What Summer Breaks Are Like for an Expat Teacher- Part 1

**Written June 25, 2018**

It’s been exactly 30 days since my summer vacation began and I’ve been living out of  suitcases ever since.  It started with my first solo trip, to Copenhagen, Denmark.  Copenhagen is just about a halfway point between Qatar and the U.S.A., so it was a good stop over point for this girl who didn’t want to fly 12.5 hours straight alone.  Click here to read all the details about my trip.  I spent 4 days 5 days there.  It was supposed to be 4 days but due to flying a budget airline and a day long delay for a flight out of Copenhagen, it turned into 5 days.

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I’m staying with my sista/girlfriend Michele while I’m in Philly, which is about a total of 3 weeks in all, a few days here, a few days there, a week here, a week there, in between my travels and trips.

A few days after I arrived, my oldest son graduated from high school.  This was the whole point of leaving a week before the official end of the school year.   I can’t believe I am a mother of a high school graduate.   He will be going on to attend my Alma Mater, Temple University in Philly to start our legacy.  Words can’t express how proud of him I am and blessed I feel that we’ve made it this far.

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Proud Mother

 

Three days after my son’s graduation, I took him on a 8 day cruise along with my niece whom graduated college.  We cruised on the Carnival Horizon cruise line.  It’s a new ship to sail from New York.  We sailed to Turks and Caicos were supposed to sail to Turks and Caicos but due to an unfortunate event missed that port of call.  However, we did stop in San Juan and the Dominican Republic. D.R. which is where I zip lined for the first time and absolutely loved it.  D.R. is also where we had the most fun.  We spent several days at sea where I gained many pounds from eating and sitting around being lazy and it was glorious.  LOL!  Read about our fun on the water and to find out how I got my scary ass on that zip line and more by clicking here.

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Three days after we returned from the cruise, my sistas and I flew to New Orleans.  I spent 4 days further enjoying food but also doing a lot of walking.  New Orleans is an interesting city, full of history and culture.  Here is where you can experience New Orleans through my eyes..

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I will spend the next 7 days relaxing, visiting, shopping and enjoying Philly before the boys and I go on to our next vacation spots.  I’m enjoying my summer so far but missing my husband and the comforts of home.

See when you teach overseas and summer comes, there is so much to do.  You try to cram so much into two months, visiting friends and family, doing the things you don’t get to do in your new home, traveling, relaxing and unwinding.  You also spend a lot of time being uncomfortable because your new country becomes home and some things and people change while others remain the same in your native country and you start to wonder where exactly you fit.  The more time I spend overseas, the less I feel connected to my home country.  I’m starting to understand how some people have difficulty with repatriation.  Check back later for Part 2 of, What Summer Breaks are Like for an Expat Teacher.

What has your experience been when you travel to your native city after teaching overseas for a few years?  I’d love to hear from you.  Leave a comment.

 

New Orleans- Seafood and More

I am a member of several travel groups and New Orleans comes up in discussion quite often, so when I saw a pretty good deal on TravelPirates for a trip there, I booked it.  My sister and girlfriend and I try to take at least one trip together each summer and none of us had ever been to NOLA.  I did some research of things to see and do there and places to eat and created a list so that we would have choices.  This trip would be different than our usual trips to an island and beach so I wanted to ensure we wouldn’t get bored.

Logistics: We flew on Spirit Airlines.  I’ve heard horror stories about flying Spirit Airlines so I was really nervous but surprisingly we had really good flights.  It’s a cheap airline so you have to pay for everything including water and checked luggage.  Good thing I belong to #teamcarryon, so I’ve gotten better at light packing.  {Time for Kennesha’s 5 cent advice (K5¢): Airline workers don’t really bother you when it comes to carryon luggage when you use duffel bags that are easy to bend and stuff, or book bags when it comes to personal items.}  BTW My girlfriend won 5,000 miles just for having the designated lucky seat on the Spirit Airlines plane.  We stayed at the AC Hotel by Marriott New Orleans Bourbon, which was only 2 blocks from the main Bourbon street area which put us within access of everything.  It was a nice hotel and I would stay again.  Anywhere we didn’t walk, we used uber to get to.

