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Posts Tagged ‘Caribbean’

I had always wanted to ride a Segway, and a couple days ago I got to do just that around the West End of Bermuda.  It was great fun.  Hoping to do a couple more tours this week as it’s my last cruise sailing in the Caribbean.

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Having visited Grand Turk several times now, I can confidently say that there’s not a whole heck of a lot happening on this island. The area immediately surrounding the cruise ship is beautiful, and if you want to lounge the afternoon away at a picturesque white-sand beach, this is the place to do it. But once you walk about 5 minutes away from the cruise ship, there’s nothing.  Here’s a view from the far side of the island looking back toward my ship (visible in the top left corner).

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One afternoon a friend and I explored the island beyond the cruise terminal. During our 2-hour walk we found such exciting sites as the Engineering and Maintenance Services Building, the Governor’s administrative office and house, the Grand Turk Airport, several abandoned structures missing notable components like roofs and walls (thanks to the hurricane they had last year), and a random cow crossing the street.

Me at the entrance to the oh-so-exciting governor's house.

Me at the entrance to the oh-so-exciting governor's house.

On a more recent stop in Grand Turk I went on a new tour that the cruise ship just started offering – a visit to Conch World. During the 20-minute drive across the island, the bus driver pointed out the following Grand Turk highlights:

  • a gas station
  • a grocery store
  • the Red Cross (where they sometimes play bingo in the evenings!)
  • a church
  • an open field, where the above-mentioned cows go to spend the night.

Of all the tours I’ve gone on, Conch World was by far the tamest. It was interesting to learn about the life cycle of conchs though. The coolest thing was seeing some live conchs (and not just the shell, which we’ve all seen, but the actual animal that lives inside it). It’s like a gigantic snail. It was fascinating but also a bit disgusting, as you can see for yourself:

ewww

ewww

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After my most recent visit to St. Thomas, my impression of the island has improved.  When I had only seen downtown Charlotte Amalie (the main city), I was pretty turned off by St. Thomas – it’s marketed as a shopper’s paradise and is loaded with international high-end jewelry shops and souvenir junk stores so the hoards of cruisers that flock its shores each week can buy crap at tax-free and duty-free prices.  Not my kind of place.  But after going on a diving tour in a different part of St. Thomas I got to see a little more of the island and found that there is more to it than just the downtown shopping hell.  There are actually gorgeous views to be had from some of the shorelines and look-out points, one of which we visited during my taxi ride to the diving site.  You can see our cruise ship in the upper right corner:

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The helmet diving was at Coral World, which is basically a small aquarium.  I got to dive for about 30 minutes and it was a lot of fun!  I used a disposable waterproof camera to take photos underwater, but as that is not yet developed here are some digital photos I took from the observation station on land:

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I then had time to walk around the rest of Coral World.  It was cute, but I had a more interesting time chatting with one of the local tour guides there.  He answered a lot of my questions about life on the island and hurricanes.  He was also much easier to understand than my Jamaican-born acquaintance from a couple weeks ago.  When I asked this local why he didn’t SOUND like he was a St. Thomas native, he said it depended who he was talking to – I guess he used his “American” accent with me as I never would have guessed he was from the island had he not told me so.

When I returned to the ship a steel-drum ensemble was playing at the terminal – how very Caribbean-esque!

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I went on a horseback riding tour a few days ago near the El Yunque rainforest in Puerto Rico.  I had only gone horseback riding once before, and that was way back in middle school, so I was excited to try it again.  Here is an awkward picture of me on my pasofino horse:

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Here’s a better picture of the horse, named Bambi:  bambi

I was sore for 4 or 5 days afterward but glad I tried it.

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We happened to be in port in Bermuda during their annual Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge this week, so I got to see dozens of sailing ships from around the world lined up in Hamilton.  I think the festival culminates in a race but I’m a little hazy on the details.  The ships were open to the public so it was interesting to walk around on them and have an up-close look.  I toured the U.S.S. Bounty (yes, the ship used in the old movie) and also a Russian sailing ship.  There were also ships from Greece, Uruguay, the U.S. Coast Guard, Brazil, and many more.  Fun sights!
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While strolling through Hamilton looking for a lunch spot I also happened upon a Gombey performance in a park.  I have no idea what Gombey is but it was really fun to watch: colorful, loud, and energetic.  See for yourself here and here.

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I didn’t have any plans during our last stop in St. Thomas (U.S. Virgin Islands), so I just started wandering away from the ship and happened upon a local cricket match.  Not knowing much about cricket and having never seen a game before, I decided it would be interesting to watch, so I found a bench in the shade and attempted to make sense of the action.  It was an enjoyable enough way to spend an hour, and I even made a new “friend.”  Joseph, a St. Thomas resident originally from Jamaica, joined me on my bench to chat.  I asked him questions about cricket and he explained the game to me, but I have to admit that my understanding of the game is still pretty murky.  This is because:

  1. cricket, as far as I can tell, is a complicated game,
  2. I could only understand about 2/3 of the words Joseph said,
  3. of the words I could understand, maybe half of them were organized into what I would consider coherent sentences.

I really had a hard time following him (my contributions to the conversation involved a lot of polite nodding and smiling) so I didn’t gain a lot of insight into the mysterious sport of cricket.  Our conversation then proceeded to take an interesting turn when Joseph asked for my phone number.  When I claimed not to have one because my cell phone doesn’t work in the Caribbean, he insisted on giving me his number.  So now, whenever I’m in St. Thomas, I can call him to chat.  Uh-huh.

So now I still have a lot of questions about cricket, and even more questions about Caribbean languages and dialects.  I don’t know if I had a hard time understanding Joseph because of his individual style of talking, or because he’s Jamaican — or maybe he had a combined Jamaican/St. Thomas accent.  But I did notice that whenever another local stopped by to chat, my understanding of the conversation went from about 66% to about 5%.  I was amazed.  My job, literally, is to understand people who speak different varieties of English, but there I was completely unable to follow a conversation.  I’m not even positive it was English – I know so little about St. Thomas that I’m not sure what the official language is.  Can someone tell me?  I discreetly recorded a couple of these conversations with my digital camera so you can hear that I’m not exaggerating – if the links are working properly you should be able to  listen to one here.

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