Cruise Stop #1 – Jamaica

Early, on the Wednesday of our cruise, the Carnival Dream docked in the port of Montego Bay, Jamaica. My posse and I (which consisted of me, my husband, my cousin and his wife) had decided the night before that we were going to check out the Jungle River Tubing Experience. So, we disembarked and headed out, bypassing the heavily costumed Reggae man, and followed the crowd into the warehouse where we were herded into lines.

Our bus driver, Nigel, picked us up in what was possibly the coolest bus in the lot; a short, bright pink thing that had everyone laughing and smiling as we drove by.

I mean hopefully, they were laughing with us…

Nigel was awesome. He gave us lots of Jamaican history and told jokes the entire ride up there.

One thing though… Jamaican drivers are nuts! These people have the skills and confidence to take on a Nascar driver and probably win, even if they won on scare tactics alone. We were passed a dozen or more times while driving up a steep mountainside – they even passed us in the curves! But I have got to say that these people obviously know what they are doing, and even though there was a lot of what seemed like aggressive driving, I didn’t see a lick of road rage. Around here you even look at someone funny and they’re throwin’ up the finger.

Seriously though, I now have mad respect for Jamaican drivers. Those guys know what’s up.

When we weren’t clutching our seats in fear we were able to catch a glimpse of some absolutely beautiful sights – though some people seemed more excited by the goats tied to the side of the road then on the actual scenery…

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This is a beautiful church that was set on top of a hill (mountain?) I’m from Louisiana, okay? I call just about everything a hill…

[PS. My cousin told me I wouldn’t be able to get a picture of the church because we were moving too fast. Well, you can suck it, Steven. I got the picture and it’s a good one!]

Once we arrived at the actual location (which we had to do a little mud riding to reach) we were a little confused. There were a few different tours going on there as well so it took us a minute to figure out where to go. We were able to rent a locker to put our bags in and avoided the $15 bug spray – we’re from Louisiana, we don’t need bug spray! Then we were told to put on a life jacket.

Wait, what?

Yep, you heard me. We had to put on a life jacket to go tubing. Never in my life have I had to put on a life jacket to go tubing.

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Doesn’t he just look so dang handsome in his jacket and tube?

We were even more thrown off when we discovered that our tubes were being tied together in two long rows. To make it even more bizarre the tubes had bottoms in them so that we couldn’t stick our feet in the water. I was thoroughly thrown off by this point. Every other time I’ve gone tubing has been with a donut-shaped inner tube that’s easy to work so long as you’re sober.

But clearly, these people knew what they were doing. It wasn’t too long before we came upon our first set of little rapids – and my first injury. It was nothing serious, just a scraped toe, but that let me know real quick that I needed to get my butt out of the bottom of that tube if I didn’t want to leave there with a sore behind. We had already taken our life jackets off so I stuffed mine at the bottom of my tube for a little more cushion.

During our float, we saw some absolutely beautiful sights.

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PS. That jug my husband is holding was filled with a delicious mixture of juice and rum and was conveniently forgotten by the upper part of our little convoy.

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Fun fact: According to our guide bamboo trees are apparently suicidal (his words). They grow as tall as they can and then they crash to the jungle floor in a beautiful cascade of bamboo death.

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This was where we got the chance to swing out into the river using a rope swing and the strong, yet gentle hands of our tour guide

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Going to Jamaica was such an eye-opening experience for me. On the drive to the excursion, Nigel informed us that there were very few jobs in Jamaica, and so people had to create their own jobs to survive. He pointed out all the people selling their goods on the side of the road, the people who had built their homes on abandoned train tracks, and he pointed out the beautiful, massive homes that were seated just above the poor areas.

The people I met were kind, fun, and hard working. They reminded me that to succeed I need to have drive and motivation and that I need to push myself. But Jamaica also instilled in me a need for fun and relaxation and to never take myself too seriously. Ya, mon!

Share your own Jamaican adventures in the comments below and stay tuned for the next installment of Back Porch Therapy, Cruise Edition!

Back Porch Cruisin’

Last week I traded out my back porch for a porch of a different kind. Instead of drinking beers and staring out at my backyard, I was drinking margaritas and staring out at the Caribbean Sea from the front of a gigantic cruise ship. On the 11th my family and I set sail out of the Port of New Orleans on the Carnival Dream, and what a dream it was! We traveled from the Gulf down to Jamaica, to Grand Cayman, and finally on to Cozumel where I considered accidentally stranding myself.

