Jamaica Public Transport Experience

Whenever I travel, I'm drawn to skip the air-conditioned plush tourist buses in favor of whatever transportation the locals use. I tell myself it is to get to know the place better, to mingle with the locals, but I imagine cost plays no small role. But whatever my motivations, it is a travel habit I'm glad to have as it leads to some wonderful experiences. On our recent trip to Jamaica, these local transport adventures proved to be among the most memorable from the whole trip!

The two dominant non-tourist transport options were route taxi and mini-bus, both variations on the same concept: pack a regular old vehicle as full as possible with people going from here to there. When I say full, I mean FULL. Think of a regular sized car, like a Toyota Camary. Put 4 full-sized adults across the backseat and 3 adults plus the driver across the front (with additional cushion for the middle person to span the e-brake). Now drive that vehicle at a million miles an hour around curvy mountain roads and you've got an idea.

We chose Christmas day to venture from the north of Jamaica down to the south, a 77-mile journey through the less inhabited center of the island. While there was some fear about transpo not running, we found that with the exception of 1 leg of the 6 leg journey, we were in luck. Each leg took us from one small town to the next, about 45 minutes to an hour, costing about $1 or $2 per person. After each leg, you'd hobble out, try to get feeling back in your butt and legs, and then cram into the next rig.

By the end of our time in Jamaica, I truly felt like I had grown accustomed to the experience of getting nice and friendly with your neighbors and riding in companionable silence (albeit with the Reggae blasting). I won't say I loved it, but it wasn't the hardship it was on that first mini-bus.

In chatting about the mini-buses to a local friend, he casually mentioned "Yep, like two white girls on a mini-bus". In quizzing him, he told us of a once popular song that recounted the public transit experience from the perspective of a non-local. Della and I looked it up and found it couldn't be more accurate. So I'll leave you with this, Two White Girls on a Mini-Bus.


Saturday January 13 2018File under: Jamaica, travel

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To Do the Tour or Not Do the Tour

One of Della's and my favorite things to do while traveling is to find a deal, to save money. It's what's led us on the cruises we taken, to the countries we been, and it guides our every day choices. And we get great joy out of it.*

But this deal/savings seeking leads us to a frequent dillemma: do we take the tour or not? Tours are usually lots of fun and frequently are the only way to see something, but they almost always cost a lot of money so we often end up skipping out, instead opting for the free activities like exploring, hanging out on the beach, and juggling.

In the interest of expanding our horizons, after much hemming and hawing, yesterday we took a tour. The tour promised three-fold adventure: dolphins (35% chance), the Black river and crocodiles, and a stop at the Pelican Bar, a bar on stilts in the middle of the bay.

In short, it was totally awesome! We saw both dolphins and crocodiles, the Black River was amazing with its mangroves, nesting snowy egrets, and truly jungle-like vibe, and we can now say we've been to the world famous(?) Pelican Bar. Beyond the three-fold promise, there were lots of other great perks: meeting other travelers, a neat swimming hole/rope swing/jumping tree into the river*, an adventurous boat ride, and lots of great information that we might never have gotten otherwise.

Our super successful tour will no doubt help encourage us to penny-pinch less when the next opportunity arises. And I look forward to it! But in the meantime, we'll be keeping an eye out for deal. Old habits do die hard.
Thursday December 28 2017File under: travel, Jamaica

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Twas the Night Before Christmas 2017

Twas the night before Christmas
Reggae beats drift on by
So it goes in Jamaica
For my sweetie and I

We've come down to visit
This Caribbean island nation
For escape and adventure
To have a nice little vacation

And so far, it's worked!
A week in and we're thrilled
We done a few things
But mostly we've chilled

Last night was Grand Market
A sight to behold
We found our way to the right town
Or so we were told

Music was blaring
Up and down every street
With stands of all kinds
Especially jerk meat

The place was packed full
Of revelers and glee
Della and I were the only
White faces to see

But that makes it authentic
Not what most tourists get
Following our noses
Hasn't failed us yet

With the reggae still ringing
through us to the core
We spent X-mas eve day
Exploring some more

After fresh smoothies of star fruit
Picked right from the tree
We cram ourselves in a mini-bus
Which flies at speeds unsafely

We arrive at a place where
the sea meets a cascade
I proceed to re-enact
A blog post from last decade

Next we walked into Ocho Rios
A little too touristy for us
After a quick dinner and crunkies
We were back on a bus

Now we're settled at "home"
A quaint little AirBnB
Outside the reggae drifts by
Inside its just Della and me

We won't do anything special
Maybe watch a movie or read
But we'll be totally at peace
Because we have all we need

