosario and her wares
I bought some gifts for friends and two wonderful quilts for Noah and Eve. I intend to write them a story, with photos, to go with the quilts. I can't wait to see their faces when they see them, both are very colourful and interesting. I had to make a return trip, no money to pay for what I put aside, and Trish came too. She was very impressed with the work of these women, much more of an expert than I am in the art of applique and quilting. 

The ride up and down the valley rattled the bones a bit and I was a bit jaded after the day out in the sunshine exercising. The evening had more lovely food and I had the best appetite to enjoy it. The Baileys cheesecake was yummy, made by another person who lives in the valley. There's quite an ex pat community with the folks at Omega, Las Cascades and the other places that accommodate the adventure tourists. Las Cangrejal valley lies between the Pico Bonito and Nombre de Dios National Parks so there is plenty to keep people occupied. Jo and I skipped the 4-5 hour walk to the big waterfall the others enjoyed and chose to go horse riding with Sylvia from Omega. 

No photos from that day, it rained and we got soaked. We followed a trail up the river and ate some lychees from the tree, delicious. I'm not so good at riding horses, they're a long way off the ground and I've fallen off the odd one in the past. The horse I rode was mostly well behaved but seemed to know that I didn't know what I was doing. Sylvia is an interesting lady. She also had New Zealand connections, one name I recognised from my previous work life. Chilled and a bit sore, the coffee and banana cake back at Omega warmed us up. 

I seem to have gone on for ages, I could go on some more. The trip to Honduras was just what the doctor ordered. No internet or phones to bother us, although both were available at the lodge if you really wanted. The four days were so relaxing and enjoyable, connecting to the natural world in a way I haven't managed in ages. I was rested and relaxed when I got back home, dinner at the Italian with a nice Chianti finished the long weekend off nicely. 

I will go back to Honduras. I had a small taste and learned that there are Inca ruins throughout the country worth visiting. The next trip will be to the north, towards the Guatemalan border. Before I do, I have to learn to speak at least a little Spanish. It's a very useful language to have in this part of the world, although the dialects can vary from country to country. I'm sure I'll figure it out before I get there. 

Monday, 2 January 2012

Cuba

Church square - Trinidad 
Streets of Habana

The Caribbean, beautiful beaches and clear water
The Atlantic breaking onto the Habana sea wall
I'm just back, a bit jaded after a week of getting to know a place that is so full of contrasts and contradictions. Miguel did comment about this on our way from the airport into Habana. Don't try to understand Cuba, just enjoy it was his message. Sound advice it seems. More on our lovely guide and our explorations soon. For now here are a few photos I suspect may explain this better.