Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The quintessential Guyanese home.

Finally, I found a piece of heaven on earth. Though all the mayhem and crazy stuff going on here there was a little part of peace and serenity.

I went to visit an uncle’s family today. He lost the battle with cancer. But if his home is a testament to the way he lived then he is smiling today. I knew Uncle Jai as a little boy growing up. He took me for long rides on his bicycle and always picked fruits for me from the various trees in the yard. As a cane cutter he always had a very sharp cutlass which he would make small chore of peeling cane with.

Uncle Jai’s home is behind his mother’s. A long walkway leads to the back lot which opens up to the most serene lush tropical setting. Six macaws cheerily greets when guests enters, parrots, monkeys, pigeons, ducks, chickens, cats, and goats join in. The tropical symphony is muted by gorgeous foliage and  flowers. The backyard is a tranquil getaway with a hammock hanging in such a way that it is shaded, but the cool river breeze washes away all stress. With animals singing and chirping it would seem like this is the perfect home, until one meets the genuine hospitality from this family.

The mom just opens her home and let us just say that the daughter should be leading a team of five star hospitality professionals. This kind open hearted young lady was the most gracious person I’ve met in Guyana. Had I not have to leave on Wed I would be spending a lot of time there. Without me responding to a question whether or not I wanted a coconut she was already reaching into a bunch of coconuts hanging from a tree, before the answer came from my mouth she was already smiling and cutting with a cutlass like a pro, maybe she got it from her dad. Before I could say no thank you to mangos there was a bag full of the smallest most succulent little darlings I every laid lips on. Then the cherry and fat poke showed up. All this time with a smile and intelligent conversation. This type of hospitality comes from a genuine desire to please. May god bless her and grant her family all that they desire. RIP uncle Jai.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Crack, sex, and high school drop out.

“We have a son who is 18 years old and ready to marry. We can marry and take her to Suriname to live with us. She can go to Christian church and live with us while she matures to serve as a house wife. Our son will not touch her until she is 18. We will take good care of her.” said the Surinamese couple to the wide eyed and tired family of hopeless aunts, uncles. and father.

They are discussing the future of a 14 year old girl who does not listen to anyone. She smokes crack, have sex, and is a high school out since December 2010. What, you say? Of course, right here in quiet old #78 Village back yard. The first street of #78 Village Rampoor Road is infested with a group of 14-17 year olds who are all crack users and hang out like a bunch of little wanna be thugs. The little girl’s cousin is her pimp. He gets crack from a “friend” who in turn crawls into his bedroom window to have sex with the 14 year old girl, his cousin. Outrageous you say, sure, it gets better. There is a 17 year old girl in the gang who collects money from the boys to have sex with the younger girls. A little “madam” at the tender age of 17. Not your little old Guyana. Wake up open your eyes and ears, look and listen. It is happening right now. There is little or no parental support for anyone it seems.

Most of what I hear from some of the parents is, “A b a tired talking to dem pickne dis, dem hard ears, dem na listen to no body.” The feeling of despair, hopelessness, of helplessness, of a total break down of parental values and discipline all play a role in this dysfunctional society. Most parents of these kids don’t want to or are too tired to deal with the issues of this teenager pack. The parents rather hide their kids when the truancy officers come knocking because they feel the kids will continue to do the same things.They are also afraid of drug users. There is also the perception that another person’s child is not one’s business and they should just stay out. The notion of it takes a village to raise a child definitely does not apply here.

Most of the teenager pack’s parents are uneducated and work menial jobs to get by. They have no faith in the system nor do anything to get out of their current situation. I hear the words, “ we are poor people, what can we do” a lot. It is very hard to convince these people that there is a way to get help and there are organizations and people who are willing to extend a hand. A very casual inquiry at Skeldon High School lead to a whole world of individuals ready and willing to help. Teachers, consulars, an actual social worker (University of Guyana graduate) are all in place ready to help.

