Monday, September 15, 2008

Hurricanes Hit Haiti

PHOTOS from Jacmel, a cute little touristy town on the southern coast of Haiti which Andre and I visited last year.

Thank you to everyone who asked about Andre's family during these past weeks, as Haiti got slammed by one hurricane after another. Fortunately, everyone in his family is doing okay. Most of them live in the capitol Port-au-Prince, which wasn't hit as badly as Gonaives where hundreds have died and near riots broke out over relief food and water. He has a cousin in Les Cayes, which also got pounded pretty badly, but she and her family are okay also.

Our American friend Khadija who used to work for USAid:Haiti and now works in Sudan, sent us these photos of Jacmel, a cute little beach town on the southern coast that Andre and I visited last year. It's strange to see it under water. We stayed in a hotel right on the beach, which must have suffered damage.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Back in Santa Cruz

We've been back about a week now. The racquetball courts at UCSC are closed for renovations, so we can't play for another week or two. Andre is taking Level 4 ESL classes. While he's in school, I alternate swimming laps and Zumba dance class.

We started back at martial arts class, but will have to miss two more weeks when Andre takes his soccer referee certification classes in San Jose. Had I been more on the ball, he could have done the 18-hour course in the summer in Santa Cruz. But now it's only offered 50-minutes from here. The good news, the whole course is only $25 and he'll be qualified to ref soccer matches for the Santa Cruz Youth Soccer league by the end of this month.

Our friend Hubert is in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic celebrating his 50th birthday. His fiancee Antonia, her family and friends, all journeyed to the north coast to celebrate with him. Fortunately, the hurricanes have passed D.R. and Haiti, and Hubert says the weather has been nice and hot since he got there a few days ago.

Yesterday, Andre and I drove to the Application Support Center in Salinas to do his fingerprints. They said he'd probably get his green card in a couple of weeks, which will allow him to renew his California ID and apply for a learner's permit to start driving.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Our Honeymoon: Part 3: New Jersey/New York: Aug. 25-Sept. 3

The view of Manhattan from Long Island City, Queens. Andre's 1st time in the Big Apple.

My cousin Amanda and her family in Lawrenceville, NJ.

We visited Hubert, his son Kenyon, his sister and her daughter in Plainfield, NJ.

Andre in Times Square again. A breakdancer at South Street Seaport, Manhattan.

On the Circle Line Ferry tour of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.

On the 86th floor observation deck of the Empire State Building. Built in 1931, it was the world's tallest at the time, with 102 stories.

Ground zero where the Twin Towers once stood, and a wax replica of President Bush.

I Love Lucy (it's true), and Andre's just one of the New Kids On The Block at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum near Times Square.

Andre with John Travolta and Samuel Jackson. Rocking out with Jimi Hendrix.

One of my heroes, the Dalai Lama. Andre right in between Karim Abdul Jabar and Willie Shoemaker, the former jockey.

Andre is definitely in the U.S. now. Enjoying the artwork at the Metropolitan Museum.

Andre got to meet his Aunt Rosette, her daughter Marie and granddaughter Yasmeen.

My friend Robin and her family bought a beautiful farmhouse in Gardiner, NY near her mother.

We had lunch with Cousin Janet and my cousin Julie's son Jason. At the train station with Bebe, a friend of Andre's from Port-au-Prince, now living in Trenton.

OUR TIME IN NEW JERSEY (MY BIRTH STATE) AND NEW YORK WERE QUITE EVENTFUL...We started out at my cousin Amanda's in Lawrenceville. She and husband Chad have two adorable sons Devon and Jayden who have Joubert's syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that affects the area of the brain that controls balance and coordination. Amanda's mom Hildegard drove down from Stanhope, NJ to visit with us.

