Punch Buggy Green

 

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I saw the movie, Herbie the Love bug when it debuted in 1968.  I was very young and though I don’t remember the plot of the movie and have not seen it since, it remains etched in my history for one reason.

A Herbie replica was in the parking lot of the theatre and was being auctioned off for the price of a raffle ticket.  I wanted to win the car. My Dad explained that it would be many years before I could drive the car. It mattered little to me as I liked the idea of a car waiting for me until I would be old enough to drive.  I never won the car, but thought about it many times.

Eventually I would be old enough to drive, My first car was a 1980 Roadrunner, brand new with the same number of kilometres on the odometer as years I had been alive.  It was beautiful, the colour changing depending on the light.  Still, I would see many Beetles around, my daughters punching each other, playing the Beetle game and I would remember my first love.  It wasn’t practical I would think, as I loaded carseats, children and their items into larger vehicles.

A friend had an old Beetle, not running, and one day I happily sat inside the car while he pushed it.  For a moment I felt the wind in my hair, the dream realized.

The girls grew up, moved away and I found myself with the ability to choose whatever vehicle I wanted.  I would dream of the car as I worked endless hours on my house, watching the house rise from the ground to be a reality where once it had been a dream. The Beetle had been relaunched and no longer did I need to be a mechanic or handy at body work to own one.  Still,  I decided it would be a Jetta or a Golf, practical, and would spend hours thinking of the colour, the moment when it too would become a reality.

My eldest daughter was hit by a car that summer. It was a Jetta and just like that I didn’t want one.  I bought a Pontiac, and received a great bargain by having a friend that worked for GM.  Still, I would see the new Beetles around town and look at them with longing for what might have been.

The newest Beetle was launched, looking more like the original.  I spent much time on the internet building my dream car, tucking it into a folder on my desktop for “one day.” The day came and together my husband and I went into the dealership transferring the years of dreaming into a reality.  We would need to wait while it was built in Germany and then sent on its long journey to our dealership.  I could wait, could delay gratification, had been doing this for most of my life.

Five months later the moment arrived when we would pick up my car at the dealership.  In the time waiting, I built a lego model of a Volkswagen, surfed the net for accessories and dreamed of that moment.  I dressed that morning in a 60’s style shirt in celebration. The Beetle was  beautiful, the colour perfect, it exceeded my high expectations.  As I drove off the lot, the first song I heard on the radio was a song from the 60’s, it was perfect.

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Everyone it seems has a dream car, this one is mine.

The other day I was at a store and a young Mom and her daughters pointed at the car as I drove by.  In my rearview mirror, I watched the Mother playfully punch her children in the arm, and so it continues.  Punch buggy, green, no returns indeed!

 

 

Sheta Boca

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We travel to Sheta Boca for a walk on the wild side.  Sheta Boca means seven inlets, each carved out of limestone and different from the other. The trek is about 10km with views of the coastline for the entire venture. We arrive early at 0900  and are surprised that we have the entire nature reserve to ourselves.  A sleepy man takes our money and is not able to make change, so we tip him reluctantly.

The sea beckons and we spy a bench in the distance. We begin our journey.  Within minutes the sky opens up, and we quickly look for shelter in a cave.  How fortunate to wait out the storm.  Nearly as soon as the rain begins it stops and we start again with the added bonus of mud and slick trails for a level of difficulty.

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We are mesmarized by the power of the ocean, watching it gain momentum to a peak and then crash into the shore.  Its timed and in my mind I hear Leonard Cohen’s,  Hallelujah.

There is a hodgepodge of stairs,  some rock, some wood, some stone and a curious plank with small sticks to keep it from being a slide.  We adjust our gait and are mindful of falling.  We are more careful for the potential risk.  How different from home where our every step has the expectation of safety and if we do get hurt, then another structure is erected quickly to make certain it never happens again.

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We find a sandy beach littered with cairns.  It is always curious to see these structures, a proof that someone was there, when really it only matters to them that they were.  On closer inspection we discover that this beach is where the turtles lay their eggs, a sign asks us not to put stones on the beach as this would make it more difficult for the sea turtles.  Curacao is a surprising place with relatively few rules.  There are no posted speed signs, no smoking signs or any of a dozen like signs that exist in Canada and become invisible with their frequency.  This sign stands out and yet has been ignored.  I’m annoyed.  We decide that we will remove rocks and at least do our part for the sea turtles. We attack the homage to Sheila and feel better for our efforts.

