Bahamas

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Peaks of a golden sun glowed through the palm tree leaves as the glistening aqua water gently greeted the shore. Meanwhile, the house was as quiet as a church during prayer. I crept down the ladder from the loft and wandered into the kitchen to make my initial cup of coffee. Easing the door open, I stealthily slipped out and sauntered down to the shore. I sat down on a cement wall letting my toes tenderly brush the smooth white sand. A smile crossed my mouth as a light breeze tousled my hair, and I inhaled deeply allowing the salty air to flood my nasal passages. In just a bit, the sweet sun would become viciously hot, and I desperately wished to enjoy the view before this transformation took place. Faintly behind me, I heard the playing of a soft hymn alerting the house that the day’s activities would soon commence. I took a moment to mentally prepare myself for what today would hold, and then raced up the stairs before anyone would notice my absence.    

            The group stumbled down the stairs of our beach house after a long night spent packing, and loaded into the two golf carts. After a short ride through the colorful streets of the half-mile wide island, we arrived at the ferry dock. Per usual, the ferry was late, so we talked fishing with the locals and wandered in the nearby gift store. At last, we heard the familiar crunching of cement wall against fiberglass as the ferry came to a halt. Freshly made banana rounds and sugary Goombay juice was already loaded into coolers and for sale on the run-down boat. After about a twenty-minute ride, the sluggish ferry pulled up to a dock on North Eleuthera. We disembarked and were immediately greeted by smiling faces. The Haitian children tugged on our hands to speed up our walking towards Blackwood. We trekked through the rugged terrain until finally arriving in the Haitian village for the last time.

            I had traveled with Broughton’s FCA down to the Bahamas for a week. Our mission was to teach Haitian children residing in the Bahamas about Christ through sports. These children and their families escaped from Haiti in hopes of a better life on Eleuthera; however, they live in constant fear of being sent back home. This past Christmas, a large government raid forced many of these refugees to return. Some made their way back to the Bahamas on illegal ships, but most had no choice but to remain in Haiti. Their lifestyle on Eleuthera is in no way desirable, but it does not even compare to the horrors they endured back home. They live in one or two-room houses with a piece of cloth serving as a door. Of course they have no electricity, air conditioning, or running water. One member of each family is forced to walk many miles every day to retrieve clean drinking water, and once a week or so, the whole family will make the trip to bathe. Without the ability to work and generate income, these immigrants are forced to rely on the generosity of the missionaries for much of their food supply. Even with the help of the evangelists, there isn’t nearly enough food for everyone in Blackwood; therefore, lack of proper nutrition greatly lowers their immune systems. Hygiene is another serious issue in the Haitian community, causing illness to spread rapidly, like wild fires. Many of the Haitians suffer from life-threatening diseases; however, seeking adequate medical attention could lead to their deportation for non-citizenship. Our mission team brought food, toys, hygiene supplies, and other necessities for the Haitians, but it was clear our team of ten hadn’t brought nearly enough.

Sweet Luna and her little brother Lewis bounded towards me with open arms as I stepped onto the arid playfield in the middle of the village. I knelt down to hug them, and Luna began to cry in my shirt while Lewis nestled his head into the crook of my arm. I remained still for a while, comforting them while they caught their breath.

“Momma hasn’t fed us this week. She doesn’t care about us. I hate her,” said Luna, still sobbing.

My heart ached, and I fought back tears thinking about my departure the very next day. “How could I continue to help them when I returned home?” I thought.

I was genuinely concerned for the well being of Luna and Lewis, and I wished I could bring the two of them home with me. These precious children don’t deserve to face the many hardships each day holds in store for them, just as I don’t deserve the many blessings God puts in my life.

I had packed a small lunch for myself, but decided these two needed it more than me. Their faces lit up as I pulled out a smashed PB&J, two little packs of goldfish, and my water bottle. They crunched the goldfish noisily, and I cringed hoping it would not attract the other children, as I didn’t have any more to share. After devouring every morsel, Luna and Lewis were ready to resume playing in the field. My already burnt face and shoulders roasted to a ruby-red under the unforgiving sun for the fifth day in a row, but I wasn’t about to let that small obstacle spoil my last few fours on the island. We chased stray dogs and goats through the unpaved streets, tossed a rubber ball, and made bracelets out of coarse strands of rope with a few beads. The simplest of activities brightened their day, and their jubilant smiles brightened mine.

