Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Camp Connections

After weeks of organising our working groups in Occupy Liverpool, we were finally ready to set up camp. With just two days off work, I decided to take the chance to visit some of the other Occupy camps around the country to share information, gain some tips for our upcoming camp, and do some friendly networking.

First off I visited Occupy Birmingham. I arrived late in the evening and was welcomed by a small group of very friendly faces. Straight away they made me a hot drink and sat me down for conversation. They found me a spare tent and gave me blankets and covers to sleep with that night.  We sang silly songs along to an acoustic guitar and laughed at the lyrics we came up with. We talked about everything; from our own personal stories to how our own Occupy groups had progressed to how we felt about the world’s politics and system. It was such engrossing conversation that we stayed up until around 3am in the freezing cold. I slept like a baby for 2 hours then got up to make my way to catch the morning traffic to hitchhike to my next destination.  On the short train ride towards the motorway, I reflected on my short time at Occupy Birmingham and came away with one feeling that exceeded anything else I had gained from them: that I had just met a group of genuinely good, good people.

I arrived at Tamworth Service Station, got my hitching sign out, walked through the lorry park and two minutes later was sat in a small truck with a Welsh man named Wayne. Another two minutes later we were well on the way to solving all the problems of the world.  He told me he was so glad to have met me because his wife won’t listen to him when he talks about these subjects.  He saw the system as it is; profiteering off everything it can. It affected him because he had his own business and had to travel extensively; he was finding it more and more difficult to afford fuel, therefore harder to keep his business going. “Yes, oil prices have gone up. But compare the profits of those who are in the oil/petrol business. It’s all a scam.”
    After an hour or so of great conversation I said goodbye to Wayne as he dropped me off at Woodall Service Station. I took two minutes to change my sign, then two minutes again to find my next lift with Gary; who was so interested in what I had to say and the conversation we were having that he went out of his way for five miles to drop me right in the centre of Sheffield, my next destination.

Occupy Sheffield.  Wow, what a camp! Based on the grounds of the Cathedral in the town centre, it’s the perfect place to attract public attention. A giant marquee covered from top to bottom with posters filled with information for the public to read, next to a welcome tent with friendly Occupiers waiting enthusiastically for any interest and questions from the public. You are then welcomed into the tent circle with a hot drink and a seat to get comfortable in good conversation with any of the Occupiers there.  They had so many ideas and had put many of them into practice; this camp had really done it well. I spent the day jotting down a million ideas and in great conversation with those who were there. I attended their daily General Assembly and was encouraged to give my own input too. We shared a wonderful vegetable curry between twenty or so campers and some of the public who were visiting at the time. I had such a good time that I didn't want to leave. But I had somewhere to be so off I went towards my next destination: Leeds.

Sign in hand, I walked towards the slip road to where I would start hitching from, and a car stopped just ahead of me, a girl frantically waving her arms in my direction. Have I seriously just got a lift without even waiting?! YES! Holy moly, I had no clue it would be this easy to hitch in this country, the one place on earth where everyone is scared of each other!?
I spent the next half an hour or so in a car with three Muslim girls and an inflatable doll. Yes, it’s definitely on my list of the most random moments of my life.

I arrived at the Occupy Leeds camp just as it was going dark and just as dinner was about to be served. Perfect! Surrounding the city’s Christmas tree in the centre square, I don’t think there could have been a better place for the camp to be situated. They had only set up their camp one week before and were still in the early stages of ideas and development, and were all putting so much effort in, and that’s what counts in the beginning. It was a cold night and I gave up trying to sleep at 5am, headed to the train station and got myself home in time for the next
meeting of Occupy Liverpool.

After visiting all these camps, I got so many ideas to take home but also a sense of how important it will be in the near future to maintain and build ties with other camps around the country and the world. We are not individual groups; we are a global movement who are all striving for the same achievements.

