Southbound To The Sunshine State!

by Benedicta Onyero Droese



By Wednesday, we said so long to the Gulf Coast and hello to the east coast of Florida. We drove through sections of the Big Cypress National Preserve Area before veering east on Alligator Alley toward Miami. Hector and Marisol, our Cuban friends who lived on a ranch nestled on the outskirts of Homestead, welcomed us with a home cooked meal of black beans, roasted chicken, fried plantains and yucca (yams). Later, Hector rolled out his ATV (all terrain vehicle) from the garage. The children were ready for a bumpy ride through the sugar cane fields behind their stable. Mikala and I opted out. We had other plans. She wanted to pet the horses and terrorize the chickens. I was more interested in the mango tree in the backyard. Sun ripened mangos twice the size of a Californian Avocado drooped invitingly. To climb or not to climb? The thrill of the hunt pumped through my veins. If I wanted to feel the succulence of each mango as I meticulously plucked them from their limber branches with my bare hands, I had to mount that tree. In no time, I found a mature limb sturdy enough to support my weight. I sat cautiously and quickly glanced around my surroundings. The tranquility was uncanny. The eerie whoosh, whoosh, of the warm tropical breeze swayed lithe branches back and forth;transporting me back in time to the land of the red earth. Back to Bendel State before it disappeared with the regressive winds of change. Suddenly, I was 10 again. I was one with the majestic Mango tree in our front yard. From up high, I scanned, aimed and tossed dead twigs at passersby as I chuckled mischievously. Then I heard a voice…

“Bennie, what the hell are you doing up there?” John screeched at the top of his lungs. Down below, an audience gathered as I carefully back tracked to ground zero. “Next time please use the stick,” Marisol pointed to a lengthy pole leaning against their white picket fence. John continued to glare at me. His face, Indigo red! “Remind me to up your life insurance next time you plan on pulling a stunt like that,” he sneered. I tried to reassure him that I was an experienced climber in my younger days in Nigeria.

“You ain’t no spring chicken and you’re definitely not in Africa anymore.” He snapped.

“Well I guess you can never take Africa out of the African” I smirked, as we followed our hostess to the guest quarter.



After a quick breakfast of Cuban Toast with Sausages, and a to-go mug of Café con Leche(Cuban coffee with milk) they wished us bon voyage with a basket full of semi ripened papaya (pawpaw), mangoes and some chopped sugar cane. By mid morning, with tickets in hand, we wandered into Wannado City in Fort Lauderdale. This role-playing venue where kids pretty much rule the roost and grown ups get to play along, is America’s first indoor role-playing theme park. Children can literally do and be anything they want to be. They can try out tons of grown-up jobs in this indoor city that’s just their size. Firemen! Policemen! Makeup Artist! Bakers! Chefs! Estheticians! Cashiers! The options are endless!! My future Dentists, Jade and Mikala performed a root canal on a mannequin patient. Sidney quickly disappeared with other Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) agents to solve a ‘whodunit’ crime or two. The highlight for us all was when a 9-year-old cop handcuffed, escorted, and tossed John behind bars. Crime? Chewing gum in public!



And of course no trip to Florida is ever complete for my family, until we’ve emptied our wallets at a Disney theme park and Magic Kingdom was on our menu. This magical wonderland with fun filled attractions, entertainment, and bold adventures that ignite the imagination of everyone, is structured like a ‘fantasy storybook world’ where Disney fairytale characters come to life. We visited Cinderella and Snow White in their ‘girlie’ castles. We chatted with Mickey, Minnie, Donald Duck and a host of other Disney Princes, Princesses, Villains and Heroes.

We twisted and turned in a turbulence of high-octane fun as we blasted off into another galaxy via a high-speed roller coaster space adventure ride. We were astonished by exciting presentations and colorful 3-D shows. We hopped aboard a ‘musical boat tour’ of nations around the globe where hundreds of international dolls sing and dance to variations of “It’s a small world” theme song. After watching the “Nighttime Spectacular,” the most dazzling, biggest and brightest fireworks extravaganza, we caught a shuttle back to our lodge and passed out from sheer exhaustion.

By Saturday morning, when Jade blurted, “Mom, I’m ready to go home to my new house now,” I smiled and thought, thank goodness… Georgia is finally on her mind!

P.S. Perhaps next year, we would trail the Great Smoky Mountains; swing by Dollywood to say howdy to Dolly Parton before heading northwest en route Music City, USA!

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