Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cascadas en Republica Dominicana

Hola todos!
Aca estamos en Luperon, Republica Dominicana, llegamos hace una semana despues de cruzar desde Turks and Caicos. Esta es la primera isla diferente desde que salimos de Florida. Muy diferente de las islas aridas con vegetacion achaparrada y muy chatas. Es increible lo diferente que es esto y solo estamos a 100 millas de distancia.
Otra gran diferencia es la cultura, la falta de orgullo de esta gente con respecto a la limpieza y el cuidado de sus casas, mientras que en Bahamas probablemente al mismo nivel socioeconomico, la gente es mucho mas respetuosa, honesta y orgullosa de su pais.
Llegando a RD y haciendo los papeles de entrada es otra buena comparacion, es increible lo complicado que es hacer migraciones y aduana, donde las reglas cambian depende de quien te atienda. Especialmente para gente que no habla el idioma. Estamos viajando con otros seis barcos Canadienses que no hablan espaniol y a nosotros nos costo mas barata la entrada que al resto del grupo.
La vida abordo sigue muy bien, Karlita con sus clases con los chicos y yo manteniendo el barco y los sistemas, que no es poca cosa. Por suerte, todavia no tuvimos ningun problema grande, el barco se esta portando super bien.
Ayer fuimos de paseo con el resto del grupo, fuimos a un parque nacional donde hay un conjunto de 27cascadas donde uno sube caminando por un sendero y baja los saltos sentado o tirandose a la proxima laguna. La pasamos super bien, algunos del grupo son gente alrededor de los 60, en buen estado, con lo cual cada salto (algunos eran altos) no te quedaba mas remedio que saltar despues que estos "VIEJOS" se tiraban.
El jueves saldremos para nuestro proximo destino (Samana) donde las ballenas jorobadas se procrean y tienen a sus crias, ojala que el pueblo sea mas pintorezco que lo que vimos hasta ahora.

Hasta la Proxima! EL CAPITAN

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FOUNTAINE PAJOT ATHENA 38 CATAMARAN FOR SALE – After our wonderful experience, BEGONIA is ready for its next sailing family – with or without children!  Please contact sebastiankoziura@hotmail.com for more information.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Welcome to the Home of Merengue and Bachata!