As always, what I gained the most from my trip was inspiration.  I came away with inspiring memories of the amount of good, thoughtful people who were willing, and wanted, to put all of their time into the same cause that I believed in through and through.
So I would like to say thank you to the people I met on this short trip, because inspiration lasts forever.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Wake Up!

Over the past six days I’ve pretty much devoted my entire time to Occupy. All my nights have been given to meetings, researching, networking, and thinking. Even my dinner hour at work has been taken over.
I can honestly say that I have never thought so much in my whole entire life. Every minute there are millions of ideas running through my head. Almost all of the other Occupy Liverpool campaigners I’ve seen over the past week have had the same problem as me…so much thinking that you lose yourself mid-sentence.
Who knew? It’s not just the parks that are occupied; it’s our minds as well!

What I would like to talk about today is the primary aim we have as a group.

WW1 propaganda
The mainstream media has ridiculed the camps, trying to dumb the general public into believing their words. I think there’s a word for that…oh yeah; propaganda!

One British politician sums this up pretty well; let’s call him Cavid Dameron for identity sake:
“Obviously, the right of people to protest is fundamental to our country. The idea of establishing tents in the middle of our city, I don’t feel is particularly constructive.”

The student protests in 2010 were aimed against the tripling of tuition fees for future university students. There were approximately 50000 people demonstrating on the streets of London on the first day of protests on 10th November. After several other days demonstrating and all the media that followed, guess what happened?…The tuition fees were tripled just as planned.
I fully supported the student protests, but the impact their argument had on the government was pretty much nil. Even in those large numbers, the government hardly even batted an eyelid.

So to say that we have a right to protest is one thing, but for them to listen to that right is another matter.

Therefore, in my eyes particularly, the tent camps that people are setting up around the world ingeniously use that right to their advantage. By being in one set place for months on end, where anyone can go to learn about the cause, ask questions, and speak freely is the most constructive protest I could ever think of.

Our primary aim is to waken people up to the corrupt system we are under. What better way to do this than having a constant presence and the ability to educate every day.

  • If a campaign sets up a website, do you find it and look up their cause?
  • If a one day demonstration marches through the streets of your town, do you stay at home that day, or do you go down and watch starry eyed?
  • If you walk through your town centre and see hundreds or thousands of peaceful people in an established camp with posters and banners everywhere and each one of them wanting to chat with you, would you be curious? Would you ask questions? Just chat for one minute?

So unless you have something
constructive to say Mr Dameron, I would leave the belittling nonsense comments aside.

Yes we have demands for the future, and yes we might not have all the answers yet (another one they like to play on in the media), but our primary aim is to get our people to WAKE UP!

Those that we are opposing have absolute power.

So for the public to have any power at all, we need the people to
wake up.

We are the 99%.


Thursday, 10 November 2011

Kimmie's gone crazy!!??

Yes, I know most of you are thinking, what on earth is going on with Kim’s facebook wall??!!
It’s been occupied, that’s what!
...PLEASE just listen for one minute!!!....

The “Occupy” movement started in New York City over two months ago and has now gone global: Sydney, Madrid, Hong Kong, Cape Town, Milan, LA; altogether almost 2000 cities worldwide!
And now…..Liverpool!!

After all my travels I have learned so much about the world and the capitalist system we live in. To put it in a nutshell, it is corrupt; corrupted by the richest 1% who buy our governments allowing them to waver laws so that they can become even richer.  The system as it is benefits only that richest 1%.

The financial mess that the world is in was caused by these people and now the common people are being forced to bail them out. We are told we live in a democracy, but what does that mean when we are voting for a bought government? That 1% control the majority of the wealth, and the decision making, and the decision-making power. In effect, we are modern day slaves.

And that’s where we come in. We are fighting back against the power of major banks and corporations and demanding our governments work for us!

Rupert Murdoch [click]

Are you wondering why you don’t know much about the Occupy movement? Let me tell you…because there are a very small number of people who own the media we read and watch every day. And those very few people are part of that 1%.  Why would they report on a movement that wants to shut them down? Their motto: Keep the public stupid and we can live like this forever.

