Friday, May 12, 2017

Jamaica Carnival 2017

This is my 5th year attending Jamaica carnival and I must say it has changed tremendously.  Not that it is a bad thing, change is good.  Back in the old days (lol) there was only one fete per day and the rest of the day was spending liming by the hotel pool. Now there are endless fete options, back to back fetes, fetes times conflicting with other fetes, and some argue that the Trini’s promoters are taking over.
The influx of new fetes inspired many including myself to fly in earlier.  We opted to head to JA on Wednesday instead of the usual Thursday roll out.  So we landed Wednesday night and straight off the Jumbo Jet like Bunji said, we headed to I Love Soca cooler fete.  The best thing about cooler fetes is that they are CHEAP!!!  These kinda fetes help balance the cost of the all-inclusive fetes although honestly speaking, the all-inclusive prices are not bad compared to Trinidad carnival fetes.  I Love Soca was VYBZ!!  There were like 10 DJs on rotation just playing every dayym thing you wanted to hear.  The venue was spread the hell out so even tho there were thousands in attendance, you weren’t cramped or left feeling over whelmed.  It was held along the water so if you needed a moment to get your life together, you had a beautiful backdrop to sit and do so. There were also several food vendors on site which is a must when the booze are flowing nonstop.  

Thursday morning I got to work assembling collars. Yeah we could pay $$$ for the collar that goes with the costume, but making my own $20 collar with love is twice the fun. (1)  That's more $$$ for rum (2)  It gives me a tremendous amount of joy to pass the carnival love onto a little future masquerader.

Early Thursday afternoon was costume pick up and AMBUSH pick up.  UUGGHH why must costume pick-up be so painful, although I must admit that it was slightly less painful then previous years.  I seriously need to sign up for a concierge pick up service next year, I coulda /shoulda been chillin at the Spanish Court new fancy pool instead. 
Thursday afternoon was the AFLOAT “drinks” inclusive boat ride. There variation of cooler fetes, drinks inclusive and all-inclusive fetes helped keep the trip affordable.  AFLOAT is where I ran into the most homies, maybe that’s why this was my one of my favoritest fetes of the weekend.  Or maybe cause it was the 3 floors of people having the time of their lives??? Although AFLOAT was only drinks inclusive they had small food platters before we boarded and Caribbean Soup after we exited.  Nothing worse than a bunch of mofos drinking nonstop with no food in their tummy, so kudos to the promoters for understanding this. We usually go to Blocko on Thursday night, but we decided to just get tore up from the floor up at AFLOAT and go to sleep. Good call because I woke up Friday morning feeling like a million dollas, ready for the morning all-inclusive boat ride.
This trio is hilarious *No Behavior*
Friday morning was the Candy Coated boat ride and I must say Miss Candy Coated knows how to throw a proper fete for the days that I’m feeling fancy.  She brought the vybz and right amount of amenities that make people feel like they are part of an EXPERIENCE (if that makes any sense, hard to explain).
We met these crazy gyals at Candy Coated JA 2013


Happy friend-a-versary to my carnival bodyguards. We met at the Spanish Court pool Jamaica Carnival 2013
Friday night we headed to Scorch _uck Work. It was a frekkin monsoon outside, the rain had no mercy for the carnivalians just tryin to fete their lives away… but like the song says, ‘We Jammin Still!”  Despite the weather, the venue was RAM… jam packed, actually slightly too packed.  I can only imagine how much worse it would have been if the weather was nice, but the homies set up shop in a lil corner and still managed to have a good time.



