Castaway Cay

October 30, 2010

We arrived a little late at Castaway Cay for our last full day. Upon seeing the island, the kids were so excited. The Flying Dutchman from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies must have gotten them started. We whisked ashore and headed straight for the Pelican Plunge water-slide area but after a few runs the kids were not all that impressed. Apparently, the slide was too slow and not high enough for them. Spoiled brats 🙂 This was their first run.

We settled on the beach and I promptly watched Alex go into a restricted area and steal a plastic inner-tube to play on. I didn’t realize until later that you were supposed to rent them for six dollars! By that time it was too late and I decided to let it slide. We had a grand time with the kids being in the ring and me trying to spin, bump and drown them.

Then we hurried back to the dock area for our para-sailing trip. The kids ended up going together and I went by myself. It was a blast with the exception of my camera battery running out as soon as I started filming. I managed to borrow a camera and get some pictures but I would have loved to have the video. Oh well. This is all I got.

We had some lunch and then played with two more rings and a couple of Alex’s friends before doing our stingray activity. I thought the kids wouldn’t find it all that exciting but it turns out they really did. I guess feeding stingrays by hand, touching them and then swimming with over thirty of them was pretty cool after all. By the end of the day we boarded the ship and enjoyed our last meal before crashing into bed exhausted.

All in all, the trip couldn’t have gone better. The kids had an absolute blast and are already talking about their next cruise vacation 🙂

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St. Maarten & St. Thomas

October 28, 2010

Our first port of call was St. Maarten, the Dutch side, where a rib boat awaited us. It took us on a 4 hour trip in and around both the Dutch capital and the French capital. We got to do a bit of swimming/snorkeling and also spent a bit of time on the beach in between boating around and seeing the island. The weather was great and we avoided the one rain shower that passed over the island.

The next day we had an all day dolphin excursion in St. Thomas. We departed the ship at 7:45am with our passports and, unknown to me, we headed for an hour long trip from the US Virgin Islands to the British Virgin Islands where the dolphins were based. We filled in our UK customs forms and passed through immigration without a hitch and soon hit the dolphin facility. The kids had an absolute blast in the tanks with our dolphin who was named Neptuno. We got to pet, kiss, shake hands with and ride the dolphin… it was a wonderful time.

After the dolphins, we went to a buffet lunch at a beach and pool facility. The kids played in the pool while I had a beer on the deck looking out over the water. About ten minutes before we were to leave I noticed Alex asking Alicia if she was ok. Thinking Alex was being a bully, I went to investigate and found Alicia bleeding from her head, nose and elbow. Apparently, she had foolishly dived into the shallow end of the pool and hit her head on the bottom. I got her out and applied a towel to her head to stop the bleeding. Right then a security guard comes up and tries to extort ten bucks out of me for the kids swimming in the pool. I refused, saying we were told the kids didn’t have to pay. He eventually gave up and we left on the bus without paying the ten bucks.

The boat returned to the US Virgin Islands and, of course we had to go through US immigration. Now, seeing as I didn’t know we were leaving the island, I only had our passports for photo ID and I did not have the signed consent forms from my ex saying I was taking the kids on vacation. During our divorce, my ex kept saying she wanted to leave Bermuda so I informed US immigration that we had a court order that prevented either of us from taking the kids anywhere without permission from the other parent since we share joint custody. Well, that backfired in my face as I tried to explain to the US immigration officers that I was the one who put that in place!

As usual, the officers were about as understanding as Hitler was of the Jewish people. They insisted that I go to the ship and return with the paperwork. First they were going to keep the kids then thought the better of that idea. Then they were going to keep the passports until I informed them that I can’t get on the ship without photo ID. As all this was taking place, the tour boat left without the three of us… Nice counting on their part! So, it is 3pm and the ship leaves at 4pm. I have to get to the ship, get my consent forms, get back to US immigration and then back to the ship in an hour. No way I do that via taxi so I get US immigration to call the excursion boat back to get us and then force them to act as my water taxi. As we head back to the ship, Alex says for me to give him and Alicia their keys and they will stay on the ship while I go back. I asked him what would happen if I didn’t make it back before 4pm and he said not to worry that he and Alicia would enjoy the rest of the trip!!!! Cheeky bloke 🙂

So, the tour boat docks and the three of us run at top speed (in flip flops) to the ship. The gangway is on deck one and our room is on deck six. I take the steps three at a time and promptly forget my backpack at security because I am in such a rush. We exit the ship again at 3:25pm and sprint the quarter mile back to the tour boat that is still waiting for us. Puffing, panting, wheezing and still in front of my kids who appear to be in worse shape than I am, we climb aboard. Of course, the whole trip back to US immigration is in a no wake zone and my flesh feels like it is peeling as I watch the minutes tick by. Fortunately, the officer came out to the dock and grabbed the consent forms to take photocopies so we didn’t have to get off the tour boat.

