One Happy Island... / by Pamela Green

View from Marriott Hotel

Visiting Aruba has undoubtedly broadened and shaped my limited perspective of the values and morals of another culture. In case you may not have known, I am an absolute stranger when it comes to traveling abroad. The fact is, I haven't. This entry will mark my first vacation (yes, at this late age) outside of the United States.

The reasons behind choosing Aruba are simply due to the desire to trace my roots. My parents were born and lived in Aruba for quite sometime until they migrated to the United States. Since then, I have not been exposed to their culture; nor have met my relatives overseas. Once I obtained my Passport, Aruba was THE first place to go. In an effort to summarize my entire experience, I will not only show the typical tourist side of Aruba... but the actual lifestyle and lively hood of its citizens. So enjoy this entry, this is a long and very informative one! Note: I took ALL photos through the iPhone 5.

Okay, so where do I begin? First off, Aruba is a very small island just north of Venezuela and Brazil.  It literally is the size of NYC (Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, Manhattan, S.I combined). Although it is apart of the Caribbean Sea, it is governed by Holland entirely. The time zone is similar to that of New York, (Eastern Standard Time) so you may not experience much of any jet lag upon arrival. Speaking of arrival, I was greeted by several individuals from the airport that handed out lovely Aruban tote bags, with travel guides and things to do on the island. I also, met my Aunt Joyce for the first time in Aruba!  Although I was glad to see her, the extreme amounts of wind totally ruined my hair style (American problems) so one thing to note: Wear a ponytail, braids, or simply pin up your hair.

Things to note: (1) Eastern Standard Time. (2) Extremely windy... ladies, knot it up in a bun.

My initial stay was at the La Cabana, where I was graced with a suite that included a bedroom, bathroom and kitchenette... I also had an amazing view by the pool. Standard rates for hotels in Aruba are $120-$185/night (pending). Our hotel had several gift shops in the lobby with a Cinnabon, family room, business room, arcade, outside restaurant and oh yes.... a Casino. I definitely recommend this place if you're visiting with family. It has all that you need for a lovely night.  Below are several views of my stay.. 

Things to note: (1) If you aren't a fan of AC, you will not be of the hotels. They tend to be very cold at night, so pack a good pair of pajamas. (2) Practically every hotel has its own casino

The very first night, I went grocery shopping to fill up my kitchenette for my stay. Aruba's currency is called Florence, and although I was unable to grab a hold of an actual florence dollar, I was pleased to know they accept the US dollar as well. 1 US Dollar is about twice as much as a Florence dollar, so if you're traveling with $1000 USD, you have $2000 Florence. I went to one of the largest supermarkets in Aruba called Super Food, where they were stocked with mostly American foods. One interesting fact is that ALL of Aruba's foods are imported. Due to the hot climate of Aruba, it is very difficult to grow fruits and vegetables, so they rely on neighboring countries to supply them with the basic foods. Due to this, the food here may be a tad bit expensive for Aruban citizens, however, if you're American... the prices work out rather well.

The next few days after that, I spent most of my time on the beach (obviously), but the beaches that the hotels/resorts offered. Listen (okay) there are PLENTY of beaches in Aruba, however, in town they are privately owned and separated amongst the hotels. Nevertheless, I visited several hotel resorts (one in particular, which I will talk about towards the end) and their beaches. Below are some of the lovely landscapes and architectures of the hotels.

Things to note: (1) No need for foreign exchange, the USD is accepted everywhere.  (2) $1USD= $2Florence

  Beautiful view of the pool and waterfall in the Marriott

Beautiful view of the pool and waterfall in the Marriott

Ahhh yes, are you loving Aruba yet? Well, hopefully you are.  If you're interested in the fashion of Aruba, I couldn't actually tell you what typical citizens wear. Basically, anything light. In between the hotels there are stores such as Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren, etc, so there are a lot of stores that have brands you may recognize, however it is solely up to you. Aruba is known mostly for their beaches, I'd save your money for food and sight seeing. Throughout my entire stay, I kept everything light: dresses, shorts, leggings, and um SHORTS! I do, however, recommend a pair of jeans if you're looking to sit in the casino's or theatre's overnight. Make sure to bring a pair of sneakers if you're looking to exercise or want to climb mountains. Other than that, sandals and flip flops. Ladies, just say NO to large purses. Completely unnecessary. Keep it light, find nice clutches, wrist wallets, or light bags. There is no need for make-up, as the sun will melt it off of your face. If you must, apply a thin line of eyeliner. NOTHING ELSE.

Speaking earlier of exercise. There are gyms throughout Aruba, I attempted to work out one of the days, and I must tell you: ITS AMAZING. I practically broke out in a sweat in 4minutes, the heat out there is intense. I do recommend at least trying to jog/run/walk out there once.

Things to note: (1) It is always 89 degrees or higher, dress appropriately (2) Refrain from blacks and dark colors if you can, that is unless you want a heavy tan line. (3) Ladies, light make-up or no make-up at all.

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After a few days of the lovely attractions, I had to vacate my hotel room and visit my family for the first time. Luckily, Aunty Joyce welcomed me to stay at her house for the remainder of my stay. From this point forward, what you will see is the real deal. The main deal, the true Aruban culture. It is still beautiful in essence, however, much different than the American way.