With limited resources and just the goodwill of helping a child to stay on a straight path these teachers and social workers try tirelessly to contain a problem that is fastly spinning out of control. The drug epidemic is quickly engulfing this once innocent society into a 15 year old monster. What will happen in a couple of years when these kids grow up a little? It will be intolerable to be on any street corner or walk on any streets. There is little or no help from parents who are too illiterate to bother about helping their kids get off drugs. As far as they are concerned the kids are bad and there is nothing to be done about it. This is the brick wall the social workers run into everyday. When social workers take money out or their own pockets to buy shoes for a kid who can not afford it, that is going beyond the call of duty. They is only so much a social worker can do. They cannot parent every child. That is the parents’ role. But this society has always been okay with someone else raising their child.

It has always been a common practice here for parents to give a child to their relative or close friend or some to complete strangers to parent. When my father passed I had many offers to “mine” (raise) me. My grandfather and grandmother was very vocal and stayed strong that I was not up for adoption, or raising or any such crazy thing. They made sure everyone knew that I had a home, their home. Had they allowed someone else to “mine” me who knows what I would have become. Not that I have not had my share of troubles, god knows I had, but I am still not so bad. Right?

After a three hour session with the social workers the little 14 year old was allowed back in the school with stipulations and check points. She has to check in 3 times a week with a social worker and every evening with another teacher at the teacher’s home to do homework. There is a support system in place at her home to assist with absenteeism. Everyone around this child were brought in and made absolutely clear what were the consequences if this little girl were to not to follow the guidelines laid out for her .  If she is absent 1 day for no real reasons the social worker will be forced to report to the Ministry Of Education who will inform the local authority to commit her to a Correctional School for Girls. She is to stay away from her pimp and the young drug pusher and avoid her little pack at all cost.

The social worker made a list of things for little crack girl to have so she can have a smooth transition back into school. All items with the exception of 2 are accounted for. She starts school in the morning.

Don’t move me!

The car flipped three times avoiding an oncoming truck with high beams on into a dry roadside ditch  The driver was pulled out by helpful people on the scene, but the passenger in the front seat refused help and order everyone to stay clear of him. Prince had the mental capacity to know exactly what had happened and how he was going to get out of the car.

Prince’s friend had to make a fish delivery to Guyana Fisheries at #66 Village, Corentyne, Berbice, Guyana. DSCF0125As very close friends he asked Prince to tag along. After the delivery, there were other people in the car. When the front passenger seat was vacant, Prince’s friend asked for him to join him up front. Then came the fast rolling high beam truck.

As the first flip happened Prince pulled the seat lever to lay flat, the second flip had his spine against the gear shift knob, and the third flip had him feeling coldness on his legs. He knew that there was spinal injury. As people tried to free him, Prince had the mental capacity to tell them to stay clear as he used his arms to break free of the wreckage. He was transported to Skeldon Hospital.

Upon arrival the nurse wanted to give him a sleeping pill to ease the discomfort. He knew there was no feelings in his legs and that it had to be looked at. No doctor was available to look at him until the morning. He demanded to be transferred to New Amsterdam hospital. The nurse refused. Since everyone knew him, a friend got the ambulance driver to come take him anyway. At New Amsterdam hospital he spent 11 days with no X Ray, since the machine was down. The driver of the vehicle that Prince was riding in when the accident occurred , his friend, took him to Prashad Nagar Hospital in Georgetown. He spent 14 months there with treatment but still could never walk again. His family survived with the generosity of a community that Prince represented and dealt with in dignity and respect. His struggle continues…..

Holika Burn

Went to the witness Holika burning. Lots of people attended. Of course the local politicians turned out in full swing. Anything to rub shoulders and have face time. The pandit rode in on a big bike, did the prayers and roared off into the sunset. He could not be more than 25 yo. After prayers the giant palm tree leaves were lit and it went up in flames. Rain looked eminent so we left.

Shut up, Lalwa

Lalwa's home--directly opposite my old home.This is Lalwa, the street and village bully, thug, petty thief, and maker of mischief. If there was anything illegal going on this man knew about it. He was blamed for almost everything that happened in my housing scheme.

Lalwa, his parents, and family lived in a small wooden house across the street from the home I grew up in. His yard had a mango, guava, cheery, and podu (spelling?) tree. I was the only kid on the street allowed to go raid these fruit trees.