This was my first cruise and my first time out of the good ole U.S. of A. The whole thing was a little daunting but Carnival made everything so easy that I quickly felt foolish for being even the slightest bit worried.

Now, every spare moment of my time is consumed with thoughts of when my next cruise will be. I already miss being greeted by little towel animals sitting atop a freshly made bed – I had to take the eyes off the things though. Couldn’t stand the thought of ‘em watching me and my husband sleep – I also miss being able to order whatever I wanted (like two appetizers every night) and devouring everything in front of me without a single look of judgment from the people around us (since everyone else was doing the same thing).

Being from a state that is known for its love of food, I was very satisfied with the selection Carnival had to offer. The food was just as good as I’d heard. There were endless amounts of ice cream and pizza that taunted me at every turn. I had lobster, shrimp curry, salmon, and tons of other delicious dishes each night at dinner. I tried snails and scallops for the first time and loved every buttery, dripping bite. The desserts were some of the best I have ever had… and that’s sayin’ something considering the types of desserts southern women can whip up. I tasted a bread pudding that was so good I just might slap the next person to try and feed me bread pudding that didn’t come from a Carnival cruise ship. And of course, I had to try the infamous Carnival Melting Chocolate Cake, and it was every bit as mouth-wateringly delicious as people claim it to be. In fact, my momma thought it was so good that she had it every single night.

[Now I should probably add here that I was so full after eating 2 apps and my main course that I didn’t order dessert every night. Instead, I just gave in to temptation and started eating off of everyone else’s plates. You should feel bad for my sister and my husband since they were the ones on either side of me…]

And did I mention the margaritas? Of course, I spent most of my time haulin’ around a beer bucket mixed with Bud Light and Miller, but there were those special occasions where I had to mix it up and try something a little more festive. I quickly discovered that those fruity, frozen concoctions that people seem so fond of were just not for me. However, those margaritas were so dadgum good.

In the early part of the cruise, before I became brave enough to venture off on my own and really explore the ship, me, my husband, my cousin and his wife found the hot tub on the Serenity deck. (Serenity deck = NO KIDS ALLOWED) And during that period where I was just trying to get comfortable and used to my surroundings – and not puke every time the boat so much as swayed – I was able to enjoy a blissful moment staring out at the ocean, margarita in hand, and just let all my problems roll right on off my shoulders.

Not a single time on that ship did I think about the job that I had taken off from. Nor did I think about having to continue my desperate search for a new job when I got back. I didn’t worry about any of the things that had been plaguing my mind up to the cruise, and honestly, I didn’t think about them when I got back. My mind stayed in that peaceful place it had found on that boat for a couple of days, but unfortunately, the real world is a cruel mistress that will not be denied, but I will not go gentle into that good night. So, I will rage against the dying of the light by reliving those blissful hours here – on my blog. I’m going to split up my cruise into three more posts where I will share my experiences, my pictures, and the knowledge and insights I gained from a little bit of cruise therapy.

Stay tuned.

Small Town Reunion

So, this past weekend was my husband’s ten-year, high school reunion. Originally scheduled at the Mariott Hotel in downtown Baton Rouge, it was going to be a nice big to-do where everyone dressed up, reconnected, and relived the glory days.

But this is little ole Livingston Parish and things just didn’t turn out quite the way they had planned.

I heard through the grapevine that when the time came, no one wanted to pay the piper and the committee could no longer afford to hang out in downtown BR. However, It probably just boiled down to the fact that none of these people wanted to pay to hang out with people they see too often already.

I mean, this isn’t exactly the kind of place most people leave from. Roots go deep in this part of the world. And even though we all seem content to just stay in place, everyone still goes to the same dang trouble of avoiding the people they went to high school with in the grocery store. If you’ve never ducked down behind a big lady on a scooter whose slowly wheeling her way down the coke aisle in Walmart then you don’t know crap.

Now, the reunion being canceled wasn’t any skin off my back. Jacob and I already weren’t going because of his insane work schedule.

But then suddenly the event was back on.

