It’s Been Ages: Suri, Denver, Suri, Home, Suri, Sint Maarten

Tuesday 8 September to 22 November 2015

Well it has been a long while since my last post. I had a free day in Paramaribo on 8 September after I returned from Windsor, and on this day I found out my Grandfather was diagnosed with a brain tumour with a very short prognosis. With that devastating news I started my rotation. It was the most hectic yet as the project hit peak, I moved into a new camp and there were many meetings (including one week in Denver), issues and events that occupied my time. None of it fully planned. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the only thing that stresses me out is when everyone wants a piece of me. I felt it more than I think ever before.

With flights booked back to Perth hopeful to see my Grandfather one last time, I was scheduled to land on my nephews 3rd birthday and grand final day with my team, the West Coast Eagles, in the Aussie rules football ultimate game. Flight delayed. Not an hour, not a day, but 2 days. Luckily my good friend Madison was on the same flight to Amsterdam so we spent a couple days in Parbo. Worse places to be, and being in a fine hotel such as the Marriott is better than most places. I finally departed Parbo early evening on 3 October and slept on 4 continents in 4 days to get home. I won’t detail my 8 days at home in Perth. Other than to say it was important to be with family, the first time for 9 months, and the funeral went all according to plan. My time on the ground was brief and I experienced another flight cancellation along the way. But who complains in these circumstances.

I flew back 16 October (my cousins 18th Birthday!) 3 days early (which I will take for a Perth Christmas) for an audit. Went well and set me up for a 27 day rotation as I also stayed a bit longer. Busy but productive, with some memorable moments of hiring people, giving promotions, playing complex boardgames, work mates birthdays, booking my home Christmas flights and Madison resigning. Never a dull moment in Suriname and I still struggle to find the time to just be by myself and catch up on outside life. It’s quite social here! Which is weird considering the work hours are longer than Ghana.

With all that it was time for a break on 14 November. On an island, in a vacation rental, with no expectations, bookings, or must dos. Time to be alone. Let go of the work persona. Enter the Dutch colony of Sint Maarten. I only booked the trip a week before and the only planning was to fly into one island and out from another. There were a lot of Airbnb places to choose from and I’m really glad I picked a good one.

I went out with some work friends the night before flying out and with a 230am pick up for the airport we didn’t sleep. I was flying with another guy on the same first flight so we shared the weariness together. At least until Trinidad where he went home to Canada and I connected to the Dutch side of Sint Maarten. A short taxi trip to my Beacon Hill apartment and I thought I would crash out, but it was only 9:30am and a whole beautiful Saturday ahead so I powered up and explored. Simpson beach is windy and turbulent but beautiful to look at. The airstrip runs parallel to this beach so the roar of the jet engines is a bit distracting. I found a couple of nice bars and much to my stomachs surprise I was enjoying tequila sunrises. Nice. Then to the grocery store to stock up. This involved a trek passed the Sunset Bar and Grill overlooking Maho beach, which is famous for the low flying aeroplanes that land just metres from the beach. Crazy dangerous but awesome. People stand where the signs say don’t go so they can be literally blown away by the jet blast as planes take off. The force is a lot stronger than I thought, with people holding on to the fence so not to get blown back.

I ended up extending my stay by two nights to make it 9. I just wasn’t ready to move on. And that’s the beauty of travelling without a plan. Some days I stayed in and caught up on my life. Other days I ventured to the main town Phillipsburg. Most adventurous I got was a day trip to the English colony of Anguilla with an organised tour. The day was sunny and clear, but unfortunately the surf was up and the beach not as incredible as everyone makes it out to be. The sun sets early at 5:35pm so the evenings feel longer, which is good when I don’t want to spend full days touring.

The apartment was blissfully quiet and modern for $139 USD per night very reasonable for the location. The owner lives in NYC and this is his vacation home that he rents out when vacant. The terrace had a nice view, but the waves reverberated off the enclosed space making it loud and having to shut the door to hear TV or music. Annoyingly the owner has a property manager who seemed to come and go as he pleased. One morning before 8am I’m still asleep and he came to hose down the salt from the terrace. Very invasive and not what you expect from a vacation rental. But other than these two things it was great. Oh and the owner only charged me a tiny fraction of the rate for the two nights I extended which was a welcome saving.

With the batteries recharged, the mind freed, the sleep reserves built up…time for some island hopping…

Denver was Coloradical

Saturday 24 January 2015 to Tuesday 3 February 2015

Landing at the Denver airport Saturday night 24 January I was met by my friend Matt who I work with and will stay with him and his pregnant wife for the next 10 days. First task was to talk to the lost baggage people to see if my missing suitcase was at the airport as planned. It wasn’t. I suspected it wouldn’t be based on conversations I had leading up to this moment. Instead of Denver, it’s at London Heathrow terminal 5. hmmm. But the guy at Denver airport has been very helpful. And Matt has listened to my suitcase story so many times that I’m surprised he still let’s me talk about it!