Luperón, República Dominicana - First off I want to thank everyone who has been reading the blog and following along in our journey.  It is nice to know you are with us in spirit.  We have received many emails from our friends in Chicago who have given us various accounts of “surviving” the recent blizzard.  It sounds like it’s been a difficult winter, to say the least… and perhaps after looking at the blog and the pictures one might feel a little frustrated to be back in Chicago.  Because of this, I do feel compelled to share a few “negatives” of our trip, so you know that even in paradise we too have our own challenges. Even though one of my new years’ resolutions was to focus on the positive, here goes:  “BEGONIA: True Hollywood Story.”
FOOD:  I can’t tell you how expensive food has been all throughout the Bahamas.  This is because not much is grown locally.  I always had pictured a tropical abundance of fruits, but in reality, the Bahamas is quite arid and barren for farming, so everything is “imported.”  This means then that you pay $1 for one orange, or one apple or banana!  It means that on a night we decided to “splurge” and eat pizza out, we were charged $24 for a rinky-dinky little cheese pizza that normally would be for only ONE person.  I can’t tell you how much I crave my fresh spinach smoothies, and salads.  We have been eating a lot of our canned veggies and whenever the kids eat fruit on the boat, I have to inspect it before they throw any peel or skins or cores in the water to make sure they have eaten every little morsel!  We are a little sick of canned tuna, but here in the DR, food is plentiful and more affordable.
SCOPOLAMINE:  I have been blessed to find the ear patch for sea sickness (Scopolamine); it has saved the day, really.  However, these patches are fairly expensive and have been giving me an allergic reaction behind my ears.  Apparently, you must make sure to wash your hands well so you do not rub any scopolamine in your eyes.  I found this out the hard way one day when I was washing my hair…. I touched the patch to make sure it would not fall off with the water, and then I touched my eye to rub away the water.  All of a sudden, my left eye dilated so that all I had in that eye was ONE BIG BLACK PUPIL!  The right eye was perfectly fine, but I walked around a little lopsided in the eyesight for about 3 days until the eye went back to normal.  It reminded me of the little cartoon character on PBS Kids in Chicago if you’ve seen that.  At first we were quite scared thinking I had a weird reaction to so many days with the scopolamine, until we met the O’Neal’s who are a pharmacist and nurse practitioner and they put our fears to rest.  The worst thing is that I actually did it again by accident!!!!
HOMESCHOOL:  Ok, so I have to admit that it has been hard to maintain consistency with the schooling and definitely it has been difficult to maintain the children’s’ interest.  My hat goes off to all the teachers of the world who have the patience to make teaching fun and can really reach their students.  On the Begonia, we see many tears and frustrated kids and teacher. Ugh!
LIVING ON A BOAT:  While it is an adventure to live aboard and all the pictures look dandy, we are LIVING ON A BOAT!  This means not having clean fresh clothing all the time, having sheets and blankets that get wet with salt water and are kind of sticky and it means lots and lots of work, cleaning and re-cleaning the nooks and crannies when we arrive in every new place.  It also means not having a hot, hot shower every day and even though we have a sun shower, there is never enough water for all 4 of us to get really clean.  The back stairs of the boat have become a hair salon for washing, cutting and brushing.
LIFE IN OTHER COUNTRIES:  Visiting these Caribbean countries has been very eye-opening for the children.  Our hope is that they will learn to appreciate the opportunities we have back home.  The reality is that I think the kids haven’t even flinched - they roll with the punches - and that it is actually Sebastian and I who have had a renewed sense of the world outside.  The fact is that despite the poverty we have seen and what we would consider a “challenging” lifestyle, we have met some very happy locals… there is definitely something to learn from everyone we meet.  The most shocking thing for us yet was yesterday when we were on the highway in a mini-van we hired for the group we are travelling with now, we witnessed a very, very bad car accident.  The wheel of a pickup truck in front of us, carrying people in its open bed, came off and the entire truck fell into a ditch and rolled over twice.  We were all stunned silent.   We asked our driver to pull over so we could help and he was reluctant to do so. It was not a pretty site and I think the images of the passengers of that truck who were badly hurt will stay in our minds for a long time.  I don’t know what was worse, the fact that we witnessed the accident or the fact that we were not able to help.  Luckily the children didn’t see this at all, but we could not get over how desensitized the driver was to this type of accident.
Of course, our trip is amazing, all thumbs up… but I just had to mention a couple of the challenges…Now onto a more positive note…
We are doing great in the DR.  We have reprovisioned and our boat is now stocked with good fruit:  papaya, banana, plantain, pineapple, watermelon, etc.  and a lot of other things.  I think we are set for a while. 
We have been hanging out with this group of sailors from 6 boats that we have picked up along the way.  Back in Mayaguana, Bahamas, we all ended up anchoring at the same place, met there and decided to travel together since we were all headed here to the DR.  Since then, (maybe 1 week ago?) we’ve been joined at the hip, taking turns having potlucks at each others’ boats, hiring the van yesterday, eating out, going fishing, etc.
The other day, the guys all went spear fishing for lobster and McGyver (Sebastian) caught 4 by himself!!!!  This was a cause for celebration as he has not had a ton of luck in the fishing department.  The other day he caught a Mahi-Mahi, but it was so strong it got away!  I guess that doesn’t count…. But the lobster does!  Everyone brought their catch and we had a LobsterFest on the Begonia.
The good thing in travelling together is that for the overnight passages I have felt very safe knowing that there were other boats around within view and just a VHF radio away.  My father would have been so proud of me if he heard me on the radio!  We did hourly radio check-ins since some of the boats in our caravan have solo captains. 
Life is good.   We will stay here in Luperón for another week or so, and then we will head east along the coast of DR and then to Puerto Rico.  We hope to post another blog from here before we go.

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FOUNTAINE PAJOT ATHENA 38 CATAMARAN FOR SALE – After our wonderful experience, BEGONIA is ready for its next sailing family – with or without children!  Please contact sebastiankoziura@hotmail.com for more information.

