Back in the US of A

June 30 – Wednesday

We realized last night that we’ve been here for a month and never visited the Arawak Cove, small private beach for the Arawak. We decided to take a quick peak at that before progressing with our day. A short walk and a slightly inconvenient climb over some rocks, made more difficult with small children, and we made it. It was kind of fun sitting there is our own tiny, private beach. However, the waves were a little strong in that cove today and the rocks made the actual water area very small so we didn’t stay long.

We headed back to the Arawak and Gabriel decided he was going to be too  fussy to allow us to go on to Shoal Bay East. So we laid him down for a mid-morning nap and started packing. Then we ate a quick lunch of sandwiches and chips, trying to use as much of the food we had left as we could. Then off to Shoal Bay East. This was the first beach we visited so we thought it fitting that it would be the last also. It also didn’t hurt that it is one of the top beaches in the world and one of our favorites on the island. Shemar, one of the Arawak staff, said she’d stop by the beach after she got off so she could say good-bye since we would be leaving in the morning before she came in. She surprised us by bring her two boys with her and they had a blast playing with Ezekiel and Gabriel one last time. As the sun began to move lower in the sky we said our good-byes.

We stayed for a bit longer on the beach and took one final dip in the ocean before loading up to head back to the Arawak. We all waved good-bye to the beach and said we hope to be back again.

At the Arawak we got cleaned up and ready for dinner. We headed up to the pool area to listen to Terry and Smoothie for our final Wednesday night music fest. We ate the grouper (pictured below on the left) and Maude’s Caribbean Chicken recipe from St. Kitts (pictured below on the right) courtesy of Maurice, the owner, and Maria, the inn keeper. It was wonderful! The idea was for us to split both meals. Shauna was served the grouper and I was served the chicken. We ate half and switched plates. We both took bites of the new dish and the flavors were so different we both decided we’d rather keep eating our original meal so we switched back. Ha! We finished the meal with the infamous Banoffee pie made of a cookie crust, layered with toffee, bananas, whip cream, chocolate sauce and a cherry. Very rich so one slice was more than enough to share. We said good-bye to Maude, the cook then went back to put the boys to bed and finish packing, trying our best to even out the weight before heading to bed ourselves.

July 1 – Thursday

We woke up about 8am and I threw on some clothes and went by Le Bon Pain one final time for breakfast. After breakfast we finished the last little bit of packing and I loaded the car and was dripping with sweat by the time I was done. Then I took my shower and put on fresh clothes. We headed up to check out and say our good-byes to Maurice and Maria. One of the local couples (moved from the US) was waiting to say good-bye to “The Family.” We found out that morning that is what we became known as. Everyone referred to us as “The Family.”

We piled into the car and headed down the road to Blowing Point to catch the 11am boat called Ms. Shauna IV – spelled exactly the same as Shauna spells her name. The lady taking down our passport info and fees thought that was hilarious that Shauna was riding on her boat. We got a random security check and Shauna went with the security guard and one suitcase while I was buying our tickets on the boat. He too, found it funny that Shauna was riding on the Shauna boat and told Ezekiel to make sure he tells Gabriel when he’s older that mommy rode on her own boat.

We were told the boat was about 10-15 minutes behind schedule so we waited in the lounge (with AC) for our boat…and we waited…and waited…and waited some more. We finally departed about 11:45am for the 30 minute ride to St. Martin where we were told to arrive 2 1/2 hours prior to our 2:25pm flight. We started our boat ride and were offered complimentary drinks (Coke, Sprite, Water, Heineken, etc.). We decided to use this boat instead of the public ferry because this takes us to the airport as opposed to the port where we would have needed another taxi to get to the airport. We arrive at St. Martin and the lady on the boat collects our passports and gets off to go to Immigration. That takes another 15 minutes and we leave there to go to the airport. We get off the boat and have to through Customs (changed countries leaving from Anguilla and entering St. Martin). Even though we are at the airport we are on the far side and that is too far to walk with all our luggage, stroller, car seat, etc. so we get a shuttle for $6 total for the 4 of us.

At the airport we check in and check our bags only to have one of them be slightly over weight. We had some things on top to dispose of if there was not room so we got those out  (partial bottles of shampoo, some extra shells that weren’t our favorites) and left them. Then the lady asked if we had any more shells in our carry-ons. I said just the small ones (not the huge, pointy conch shell that could be used as a weapon). She said they would take those out confiscate them at the security point so we start rearranging again moving shells we had carefully spread out among all three carry-on bags and moving them into our checked bags and moving other things into our carry-ons to compensate for the extra weight. We rechecked the first bag and the weight was fine. I put the second bag up and it was too heavy again! I think the lady felt sorry for us and told us it was close enough and she’d send it through without charging us extra.

