England, Sweet England: Staying in His Home-country (Part II Overview)

It was noon in a small airport when Andy and I missed our plane.  Don’t ask me how, don’t ask Andy how — All we know is that we were sitting in our gate and therefore watching our plane take off . . .

That was the start of our second trip to England together as we waited over the next five hours for our rescheduled layover to Ireland with flashbacks of our recent and eternal thirteen-hour layover to the Galápagos haunting our minds.
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A tiny balding Sheltie trailed the ankles of a young woman.  They passed our seats and passed again until both stopped beside us then settled into the last remaining place next to Andy.  We began to talk, as strangers do when waits stretch ahead, elongated.

“She’s been through chemotherapy three times,” the woman told us.  Her voice was a hypnotic whisper that seemed to mesmerized her dog, along with us as we leaned towards her for more.  “She’s my therapy dog but in actuality, I think we saved each other” . . .

Later, when Andy and I finally got onto our plane and settled into our seats, we nestled into each other, exhausted before our trip even began.  The entire way to England, I found myself thinking of what this woman said, thinking about those that come into our lives and find a way to, unknowingly, save us . . .

* * *

Day One: Sheffield

My Yorkshireman aimed to accomplish much the day we arrived in England so our suitcases were tossed aside and we immediately took off to pub-hop before an Indian meal.  Seek and find more on tour of Sheffield through pubs . . .
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Day Two: Castleton and Derwent Valley

Andy and I slept in, which allowed us to gain energy to explore Castleton.  Here a castle and caverns overlook a picture-perfect English village.  Seek and find more on our Castleton visit.
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After, we pulled into a park with trails leading to Lady Bower Reservoir and Derwent Reservoir. A short walk took us up to a gothic-style damn then through one of the Peak District’s old forests.  [Read More]
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Day Three: Cleethorpes

Day Three welcomed a search for a good fish and chips shop, which brought us to none other than the seaside town of Cleethorpes.  Seek and find more on our Cleethorpes wanderings.
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Day Four Through Six: Windermere and Attempting England’s Helvellyn Mountain

I have never seen a more beautiful area.  Situated in the Lake District, Windermere got its name due to the large Windermere Lake.  It was foggy and misty when we arrived, which added to its charm.
IMG_4650Once in the tiny town, we ambled along the sidewalks, window shopping and stopping for bites to eat.  Seek and find more on our trip to the lovely town of Windermere . . .
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I’d be lying though if I said the reason we were in Windermere was to wander along sidewalks.  The truth is our trip was centered around hiking one of Britain’s top-rated most dangerous mountains: Helvellyn.
IMG_4924Here, a knife-point ridge dips up and down so that even one small error would mean a thousand-foot cliff drop to the left or right.
IMG_4945IMG_4961The word ‘intense’ does not even scratch the surface, which means — if you know us by now — there’s of course a trail story filled with eagerness, sweat, emotion, fear, anger, and joy.  Oh, and there’s also blood and goat shit.  So for more on that pleasureable read, seek and find more on Helvellyn . . .

 

 

Day Seven: York and Sheffield

Train tickets purchased, York events determined and we were off!  Andy has been avid to get me to York since first speaking of England, saying, “We must go — You’ll love it.”  I was sold too, and how could I not be?  He speaks about the Viking history, the best tearoom, the Gothic architecture, and more . . .   

Somehow though, York is never in the cards for us together.  Our first trip resulted in two booked train tickets never to be used because I became ill suddenly and this time, our plans continued to be thwarted.

Sure, we boarded the train for our short hour-ride.  And sure, we traveled most of the distance there . . . before our train suddenly stopped.  Raindrops began to slide down the window.

“Something has happened,” I told Andy.  I could feel it in my bones and trust me, my bones don’t lie: I’ve managed into enough crazy predicaments by now to know.

“It’s fine, you need to relax,” he retorted.
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So I bit my tongue as time passed on an unmoving train until, finally, the conductor announced an earlier lightning strike resulted in a massive communication shutdown for all trains in York.  Flashbacks of our Galapagos lost-at-sea yacht trip that happened mere days earlier entered my mind before Andy interrupted.

“Are you serious?!”  He was shocked — eyes wide, mouth agape.  It was as if he truly couldn’t believe an event like this could actually happen.  (Bless him.  I would have thought that by now, he has realized if it can happen, it will happen with me.)

So Four long hours later, we and about twenty others were still on our halted train.  Because York is a massive city, the conductor was essentially stuck and other trains were essentially piling up.  That’s when the conductor determined the best way out was to go to the back of the train and operate it essentially in reverse.