 

Food: In true Ericka, Michele and Kennesha style, the first thing we did when we got to the hotel was find something to eat.  We followed the recommendation of the front desk and ate brunch at Domenica.  I had oatmeal with berries, maple syrup and almonds and a crab cake atop spring vegetables.  The vegetables were cold and I almost sent them back until I tasted them and figured that they were meant to be served cold because they were so delicious.  The crab cake was okay and the oatmeal was great.

 

We enjoyed dinner at Dragos so much that we ate there twice.  I tried the two salads topped with crab and lobster, the lobster one was my favorite.  It’s a simple salad but with the lobster and dressing it was delicious.  I also recommend the Herradura Shrimp- sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts and onions, deglazed with tequila and seasoned to perfection served with a grilled portabella mushroom.

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At the recommendation of some locals, we checked out Neyows.  They said their charbroiled oysters were the best and when in NOLA, you have to eat oysters.  I even got the girls to try oysters for their first time.  The charbroiled oysters did not disappoint.  The appetizers from this place were the highlight.  We did not enjoy the main dishes at all.

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While in New Orleans, you know I had to try out the vegan food scene and again I dragged these girls along to try something new.  We ate at Sweet Soulfood.   It’s a soul food buffet and they enjoyed the food here too.  Sorry no pictures of the food.

Finally, do not leave New Orleans without making a trip to Cafe Du Monde.  Everything I read before going to NOLA suggested this place.  So of course we went.  You can’t get a whole breakfast there but what you can get is a small piece of heaven.  The beignets are amazing as well as the cafe au lait.  The cafe au lait is coffee with chicory but I had mine black with sugar.  The beignets are like small funnel cake pillows topped with powdered sugar.  You can’t share them; you must get your own!

 

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As far as drinks go, I tried an Abita beer and I didn’t care for it but do have a ‘hand grenade’ and pace yourself.

 

And yes, I know I speak of being vegan in many of my posts but I was showing off on this trip.  I ate lots of seafood, #YOLO!

Things to do and see: Of course no trip to New Orleans is complete without a trip down Bourbon street.  Honestly, it smelled really bad like old bar and vomit.  But we still enjoyed seeing the young people beating rhythms on the buckets, popping in and out of the numerous bars and shops and people watching.

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Definitely take a trip down Decatur street and to the French Market, where you can shop for New Orleans spices, hot sauce, clothes and more and check out some sights.

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Tasty pralines being made fresh

 

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If you are a strong person, I recommend a plantation tour.  I used Grayline New Orleans Tour  and did a double plantation tour.  I went to the Whitney Plantation and the Oak Alley.  I went to Whitney for the history and to pay homage to my ancestors and to Oak Alley for the beauty.  I enjoyed them both.

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We got a name tag of a young child that lived here
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statues of the young children in the church
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ringing the bell for a child that was enslaved here

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I’m sitting outside a slave home
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This is the Whitney home
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Oak Alley
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Oak Alley together
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Breaker of chains

I enjoyed New Orleans but 4 days definitely was not enough time to see all that it had to offer.  We drove past the graveyards many times and learned that burial plots are shallow in New Orleans because the water table is very high.  If you dig a few feet down, the grave will become soggy, filling with water and the casket will literally float.  I think I would have liked to tour one of these graveyards.  We didn’t get to party or go to a piano bar because everyone wasn’t feeling that.  We didn’t make it to Faubourg Marigny or to take a ride on the St. Charles street car.  We didn’t stroll Royal street, or explore the sculpture garden in Audonbon Park.  I really wanted to tour the Hurricane Katrina area as well.  Oh well, I guess I have several reason to return.

The New Orleans food scene is amazing, that’s all I have to say.  I would go back just to eat and that sounds really PHAT!!!

 

Eight Days on the Carnival Horizon Cruise Line

I’ve cruised before but this was my first time cruising with Carnival and here’s my observations.

