Posts Tagged ‘Haiti’

By Lore Bilbao

This past May, I set sail aboard the Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas for a ten day trip, visiting four different islands.

The cruise experience itself is an unforgettable one. Some of the activities for the guests were: surfing, sky diving simulations, rock climbing and trapeze lessons, just to name a few. I made sure we did as much as we could.

Royal Caribbean Anthem of the SeaOur first stop was Bermuda. Being my second time here, we knew our plan of action was to relax on a beach nearby where our ship docked. A main attraction is Horseshoe Bay Beach, which is further inland. There you can climb the rocks to get a higher perspective of the island. Bermuda is known for their rum swizzle, a sweet tropical drink, which you can find at many places on the island. Another main attraction is Bermuda’s rum cake and glass blowing factory. It sounds like an odd combination, but being that they are both under one roof, many guests find themselves there, getting to witness the island’s traditions and purchasing souvenirs to bring home.

Before we knew it, our time was up in Bermuda and we were back on the ship. Next up was Saint Marteen’s, another beautiful island. Despite the overcast and showers we dealt with, we were eager to explore what the island had to offer. Initially, our plan was to snorkel, but since the waters were too rough we took the shopping route. There were so many stores on the island for souvenirs – even brand name shops.

Next, we spent half the day in Puerto Rico on the beach. There isn’t too much I can say about the island because we went straight to a club where we spent the day on the beach. It is crazy to think about how I was there a few months ago and now they are experiencing such devastation from hurricane Maria.

Haiti Dragons Flight Zip LiningThe last island, and probably my favorite, was Haiti. We visited Royal Caribbean’s private island of Labadee. There we found my most favorite activity of the trip, ziplining! It’s called the Dragon’s Breath Flight Line. The way this excursion worked was that the instructors initially brought you to a practice zipline. We were all instructed to sit upright with our hands on the bar as we coasted to the bottom of the zipline. After the trial run, we rode on a bus up to the top of the official Dragon’s Breath Zipline which just so happened to be the largest zipline over water. The view from the top was absolutely breathtaking – the most picturesque scene I’ve witnessed. We put what we learned to the test, and literally sat back to enjoy the ride.

This trip overall was one I could not forget. Cruises are great; not only do you get the most for your money, but you have the opportunity to see a few different places in a short amount of time. For me, I like to spend money on experiences and creating memories as opposed to material objects. One quote I stumbled across that I like is, “Travel while you are young and able. Don’t worry about the money, just make it work. Experience is far more valuable than money will ever be.” When we travel, we are reminded of our small role in this big, big, world.

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sikora1This past August, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Haiti and volunteer through an organization called Adventures in Missions (AIM). In my quest to make a lasting imprint on the hearts of orphaned children around the world, Haiti seemed like the perfect place for my next destination.

Haiti is not exactly your typical summer vacation spot. Although, it is ironically situated on the same island as the Dominican Republic, which is home to some of the world’s most beautiful and tropical beaches. Haiti is still very much suffering from the effects of the 2010 earthquake and also hurricane Sandy in 2012. It is amazing how a few hours of a terrible storm can lead to years of rebuilding.

I was part of a team of 11 people volunteering just outside of the capital of Haiti (Port-au-Prince), in a town called Merger. Fortunately for our group, AIM has wonderful contacts all over the globe and we were able to stay with a Haitian family and live the authentic Haitian lifestyle for a week. This meant — are you ready for it? — no electricity and no running water for an entire week. Call me crazy, but I actually enjoyed showering with a (very cold) bucket of water, brushing my teeth with a bottle of water (and no sink), pouring a bucket of water down the toilet in order to flush it, walking around with a flashlight glued to my head at night, and sleeping on the concrete roof of the house for a week. I also had the experience of being awoken by roosters every morning, witnessing some incredible sunrises, and being able to stare at a breathtaking rooftop view of the island of Haiti at my leisure. I can also confidently say that Haiti has some of the best food I’ve ever tasted!

sikora2We spent most of our time that week in a local nearby children’s orphanage. The orphanage is home to children ages infant to 18 years old, and it was an absolute joy to be able to spend time there. Unlike the orphanage in Africa that I know to have a complete random assortment of entertaining toys, this orphanage had next to nothing, and it was heartbreaking to see this. The children were ecstatic when we handed out toys and brought bubbles, coloring books, etc. The boys especially enjoyed watching this (All-)American girl showcase her skills with a soccer ball! [Editor’s note – I later schooled all the boys on the actual soccer field… here at WS+B, we work hard AND play hard!] Spending time with these children brought a lot of fun and laughter as well as some really awesome memories. The children loved more than anything to just sit next to you and hold your hand, and it brought me such joy to be able to give them that, if only for a few hours each day.

Outside of spending time in the orphanage, we also spent a lot of time out in the community of Merger and getting to know the locals. We met so many different people with so many inspiring stories. We were invited into many different homes and were offered an immense amount of hospitality by complete strangers. It is amazing how humble, gentle and genuine the people are in Haiti, and I was blown away by the respect and humility of their culture and people. I loved the time I was able to spend getting to know the people in Haiti for many reasons, but mainly because their happiness, contentment and joy are simply contagious.

sikora3My experience in Haiti was drastically different from any other experience I’ve ever had before, but to sum it all up, it was nothing short of amazing. Haiti is part of a beautiful island with a unique culture and some wonderful people! This was definitely one of those experiences where I feel as though I took away much more than I was able to give. Attitude of gratitude. Thanks Haiti! Hope to see you again very soon!

By Kathy Sikora, CPA | 609.520.1188 | ksikora@withum.com

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