Ram (his real name), was very good friends with my father. His father and mother were very close to my grand parents. This family was a neighbor and in Guyana, neighbors are family. They actually lend each other salt, sugar,Approach from front of cemetery flour, rice and anything else they need. For as long as I can remember Ram always had my best interest at heart. He was kind and generous to me. Although, Lalwa had the most dangerous reputation in the village he always treated our family with respect and dignity. He was our personal security. I was told that he always warded off any potential robbers to our home. I remembered an incident when he personally jumped our gate with cutlass wielding to fend off five attackers as they tried to steal our chickens. He always defended our honor. When he drank alcohol the devil came out.

Lalwa was a habitual drunk. During his earlier years Ram was a cane cutter like most of the young men in my scheme. When he came back from the fields at around 12 noon the drinking began. This was an everyday situation. Drinking lead to him being a public nuisance everyday. As he got drunker the mischief  started. In bright daylight this man would commit stupid petty crimes and no one dared tell him anything. He wielded a cutlass very well and used it to threaten everyone. He was also a big mouth. As he got really drunk he would verbally abuse the neighbors and anyone who passed by. This would continue into wee hours of the morning. My grandfather got him to shut up. As I got older and high school became a constant series of late night studies I could no longer listen to his verbal diarrhea every night. One night I just walked over and told him in no uncertain tones to Shut the hell up. To my surprise he actually shut up. The next day when he was sober he apologized and told me that whenever he became too unbearable that I should yell at him. This began the strong bond and mutual respect we had for each other.

Although, I did not condone with his behavior then nor now I understood why he did what he did. As a “bad” man in the village he had a reputation to protect. This is how he survived. Very early in his criminal career someone threw battery acid on his legs. There was an ever  present burn mark for as long as I knew him.  Today that burn mark is skin cancer. He heard that I was in the country and came looking for me. I was not home. But as I was riding on the public road yesterday, I passed by him. He did not recognize me at first. But when he did, I finally felt like I came home. The man who had protected my family and I as a child was now holding on to me on the public road with frail arms and a barely there body. Lalwa was on his way to the hospital to get his dressing changed. He had a skin graft since the burn mark was removed. He informed me that since the diagnosis he stopped drinking and is trying to survive. Once again the fighter has another round to go. This time for his life. He was a bad, dangerous, and sometimes annoying man, but he was my protector and I will always give him that respect.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Guyana’s Top Oriental Restaurant.


What an amazing concept in the heart of Georgetown! The GT lunch crowd was buzzing. The entrance is like a grand Chinese palace.Off to the left is a pastry section that is a far cry from the mundane black eye, cheese roll, pine tart found in every Guyanese snackette’s glass case. This restaurant featured glazed donuts and a wide array of specialized Chinese pastry like egg custard tart. Nice selection. There was even a Chinese attendant who spoke very little English, but told me she was from Beijing.

Continuing on the left there was a large display of various Chinese specialty items like shark fins, sea cucumbers, sea weed, dried scallops and a few others I could not make out.  Shocked? So was I. Shark fin soup in Guyana? Welcome to the band of shark killers, go New Thriving Restaurant!

Farther along on the left is a long Quick Service counter with pictured overhead menu displays. Yes, just like your corner Chinese take out restaurant, even the menu is the same. Swing around to the right is a buffet section.

Buffet items were displayed in large serving containers with no heat nor cold. All food was served at room temperature. Items were similar to American Chinese $9.99 lunch buffet with an off taste and texture and a lot of MSG and corn starch. There were even little dim sum treats like shumai, egg rolls, sweet peas in buns, and custard tarts. Although the garden salad was not at temperature it was fresh and delightful. The tiny slivers of pork were heavily spiced with ginger and pepper. A huge delight was fish wrapped in eggplant. Delicious. Overall, great presentation, highly concentrated flavors, mushy textures, hard mystery crunched meats and no temperature control. Friendly service.

The upstairs a la carte level featured a full 10 or so pages of the regular American Chinese corner restaurant’s menu. But the Rum selection was oh so full of all the goodies. They carry El Dorado 25 yo, US$70/shot (my birthday is coming up hint, hint) There was also a small selection of Chilean and Argentine wines. Also featured here was 2 different US$100 Chinese rice wine. Impressive selections. I was told about the 3 floor catering capabilities and the outside open-air deck. Service staff was very friendly and willing to answer questions sincerely. The manager, Richard, even took pictures of us and was a positive ambassador for New Thriving Restaurant and Guyana.

