New Year's in Jamaica

New Year's in Jamaica

The sun, the sand, and a cold drink in my hand...

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This year, I spent the new year with my family in Trelawny, Jamaica (30 minutes outside of Montego Bay) at the Royalton White Sands resort.

To start off New Year's Eve, we ate a big breakfast at the buffet, and then headed onto the beach. There, we walked along the shore searching for shells, took some family photos, and sipped on our mixed drinks while basking in the sun. My personal favorite drink was called a "Bob Marley", it was a layered slushy type drink consisting of strawberry, lemon, and lime daiquiri's, so it looked like red, yellow, and green mixtures stacked on top of each other.

I then joined my aunt in some "Aquafit", i.e. extreme water aerobics. Energetic music blasted out of the speakers, and the instructor demonstrated the moves in the front (outside) of the pool. This activity definitely saved me from gaining a few pounds while on vacation.

We then headed over to the buffet again for lunch, and then headed over to the lazy river. It wasn't all that lazy though, since we would constantly fight to avoid the various streams of water shooting at you under the bridges or from buckets hanging overhead throughout the river. We also headed to the pool to throw a ball back and forth for a bit.

Post-pool, we grabbed some ice cream and headed back to the room to get ready for the night ahead. After showering and getting dressed, we headed to dinner. This consisted of a "surf and turf" style meal. We finished eating at around 10pm, and the resort was throwing a huge New Year's party ,so we headed over to that.

A band performed from 11pm until 11:55, and they were really good. They played some popular songs like Bad Romance and Uptown Funk, but they were Jamaican singers which made it that much cooler.

The countdown began, the clock struck midnight, and everyone shouted "Happy New Year!" Fireworks went off for about 15 minutes and the after party began. We didn't stay for very long, so that pretty much summed up our day/night in Jamaica.

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I Visited The "Shameless" Houses And Here's Why You Shouldn't

Glamorizing a less-than-ideal way to live.
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After five hours of driving, hearing the GPS say, "Turn right onto South Homan Avenue" was a blessing.

My eyes peeled to the side of the road, viciously looking for what I have been driving so long for, when finally, I see it: the house from "Shameless."

"Shameless" is a hit TV show produced by Showtime. It takes place in modern-day Southside, Chicago. The plot, while straying at times, largely revolves around the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. While a majority of the show is filmed offsite in a studio in Los Angeles, many outside scenes are filmed in Southside and the houses of the Gallagher's and side-characters are very much based on real houses.

We walked down the street, stopped in front of the two houses, took pictures and admired seeing the house in real life. It was a surreal experience and I felt out of place like I didn't belong there. As we prepared to leave (and see other spots from the show), a man came strolling down on his bicycle and asked how we were doing.

"Great! How are you?"

It fell silent as the man stopped in front of the Gallagher house, opened the gate, parked his bike and entered his home. We left a donation on his front porch, got back to the car and took off.

As we took the drive to downtown Chicago, something didn't sit right with me. While it was exciting to have this experience, I began to feel a sense of guilt or wrongdoing. After discussing it with my friends, I came to a sudden realization: No one should visit the "Gallagher" house.

The plot largely revolves the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. It represents what Southside is like for so many residents. While TV shows always dramatize reality, I realized coming to this house was an exploitation of their conditions. It's entertaining to see Frank's shenanigans on TV, the emotional roller coasters characters endure and the outlandish things they have to do to survive. I didn't come here to help better their conditions, immerse myself in what their reality is or even for the donation I left: I came here for my entertainment.

Southside Chicago is notoriously dangerous. The thefts, murders and other crimes committed on the show are not a far-fetched fantasy for many of the residents, it's a brutal reality. It's a scary way to live. Besides the Milkovich home, all the houses typically seen by tourists are occupied by homeowners. It's not a corporation or a small museum, it's their actual property. I don't know how many visitors these homes get per day, week, month or year. Still, these homeowners have to see frequent visitors at any hour of the day, interfering with their lives. In my view, coming to their homes and taking pictures of them is a silent way of glamorizing the cycle of poverty. It's a silent way of saying we find joy in their almost unlivable conditions.

The conceit of the show is not the issue. TV shows have a way of romanticizing very negative things all the time. The issue at hand is that several visitors are privileged enough to live in a higher quality of life.

I myself experienced the desire and excitement to see the houses. I came for the experience but left with a lesson. I understand that tourism will continue to the homes of these individuals and I am aware that my grievances may not be shared with everyone, however, I think it's important to take a step back and think about if this were your life. Would you want hundreds, potentially thousands, of people coming to your house? Would you want people to find entertainment in your lifestyle, good and bad?

I understand the experience, excitement, and fun the trip can be. While I recommend skipping the houses altogether and just head downtown, it's most important to remember to be respectful to those very individuals whose lives have been affected so deeply by "Shameless."

Cover Image Credit: itsfilmedthere.com

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Why You Should Send Me And My Best Friend To Hawaii

Please say yes.

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This is not a joke, it's a shoutout to our parents.

This past week, I spent spring break with my parents. At the end of the week, they shared the incredible information that we were going to Hawaii in May 2019.

Being an only child, one of my struggles is being alone with my parents on vacation and not having anyone my age to share the experience with. My parents said I was allowed to take a friend with us if they could pay for the plane ticket.

I immediately contacted my best friend Bailey, and together we started planning out ways for her to pay for the $563 plane ticket.

Once we figured out how to get rich fast, we made a PowerPoint presentation to send to both of our parents. We came up with plenty of reasons why we should be allowed to do this. Here's why:

1. Bailey and I called each other everyday while we were separated over spring break. 

Therefore, we need this vacation together because we won't be able to see each other over the summer. It's the perfect chance for a getaway before we move away from each other.

2. After a long semester of work, we need our relaxation.

3. Our major is all about traveling and exploring the world, so this is the perfect beginning to our future adventures together.

4. The Instagram pictures would be so good

5. My parents would be less annoyed with me if I had someone else to hang out with for part of the time

6. Bailey's parents would get a child-free house for a week.

7. We are paying for half of the ticket! And there really is nothing else to pay for except for tourist gifts

8. It will get us active as we plan to snorkel and hike!


Please send me and Bailey to Hawaii! If anyone reading this wants to help us pay for the ticket - contact us or Venmo!

<3 Mckenna and Bailey

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