A Travellerspoint blog

Machu Picchu, Cusco, and the Inca Trail

Some places leave a mark on your soul, Perú and Machu Picchu are two such places.

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  • **I have moved the majority of my blog to www.tulsatrot.com. You can read the entire blog there***

Fourteen years ago I served as a volunteer in Perú and it had been 11 long years since my last visit. This last week, I was fortunate enough to return to the country that left a lasting impression and benefited me and my family ever since.

Setting foot back in the land of the Incas was a professional trip in nature, presenting and attending the 2016 AASSA Educators’ Conference in Lima at Colegio Roosevelt.

That doesn’t mean it was all business, there was some pretty amazing amusement to be had as well. A few days prior to the start of our AASSA conference, our Cayman International School staff made a little ol’ side trip over the Andes to the cradle of the Inca civilization, Cusco and Machu Picchu. We had just enough time to complete a two-day hike on the Inca Trail (it really was just a one-day hike with a second day to run around Machu Picchu) with our great guide Casiano from Llama Path.

Below you will find some of my favorite photos (a location a bit more desirable to visit than New Mexico).

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  • **I have moved the majority of my blog to www.tulsatrot.com. You can read the entire blog there***

Posted by TulsaTrot 20:58 Archived in Peru Tagged peru machu_picchu inca_trail cusco_peru wiñyawayna Comments (0)

I've been Scalped!

And by my own students!

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But hey at least it was for a good cause.

Last week, I mentioned that I was raising money for the Children of Haiti Project, a charity that helps provide education for 50 kids all the way through high school. A group that otherwise would not have access to education.

As planned, homerooms raised money all week. Some were a bit more innovative than others and proved to be more successful. There was not a lack of creativity by the student body on how to shape my hair.

Mohawk with side ponytails.

Avatar colored blue.

Bald spot with a monk cut around the sides.

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In the end, students raised a total of C.I. $620 (US $750) that will be donated directly to the non-profit organization.

At the beginning of our school assembly, I announced that Mr. James' homeroom had won and I swiftly headed back to the temporary barber shop. Robyn from Studio V figured out what crazy style the winning group of students wanted and went to work.

In an instant, a hand pulled a massive handful of hair high above my head that took three years to grow and withstood the constant disapproval of Nadine and Sophie, and it was gone like that! Some sheering here, teasing there, and I was a teacher ready to test my students and their ability to focus in class.

My daughter's initial reaction when she saw me afterwards, "Ewww, you look like a girl!" Well, if I looked like a girl, it would be one from the 80's and that would still be one ugly girl with a butchered haircut. I think the more accurate description of my coiffure would be an early 90's Billy Ray Cyrus mullet.

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The rest of the day, I graced the hallways and Spanish classroom with a flowing mullet. It wasn't as wild and crazy as expected and not bad enough to be an obvious joke. Thus, when I went to pick up lunch at a local sub shop, no one quite looked at it with suspicion as much as pity for sporting such a harebrained hairstyle.

By end of the day, it was time to take my relationship with my mullet to a new level, but not until I had coached at Domino's t-ball practice. After the hour and a half practice, I drove to Studio V to bid a permanent adieu to my doo.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=

Posted by TulsaTrot 19:17 Archived in Cayman Islands Tagged cayman_islands fundraiser scalped children_of_haiti_project Comments (0)

A Single Mullet can Help the Children of Haiti

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Three years ago I arrived to the Cayman Islands with very short hair.

Ever since, I haven’t cut my hair. Month by month it has grown and grown and grown and my wife has grown tired of a husband with a “man bun”.

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Well, these long blond curls need to hit the road and help someone along the way.

The Children of Haiti Project was created after the 2010 earthquakes. The Children of Haiti Project’s stated mission is “to provide learning opportunities to children in Haiti with limited or no access to formal education, through the collective support and leadership of international schools, international institutions, and individuals worldwide. Our goal is to nurture each child’s intellectual, ethical, social and physical growth, that each may become a positive, contributing member of the Haitian community.” Their aspirations are to #1) Support 50 children in a full academic program to completion of a secondary education and #2) Support continuous cohorts of children to become literate in reading and writing to at least a 12-year-old level.