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We have saved the best for last as we journey to our final destination, Boca Pistol.  Here water builds in a cavern, then like a sealed pot, blows, spewing water up to 30 feet in the air.  We watch this for a long while getting excited when we know that the water will shoot high.  We are not alone and like fireworks the oohs and awes surround us.  We take photos and videos and finally are sated, leaving our choice spots for new arrivals.

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We walk away from the water opting for a loop that has not been defined.  We can see Mount Christoff in the distance.  Our shoes fill with mud as we trudge along.  I think about the view of water that we gave up in favour of the backcountry.  It is beautiful with its many cacti, small lizards and large hills.  We find our way back to the beginning surprised that several hours have passed since our start.  Like the best excursions, it seems like days have passed for the experience that we now carry, though minutes as we gathered that experience.

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Face the fear

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Our plan is to kayak to a beach where we will dock, adorn our snorkel gear and swim to the site of a sunken tugboat where there is an opportunity to see an abundance of fish.

Mentally I prepare myself. I’m not concerned about kayaking though somewhat concerned with the snorkelling. I experienced a significant near drowning episodes and have worked hard to overcome, to arrive at this moment.  I like to know all before venturing out. I can swim, there is no current and the buoyancy of the salt water will keep me afloat though panic is the wild card and it could all go sideways quickly.

The area is rather industrial looking with a homely ship docked.  The nearby beaches are covered with garbage, the sand pummelled down and grey. Beach glass abounds as does broken bottles. There is much clean up work to be done and I wonder if there is a plan.

John and I will need to share a kayak,  a dicey prospect. We are used to our own craft, so will need to exercise both patience and tact. We set out. The water is beautiful and we can see to the bottom of the sea. Soon we leave the sheltered bay for the open water. Wind is a factor, though we both hunker down and get it done.

We arrive at the beach and I begin my search for beach glass, I am soon rewarded. The Guide talks about the history of the area.  I give John a look which he correctly interprets to share the information with me later and I’m liberated from the history lesson  to search for beach glass. There is much black glass on this beach. It isn’t really black but rather looks thus until held to the light where the green is visible. I share my bounty with our Guide, a young girl from Massachusetts who is a beach glass kindred spirit

We don our snorkel gear and set off for the sunken tugboat. It will be a distance and I prepare myself for the journey without having a shore in sight. John and the Guide lead the way and I follow behind. It seems a long way, there is nothing to see and I begin to panic. I settle myself down, slow my breathing and set out again. We arrive at the tugboat. The fish have created a very colourful home. We see fish varieties we have not seen. It’s so cool how the boat is so close to the surface. We see divers and now I realize the draw of this pursuit. Divers see stuff like this all the time.  Snorkelers see only beneath the surface and close to shore.

Our Guide suggests a snorkel out to the drop off. I remember this didn’t go well for Nemo though I’m up for the experience. There are no fish to see on our way out and as such I begin to panic again. I relax myself as I know if I don’t, we will return to shore without the experience.  We arrive, it’s a clear demarcation between the light and dark blue. In the dark,  silhouettes of fish float.

I think about how far I’ve come to let go of my fear of water.  Clearly I remember the day that I nearly died. I had swimming lessons stretching back to my youth and earned all my badges.  The day in question, I made a series of unfortunate mistakes.  I had shoes on my feet and was dressed in shorts and a t-shirt.  I swam out to a log, thinking I could touch when I arrived. I swam against a current and arrived at the log tired.  I stood up and there was no bottom beneath my feet.  I panicked sealing my fate.  I went down several times and like the nightmare where I scream for help, my voice was barely a whisper.  No one heard.  The last time I went down I saw my young daughter, who interpreted my panic for the situation at hand and began to swim to me.  Instinctively, I swam away, knowing with the last clear thought that I would overpower her if she reached me.  I went down for the final time and felt a peace and a realization that this is how I would die. Suddenly,  I was plucked from my watery depth and brought to the surface.  I gulped for air, flipped over on my back and floated, the panic gone.  This has stayed with me all these years.