Slept for a few hours and then headed to Caesar’s Army AmBush at 4am.  If you know me, you know I LIVE for jouvert.  Stink and Dutty Life!!! Doh ‘fraid!!!  As much fun as I had at other fetes, I would be lying if I didn’t say that AmBush was my favorite fete of the week.  Jouvert trumps everything, every time!!! There isn’t much about AmBush that I haven’t said in every other blog. I got my WHOLE life in di bush!
The other homies headed to Sunrise Breakfast fete after, but I took my azz to sleep so I could deal with my flag pole issue later with a sober mind.   What flag pole issue you ask?  Well I have a flag pole (PVC pipe) that attaches in pieces so that it can easily fit into my carry-on bag, but upon arriving at jouvert and waiving my flag, I realized it was too short and I apparently left a piece at home… that just won’t do for the road march.  So off to the hardware store I walked in search of small piece of PVC attachment.  The hardware store laughed at my request for a threaded PVC pipe that would screw into my attachment, guess that’s a 1st world problem. They sell PVC, but it doesn’t screw into jack sh*t!  So f*ck it, I bought an 7ft PVC pipe and am sure I looked CRAZY walking home with it, through the afternoon monsoon with my head buried in the umbrella I had to purchase on the way out of the hardware store.
Bazodee was Saturday night, the usual upscale fete thrown by Frenchmen in the posh neighborhood of Cherry Gardens. The rain came back, but we were prepared with umbrellas this time.  Frenchmen definitely know how to throw a fete.  Endless bars all around the venue so you never have to wait for a drink. Endless tents of food from around the world so you also don’t have to wait to grub.  Of course your favorite artists bless the stage along with your favorite DJs. 
Ima make a confession because I’m amongst family, I was at the bar at Bazodee in my own little world a(s I usually am) and DJ Private Ryan tapped me on the arm to say hello as I walked by. Now this is gonna sound crazy cause I live in Atlanta and I see celebrities on a regular basis, like seriously its nothing to like run into like Usher at the Dollar Tree or whatever (ok bad example).  So I was seriously star struck when Ryan tapped my arm. I’ve been a fan for years, we’ve met like ten trillion times, but I can’t honestly expect him to remember everyone.  Needless to say I was honored and flattered. *I'm corny, my bad*

Sunday morning was the road march.  The thing I thought was awesome about Bacchanal Jamaica in previous years is that there was ONE route so it made it easy to find the band.  This year brought two new bands that took their own route, so it made things a bit more confusing when trying to find the band. I can’t say whether the addition of two new routes is a good thing or bad thing… change is good right???? There were a few people that I didn’t get to see or get carnival pix with because they were on a different route.  In the end we all still had the times of our lives and that’s all that really matters.  My costume was beautiful and I will be rocking it again when I storm maybe Caribana or Miami Carnival *Muahahaha*  Didn’t make it to Last Lap this year, got to the road march around noon and around 7pm Di Liquor Conquer We and we called it a night. 

Monday it was back to the real world *dry cry*  I was just wanna end with one side note . Caribbean boat rides are a funny thing. No disrespect to the promoters cause this is just how it goes in the Caribbean world.  They give you a boarding time and a departure time, but you don’t actually start boarding until like 30min after the departure time.  To know me is to know that I am a very punctual person, Caribbean people and their time skills just drive me crazy sometimes. It’s all love tho! 
So in the end, Jamaica still remains my 2nd favorite carnival.  FYI the date for Jamaica Carnival 2018 is April 8, 2018 (road march date).  See you there *wink*



Of course I leave you with a quick recap video
SALUD!!!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Return to the Motherland aka Panama

My brother Paco and I went home to Panama during carnival, but I can’t really call this a carnival blog because we didn’t partake in many carnival activities.  Let me start off by explaining how we ended up in Panama during carnival season.  For the last 6 years I have been saying that I was going to skip Trinidad carnival the following year, not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because it is mutha frekkin EXPENSIVE… but year after year I returned.  I just couldn’t sit at home and watch carnival videos and pix without slitting my wrists.  There is one thing in the world that I love more than Trinidad carnival, so Paco and I opted to go home during carnival season instead and save ourselves a few thousand dollars. We both brought our kids with us, my daughter hasn’t been back since I sent her to Panama for the summer in 2014 so she could get reconnected to her roots cause she was getting too STUSH for my liking. 
As always, my dad picked us up from the airport with some KFC with magical Caribbean spices that you just don’t get in the US (I actually never eat KFC in the US) and of course some rum and beer.  I also almost never drink beer in the US either, but they love it in the Panama so that’s what was in my hand most of the time. 
Although most wouldn’t know it, Panama actually has a pretty huge carnival, just not in the parts of the country that we were visiting, they are held in the interior of the country.  So many family members to see, so much shopping to do (for all the comforts of home that we can’t buy in the US) there really wasn’t much time to partake in carnival festivities and I didn’t mind one bit. 