For the last two years, Cayman International School has supported the Children of Haiti Project. Our entire staff has helped this mission in some manner. A group of teachers is traveling to Haiti over our March spring break to help out with the mission.

How am I going to help children in Haiti? Well, I am going to get a haircut!

“John, how is cutting your curly afro going to actually help children in Haiti?” you may be asking yourself.

Well, I am going to allow the most responsible and creative people on campus to cut it . . . the students. And they get to decide how to cut it. What could possibly go wrong?

The homeroom that raises the most funds will be announced during our Friday morning assembly. At the outset, we will announce the winner and during the assembly in a top-secret place, the coaches office, I will get a fresh new look. Af for the rest of the school day, I will wear a unique hair style.

What kind of haircut? ***To read the rest of this amazing post, please go to www.tulsatrot.com and enjoy a few more photos as well***

Posted by TulsaTrot 19:33 Archived in Cayman Islands Tagged cayman_islands mullet Comments (0)

Breakfast in Bed - Kids Style

Yes, Coors Light is a Breakfast Food

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This morning, I am sprawled across the bed in a deep sleep the morning after taking Dominic camping overnight at Starfish Point. Needless to say, I'm a bit exhausted.

Suddenly, the bright orange earplugs crammed in my ears let the serenading of Harry Connick Jr.'s "It's starting to look like Christmas" pass past its rubbery exterior. I am befuddled and wondering what the heck my kids are up to.

Initially I was aggravated to be woken up, since sleep is a fleeting resource that becomes more endangered with each subsequent child, yet I squint to see seated to the side of the mattress Sophie and Domino and they have big beautiful smiles on their faces.

In their sincere thoughtfulness, the ankle biters decided to make me breakfast in bed. There laid out next to me was a beautiful array food. Not what some would consider "normal" breakfast foods.

Spread out before me in front . . . read the rest of the blog entry at www.tulsatrot.com

Posted by TulsaTrot 16:56 Archived in Cayman Islands Tagged cayman_islands breakfast_in_bed great_kids Comments (0)

Cuba Bureaucracy - Slow Steps

Lesson #2 - Cuba Talks Nimbly, but Moves Nonchalantly

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I glided into the government-run money exchange office in Old Havana to convert my last Euros to CUC. The guard motioned me to booth #6. Seated behind the poorly lit faux wood desk was a female employee dressed in an exhausted gray suit chatting with her coworker. She took no interest in the fact that I was standing in front of her.

With a big, relaxed Texas grin I said, “Muy buenos días señora, ¿cómo está hoy?”

At this point, she apathetically turned towards me and glanced in my direction.

She didn’t respond, she just stared through my face and to her thoughts.

Being a big fan of common courtesy and actually acknowledging people’s existence, I repeated my friendly greeting, “Pues, ¿cómo le va hoy?”

She continued staring through my soul and maybe to her evening plans.

Vanquished to the fact that my Texas charm wasn’t going to work with this communist female government employee that day, I got straight to the point, “What is the exchange rate between CUCs and Euros?”

She mumbled an exchange rate as she glanced back at her co"chatter". Not wanting to relive the rejection of college girlfriends and me being needy and insistent on actually being acknowledged, I just turned and ran into the arms of my wife on the warm Cuban sun-drenched pedestrian street outside.

She probably hadn’t realized I had left.

That was my second real interaction with Cuban bureaucracy.

Posted by TulsaTrot 18:36 Archived in Cuba Tagged cuba old_havana cuc cuba_bureaucracy cuban_pesos Comments (0)

Returning to my Peruvian Ceviche Past

A Peruvian Ceviche Inspired Field Trip

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One of the great characteristics of working at Cayman International School and living on an island with approximately 55,000 inhabitants representing 140 nationalities is that there are great teaching opportunities waiting immediately around the corner, literally.

As a world language teacher, I hunt for means to have students to leave the confines of our classroom either physically or digitally and connect with that big, beautiful global community out there waiting to be explored. And anytime to connect my students with Perú, the country where I spent a year volunteering is even better.

Today was one of those fortunate opportunities. Fortuitously, I found through a student two Peruvian chefs willing to share a bit of their remarkable country. This field trip just happened to be at the local Ritz-Carlton luxury hotel.

