Guest Scrapbook
Home Up

Virgin Islands 2011 Who Went? Mara's Triumph: A five-chapter saga
Pre-Cruise Party Rick's Scrapbook Guest Scrapbook About the Caribbean 1 About the Caribbean 2 Information

Rick and Marla's Scrapbook

Who Went on the Trip Pre-Cruise Party

Welcome to Guest Scrapbook

These pictures were contributed
by the Guests
from the
2011 Virgin Islands Cruise!

Rick's Note:  Memories are an important part of every cruise trip.  Now that Marla and I have published our personal Scrapbook, I invite our guests to create this Scrapbook of their own. Every person on the trip is welcome to contribute pictures to the Scrapbook page.  Using email, let's limit it to your six favorite pictures.  Email to

In particular, I didn't get many Formal pictures.  As I pointed out earlier, a rainstorm in Grenada ruined my camera right before the last Formal Night.  Oh well.

So by all means send me a Formal picture plus a few more of yourself and your friends.  That way this Scrapbook is shared by our entire group!   Thanks!  RA


The Fabulous Adventures of the All That Jazz Family

Rick's Note:  I met Gina and Joy Al-Jazrawi at the SSQQ-Bissonnet studio back in 2007 in our Western classes.

I liked these two sisters from the moment I met them.  They were intelligent, they were funny, and they were extremely likeable ladies.  However, I discovered their popularity was just a masquerade.  Once they got to know me, they started to gang up on me.  That is when I discovered they possessed a quick wit which they enjoyed using on me.  I tried fighting back.  Trading insults, the three of us became sparring partners.  Naturally they won all the time.  Few men are smarter than even a single woman, but no man is smarter than two.  I never had a chance.

It was in early 2008 when I met their vivacious mother Ann.  Ann had come to take an East Coast Swing class.  I have never met a warmer person.  Ann was just as friendly as her daughters.  I immediately liked her much better than her daughters because Ann didn't pick on me... or so I thought. 

One night Ann found an ingenious way to torment me. 

We had just finished our dance class at the studio.  Ann and I were just standing around having a nice conversation.  As we were chatting, Ann mentioned she and her husband Sam liked to travel.  Smiling, I casually mentioned that my wife and I like to travel too.   I told Ann that Marla and I were planning to visit Europe for the very first time in August 2008.  Okay, so I was bragging a little, but it was harmless. I was just trying to impress Ann and make her think I knew a lot about foreign countries.  I guess I should add that at this point I had never once been out of the United States. But she didn't have to know that, right?

Ann smiled back politely.  Oh really?  That is when she began to tell me about a trip she and her husband Sam were going on starting in May, one month from now. 

As I listened, I could hardly believe this woman's story.  Ann's Big Adventure started with a two-week luxury yacht cruise that wound its way throughout the Aegean Sea.  Ann and Sam would be visiting a dozen beautiful Greek Isles.  Seeing my eyes bulge, Ann promised she would be sure to say hello to Circe, Cyclops and Poseidon along the way. 

Ann paused for a second to take a sip out of her soda.  Then she looked back at me and explained how tiring it was to try to remember so many details.  Ann said she was exhausted just thinking about it all.

I frowned.  Oh please.  Give me a break, lady.

As I listened to Ann tell me more about her trip through the Greek Isles, I was crestfallen.  This was the most wonderful trip I had ever heard of!  My envy was off the charts.  So imagine my shock when I discovered the Greek Isles was merely the warm-up act to Ann's Big Adventure.

I stared at Ann with incredulity.  You mean there's more? 

As her story continued, I discovered Ann's trip was so elaborate it would take them to 8 different European countries spread out over three months (May through July 2008). 

Madrid, Istanbul, Athens, Rome, Nice, the French Riviera, Geneva, the Swiss Alps, Paris, London, Bremen. OMG!  This lady was about to visit every place I had ever dreamed of visiting and she was going to do it all in one trip!

I was so envious that I began to tremble!  What I wouldn't do to experience a trip like this!

Looking back, I probably should have known better than to reveal my feelings, but I didn't know who I was dealing with.

Ann was amused. She could see I wasn't handling my feelings very well.  Ann decided to take advantage of my weakness.

The next day Ann emailed me her entire European Trip itinerary.

It made me sick to read about it all. Switzerland, Spain, Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, United Kingdom, and Germany were among the destinations. 

My mind reeled. 

What a dirty trick!