When it was time to say goodbye, I could not hold back the tears any longer. The thought of leaving these children not knowing if I would ever see them again was devastating. I took Luna by the hand, and we sat down under one of the few trees on the outskirts of the field. I had been wearing a silver cross necklace the whole week that my parents gave me for my sixteenth birthday. I unhooked the delicate chain from around my neck and let it fall into my palm. I grasped the necklace tightly and watched as tiny tears splattered her cheeks when she realized it was time to say our goodbyes.

“I will never forget you, Luna. You are such a strong girl, and I can’t wait to see what God has in store for you. I want you to have this necklace to remind you of Christ’s everlasting love for us, His children. I love you, and I promise I will be back as soon as I can.”

I clasped the necklace around her small neck, and she reached up to touch the cross in the middle.

“I love it, Abbie. Thank you. I wish you didn’t have to leave now.”

I stood up from the bench, and she outstretched her arms for me, so I carried her to the entrance of the field. We stood there for a moment hugging, but I knew I had to hurry to catch the ferry. I set her down, mustered one last sad smile, and waved as I began walking back down the dirt road. She called after me,

“Abbie!”

I turned around and saw her small shoulders heaving as she stood crying in the middle of the street.

 

“I love you too,” she yelled.

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Lucaya Beach

Lucaya Beach

Cruises are popular vacation options yet not many are aware that a cruise is much more than being spoiled with luxurious accommodations, full board meals and entertainment on board. A cruise is also a great opportunity to discover and experience the culture and recreation of the different places included in the cruise trip’s itinerary. Holiday Cruise Line, for instance, offers land-based excursions on its Caribbean cruise itinerary.

Woman at Bahamas Beachfront

Jackie Finley, Holiday Cruise Line Representative, says, “Our cruise line offers a swim with the dolphins attraction that a lot of our vacationers get really excited about. It’s the sort of once in a lifetime thing that we pride ourselves on offering to our customers, and we think it goes beyond what people traditionally associate with cruises. I think, when people talk about cruises, they sometimes get caught up in the sea trip and forget that there’s a land destination on the other end of it. Cruises arrange a lot of very special entertainments for passengers. For example, our guided, horseback trail tour of the Grand Bahama Island is a great chance to see a wholly unique place. It’s a big part of what we offer.”

The Grand Bahama Island is a favorite travel destination. Make the most of your cruise trip by availing of these sensational tour options to the island:

Our Lucaya Beach Resort Pool

Our Lucaya Beach Resort Experience
Spend a day at the spectacular 4-star Our Lucaya Beach Resorts. This family-friendly property offers the absolute Bahamas get-away for adults and kids alike. A day trip will surely delight you, whether under the sunshine, on the pristine white sandy beaches, or in the crystal clear blue waters. Enjoy the plush amenities the resorts have to offer including fresh-water pools, Jacuzzis, swim-up bars, and many others. A sumptuous buffet lunch is in store for day excursionists, too. And, of course, there is the Village Market Promenade that offers fantastic duty-free shopping should you wish to bring home a souvenir to remember your great Bahamas island fun day by.

Dolphin

Swim with the Dolphins
Have fun with the dolphins at The Dolphin Experience Lagoon. Learn about these friendly sea creatures and play with them in the water. It promises to be an experience of a lifetime!

Snorkel Adventure Tour
Have a unique adventure and discover the underwater attractions around the island. Snorkel and marvel at the rich marine life and colorful corals of the Caribbean sea. The tour includes refreshments, use of snorkel equipment, and snorkel jackets and instructions by an experienced and professional staff.

Snorkeling

Glass Bottom Boat Tour
If you prefer a relaxing sightseeing tour, sail onboard the “Ocean Wonder,” a 60 foot double-deck glass bottom boat. Take in the awesome beauty around the island and view its landmarks such as Cooper’s Medieval Castle, while
catching sight of the vibrant underwater world while enjoying the Bahamas sunshine. You’ll also have the chance to see the Brit’s Wreck submerged near Treasure Reef.