Years after this event, I was with a patient who had a tracheostomy tube and g-tube.  We were in Hawaii.  Her tube was plugged during the day, allowing her the opportunity to wade in the ocean.   She signed to me to join her in the ocean. I signed back, “I’m scared.”  She looked at me, put her hands on her hips, rolled her eyes and signed back, “Look at me,  I have a tracheostomy tube, a g-tube and I’m going in, are you coming?” My sign language did not afford the words to explain further, and I realized in that moment that it would make no difference. I had a choice to stay in fear or to take the first dip.  Sheepishly, I went with her and we waded in the ocean.  This was the beginning.  Gradually, I would go further, learn to snorkel and venture still further, learning to relax to keep my panic at bay.  How amazing that first time when I donned snorkelling gear and saw the fish  Panic melted away as I watched the fish and saw a world I would not have known had I remained on the shore, wearing the cloak of fear to keep safe.

We snorkel back to the beach and I’m proud of myself, richer for the experience.  I think of  the little girl who led me to this moment and send a silent thank you to heaven where she now resides.

“Face the fear and do it anyway,” has been my mantra since that pivotal day. How much do we miss when we wrap ourselves in the itchy, uncomfortable garb of fear.  When we shed our fear, we are free and only then can we begin to embrace the authentic life just beyond, closer to our best selves.  I know this for certain as I look at the photos of what lies just beneath the surface.

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Beach Glass everywhere

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I picked up my first piece of beach glass in Prince Edward Island several years ago and instantly was hooked. For the remainder of that trip I scoured the beaches, enlisting my husband for a team effort, maximum glass and  never tiring. Happily, I could do this all day long, stark contrast to my usual self of flitting from one activity to another. Beach glass collecting is my zen. The feel of the glass is soft, its sharp edges tumbled by the power of the ocean.

Prince Edward Island is not a mecca for beach glass, still we collected a handful, during our stay, travelling to many beaches to add to our collection.  I would close my eyes at night and see the glass, all the colours available.

In Curacao,  John bent down to pick up a piece of glass to throw away and save someone certain pain. In his hand he discovered it was beach glass. He beckoned me over and my face broke into a grin as I immediately began to look for more. How interesting to see it literally everywhere once we looked. How much do we miss when we look and don’t see?  In PEI we picked up a piece about once per hour. In Curacao one per second.

Curacao beaches have an abundance of green and brown, likely from  Heineken and Amstel bottles, though we find white, yellow, blue, black and even the elusive red.  Each beach has a predominant colour.  We  get picky as we ignore the green to search for the rarer finds. We are rewarded at every turn.

I amass a collection, our bounty covering the dining table in our townhouse and I wonder what it is about beach glass that I love. I decide it’s the story that I create in my mind about its origin, transformation and eventual arrival on the shore.  It is stranded before I reach down and pick it up. I think about how we covet rare gems and make them such by the value we place. The glass I hold in my hand has a harsher journey, a most uncertain future and yet to most its garbage until transformed.  Beach glass does not warrant a second look for most people who eye me suspiciously as I put another piece in my pocket.

Here in Curacao there is no formal recycling. We struggle with this as it feels wrong to throw away bottles. We have spent a good portion of our lives recycling bottles and receiving a small amount for our effort. It feels wrong to throw them away. Likely the bottles will eventually find their way from the garbage to a beach where it will be transformed into something beautiful. Someday someone will walk a beach, reach down and pick up a small part of that bottle, love the feel of it in their hand and touch the  power of the ocean, if only for a moment

Lost in Translation

via Daily Prompt: Translate

 

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We just returned from Curacao and though English is spoken, two other languages are also spoken, Dutch and Papiamento, the latter,  a creole language based on Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, and several African dialects. It is not difficult to find someone who speaks English and our ease of the English language has people asking if we are American.  They are pleased to discover we are Canadian. I mention to one person how lucky to be able to converse in a variety of languages. They respond with a smile, “But you speak English and as such there is no need.” Still, I fantasize about being able to speak the primary language of the country.

During the first few days we tour the island. Seemingly everywhere are signs that say, bushalte. I wonder what this could mean. An alternate route in the bush?  It makes no sense as no discernible route is visible. Perhaps it means to halt,  though if it does we would be stopping every few moments and clearly as we travel at highway speeds we are breaking the law.  I ask my husband if he can hazard a guess, he responds quick, “bus stop.” I look at him in a new light. As a child he travelled to Holland, his father was Dutch and in him lies a wealth of knowledge I didn’t know he possessed, my personal translator.

