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Showing posts with label Travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Travel. Show all posts

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Notes from Puerto Rico

Hubby and I just spent a desperately needed week on vacation in Puerto Rico. The resort we went to last time, The Ritz Carlton was still under construction post-storm. We stayed at the next door resort, at the Marriot instead.  What can I say?  The room was good. The view was magnificent, the bed was hard, and the food was not the best. at all.

Of course, all that was to be expected. We chose to stay in Puerto Rico because we knew that our vacation money was best spent in the land our administration has forgotten... and so we did. That was our decision.  And so, we grinned, bared through any discomforts, spent a ton on meals left unfinished, enjoyed the beach and each other.

As is customary, we did venture off the resorts. We spent a day in Old San Juan, which while interesting, was difficult. The plan was to get a taxi to the old fort and tour that and the museum. The traffic there was bad, and the driver insisted he would drop us off close enough. Put us where we could get the bus there, that never came.  We ended up on a bus that got us a few blocks closer and a few hills closer, but we ended up walking a couple miles and by the time we got to the fort, I knew I was too tired to make it through the tour and so just walked the grounds and enjoyed the view.

Afterwards, we walked through a pretty creepy neighborhood to find a local restaurant.  The food was OK, but our stomachs were a little off for the rest of the week.

Another night, the night before the tour, we took a cab to an Italian Restaurant.  The food was not bad, and the conversation was ... tense.  Let's just say hubby is a very curious and asked the waiter questions that weren't exactly welcomed. This waiter in particular, had very strong opinions about the government, and about the US and they were all hostile.  I asked about education on the island, which everyone knows is a disaster, and his opinion was "what about it- once" kids can read, who cares"

Now as a former homeschooling parent, I kinda feel the same way, but how many parents are going to take that child's ability to read and run with it? How many are going to back off the struggle to just survive to ensure their child experiences a higher level of education? How many who don't just flee the island are going to be left vulnerable to those coming onto the island to take advantage of the "poor natives" because they are uneducated.  How long before Puerto Rico is no longer a residential island, but a giant gentrified resort? That is where it seems things are going, you know. As a US territory, the residents are free to move to the US and large corporations and buying up the land to make dollars off of it. It is quite disheartening.

I would love to find a way to get more people on the island to accept the job of educating their own children, and even providing private scholarshipped higher education.  I don't know.  But something has to be done.

Other interesting things I learned while in Puerto Rico:

Puerto Ricans have been used as lab rats: https://waragainstallpuertoricans.com/2016/08/30/puerto-ricans-are-being-used-as-medical-guinea-pigs-again/

Puerto Rican women were the first to be tested with birth control pills: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2017/05/09/guinea-pigs-or-pioneers-how-puerto-rican-women-were-used-to-test-the-birth-control-pill/?utm_term=.4a08643a5437

Nerve gas tested on blacks and Puerto Ricans http://www.foxnews.com/world/2015/06/24/pentagon-use-race-ethnicity-for-world-war-ii-mustard-gas-experiments-on.html


American laws hurt Puerto Rico http://money.cnn.com/2017/09/28/news/economy/jones-act-puerto-rico/index.html

So as I sit in my comfy home after dumping a ton of money in Puerto Rico in exchange for a week of rest and a sobering education, my question is, is there anything else I can do that doesn't reek of gentrification or a stuck-up American thinking they know better?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Anniversary, Puerto Rico, Education, and Zika

No I don't have Zika... I don't think.  But according to the signs I passed at the airport, on my way out, I very well could and not know it.

Had I known about the possibility of Zika in Puerto Rico, I would have used more bug repellant while I was there, even though I am allergic to Deet.  Now I am using repellant to prevent getting bit at home so I am not personally responsible for brining Zika to GA and beyond. 

Other than that, celebrating my 25th wedding anniversary on a tropical island was fun. And pretty.  See. 

If you look, city is pretty apparent through the facade of resort. And if you know anything about Puerto Rico, things aren't going well for the people who live there. 

Much like New Orleans, Puerto Rico relies on tourism, but it is not pulling the numbers to keep it afloat. The US Territory is currently in the midst of bankruptcy.  (The US should be paying closer attention because this can happen to us). 

For years, Puerto Rico borrowed money by issuing municipal bonds, using the funds to compensate for declining government revenue and prevent deep cuts in services and layoffs of public workers. It easily found investors. ~ https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/business/dealbook/puerto-rico-debt-crisis-explained.html
The results is medical facilities and schools are closing. SCHOOLS ARE CLOSING.  Those locals who can, are leaving. The poor will be left destitute and in a 3rd World situation, if the US doesn't step in, and I doubt they will. We clearly get to take the resources and give nothing back.  As of today, it was announced, that more than 300 Puerto Rico schools will be closed by August. For reals. 