Although there were little quirks that every restaurant has and personal opinions differ from each other, New Thriving Restaurant does bend and break the mold that is inherently Chinese. In as much as they do take away, it definitely does not have a take out feel. As a matter of fact it is quite stylish with very bright gold fittings. All in all this is a great step up for Guyana and it goes to show that stepping out into uncharted territory is deffinitely worth the risk. Kudos. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Prince’s Bar

This is the first bar I saw that works with a flooded floor! Due to heavy overnight rains the entire bar and sitting area was flooded. This was still operational. Mind you the bar was rocking at 7:00 am with every one drunk, even though it was still raining heavily. This is my aunt’s and uncle’s bar.

Prince, my uncle, is THE man. He has always been in charge of his own destination. Eighteen years ago Prince had a horrible car accident that left him in a wheelchair for life. His legs cannot function. Before the accident, Prince had one of the first successful roadside stands. He sold fresh food and snacks. That little stand in front of Morocco’s Nite Club was rocking in the 80s. I remembered back in the day when I was “walking the road” I would take my friends to Prince and we would eat our belly full. De man is also the first African Guyanese I knew would could make a duck curry that would rival any Indian Guyanese. After the accident, he bought this little bar that turned out to be a neat little place.

Today, both of Prince’s legs are infected from being in the wheelchair. The wounds are too graphic even for me to discuss. Words nor pictures could do any justice. They are about 6-8 ins in length and 3-4 ins in diameter, and about 2-3 ins in depth. A doctor has cut away all the dead cells and Prince goes to the hospital daily to change his bandages.

As he left for the hospital today, my aunt asked if I could help with raising the freezer since the bar was flooded. With the help of their son, we emptied the freezer, washed it out, and restocked it. We decided that the whole bar needed a good deep cleaning. So in true professional hospitality and sanitary style we gave the bar a once over.

Prince came back and we did not want him to come in since it was still wet. But he knew something was up since he left it wet. So he rolled in and the tears rolled. This strong proud man was humbled by a little cleaning. I thought spending time with my cousin was more fun filled with memories, jokes and laughter. Unknowingly, we touched him.

As he resumed bartending duties, we sipped a stout. About half an hour later Prince rolled out the back door and we could see the pain in his face as he said, “I can not take it anymore, the pain is too much. You take care of the bar and help me get into bed.” We helped him to bed and could hear his groaning for hours as he tried to sleep. My aunt closed the bar. Late in the afternoon, after my cousin left he called back to ask his  mother if he could move back home. He was willing to pitch in and help. I am beyond excitement. At least, Prince could get some rest and may be able to heal. Life goes on.Father, mother, son, grandson, step girlfriend will fend for themselves and hope they all get along. Small victory for family!

The equipment is out of the country!

Why can’t a simple electrical meter get turned on? The equipment to ensure that the meter is functioning correctly is out of the country. Okay, I know what you are saying and I am too. WHAT? No way! Yes way.

My grandmother had her electricity turned off for some repairs. Repairs are down, bill is paid up to date and the request to turn power back on was placed a month ago. No answer. My uncle went to inquire from Guyana Power and Light (GPL) Corriverton, they gave him an account # and a phone number in New Amsterdam to call. I called this number there was no record. So I went back to GPL, Corriverton (wearing long pants of course) to investigate. After displaying utter amazement to the clerk when she told me to call New Amsterdam again, she told me to wait while she spoke with her supervisor. There was a blackout, again, in GPL office and the supervisor was in a closed office, poor guy. I was wet to my underwear, I wonder about him. So the clerk came out and informed me that the account # I had was wrong. So she found out that the paper work was in New Amsterdam but they were waiting for the equipment to check the meter, which was out of the country. Yes the ONLY meter checker equipment was out of the country. Now we must wait for next week. Fingers crossed.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Roadside Chicken

Enterprising chicken operation along #70 Village public road. This is halaal chicken at is very best in the strictest of religious practices. The chicken or duck is placed in a cage then turned upside down in a special hanging container that keeps the wings and legs together. The neck is pulled through the bottom opening and slit with one stroke. Bloods drains.  The bird is placed in boiling water and into a turning feather extractor. Roasting is done as desired. After a clean bath the bird is chopped to desired size, placed in a bag and ready for the carahy (spelling?) cooking vessel.