Monday, February 7, 2011

We will miss you, Georgetown!

Georgetown, Exumas, Bahamas – If you’ve ever looked back fondly on your days as a child in summer camp and wished you could go back in time, Georgetown is the place for you!  For years, Sebastian has read about this community of sailors and couldn’t wait to arrive.  With daily radio announcements of all the activities ranging from basket weaving, aqua aerobics, volleyball, campfire, dances, there is never a shortage of something to do and people to meet.  The incredible thing is that it is all loosely organized by the sailing community that stays here:  some for months at a time, others just passing through.  There must be at least 200 boats all anchored in this one location, with dinghies shooting back and forth socializing between the boats and taking people to shore for the various activities. 
We actually don’t participate in many of the activities, because they often go “late” (7-8pm) into the night and involve lots of alcohol… with little homeschooling kids, it’s difficult to carry-on that lifestyle.  Instead, we have met some incredible families that are in the “same boat” as us and the kids and parents have a great time, comparing notes, etc.  I have to take a moment to share the story of the “Nakheys” (the name has been changed to protect the innocent) who have been living aboard with 4 homeschooling kids ranging from 4-9 for almost two years, with about 10 more years to go.  The real clincher is that they are expecting their 5th!!! It has been a real delight for us all to socialize with them, learn about other homeschooling techniques, but mainly learn from their “chill” outlook on life.  We’ve already had them over to our boat for grilled pizza – yes, GRILLED (please excuse the laundry hanging in the background of the picture!!!) – and we’ve been to their boat for a birthday party with about 10 kids and 6 adults, plus the countless informal times on the beach. 
Another family from North Carolina is living down here for 5 months, also homeschooling their two boys.  They invited us to their rental home for hot dogs for lunch and we all ended up staying until about 9pm… boy it was so nice to be in a place that was not “moving” and Sebastian actually used their really nice HOT shower after going spearfishing for lobster with all the guys.
In a community like this one, one’s identity becomes pegged entirely to one’s boat.  You introduce yourself by your boat’s name and model:  “Yeah, I’m from BEGONIA, the 38-foot Foutaine Pajot…”  Then they answer, “Oh of course; I’m from NINA, the 41-foot Tartan.” Sebastian especially can recognize the boats quickly and will say things like, “Oh that’s the PDQ we saw back at Allen’s Cay,” which of course, I don’t remember at all.  You do see many of the same people and boats, as a lot of us are headed the same way.  You hear traffic on the radio and know the comings and goings of the various boats, so that is typical conversation among sailors.  It’s been fun.
What has not been fun are the continuing issues we’ve been having with cruise email and our regular internet.  Every time Sebastian tried to get on the phone through Skype with technical support, he gets cut off, disconnected, the computer freezes, or whatever.  It’s a great test on our patience.  I wouldn’t be so concerned, except we do have business we are still taking care of back home and I do have bills to pay once in a while.  There have been two options here in Georgetown: either dinghy into town (a very wet 15-minute ride across the bay) and literally stand outside the local market which offers free wireless. Of course, you’re not the only one… all the other sailors are there too.  The other option has been to buy tickets from the local marina… but the tickets don’t work. Or work intermittently.  Sebastian has been obsessed with trying to get it to work and it has felt uncomfortable to be out of touch for so long.
Here in Georgetown we did go to the local primary school and delivered the 30 small boxes of donated books we brought here on behalf of the Seven Seas Association.  The director was very grateful and nice and will allow Sofia and Benjie to attend school there for a day.  They are little timid about this – especially Benjie, who cannot imagine any other school than his beloved Puerta Abierta back in Evanston.  We shall see.
Hope you all are well… we can’t believe the stories we have been hearing about the snow in Chicago! 
NEXT STOP:  Providenciales, Tucks and Caicos.  We are leaving tomorrow (Monday) evening after the kids’ school.  It should be a two-day sail.

Scroll down left panel to see prior postings!
FOUNTAINE PAJOT ATHENA 38 CATAMARAN FOR SALE – After our wonderful experience, BEGONIA is ready for its next sailing family – with or without children!  Please contact sebastiankoziura@hotmail.com for more information.