Occupy Madrid

Occupy is growing so quickly that it is already the largest protest movement in recorded history. And it’s only just beginning.

That’s why you need to know! I want to educate my friends and anyone else who’s listening on what is happening to our world. So from this point onwards, my blog has officially started up again! I’ll do my best to explain everything as simply as possible and hopefully inspire you to be part of it. 

Viva la revolution!!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Memories to keep

It's been 52 days since my last blog.  52 days! Wow! It feels like years. They say time goes quickly when you're having fun. But when you see so many places and meet so many people in such a short time, it feels like so much longer. Since I have been super lazy by not blogging in this long, I will sum up my time with memories which I have the pleasure of calling mine; in tiny sentences or long stories, those that are funny and those that are intense, from places I have been to people I have met.

But first, here is a map on where I have been:

Meeting a man who travelled as a rock'n'roll hippie when he was younger and now has seven children all in different parts of the world.  I sat with him as he told me his adventures and listened intently as he philosophised about the rights and wrongs in his life and how they have allowed him to teach his children to live in a more meaningful way.

A lady who had been addicted to Crystal Meth for twenty years and saw the error of her ways when her son was imprisoned late last year.  She took control, got herself sober, and is now living in Mexico the way she wish she had lived her whole life.

The sixteen hour bus ride from Playa del Carmen to San Cristobal.  After only three hours, driving over a speed bump too quickly and puncturing two of the tyres.  Driving at snails pace for two hours in the middle of the night until we reached a small village.

Arriving in San Cristobal de las Casas.  All the beautifully coloured colonial buildings and old cobbled streets.  Not being able to take the smile off my face.

Finding out that Cati, a girl who I had been in touch with for almost a year, was living there.  After a few days together, renting an apartment with her.  All the laughing, all the coffees, all the meals I watched her cook (I did the washing up), all the stories we shared, that crazy messy cake she accidentally made which made us sick.  And everything in between.

Meeting Muffin Martin for the first time, a dread locked German.  The super deep conversation we had late into the night.  Then the wonderfully inspiring person I learned him to be as the weeks went by.

The super steep hills I went running up every morning.  At an altitude of 2100 metres it felt like I was breathing through a straw!

Bumping into Gihan, the super clever Turk, sat outside the coffee shop almost every day and chatting about everything from capitalism to running.

Sitting outside a cafe eating my dinner.  A lady more than twice my age stopping by my table and with desperate eyes asking for some of the plain tortilla wraps from the plate which accompanied my meal.  She lost no pride because she has had to do this her whole life.

The North American tourists who were lying on the ground to get a good angle for their photo.  All the Mexicans staring at them thinking "who are these insane people?!".

Austrian Martin, who I worked with on his new, broken down house; repairing the millions of holes in the walls, painting, and fixing the roof.  Randomly making hippie trousers with his wife Nikita one day.  Their toddler Noel giggling like crazy every time somebody helped him walk around the house.  The happiest boy I've ever met.  Shanty, their doggie, who had eight puppies early one morning.

My day trip to the awesome Sumidero Canyon.

Kate, the hippie girl from the USA who I clicked with straight away.  I think we both could have eaten another plate of the beer-battered bananas that Cati made.

Ron &  Marcus

Hitchhiking for the very first time.  From San Cristobal to Xela, 500km; with Ron, the Guatemalan who had hitched all over Europe for the last sixteen months.  Feeling strange standing at the side of the road with my thumb stuck out, but getting over it after five minutes and feeling so free.  Our first ride being in the back of a giant sand truck (minus the sand).  Marcus, who drove us a very long way and even bought us lunch.

Finding it easier than Ron to get into Guatemala.  I love my British passport!

Arriving in Xela and being super hungry.  Paying just 30p for a meal in the market!

The good news I got from home which I cried about for the rest of the day.

My first time hitchhiking alone.  Waiting less than ten minutes for my first ride, with Espy and Franklin, the super friendly truck drivers.