Adventure, warm weather
Time to ourselves
Santa couldn't make us happier
With all of his elves

Now I sit back and reread
My Twas posts from the past
I get quite a kick
From the pile that's amassed ('07, '08, '09, '11, '12, '13, '14, '15)

For while I'm kind of a grinch
About most yule themed things
These silly little poems
Much joy to me brings

I hope you have a your own reasons
For joy this fine night
May the upcoming year
Bring you much love and delight

Now I'll end it right here
With this last seasonal cliche
Merry Christmas to you
On this joyous day
Sunday December 24 2017File under: holidays, poetry

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The Beastly Frightful Unspeakably Spooky Circus of Doom

This year, the Bellingham Circus Guild put on its first Halloween show* and it was awesome! Della and I wrote a whole new act for the occasion. It was a little gimmicky, a little over the top, a little funny(?), and hopefully a lot fun. I sure liked how it turned out, anyway. Check out the video below.

(Since you can barely see our costumes in the video, here's a shot we snuck in the photo booth. And since we're talking about photo booth photos, here's one of the cast and crew. What a group!!)

Before the show, I did ambient as a fire juggling fireman. Della was the cutest little teapot you could imagine.



Overall, it was an awesome experience. The gal the put on the show did a knock out job promoting it (3 total sellout shows plus a last minute show that almost sold out!) as well as all other aspects. It was really an honor to be a part.



Wednesday November 15 2017File under: circus, juggling

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Summer Performance Recap 2017

By my rough count, Della and I had approximately 40 shows during our busy time, July and August. While it felt like we barely had time to catch our breath or do laundry, it rarely felt like we had time to capture it in words or pictures. But now that things have calmed down, I thought it might be fun to consolidate some of the photos, videos, and observations into an end of the season wrap-up (like I did last year!) Info and photo credits in the captions.



Sunday October 8 2017File under: pics, juggling

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My First USA Today Crossword



In today's USA Today newspaper, if you look on page 4D, you might find a familiar name...ME!! It's my first USA Today crossword and I'm very excited to have it published. The USA Today having one of the highest daily circulations in the country, it means that there are people in hotels, airports, and Starbucks all over the country that might be cursing my name and that makes me smile. Just kidding. I like to think either that they stop and appreciate the puzzle and maybe even glance at my name, or in the very least, think it no better or worse than the other puzzles they've done and that it sufficiently filled their time.

[Spoiler Alert] About this puzzle in particular, my theme idea started out somewhat different than what made it to the page. I proposed "DROP THE BALL", as in screwing something up but the editor liked "DROPPED BALL" better. While I think it is a less common phrase which makes the theme slightly less strong, I'm definitely not the one with years experience putting puzzles out to the world on such a huge scale, so I was definitely inclined to defer. In addition to the theme change, there were the wealth of cluing changes (that even make it hard for me to complete my own puzzle!) As I work more with an editor, I get more in tune with their style. Luckily, I think this USA Today relationship will be one where I get that chance! I've gone another puzzle in the pipes and submitting another one today!

As with all my puzzles so far, I've framed this for inclusion on my Wall of Puzzles* which keeps on growing! Does that mean someday I'll have to stop framing every puzzle? Or I could just buy a bigger house. We'll have to see when it gets to that point. Stay tuned!

While I always encourage you to go out and support the media that supports crossword creators, I know that isn't always possible. So here's a PDF copy of the puzzle (also available at puzzles.usatoday.com/crossword
Thursday September 21 2017File under: crosswords

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Hamsters Dont Fight Fires


If you have kids, or know anyone that does, you should go buy the book Hamsters Don't Fight Fires by friend of BdW Andrew Root. Not only does it get a 5-start Amazon rating (so you know it is good), but it gets my seal of approval (which should be enough for anyone.)

You might know the author, Andrew, as one of the tireless bloggers of Brothers Root back from the hey day of blogging. Well, he's all grown up now with the cred to prove it.

But seriously, what an accomplishment. My sincere congrats to Andrew on doing something so cool. I really do encourage you go out and buy a copy, not just because it is an awesome book, but because it's nice to support our friends. Andrew, keep cranking out the books!
Tuesday September 19 2017File under: books

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Minor Media Mentions - Summer Juggling 2017

I always find it a thrill to have a photo of me in a newspaper—some mix of validation, fame, and glee. This summer, it has happened a few times for various juggling events we've been a part of. I wanted to post them here as an addition to my minor media mentions series, kind of a digital scrapbook.