Horseback Riding

The Ultimate Eco-Tour
Get a closer look of the island’s beauty on horseback in just two hours. Take a guided trail ride through the endangered pine forest, see Cooper’s Castle, then meander along the beach and into the ocean.

Whatever you fancy, don’t miss out on the fun in store for you onboard and on land during your cruise! Happy cruising! :-)

*****

Photo credits:
Lucaya Beach: Bing via Flickr
Woman at Bahamas Beachfront: ollie harrdige via Flickr
Our Lucaya Beach Resort Pool: ollie harridge via Flickr
Dolphin: Boris Kasimov via Flickr
Snorkeling: Michael Gray via Flickr
Horseback Riding: elaine moore via Flickr

A reporter was commissioned to create this in-depth article.

 

hermitage

The Via Dolorosa of Father Jerome
We are travelers. Driven by a need like an unquenchable thirst to find out what lies beyond the horizon, we don’t spend much time in one place: we sail farther. Yet, sometimes we pause. Sometimes we climb a ridge and look from the top of a mountain to see where we have come from and where we are going.
The distance between Little San Salvador and Cat Island is 34 nautical miles. We sail all day. It’s dark when we drop anchor on the west side of the island.
The next day we take to the hills. As we climb the 206-foot Mount Alvernia on Cat Island, the highest land elevation in the Bahamas, I tell this story to my children:
Once upon a time there was an old hermit, a most unusual man, who lived alone in a stone home he built atop a hill. You might imagine that he was a very small man, maybe a midget, for his house, which still crowns the hill, is so tiny. Everything in it: his sleeping quarters furnished with nothing but a simple bed, the cloister with only three miniature columns leading to a guestroom where no more than one or two guests could fit, the little bell tower, and the chapel with its single pew where one must bend in order to fit through the door, resemble a child-size castle on top of a tiny mountain. But you know what? The resident of this place was in fact a very tall person, slender, with white beard and sad eyes. Why do you suppose he built for himself such a small dwelling?
It is a short but steep trek to the peak of Mount Alvernia. Visitors from all over the world come here to climb the Everest of the Bahamas, and as a pilgrimage to Father Jerome’s Hermitage which he designed and built singlehandedly on top of the hill.
Born John Cyril Hawes in 1876 in England, he studied architecture and theology. At age 21 he was already a practicing building designer. At age 27 he became a priest. In 1909 John Hawes joined a mission in the Bahamas to restore churches damaged by a great hurricane. After that, the architect-priest left the Bahamas and didn’t return until 1939. He came back to Cat Island to spend the last 17 years of his life in solitude, as a poor old man dedicated to seeking God through prayer, charity, and seclusion from society. Everyone called him Father Jerome.
We reach the summit. The view from the top is spectacular. We see the entire Cat Island below: a scrubby mass of tropical vegetation, small colorful houses strewn along the west coast. And beyond, the placid emerald-green waters of the Caribbean sea to the west and the roaring Atlantic to the east stretching all the way to Africa. Up here the wind carries the muffled prayers of an old hermit. Up here, inside the one-man monastery we, atheists, feel the presence of father Jerome: a sudden nostalgic sensation of profound spirituality and awe.
The grey stone walls constructed over the hill in perfect harmony with the natural surroundings, and the white cupolas bright against the blue sky are perfect as a renaissance painting. Except for the cone-shaped dome of the belltower which is broken and crooked.
“What happened?” I ask a man mixing cement on the grass in front of the hermitage. Another man is working up on the belltower.
“There is a metal bell inside, so a lightning come and BAM, strike it! About a month ago. Worst damage ever since the hermitage was built”, he explains.
Cedric Wilson, a building contractor, and Kirk Burrows, both Cat Islanders, are commissioned to repair the damaged belltower. We offer to help and they gladly accept.
We begin working the next day.
Every morning for a week we go to the foot of Mount Alvernia where we find construction materials waiting for us to be hauled up. As we walk the steep rocky path carrying buckets of sand and wooden planks I am thinking of Father Jerome walking the same path, building the hermitage stone by stone.
There, along the shadowy path to the top of the hill, he has placed concrete bas-reliefs imaging Jesus carrying his cross on the way to his crucifixion along the Via Dolorosa: the Way of Suffering. The analogy is inevitable: Jesus struggling with the cross, Father Jerome building the hermitage, Cedric and Kirk fixing it, and now us too being part of it.
At the end, I am grateful that through our efforts to help repair the belltower we became forever connected to Father Jerome and his Hermitage, to the past and the present of Mount Alvernia, to the people of Cat Island, and to the history of the Bahamas.
About the Author: Mira Nencheva is a writer, photographer, and a nomad with Bulgarian origins. With her husband and two children she is on a journey around the globe aboard the 38 feet catamaran Fata Morgana, exploring natural and cultural sites of interest, living off grid, volunteering, and making art for social change. Follow their journey on Facebook.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter our next Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