My second ride sat on the bed in the cabin of a lorry.  The drivers dropping me off at a bus stop, not at the junction I asked.  They thought I just didn't know where to catch the bus from when they picked me up at the side of the road.

My time in Panajachel, a village on Lake Atitlan, proclaimed as the most beautiful lake in the world; "It really is too much of a good thing" being one of the most famous quotes.

The boat ride across the lake being super super bumpy.  The lines the surrounding hills created and the three volcanoes perfectly perched on the south side of the lake, can only be described as sheer beauty.  I couldn't tell you how many times I gasped "Oh my god."

The amazingly hot shower at Hotel El Sol.  You know you're a real traveller when a hot shower is a highlight.

Emmanuel, the coffee-maker stopping to chat with me in the sun for hours.  Before he left, asking me to write down something that he can remember forever.

Hitchhiking to Antigua.  Hermino, who could speak English enough for us to have a great conversation.

Ron meeting up with me when I got to Antigua.  It was so good to see a familiar face.

Staying with Luis in his mansion of a house.

Having a huge impression made on me by a man who I spoke with for just twenty minutes.  The first thing everybody asks is where you are from and how old you are, but he always refuses to answer.  He said that before you even get to know the person, you make a judgement on the information they tell you.  Most of the time you have a preconceived idea of what people are like from the place they grew up, from other people you have met in the past.  If someone is younger than you, you automatically think that you cannot learn from them, so you are not open to their ideas or thoughts.  If someone is older than you, you don't open up or teach them anything because you automatically think you can't possibly teach them.  So he never asks or answers these questions.  He sees the person they are now; age, nationality, gender, race, all don't matter, it's the person's life and experiences that do.  To me, he was the perfect stranger.

Working a few days at Hot Road bar.  Ending a night out sat on a random street eating tacos made by a man sitting in the back of a pickup truck.

Getting a bus to Guatemala City and being convinced that my backpack was going to fall off the roof because of all the fast turns in the road.

Staying with Ron and his mum; possibly the sweetest, and smallest, lady in all of Guatemala.

Travelling south to the pacific coast.  The boat ride through the mangrove swamps to get to the village of Monterrico, which sat perfectly on a volcanic black beach.

Michelle, the North America girl who has lived one of the most complicated and heartbreaking lives I have ever heard.  Watching the sunset on the beach with her as she gasped "I'm so lucky.  I'm the luckiest person alive."

Sarah, the British girl who, after a few too many drinks, was so happy that she could finally speak Spanish, when in fact she was just shouting in English.

The group of guys who bought me tacos at 4 o'clock in the morning.  Using a mix of actions and words to speak Spanish with them.  And coming up with a story about not being able to see the moon or stars in England because of the clouds...!?! Think I just wanted something to say...

My time in Mexico and Guatemala ended there.  I'm now in El Salvador, but I'll save that for another blog post.  As I look back on all these memories, I realise more than ever how much I have done.  However, my most prized possession isn't necessarily a memory I have, but the impression the people have had on me.  I may not remember their names or even their stories forever, but I feel like a much fuller and more inspired person because of them.  So I would like to say thankyou and 'mucho gusto' if any of them are reading this now!

Peace out people!

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Montego Bay

I had organised a few weeks before to work at Bethel Court Guesthouse in Montego Bay.  When I arrived I was welcomed by the extremely friendly owner Steve and he explained what he would like me to help him with.  I would work for three hours in the mornings from Monday to Friday, advertising the hostel on different websites, in exchange for a free bed each night.
I stayed at Bethel Court for around two weeks and met so many awesome people from all around the world.  The place was jam-packed some days, but without fail Steve always found somewhere for each traveller to sleep.  Most days everyone would meet up on the beach and party at night - a pretty cool way to spend our days!

