Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Blue seas

Thanks for the great big welcome back, everyone! I have to say that I felt surprisingly bereft, not being able to both filter my experiences through writing. If there's one thing that this blog has made me realize, it's how much I think about the things that I do and see in terms of words. It's not to say that I'm a good writer, but that it's a major mitigating medium for me, if that makes sense. This was made more apparent to me on this trip as I was spending time with my sister-in-law, who is the picture-taker of the family. She took well over 400 photos over the course of the week (I'm waiting for the CD, which will give me more to share). By contrast, I think I took fewer than 15. It's just not the lens (quite literally) through which I filter my experiences. For me, it's words. It never occurs to me to put a camera up to my eyes when I'm doing something, but (I realize this now) I do, unconsciously, have this little running commentary in the back of my brain, searching for the right way to describe what I'm seeing.

Alas, the words often go away if I don't write them down, so I'm not sure that I have as many of them as I probably should, after all of that time. I'll do what I can.

The first night, we flew to Dallas/Forth Worth, and stayed in the airport hotel. Yup. A hotel. Right there in the airport. How big does an airport have to be to be able to fit a huge hotel (there are, in fact, two of them) right in the middle? Plenty damned big, it turns out. The next morning (which was Older Daughter's tenth birthday, in fact; she was extremely generous about spending it all on a plane, and we made up for it the next day), we were up early to fly to San Juan, and then to Tortola. We met up with Rick's brother and sister-in-law and our niece in the San Juan airport, and took the flight out to Tortola together. This amused the girls to no end, to be together with their cousin, and made the last legs of the trip much better. On Tortola, we missed the 6:00 North Island Sound ferry, and ended up eating an amazingly delicious dinner at a place called the Cyber Cafe (can you believe?). The jerk chicken was exactly what jerk should be: spicy and tender. Mmm... Then we caught the 8:00 ferry and arrived at the place we were staying with no troubles.

The next morning, I woke up to this view.
There is nothing in life that makes me happier than to be within the sight of water. Oceans are the best, but really, almost any water will do. It's true that I am, by inclination, a cold gray water person, but it's hard to complain about the azures and ceruleans of the Caribbean, so I won't. The first day we popped right down that hill you see there to a small beach and went snorkeling (it's also true that it's hard to complain about water that's warm enough that you don't lose your breath when you jump in). The girls got to see an actual conch, in an actual conch shell. Life was good.

Most of the week went that way. We'd get up (mostly at godawful o'clock, as the girls were too excited to sleep late, and there was a peripatetic rooster living next door who believed with all of his little avian heart that 4 am was a time of day that deserved to be heralded with great joy and lusty serenades), have breakfast, and hit the water. We spent quite a bit of time on Kewaydin, Rick's parent's boat, heading off to snorkeling beaches. On one day, the kids and I hung out at the Bitter End, while everyone went diving and Rick went windsurfing (where he discovered that a 10-year hiatus really does affect one's abilities in the realm of water starts). We came home to dinner, often preceded by a lovely rum drink (I think that my discovery of the Dark and Stormy this week was a life-changing one; how can you go wrong with ginger beer and lime juice and rum?), and then a game with BIL and SIL, and then bed. (Except for the night we watched the Pirates of the Caribbean; which should be required viewing on a trip like this, in my humble opinion.)

The girls got to actually drive the boat (not under sail, just with the engine). They were both pretty darned pleased with themselves.

Note the faraway gazes -- I think that they're required in the sailing world. Clearly there's a certain amount of baring one's teeth into the wind that's needed to make it as a real sailor.

It was a relief to find that all three of the girls do just fine on the water (even when it got rather rough later in the week). In fact, they loved being on the boat, and had loads of fun switching to the up side on deck every time we tacked or jibed. It's clearly true that there's nothing that's half so much fun as simply messing about on boats.

It was the colors that captured my imagination the most on this trip. Not only the colors of the ocean, which were constantly changing, depending on the sunlight and the depth of the water, and which rippled with little cat's paws in the constant wind. But also the colors of the flowers, and the beaches. I now understand why every single building there is painted in the most amazing array of bright tones; there's no artifice involved, it's simply that those are exactly the kinds of shades that fit the landscape best. Purples and blues and reds and greens, all together, all the time, bright, sun-faded, in between, but always colors upon colors.

And the fish! We're waiting to develop the pictures from Older Daughter's underwater camera (a birthday gift from her doting aunt and uncle), so I can show you, but they were at least as colorful as anything on land. Parrotfish and trumpetfish, swimming among corals and seafans in fantastic colors (honestly, who would have thought that an entire plant could be periwinkle purple? How unlikely! It's like something out of Dr. Seuss). We saw barracuda (and who besides me can't help but think of that song every time you hear that word? I swear I was singing it to myself all week), and snapper, and even a sea turtle coming up for air.