Parents are panicked! But us homeschooled mamas are like... hey... Yall need some curriculum?  The rules there are oppressive, but since they are closing actually schools, do they really care?  Won't they just rubberstamp the private school applications? 

I'm sitting over here trying to figure out how to bring homeschooling en-mass to the island without contacting Zika... I'm kinda serious.  Live on the beach... run a homeschool co-op.  Lean Spanish.  yeah. 

Problems with Frontier

If you've kept up with my sporadic blog, you know I spend a good year commuting to and from NYC, where my husband was working.  I tried several different types of transportation, as all that travel gets expensive.

I ended up using Frontier, for most of my travel as if I traveled in advance it was dirt cheap... but dirt cheap is well... dirty and cheap. Like that time I took the China bus and spend several hours locked in a frantic gaze with a cockroach.

So anyway, here are the problems I have had, the last one, I am currently still having.

1. Dirty...  The airplane itself could be cleaner.... but when flights are dirt cheap, you are dealing with a population that gives a pass on that, so between the effort to clean and the fact that everyone is getting on with enough food to last on a 3 month Trek to Alaska, then nastiness will happen. Frontier is the MegaBus of the air.

2. A-la-cart.  Sure, you can fly to NYC and back for $$60.00, but that's just for you, your luggage will have to pay extra.  Fortunately for my, I had a closet in NYC, so I carried, my computer, and a few personal items in a backpack that I was not charged for.

3. First class?  My A$$. I paid for first class a few times, usually because when I arrived at the gate, everyone was coughing and hacking (middle of the winter) and my OCD self nearly had a melt down.  First class puts you in the front of the airline, so you're not in the middle of all the germs... that it all...  There are still middle seats.  Extra leg room is barely perceptible.

4. Dark corners, and barren lands. To get to the discount airlines at any airport (Frontier, Spirit, etc) you have to trek to the farthest, darkest corner of the airport.  It is faarrr. You walk a little, you take the air train, Then you walk another mile or two... yes, you end up running.  I have bad knees.  This was not fun.

5. Membership fees/scams: Yes, I said it.  In order to get the best prices, you had to sign up for membership.  $50 a year.  Not a problem because I had a regular commute, but when I got tired of this airline, plus could never log in, because their systems are crap, I called and cancelled.  I was just organizing my papers, and looked through my credit card bills for the year (tax time) and saw that I was charged membership AFTER I cancelled.  I ended up on a conference call with them and my credit card carrier in which they said they had no record of my cancelling and that I had take too long to dispute the charge... Now I have to do paperwork with my credit card company to get my money back.

Do I think you should perhaps not use Frontier?  Shrug... that's up to you... just know what you are dealing with.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

That's not a bomb. That's my belly!

The Atlanta airport TSA now screens with one of those full X-ray machines. Sometimes, I get flagged to be expedited though security, where at most, they check my palms for residue, and sometimes I get the full she-bang.

When I do have to go through the X-ray machine, I have to say it is kind of humiliating. First, you go in, barefoot and put your feet on the germy looking painted feet on the floor, then you lift your hands above your head... and you know... just know, someone is checking out your body and all of its secrets.  Some people do this step and then keep moving, shaking off the feeling of personal violation.  But me... no, not me.

I have to then stand on the next germy foot pad and get felt up.  Apparently the girth I hold around my middle region looks like strapped-on explosives.  The last couple of times, someone rubbed the back of their hands over my stomach, to which I replied... "It's just fat."  They usually giggle and agree.  This time, the young lady kneeded my belly as if she was making pizza dough. It made me feel nauseous.  I replied, (cuz after you are violated, you have to say something, right?).. I replied, see, It's just fat.  She rolled her eyes, and I walked away. Personally I still feel like I deserve a steak dinner.

I'm sorry, I realize they are trying to protect the passengers and myself, but this makes no sense. If my face is chubby. and my legs are as thick and shapely as they are, and my butt is... well, my butt, then chances are, that the girth I am packing on my middle is a flesh belt, and nothing more.

They should really spend more time looking for actual terrorists.

But at least, they stopped combing through my hair, because an afro or a braided bun is surely hiding something right?

Update:  They felt up my stomach, back, and hair on the way back... I'm pretty sure they're not allowed to check your hair anymore.

ATL to New York Commuter flight and my teeny tiny luggage

I found an airline that flies to and from NY from Atlanta every morning.  Just one flight a day. The price is astronomically low. I took it and survived!  I'm going to do it again.

To backtrack a little, I tried taking the bus to NYC to save money, and I was traumatized a little. Over the summer, I paid about $70 round trip to take the China Bus as it is usually called, and it was crowded, smelly, and people were really disgusting and threw food on the floor.  And there were roaches!  Next, my husband and I took the Megabus for about $100 round trip and while it was cleaner, and better, the lack of leg space was physically painful and I had to wear compression socks to stop leg swelling.

