Team Meetup 2023 – Barbados

I’ve never been to the Caribbean. Many rave about it. I’ve seen beautiful pictures and have heard fun stories about life on the beach from the time my husband lived on St. John for a year in the times before I was in his picture. But I’ve never been.

“You’ve got to go snorkeling. You will love it.” Chris told me right before waxing rhapsodical on the beauty of the shades of blue in the warm waters.

I wasn’t so certain. I tried a scuba diving lesson in a pool while my family was visiting Maui when I was nine (or maybe ten?). It left me feeling really discombobulated. In retrospect, I feel they should have thrown toys or something in the water to orient us a bit more. Ah well. I was also a bit worried that I would sink low and ingest the ocean. Coordination is not my strength.

So I had mixed feelings going into the trip. I’m always up for a new adventure, and I was really looking forward to meeting my teammates in person – most for the first time. At least it wasn’t winter so I wouldn’t be losing slope time for the adventure. And oh what an adventure it turned out to be πŸ™‚

Flights from my local airport took over twice as long and cost over twice as much so Chris kindly agreed to drive me to JFK — a few hrs away — for my departure. I had a brilliant thought while arranging travel. If I made this a multi-stop trip, then I could come back to JFK and grab a non-stop flight to Utah to see our kids out there then head back home, where Chris wouldn’t have to drive so far to get me again. I would land at JFK at 7:30 and depart for Utah at 9:30, arriving shortly after 12:30 their time. Totally do-able as long as I didn’t check a bag. Game on.

Life gets busy. It’s why I haven’t been writing much. The move into the studio was the main focus these past few months. I have my weekend on Wednesdays and Thursdays currently so I packed for Barbados Thursday afternoon, knowing I wouldn’t have time after that. It was funny trying to fit beach clothes and snow clothes in carry-on, but I did it with room to spare πŸ™‚ I cheated a bit by doing the Heidi and the Alm-Uncle thing of layering clothing and coats on me for the actual flights then tucking them all into a stuff bag when I arrived in Barbados.

The day before I headed out, we went to work at the studio. I was very thankful for flexible working hours that day since the gallery owner Chris works with came for a visit (and offered great tips for setting up the new space) and some of our friends from Jiminy Peak came by to check out the new studio as well. My friend surprised us with gifts she made — beautiful mouse pads. One was Chris’ mobiles (for him) and these for me:

Aren’t they just the best?!?!

That was a fun day. And 2 am came all-too-quickly. We hopped in the car to head to the airport in the wee hours. I think we saw over 20 different types of wildlife ranging from foxes to deer. And the people. Traffic was piling up by 4 am!!! How do people live like that? I’m definitely a country girl…

The flight was smooth, and I certainly knew I stepped into a different world as I got off the plane. Whew it was hot!

Some of my colleagues ended up on the same flight less than half an hour ahead of me. They kindly waited so I could join them in a cab. I really appreciated that. It’s always so weird meeting up with colleagues one only knows from meetings online. Those calls don’t show height or depth of people. Just face shots. Fortunately I had met two teammates at WordCamp USA in August so I easily recognized them. (I just went to link to that post and realized I never finished writing it up. Oops).

The island was more urban than I expected. It was fun driving on the left side of the road. Let me re-phrase that. It was fun being a passenger in a vehicle that stayed on the left side of the road. πŸ˜€ And I don’t think I’ve ever seen roundabouts used so gracefully. There were tons of them, and all was smooth-sailing. Less than an hour later we were settling into our abode for the week.

We were split up. Some stayed at an Air B&B while others were in a hotel right next door to the Air B&B. I was a hotel dweller. All of us had rooms with ocean views (Except one unfortunate soul, but he was okay with it. I offered to switch halfway through the week, and he didn’t take me up on the offer.) I really appreciated my balcony. And the sound. Oh the sound of the ocean waves. Peace for the soul for sure.

Here are pictures from two different days. I love how the hotel was so detailed in their hospitality — even providing drying racks for the beach towels they provided.

I couldn’t really complain about the sunsets, either. haha. I love how the boats lined up each night.

And the art! It was great! There was a little shanty village across the street. It had lots of little stores where we could grab souvenirs for our loved ones. And there was a grocery store that I swear was like Mary Poppin’s bag. It looked small, but had everything from insect repellent to cocktail ingredients to art — with the artists working right in front of you. So fun.

Of course I had to grab an image of the island boarder. I wonder if I can replicate that at home? Creative inspiration.

I have a personality quirk. Whenever I travel I look for hotels with pools. I rarely (if ever) actually swim, but I love knowing that a pool is there. Both the B&B and my hotel had great ones. The image on the left is my hotel pool, and the one on the right is from the balcony of the B&B (the place where we worked all week).