After I got Ann's mean-spirited email, I casually asked Marla what a trip like this might cost.  Marla rolled her eyes.  "This is one of those things that if you have to ask, you can't afford.  That trip is so expensive that to tell you what it would cost would break your heart.  Let's just put it this way.  We would need to find Aladdin's Lamp to afford it."

The thing is, I had no idea that Joy and Gina were members of such a well-to-do family.  Both ladies are so down to earth that I never imagined they had come from such privilege.  Many children who grow up with advantages in life grow soft, but not these two.

Indeed, as I got to know them better, the work ethic of the two women was something to behold. 

All Joy ever talked about how hard she worked as an immigration lawyer here in Houston.  I got the impression that Joy put in a seven-day work week.  Gina sounded just the same.  All she ever talked about was how hard her boss worked her at her engineering company.  It took me a while to realize that Gina's mean boss who worked her to death was also her Father Sam!  Interesting.

Somebody obviously raised these two ladies the right way.  Knowing this, I couldn't possibly hold a grudge over Ann's dirty trick.  Well, not a big grudge.

I finally got to meet Sam, Mr. Paterfamilias, during the cruise.  Sam struck me as a quiet guy who always seems to have a twinkle in his eye.  Sam and I never got past the cordial stage, but I kept an eye on him nonetheless. 

Judging by his smile, I think Sam thoroughly enjoyed spending time with his family on this trip. I think this gentlemen enjoys reaping the rewards from his lifetime of hard work as a businessman and a father. With a family as wonderful as his, I think Sam has every right to be proud of a job well done.

Gina and Brandon got married in 2003. 

2009 was the year a certain young man signed up for membership to the All That Jazz family when Gina gave birth to their son Laith.  It was definitely a happy occasion for the entire family.  Laith quickly became the main object of affection for everyone!

2009 was also the year that the All That Jazz Family won second place in our SSQQ Halloween "Best Group Costume" contest.  Those are authentic Arab outfits by the way. I tried shaking them down for some upgrade money to get them into first place, but it didn't work.  Joy said never mind, her father had taught her how to be thrifty.  Just my luck. 

While asking about the costumes, I learned that Sam was raised in Iraq back in the late Forties.  He later received his college education in Europe (England if I remember correctly) before emigrating to the USA. 

This picture gives every indication that the family is quite proud of their Arab heritage.  The Al-Jazrawi family is a perfect reminder that there are many good families of all nationalities here in America. 

I don't care what color someone's skin is, what religion they adhere to or where they were born.  If a person from another country comes to America and works as hard as this family does, I feel fortunate to benefit from their contributions and from their good will... even if these particular women do play rotten tricks on me.

My biggest regret after selling SSQQ-Bissonnet in 2010 was losing touch with so many of my friends back at the studio.  Therefore it was with great delight that I found out the infamous All That Jazz Family was coming along on our Virgin Islands Cruise.

If you study the pictures from the trip, I am sure you will conclude they had a good time.  Now let me remind you that the Eastern Caribbean islands probably aren't quite as fashionable as the exotic Greek Isles steeped in mythology.  You know, according to Plato, those Greek islands could possibly be the only thing that remains of Atlantis.  And it is hard to beat a yacht trip that takes people to some of the same islands that brave Odysseus visited on his ten year ordeal after the Trojan War. 

On the other hand, I think our jaunt to the Caribbean Islands was just as special to Sam and Ann because they were able to share it with their entire family.  I have a hunch having the family along meant more to them than visiting all the Greek Islands in the world. 

Zaid, Joy, Sam, Ann, Gail, Dave, Laith, Gina, Brandon. 
Gail and Dave are Brandon's parents. 
Zaid is a cousin of Gina and Joy.

It is extremely difficult for a family with a very young child
to take a vacation.  I think Gina and Brandon were
very appreciative of their awesome support system.

As you can see from these pictures, Laith was all over the place!  These pictures show just how neat it was for the entire family to participate in Laith's first big cruise trip.  Judging from everyone's smile, they loved having Laith along.  

It was amazing to watch how effortlessly this close-knit family of 9 was able to merge with the larger group of 62. They were a Family within a Family.  Nor did they stick to themselves. Although the Jazz clan had their own table, I noticed Joy visit other tables frequently (and Gina as well whenever freed up from Mom-duty).  The cruise trip allowed everyone to move fluidly from one set of friends and family to another.

One beauty of a cruise trip is that it provides such a convenient opportunity for an uncomplicated "Family Adventure".  What other type of vacation accommodates 9 people all from different life stages so effortlessly? 

