Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Day in Labadee, Haiti!

It was unanimous!

There would be NO crazy bike excursions on our last port of call, Labadee, Haiti!

Of course this could be because no bike tours were offered ----

But really, this was our last port before starting our return journey home, we’d had 3 previous days in a row of pedal to the metal ((Literally!)) cycling tours. This was our day to VEG OUT!

Labadee is not a Haitian village --- it’s more like a private resort island owned by Royal Caribbean. Their description?

“On the north coast of Hispaniola, surrounded by beautiful mountain slopes and exotic foliage, sits Labadee®, Royal Caribbean's private paradise. This exclusive destination offers pristine beaches, breathtaking scenery and spectacular water activities…”

No town to go to, no skinny dogs to rip my heart out over, no locals fitting 6 people on a motorcycle ---- All we wanted to do was find a shady beach chair and NAP!

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PERFECT SPOT!! We quickly moved these chairs over under the shade of a tree, planning on spending a few hours just watching the waves. And the ZIP LINE!! Though you can’t see them, there are several wire lines just above the photo ----waiting to watch people do THIS:


HOLY MOLY! We’d considered it, but it was about $80 for a 40 second ride…..No thanks! The beach chair would do me just fine!

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Can you see the “fly specks” on this photo? Those are people flying down the zip line! I was wishing we had our Olympics score cards --- “8.5 with good form!” One lady didn’t pay attention to the “rules” and sat up, killing her momentum, and they had to come drag her in….DEFINITELY needed a score card for that one! LOL!

We were served a BBQ lunch on shore ---burgers, ribs, chicken, salads, desserts ----I LOVED the fruit on this cruise. The pineapple especially was to die for.

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Ahhhhh! What a view! I read a little, napped a bit --- we only had until early afternoon to enjoy this day, as THIS was the day we had to make an early exit to avoid that storm coming off Bermuda.

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Don’t you think this photo should be our Christmas card this year? ULTIMATE relaxation has been reached!

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It’s amazing how the blue of the water fades into the blue of the distant mountains and into the blue of the sky.

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This was our view as we pulled up to the pier on arrival….that dock used to NOT be there, it’s a recent addition, and most welcome! MILES of concrete.

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On our way back to the ship, I just had to snap this beautiful picture. It was a GREAT cruise and I hope it isn’t my last by a long shot!

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I have to say that even though Labadee is not a “real” village --- it employs many local villagers from just a ways away, on the mainland. The people we talked to LOVE working on the island, there are cruise ships coming and going all the time. Steady employment is helping so many families.

Spending time in these struggling countries really has opened my eyes so much --- and at Thanksgiving time it is something to really think about. Some of us are worried about how to cook and serve our turkey. People in other countries don’t even have a turkey to put on the table and may be living off of bananas and coconuts and having to heat their stoves with coconut hulls.

One thing we did every day was hit the ship's dining room for breakfast, where they seat you with random strangers until the table is full. We like this because it gives us a chance to meet and get to know others.

The morning we docked at Labadee, which was the day AFTER the Dominican Republic – by far the most destitute living circumstances for many of the people – I sat next to a woman who must have been quite wealthy by the way she talked and looked. Her fingers were dripping with jewels as were her ears, and the diamond necklace around her neck was huge. ((This means nothing, I’m just setting the stage here –)) and her comments were so interesting.

“I wish the cruise lines wouldn’t take us to such dirty poor places. I get tired of being approached to buy this and buy that……I am so tired of saying NO!”

I thought of the woman I had met just the day before, taking her machete to coconuts for $1 each to earn her living for her family. I thought of the man who had the bikes in his little shack of a house, trying to make a living by providing a service to tourists. I thought of the vendor that I bought a necklace and earring set from ((It was all of $25.00!)) in order to put food on the table for his family.

We have so much. My heart was so full. And I couldn’t take it anymore, and I opened my mouth and said something to this stranger that I wouldn’t have if she was someone I would ever run into again! ((Isn’t it amazing what you will say when you know your paths won’t cross further?!?))

“If someone wanted a HOMOGENIZED vacation, why not go to Hawaii, or Key West, or any number of other places, instead of choosing to come to countries like this where you know people are struggling? “

I just felt that someone should KNOW, that things are not so up to the par WE have set as our accepted "normal" in these places. How could someone look so down on these people? She booked the cruise, she knew the itinerary. This was NOT Club Med ---and I was dumbfounded.

Our being there WAS helping these people. The tourism industry is an important part of helping these people get on their feet and providing many of them with means for a living……and it’s not hard to say no if you don’t want to buy something.