The next time I traveled to NY it was me and my adult kids and for $600 we flew round trip.  That's $200 each.  After that trip I prepared myself to only fly and be prepared to pay $200 per trip to NY.  Imagine my surprise when I came across a discount advertisement for $100 round trip in my email.  I jumped on it and have flown back to NY and it wasn't terrible.  But, of course there were some issues.  First, the cost is for flight only.  If you are carrying a bag, you have to pay $25-$75.  AND you have to pay to choose your seat... any seat at all. You have to pay for beverages and snacks. And leg room is non existent.

As I arrived at the airline, and looked at the same clientele I had left on the China Town bus (and for that price, what could I expect). I decided to pay $35 for first class.  (previously, I declined to choose a seat and let them choose it for me for no fee.) Uh.  no, it wasn't first class.  It was the first few rows that had some extra leg space.  There was also the emergency exit row which also had the extra leg room... and you also had to pay $35 for that.  Imagine my disappointment.  There were still middle seats in first class.  Fortunately, no one wanted to pay for first class, and so the middle seats were not taken.  Then there's the fact that it is costly to get to and from the airport, so I still need to build in $100 per trip for ground transportation.  Going back, I may very well be checking a bag, so I will forgo the first class and just try to go to sleep so I don't have to be feel the pain in my legs until I stand up.

But it's OK.  It is still better than either bus company or both combined.  And since I actually have an apartment and clothing in NYC, I don't regularly need luggage.  I will probably get a backpack though because a purse or computer bag is allowed, and a backpack fits both categories, but for this trip, this was my carryon luggage, which qualified for free! Oh, and the image of the little item above... that is the cellphone and ID holder I use to avoid digging into my purse and dumping everything out. So essentially, a wallet on a strap became my purse, and my purse became my luggage.

Now this is not a guaranteed all the time price for Frontier Airlines between my two favorite destinations. This is a discounted fare and if you sign up on the website or other discounting sites you will find it.  Plus, for the most part, you need to fly Tuesday and Wednesday for the best price.  For that reason, I already booked my October and November flights. And these two round trip flights costs only $88.00 each.  If this keeps up, I will never take a bus again.

I will however, bring some candy and a little snack. and I will get a backpack so I can carry a few things back and forth.

Oh, by the way, A lot of frontier routes are cheaper than my ATL to NY route (when on sale).

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

My first week in NYC

So I am coming to the end of my first few weeks in NYC, I am heading back to the suburbs of Atlanta in a few days, where I will be furiously working on a costuming project, spending time with the young adult kids, and then coming back here to finish setting up the apartment. I will bringing some stuff from the house like plates, and other stuff I have in triplicate to make the apartment more homey.

I am very lucky to have pen pal of sorts.  Writing to someone daily helped my chronicle my journey.

Here are some of the more "fun" occurrences as they happened:

I am on the bus to NY right now. I should be there In a few hours. I need a Xanax. I thought I was all hardy and such. I could rough it. I'm not above the bus. Ummm. Apparently I'm a delicate flower. First, the lack of communication. How dare I expect customer service and think my questions should be answered. This is the bus lady and it costs $50 round trip. Shut up and get in line. I climb onto the bus and I say "the floor is sticky". An older pretty well put together woman looks at me and says "and..." I. Other words, were you expecting caviar? I silence myself and settle in only to find that my seat was In The back of the bus. The front rows were reserved for the workers they were transporting to work. For real. So I'm the back of the damn bus with a bunch of folks that are neither aware of or give a darn about niceties. They brought aboard the most pungent smelling food and ate it noisily. When they were done they fell into sleep apnea filled slumbers. I wanted to get up And poke people to make sure they were breathing.
 And finally as I settled in and was comfortable with an adorable tattooed young male nestled into my shoulder, I saw a roach. I like to have died. Everyone else was like. Oh yes, a roach , let's call him Ivan. Me, I'm trying to get a photo of it for my online review while simultaneously calculating how far a walk it was from that point. And when I got up for our potty break, I saw thAt everyone had thrown their half eaten dinners in the floor. There were little sewAge streams on the bus. At least that told me I could take my butt back to sleep because the roach/es were not thinking about me. It had a virtual smorgasbord to enjoy. 
While I was on the bus, I got a phone call from my kids.  Son finally passed his road test.  Not

Friday, September 12, 2014

Crazy changes. I can barely believe it myself.

So.  Hubby got a job promotion which requires him being in NYC most of the time.  Wow.

At first, the thought seemed just CRAZY.... but now I am quite excited.  It's not like I am selling my house and actually moving or anything, we will be able to get a small place in Manhattan or Queens and still be OK.

