Haiti 1967


Back in the days before the internet (gasp!) we had to call the airlines to make reservations.  My mother would sit for hours in the middle of the night, when you were guaranteed to get an agent to help, and ask about deals!  In 1967 she found quite a bargain – you could fly to anywhere in the Caribbean for $100 (including some South American countries) as long as between each leg you went back to Puerto Rico.  Really!  So we flew to PR, then to Trinidad, then back to Puerto Rico, etc.  Other stops were Venezuela and Haiti.

There had just been a big earthquake in Caracas the month before, and we were taken on a tour of the quake damaged buildings – quite a sight – one of the hotels on the beach was now twisted into an S shape!

But anyway, my sister, Wendy, and I were sunbathing by the pool in Caracas and for some reason the sun really affected me.  I’d sunbathed all my life and never had a problem, but I guess the sun was stronger than I was used to, and I started to feel faint.  I mentioned this to Wendy, and she helped me into the hotel where I promptly fainted.  The hotel doctor diagnosed sun poisoning.  such fun.

I ran a fever for days, through our flight back to Puerto Rico and on to Haiti.  At this point I had chills and my skin was started to blister and peel, even my lips!  yes, my father did joke about that.

There is no way to describe the self-pity of being left alone in a hotel room in Port au Prince, high in the hills, delirious with fever, while the rest of the family goes sight-seeing.  ….And realizing that you are hearing voodoo drums beating in the jungle above the hotel.  Yes, voodoo drums.  At first I thought it was some music coming from the pool, but no.  Did I think I was hallucinating?  you bet.  But no.

My mother tried to arrange a visit to a local voodoo ceremony, but I must admit I was relieved when that didn’t pan out.

Haiti is a beautiful island, the people are incredible friendly.  Even though we visited during the reign of Papa Doc, and we were assigned a ‘taxi driver’ (read: Tonton Macoute; i.e.. government agent) upon our arrival in Haiti.  But back then, the arrival of tourists was actually written up in the local newspaper!  “Welcome to the Vota Family from NYC!”

After I started to feel better, Wendy and I mingled with local teenagers and went dancing, learning calypso.  And also ice-skating (a very popular activity in the heat of the summer)!

My memories of Haiti are a kaleidoscope of images – disjointed but strangely beautiful, all with the overlying beat of those drums!

 (note: photograph by Marie Arago, Reuters)

Madrid-Tangier 1969


My mother and I were on a plane in July 1969 flying to Morocco from Madrid.  And everything was going along fine, ride was smooth.  All of a sudden the pilot comes on the intercom, and starts counting down.


(you have no idea how time slows down when you think your life is about to end.  seriously.  Air Maroc made me nervous to begin with, and then this?  I looked around, no one seemed to be panicking, but that didn’t help me at all.  I looked at my mother, and said, oh well I guess this is it.  Good bye)


(I was almost ready to stand up and start shrieking, but knew it would do no good.  So I sat, bathed in sweat, thinking, geez I hope it ends fast.)

3…….2……….1   (OMG)

(well, wait, we’re still here)

Pilot comes back on:  “Congratulations to all the Americans on board, the rocket just took off from Kennedy Space Center for the moon!”  And all the passengers started clapping. For goodness sakes, couldn’t he have said something first??

Parasailing Folly – Bahamas circa 1996

Parasailing in a rain cloud!

So I took my teenage (13 or so) son and his friend on a Carnival cruise to the Bahamas.  Figured it was a great way for me to relax and not have to worry what they were up to.  How much trouble could they get into on a boat?  OK, dumb question.  But they had their own cabin, and there were tons of activities for them on board.

Anyway, one day I decided to take them parasailing.  My son, Andrew, was not thrilled as he is not adventurous by nature, but if his friend was going, by god he was not going to be left out.  So we motorboat out to this big platform in the middle of the sea.  First Alfred goes, up up and away!  He has a great time.  I am not sure what the laws were at that time, but I don’t believe there was much regulation regarding parasailing.  I’ve since read that the height limit in the US is 500 ft.  I know these people were going much higher than that.

A rather heavy-set woman went next and she was not pulled up in time — she ran across the platform and splash!  she is in the water before the sail filled and she is pulled up!  Oooh embarrassing!

Next is Andrew’s turn.  He is being pulled across the platform, his eyes big as saucers, and looking like he’d rather be anywhere else.  But up he goes!  and goes. and goes. and goes. OMG – he is so high, he is a speck!!  truly, a speck in the sky.  Alfred and I were hysterically laughing.  I know, I know.  No sympathy here from the mother.  But, anyway, what could I do?

Finally, down he comes.  He is grumpy.  And he is wet!  His shirt and hair soaking wet.  I asked him how that happened, and he said very indignantly, “Well, I was in a rain cloud”!!

Lucky I did not fall off the platform laughing.  Yes, he was so high even though it was sunny down below, it was raining up above.

(disclaimer:  I had no idea that parasailing could be dangerous. 
Did not learn that until long after this trip.  
Truly, I would not have knowingly put my son into harm's way)