I never felt pushed, prodded or otherwise coerced into buying something that I didn’t want. I enjoyed the people. I’ll remember the faces and the smiles and the attempts at crossing language barriers. I’ll remember the little girl in the Dominican Republic who ran out to hand us flowers as we cycled by. These people are full of so much joy and so much LIFE, even with the little they have.

And I know it’s kind of a rant, but one that has stuck with me, and I’ve been home for way over a week now!

I don’t want a Homogenized Existence. I want to experience what LIFE is like in other places – the good, the bad, the heartbreak, the joy --- we are all in this world together, and there is so much we can learn from each other.

Thanksgiving in the states is tomorrow, yet I’ve been so grateful for EVERYTHING since we returned home. I’d like to keep this going year round. Things are just things. The most important things in life are NOT things --- it’s people.


  1. Anonymous9:42 AM EST

    I'm so glad you said something to that woman! There is nothing that will make you more grateful for what you have than traveling to a third world country. Like you, I'm always humbled and have a new appreciation for my own life. People like her get me steamed, but after that I feel sorry for them because I don't imagine they find much joy in anything.

  2. This is why you are LOVED the world 'round.
    You have a heart and are not afraid to show it.
    Your post brought tears to my eyes.
    I hope you have a safe and happy Holiday.
    XOXOXO Subee

  3. Amen! Wish more people could see how very blessed we are here and at the same time see how selfish many in our society have become also. I'm thankful for so many things we have here.
    Many blessing Bonnie,

  4. That woman can only see the beauty that comes from money, but I'd much rather be like Bonnie and see the beauty that comes from such humble sources.

  5. So many people commenting the same thing I was thinking while reading your post. AMEN!

  6. Anonymous10:40 AM EST

    I have no wisdom to add that has not already been well said. Just wanting to wish all a blessed Thanksgiving and ditto that one of my many blessings is Bonnie's blog life - Thanks, Bonnie, for sharing the world through your point of view. It lifts up many! Now... back to my Orca Bay work.... :-)

  7. Well said Bonnie! Happy Thanksgiving!

  8. Anonymous10:43 AM EST

    Well said Bonnie.

  9. Glad you said something to that women, however it probably didn't even register with her!! Going to other countries is a humbling experience isn't it. To all those who gripe about conditions in the US should travel elsewhere to see how others are surviving.

  10. Hi Bonnie,
    You do take wonderful pictures of the places you visit! I agree with you...LIVE!


  11. Anonymous10:54 AM EST

    Great story, Bonnie. I'm glad you spoke up. People can be so ENTITLED!!!

    Amy in KY

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  12. Anonymous10:54 AM EST

    Bonnie, you are such a wonderful human being and I'm proud to say I met you and can call you a quilting friend. Good for you. I have my three pies made and cranberry/orange relish made. With 8" of new wet snow on the ground it looks like Christmas but I think it's Thanksgiving. I am thankful for you, my family and friends.
    Maryella in Maine

  13. Bonnie, I truly admire you for speaking up to this woman. Rant on sistah!! And thanks for sharing your cruise photos...really lovely!

  14. Anonymous11:19 AM EST

    Agree with all other comments re: the "entitled" woman. I imagine, Bonnie, you got a bigger blessing from your cruise than she did, her eyes were on something much different.
    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving all. Spending my snow day making doll clothes for Grand daughter's Christmas present.
    Faye in Maine

  15. We have lived in a 3rd world country and most people in the US have NO idea. We are so blessed - even the people living in "poverty" are much better off than most people in the world. It breaks your heart when selling coconuts is all they can do to put food on the table. When we returned to the USA, just seeing a flag flying brought tears to my eyes because of being an American. With all the problems we have here, it is nothing compared to the way other people have to live.

  16. I'm glad you spoke up to that woman-it is curious that she booked that trip knowing the itinerary.
    I do have to wonder about your feelings of Hawaii being "homogenized"! Hawaii isn't just the resorts, and the people working at these resorts are real people, sometimes with real problems, who are working to support their families. We, too, are dependent on tourists as it is our largest industry, and one that suffers when the economy is tight and when a disaster in Japan suddenly causes us to lose a significant part of our tourist base. Homelessness is a huge problem as well.
    We have real people, too, and life here is not all about sipping mai tais under a coconut tree.
    Sorry, don't want to sound harsh, but your statement just kind of hit me wrong. Aloha-love your blog

  17. You're right, Bonnie! And I'm glad you said something to that woman. I'm sure she wasn't enjoying much of her vacation, if that was her attitude. Poor, poor rich girl. :o(

    I think (almost daily) about how lucky I am.....happy family, good health, great insurance, full pantry, and a huge stash with time to play with it! And I'm so grateful for so many wonderful blog friends, like you, who keep me thinking every day! Love ya!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  18. I wish I had been there to cheer when you responded to that woman!!