We spent the first 4 days in our birth city of Colón.  Colón is the city that Panama forgot, it is in such disarray, it’s quite disheartening.  I hear that there are plans in the works to revitalize the city, some good and some bad (in regards to those that are currently living there and will be forced out of their dwellings). Word on the street is they plan to quadruple the size of the Colón Free Trade Zone. As mentioned in a previous Panama blog, Colón is home to the Colón Free Trade Zone. The 2nd largest free trade zone in the world. Endless streets of duty free shopping.  Although there isn’t much else to see in Colon, cruise ships make a stop there so the passengers can shop their lives away.  Man o man the things that I would buy if I had a way of transporting them to the US, including a fancy car for the LOW LOW.


We wanted to take the kids to the beach, but there just wasn’t time. Panama has some beautiful blue beaches, the kind you dream about when you are daydreaming about your vacation sent from heaven.  Although Colón is surrounded by water on 3 sides it lacks a proper beach because it is along the Canal.


I have this tug a war every time I go home, I want to spend the entire time in Colón, chilling with my family, but I also want to explore my country in tourist mode.  Our time in Colón flew by and we didn’t do anything other than chillax and drink beer with our cousins, but it was frekkin fun. On carnival Sunday we then headed to the capital to participate in some smaller scale carnival festivities.  The carnival festivities were held on the Cinta Costera (Coastal Beltway), the roads were blocked off and several stages were erected and there were blocks and blocks of food and alcohol vendors.  I'm not one to normally "pop bottles" but I make an exception when I am in Panama cause its so cheap.  $20 bottles of rum & chasers had us on Cloud 9!
Sunday night was the Polllera parade. The Pollera is the National Costume of Panama, they are handmade and worn during festivals or celebrations.

There are several types of polleras and the one you own kinda of displays your society class level.  The one that is white with one other color (below) cost a couple thousand dollars and is worn with several thousands of dollars worth of gold, the hair is also adorned with several hundred dollars worth of tembleques (the beaded flowers that I always have in my hair). 

The further down you go, the less gold and hair ornaments you have.  Pollera that I adore is called the Pollera Congo (below) and of course it originates from my province of Colón (FYI, Colón is a province and the capital is the city of Colón.  So I am from the province and city of Colón). The Pollera Congo only costs a couple hundred dollars, but the beauty of it is how many different colors it has.  It is worn with no gold, more so with mardi gras style beads and flowers in the hair.  I really wanted to get a Pollera made for me this trip, but maybe next time.  I am determined to own one!

Pollera Congo
Along with the beautiful polleras, the diablos (devils) wandered about the Cinta Costera.  There were only about 20 or so diablos wandering about, but if you were in the province of Colón where they originate you would see hundreds.  I like to throw this disclaimer out there because there is always someone Not In The Know that thinks the diablos represent something satanic.  “The diablos represent the Spanish slave masters. The diablos cause nuisance the days leading up to carnival, but on ash Wednesday they are captured & baptized. Highlighting the triumph of good over evil.”

Each year in the Portobelo in the province of Colón they host the Festival de Diablos y Congos where you will see hundreds of beautiful Polleras Congo and amazingly hand crafted diablo costumes. Here is a quick video that I love that displays the Festival de Diablos and Pollera Congos.
 
WHOOPS I kinda wandered off there for a bit, my bad. Lets get back to the trip recap…   We went back to the Cinta Costera Monday afternoon for a Wet Fete, five water trucks were on hand to save us from the blazing heat. Drinking, dancing, and jamming in the sun!
We only lasted about 2 hours then we headed back to our hotel. When we are in Trinidad we endure the heat and pain cause dammit we dropped mega $$$ for the trip.  But this trip not to much, so back to the hotel we went Guilt Free!   Some more family members joined us and we had a splendid afternoon at the Hard Rock pool. 
Swimming and drinking all day in the blazing sun is exhausting.  We thought about heading back to the Cinta Costera that night, but we ended up in the living room watching the entire OJ Simpson series on Netflix. Oh the hilarity!!!!  It was actually pretty entertaining or maybe it was the alcohol that made me think that.  Either way, we enjoyed doing NOTHING!!!
 

