Aruba: Una Isla Feliz

One Happy Island is what that translates to.

Summer 2010, a year that consisted of a few unexpected life changes, turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The first 6 months of the year were quite the rollercoaster. Endless work-related stresses and growing family issues created an intense amount of worry and tension that placed heaviness over my once weightless spirit. My mind and body had become weary and had all it could take by mid-summer. I realized taking on other people’s burdens were taking a toll on me and started stressing me out; and I needed to cleanse my soul. I needed to get away from all of the noise surrounding me. I needed to find my calm again. I had lost my inner-peace.

Stuck on the idea of wanting a quick getaway, I couldn’t think of a place I wanted to go. My cousin Kia-Pia (my nickname for her), came up with the idea of Aruba. And just like that, we got our flights, and thanks to a wonderful family friend who let us use his timeshare, we were on our way to the island of Oranjestad, Aruba.

Overtaken by the humidity-free heat and cool tropical breeze, I felt like we were in heaven. The moment we checked into our resort, we dropped our bags off in our room and headed to the beach.

The view was endless. That single moment of standing at the shoreline with the feeling of the warm sand and salty water between my toes brought an immediate peace over my mind and body. I honestly don’t know how long I stood there, but it felt like forever; I didn’t want to leave.

During our week in beautiful Oranjestad, we visited the historic Alto Vista Chapel, the California Lighthouse, snorkled around The Antilla Wreck, and trekked through The Butterfly Farm. We sampled some amazing dishes at various Italian, Brazilian, and local establishments, played a few slots at the casino, showcased our lack of Venus & Serena Williams tennis skills (in which my cousin decided to where flip flops on court, and of course one of them broke LOL), and even brought out our inner divas singing one of SWV’s classic songs ‘Weak’ at karaoke.

And we definitely turned all the way up and got our party on with Kuckoo Kunuku aka The Party Bus! From our first stop on the tour, we toasted to an unforgettable night with champagne, ate some amazing authentic Caribbean dishes, sang and danced into the night through three local bars. My feet are still burning. My cousin danced so hard she ditched her heels and ended up in white socks before the night was over! If there was a contest to see who’d be the last one standing, she would have won that, hands down! While everyone else was staggering and trying not to fall flat on their faces, she was still cutting a rug standing tall!

And Mama….OH MY GOODNESS! Mama was the host, the Turn Up Queen! All of the Kukoo Kunuku staff were so warm and inviting, they made you feel like family. Kukoo Kunuku is definitely something you’d want to experience! This is Mama!

I did have one traumatic experience though, and yall better not laugh!  So, my genius cousin had the bright idea of signing us up for a tour to ride horses along the beach. Now, I’m not a big animal person, so the idea of actually going near a horse frightened the HELL out of me.  But, I eventually gave in and agreed to go on the tour.  I mean…YOLO, right? BIG MISTAKE! We arrived at the stable literally at the crack of dawn (FYI, I’m NOT a morning person) and I was a bit grumpy I must admit, get assigned our horses, and get a quick crash course from the tour guides on how to steer and guide our horses.  Now, mounting the horse was a task in itself, which heightened my fear even more, but I finally got on after what felt like 75 attempts.  As we are all sitting on our horses and waiting for the tour to begin, I could sense a bit of tension in my particular horse, or maybe it was me, I don’t know, but the tour guides assured us everything would be fine.

About 10 minutes into our tour, I was starting to feel slightly more comfortable but still had my guards up.  The stirrups were hurting my feet so I decided to take them out. We cruised along the beach, took some photos, and began to make our journey back to the stable.

So my horse, who I appropriately named Demon, decided he didn’t want to continue with the rest of the tour.  We were back on land trekking along the sandy path when all of a sudden Demon lets out this shriek of distress, starts fidgeting, and continues to shriek. I’m yelling and cursing and praying (all at the same time) as I saw my entire life flash in front of my eyes!  The tour guide quickly gallops his way from the front of the line and meets up with me and my horse side by side and was able to calm him after a few failed attempts of trying to tell me how to regain control.  The moment he begins to make his way back to the front, Demon flips out yet again, kicks up on his hind legs like someone or something had smacked his backside and was gearing up to take off like we were in the Kentucky Derby.  It literally happened in a matter of milliseconds; while in the air, my only thoughts were to slide off the back of that thing or wait for the tour guide to come back.  With that said, in that small amount of time, I decided to jump off of Demon as he was coming back down off of his hind legs.  My nine years of gymnastics training instinctively kicked in as I released those reigns, pressed both my palms into that saddle and straddled my way into a dismount off the left side of that psychotic beast and stuck the landing as if I were competing for the Olympic gold medal!

My cousin, who was behind me, could only stare in bewilderment as there was absolutely nothing she could do to help, all while Demon eventually fell over onto his left side and crashed onto the dirt. I just stood there stuck and staring at him then realized had I have left my feet in those stirrups, that situation could have gone a totally different direction and my left leg could have possibly been crushed.  Thankfully, that didn’t happen, but at that point, the tour guide had made his way back to me after jumping off of his horse.  He tried to convince to get back on the horse, to become one with him again, and to conquer my fear, being that we were so close to the end of the tour.  Yeah, that didn’t work. I told that guy I was never “one” with that possessed creature from hell and that there wasn’t enough money in this world to make me get back on that thing and I was not about to give him another opportunity to take me out.  Needless to say, I walked the rest of the way back, while the tour guide steered his horse AND Demon back to the stable by its reigns.

Moral of the story: Listen to your gut folks!  It will never let you down!

Our week long adventure ended on a high note, we beached and partied ourselves into oblivion, which was exactly what I needed.  My once damaged spirit was now renewed and shining as bright as ever – despite my scary horse encounter!

Aruba: A small island with a big heart.  We met some amazing people from all walks of life and experienced things I never imagined I’d be brave enough to do.  Can’t wait to get back there!

Here are more photos from our unforgettable trip to Aruba. 🙂

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