Saturday 22nd we packed ourselves into two minibuses and went on a day trip; most of which consisted of driving along the windy roads through the mountains listening to FULL BLAST dancehall music.  Our first stop was the Bob Marley Mausoleum - the birth and rest place of Bob Marley in "9 mile" village.

We sang some of his songs with our Rastafarian tour guide.  We said a prayer whilst walking around his tomb with a candle.  And we sat on the rock where he used to look out at the view whilst smoking a spliff, thinking about life, and writing his music.

 Since this is understandably an important place, it had become pretty touristy.  They had even painted many things in the classic Jamaican colours of red, yellow and green, which symbolise blood, the sun, and...nature!  The locals obviously wanted a scoop of the tourism money, so children were poking sticks with cigarette packets attached to the end through the gaps in the walls and were shouting for a dollar or two. I think they earned their money not because of a sympathy felt by the tourists, but because of how impressive the invention was!  The locals also took advantage of the fact that this is the only place in Jamaica where Marijuana is legal, by hanging over the top of the surrounding walls selling ready-rolled joints! 
It was a really interesting trip and opened my eyes a little more to the Rastafarian religion.  It was originally based on Christianity and has developed a few different ways of practising spirituality.  In general, they are very peaceful people.  If you listen to Bob Marley´s lyrics in many of his songs, you can get an idea of the thoughts and beliefs of the Rasta people - one love/one people.

A line of tourists holding hands whilst walking up the falls
The next part of the day trip was a couple of hours later, this time listening to two whole albums of 50 Cent, arriving in Ocho Rios to climb up Dunn´s River Falls.  This place is milked of every last drop of amazingness it has all for tourism, but it was very good fun all the same.  The long drive back to the hostel filled our ears with yet more FULL BLAST dancehall, and sure enough everybody´s ears were ringing that night.

The following day was Sunday, which meant BEACH PARTY!!! Everybody from the Bethel Court spent the day sunbathing, playing volleyball, joining in with all the games, and drinking an unlimited amount of alcohol for just 600 Jamaican dollars (around £5).  It rained heavily for about two hours but that didn´t stop us - we spent the time out in the Caribbean Sea on the floating trampoline!  It was the coolest day ever and I remember thinking that I hadn´t stopped smiling the entire day.

The prisons on the island
Everybody has heard about the beautiful all-inclusive getaways in Jamaica: unlimited food, drinks, sun, sea, sand, entertainment.  They are all located a few miles away from downtown Montego Bay, a tax-free area therefore perfect for the resorts to make a lot of money.  Why would you need to leave an all-inclusive resort?  Walk down a deserted dirt track for a mile or two (this is why everybody believes it is dangerous outside - it´s just a trick of the mind!) and you can experience the real Jamaica.  The beaches outside the resorts are just as beautiful, the food is (much cheaper) authentic Jamaican cuisine, and you can get a tan from a better sun.  Ok the last one is me just trying to convince you.  Above all this, the main reason I believe tourists should leave the resorts is to spread the wealth to the country and no to the resort owners.  Who on earth wants to make the rich richer?!  If the travel companies didn´t convince the world that Jamaica is so dangerous then it would really help the country that is so poverty-stricken.  A country with such a strong, fascinating culture and with so much to offer to everybody.

Over the next couple of days the original gang began to gradually leave and the hostel got quieter, but soon enough more people turned up and the days on the beach and nights in the clubs continued.  One night particularly stood out as a crazy one.  It was Thursday and it was ladies night.  A dance competition part-way through the night really got the party started.  This video (which I will add when I can get to a better computer) is of the girl who won the competition in the end and for some reason she was attracted to our group and danced with us for the rest of the night.  I busted my dancehall moves as well as I could but my Britishness showed through just a little I think!

On Saturday I caught a bus to Negril and walked along the famous seven mile beach.  To be honest, I didn't see why people were so attracted to was just hotel after hotel along a very long beach.  I got a taxi up to "Rick´s Cafe" where you can watch locals dive off the cliffs to the side.  Tourists were allowed to dive too but I didn't think it would be that wise...doing a belly-flop from that high up wouldn't be the coolest moment of my life!