Matt lives in the suburbs and went to a lot of effort to make me feel welcome. His wife is a great cook too. Nice change to be in a house rather than a hotel on my breaks. And have someone play tour guide and driver where everything is organised and planned for me. We did a lot during the ten days.

Highlights Reel

Golden: 9/10 on the travellingross-o-meter. Mainly so high ranking cause it was my first full day on break, in Denver, and with a great mate. We did a tour of the Coors brewery which was free and included many tasters. Went up to the lookout where buffalo bill is buried and looked across the broader Denver area. Not a pretty town in this season with everything brown or grey. Day ended when I took my hosts out for dinner.

Australia Day: 8/10. My fav holiday and this time in the US of A. I cooked BBQ, we played pool in the basement, Frisbee at the park with Matt’s friend (unsurprisingly I suck at throwing a Frisbee when aiming for a basket), I bought a Fosters t shirt from Target, we drank a bottle of Jameson and streamed the triple j hottest 100. The latter made little sense to anyone in the room as not even I know the songs or listen to triple j. But it’s the thing to do on Oz day. It was also the day Matt and Katie found out they’re having a baby boy. Celebrations all round.

Winter Park ski trip: 8/10. The reason I brought all my ski clothes and things back from home was for this. Now they are in that stupid missing suitcase. So we replaced the essentials and headed up the Rockies to one of Matt’s fav ski resorts and only 1.5 hrs from home. Scenic drive up there through winding roads and watching the temp gauge drop. I hate the cold but with the right clothes and for the right reasons (i.e. Skiing) I can tolerate it. The hotel Matt booked was perfect and right on the edge of mountain – no need to carry skis for miles each day like in Japan!! 2.5 days of skiing is tiring, especially with the evening outings, but it’s fun and I enjoy it. The slopes here are diverse and many runs to choose from. My fav was off the Sunny Side lift called Edelweiss. Unfortunately no big snow falls during our stay but clear weather was also nice. I still haven’t had a ski trip in big powder so must go again until I get that. Plus next time I want to take lessons to get better at turns and general technique. I just do it for fun and don’t want to be brilliant. Matt has been skiing since a kid and very good so I’m glad he was patient to go on the medium runs with me. Only once did he try kill me. On Parsons Bowl steep slope, trees and bumps where travellingross had a bit of ski anger cause it was way beyond my skill level. At this point I did not enjoy snow, the Rockies, skiing, or Matt. Thankfully I ended with a few runs on Edelweiss and a shot of jager to bring back the fun travellingross.

Superbowl Sunday: 5/10. The highlight of this day was the 6 inches of snow that fell overnight so when I woke and looked out the window there was such a different landscape than the day before and it was surreal for me. Never seen before. We picked up some booze and headed over to Matt’s uni friends place to watch the game. I have no idea how the game works so just enjoyed the ads, half time Katy boobs Perry show and beer.

Denver HQ: 6/10. I had the morning to myself before meeting Matt at our work head office for lunch. It’s in a sterile ‘tech centre’ and made me glad I work on site. It was good to see the head office after hearing about it for a decade, and catch up with work colleagues I’ve not seen in years, but not a place I’d rush to work at.

Shopping: 7/10. Finally, on last full day, I got a chance to replace some of my missing belongings by heading to the mall. We finished in downtown so Matt could get some “party favours” (novelty items u take to parties or farewells to give to people…yeah right) for his last rotation in Suriname. For final night, I once again shouted dinner and it was one of the best meals I’ve had. Even though I was in a borrowed dress shirt from Matt that was 2 sizes too large, but he says I chose the most expensive in his closet!

Random Observations & Rants

  1. Getting searched by customs when I arrived in Miami was the most intense luggage search I’ve had. I must’ve looked suspicious and no one in USA can comprehend that I work in Suriname, a place they’ve never heard of.
  2. I woke up to a blood nose on the ski mountain – high altitude.
  3. The checking of ID is excessive at restaurants, bars and anywhere that sells alcohol. I got refused a drink twice. Once cause I forgot my ID (at the top of a ski mountain!!) and another cause they wouldn’t accept my foreign drivers licence as ID. Absolutely absurd. And people say Australia is a heavily regulated country. Colorado has legalised marijuana, clearly cause they need to chill out some more.
  4. Coloradical was a sticker on a car I saw.
  5. Having a waiter ask u “how’s everything” 6 times during a meal is so irritating. I get that American wages are driven by tips but the constant intrusion on your table to ask how the meal is, whether you need anything, how’s your day been etc etc drives me nuts.
  6. People are so friendly here that at times I felt like saying “Do I know you?”. When they ask you where you’re from, how you got here, where you work, your blood type (ok maybe an exaggeration but you get the point)….all in the 6 minutes to ride a chair lift up the mountain.