So then after checking those two bags we drug everything to the far side to check the car seat. Back home we checked it at the same point, but here we had to go to a special line. Then checked the numbers on the car seat against our ticket and sent it through. Then we had to to the opposite side to go through security with our carry-ons. Already very late because of the boat delay we are hustling as fast as we can drag carry-ons, laptops, diaper bags and two boys. We get to security and take off all our shoes, take out the laptop, portable DVD player, etc., etc. Then ended up opening all 3 of our nicely jam-packed carry-ons and removed our collapsable cooler to rescan, the bottles of sand to test, and I have no idea what else. So everything was a complete mess by the time they rescanned everything. We’re going as fast as we can trying to re-cram all our stuff back into the carry-ons, grab the boys and hustle to the gate. We make it with about 15 minutes to spare so I remove my extra shirt from the carryon and go change into a fresh shirt for traveling.

The flight from St. Martin to Charlotte went pretty well.  Here is some video from our flight back. The one called sour-watch my eyes…Ezekiel was eating some candy and he looked up at me and said, “This is sour, watch my eyes.” I grabbed the camera and had him do it again. I had to watch his eyes squinch up for proof that his candy was sour.

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After arriving in Charlotte we had to go through customs and immigration coming back into the US. Regardless of whether this was your final destination or you had a connecting flight everyone had to retrieve their checked bags and then recheck them. So after going through the legal stuff and being welcomed back to the USA we got our checked bags and then headed down the hall and handed them off to someone else to recheck and get to our connecting flight. Then we had to go back through security and take off shoes, take out laptops, etc. all over again. It was like had to start all over again even though we were already inside the airport and proceeding to our connecting flight. We had a 4 hour lay-over here so we were not at all pressed for time.

We took our time, got some dinner, talked to a cute dental hygienist that was headed to Louisville to see her boyfriend in college, and got some frozen yogurt. We got back to our gate with plenty of time to board for our 10:24pm flight back to Lexington…only the board didn’t say 10:24 it said 11:05…then 11:19…then 11:46. The ticket taker announced that the flight was arriving from Newport News, VA and it takes approximately 15 minutes to deboard and be ready to turn around and be sent back out. The plane arrives without people so we quickly board passing by the female pilot (no wonder it was late – ha!) and take off at nearly midnight.  The pilot announces that this plane has been having mechanical problems all day so this was it’s first flight with passengers…good to know!!!

The boys are exhausted and quickly fall asleep. We talk a bit to the man in front of us returning from a business trip and missing his girls. He asked what our boys names were and we told him. He said,

“Ezekiel? Is that a family name or something – I’ve never heard of that before.” I patiently explain that is a Bible name and think to myself, well, we are definitely back in the USA where people have no idea about the Bible.

The funny thing was a little later he was talking to the person in the seat beside him who asked what church he attended and named one of the largest churches in Lexington. I mean, come on people, Ezekiel is not some minor person in the Bible, it is an entire book in the Old Testament and one of the longest books of the Bible!

We finally land a little after 1am and get home around 2am and collapse into bed about 2:30am after getting the boys settled in their beds.

The 4 Biggest Shocks Returning to the USA

First – air conditioning! As soon as we got off the plane in the Charlotte airport. Brrrr! Having had almost no AC for an entire month we were freezing! We went to lunch with family the next day and shivered the whole way through our meal. Ezekiel got goose bumps on his legs and we got a jacket to put on him.

Second – allergies! Back to Kentucky, one of the worst states for allergies. As soon as we got off the plane in Lexington we all started sneezing, coughing and choking after breathing this Kentucky air. Several days later we are all still puffy, snotty, and getting back onto allergy meds to survive.

Third – drive on which side? I thought it would feel a bit strange, but like riding a bike…to drive on the right side. Boy was I wrong. I found myself driving down the left side of the road in our subdivision, turning from a main road onto a smaller road and headed toward the left side before mentally checking myself and moving back to the right. It took all day Friday, Saturday and most of Sunday before driving on the right became automatic for me again.

Fourth – dag on heat! Temperature-wise we are about the same as what we left in the mid eighties. However, having been back for several days the heat is starting to get to us and the AC is no longer freezing us. There is no ocean to jump into and the air here feels so stale and stagnant. We always had trade winds and ocean breezes to cool us in the heat of the day. Here, it is just dead air and nasty heat.

Well, this has been a wonderful journey and a vacation of a lifetime. We strongly encourage you make plans to visit the Arawak. You will not regret it!

Signing off for the McDonald family,

Josh, Shauna, Ezekiel, and Gabriel.

One Response to “Back in the US of A”

  • Sherry Roby:

    Glad you are all home safe. I have enjoyed your posts throughout this adventure. Your family is blessed. Your beach posts encouraged me to plan a trip to Hawaii myself. Aloha!