I had so hoped that Younger Daughter would end up liking snorkeling, as it seemed like the sort of thing that would be right up her alley, if she could only get past that horrible first breath underwater. (I don't know about you, but the first time I went snorkeling, last year, it took all of my willpower to convince myself that I could take that first breath. Once that was over, I was fine, but I'd spent my whole life reminding myself not to breathe underwater! It's hard to break that habit.) She just wasn't going for it, until the very last day we went out, when we realized that at least part of the problem was that her mask was leaking, and she was, in fact, getting a faceful of water when she stuck her head under. I traded masks with her, and she stuck her head in and took a breath and just went ballistic. She came up shouting "fish!", and that was it. After that, she was all over the reef. She didn't have fins, so we towed her along, and she was as thrilled as could be. Honestly, I think I enjoyed watching her just light up like a Christmas tree, both at her achievement and at the fun of seeing all of those wonderful underwater creatures doing their thing, more than I enjoyed seeing the creatures myself. She glowed.

On the last day, we had a close encounter of the reptilian kind. Younger Daughter was bounding up the steps to get our bags, and almost stepped right on a huge iguana. It lashed her with its tail ("I felt it touch me, mama! It touched my leg!!") and then glared at us. I'm guessing YD would have freaked out if she hadn't been so excited to see a real live iguana (thank goodness she's easily distracted). It was about three feet long, and the girls were utterly convinced that it had appeared just to say goodbye to them (and a much better goodbye than the one that Rick and I got at 5:30 in the morning when the rooster brought his entire harem onto our porch to cluck at us whilst he crowed).

And now we're home. I think I'll stop there, as this is already a ridiculously long post. But I'll get more pictures up as they arrive. For now, I'll just say that I did get to do a little bit of knitting on Hanami, although not as much as I'd thought I might. Seawater and yarn do not mix.


NTK said...

Congrats on managing what sounds like an awesome vacation! I'm so jealous - what it must be like to go to such a beautiful place and to succeed in not thinking about work (let alone not grading!!) at this time of year. Kudos to you for pulling it off, and glad you're back!

Rachael said...

Oh it sounds DELIGHTFUL. I"m glad you & the fam had so much fun...good luck adjusting back to reality!

Marianne said...

Wow, I was reading right along, seeing it all through your words, really caught up short when you finished!
It's a shame about YD mask leaking but what a glorious last day she had! She'll be more than ready next time!

Anonymous said...

Niiiice.... Except for that rooster. (That's why we are not getting a rooster, no matter how my husband longs for more macho company in the backyard. The hens are just fine on their own.)

Rabbitch said...

Welcome back.

Anne said...

Yes ... but I think Ratty had the cold gray kind of water in mind when he said that. I can only imagine the weird turns that narrative might have taken in the presence of such gorgeous blues and greens. I can't wait to see the underwater pictures (and how nice that you figured out the mask issue for YD in time for her to 'get' snorkeling!).

Lynne said...

I can relate so well to the 'words' thing; I love art - even paint myself occasionally - but in a gallery I'm so busy reading the artist's words that I sometimes have to remind myself to look at the work itself! I'm better if I take a tour, then I am 'forced' to look at the painting while listening to the words! [though I still have to read everything in sight!]
I guess that's why we're both linguists! :-)

Alisha said...

I love the rooster....I can imagine how annoying that would have been but how funny too.

I love the farewell guest!

Glad your home safe and that you had such a great time.

Anonymous said...

Tortola - just the name is redolent of exotic intrigue. Perhaps not to the degree that Dark and Stormy is, but I may have to determine this empirically.

EGunn said...

I have the "words" filter, Branden has the "lens" filter. An experience is just never quite complete until it's put into words, is it? Even if they're never written, they were thought. Sounds like a great trip!

Margaret said...

So beautiful! The colors are one of the things I love best about being in the islands. We were in Montserrat last October and the first few nights, at full moon, the roosters were crowing nearly non-stop. It took a tropical storm to shut them up.

Alwen said...

Water and sun, a lovely combination. Glad you had a good time, and welcome back.

patrice said...

What a great experience for your family.Your girls will remember this vacation for years to come-the boat,the fish, the iguana.Too much fun! My kids still talk about a trip we took to Grand Cayman 6 years ago. It's not just the beach, since we live so close to that, it's the colors and the adventure. Looking forward to a few more pics :)

Bea said...

Oh my such an awesome vacation! Your airport hotel stay was less then 30 miles from me! I love the shots of the girls driving. I admit I haven't read all the way through this post because I'm trying to do a quick look to catch up but as soon as I have time (Friday afternoon) I am going to come read all of this!

Willow said...

Lucky for us that you think in words because you have shared a lot of wonderful 'pictures' with us, especially the iguana, snorkeling with YD and the changing colors and hues of a Caribbean sea.

I remember that Laura Ingalls Wilder began to describe scenes to her blind sister Mary and learned to use as much detail and as many descriptions as she could. It has always been my opinion that her job as 'Mary's eyes' uniquely prepared her for writing the Little House books in her later years.

Stell said...

can't wait for the pictures, but the words work pretty good. Sounds like just the best warm holiday family break ever!

Anonymous said...

This Sailor was captivated by your recap. How does it get any better?...family, sun, sea, sails and tasty rum drinks!

You running commentary comment truly resonated with me. In fact, as I read it I thought, "This truly resonates with me!"