Intercultural Unity

I went fo a drive up de coast with a close friend of my dad to see wa going on. I was pleasantly surprised to see anIMG_1443 Islamic Education Center. I am told that this school educates, boards and houses students of all faith. They are specialized Islamic studies from well educated scholars who hail from Pakistan. The courses cover all studies from primary to secondary education and sits students for Caribbean Excellency Council (CXC). There are some scholars who never leave the school grounds. It is very IMG_1444interesting that Guyana can intermingle religion in education, yet focusing on a main religion. This just shows tolerance in a society plagued by race divide.

Rum suckers!

The future of Guyana spoke out on ‘all dem rum suckers who a drink from fowl cock crow to sun down.” Had a sad conversation with the little angel, Preya, tonight. She was ashamed to point out the obvious all day. There was drinking and carrying on all day in the street. Several men clustered at houses and along the street with music blasting and bottles swinging. She is concerned what I will think as a foreigner. That this is all Guyanese people do. Where is a 10 yo getting this stuff from? How does the actions of grown people affect the youths of today? Preya is sad.

The most interesting person in Corriverton….so far.

She speaks Guyanese politics, knows what is going on in Yemen, Libya, and Egypt, is well versed in local politics and affairs surrounding Corriverton. She is hailed by every fish monger, butcher, farmer, and hawker in the market. This young lady has a video collection of a 25 year old. Ladies and gents meet 10 year old Preya. (I’ll save her real name for her protection since she could very well be a future president).

I met this young lady briefly from the time I arrived. She and her mom rents the lower flat of my aunts home. They have lived there for six years. She sees her dad on weekends and regularly. Her mom and dad are separated with her dad having another family and her mom being single. Preya’s mom is a fishmonger who sells in the market. The notion of it takes a village to raise a kid is alive here.

As I was leaving for the market on Fri morning @ 7:30 am a little voice merrily said, “Good Morning” I reciprocated. She asked where I was heading this early. I replied the market. She asked if I minded her tagging along. Mind you this coming from a little person. 10 yo! Sure let’s go. Little did I know what I was in for. She asked how I felt about the old president, Mr. Jagdeo leaving office and who might be fit for a replacement. We discussed local and international politics, the current situation with remigration, sanitation issues, local market rules. 10 yo!

We arrived at the market and walked through the back gate into the fish section. Every vendor greeted her by name and waved, Several asked if she was ready for school. More asked about her home work, Even more asked if she had lunch money. Preya replied with the playfulness of a free spirit and the weight of a gifted child accepting the charge before her. As she escorted me around the market pointing out various stands and vendors and people I should avoid. I got the feeling of a proud Guyanese showcasing her home. At 8:30 am several people called out to Preya that it was time to go to school. She giggled, oops “ I got carried away, got to go to school, see you later.” And off she went to seek knowledge.  Am I witnessing a child carrying the hopes of a nation? Whatever this is I am beyond joy to know that there are people looking out for this child and all is not lost. More importantly Preya has the willingness and desire to be brilliant.

Amazing that this child, and she is still a child, with the wits of a matured person well beyond her years is so informed and well versed in matters normal 10 yos are not interested in. She reads the daily newspaper early in the morning before going to school sitting amongst fishmongers who are her extended family. Most fishmongers can not read nor write so she reads loudly. A little angel. The future of Guyana is in the hands of the fishmonger.

Down for the Count.

Major knockout by the flu! Woke up in the middle of the night to go for a whiz and could not get out of bed. I felt like a Mack truck ran over me. This was Sat 2:00 am. I drank 2 DayQuils. Woke up @ 7:30 am feeling the same. It is THE market day. I am to meet with everyone, plans with my cousin and her family, can’t get out of bed, body hurts. 12 noon 2 more DayQuils, Less pain, 4:00 pm Finally turned a corner. Less pain better movement, Watched some crazy chutney viideos (soft porn) what the hell was that? Rescued by the 10 yr old downstairs neighbor who suggested I go through her video collection. Wow,  this girl is stocked. I settled on Krrish. Not bad at all. 8:00 pm finally able to eat. Feeling much better.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Hold It. Back Out!