My last Sunday in Montego Bay and a few people from the hostel and I decided to go to the church across the road.  The church-goers were enthusiastic to say the least!  Singing and dancing and shouting "Praise the Lord!" and "Hallelujah!" was a common trend.  One of our favourite songs went something a little like this: "Jesus you´re excellent, you´re excellent! You´re excellent Jesus, you´re excellent!"  Add some groove and some boogying and guaranteed you will have a good time.  There were a few baptisms of people of all different ages too.  One woman got really emotional when she explained to the church why she was getting baptised so late in life.  She said she always thought that she would fully commit herself to God when she felt her life was stable.  But one day, whilst reading the bible, she realised that everybody needs help through each step of their life, not at the end when everything was already sorted.  I think this is true for many people, but most don´t accept that they need to stop being stubborn and make that change in their life.  Everybody thinks they can do it alone.  I´m no exception either!

The last day of the month and my last day in Jamaica.  I wandered around downtown taking the pictures that would remind me of my time in Montego Bay.  Since I already stood out a mile with my camera, I thought I would make myself look even more like a tourist by getting an ice-cream.

By this time, I felt ready to leave.  I was very sad to say goodbye to the country I had learnt to love over the past few weeks, but I was also looking forward to the next part of my adventure...Mexico!

Monday, 31 January 2011

It's not what you know, it's who you know

After my day filled with crazy people I got myself a cheap flight to Jamaica for the following morning.  Once I got off the plane in Kingston, getting to a place to stay was a whole different matter.  Taxi drivers were telling me it would cost $35 to get to any place I had on the list, but I had read differently on the internet.  So I went to get the bus instead, for just $1.  I would get to somewhere myself!  A policeman stopped at the bus stop in his car to talk to me then when he moved further down to another woman waiting for the bus she completely ignored him, which says a lot for the police here!  A minute later a random man in a car stopped in front of us.  He was asked where I was going, then me and two other women at the bus stop got into the car.  Driving through Kingston with so much traffic and so many potholes in the roads made the journey an interesting one.  We almost crashed off the road, almost ran over a few people, almost ran over a dog, and almost ran over a goat. Yes that's right, a goat.  After lots of beeping, stopping, and people getting in and out of the car, I finally realised I was in a taxi.  But one without a taxi licence...just because everything I do isn't normal, as you probably know by now.  He dropped me off at one of the places I had on my list and asked for just $8 - much better than using a real taxi, don't you agree?!

So here's where the title of this blog comes in...
There was a mix-up on the hostelworld website and it wasn't a hostel or a guesthouse I was at, it was an apartment which could be rented between four people.  Of course, I couldn't afford that.  So the security guard phoned his friend, who phoned her friend, and two minutes later a taxi driver called Freddie came to pick me up.  He took me to a different guesthouse that I knew but they only had space for one night.  So the kind man that Freddie is, took me to where he lives and introduced me to a family who had a spare room that I could stay in!


There was Dainty, her 23 year old son Wade, and her 5 year old granddaughter Abria.  She set me up in a room with a double bed and made me a Jamaican dinner of jerk chicken with rice.  Little Abria chatted with me all night and was very fascinated with my camera at one point (hence all the photos).  She searched through the pictures of my family which were on my camera from Christmas day and she asked me who each person was, on every photo, until she started recognising them herself.

Wade & Dainty
She got to one picture and stopped.
"Who's that?"
"It's me!"
"Ohhh yeah.  You're white aren't you.  I forgot."
This whole time she had been looking at me just as a person, so when she didn't recognise the white girl in the photo, it was really something to think about how people see each other.
By the end of the night she declared that we were best friends.