The location was moved to a local daiquiri bar where karaoke was to be the entertainment for the night. Yep, you heard right. A drive-through daiquiri bar was the next best choice to the Mariott. This was something I just couldn’t resist seeing. So, when Jacob asked if I wanted to go with him I was all for it. After a couple of beers of course. The daiquiri bar also happens to be an occasional haunt of ours, which made the going all that easier.

Because Jacob had to work early the next morning, we decided to go early and leave early. Meaning we got there at around 7 P.M. and left a little after 10. The event didn’t start until 8 P.M. so we were the first guests to arrive… sort of.

As we sidle up next to the bar and order a drink Jacob notices that sitting next to us is an old classmate of his. And this guy has no clue that he’s about to be smack-dab in the middle of the same reunion that he was trying to avoid in the first place. (or at least that’s what he said. I mean c’mon, there were decorations EVERYWHERE!)

We talked with him for a while. Or at least he and Jacob talked. He and I, however, seemed to have nothing to talk about. That is until we remembered that we used to work together years back – small town, remember?

Finally, the alumni slowly started to trickle in… I think. Did I forget to mention that the daiquiri bar was still open to the public?

It wasn’t long, though, before Jacob began to see people he knew and liked. A couple of guys came in from Colorado (I guess some people actually did make it out) and Jacob was excited to see them and reconnect, but for the most part the group we hung out with consisted of people that we could see any day of the week if we actually wanted to.

All-in-all, the event was a hit. There were definitely more than the estimated 30 people that Jacob predicted would show… I think. Again I’m not real clear on who all was alumni. Either way, there was well over 30 people and Jacob was very happy that we had attended.

For my part, I didn’t exactly get myself out of my comfort zone. Somehow, I managed to hide away outside with a familiar face and a bucket of beer, but I did end up having a great time.

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How hard is it to be an introvert with social anxiety who lives in the south? I’m gonna go with pretty hard. Seriously, I love being southern and I love meeting up with friends for drinks, but all I can think about sometimes is –

What if they bring someone with them that I don’t know?
Are they gonna ask me about my momma?
Are they gonna bless my heart?

Y’all, Southerners love to talk, and usually so do I. But unless I know you or we have a lot in common (and it has to be a lot) our conversations are going to quickly come to a screeching halt – unless someone hands me a beer, and does it quick!

I can’t be the only one feeling like this… right? I know I’m not. But anxiety, for as common a problem as it is, can make a person feel really awkward, lonely and out of place.

Because of my love of Star Wars puns, I like to think of it this way: under normal circumstances, I’m Anakin Skywalker – cute, fun, charming, a little rebellious and could possibly be the chosen one. I enjoy adventure and am passionate about the things I love, like soaring across Tatooine on my podracer.

But there’s this little voice inside me, or should I say this raspy voice that’s breathing heavily into my ear saying,

Your lack of worry disturbs me.

But in my anxiety’s defense, it feels like sometimes it’s only doing what’s best for me. Like making sure I’m prepared for any situation. Or keeping me from facing devastating embarrassment. Or even using the dark side to protect the Republic…

I know it’s wrong, but sometimes it can be so tempting to give in to the anxiety and just hang out on my little porch avoiding all the social niceties that come from living south of the Mason-Dixon line. And by south, I mean waaaaay south. Like spittin’ in the swamps, South. Like I keep my alcohol in mason jars on a shelf, South.

Down here the rules are a little different. You’re expected to go to gatherings, whether it be family related or work or even the birthday party of some little turd whose parents you only met one dang time.

That doesn’t really work for me, but darn-it-all if I don’t do it anyway. I show up, usually with a beer in hand, and ask all the right things at all the right times. Oh, who am I kidding? I end up sayin’ something weird and awkward and then shufflin’ away to hang out with the dog.

No matter how you look at it, anxiety can be extremely obnoxious when it comes to dealing with life. And my inner introvert likes to throw another log into the fire by giving me a general disregard for large groups of people…and people I don’t know…and just people.

This blog is going to be my way of dealing with all of the get-togethers and the ever present need to just stay home and do nothing. I want to get out there. To say, yes! I also don’t want my fears to keep me from doing the things I love, like writing. And I want to be able to share my writing with the world. I’ll still be awkward. Some things will always stay the same. But I’m sure gonna have a damn good time while I’m at it!