Firstly, to your right, we have a picture of me from the Skagit County Fair, featured on the front page of the Skagit Valley Herald. That makes 2 years in a row of making the front cover for our performances at the Fair! Hopefully that bodes well for the Fair asking us back next year to be a part!

There were also a couple of photos from the Anacortes American. The first one was of us at the 3rd of July celebration at the Heart of Anacortes. The second one was also taken at the Heart of Anacortes, but this time for a show we did for the Anacortes Library. The library show was super fun for me because many of my old high school classmates with in the audience with their kids and the show got a great response!

Later towards the end of the summer, I'll do a more inclusive Summer of Juggling wrap up post (like I did last year!) with drone video, lots of pictures, a run down of the major events we did, and more!

UPDATE: The weekly paper* arrived this morning and low and behold, who was staring right back at me? Me! Granted I didn't even get a mention in the story or even my name in the caption, but it is a pretty neat shot!
Monday August 28 2017File under: media, juggling

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Circus Camp

This year, as a sort of New Year's resolution, I set forth to try to make it the year of "Yes!", accepting opportunity more readily than I have in the past. That was especially pertinent to my burgeoning circus career. If there's an opportunity, I'm on it. And it led down some interesting paths. Some turned out to be thankless gigs that paid very little. Some were gigs that pushed our limits and made us better performers. Some were hidden gems. And some were, well, just plain new.

It was through this yessing that Della and I found ourselves teaching circus camp to kids on San Juan Island, Lummi Island, and in Bellingham. Teaching circus is something that we've done quite a bit of in the past, both through Chautauqua and as part of festival, parties, etc. But these are always shorter sessions that let kids (and adults!) come and go as their interest waned or was diverted. The circus day camp where the kids get dropped off and picked up many hours later is a whole different ball game, one which we weren't entirely prepared for.

For the most part, it was awesome. There were some amazing kids who were super into learning, being helpful, and being fun! And from the feedback from students and parents, I'd say that the camps were a success, with the kids having a good time and nobody getting hurt*. But kids are kids, and there was definitely more "don't hit her with that", "pick up your trash", and "take that sharp stick out of your nose" than we expected, esp. with the younger kids. I can hardly blame them for not wanting to juggle for 3 hours straight, but it was still a bit of a learning curve.



One thing about the year of "Yes!", you learn a lot. And that has been wonderful. For next year, however, if circus camp opportunities roll around, we'll have more knowledge about what variable best suit our talents and interests. What does that mean, I don't know. But I know that at least for now, I'm happy to going back to just performing for a while.
Wednesday August 9 2017File under: circus, juggling

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Sleeping Around 2016-207

I shall start this year's sleeping around post as I do almost every year's, with an explanation. My Sleeping Around project (now entering it's 10th year!) is my attempt at capturing and quantifying my life through where I rest my head. I attempt to summarize the year's data around this time every year and tease out the secrets that it holds. Let us begin.

This year's Sleeping Around data is the least diverse to date, by far. In fact, it is so boring that I had to make the pie chart into a pac-man in hopes of even getting myself to care. But even in the most boring data lies interesting tidbits.

Interesting Tidbits:
  • Housesitting accounts for nearly 3/4th of my nights
  • One housesitting client accounts for 65% of housesitting nights and almost half the nights overall!
  • Not a single night in a tent nor at my cabin at the Quarry
  • 28 nights in hotels/hostels and 18 in a car (3/4ths of which were in the last month)

Additional Stats
# of Housesitting Houses765% of these nights was at home client in particular
# of states (other than WA)4OR, OK, NY, CT
# of countries (other than US)2Costa Rica, Nicaragua
Longest stretch at home5I was away so much my poor spider plant nearly died
Longest stretch away from home119This only includes nights away. I'm sure I visited home lots during that time.


Years from now, when I look back on all my Sleeping Around data, will I see the 2016-2017 year as an anomaly like it feels now or will it be the beginning of a trend? The only way to find out is to keep collecting data. And that's exactly what I plan to do!

(Previous year's analyses: '08-'09, '09-'10, '10-'11, '11-'12, '12-'13, '13-'14, '14-'15, '15-'16. And this year's data)
Wednesday August 9 2017File under: stats

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Recent Content:
*Jamaica Public Transport Experience
*To Do the Tour or Not Do the Tour
*Twas the Night Before Christmas 2017
*The Beastly Frightful Unspeakably Spooky Circus of Doom
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*My First USA Today Crossword
*Hamsters Dont Fight Fires
*Minor Media Mentions - Summer Juggling 2017
*Circus Camp
*Sleeping Around 2016-207
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*www.WrenAndDella.com
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