I'm in such an excited tizzy, that I can't express it on the page!

So with that said, I need to get my home organizing project finished cuz I need to start apartment shopping, and deciding what 1/4 of my furniture and items I am going to ship off to NY, and what I will just buy.  This is not exactly what I had in mind when I said we would be downsizing, but I'm gonna be reading a couple of books on the idea... maybe that will help me in time get rid of some things in the house when we eventually do get rid of it for a retirement home.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A snapshot of things to come.

What an adventure!  So daughter and I went to NY for her college spring break.  I don't know how many times I have left to get her all to myself, so I grabbed onto this opportunity while she is still under 18.

We saw Lion King, and If/Then, a new play starring Idina Menzel (Adele Dazeem per John Travolta).  We also met with some friends, had dinner with my dad, and shopped until we literally dropped.

The thing that stood out to the most in my week with my daughter who is 3/4 of the way through her freshman year in college is that she is all grown up.  She makes decisions easily. She navigated NY like a pro, dragging me along. And thank goodness, her sense of direction is better than mine. She makes wise food and shopping choices, and she's got a quick wit and off-beat sense of humor.  I love being around her.

I know that our week was just a snapshot of things to come because she fully  intends to move to NY when she finishes her degree to get a MFA at a NY theatre program. She is already making a list of schools, and our next trip to NY will be mostly to look at programs.  Scary, but I know she can handle it.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Our Graduation Trip Adventure to NYC

Things didn't go exactly as I'd planned.  We did, however have a very good time, and everyone wants to do it again.

My daughter and I set out by car to Virginia to the Army base where my brother lives.  We took our sweet time, stopping often to stretch, eat, and even shop.  We did the 8 hour trip in 12 hours.  We crashed at my brothers house and when his wife, who had just gotten of of 24 hour duty was available, dragged her into the car and headed out for NY.

At this point, it there was a small chance that any traffic issues could risk our Wicked tickets.  So my very tired sister-in-law did the bulk of the driving because I am a notorious slow driver. Everything was going great until we got to the Lincoln Tunnel.  It was CRAZY.  Bumper to bumper traffic at its finest... but we got to the hotel in time to drop our bags, change our clothes and run 12 city blocks to the Gershwin theater!  So. Worth. It.  Wicked was great.

Photo taken in lobby of Wicked (Gershwin Theatre)

Then the adventure really began.  I hoped to get into one or two more shows while we were there, but we couldn't find anything we felt was worth paying the expensive prices for- for last minute tickets.  Next time, we will need to plan ahead.  Instead, we did a ton of walking and exploring.  A bit of restaurant eating... including having "breakfast" at Cake Boss two days in a row.  Yum!

Photo taken in restaurant/ bakery, while watching the show on the big screen

We had a bit of a surprise in our hotel room which I had chosen because it was one of the few NY hotels that did not have a bed bug report... (high standards, right).  Well, there were no bugs, thankfully,  but someone had stashed a large amount of clothing, and seemingly stolen goods under the bed.  In the end, we were only charged half prices, after arguing the the idiot clerks who instead of refunding a night as their manager said, they charged me an additional night.... and acted like I was inconveniencing them!

We also went to MOMA (museum).  Thanks to my SIL who is active military, we got in free and viewed the modern art and photography exhibits.  We also kind of bumped into Chris Rock, the comedian/actor and SIL forgot she wasn't in her military gear.  She tried to get his attention and he was not feeling it.  Normally she can get ANYONE to take a photo with her, but no-go with him.  She even got two police officers to take a photo with her, and entertained us with her forceful, but fun personality the whole trip.

We crashed at my brothers house on the way back and decided to stay an extra day.  I was just too tired to do the drive home.  We got home late yesterday after visiting with my son at college a couple of hours.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Remember when travel was fun?

I spent two hours today trying to find an inexpensive but quality hotel for Sunday night so I could take my daughter on her preview weekend and theater audition for one of her college choices.  It was exhausting.  The college is in a bit of a rural area and it was difficult to find a local hotel.  Then the ones I found had sketchy reviews, and that made me nervous.  I finally found one recommended by the college and payed a little more than I wanted in hopes that I could avoid spiders and bedbugs.

Do you remember when travel was secure?  You'd call a travel agent, or go through the phonebook and call a few hotels for quotes, then  you would book your trip on nothing more than a verbal handshake. I don't remember every having a bad experience, I think it was because the travel agent knew you were coming back to visit them if anything bad happened on your trip.

Do you remember when travel was affordable? Even 15 years ago, in the early days of internet travel websites, I could book flights to Las Vegas or LA for a decent price, and still have money left over for your rental car and hotel.  Now, I can barely afford the gas to drive two hours and have one overnight