My Camping Trip


I love travelling. The thought of going to some place uplifts my spirits. The destination or the mode of transportation doesn’t make a difference. Every time I come back from a trip, I start looking forward to my next. The newer the place greater is the excitement. Today it was not the same; it was unusual; my emotions were contradicting my normal behavior. I never imagined a trip like this; I was not ready. I was restless, anxious and scared. My “Yes” and “No” were having an argument. I took my time before I could make any decision about this camping trip.

I felt sick to my stomach at the thought of camping in my seven years old son’s brain. All kinds of questions came to my mind.

Does that even make sense? “NO”
Do I wish to see myself judged every minute of the day; especially by someone who is a part of me? “NO”
Do I really want to do it? “NO”
Does it even sound practical? “NO”
Do you know anyone who has done such a thing before? “NO”
What kind of an experience will it be? “I DON’T KNOW.”
What would be the result of this trip? “I DON’T KNOW.”
How will you prepare for this trip? “I DON’T KNOW.”

For all the questions the answers ended with a sound of “No” but my “Yes” won. I still agreed to go on the trip. A part of me wanted to experiment it. What preparations do I need to make? Do I tell my son about this little trip of mine or go with the flow? Instantly I got an answer, “Sleep over it.”

Next morning, when I woke up, I decided to keep a close watch on my son. I observed him to the point that he was uncomfortable and felt I am staring at him. Even before he could say, “What??? Momm…” I was at the site. It was the shortest journey of my life; few seconds and I was at the destination.

I find myself standing on a hilltop, by the banks of something that looked like a river. The river was not very wide, it ran laterally through this place. From where I was standing, my eyes could not see the end. I could see an arched bridge, which connected the right and left sides. I was on the right side and the bridge that led to the other side. I looked for someone who could help me to guide me through this place but I could see no one. A short walk by the ‘river’ to the bridge revealed the name of the river and the Bridge as well. The river is usually referred as   “Longitudinal Fissure” and there was another small board that said “Corpus Callosum.” By the side of the board there was a brochure box. I picked up one of the brochures and said to myself  “Attraversiamo” (Italian for “Let’s cross over.”) [It was the effect of the last book I read- Eat, Pray and Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.]

Source: UCMAS Malaysia Web site

I was amazed to witness the beauty of this whole place from the top of the bridge. Lots of small creeks ran throughout the place on both sides. The two sides of the river appeared to be identical on a cursory view. A thorough examination brought out the difference. Left side was more practical and analytical where as the Right side was imaginative and artistic. The left and right side differed on their working philosophy. The left side was dependent on instructions based on earlier data. It was the talkative part, which dealt with flow charts and numbers. The right side of the brain was based on pictures and intuition. Although the two are different but they coordinated well. The existing beauty will cease to exist if any side stops functioning.

I was so busy going through the brochure and knowing this place that I didn’t notice that I could see some big figures outside the campground. It was the outside world and then I panicked. I saw my  ‘Outside Me’ coming closer and closer to me. I shouted, “Are you out of your mind? What are you doing? Why are you coming so close? You are going to hurt me.” And then as my ‘outside me’ hugged and kissed my little Sid on forehead- Flowers of all colors bloomed in here where my ‘little me’ was. I could see the whole area was happy. The right side was smiling, adding colors to the picture and left side was cheering because they had a new data on happiness.

Looking around and going through the brochure (that I picked a little while ago) I admired the plan and the layout.  The designer of this whole thing must have some divine power. He did a good job with the design and took care of even the minor details. The whole area is organized into three interconnected layers. Central core, Limbic system and Cerebral cortex; these parts contain the departments that control the daily business of the city they are responsible of.  The Central core and the Limbic system cover only 10% of the whole thing. It was not accessible to me at this point of time due to some growth and developmental issues. 90% of the area is occupied by Cerebral Cortex and that’s where I was during my visit.

Cerebral cortex is divided into four different regions. Each section in here had a small board on it indicating its name and a brief description of its responsibility. The whole place was based on the fundamentals of division of labor and therefore wherever my eyes went there was calmness and serenity in the environment. I enjoyed that stillness in air. At times a flash of lightening passed through the little creeks many times followed by outside sound, “Mom, mom, I have an idea.” Those flashes were the thoughts that Sid was having from time to time.