In this case, we had two sets of grandparents - Sam and Ann (Gina's parents), Dave and Gail (Brandon's parents) - who came along with Gina, Brandon, and their son Laith, plus Aunt Joy and her cousin Zaid for good measure. 

In my mind, the big winners were Brandon and Gina.  With their entire family along, Gina and Brandon had all sorts of win-win options.  They could strike out on their own with Laith any time they pleased (see picture).  Then at other times Gina and Brandon had two sets of grandparents plus Aunt Joy to look after Laith for awhile. Not that Joy or Ann minded a bit!  It really was a great arrangement for everyone. 

The star of the show was Laith who just turned 2.  I have never seen anyone get so much attention!  In addition to his loving family, many of the other people on the trip were fascinated at how talented and well-behaved Laith was.  This young man mesmerized all of us with his constant good temper and sharp intelligence.  I was shocked when wunderkind Laith was able to say my name aloud the first time he heard it.  Except that he pronounced it "Ick".  Why am I suspicious that he was coached to say that?

I have never seen a kid more full of energy!  As it turned out, I had a cabin on the same level as the Al-Jazrawi clan.  Practically every morning I was amused to come out of my cabin to see Ann or Gina chasing Laith around the ship.  Now I know why Gina is the luckiest Mom ever to have her sister and mother to help keep an eye on this bundle of energy.  Laith must be the happiest boy in the world!

A cruise trip is so flexible that everyone had a chance to hang with the family, hang with the group, or simply strike out their own. 

I was pleased that Joy and Gina found time for me.  I thoroughly enjoyed my chance to hang out with Gina and Joy again.  Few people know this story, but our friendship deepened several years back due to a very unusual situation.  At the time, every Friday night there was a very attractive Asian lady who made a point of seeking me out for a dance.  The moment she walked in, this woman made a beeline for me.  And then it was another dance later on.  And then another dance.  Whenever I turned my back on her, she would sneak up and tap me on the shoulder. 

I was never quite sure what was going on, but it seemed to me like she was angling for more than just a dance.  This woman didn't speak English very well.  Instead she let her body do the speaking.  The Dragon Lady as I referred to her always wore revealing outfits and didn't seem to mind brushing up against me several times as we danced.  She would laugh and smile the entire time.  

I didn't know what to make of this woman, but I was flustered.  I think she knew I was married, but that didn't seem to bother her.  One time I deliberately mentioned I was going on a cruise "with my wife".  Some women would get the hint, but this woman replied, "Ah, why don't you take me too?"  Her smile made it very clear that she could not have cared less that I was married.  In fact, I am pretty sure she was married as well.  And judging by the quality of her expensive designer clothes, she wasn't poor either.  Whomever she was married to obviously could afford her. 

Perhaps I should have felt flattered, but mostly I felt uncomfortable.  Finally I had enough.  I didn't even want to be near her.  One night she showed up with that look on her face and I panicked.  The easiest way to deal with temptation is to avoid it completely.  Where to find refuge?  That's when I noticed Joy and Gina chatting together on the couch in the Big Room. 

I quickly walked over to them and plopped myself between them for safety.  That's when I explained the situation to Joy and Gina.  Once I was sure I had their sympathy, I asked them to be my bodyguards.  They smiled and said sure.  From that point on, any time the Dragon Lady showed up, I would rush to their sides for protection.   Whenever I was next to these women, their frowns of discouragement sent a clear signal to leave me alone.  I think the woman got the message.  She stopped asking me to dance and moved on to other men.  Thank goodness.  Problem solved.

After that, I looked forward every Friday night to spend regular time with the two sisters.  However their friendship came with a price. That when Joy and Gina became my regular sparring partners.  We had some great good-natured arguments and we teased each other a lot.  In addition to teasing me, I discovered that they also liked to match wits. Joy in particular liked to challenge me in trivia contests.  Her strengths were American Presidents and American Capitals.  My strength was world capitals.  It was a great competition because I secretly studied the order of the Presidents in a vain attempt to beat her.  She admitted she did the same thing with world capitals. We were both making each other smarter.  Those were fun times.

On this cruise, knowing how bright these ladies are, I jumped at the chance to participate in a movie trivia quiz on the last day. As they say, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.  The game was to hear a five-second clip of movie themes and guess the movie title.  Joy, Gina, Zaid, and myself proved to be a formidable team.  I helped with some of the older movies from the Sixties and Seventies like Space Odyssey, Goldfinger, Star Trek, and Halloween.  Joy and Gina got Harry Potter, Chariots of Fire, Star Wars and Rocky (Eye of the Tiger)

Working together we got 12 of 15 right which was pretty good.