“Hold it. Back Out.” Shouted the “Officer” at Central Immigration and Passport Office in Georgetown, Guyana. He was directing his rampage at me! What did I do? He pointed to the typed and clear taped sign on the door. Discriminatory Sign

Oh, what the hell is that, get a closer look. Yes this is a public building conducting the people’s business at the people’s wishes. Where does “the management” get off dictating dress code to the people of this nation? This reads and looks like a cheap nightclub trying to show that they don’t tolerate rif raf. Am I reading this correct? This is still a nation of the people not an authoritarian regime, right? Did I really miss that much? Is this what they say about people who go away and then go back to a country with turned up noses. My noble friends, please trust that I am by no means a saint and wish to suggest that I too have many hang ups. But a dress code to renew a passport? WTF.

Wait, look at this.Drop pants.

They let this drop pants ass prance around in the building. How the hell can this be more tasteful than a decent pair of cargos? The guy’s underwear is practically jumping out of his butt crack and this is acceptable? How can this be? Major cities are banning this kind of dressing. Not that I agree or disagree with this dress style. But at least there is not underwear mopping up the floor.

Here is a clear sentiment to show how an over haul of the current “rules”---LAWS should reflect the changing times where practical heads and current thinking prevails. This kind of forcing the people to do as they are told is, is, is, is, is, oh you know what I want to say…….

The explanation from an official on a bottled Coke and shave ice break is there are a lot of hooligans who come there and look like rags or “sex workers” Huh? Did he just call the nation of Guyana a bunch of rags and whores? Oh shit I better go put on some long pants and silk shirt with nice patent leather shoes and rub some coconut oil on my hair and skin or suffer the consequences.

What….no curry chicken, fried rice, nor chow mein?


Where is the Guyanese food? None on the menu, hold on…..also no rum, liquor, beer, nor wine. Did this restaurant go too far? Hell no. Au contraire my feeble globe trotting fenoms. In fact, Oasis CafĂ©, hits a six right out of Bourda or that new and shinny Stadium, whatever it is called. Man, talk about great fresh food with a global twist and international simplicity. Tucked next to the Delta and Caribbean Airlines Offices, this gem offers up fresh varied alternative to mundane and very monotonous Guyanese cuisine. Hey, Jack Wagon, get down from your soap box I love curry, fried rice, and chow mein just like any other sun burnt Guyanese. But there has to be more to food than a varied combination than those three food groups!

Okay I am aware that you well travelled folks have savored a wide range of delicacies from Calcutta to London and back. Yea there is a whole different world of food from Guyanese food. So why don’t Guyanese expand their “food groups”. Who knows? Maybe curry has addictive abilities? Either way Oasis challenges the taste buds to try different things. I was told by my fellow diner that this place had the best coffee in Georgetown. I did not try it. Not a fan of hot coffee at 11 am.

Although, the clientele seems to be predominantly expat there were at least 10% local Guyanese representation. A very international crowd gave the feel of more South Beach, Miami than Georgetown, Guyana. But I guess this is why this place works so well. I must say as a buffet and an la carte establishment they were no complains from anyone at the table. Oh I almost forgot…..FREE WIFI. For that alone I could be a regular! Great food, great ambiance, great service, great concept, FREE WIFI, happy loyal guest. Love it. Would recommend to anyone even if to just give it a try and feel how the rest of the world rolls!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Journey from Cheddi Jagan Airport to Corriverton.

Mini bus loaded with luggage and passengers, music blasted, windows rolled down and off we went. Holy crap this was really it I AM HERE. This scenario played out for about 10 minutes until my mom started feeling dizzy and light headed. We pulled over at a police station and the kind but reluctant officer let her use the restroom. Back onboard all set. Off we went. Closer to the airport were smaller less well built homes alongside better structures. The scenery was dotted with farms and wide open lands. Mini buses, cars, motor bikes, cattle, sheep, and people all vied for road time. The tremendous morning sun was at full throttle making good use of me not getting a chance to put on some deodorant before leaving the plane. Okay I was a little ripe, well maybe a lot more.