And let’s not forget the animals. Those are the really fun parts. There were hens and rooster roaming free across the street. We were impressed they were smart enough to not venture into the road. On our last day we found a cute lizard at the B&B, and each night some cats would come out and play. I didn’t have a great camera on my old iPhone 8, but tried to get a fun shot from one insomniac night escapades (I had a hard time regulating heat and coolness in my room so there were a lot of wakeful hours).

We had a fun conversation one evening discussing how we call animals. My teammate from El Salvador does some sort of chirpy sound to call a cat. I click my tongue to my teeth or do kissing sounds with my lips. What do you do?

A few of my teammates arrived a day before me since they had longer trips and jetlag to deal with (one came all the way from the Philippines!!!). Two of them saw monkeys. It was my goal that week to see a monkey. The goal was not achieved, but I had a fun conversation with a woman in the shops across the way.

I was asking about safety in the area and if I could keep my balcony doors open at night to hear the waves (we both agreed that wasn’t the wisest idea). I laughed and commented that aside from human intruders as a concern, with my luck I’d get a monkey in my room and wouldn’t know what to do with it. She rolled her eyes and exclaimed, “Monkeys are cheeky little things. You don’t want them around. You won’t be able to get them to leave.”

Cheeky. haha. Love it. Makes me think of Curious George.

Okay, it’s time to get real. So far this is a very social media post. We only see the glorious things and others might envy what we have. And there’s no denying that I was given a gift to meet my colleagues in a place as beautiful as this. But that is not the only side of the picture. We worked, people. We worked hard and long. And sometimes it was frustrating.

We’d gather together around 8 for breakfast (food is expensive there so we took turns cooking and only ate out a couple of times). While we were breakfasting, we’d be scrambling to connect with loved ones in different time zones (the hotel had horrible wifi so we’d all try to do what we could from the B&B, but that led to little privacy). We were connecting with those of our team who couldn’t travel so we couldn’t really change work and project hours.

Halfway through the day we took an hour break then went back to it until about five. Then we could swim an hour, watch the sunset then start on dinner. When I’m saying part of it was tough, it was mental. We’d be looking at views like this as we worked:

Knowing full well that the clouds were rolling in and it could well be raining or thundering by the time we got to our free time in the evening. Lunch times were mostly spent catching up with home and work projects and emails and grocery shopping. No time for beach time.

I think Barbados is a great place to go with a loved one when relaxation is priority. Even then, it’s a bit crowded.

And maybe not as socially inclusive as one would expect. I mean, I haven’t had a guy whistle at me in a good decade or so. The first time it happened I was almost happy, but after that it just felt creepy. And a guy at the grocery store saw my food and said “your place or mine?” I thought he was joking until I saw how startled he was when I laughed and said, “You are funny!” I think he was serious. And that’s just weird. I’m glad I was with my colleague and wasn’t there alone.

We had one day to really indulge in not working. And they predicted rain. But we lucked out, and it was glorious πŸ˜€ I did go snorkeling and asked my colleague to take a pic for Chris as proof.

He was right. It. Was. Amaaaaazzzzziiiinnnnggggg!!!!

While we did swim with turtles, and that’s apparently the thing to do while visiting Barbados, I was more enamored with the tarpon fish that swam just out of reach of my reaching hands and feet. Soooo amazing.

We snorkeled to a ship wreck and there was a school of some sort of electric blue fish that swam around me. It made me feel like I was in the opening scene of Star Wars, only instead of the white blurs, there were blue fish. What an amazing moment in my life!

So yeah. That all happened. Then it was starting to become time to leave. I’m not going to lie. I was very excited about the next step of my trip — Utah. My colleague moved her trip a day up so she and I could travel together, and I’m so thankful for that. We had to leave at 10 pm to grab a cab to the airport to check in with enough time to catch our 2am flight.

Around 7 pm the water started getting rougher and Tropical Storm Tammy turned into a hurricane status. We had been watching it all day, but it seemed to be 100 mile NE of us so I thought we could dodge it. The locals said not to worry since hurricanes rarely hit them and pass in a few hours. But around 8 pm our flight started getting delay notifications. Just 15 minutes at a time so I thought we were still okay. Then it was not okay.

I called Delta about my Utah trip, but I had purchased the trip on points so a third party was involved. One I could not reach from my international SIM card phone situation. That was okay. I figured I’d deal with it in NYC when I got to JFK.