The grandeur of the lobby loomed overhead with our arrival and six-foot tall ginger bread Christmas trees and chocolate villages greeted us. We headed upstairs to the kitchen with trays of ingredients laid out to prepare Peruvian ceviche. The Peruvian chefs had . . .

Posted by TulsaTrot 18:24 Archived in Cayman Islands Tagged peru cayman_islands field_trip ritz_carlton peruvian_ceviche Comments (0)

Running the Chicago Marathon with Big Shoulders

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***This blog as well as other entries can be found at www.tulsatrot.com***

Time helps ease the pain, or at least forget the pain.

My first encounter with this Greek tradition called the marathon was the Music City Marathon in Nashville back in April of 2004. It kicked my butt and didn't even remember my name. That is why I prefer to stick to half that distance like the Cayman Islands Half Marathon.

Fast forward to 2015. A solid 11 years to forget what it's like to run 26.2 miles.

My CIS colleague Robyn Lynn suckered me with a nice innocent smile and the offer to run a race with her. What race you might ask yourself. Well, it's none other than the Chicago Marathon.

On a predicted brisk Chicago morning, I am going to repeat the thrill of running a marathon with 45,000 of my closest running friends.

Let's step back a bit. Before I do anything in life, like brushing my teeth, going the bathroom, applying for a credit card, purchasing life insurance, I check in with the boss of the house.

When I asked the omnipotent wife Nadine about the race, she quickly retorted, "Yeah, you should do it, because you're a grump when you don't exercise. Also, you should run for a charity!"  

I figured it was time that I start thinking of others.  

I found the Big Shoulders Fund on the Chicago Marathon website.  "The mission of the Big Shoulders Fund is to provide support to the Catholic schools who serve the poor and disadvantaged in the neediest parts of inner-city Chicago."  

Three friends of mine had worked with Big Shoulders Fund schools. I asked my University of Tulsa and Christian Brothers friends Morgan, Susan, and Rene, who also live in Chicago, if they had had any experience with the organization.  They said it was a great organization that did indeed help the Catholic schools of inner-city Chicago. I was sold.  

So, I am hoping to raise funds through my training and running of the Chicago Marathon, Cayman Islands Half Marathon, and the Mercuryman Triathlon to help support great people doing great work in Chicago. If you would like to support this in any way, donations can be made at https://bigshouldersfund.ejoinme.org/42917https://bigshouldersfund.ejoinme.org/42917

For every person that makes a donation, I will send you a postcard from the Cayman Islands. Unless of course, you live there, and I will buy you a beer or a glass of wine.

So please help me raise money for the Big Shoulders Fund. 

Many thanks,

John White

Posted by TulsaTrot 18:31 Archived in USA Tagged chicago_marathon Comments (0)

Cuba Libre: A Nation in Transition

Lesson #1 - Travel to Cuba in Controversial for Americans

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Lesson #1

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Cuba is controversial. Travel to Cuba is controversial. At least from an American perspective.

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Our first night in La Havana, Cuba, and we just enjoyed a blond beer at La Taberna de la Muralla in la Plaza Vieja. That place is usually packed with patrons waiting in long lines for the best beer in town. We rambled in without a delay. La Plaza Vieja was practically abandoned on this early Thursday evening.

We finally found a taxi willing to drive us out to Vedado. We had to walk out in front of the Capitolio, kilometer zero to any spot on island and a mirror image of the White House.

Riding in the taxi late at night, Horacio is quiet. Then I start peppering him with questions about life in Havana and Cuba. He opens up.

"¿Dónde vive Fidel actualmente?"

"Pues, no one knows where he really lives. We're not sure if he is even alive."

Never scared to ask a question, "So, how is life in Havana?"

"Well," he responded in a Cuban Spanish that is really quick for a country that is so lethargic in its' actions. "The "jefes" make the money. The government keeps the people poor. If we start making too much money, they fine us for random stuff. If we have too many fines, we eventually lose our license, and then we have no job . . .

Please go to www.tulsatrot.com to read the rest of the blog entry with photos and subscribe for future travel posts from around the world.

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Posted by TulsaTrot 09:58 Archived in Cuba Tagged cuba an_american_in_cuba Comments (0)

You Know You're Living in Grand Cayman When . . .

14 Ways to Recognize You Live in the Caribbean

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  1. 1
You go out for a simple swim and end up kissing a very large stingray on a nice little patch of sand.