As I was trying to cross a creek on the left side, lightening passed and it struck me. Sid was analyzing. It was about 9:25 in the morning. Zula Patrol on PBS was about to start at 9:30 and it’s the time to ask mom, if he can watch TV. Therefore, now is the time that he should go and seek his Mom’s permission. “Mom, can I watch TV in 3mins. My favorite Zula Patrol will be on there. Please, Please, pleassssssse.” When my  ‘Outside me’ said “Yes” the flowers bloomed again for few seconds and then again it was calm although there was lot of outside noise as Zula’s cast was trying to explain the structure of water.

Zula Patrol: Kid's Program that teaches science

Then, I noticed some fireworks on the left side of the brain. “Oh!” I was surprised, it was not the firework. They were the words and numbers that were flying in from the program that Sid was watching. The analytical side got busy absorbing and processing the information it was getting. Right side remained quiet and enjoyed the music and colors of the whole show.

As I continued my journey, I observed how efficiently everything was working. The four parts of the cerebral cortex- the Frontal lobe, Parietal lobe, Occipital lobe and Temporal lobe regulate mostly the conscious experiences and some cognitive and emotional processes too. Here, in Sid’s brain- the frontal lobe was not as lush and green as other three parts. Frontal lobe is responsible for cognitive activities like planning, making decisions and setting goals. It is in its developmental stages. Here seeds have begin to sprout but there is still time before it is fully functional. The temporal and parietal lobes are in their adolescence. They are growing and developing normally like in any six or seven years old boy.

Of all the four parts Sid’s occipital lobe is most developed. This is the hind side of the brain- it processes visual information and passes its conclusion to parietal and temporal lobe. My ‘Outside me’ and my husband have had come across some instances when we noticed the overactivity of this part of Sid’s brain. One of our experience was last year, when he was five and we went to Las Vegas ‘The Sin City’.

As we were driving through the city, he was keenly looking around. Being a newbie reader he was trying to read everything he could. We were happy and didn’t see what was coming. After a day or two in Vegas, he asked, “What are HOT BABES?” Oh my god, what was that? It seemed as if we were hit by a speeding truck. Both of us had no answer. We looked at each other and tried to find some clue to answer our dear son’s question. But before we could say anything he himself gave us the answer. “When slim girls wear less clothes and dance, before they go for a swim, they are called Hot Babes.”

My thoughts were disrupted by the unusual shriek. Somebody was yelling. Sorry, that was my ‘Outside me’. I didn’t look pretty shouting like that. The temporal and parietal lobe of Sid’s brain were trying to find words and construct some arguments in his defense. It began to get dark in here. Sid was being scolded for not switching off the TV after his half hour of TV time was over. He was saying that it his summer vacation and he should get more allowance. His words got lost in the noise that my ‘Outside me’ made. He was sad. My ‘Outside me’ glared in my direction and then busied herself with cooking.

The view was no more picturesque. Every thing seemed to be getting even darker in here. I was depressed to see Sid so defeated and helpless. I felt like coming out and talking some sense into my ‘Outside me’. I understand that it is important to lay down some rules and be consistent with them, but it can be conveyed in a better way. After witnessing the way Sid’s brain functions, I realize how important it is to be polite to him. I always have to remind myself that although, he is intelligent and smart with above average comprehension abilities, he is sentimental too. It’s against my nature to abandon my vacation but I didn’t want to stay there any longer. I could not bear that sadness.

As I was getting ready to leave, things lit up again. Once again it was beautiful, my “Outside me” was asking Sid to get ready and then they were going for a swim; his favorite activity. I had seen a lot for one day and I decided to return to come back again another time. Yes, I surely want to comeback again to learn more about my son and see how he feels and thinks. I was not scared anymore. I was pleased to acquire this new perspective. With a happy heart, I blinked back.

***

If I had my child to raise all over again,
I’d build self-esteem first, and the house later.
I’d finger-paint more, and point the finger less.
I would do less correcting and more connecting.
I’d take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.
I’d take more hikes and fly more kites.
I’d stop playing serious, and seriously play.
I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.
I’d do more hugging and less tugging.

~Diane Loomans, from “If I Had My Child To Raise Over Again”

Jamaica: “Once you go, you know”



This is the punch-line on a Jamaican Tourist site. It’s true and I can testify it because my family and I recently came back from there, and we know. There can’t be a single expression to describe this place. Our experience was truly out of the world. If one loves to travel then one should not miss Jamaica. Last month, on this day, we were basking in the sun by the Ocean. Warm breeze was playing tag. The waves sounded like kids playing hopscotch in water. An excellent combination of nature, beauty and serenity prevailed everywhere.