Wherever we go, I read the words, ignoring the English words, if they exist and then try to figure out what they might mean, before I check my understanding by reading the translation or asking my translator. In our two weeks I manage to pick up a few words, not bold enough to say them out loud, but gathering understanding by at least being able to read.  My husband, speaks a few words and to my ear with perfect pronunciation. My friend taught me a few words many years previous, useful words like zout, important if you don’t like your candy to be salty. I jump on this whenever I see it, excited to read with understanding. Vis means fish,  makes sense if you say it really fast. Rundvlees means beef which sounds like flesh, easy to remember  Kip means chicken but makes no sense as I think about kippers when I hear the word. It catches me unaware each time.

We go to the grocery store where the words are in Dutch. We are still jet lagged and the prospect of figuring out what the items might be behind their packaging is daunting. We buy fruit, vegetables, coffee, beer and non salty candy, the rest we save for another day.

We have learned a great deal as several days later we arrive at the grocery store with a dinner plan. We read the packaging, it seems clear compared to a few short days ago. Still, we are stumped when we find a prepared salad that looks like potato though has the word, rundvlees on its package. We can’t see any beef through the clear top. We search other packaging, perhaps it’s a typo?  We ask another customer who tries to explain, though something critical is lost in translation. My husband hopefully decides it’s bacon. Still, we opt for the single serving size as opposed to the jumbo family size, playing it safe.

Our favourite Dutch restaurant De buurfrauw has Dutch as its first language. They readily speak English to us though on our last visit the hostess mistakes me for Dutch and speaks to us in that tongue. She asks in Dutch if I have reservations, I respond, “Yes.”  She continues in Dutch asking for our name.  “Smit,” I respond moving me to the next level of conversation with my Dutch surname.  We are we now in uncharted territory having moved beyond social niceties. She says something, my look of confusion is mirrored on her face, as she quickly switches to English stumbling on the words, the conversation now formal, the magic of the moment lost.  I ponder how much I have just missed, how great the conversation could be if only I could speak the language.

I read the signs listing the specials. I notice Koffee en Smakje. This makes me wonder if it’s coffee with liquor, thinking to smack the coffee with liquor. Quickly I notice another sign with coffee and various liquor options, and conclude that this must be something different. I ask my husband who quickly responds that it’s coffee with a little taste. We order and I’m pleased to see a little treat on the plate next to the coffee. I take a bite, smack my lips. The word perfect, no translation required.

 

 

Christoff mountain Curacao

We decide to climb to the highest point on Curacao, Christoff Mountain. We are clearly in vacation mode and arrive at noon ready to climb. We are turned away as there is no climbing after 1100 am. We plan to try again tomorrow and content ourselves with information on the area.

We arrive early for us at 0900, pay the nominal fee to enter the park, peruse the map and drive to the base of the mountain. It is an interesting looking mountain with its pointy part at the top. We are informed it should take two hours to complete the climb one hour up and one hour down. This makes no sense to me as climbing down generally takes less time.  Still we are not on a schedule and we begin.

The trail starts gentle, clearly marked with sweet little rocks flanking the sides, it’s obvious. Too soon the sweet little rocks are absent replaced by large boulders that we step and sidestep on our ascent. Unseasonably, it has rained a great deal in the last few days and the trail is washed out in places, slippery in other places. Every few minutes we stop to determine our route. There are no gentle switchbacks just a relentless up. We walk out of the shade and clearly understand in this moment why no hiking is permitted after eleven. The sun beats down, taxing our sunscreen and sucking the moisture from our skin. I taste salt on my lips. We continue and stop frequently to catch our breath, take photos, check the time. Despite our vacation mode, our pride is at stake,  it’s important to complete the trek in the time suggested.SONY DSCSONY DSCSONY DSCimg_5430

The trail takes a turn for worse as we near the top. We meet others heading down who advise us the worst is yet to come. We are told to take the gentler left path at the top as the right is more challenging  I look around as I crawl on the boulders trying to find a safe ascent and think they must be exaggerating as it really couldn’t get much worse.  I do like the idea of a gentle path and push onward and upward, thinking of the moment when it becomes gentle.