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The sports section's lead story is a full-page pictorial of the island flag football league.

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You affectionately refer to friends as Bobo.

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You reach for a fleece when the December temperatures dip into the upper 70's.

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You walk around downtown George Town dressed in pirate gear and it's perfectly acceptable.

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Island traffic transforms your normal 12 minute drive home from work to 16 minutes. You subsequently complain about how bad the traffic is getting on the island.

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Sunday brunch is characterized by a three-hour rolling buffet of food and Mimosas.

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You can find the rest of this blog entry here at www.tulsatrot.com.

Posted by TulsaTrot 20:09 Archived in Cayman Islands Tagged cayman_islands grand_cayman top_14 Comments (0)

A Tradition as Old as the Greek Olympics

The Cayman Islands Marathon

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Ever since the modern Olympics graced Greece, there has been the Cayman Islands MarathonCayman Islands Marathon.

Back in 2004, this picturesque race got its start. It is both marathon and half marathon along the southern coast of Grand Cayman. Today was the second time that I had completed the race, and Nadine's first time participating. Great weather with a cool breeze made it ideal with water stops manned by local organizations providing entertainment and Gatorade.

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The main storyline of the marathon, other than . . .

If you would like to read the rest of this blog, please head on over to www.tulsatrot.com.

Posted by TulsaTrot 18:36 Archived in Cayman Islands Tagged cayman_islands_marathon Comments (0)

Eating Like a Super Model

Thoughts about my time at the ACTFL 2014 Annual Conference

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Even though many languages may be dying out, there is a new one as of November 2014

Like clockwork, the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) holds its annual conference in an exotic locale every November. This year it just happened to be in the great state of Texas.

Here are a few things that I took away from the trip.

My school, Cayman International School, sent me and two colleagues to San Antonio since we're revamping our Spanish curriculum to adopt new textbooks. Our school considers Spanish a core subject and for that reason, it is taught starting with 4 year olds all the way until they graduate as a Senior. It was our responsibility to choose curriculum and materials for the entire Spanish program. It's interesting visiting textbooks companies attending the most important world language teacher conference of the year and not having actual copies of the the textbook they are trying to sell. I was only a business admin minor but that seems like a poor business model to me.

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The ACTFL conference seems a lot like what a Comic-Con might look like, except rather than seeing folks dressed up at Batman and Robin, people are waling around talking foreign languages and wearing nerdy bright green shirts with #LangChat tattered across the front.

The guest speaker was National Geographic photographer Annie Griffiths. She has snapped photos across the globe in 150 countries (she has tripled the number I've visited) and uses her positin and exposure to other cultures to make positive changes in the world with a focus on women and children.

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I'm not a foodie by any means, but one thing I was sure looking forward to was eating my fair share of Tex-Mex in San Antonio. Tex-Mex ranks #2 on my list of world foods behind Italian, and slightly ahead of Thai. I would compare to Tex-Mex to Scarlett Johansson and Italian food to Nadine White. My first choice would always be Italian food, but if I wasn't able to go out on a date with Italian, I would definitely try eat some Tex-Mex.

My brother Tim and I enjoyed a great lunch at Las Palapas, home of the best breakfast burrito in the world. I devoured 3 tacos and a gallon of Dr. Pepper and the bill only came out to $8. In Cayman, that would easily come out to $30.

I spent lunch with my former UNO professor and CIS colleagues on the Riverwalk enjoying some delicious chicken fajitas with Mariachi bands serenading everyone along the the water.

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Friday night dinner was pretty unique in that I spent it was three educators from different parts of my professional career: Sarah is a French teacher from Westside High School in Omaha, Nebraska; Jessica was a fellow participant in the Uruguay Fulbright Teacher Exchange in 2011; and Emiley is a Spanish teacher at CIS.

