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After One Month in Curaçao

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At the end of our first month in a new location, we like to take stock of our first impressions with a short self-interview. A third of our time on Curaçao has already passed; what do we think about life on the island, so far?

Most Memorable

Mike: Pulling into the parking lot which overlooks the Grote Knip Beach. This was our first sighting of the Caribbean Sea, and the beach simply couldn’t have been more lovely. If I wasn’t quite in love with Curaçao yet, this view sealed the deal.

Jürgen: Driving across the towering Queen Juliana Bridge for the very first time. On one side you see historic Willemstad and on the other side the refinery. These two views say so much about this island.
Favorite Food

Mike: I don’t know if I’d order guiambo every day, but this was defnitely the most interesting dish I’ve yet had on Curaçao. A rich, salty, slimy soup made of okra, it’s a popular item at Plasa Bieu.

Jürgen: It’s not the most traditional Curaçaoan cuisine, but the skewers at Equus were the best meal I’ve had so far on the island.
Most Surprising

Mike: It’s been a month, and I still haven’t had any Blue Curaçao! Green rum, yes. Despite its fame abroad, Blue Curaçao doesn’t seem to be all that popular at bars on the island.

Jürgen: The language skills of the islanders. Many here can speak five or more languages fluently, and it even gets better when they start blending them all together, and it becomes one true world language.
Most Disappointing

Mike: I’d say the danger of theft. The island has done so much to encourage tourism, and most of the people are so polite and welcoming, and then a few punks ruin all the goodwill by repeatedly smashing car windows, and stealing bags. Everyone knows it goes on, and everyone knows the spots in which it’s especially likely to happen… so, where are the cops?

Jürgen: The amount of pollution, starting with the obvious: the refinery. Also, old cars leaving trails of huge black fume clouds behind them, and the huge amount of plastic trash left out to rot in nature.

Mike: The Papiamento word “dushi” means “sweet,” and the sheer frequency with which it’s used cracks me up. Apparently everything is dushi to Curaçaoans. Dushi food, dushi people, dushi tourists. And then there’s the fact of its English-language homonym — a word impossible to use while here. In Curaçao, telling someone that they’re “douchey” is a compliment!

Jürgen: There can be up to three huge cruise ships at the port of Willemstad. The amazing thing is, even though there are suddenly thousands more people on the island, you won’t notice them if you go to the smaller beaches up north.
How Expensive? From 1 (cheap) to 10 (expensive)

Mike: 7. Curaçao is a lot more expensive than I thought a Caribbean island would be. It does make sense; this is an island, so everything has to be imported. But still… fresh produce, museum tickets, restaurants, excursions… it all costs much more than we had expected.

Jürgen: Curaçao has its price, so I give it a 7. A night out can get expensive but luckily there are plenty of Happy Hours you can take advantage of. Groceries are more pricey than back home. Taxis are expensive but you can find cheap car rentals with some planning. Bring your own snorkeling gear and hunt down the free beaches if you’re on a budget.
People from Curaçao Are…

Mike: … about as multi-ethnic as people get. Everyone seems able to speak five languages, and every shade on the human spectrum is represented here. The people are relaxed, almost always in a good mood, friendly and welcoming to strangers… and boy, do they love to honk their horns. We’ve started doing it, too!

Jürgen: … masters of language, and there’s nothing more interesting than listening to people talk Papiamento. If you speak some Spanish, you’ll be able to pick up quite a lot.
Curaçao in Three Words

Mike: Colorful, Relaxed, Diverse

Jürgen: Blue, Windy, Dushi
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January 18, 2016 at 6:59 pm Comments (0)

Bon Bini, Curaçao

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Our new 91 day adventure had begun, and this time we were turning our attention to Curaçao, a Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela. I could pretend that we were drawn by the island’s history or its enchanting culture… but, really, we wanted something that was going to be low-key and a lot of fun. And for that, we could have hardly chosen a better destination than Curaçao.

Curaçao is the largest of the ABC Islands, which also include Aruba to the west, and Bonaire to the east. It was a member state of the Dutch Antilles, but has been independent since 2010, although it’s still a constituent of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. So although the island elects its own prime minister and parliament, and enjoys full autonomy in managing its local affairs, it depends on Amsterdam for things like defense and foreign policy.

But during the next three months, we wouldn’t be thinking so much about things like defense and foreign policy. Nope, our concerns were going to be more like, which beach should we go to? Did I forget my sunglasses? What’s the name of that awesome cumbia song our neighbor keeps blasting? Am I getting too tan? How are the conditions today for scuba diving? Things like that.

Well, we’d touch on Curaçao’s politics a little. It wouldn’t be just about beaches for 91 days. We made an effort to learn about Curaçao’s history, which has been darkened by the specter of slavery and subjugation. We picked up a little Papamiento, a curious kind of Afro-Portuguese creole, which is music to the ears and the island’s most widely-spoken language (Dutch and English are also official languages, and Spanish is heard frequently). And we explored some landhuizen: the manors in which Curaçao’s Dutch landowners once lived.

And then, after each 40-minute session of culture or history, we’d scurry back outdoors. Curaçao is blessed with incredible nature. There are a ton of beaches, ranging from the clubby variety with bars and music and crowds, to smaller ones which are tucked away in secretive coves and visited mainly by locals and those in the know. Offshore, the snorkeling and diving opportunities are nearly endless, with sunlight filtering through the crystal clear Caribbean water to shine on coral reefs, submerged caves, ancient shipwrecks and hundreds of colorful fish. And inland, there’s the Christoffel Park, centered around the island’s only mountain, Mt. Christoffel, with a variety of hiking trails.

Our house for the next 91 days in Curaçao – see it on AirBnb

Six months ago, I had never even heard of Curaçao. I mean, I knew about the liquor Blue Curaçao, but it hadn’t occurred to me that this was an actual place — I suppose I had assumed “Curaçao” was Portuguese for “delicious.” So when I heard a podcast about the island (from Radio Nacional Española’s excellent program Nómadas), I was enthralled. I consider myself pretty well-traveled… but there are still entire countries I’ve never heard of?! That filled me with excitement, and by the time the program had concluded, I knew that Curaçao would be the next place we’d be visiting. I ran over to Jürgen and enthusiastically argued the case. He let me babble for a long time, but later confessed that he was convinced within the first couple sentences.

Whether you know nothing about Curaçao, or have been here multiple times, this book should prove helpful. Curaçao is smaller than the Ohio county in which I grew up, and we explored it thoroughly. Within three months, we were able to do just about everything Curaçao has to offer… and if not, it wasn’t for lack of trying.

For our stay in Curaçao, we rented a beautiful house in the historic Otrobanda district of Willemstad. Check it out on AirBnb
Pictures from our flight from Panama City to Curacao
December 8, 2015 at 9:04 pm Comments (3)
After One Month in Curaao At the end of our first month in a new location, we like to take stock of our first impressions with a short self-interview. A third of our time on Curaao has already passed; what do we think about life on the island, so far?
For 91 Days