Alas, we were beaten by a team that got 13 of 15 right.  They got ET right and we didn't.  That was the difference.  Gina was beside herself because she had said "ET" a couple times when we were guessing, but didn't suggest it when it was time for our final desperation answer.  Oh well. 

Considering how competitive these two girls are, I fully expected the All That Jazz Clan would dominate my Eastern Caribbean Trivia Contest.  On the final night of the cruise, I handed the pop quiz to each table just to see who had been paying attention during the trip.  Alas, the Jazz Family finished second in this contest as well.  This time it was Joy who was beside herself.  She looked at me in frustration over another second place finish and said, "Wait till next year.  Laith will be 3 then.  We'll kick your butts."

I laughed.  Considering how bright that boy is, Joy probably wasn't kidding!

I can't tell you how much I enjoyed sharing good times again with my friends Joy and Gina and their wonderful family... except Ann that is.

Do you know what that rotten woman did to me?  Just one short week before our trip, Ann decided to jerk my chain again.  Ann opened old wounds by sending me this email:

"Dear Rick, I thought you would get such a kick learning about three other unusual trips I took.

The first was Kenya in 1999.  This was the 1st trip that I did the Itinerary on the computer and saved the info.  Africa is so amazing!  You should visit it sometime. 

Italy 2004 was an International Wedding. Our Nephew Feras married Jala.  Jala's Father was Iraqi and her Mother is Italian. We have 19 International weddings between Sam and my family. We could be the United Nations!

Our trip to the Middle East was one of my favorites. Thank Heavens, we traveled last year before all the turmoil occurred. Now, it would be impossible to travel to that part of the world. What a shame you and Marla may have to wait. 

So far, the countries I I have been to in the Middle East are: Iraq (1975 and 1979), Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.  Don't you agree travel is wonderful?"

"Don't you agree Travel is wonderful?" - talk about rubbing it in!   How can anyone be so obnoxious and so sweet at the same time?  I think the woman should be paddled for deliberately aggravating me... and now that I think of it, maybe her smarty pants daughters deserve a touch of the paddle too.  I can't tell you how many times I tried to kick both girls in the seat of their pants on this trip for some smart-mouth remark, but they were too quick for me. 

At least now I know where the two daughters get their mischievous side from.  These acorns obviously didn't fall far from the tree. 


Carolyn Cowan

The two pictures below were contributed by the lovely Carolyn Cowan for our Guest Scrapbook.  By the way, as a note to ther guests, Carolyn had the nerve to label her Table photograph as "The Fun Table".  She did this in reference to the legendary bad boys and girls who won the Bahamas 2010 "Worst Behaved Table" award.  I guess that makes this group the early favorite for this coveted prize.  I would even go so far as to say they have the inside track since they are currently the only horse in the race. 

Carolyn, Rick, Sandra, Peggy, Shay, Ed, Tracy, George, Wanda, Greg

Isn't she pretty?


Mara Rivas-Hanka

Rick's Note: Mara made vast contributions to our trip.  She organized at least six special events during the trip plus created a photo album for us to view at her house a month after the trip.

Here are six of her favorite pictures.

Joan, Kurt, Tiffany, Jean, Mara, Bruce, Rick E

Tiffany, Jean, Rick E

Cher, Rhoda, Mara, Tiffany, Ann

Hats off to Kurt, Jean in the sunglasses, Bruce in the corner

Joan, Jean, Tiffany, Rick E

Joe, Patty, Marla, Rick A, Joan, Mara, Bruce, Kurt, Tiffany, Jean


Mel Kieke

Rick's Note: This was Mel's first cruise with our group.  Mel was very kind to send us eight pictures of the people in the group, but was too modest to include one of himself... so I added a picture of him that I took.

Jim and Joan

Joan and Jim

Wanda and Greg

Mona, Wendy and Ann

Marla and George, Robert and Cher in back

Marla and Rick

Nancy and Iqbal

Mel and Noreen

Virgin Islands 2011 Who Went? Mara's Triumph: A five-chapter saga
Pre-Cruise Party Rick's Scrapbook Guest Scrapbook About the Caribbean 1 About the Caribbean 2 Information
SSQQ Front Page Parties/Calendar Jokes
SSQQ Information Schedule of Classes Writeups
SSQQ Archive Newsletter History of SSQQ