As we got closer to Georgetown, the capital city, it was evident that this was the nerve center of everything. All the hustle and bustle of an under developed capital city came to play in driving on the out skirts to avoid major traffic. We ventured into the main mini bus and car parking lot only to be confronted by the heavy odor of urine and shit. Yes literally, the place smelled like shit. I actually even discovered a bag of the brown stuff on the streets as we parked to make a pit stop for bananas. My mom gagged, we left.

Driving on the coast one could not help but be marveled at the great new constructed houses next the old ones. Homes that would sell for 4-5 millions in Florida was easily spurting up every where for about G$10,000.00 according to our trusty mini bus driver. Not sure if this figure is accurate but it sounds reasonable enough. The building craze stretched all the way to Corriverton. Where the heck are these people getting the money? Mansions like Tiger Wood’s in Windermere, Florida and celebrity homes in Beverly Hills seems replicated here in the hundreds. What am I doing wrong? The road condition was not so bad and the traffic to all you cry babies were not so crazy either. Still not convinced that I can’t drive here. But very concerned about animals sharing the road way. Very scary when a dog stands in the middle of the road and one unable to tell which way they are going. My heart was in my throat every time we encountered and animal. I thought if it was Rio. Goodness, I shudder at the thought. But arrived safely and immediately family drama unfolded. Soap opera!!!!

Monday, March 7, 2011

NJ/NYC Transportation.

What a pleasant experience! It has been probably about 12 years or so since I travelled the NJ/NYC route by train. I was pleasantly surprised that from Penn Station in NJ it was very easy to figure out where to go and how to get to NYC. Ticketing counter was extremely courteous and helpful. Nice. Getting from 34th St to MTA F train to Queens was a nice brisk walk. Even nicer was the information booth attendant. The armed camo guards throughout 34 th St and F train station made me feel like big brother was watching out for me. I must say that 21 yrs ago when I rode the F train back and forth to Manhattan it was dirty and smelly with bums all over the place. I particularly looked and did not see any bums on the station. Maybe they were out to lunch after the morning rush hour. Very clean and comfortable ride. Kudos for improving NJ/NYC commute.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Dinner with my cousins—Plum Restaurant


Where are we going? This started quite a few days ago with a very involved discussion of where do we have a little cousins reunion. One cousin then another and another and yet another got to play the planner. Fiasco came on. To the end, reservation for 10 @ 9 pm in a Bayside, Queens, NY restaurant—Plum. I clearly remembered 1989 when I lived under one roof with my darling cousins on 179th St. and 90th Av. in Queens. This was a weekly event. Event it always was since there were always so many elements in play for anything to happen. Fast forward 21 yrs nothing much has changed. We just have more elements in play and bigger fiascos.

Plum Restaurant is tucked away at the end of Bell Av in Bayside busy strip of happening restaurants and bars. A little place with DJ blasting music, cool drapes, nice LED lighting, several banquette, sofa and regular table seating. Atmosphere is very loungy, hip and cool. Staff is very friendly and attentive. Food fell flat. We ordered a bunch of appetizers and entrees to share. I tasted most of them. Some items came out cold, heavily salted, high fishy smells and just blah. Nothing very special or even current. This food seems like it came out of a 1970s probably Queens restaurant, maybe when John Gotti walked around Bayside. The food definitely does not match the ambience. Although it was Friday night the place was about 50% occupied to 10 pm and started to thin out fast. There were a couple people at the bar and by the time we were ready to go about 12 am the place was a ghost town. Nice ambience, bad food, great company. Good luck.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Flight to Newark, NJ

Got off to a late start with the alarm not going off or going off and me not hearing or who knows…Half hour late. Still made it to Orlando International Airport on time for baggage check and boarding on JetBlue Airlines. Paid $30 for additional bag. Pre check in was a breeze, off to TSA CHECK POINT Charlie!

Upon arrival there was easily 600 people waiting to get through for early morning flights. I must commend a single TSA officer for directing all travellers to a smooth and effortless scanning procedure. No, there were no naked pictures. Just the regular walk of shame barefooted.  All set, a short wait, smooth flight, and a little wait at the airport for a ride from my aunt. Wait did I say that my aunt who has lived in Newark, NJ for 19 years and been driving for a little less, has never driven to the airport? Oh yes…..she had direction from  sleepy head cousin.