I catch myself at times, as I reach out to hang on, luckily noticing at the last moment that I am reaching for a cactus.  I withdraw my hand quickly, saving certain pain.

SONY DSCWe arrive at the fork close to the top. The gentle path promised is really not a path but rather a series of boulders with sharp drop offs into oblivion. Perhaps this is where we make up the time lost by falling down the mountain to the bottom?  The other “path” seems a bit of a stretch to call it thus, is a collection of boulders with no navigational route, save for the fast route to the bottom of the mountain. We stand for seemingly forever, collecting our breath, thoughts, and courage before scrambling the last 50 feet to the top.

We arrive and are treated to a birds eye view of the island.  The Caribbean sea beckons in the far distance. There are few places to rest so we perch and rotate to take in the beauty. We are not alone. Young girls have brought music adding to the festivities. A man makes a phone call, speaking rapidly in foreign tongue, though his excitement transcends barriers. Another man sits quietly, serene and seemingly contemplates life. We take selfies, then proper photos, then just chill, taking in the moment and recording it in our minds. I think about Kilimanjaro just a few years ago and compare. This trek just a few hours, Kilimanjaro was days. This time altitude is not an issue as we are just 1220 feet above sea level,  not 19, 340 feet.  Kilimanjaro was cold, this is hot.  The path to Kili was gentler overall, this trek is much like the boulder area just before Gilmans. I decide that they really can’t be compared except for two commonalities, the view and sense of accomplishment. I think of this as I marvel at what we have just accomplished, snapping off more pictures in my mind to keep and reminisce when I’m too old to climb.

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We begin the trek down, barely stopping though mindful of every step. We arrive at our car and look back at the mountain. It looks different to me from just a few short hours ago. I shield my eyes from the sun and look to the top marvelling that we stood there just a short hour ago. No, the mountain is the same, it is me that has changed.

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Klein Curacao

We set our alarm and wake in the dark for our long journey to the other side of the island. We leave ourselves extra time for getting lost and found. Soon we are in a snarl of traffic,inch  worming our way as locals dart in and out jumping the queue aggressively jockeying for position. The clock tocks, our extra time bitten away as we stand still. We worry we will miss our sailing time, though there is nothing to do but inch along. 

We arrive at the dock, frazzled and late, though have forgotten to factor in “island time,” as we chill waiting for our departure. Our boat is a catamaran, the crew personable. We see flying fish, they are startled by the boat as it jumps the waves and they fly several meters before crashing into the waves 
Klein Curacao or little Curacao, an island some 30 nautical miles from Curacao. It is uninhabited though a few structures exist for fisherman and day trippers from Curacao. The water is calm where we dock though the other side of the island the water beats aggressively against the rocks, its shores littered with boats who lost the battle against the sea. There are locals, Joe the turtle who swims around the catamaran, his daily work and a dog named bikini who unties string bikinis adding an aerobic factor for tourists. 


The Island, historically was part of the slave trade, where sick slaves were quarantined before coming to Curacao proper. I think of this time and imagine the horror of their travel to arrive at this 1.7 km island. What must they have thought? There are many that are buried on the island, their final stop. It is a dark history. 

We have a choice of snorkelling to the beach or arriving in style in a boat. We opt for the latter.  The boat ride is quick We disembark into the sea and cross the coral to arrive, our feet sinking into the thick sand. The water is beautiful, every colour of blue represented. We snorkel lazily in our search for fish, our efforts rewarded immediately. 


We set out to explore the island. We walk to an abandoned lighthouse and marvel that the dilapidated structure can be explored further. There are no signs, no fences, though we are sharper for the lack. We cross on a narrow board suspended between two sections, and carefully make our way. The drop wouldn’t kill us, though it would hurt a great deal. We climb to the top of the lighthouse and view the island, spying shipwrecks in the distance. 

We walk to the nearby shipwrecks and wonder of the day when they docked here permanently. There is much garbage strewn, likely from the wrecks, though the volume added by tourists. It is a shame.


We return,the remainder of the day has a routine. Snorkel,dry off and repeat.


Our trip back is under sail, the ride gentle rocking us to rest.  As we near Curacao, the sky opens up and we are soaked arriving on the dock like drowned sewer rats. Shivering we get back in our car, turn the heat on and begin our long crawl back. Rush hour traffic has waited for our return.