  19. Oh, dear Bonnie.
    TO have a heart like yours! If everyone did, this world would be a much better place.
    My sister and cousin have both adopted children from Hatian orphanages. The destitution there is incerdible!
    Thank you for NOT choosing a homogenized cruise. Thank you for helping to serve, through your purchases, those around you.
    You, lady, are about my favorite person right now. My hat's off to you!

  20. Thank you for sharing your experiences and the lessons you take away from them. I get so frustrated with our consumerism society, and people whining about how hard it is, and the economy. We have a wonderful existence in this country, and, while it isn't perfect, we should never take it for granted!

  21. Good for you! Good(er) for her!!!! Maybe if she wasn't so busy advertising by hanging her wealth all over her person she would not have been "bothered" so much by good people trying to make an honest living.

    I am thankful for you, for sharing your adventures on your trips and cruises. It is something that I will never be able to do (due to food allergies) and you share the parts that make it so real. The local life of your destinations come through. Blessings

  22. Amen to that! Well said, Bonnie! We are all so blessed even more than we realize. Thanks for the reminder and all the inspiration you give us all. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours and thanks for all the blessing you give to all of us.

  23. I like what you said. It is so right, do not judge people for what you see, see them for what they are.

    I loved the pictures!! I loved seeing where you had gone. LOVED the ocean/water colours!!! Wow!! So beautiful!!

    Happy Thanksgiving Bonnie and Family!!! Enjoy the day and each other.

  24. We were in Jamaica last year and ran into an obviously wealthy couple who commented on the fact that we tipped our tour guide in a negative way. I explained that he was employed and therefore very well off compared to others, but that his tips were for the days he didn't get called to work since he had said that he tested twice for the job and his best friend was still trying - up to 5 tries before you can't test any more. The guides can be fired for saying anything about tips and the whole interaction he has with customers is subject to taping and he can be fired for anything the company doesn't like. My $20 tip didn't cover the days he missed for the storm that we had followed into the port and he was polite and gracious and worked hard. Lots of people tipped, but the ones with ostentatious means kept their means to themselves. I guess that is why they were wealthy - they refuse to share at any level.

  25. Thank you so very much for this post, Bonnie.
    Blessings to you and your family, tomorrow and always.

  26. Anonymous4:08 PM EST

    Your comments are so true, Bonnie. Thank you for expressing them so well. These people work very hard just to survive and we, as Americans, don't think of how we impact that survival - both positively and negatively. As our friend in Mexico said shortly after the economic struggles began here "When America sneezes, Mexico gets the flu."
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family

  27. Anonymous4:26 PM EST

    Very well put Bonnie! Did she have any response? I agree with you, some of us have so much and take it for granted. It's humbling to see how other people live, even in the states. It does make us thankful for what we have!
    Debbie Barnes

  28. YOU GO GIRL!!!! Cruises to underprivileged areas isn't for everyone. The cruise line didn't send her anywhere - she chose to go there! Another comment had it just right. That woman will have a hard time finding pleasure or joy anywhere in her life.

    Happily, quilters don't have that problem. Thanks!

  29. Well said, Bonnie! We have so much to be thankful for and some people just don't realize how good they do have it. Hope you have a very blessed Thanksgiving:)

  30. Just discovered your blog and I was excited to see you live in Winston-Salem! I spent a day in the old town of Winston-SAlem last month. It was fascinating. We were in the Concord area for a week. Also met some very nice people and attended a BBQ at their homein Welcome. We live on the Canadian prairies so your area was quit different for us.

  31. It always surprises me that people who walk around showing off their wealth are always surprised that others who have less than they do approach them for help. If you don't "want to be bothered to buy", don't walk around dressed like you use dollar bills for toilet paper!

    As you pointed out, the people that live on these islands are well aware of what people have spent just to take this one trip and know that it is probably more than they make in a year. So why wouldn't/shouldn't they think that $25 dollars for a trinket is no big deal for a traveler to spend.

    And you gave that lady too much credit--she was probably no more aware of the circumstances of the places she was about to visit than she is of "poor" people living in her own home town. People like that usually live in their own privileged bubble and prefer to stay there.


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