So much has happened since my last post in May. First, I got a job 🙂 . I moved yet again for the job. I now live in the Rio Grande Valley region of Texas. I teach 5th grade ELA (English Language Arts). I love my job sometimes and other times I just don’t know. I am also a Teach For America Corp Member…….In terms of traveling, I went back to Jamaica 🙂 in July, Dallas in September, DMV in October, Mexico, Panama and Cuba in November and I’m now in Colombia. On Jamaica, I couldn’t resist the USD$250 RT flight to Montego Bay. I was super stressed after the six weeks intensive training with Teach For America and I desperately needed a break. I had just 6 days so I took the Knusford Express bus directly to Ocho Rios as soon as the flight landed in Montego Bay. I love Ocho Rios, plus it is close to the things I love such as 9 Miles (Bob Marley’s birth place) and waterfalls. I stayed two nights before decided to try something new. Off to Negril I went. I wasn’t expecting much from Negril but I ended up loving it.
I stayed at Judy’s House – pretty cool place surrounded by nature. There I met amazing folks that made my stay memorable. I did most of the touristy things – the beach (very clean), Rick’s café and Just Natural restaurant. I will surely return to Negril :).
P.s – I have updated the Jamaica resource page….. For Thanksgiving, I always travel somewhere. This year, I went back to Cuba. Making it my third time. Cuba has its ways of making me come back. I spent a night in Mexico City on my way there and back. Layover in Panama City where I couldn’t resist going shopping. Because I was very busy prior to this trip, I barely had time to plan it. I tried reserving a Casa Particular that I stayed before but due to slow internet in Cuba, I didn’t get a response. We arrived in Havana at midnight with nowhere to stay. The ladies at the information desk got us a place in Central Havana and changed money for us (the black market rate is way better than the bank’s rate). Since it was a Sunday, we went to Callejon de Hamel when we woke up. Callejon de Hamel is an alternative Sunday service honoring the Orishas of Yoruba religion. It was amazing as usual. We spent the afternoon in Havana Vieja which hasn’t changed much except there are constructions and renovations all over the place (I think China is putting money in the development of Cuba). The next day, we went to Trinidad. The casa we stayed at was very close to the town center. Trinidad was very quiet and probably has the cheapest and most varieties of souvenirs. We stayed only one night and the next day, we went up to Santa Clara to see the Che Mausoleum. We had arranged a car to pick us up from Trinidad, take us to Santa Clara and drop us off in Veradero. All for 120 CUC (about USD$140). It was special being in the Che’s museum and mausoleum again (I’m a Che fanatic). The museum had all these rare photos for him from childhood to death. His beret, uniform, gun, water bottle……..it had everything CHE! After the visit, we arrived in Veradero late evening. Again changing money on the black market. Black market rate gives us between 90-96CUC for USD$100 while the bank rate is 87CUC for USD$100. Veradero is great for the beach and resort bums. Since we did not fall under that category, we didn’t love Veradero. We left to Vinales. Oh, we got cheated big time for the car ride to Vinales 😦 . The ride was so uncomfortable. Anyways, I have always thought of Vinales as a tourist trap but I ended up loving this tourist trap. It was colder than the rest of Cuba, surrounded by mountains so fresh cool air. We stayed on the main street in a really cool casa. The next day, we went on a horse ride. My first time EVER. I had the horse to myself (scary). The guide showed us how to make it go right, left and faster. I did not use the faster one. The guide was so great because I was ready to give up after the first 30 minutes. This was a four hour ride by the way. We stopped at a cave (also first time in a cave :)), coffee plantation and tobacco plantation. The tobacco plantation was pretty cool – they showed us how to make cigar without the nicotine. We later returned to Havana where we rented out an apartment in Havana Vieja. We went on a tour in one of the old cars….me like. We stopped at Plaza de la Revolucion and a park close to Vedado area. For our last night, we went clubbing with the Cubanos. We met four Cuban guys at the internet café. One was a rapper and another a fashion designer. The rapper decided to rap to my friend and I 🙂 . He was pretty good. Anyways, we went out with them and a few of their other friends. It was a great way of ending our stay in Havana. We went straight from the club to the airport (brief stop at the apartment to get our luggage). Eight hours layover in Panama City, we decided to take the free shuttle to Metro Mall. We shopped (rather, I shopped) and met up with a friend for ice cream. The mall had this scale so I decided to check my weight. I lost 6 pounds 🙂 (p.s, I had been on a diet for a month – I eat chicken or fish with mixed vegetables, sweet potatoes and rice once a week and 3miles walk five times a week). Feeling proud:). Returned to work, my students took a mock exam. The average went up 14percent from the benchmark exam they took in September. The majority of them showed improvement so makes me feel that I’m doing a decent job educating themJ. New beginning because this year had me trying stuffs for the first time and challenging me in many ways…..