The next morning aka Carnival Tuesday my nephew and I spent breakfast on a mission to get LIT!!!  The Hard Rock comes with free breakfast buffet which includes a self service mimosas and  a bloody Mary bar.  They also had someone whipping up fresh fruit drinks which we would then add vodka too.  Yeah we shoulda coulda went down to the Cinta Costera after breakfast to enjoy the GRAND FINALE, but we took our drunk asses back to bed. 





I tried to take the kids to the mall later that day for some shopping, but apparently everything SHUT down for carnival so everyone can head to the interior to celebrate.  We then headed to Casco Viejo aka Old Panama for some shopping of a different kind.  Hand-made items sold by the artists who make them.  I always lose my daym mind when I go to  Casco Viejo cause I want to buy every single item there. 
Tembleques (beaded flowers)


A lot of Casco Viejo was also shut down, but we were able to get some of shopping in.  Craft heaven from the Kuna Indians selling their Molas (colorful fabrics and crafts) and other artists. Got plenty goodies for myself and souvenirs for my BFFs back home in ATL, lawd where would I put all this stuff???   Wallet was most def on FLAT FLAT when I left! We headed back to the hotel and later that night hit up the Cinta Costera for some more carnival festivities. Even though we had a full meal before heading out, we were starving a few hours later. Maybe it was the alcohol, maybe it was all the walking.  We set up shop next to one of the many street vendors and proceeded to eat like 4 round of chicken kabobs. As I was eating my very last kabob I thought, this meat feels a little tender, I threw it away and went on about my night. To Be Continued...

Ash Wednesday Paco, my daughter and I woke up bright and early and climbed Ancon Hill. If you are ever in Panama I recommend setting aside a couple hours to enjoy this trek.  Its about a 30 min walk up a mountain, but once at the top you will have panoramic views of the entire city.  A sea of skyscrapers from one angle, the Miraflores Locks on the Panama Canal from another angle, and the Bridge of the Americas from another angle. Because the canal cuts through the entire country of Panama there obviously is no land that connects North and South America.   For YEARS the Bridge of the Americas was the only stationary road that connected North and South America, in 2004 a 2nd bridge was build.

So we enjoyed the amazing views of our motherland for a while and then headed back to Casco Viejo so Paco could also partake in some of the awesome shopping the kids and I got down on the day before.  We had some Chinese food for lunch because surprisingly Chinese food is frekkin amazing in Panama.  Maybe it’s the addition of the magical Caribbean spices??? As good as the food was, I really couldn’t eat much. One by one we all started to not feel so well.  Aarrgghh that chicken from the night before caught up with us.  The next few days were a blur as threw up everything that I consumed.  I felt so skinny after I recovered and am thinking about giving myself food poisoning every couple months!!!  
I wanted to point one thing about our return to the US.  Paco and I have Global Entry which allows us to bypass the LONG AZZ customs lines upon return to the US, but our kids do not.  Someone put me onto the Mobile Passport app and seriously the kids breezed past the customs line just as quickly as we did.  That was crazy cause its FREE. If it wasn’t for the fact that I also get TSA Precheck, I might have considered not renewing my Global Entry in 2019.


So despite ending the trip with food poisoning, we had an amazing time in the motherland and our desire to move back home was renewed! Now if only I could get my ISH together so I can move back before I frekkin retire. While hiking Ancon Hill we even found a great place that we could see ourselves living. We would be right next to Casco Veijo (great shopping, eats, and nightlife) and the Amador Causeway and a quick & cheap uber ride away from everything else (Remember I told you how insanely cheap Uber rides are in Panama. The rides are so cheap, there isn't even a need for Uber pool).  You can however pay a little more for an English speaking driver.


Future home??? Anything is possible!!!
So until we meet again my beautiful Panama.  Te amo!