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Dinner was at the Belgium bistro La Frite. Any chance to hang out with good people and drink Belgium beers, I'm there man. I had some grilled salmon and veggies, along with rice. This was all accompanied by some mighty fine Belgium beers. First by Triple Karmeliet and then by Kwak. Kwak came in an unique shaped glass and held up by a wooden stand. The glass looked like a large, disproportionate beaker. When the glass was full, it could stand upright on its own, but as beaker lost vital fluids, it became less stable. Towards the end of my Kwak, I was showing the Georgia teachers the shape of the glass and quick as a whip, the last two ounces found its way directly on my crotch. When the waitress came to ask about dinner, I mentioned the instability of the Kwak glass and my wet crotch, and she cheerily stated, "Sorry about that. Let's get you another dear!" And that is how you make Belgium beers mutliply.

After dinner, the entire group walked down the sidewalk giving our food a chance to digest. Emiley mentioned, "You know John, he eats like a super model. Grilled fish, veggies, and rice."

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Posted by TulsaTrot 18:48 Archived in USA Tagged san_antonio_texas actfl actfl_2014_conference kwak belgium_beers foreign_languages Comments (1)

A Premier Graduation

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Cayman International School is a small school. During the 2013-14 academic year, only 500 students attended CIS. That figure includes all the diaper wearing students in preschool up to the textually active 12th graders.

As you might imagine, the 2014 CIS graduation class was not large. Eleven total students in fact. Yet three of these students made history becoming the first students to attend this fine institution from elementary school until graduation.

Like a typical American graduation, students processed to the stage while parents took photos and the instrumental band played your Pomp and Circumstance March. The entire graduating class dressed in shiny bright blue gowns and caps. They fit easily on the wooden stage at the south end of the gym. The number of family members numbered between 100 and 200 souls. The school administration talked about the merits of the class and their accomplishments. Surviving my Spanish class was never mentioned as one of them. Various awards were presented, and at last the keynote speaker was invited to take the stage.

This is where we didn’t follow the script. In general, someone notable from the community extolls the need to dream and do great things in life. Well, our guest speaker just happened to be someone from the community. The keynote speaker was the Premier Alden McLaughlin of the Cayman Islands, McLaughlin. This position is comparable to being the Prime Minister of a country and he was speaking at the high school commencement of 11 students.

When graduation comes for the 2015 class that has practically the same amount of students graduating classes in New Mexican have, 20, how are they going to top this keynote speaker?

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Posted by TulsaTrot 14:24 Archived in Cayman Islands Tagged graduation cayman_islands premier_mclaughlin high_school_graduation Comments (0)

The Super Bowl Shuffle

Jim McMahon and friends head to the Cayman Islands

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Super Bowl Shuffle Caymanian Style

I blew off my 2nd period Spanish class to chat with Jim McMahon and with Grant Fuhr about his recent beach wedding in the basketball gym.

Let’s back up a second for the real I didn't teach. Back in 2014, a Caymanian teenager had been bullied on the internet after losing a fight at school. Unfortunately soon after, so embarrassed and ashamed, he took his own life. He had been a basketball player on island. Former European pro basketball player Cory McGee had coached him and decided to act. He made it his goal that no other teenager in the Cayman Islands would be bullied to the point that they felt the only possibility would be taking their own life. He set out spreading the word about bullying at local schools and bringing in friends from the sports and entertainment worlds.

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Grant Fuhr, Jim McMahon, and Michael Holding

When I walked into the ARC (our basketball gym), standing against the wall were former Chicago Bear’s quarterback Jim McMahon, multiple Stanley Cup winner goalie Grant Fuhr, and West Indies cricket great Michael Holding. As the 12 to 18 year old students filed into the ARC, all having been born after 1998, none were aware that the Super Bowl Shuffle even existed.

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Trivia: Which guy is Grant Fuhr who won several Stanley Cups with Wayne Gretzky? Not the guy on the right!

Yet being that these athletes were “famous”, they performed the duty expected of any good citizen around athletes, they requested autographs. They asked for them on any piece of paper they could find. Since the fine institution of Cayman International School has a strong conglomerate of hockey crazed Canucks, they all flocked like maple syrup to pancakes to Grant Fuhr. That left Michael Holding comfortably sitting in a metal chair by himself and Jim McMahon stuck leaning on a wall next to me talking about golf in Phoenix and his impending graduation from BYU.

All three sports figures spoke about the need to stand up to bullies like New Mexicans should fight to keep Texans off their ski slopes. Most impressive was Michael Holding’s message upon the crowd to simply “treat others like you would like to be treated”.