 

by Terrance Richardson

Royal Caribbean offers cruises to destinations all over the world. Book your next holiday on a ship and see some of the amazing places you’ve always wanted to visit.

Caribbean Cruises

With a name like Royal Caribbean, you know this is a cruise line that knows this area of the world well. With ships that visit destinations like the Bahamas, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Mexico, and more, you’re sure to have the holiday of a lifetime. Bathe in the azure waters, sun yourself on the white sand beaches, eat more seafood than you can possibly imagine, and take part in exciting shore excursions and water sports. It’s all part of the Royal Caribbean experience.

Mediterranean

Imagine combining a fantastic beach holiday with city breaks and historical sights. You can with a Royal Caribbean Mediterranean cruise. Visiting destinations like Venice, Barcelona, Rome, Naples, Santorini, Sicily, Split, and Athens, you’re sure to get the best of both worlds.

South America

Indulge yourself and see the sights of South America. This vast continent offers everything from humid jungles to frozen glaciers, as well as beautiful beaches, ancient ruins, and chic cities. Begin your journey in Santos, Brazil, where you can relax on the beaches of this port city. If you’ve enough time, you can explore Sao Paulo, located about 50 kilometres away. Next, stop off in Punta del Este, Uruguay, where the beautiful elite love to party, then head to the thriving, exciting city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. End your cruise of South America in Montevideo, the quaint capital of Uruguay and the perfect place to unwind after the excitement of Buenos Aires.

Emirates and Oman

Dip your toe in the Middle East with this exciting cruise of the Emirates and Oman. You’ll begin your cruise in Dubai, where everything is new and bigger is better. Try everything from skiing indoors to riding a camel in the desert before setting sail for Fujairah, located on the beautiful Gulf of Oman. Next, your cruise will take you to Muscat, Oman’s capital and largest city, before winding down in Abu Dhabi.

Australia

If you’ve ever dreamed of a holiday to the Land Down Under, dream no more with this exciting cruise from Royal Caribbean. Choose from 11 to 16 nights onboard the Rhapsody of the Seas while you explore gorgeous Sydney, thriving Melbourne, and nature-filled Tasmania.

Canary Islands

You’ve probably considered a holiday to the Canary Islands, but have you considered taking a cruise there? Royal Caribbean offers a 10-11 night cruise onboard the Independence of the Seas for an ideal beach holiday.

 

 About the AuthorTerrance Richardson is a keen writer, explorer and musician. He is particularly interested in music in different cultures but is also a big food lover.

I trust lucky cat to help me make good decisions

Planning. Oh, planning. The bane of many a traveller out there, planning is the thorn in the side of the beauty of exploring new places for so many. Whether or not you’re a person who’s planning is simply booking a flight or bus to their next destination, or a person who likes to have their accommodation lined up well in advance as well as flights  booked several months ahead, it’s a necessary evil that needs to be dealt with.

When it comes to planning, I definitely fall into the latter category. I’m a planning nut who’ll try and figure things out as far in advance as possible, jumping on flights and scoping out things like festivals and potentially awesome CouchSurfing hosts or hotel deals faster than the airlines can charge me those pesky booking fees.

OK, so maybe I’m not quite that fast.

Seoul Subway
Should you just follow the path you've already set for yourself?