The following day, with Dainty at work and Abria at school, I spent the day with Wade and his girlfriend Crystal (which I was later told doesn't mean girlfriend. In Jamaica, somebody isn't your girlfriend until she's your wife...who knows?!)  We went out for a while, got some lunch and I bought some things I needed, but the day mainly consisted of me asking millions of questions about life in Kingston.  It has such a bad reputation all around the world for being dangerous, so I wanted to know the truth from the people that lived there.  I don't know why I expected a different answer to all of my questions because I've learnt this in all my travels over the past few years.  There are bad people everywhere.  Fact.  But there are good people everywhere too.

The next day I met another member of the family, Dainty's nephew Sean.  After a slice of cake made from potato (I have NO idea how it tasted that good) made by Dainty, Dean took me to the salon he manages and introduced me to his friends.  Later on we got on a bus to downtown.  Oh my!  With the bus already full, I wondered where we would sit.  On the fold-down seat in the isle of course!  Let me tell you, you haven't been hot until you have been sandwiched in a tiny jam-packed bus in the Jamaican midday sun!  The conductor thought we could fit more people in, so he hung out of the door screaming;
"Downtown! Daawwwwwwntaaawwwwwwn!"
Not once did he communicate with the driver, so if people wanted to get on they had to use those power legs they have all inherited to run and jump onto the bus whilst it's still moving pretty quickly down the road.  It was definitely one of the most thrilling bus rides I've ever had, to say the least!

The streets were bustling with people, the shops were a sheet of tarpaulin on the floor and all their items placed on top. Each shop was almost like a mini supermarket; a pair of jeans sat right next to a TV, sat right next to a bottle of washing up liquid.

We walked passed a place called Tivoli Gardens, which is infamous for the unrest it has experienced over the years, most notably in 2010 where at least 73 civilian were killed.  Sean explained to me that it was between the Jamaican military police and a drug cartel ran by Christopher Coke.  He said the reason that there was so much hassle was because all the people were on Christopher Coke's side, as he protected them and gave them jobs and money.

I don't have any photos of downtown Kingston. Sean told me not to get my camera out....(cynical me was thinking it was because it could get robbed)...because too many people would want a picture taken!
We took these photo in the market when nobody was looking.

When we got back home, there was a light bulb flashing in Sean's mind.
"We could get married.  Wade, you could marry one of her friends, they're beautiful."
Watch out everyone!

The next morning, I was to leave Kingston.  Just three nights there and I've come away with a family.  Four people who I'll remember forever.  Freddie drove me to the bus station where I hopped on for another crazy bus journey, this time for four hours driving through the beautiful Blue Mountains.  I had said goodbye to my family in Kingston and was saying hello to some brand new friends in Bethel Court Guesthouse in Montego Bay.

Friday, 21 January 2011

No pictures just a story

I had found a boat to hitch on a website [ask me if you want it].  The man's name was Joe and he was picking me up at 11am from Anna's place to take me to his place in Fort Lauderdale.  What turned up was a Mercedes and a very friendly 40ish year old man.  We got to his place after about an hour.  Holy ****!  I've never seen anything like it.  His house was a mansion.  There was even a room just for a metal bull to stand in.  Seven bathrooms.  Countless bedrooms.  Two pools.  Four cars.  Four Harleys.  Two yachts.

We went for lunch and chatted about where we would go, what we liked and disliked, what we had done, places we had been.  He showed me around the yacht that we were going in.  Everything was going well but for some reason I didn't feel comfortable.  Thinking back now, he talked a lot about how to stay safe whilst I am travelling alone, so maybe it just got me thinking.  If it was intentional then he is very clever, because I started to feel vulnerable.  I made a decision and told him that I didn't want to go anymore.  He was fine about it and helped me find a hostel to stay at in Fort Lauderdale.  As I was leaving the house to get in the car I saw a book laid out on the table.  It had a long title that I can't fully remember, but it was an instruction guide on how to communicate sociably, in public and individually.  At that point I realised he was just a lonely old man.  At lunch he had told me his way of doing things in life and one thing that I particularly remember was him saying the reason people fail in life was because they didn't plan things like he does.  Seeing that book on the table made me see he had prioritised all the wrong things in his life.  In my eyes, he has failed.  He has everything but nobody to share it with.