Five minutes later we were headed back to the ship. It was then that I realized that my backpack was still on the ship… Along with all our money and credit cards!!! So, here my watch is closing in on 4pm and we are about to be stranded on St. Thomas with only three passports and the clothes on our backs!!!! Now, I was panicked!!! The boat docked with ten minutes to spare and we sprinted again to the gangway. We were the second last people on the ship and I watched the crew haul the gangway up behind us. WHEW!!!!! Remind me to ask more questions about where our tour might be going next time 🙂


Cruisin’

October 23, 2010

So what a wonderful day it was when I finally got to hug my kids in the airport. They were HUGE!!!! I can’t believe how big they are or how long my son’s hair is. He needs a haircut but I decided to let it slide for now. He will shave his head in March to raise money for pediatric cancer research so it can grow until then I guess because it all averages out 🙂

It didn’t take 20 mins in the airport before my son called me by my ex-wife’s boyfriend’s name. She moved him in with my kids a few months ago and didn’t bother to even discuss it with me first. That is the kind of mother she is now and I feel bad for my kids that they have to watch her dysfunctional and selfish behaviors. Still, nothing I can do about it except try to show them that when they are with me they have a parent who is stable, reliable, caring, considerate and puts their interests ahead of his own. If there is one thing this sabbatical has taught me it is that I they need me now more than ever.

The kids forced me to rent a convertible for the four hour drive from Miami to Cape Canaveral and they had a blast getting the wind blown through their hair. When Alex finally saw a sign to “cruise terminals” he figured it out and the look on his and Alicia’s face made it all worthwhile.

The kids were so excited when we finally boarded and I had to shepherd them to the room before they exploded. This is the first cruise for all of us and I was unsure what to expect. Being a Disney cruise, I knew the kids would have no issue finding things to do because that is what Disney is all about. I was a little nervous about me finding things to do because, as expected, the kids have been off making new friends and have mostly forgotten about me except when I force them to eat with me and to do some family activities or shows. What I’ve come to realize is that the Disney cruise is not for singles or even divorcees and I am feeling a bit isolated. I am going to try to do some of the adult activities but I feel like a third wheel with all the other couples around. This is the first time in a while that I actually miss having a partner because I can see that this cruise would be a blast for couples with kids because the kids do their own thing and you have a lot of free time to spend doing activities with your spouse. I am grateful for the time I do get to spend with my kids and at the gym but this will be my first and last cruise sans a partner :). One good thing is that I got a free body assessment at the gym and it turns out that I am not in as bad a shape as I thought. Losing fifteen pound during my month in Mexico really helped. Technically, I only need to lose another 20 pounds of fat and not gain any more muscle. I will start that right after the cruise 🙂

Alicia and I had some daddy time and went to see Secretariat at the movies. Afterward, I had to drag Alex out of the arcade at 12:30am!!!! Good thing I made them take a nap in the late afternoon. Alex has made four or five friends and hangs out with them regularly. Unfortunately, Alicia has not made any friends she wants to hang out with much and prefers to be by herself or with Alex. I am glad they are so close and love spending time with each other but I worry about Alicia’s shyness and lack of interest in making friends her own age or older.

Tomorrow we stop in St. Maarten and the kids and I go on a rib boat adventure… No idea what that really is but who cares. The day after that we are in St. Thomas and have an all day dolphin excursion before one more day at sea and then Disney’s Castaway Cay island in the Bahamas. We have a para-sailing and stingray excursion there before sailing for home port the following day.


Revenge of the terds!!!!