I’m heading around the world next year, departing on March 27th, 2013 to be precise. Planning is like crack to me, and I approached the whole idea of scheduling my trip with absolute glee. I decided exactly where I wanted to go, when I’d be there, how long for, and I’d be travelling with my partner. All sorted.

Or so I thought.

My partner and I had initially planned to travel together but this is no longer possible. He’ll just be graduating university or doing an internship and be thrown into South Korea’s viciously competitive job market. Taking time off to travel simply isn’t an option here. So, that’s the first thing that went kaput. I’m travelling solo.

I trust lucky cat to help me make good decisions

The act of planning for a round the world trip, of course, involves a heck of a lot of research. I wanted to go to Africa first and do a safari in Zambia. From there, I’d head through Malawi, down to Mozambique, and fly out of South Africa.

However, when I dug a little deeper, I found that the end of March is a bit of a dodgy time for safaris in Zambia – you’re not really guaranteed to see any animals. Malawi is easy enough to travel in, but crossing the border into Mozambique seems hellish – and not to mention, Mozambique is absurdly expensive. Then, South Africa. The only place in South Africa I have any desire to visit is Cape Town, but all the cheap flight deals I could find – and the best connection from Mozambique overland – operate out of Johannesburg.

Saklikent Gorge in Fethiye
Hopefully I'll climb up and reach the light.

I’ve scratched all that now. I’ll still go to Africa, but I have absolutely no idea where. West Africa? Ghana, Togo, Benin and Burkina Faso? Perhaps. Maybe Ethiopia. Somewhere undiscovered and completely different, like Eritrea? Or maybe I will do that safari in Zambia – but that’s an experience I want to share with my partner.

As I mentioned before, I do have my first flight booked. However, it’s for the USA, not Africa. I’ll be starting in Boston. I asked for advice on where to go in the eastern USA, and received lots of tips and advice on where to go. People commented, “why aren’t you going to California?” Not enough time, I replied.

Then I found an amazing deal to San Francisco. I booked it. So yes, I’m going to California.

Grits are disgusting.
Also, I'll be trying grits despite my initial disgusted first reaction.

From there, I’m off to Colombia – a country I’d planned on visiting almost last on my trip – and after that, Canada. Canada wasn’t even on my list to begin with, and I disappointed a few of my Canuck friends by telling them I wouldn’t be going. Then, it was announced that TBEX 2013 will be taking place in Toronto and, on a whim, I booked a flight from Bogota to Toronto.

Burger B Seoul
This pulled pork deliciousness happened the first time I met bloggers in Seoul. I'm hoping more deliciousness will continue at TBEX.

All this confusion and organised chaos only covers the first two or three months of my trip. I thought I had things down, knew what I was doing, but then I understood something. I understood why people travelling always tell you not to plan too far ahead. Why they tell you that it’s best ifyour plans have some kind of fluiditiy to them.

Things pop up that you don’t expect and you’ll find amazing flight deals or information on things like fantastic festivals, over-the-top visa requirements, inclement weather or seductive foodporn that will change your plans entirely.

Grand Park Seoul
Leave your feet dangling off the edge

So, what am I doing after Toronto? I’m thinking of visiting Montreal. In terms of a country I’ll be going to? I have absolutely no idea. Nothing is planned. Nothing is set in stone. Everything is wide open.

Maybe I’ll decide on something a couple of months down the line. Maybe I’ll decide when I’m in Canada. Who knows?

I’ve yet to hit the road, but I’m already understanding that the best plan to have is to keep your options and your mind open – and to have your finger on the mouse when you find that irresistible deal to somewhere you hadn’t considered before.

 

About the author: Tom Stockwell always had his nose stuck in an atlas as a child, and pretended that the stairs in his home were a magic carpet whisking him away to some faraway country that he’d seen on the map. Now, he’s travelling the world and has taught in Korea, explored snow covered beaches in Poland, partied at Sydney Mardi Gras and almost thrown up from trying durian in Kuala Lumpur. You can keep up with Tom’s adventures through his blog, Waegook Tom, via Facebook, and by following @waegook_tom on Twitter, too.