On June 2, 2018, my oldest son graduated from high school and I took him on his first cruise as his gift.   I also took my niece and her girlfriend along with us as they had recently graduated college.  We boarded the huge Carnival Horizon on June 5 anticipating 8 days of fun in the open water.  The first few days of sailing were at ‘at sea’ days as we made our way to the Caribbean from New York.  These days were spent by the pool, drinking, eating, enjoying and participating in shows, partying, relaxing, walking around the ship and taking photo shoots, enjoying Zumba on the deck, late nights in the jacuzzi, watching movies on the big screen under the stars, watching sunsets and spending time together.

On our second day at sea we got some unfortunate news.  One of the passengers suffered a heart attack and we had to turn back and sail toward North Carolina to meet the Coast Guard to air lift the passenger to land.  Due to this, we lost a day of traveling and had to miss one our port of calls- Turks and Caicos.  This was very disappointing because I had never been to Turks and Caicos and was really looking forward to it.  Even worse is the fact that Carnival did not give us anything in its place except a 20% discount voucher to cruise with them again.  So we made the best of our extra day at sea by exploring the ship.  Zamir rode the sky ride that I chickened out of at the last minute after seeing another lady having to be rescued once she got scared after starting the ride.  I was not about to be embarrassed like here.

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We did make it to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where Zamir and I decided to explore on our own.  We happened upon a beach and spent some time there.  Then we enjoyed a tasty treat and walked around the cobblestoned streets of San Juan where we took some fab pictures and purchased souvenirs.

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Our last port of call was Dominican Republic.  This was the highlight of our cruise.  We did the Big 3 excursion: Thrill bus ride, zip line, and beach.  The zip lining was amazing and so much fun.  There was the possibility that I would have a panic attack and chicken out but I was not about to do that.  I’ve wanted to zip line for a long time, so I just thought about the fun I was going to have and went for it.  As I climbed higher up the steps toward the first zip line, my heart began to beat so loudly, I thought others in the line would hear.  I was not quiet about being nervous and everyone was cheering me on, so I strapped on, watched my son zip across the trees, leaned back and went for it.  As my heart dropped a little, I allowed myself to enjoy the ride.  I opened my eyes and felt the wind breeze over my body.  Then it was over.  I DID IT and it was fun.  I was ready for the next one and even more excited for the bigger zip line straight across the ocean.   The last time I let go of fear and enjoyed a thrill was last year on my cruise with my husband to Cuba.  We jet-skiied in Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas.  I’m beginning to see a pattern here.  Anyway after the 3rd zip line, we did a sky course (obstacle course in the sky)- this was very fun too- then the last two zip lines were back over the ocean and over the trees to the beach.  I had a stiff drink after that and enjoyed some time by the ocean.  I’m still upset that we didn’t get a picture on the actual zip line but here are some pictures of the zip line itself and of D.R.

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We met some lovely friends on this excursion and partied with them for the remainder of the cruise

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After zip lining, I was feeling extra pumped so when we got back to the cruise, I decided to go all in and ride the skyride.   I literally pedaled a bike on the edge of a cruise ship over the ocean.  I chuckled just thinking about it.  Then we conquered the ships sky course (obstacle course high above the cruise).

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My son and I really enjoyed the cruise and did some bonding.  We went clubbing together and I saw him intoxicated smh.  We played some adult games together with a team and even won a small trophy at a trivia game.  We weren’t ready to return home.

I’ve cruised before but this was my first time cruising with Carnival and here’s my observations.  Carnival is a party cruise line.  There is always something to do for everyone.  However, their customer service does not even compare to Norwegian.  I had several problems with my meals including waiting over an hour on several days in the main dining hall to eat and finding a bug in my food.  Carnival nickel and dimes you.  There were so many extra charges for this and that, it was kind of ridiculous.  By the time the cruise was over, I had spend an additional 600+ for my son and I.  My suggestions, if you plan on going on the Carnival Horizon: pay attention to the fine print, plan for additional fees including a service and tax fee at the end of the cruise for 120+ pp, don’t expect too much from the food service, get to know the managers on board, make friends early (for several reasons), indulge in the activities, and shows, wear knee length shorts or pants if you plan to zip line, be sure to participate in the Carnival Quest game (18 years old and up) and go to the lip sync battle.  The Carnival Quest game is a must do! And by all means, have fun, try something new, YOLO!!

Here is some video footage of some of the shows we enjoyed..