Here I present a panorama of the experience we had in Jamaica. Are you ready to go on a journey with me? If the answer is “Ya mon,” then read on. (According to a website “Learn Jamaican” ,mon is perhaps the single most important Jamaican word.” It is used for everyone and ya means yes). So, with this little introduction, I begin the portrayal of our trip. I have categorized the entire trip into following;

1)   Jamaica, “Out of Many, One People”.

2)   Jamaican landscape is beautiful and serene.

3)   Jamaica has an all-inclusive, Gran Bahia Principe Resort.

4)   Jamaica has other places to go to.

Jamaica, “Out of Many, One People”


We got this package from Expedia at a very reasonable price. It included airfare, lodging, food and transport. I don’t know if it was the dates we chose or our stars that got us such a deal. Here, my friends, I would like to suggest another resource that you should check before finalizing your travel plans and that is the Costco Travels site. The deals there were equally good. We flew from San Francisco to Montego Bay and there was a two hours layover at Miami.  We are a family of four, with two kids 6 and 1.5  years old. Our boys cooperated and the flight was not bad. With little bit of tossing and turning we managed to sleep for about 2-3 hrs. My little one was restless but showed some mercy on his fellow passengers and allowed them their fair share of sleep. We reached Miami at the scheduled time. There we had our breakfast and then prepared for the next part of the journey.

Tip: Families traveling with little kids can find whole (100%) milk at some coffee shops like Starbucks or Krispy Kreme.

Satellite picture of Jamaica

The journey from Miami was also uneventful as it was the shortest international flight I have ever taken. In one and half hours we landed in Jamaica; a small piece of land surrounded by clean beautiful undisturbed water. Filled with awe and excitement we disembarked the plane. Everything was normal until we reached the Immigration Desk. And then the Tsunami hit; although it was not covered by the News Channels.

Sorry to be so dramatic; it was not the real one but felt like one, when my husband and I realized that his wallet had gone missing. Tension, fear, confusion fogged our minds. His ID and cards were in there and for some stupid reason I was not carrying my credit cards with me. New country, new people, with two kids and without any substantial financial support; how were we going to survive?

We looked everywhere, checked our bags and jackets but could not find it anywhere. We remembered that last time we saw the wallet it was in the plane, 10-15mins before we landed. So, it should be somewhere there. But the question was where, how do we go back and who is right person to talk to? I went to some officers standing by the immigration and informed them about our situation. They allowed me to go back to the gate and check.

I left my kids with my husband and ran back to the gate, where we landed. Going through all the emotions and stress, I forgot the gate and ended up at the wrong place. My husband, who was following me reached the right gate. Not finding me there, he thought I must have gone inside to get some assistance. Then a security officer approached him and enquired about his presence there.The plane, on which we arrived,  had already started boarding at that time and he was not supposed to be there. He told the officer, “ My wife must have come here and talked to you about my lost wallet.” Officer informed him that nobody came this side and then, showing his concern, he asked, “You lost your wallet?” To which my husband replied, “And my wife too.”

The officer asked him our seat numbers and left. In the mean time, I talked to someone and figured my way out, and reached where my husband and kids were standing. The family was united. The security officer came back and gave us the news that nothing could be found at seat 17, but that was not our seat number, ours was 31. The good officer went back again. We were keeping our fingers crossed and hoping to get the wallet back. The fingers didn’t work and we were informed that they couldn’t find anything.

With heavy hearts we decided to go back to immigration and complete all the legalities. Our next plan of action was to find a Police Station and report the loss. After that take care of the credit cards. The few things that were on our side included;  the legal papers and the passports were with me and that we bought an all-inclusive package. So, even if we had to manage the week without money and credit cards we could somehow do it. We reached Immigration and another positive aspect to all this was that now the line was not as long; of course we were last in line. Lots of things were going on through our minds. Stress and fatigue were draining us down. No excitement was left. It was not a good start to a vacation.

Finally, we were at the immigration desk. After five minutes the clouds began to clear up and the Sun began to shine brightly. The same good officer, whom we talked to in the boarding area, entered the immigration area, smiling and waving the wallet optimistically. Oh boy!!! That was the climax and an amazing one. My husband saw him and started jumping with joy. Now, we were like our six year old; filled with life and enthusiasm.

It took us few more minutes to complete the immigration process before my husband could go and meet the officer to thank him. In all the excitement we even forgot to ask his name. We have no way of conveying our humble thanks to him. I hope that you read this some time Mr. Good Officer and accept this as our gratitude . Thank you so much for all your help. We will always remember the last line that you said to us, “ I came here to see the smiles on your faces.” Accolades to you, for the good time we had in the new place among new people.

