Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Somewhere, beyond the sea ♪

I thought I was going to eat a croissant. But...

I don't know why they call such abominable monstrosities "croissants" here in the United States, since this is how they typically look in France:

I could just grab it off of the computer screen!
Anyway, all French pastry-yearnings aside, I'm posting this entry to recount my recent cruise around the Caribbean!

On August 4-11, my family joined my grandparents on the biggest cruise ship in the world, Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas. The week-long vacation had three destinations, not counting the start and end point of Fort Lauderdale, Florida: Nassau, the Bahamas; the island of St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands; and a peculiar island divided into two called Sint Maarten (on the Dutch side) or Saint Martin (on the French side). 
Yes it was. 
But before I write more about Saint Martin (how I will choose to call it), I will just post some miscellaneous pictures from the trip.

My sister Cara and I in front of the ship

A view of the ship's "Central Park" from the pool deck

Me with my parents, sister, and grandparents

My immediate family and I with the captain, from Norway

ROTARY!! (I saw this sign posted in front of an elementary school in St. Thomas)

When most people think of a Caribbean vacation, they think of blue sky and sunshine. But since I like my life to be unconventional, we were blessed with tropical thunderstorms during much of our stay on the islands. Especially on St. Thomas. There, we were drenched by the pouring rain.

We waited for it to end, but we got caught in another shower anyway.

The vendors in the market all put their plastic curtains down.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the curtains...

Lovely, colorful fabrics sewn into all manner of dresses, Hawaiian shirts, and more!

A Caribbean reversible doll: flip the skirt over, and underneath is a new doll with a differently patterned skirt!

The consequential floods
I have come to take it as a good omen whenever it rains in a destination I am setting foot in for the first time. My first time in Paris, we got rained on while waiting to go up the Eiffel Tower. My first time in Venice, it was raining too. So of course, we had to get rained on in Saint Martin. But I'm not going to be posting any pictures of the rain; I have better pictures to post here.

The ship docked on the capital of the Dutch side, Philipsburg. We found a nice local tour guide, a man named Joe. The 6 of us all rode in his van as he showed us the island. Our first stop was the French side. 

See those clouds? And that flag? That's right.
As we drove into town, I was shocked at everything being in French. There was almost nothing in Dutch when we were at Philipsburg, but there in Marigot (the capital of the French side), the signs, posters, advertisements were practically all in French. The occasional thing in English turned up, but other than that, I felt like I was in France again. Well, if France was a tropical country like the Philippines. Being on that island was like being in two of my homes at once, three if you consider the rain reminiscent of Oregon. It was quite surreal, and it definitely became the highlight of my cruise. 

THEY EVEN HAD A GARE. Well, for the ferries between islands.

This could have been taken in the Philippines

Our Pikachu has been to more places than the average American.
While at Marigot, I made a beeline to the patisserie. There was a huge array of French pastries, and I could have cried tears of joy. 

A minute fraction of the variety they had.
I seized the moment to order in French. The shopkeeper was mildly surprised but amused, and he satisfied my needs of hearing somebody speak French to me. I pointed to this pastry and that pastry, cheerfully ordering for all of my family. There were French speakers around me too, and listening to them, being able to understand every word they said, pulled at my heartstrings. 
As always, I ordered a praline macaron. 

Yeah, there were a lot of other things I could have tried, but it was in honor of my exchange. While it didn't taste exactly like this one, it was a welcome treat nonetheless!

The thing I enjoy about cruising the most is the international crowd. There were people from all over the world sharing the giant boat with us, and the crew of over 2 000 members was represented by more than 80 countries. Each one of them wore a name tag with their name and country. I tried to be discreet as I scrutinized the name tag of every crew member I came across, finding countries like Mauritius and Serbia.
But wait! I don't just creepily stare at their name tags. I talk to them too, since my favorite people to make acquaintance of are those that are foreign to me.
For instance, I found a guy from Macedonia. I pointed it out and added, "Like Alexander the Great!" (he's my idol.) He seemed content that I knew and replied, "Yes! But he was great, and I'm pretty short." Hm, actually, Alexander the Great was pretty short himself. LIKE MEEE
Anyway, then there was Emilia, our pretty waitress from Romania. I asked her how you say "thank you" in Romanian. She told me it was "mulțumesc," so I used it every time I wanted to thank her. 

Emilia with my family
Since there was a photo studio on board, my mom and I decided to have my senior pictures taken on the ship. The portrait artist was from Turkey (from Izmir, a city I have friends in even!). When I saw that, I told him "Merhaba!" He said, "How did you know how to say that?" I told him that I have Turkish friends. (Thanks Rotary!) During the shoot, his assistant was a lady from Ukraine. I bet nobody else at school can say they had such people take their senior photo!
Just because I have a vain side, here are some of the photos I got.

Other notable people include our stateroom attendant from Nicaragua, Paul, and our waiter, House from Jamaica. 

House with my family
They were all so amiable! Being around such a diverse group reminded me of my Rotary days that I really miss, especially while living in the homogeneous suburbs of the USA.  
The international crew bustling around the ship, like the company of other inbounds, made the world feel so small. But at the same time, seeing endless ocean around me when the ship wasn't at port made the Earth seem vastly, incomprehensibly enormous. 

Our balcony
What can I say, though. Such mind-contorting contrast is the spice of life.
This trip has opened my eyes further to how much the countries I have lived in, and their people, have become a part of me, but it has also made me realize how much a citizen of the world I have become. My exchange and exotic escapades have introduced to me other global citizens, and I eagerly anticipate the day when I can once again be a part of a group of people who consider themselves as such.
I may not know when the day will come, but whether it's far beyond the stars or near beyond the moon, I know beyond a doubt my heart will lead me there soon. ♪


  1. Had a nice time reading your blog. I'm actually a cousin of yours from the Philippines, I hope we'd be able meet someday.

    1. Wow, really? That's so cool, I'd love to talk to you more! My Facebook is facebook.com/LivesInAirports, or if you'd like you can send me an email at mapflores19@gmail.com. :)