Around 3 am I realized I was going to miss my next flight so I got on chat with Delta and explained the situation. They could book me on another flight but it would be $1000 extra (that was out of my budget). That hour was very stressful as I sat in chat and they tried to give me options.

Thank goodness for Anne. She was amazing. We put ourselves as the absolute last passengers to board so I could get as much time as possible. I was holding my computer and typing as Delta tried to find a work-around for me. Anne scanned my phone and shared my passport for me as I typed and walked outside then up the stairs onto the plane. What a friend! At the last second I had to “hang up” on Delta and quickly cancelled my flight to Utah.

Sometimes I really wish I was a crier. I wanted to cry so badly at that point, but the tears just morphed into a headache in my skull ‘cuz that’s how I am made. I let myself have a sad pity party for about ten minutes then started researching. Let me tell you — I am so thankful we live in the age we do. The plane had free wifi so I could try all sorts of methods to get to Utah.

I thought of hitching a ride with a friend who lives in NYC but often goes to Jiminy. Then maybe I could catch a Utah flight out of Albany. Texted her. Found out she was already at Jiminy. Looked at all sorts of airlines. Won’t bore you. (If I haven’t already). Long story shorter — I switched my Delta flight to Utah for an Alaska Airline flight to San Francisco then to Utah then Delta to fly home. I was arriving to JFK from Jet Blue.

People, I boogied. Thank goodness for fitness apps. I said goodbye to Anne at JFK and hit the ground pretty much running. A train ride and workout later, I arrived sweating out the gazooka at the Alaska Airlines desk. Riddle me this — I have TSA pre-check just so I don’t have to take all my electronics out of my bags — so WHY did I have to take all the stuff out at every stage? I don’t know. That is not fun for a person working tech support, but I digress…

While I was figuring out flights I grabbed a 2-ish one so I knew I had time. But I HOPED to grab the 11 am one. I skidded to the counter, a disheveled mess of a soul, and the kind man at the desk told me I missed the next flight. Then he pointed out kindly that the good news was that I now had time to relax a bit. So I kind of did. I made my way through security and toward my gate. Saw a wine/diner sort of bar where I could unwined (see what I did there?) a bit. I had only my traveling stash of almonds to eat since the night prior so that would have been a good idea.

But I didn’t do it.

Instead, I decided to find my gate, rest a bit, maybe wash my face and brush my teeth. That kind of thing. THEN I would get my relaxation sustenance time. Good plan.

At the gate I flipped open my app, and for some reason looked at schedules and realized a flight to Seattle was currently boarding. And that flight would give me a chance to grab a flight to Utah that arrived at 7:30 pm instead of closer to 10 pm! Amazing!

I ran to the counter to ask if I could get on. It was mayhem at the counter. Their printer had broken, and they were already boarding. But the person at the gate was working beautifully with the person I was talking with (Nirmala), and they got stuff done in a very impressive way.

Nirmala told me I could get on the flight then her computer borked. People came, people left, people boarded, people had questions. The printer was still broken, I still had hope. Nirmala called someone who said they got me on. She hung up the phone. My app showed me my seat, but on their end, it still didn’t show me on the flight. It was intense.

She called again, and the last calls came in. The buzzer to close the security doors went off. Nirmala was professional and understanding. I was about to give up then the clouds rolled away, and the angels started singing. My change went through!!!

I kid you not, I was RUNNING down the ramp the plane (I really didn’t want to delay a flight and mess with peoples’ schedules, but I also REALLY wanted to see my kiddos). The worker at the end of the ramp saw me running and actually applauded. haha. It was just like the movies. (Again, thank you to the health apps for that ability to even attempt a run.)

Then we took off. Now if you know me at all, you know I LOVE wine. But I’m big on the sip-and-savor thing. If you are gonna have it, treat it with respect. I did not do this on the flight. I grabbed a cheese and date platter and a tiny airplane-serving wine bottle and chugged it along with an ingestion of some melatonin. Then I fell into the most beautiful three-hr sleep and woke up refreshed.

In Seattle I had time to wander a bit. They have fun art there.

I asked them about my next flight and got and old-school hard copy of my flight ticket (my phone was dying all the while) then sighed with relief as I got on the plane to Utah. And I got to see a beautiful sunset right before landing.

So my idea of having an easy non-stop flight to see my kids after Barbados ended up being an interesting 25-hr adventure. But it was worth it. The time with them was incredibly awesome.

I’m thankful for my job, I love my teammates, I love adventure. But you know what? It’s good to be back in MA. There is truly no place like home.

5 responses to “Team Meetup 2023 – Barbados”

  1. Wow! I never thought about monkeys coming in but 😝yeah i bet they would! What an incredible trip!

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