First off, lets get into transportation. As far as public transit, Aruba has busses and cabs. Other than that, your best bet is to walk (not alone, of course). A lot of the cars you may see are Hyundai's, Chevys and other brands I actually do not recognize. It is very rare to see a Toyota, Honda, Lexus or BMW. My mother and I rented out a car to navigate throughout Aruba in anycase. In turn, many of the images you may see from here on out may have been shot through a car window. My apologies in advance if they are not as 'beautiful' as above. Please note that the bus stops nearby the hotels are NOT the same. What you see is the middle class standard of living.

With the several days of traveling back and forth,  I also managed took several shots of the people, stray animals and homes of the real Aruba. Please note that the homes nearby the hotels are NOT the same.  What you see is the middle class standard of living.

 A lot of the homes inAruba are under construction, since the sulfur from the oceans deterroate its structure.

A lot of the homes inAruba are under construction, since the sulfur from the oceans deterroate its structure.

However, if you're on the higher class of things... there are beautiful homes as well:

 Raygel, myself and a friend named Castro...

Raygel, myself and a friend named Castro...

Are you still in love with Aruba? I hope so, the views only get better from here. After meeting my aunt, I was introduced to my cousins Raygel, Amelia and other names I am afraid to misspell. Thankfully, my cousin Raygel spoke English. In fact, it is MANDATORY that all students learn to speak at least 4 languages throughout their education. This including Papiamento, Dutch, Spanish and English. All of these are taught in 'highschool.' After a student graduates highschool they have to travel abroad to peruse further education. Interestingly so, highschool is the only level of education you are freely able to receive. In any case, Raygel decided to take me out late night to enjoy the festive night activities.  This of course included clubbing, drinks, and all that a young person should do. The drinking age in Aruba is actually 18, so if you have any friends under 21, bring them here for their first drink (Ahem, emphasis on FRIST). Clubbing was relatively the same as New York, women dress up in dresses and heels, men are much more lax. As far a music, they listen to American music as well. I can recall Chris Browns, "These Hoes Ain't Loyal" playing, however, it was definitely in another language. Other than that there’s loads of Latin, Calypso and other Caribbean-vibe music. Ladies, the men there are very respectable. Throughout my entire trip I felt very comfortable and save. Gentlemen will always be gentlemen. No need to worry about name-calling or inappropriate physical contact.

They celebrate every Thursday in town

One thing that was truly special was the community life. Every Thursday in town, the community gather's together in celebration of simple life. There's music, drinks, family and friends, musicians, dancers and EVERYTHING you can think of along town. This is very similar to Labor Day parade in Brooklyn, New York. So if you're unable to visit Aruba WATCH it on television (please note I said watch and not visit, its quite dangerous haha). In anycase, great music, great people... what more can you ask for?

Things to note: (1) Drinking age is 18. (2) Aruban civilians speak 4 languages (3) Dress normally for clubbing and lounging. (4) Every Thursday in Saint Nicholas, there are Aruban carnivals

Okay, so let's continue. After the nightlife, Raygel took me sight seeing for the next couple of days. Thankfully, he knew his way around every tourist attraction and acted politely as a tour guide. Following the short description of each place are photos I hope you will soon enjoy. We visited:

 

the Gold Mine, where they located and melted gold. This structure is over 5 stories high, and I was able to climb to the top. The stone itself was an amazing view, as well as the view of the oceans around it. Truly breath-taking.

the views on the way to the California Lighthouse were also pretty amazing. Very tranquil, many tourists visit for a more peaceful frame of mind.  Unfortunately, I forget the name of the city to visit this spectacular landscape.

Another view on the way towards the lighthouse was the Natural Bridge (literally a bridge formed by the nautral rifts between the ocean and land). Unfortunately due to mother nature, this bridge has collapsed.

the California Lighthouse was pretty cool. I am still uncertain as to the American name of it all, but its safe to say Arubans know where Califronia lies.

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Okay wow, so I literally took you through the ropes of Aruba. But guess what? THERES MORE TO COVER! To prevent dizzyness from settling in, I'd like to give you a lump sum of the images below. Most of these were shot along pit stops (if you were) along the sight seeing above. There are a lot of animals, trees and nature that aren't exactly sights to see, but fun to know they exist. Take a gander below.

I know you're probably wondering where'd the flamingoes come from? If not, I will exlpain in anycase. Upon the very last day of my stay, I met my aunt Ima, who works at the Resorts Hotel. The Resorts is DEFINITELY a place to stay if you are young and looking to have a great time. They offer beautiful views, and the pool is to die for. However, with all the amenities, one that is absolutely breath taking is their private island. Yes, the Resorts purchased a plot of land specifically for their guests. What you'll need to do is make a reservation,  it is pretty expensive for a ticket (i believe $100+ a pop) however, it is extremely WORTH it. You will NEVER see the a view as beautiful as what I have. After you reserve your spot, you will board a small boat that will take you along the coast of Aruba until you reach land. Need I continue to explain the final batch of pictures, or should I let the photos explain themselves? Go on, ill wait...

And there you have it, Aruba in all of its glory. I cannot express enough, how honored and thrilled I was to embark on this vacation. There is nothing better than meeting long lost family, seeing their way of life, living that same way of life and taking that experience with you back home. Visiting Aruba has definitely made me both appreciative and envious of America simultaneously.  The lack of seasons, the landscaping, the wildlife, the generous civilians, the community celebrations, the warm weather…. the list goes on.

I have personally decided to keep this entry online and in public records public view to convince you to not only visit here, but go out and discover your OWN heritage. Nothing hits home more than actually living it, and nothing makes you more appreciative of life than experiencing it. It is truly a once in a lifetime experience. Thank you again to my relatives abroad, I can assure you there will be many visits in the future.

There's nothing more to say other than... 

P.g.D