Caribbean Day 1: Commencement

Day 1 of the trip started with a lot of pomp and circumstance. Before my flight, I had commencement at USC. This trip is really a celebration for finally graduating, and to not waste a single day of vacation time, my flight at 10pm that night, not leaving a ton of time.

My parents arrived around 11 and we loaded everything into their car. Since I’ll be in St. Lucia for mother’s day, and likely out of town for Father’s day, I decided to give them both their presents before I left.

Traffic wasn’t too bad getting down to USC, but parking was trouble, we eventually ended up in the museum parking. My parents had arrived earlier than expected so I had time to go to the CSCI reception and grab a bite to eat. I felt so out of place, everyone there taking pictures with their friends. All of my friends from USC had graduated years ago, with the couple I met last semester graduating next year. The problem with taking 5 years to finish your masters is that you’re not exactly graduating with your “class”. In fact you don’t really have a “class”.

Eventually it was time to line up by major to enter the building where the ceremony was being held, only I guess the emails about being punctual to commencement were lost on the people who sent them, and we had to stand in the sun for an hour in our black robes. They could have at least lined us up inside…

Once everything got rolling, graduation went off without a hitch. I walked on stage with a bunch of people I didn’t know and accepted my fake diploma (the real one to come in the mail), shaking the Dean’s hand for a photo. As boring and surreal as it felt to me, it really did give a sense of closure. I felt done. Over the years it almost just felt like part of who I was to be a student, that it was something I’d always been and always would be. For the first time since I was 5 years old I’m now not a student, there is no next class.

We had only a little bit of time with the ceremony running long, and the traffic leaving campus. I had planned to arrive at 7, 3 hours ahead of my flight, but realizing it wasn’t an international flight, but first a domestic flight that really didn’t seem necessary, I could aim for 8 and be safe. We had time for a quick dinner along the way, nothing fancy, just a rushed meal at Red Lobster.

I got to the airport with plenty of time and breezed through security and check-in. Gary eventually showed up in time for the flight and we set off. The flight was short to Orlando at 4 hours, not enough time to sleep well. The connection to Miami was short as well at just an hour, but I still grabbed a nap. Eventually we started on the final leg at 10am local time.

Just as we took off I woke up from a nap with a fright, had I locked the front door? I remember giving my parent’s their mother’s and father’s day gifts and getting in the car. I think I did, but at the writing of this I have no idea. Later after getting to my hotel I sent Rebecca a message asking her to check since she lives a couple miles away and can be gotten ahold of by facebook, but haven’t yet found out what she found. This hasn’t helped my first day, and I’m a bit worried. I keep running through my head hoping to find a memory of locking the door. All I remember is being inside with my parents, my gifts in my hand, and then giving them to them out by the curb. I can’t imagine I DIDN’T lock the door, I’ve never not. But for the life of me I can’t remember.

Arriving in St. Lucia we had to deal with getting from the airport to Soufriere. Apparently the busses don’t run on the weekends, so we had to take a taxi. The taxi drivers like in most of the world can be a bit bothersome at the airport, and I never think I can believe them, so when one is telling me no busses today, and the one bus I do find is going to Castries says they don’t go up the west side of the island, I’m skeptical. After turning down the aggressive guys we found someone on the up and up and paid our $60 for the 45 min ride a bit begrudgingly. It turned out pretty good in the end since our driver, Neptune, was a pretty good guide and kept feeding us random bits of information, and had answers for all of our questions. It also turned out true that the east side of the island the roads don’t wind so much so it’s faster to go straight to the capital Castries along the other side of the island.

We were greeted at hotel by the hotel manager with rum punch! I guess this really is the low season when they’re only expecting us. The rest of the hotel seems devoid of guests. After checking in we walked around town which wasn’t nearly as busy or touristy as I expected. Everyone seemed friendly and while a few tried to get us to take a tour or sell us weed ( “a fresh bit of green” ), we were left to just wander around the small town. Soufriere is smaller than I expected, and dirtier too. The island definitely isn’t wealthy. I had kind of expected that it would be after my readings on its strong tourist industry. Not that I’m bothered at all, this doesn’t feel foreign to me at all being in the third world, and people don’t seem so poor that they’re desperate.

I turned on my new point and shoot for the first time on the trip, and found photos from the previous weekend’s trip to Big Sur that I’d totally forgotten about. I had given Jennifer the camera a couple times, and these photos popped up in preview. Kind of like a present from my girlfriend, giving me a bit of the warm fuzzies.

After exploring we settled into a creole restaurant for some grub. The owner was a nice old lady and recommended we try the curried goat, and roasted chicken. Sold! I also knocked back a Piton Lager, the only locally brewed beer. The meal was tasty, though priced a bit more like something you’d find in America, though I know from my book that this isn’t abnormal here.

Our rooms are nice, and the hotel overlooks the town with a great view (though the walk up the hill is a bit tough for Gary). I think though once our stay here runs out on Monday, we might move further north to Marigot Bay, though we’ll see when we the time rolls around if we actually do that. Then off to Castries to end the trip. My ferry is from Castries on Friday to Martinique.

Hiking back up the hill to the hotel was tough, and I could tell Gary had lost some of his old marathon form. I’m thinking convincing him to hike Gros Piton with me will be difficult. The bar at the hotel wasn’t open for some reason and I wanted a rum cocktail! What a shame! I decided to go for a dip in the swimming pool and cool off. Only that was short lived, as soon as I was in the pool up to my waist I was being buzzed by mosquitos!
I hung out with Gary for a bit trying to write this journal, not that I could post it with the internet being broken here other than the manager’s home PC in his apartment in the hotel. I couldn’t stay awake though. After a good 30 minute try I headed back to my room around 7:30 to try to continue without the distraction of the TV. That wasn’t the problem though and I passed out like a log, or a rock, or something else inanimate, all the while birds and insects chirping away outside my room.

PS. It looks like my favorite gallery plugin doesn’t work with the latest wordpress, so I’ll have to use this one.

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