Then we hopped on a train again and went up to Plainfield, NJ and stayed several days with our friend Hubert and his son Kenyon. We got a three-day New York Pass, which entitles you to run around and see as many sights as you can. Of course, I wore Andre out the first day and had to adjust the itinerary for the next two days. Altogether, we took the Circle Line Ferry along Manhattan and near the Statue of Liberty, went to the top of the Empire State Building, saw The Body exhibit that everyone's talking about, went to the Museum of Sex and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, had fun at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, ate Middle-eastern food with my friends Pria (who Oma and I met in India in 1988) and Gunther (a kindertransport survivor from WWII), saw Ground Zero, Central Park, and South Street Seaport.

A major highlight of our trip was finally meeting Aunt Rosette, the sister of Andre's father who he never knew. Andre's father died 12 years ago, but Andre just learned his name a few months ago. Rosette had already been living in the U.S. about 15 years when her brother died. She flew back to Haiti for the funeral which she helped pay for. Within a few months, both her father and mother were also dead. She went back one more time. I don't think she's been back since. She doesn't like to fly, so she asked us how long it takes by bus or train to get to Santa Cruz. Somehow, I can't picture her spending 3 days in a bus, so we will probably have to go back to Brooklyn to visit with her again.

Rosette is such a warm, loving, enthusiastic person. She loves to call me her niece even though I'm only 4 or 5 years younger than she is. She hugged Andre and cried for a good while when they first met. She'd worried about him for 31 years, not knowing how he was, until we called her from Dominican Republic in February 2008.

Rosette cooked some wonderful Haitian food for us both times we visited her. I haven't seen Andre eat so much in a long time. He clearly enjoyed himself. We also got to meet his cousin Marie who is 25 years old and was born in the U.S. Her 5-year-old daughter Yasmeen is a real cutie pie. They live near Flatbush, which is where my mother was born in 1930. I spotted the Jewish mezuzahs on several doorways even though most of today's tenants are Haitian.

We hooked up with more of my familiy. Cousin Janet traveled by bus from Fort Lee, NJ to Port Authority bus station, where we were joined by Jason, my cousin Julie's son who got married in Puerto Rico the day before I met Andre in Santo Domingo. Jason invited us to stay our last night with him and wife Jessica in their new apartment in Long Island City. You would think Long Island City would be on Long Island, but actually, it's right across the East River from Manhattan in Queens. I love the neighborhood, which used to be industrial, but has been discovered by developers and yuppies. Jason and Jessica used to live right next to Madison Square Gardens, which was exciting and handy, but this is quieter and more of a neighborhood.

Janet, Jason, Andre and I enjoyed a Brazilian lunch near Port Authority, then escorted Janet back to her bus. I also made a trip on my own up to Gardiner, NY to visit Robin and Joe Hayes. Their oldest son Sam had just left for college in Boston, but I got to see their younger kids Eva and Ben. The Hayes family lived many years in Santa Cruz, but moved back to a small town in upstate New York, just down the street from Robert DiNero, a few years ago. It is absolutely gorgeous there. Everywhere you look, you see imagines that belong on jigsaw puzzles, rolling hills, silos, red barns, white picket fences.

While I was gone, Andre and Hubert went fishing and checked out the sights of Plainfield, NJ. Also, Andre was excited to learn that an old neighbor of his named Bebe is now living in Trenton. She was 10 years old the last time he saw her 10 years ago. She's now a nursing student and has lived in NJ for 5 years. She speaks perfect English. She doesn't like Trenton, but is willing to live in the U.S. until she's about 50 years old. Then she hopes to go back to Haiti and open a medical clinic with her savings.

I had hoped to visit a friend Lisa who adopted 3 girls from Guatemala and recently got married, but they took off for a family reunion at the New Jersey shore for the Memorial Day holiday. We also missed Pakistani friends Younas, Faisa and their girls on Long Island. Younas' father is visiting from Pakistan, so they made a trip up to Boston to visit other relatives.

But overall, we saw many sights and visited many relatives and friends. The flight home on JetBlue went smoothly. They even offered FREE snacks and drinks and one free checked bag per passenger. Imagine that! Just like in the good ol' days.