October 16, 2010

Well… I thought everything was going well and then Montezuma’s revenge hit hard and hit fast. It wasn’t until I had spent one day feeling green and then a restless night spent mostly in the bathroom that I realized that I had zithromycin with me. I had to take a day off of school because I simply couldn’t get out of bed and I spent two nights making all sorts of promises to God before he took pity on me and made me feel a slight bit better. I am now able to eat a little bit and only visit the bathroom once every few hours as opposed to a few times every hour 🙂 And to think… I haven’t even eaten street vendor food yet!!!!


The magic of Mexico.

October 14, 2010

So it has been almost 4 months since I last saw my children and I now only have a week to go before I get to spend 8 glorious days with them. Time certainly has flown by.

While I have been mostly studying Spanish (like a deer in headlights) I have also had the opportunity to visit some of the sights in and around Puebla. Since I spend 2 hours every afternoon with a guide, I have visited the main churches and museums in central Puebla. Every Wed I have forced myself to go on a 4 or 5 hour excursion outside the city. It has been an education. My first trip was to Cacaxtla which is an archaeological site located near the southern border of the Mexican state of Tlaxcala. It was quite a walk around the area with the pyramid being one of the largest covered sites in the world. We also visited a nearby site called Xochitecatl. See blogroll for more details.

My second visit was to the city of Tecali to observe the ruins of the convent de San Francisco and to watch skilled artisans make everything under the sun out of onyx and marble. Tecali is one of the main Mexican hubs for marble and oynx and the low prices for masterful work was simply awesome. It made me really miss being a home owner because huge gorgeous marble dining tables were a paltry $900 BUCKS!!!!!

My third visit was to the town of Cholula to see the ruins of the great pyramid. This pyramid is the largest monument and the largest pyramid by volume in the world. Most of the site is not excavated and the Spaniards were kind enough to build a church at the very top so the site will probably never be excavated. 5 miles of tunnels have been excavated within the pyramid. See blogroll for more details.

My fourth trip was to Tlaxcala to see an old church and to view incredible murals that are still very well preserved. One of the highlights of the trip was having a coffee where a napkin was placed under my cup. The promotional napkin had written on it a list of the wisdom of drinking coffee. Apparently, you should drink coffee because:

1. It gives you energy
2. It reduces the risk of developing cancer
3. It reduces the risk of suffering Parkinson’s disease
4. It improves asthma and allergies
5. It reduces the risk of developing diabetes
6. It reduces the risk of developing cirrhosis
7. It reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s
8. It reduces depression
9. Improves short term alertness, concentration and memory
10. It reduces headaches
11. It prevents blood clots
12. It is a potent antioxidant
13. It is a diuretic
14. It is an excellent source of potassium, magnesium and fluoride

WOW!!!! Who knew coffee was so good for you and who knew there are no truth in advertising laws in Mexico 🙂


Reflections for the month of September

October 10, 2010

1. With one hand the past moves us forward and with the other it holds us back.
2. Now I know where all that wine I drank actually comes from.
3. The more we are willing to risk the more alive we are. In the end, what we regret most are the chances we never took.
4. People can endure a lot more adversity than they realize.
5. Maybe it’s the air, maybe it’s the wine, maybe it’s the weed… but there is definitely something strange about California.
6. Even if it kills me, I will come back from this trip 40 pounds lighter… I will certainly die young if I don’t.
7. Life isn’t fair… don’t complain, life doesn’t listen either.


On the home stretch

October 8, 2010

So I have passed the two week mark and I am glad that I am coasting downhill now. I am not as overwhelmed as I was but it is still a struggle because my memorization of words is poor. There is just so much to absorb and I am doing my best but it is tiring sometimes.

So things I like about Mexico:

Small meals several times a day
You eat lot of fruit
Many historical buildings, churches and museums. Very beautiful.
Everything is so cheap – dollar beers, lunch for 3 dollars, washing my clothes cost 3 dollars, an apartment in the city center is 200 dollars a month
Walking everywhere (I average 1 to 3 hours a day)

Things is dislike about Mexico:

The coffee
The maniac drivers
The women (too short)
The amount of litter
People spitting on the sidewalk
Buses

Interesting things:

Urinals you flush with your foot
Street vendors
Mexican wrestling – the most popular “sport” behind soccer
Tortillas for breakfast – huge meal
Trash pickup is during the night
Wild dogs everywhere

I cannot begin to tell you how much I am looking forward to seeing my kids.