Posted by TulsaTrot 06:25 Archived in Cayman Islands Tagged cayman_islands jim_mcmahon super_bowl_shuffle Comments (1)

The Staycation

A weekend family vacation to an exotic land

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There are a few items that are clearly Caymanian.

One being the famous saying, "Not today bobo.".

Another would be conch fritters on Seven Mile Beach.

Another one is the staycation.

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The only way to leave the island of Grand Cayman is by plane. There are no ferries that visit other islands in the Caribbean from here, so your only option is jumping on a plane. And even people living on the whale shaped slice of paradise still need a vacation. So the staycation provides the best option. You simply stay at a hotel on the lightly populated East End (whale head) of the island away from the hustle and bustle of the West End (whale fin).


Do you see the whale shape?

Our highly anticipated fall break arrived and Nadine and I decided to take our first staycation and hang out with the Roney family.

Early Friday night, we packed our 2007 Ford Taurus with bags, 3 children, a baby swing, and one mother-in-law, and made the long 45 minute drive east.

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The weekend weather welcomed us with a bang . . . as in a lightning show followed by buckets of rain. This show coincided with Jon and I's maiden voyage to the outdoor bar.

The beds that pulled out of the wall mesmerized our kids. Simply having a huge open space on the water with her mother nearby thrilled Nadine. And little Annabelle was satisfied to sip on some milk and swing in her swing.

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The kids spent the weekend occupying every possible body of water in the vicinity except for that one big body of water called the Caribbean Sea.

Purely by happenstance, the Kyrs 30K Solo run road race started at East End. Morritt's Resort was right next door to the Reef. There had the 19 mile race, but hey, there was no way I was going to run 19 miles while on "staycation". For slackers like myself, they had a much shorter 5K race. I decided to go with that one.

The 5K was scheduled to start at 7:00, so I woke up at 6:20. When I signed up, I (mis)understood that they were going to start the race at 7:15. So I returned to my room 200 yards down the road and waited in the comfort of a sofa chair. Around 7:10, I decided I should make my way to the starting line. Yet once I set foot on the road, I noticed a large group of people in the distance clumped together. A quick glance at my watch indicated it was only 7:11. Strange enough, that same group of people in neon outfits became more distant as I walked. The race had already started. My race started immediately and I easily added an eighth of a mile to my run. When I reached the actual starting line, everyone had rounded a corner and was out of sight. In my defense, I caught the seven year old girl at mile 2.

Our first staycation left us all refreshed and happy. In the end, the kids liked the staycation enough that they decided that they would rather live at the Reef instead of our current apartment in town.

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Posted by TulsaTrot 08:54 Archived in Cayman Islands Tagged cayman_islands the_staycation the_reef Comments (0)

Caymanian Postal Service

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In preparation for a student service/adrenaline trip to Costa Rica, our educational tour company sent t-shirts, journals, and luggage tags for all participants. It was my responsibility to pick them up.

One of the first little nuggets of advice I received from my fellow educators was have anything valuable sent with a friend on their flight, not through the mail.

If a package is in transit, the process is:

- Receive a package notification in your mailbox
- Stroll to the airport post office and present your note
- Post office attendant retrieves said package
- Attendant opens package and assesses if you must pay a minimal duty (tax)
- Walk away happy with your new package

The reality was slightly different.

I never received a note in my mailbox even though a delivery notification in my email stated that the package was already on island. Four days later the same email stated that it had arrived, cleared customs, and was ready to be picked up. Yet I never received a note from the Cayman Postal Service. I figured I would chance it and go without a note.

I left a two hour cushion to run between school and the post office. I strolled into the post office at 9:10 and no one was in the lobby, that was a positive sign.

I asked the man if there was a package for John White at Cayman International School.

Over the next 30 minutes, the postal worker searched the most remote corners for my package. Just to be sure, he came out to confirm my name, then it’s spelling, and finally who exactly the sender was. The box was finally located “in the back corner under some boxes”. No worries.

Then he opened the brown box and cleared its’ contents. The box of 17 t-shirts, 17 journals, and 34 luggage tags valued at $200 on the U.S. customs form produced a modest duty of $60 CI.

Lesson learned.

Posted by TulsaTrot 19:40 Archived in Cayman Islands Tagged cayman_islands living_abroad post_office Comments (0)

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