Later on, when we were reflecting on the whole incident, we realized that the wallet must have passed through so many hands on its journey back. What are the chances of all hands being honest? God is great and goodness prevails. After that we met other Jamaicans, and it was wonderful that all of them were so happy and friendly. There’s always a party mood and they are capable of making anyone smile. Cool, carefree and happy; that is what Jamaicans are.

Jamaican landscape is beautiful and serene

The colors of green, black, transparent or translucent; all kinds were there. I am not talking about the different kinds of window glass in Home Depot but it’s about the colors of Jamaican water. A similar gradient was prominent in beaches too. They were all kinds ranging  from soft-sand to pebbles to rocks. It was a paradise; heaven for all sorts of people. Adventurous and active people were snorkeling on the rocky side of the ocean. Families with kids were playing and swimming on the shallow ends. The warm breeze, sunny sky and hustling of the palm and coconut tree leaves made the dozers travel through the dreamland. People relaxed on the softer sand and  forgot about their tensions and problems at home. Jamaica has ample fresh water as well. Number of rivers run through the island and one good example is Dunns River.  Everything is there but there’s no place for rush or any other stress.

Gran Bahia Principe Resort, Jamaica

It is a resort that can be characterized by its artifact, spaciousness, vividness and liveliness. The staff was friendly and ready to help you at any time. The rooms were big and had balconies for you to enjoy the view. It has 700 junior suites and each one is stocked with all the items you will need to spend your time coolly.

The best part of this resort s is it swimming pool and the two bars inside the pool.  One can enjoy the clean crystal clear water and the drinks together. The bartenders like Shanna- Kay are there to make you feel special and welcomed.  I am thankful to her, for amplifying our Jamaican experience manifold.

The activities conducted by the entertainment staff right next to the pool are also applaud-able. The people responsible for all the activities are naturally funny. They keep you going. My husband won a Gran Bahia Principe t-shirt in a water volleyball tournament. So, there are prizes as well. I personally loved the water exercise session. The music programs in the resort lobby at night is also quiet an attraction.There were all kinds of activities; and each one was more interesting than the other one.

The bars are conveniently located. It was there on every corner; on the beach, in the main building, one doesn’t have to go looking for them. One can choose any drink from the inclusive ones or others that are not included in the package. The inclusive drinks are so good and authentic that you don’t feel like going on to the ones that you have to pay for separately. Everyday the main bar displayed their drink of the day and it is must try. It might be a Mai-tai, a Dirty monkey, a Pink-lady, a Marijuana (No confusions folks it’s just the name of a drink!!!) whatever just give it a try. I don’t want you to miss out the experience.

Apart from the thirst, the resort took good care of one’s hunger too. There were ample restaurants and snack bars, where you can enjoy all kinds of cuisines and different styles of food. There were eating joints with both formal and informal setting. One can enjoy the food according to their choice and personality. My little one enjoyed all the fresh produce of Jamaica whereas the older one freaked out on the sweets, cakes and cookies he could have.  My husband became the fan of the cheese they served with the omelets in breakfast and I loved their oranges. There was something for everyone.

After spending the day filled with activities and stomach full of food and drinks, when one gets tired and feet refuse to go any further, there was a place, a clean room with a nice, fresh, bed spread for your slumber. Life was amazing, as free and  as the ocean itself. Things were taken care off even before you asked for. What more could one ask for???

Jamaica has other places to go to…

Oh, of course there are other places to go on the island too. You can go for a tour to various places like the Dolphin Cove, Dunns River Falls, Ocho Rios and shopping plaza. There are some lesser known places where the tour bus takes you. The botanical garden and a clay factory tell us about the natural life of the island. At the clay factory, my son made his first pottery. He was quiet excited about it.

Dunns River Falls is another place, which I fell in love with. It was so beautiful and a joy of my of life to see the River falling onto a beach and into the Ocean. It was just amazing to be among the people holding hands trying to climb the falls, minds and hearts full of anticipation, thrill and happiness… Oh Wow!!! There we also experienced the thrill of jet skiing for the first time in our lives. Although, I was just the passenger with my husband in front, I was scared to death. I was in a confused state of mind; thrill and fear were playing together. Once I was back on the beach, I could say that I enjoyed it.

We didn’t get the chance to visit the dolphin Cove but that’s for the next time. There’s something to wait for and I am sure it won’t be a long wait because, once you go, you know.”