He drove me to the hostel where I got a bed in a dorm.  There was a woman there who was around 40 years old (although I'm sure hostels are for young people?!) from Ohio.  She asked where I came from and when I told her Liverpool, she looked at me in amazement.
"Oh wow. What's it like there? I heard it's really liberal."
I asked what she meant.
"People run riot and everything. They're not religious at all."
I said no not really.
"Wow. Oh my gosh. It's godless!!"
I explained that it's not a bad place at all, people just get on with their lives with or without god.
" Godless. *huh* They just don't know do they!?!!"

After reading this blog post, please put your hand up right now if you are happy with who you are and with what you have.  Good.  You should be.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Miami Beach

I had a mission: to find a boat to hitch to the Caribbean.  So on my first full day in Miami Beach (yes, it's a different place than Miami) I made the most of the free breakfast given at the hostel, then walked down the beach towards the marina.

By the looks of things Baywatch is starting up again...
Free breakfast and free boat rides...yes I'm a cheapskate.  Saying this, an hour or so later I went in a travel shop for a (free) map then ended up paying $50 for something.  Oops!  I guess this can be an award for finding £50 in an old bank account at home.  It was a trip to the Everglades.  And just so I would definitely buy, I was given a free bus tour and free boat tour for the day.  The bus tour was pretty good, I learned a few things about Miami and Miami Beach as well as let ourselves into the most famous hotel in Miami for a toilet break...

Straight after, we went on the boat tour.  It took us around the islands of the rich and famous.  I took a few photos but can't quite remember who's house was P.Diddy's, Sylvester Stallone's, or Madonna's...

Anyway, me being me and not just doing things the normal way, I made friends with the captain of the boat and ended up driving it through bridges and passageways.  It was a lot harder than you imagine!

The next morning was my Everglades tour.  It's the biggest national park in the USA as well as having more species of birds, mammals, fish, anything you can think of, than any other park in the USA.  We were driven to where we would have the airboat tour.

                     And then I held an alligator...

I met up with Anna after the Everglades tour.  She's an Australian nurse and has been working out in Miami for just over a year.  Her roommate (or flatmate!!) Lavada had recently moved from New York...because she needs some sun!  Had a dinner of chicken chow mein, carefully prepared by Anna (thankyou it was lovely) whilst watching "Wipeout" on TV.  For those of you who don't know "Wipeout", YouTube it, it's AMAZING! --- ""8.30, Wipeout time!!""

Went with the flow the following day (because I'm too lazy to make a plan) and ended up getting the bus to downtown Miami [oooooooooooo!].  Wandered around a market which was really touristy and took a few pictures of a man jamming to a reggae band.  I don't know why, he just looked pretty.>>>

Decided I wanted to see the real downtown so I hopped on the free shuttle-train-thingy and got off at a stop which I chose by singing "Eenie meenie miney mo".  I found the real downtown Miami. Wow.  Homeless people everywhere.  Some had shopping trolleys filled with who-knows, some had ten jackets on even though it was sunny, one had an umbrella, and one had a pigeon on his head...just to name a few.  Hmmmmm...where to go? The tallest building I could see, why not?!  Planning on using my I'm-a-stupid-tourist- card if I got caught, I headed up three different lifts (or elevators if you're American) and found myself in a lawyers office on the 47th floor.  I used my British charm on a lady in an office to ask if I could take a picture of the skyline from the window. She was very confused. So I did it anyway.

After a very complicated way back (must have taken a wrong turn somewhere) I made my way back to Anna's place; stopping by at Miami Ink Studios [on the DMAX channel on Sky in the UK] and meeting Yoji.

Once Anna got back from work, all three of us went out for cocktails. More specifically Mojitos. More specifically alcohol that will get you so drunk in three drinks that you eat the whole menu in a taco cafe.
A great few days spent with Anna and Lavada, thankyou very much ladies!