“It will be five minutes to the next train station,” he told us calmly.  Oh but those five minutes turned into two hours because the platforms were packed and had to be cleared.

Long wait after long wait, we eventually make it off the train and into sheer madness — over half of the trains were either delayed or cancelled while others were reported as being on time but those trains never arrived and the board never updated.  No one knew how to leave.  “Buses will be packed,” people said.  “Taxis will be too costly to take home,” people mumbled.  “But the trains aren’t moving.”  There was confusion.  There was frustration.  There was gloom.

Time passed again as people watched the few trains that entered the station.  “Where’s that going?!” they asked, grouping around rail staff.  “Sheffield,” one of them answered so we sprinted to it, unsure of when it would leave.  According to the board, it should have left that minute, which would leave us with a thirty minute ride back to Andrew’s hometown . . . but that half and hour travel-time turned out to be half an hour of sitting-time as the train refused to budge.  Then, at long last we were moving back in Sheffield.

Needless to say following an exhausting day of going nowhere, we welcomed relaxation.

“Andy, can we just roam in your city?” I asked, knowing he wasn’t going to be persuaded easily.  He has never been fond of showing off Sheff to me but after our failed plans, he had little argument to uphold so with a shrug of his shoulders, we ambled through his city and you know what?  He actually enjoyed it.  [Read More]
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Day Eight

This day brought us to the reason we came back to England: One of Andrew’s best friends was getting married!  It was here I quickly learned English weddings are the most amazing event.  Bless Americans’ hearts, we think we know how to party but you have no idea until you’ve been invited to an English wedding.  Here’s more on

  • Twelve-hour incredible wedding ✔️
  • Pimms at the start of the reception ✔️
    Side note: Americans don’t get Pimms and it was beyond delicious.  This is my reaction when I took my first sip.
    20180728_143331.jpgIf I remember correctly, I think I drew in a massive inhale before explaining “What IS this drink!” then downing it and requesting another” so . . .
  • Another cheeky Pimms ✔️
  • Speeches with champagne and beers ✔️
  • What I’ll call ‘beyond-hors d’oeuvres’, meaning gigantic amounts of yummy cheeses, meats, olives, sundried tomatoes, breads, crisps, and more heaped at every table ✔️
  • Replishment of hors d’oeuvers because well, why not? ✔️
  • More drinks — Since the reception was in a super posh pub, it would be rude not too . . . ✔️
  • English desserts (Pause here: Victoria Sponge, We hadn’t met.  But I love you.) ✔️
  • Did I already say drinks? ✔️
  • And dancing hour after hour after hour… ✔️

(Note to Dan and Sarah: Thank you for allowing us in on your special day! The biggest congratulations again!)

 

 

Day Nine and Ten

Our story ends here with our last days spent with Andrew’s family and friends .  .  .

I got the opportunity to meet his beautiful sisters and their sweet husbands and children.  This is also where conversation was opened this way: “How do you feel about President Donald Trump?”  Here, Andrew and I found we were discussing politics — in a legitimate conversation — with a ten year old that not only wanted to know our thoughts but had educated information to back-up his feelings on the matter too.  Meanwhile, the youngest — who was one years old — looked on with a smile and remained the entire afternoon both the happiest and calmest little girl I’ve ever met or seen.  It all was remarkable and I was overjoyed to spend time with them.

After, we popped over to his best friends’ house where the parents of his friend also welcomed Andrew home.  There was wine and snacks and great conversation and, in truth, I found myself blissfully melting into the sofa, not wanting to leave.

“Have you been to America?” I asked the parents.

“Yes, but I don’t know if we would go back.  I found the people to be . . . ” and the father hesitated, as if worried he would offend me ” . . . unfriendly and rushed.”

“Oh no, what state were you in?” I already knew his answer.

“New York,” he told me and I couldn’t contain my laughter before explaining the South has a completely different lifestyle.

“That’s now how it is in the South — that’s where I’m from.  There’s a lot of slow walkin’ and slower talkin’ — which aggravates many people and would probably aggravate those from London, for example.  But in the South, people would invite strangers onto their front porches swings for a chat and give them sweet tea.  There’s long talks and hugs and the words ‘honey’ and ‘darlin’ and lots of ‘y’alls’ — ”

“Do people really say that?” he asked, astonished then tested out the word himself.  “Y-all?”

“Oh yeah!  We say it all the time!  ‘Missed y’all so much!  Give me a hug!’ — That type of thing!”

“Well that’s wonderful new to hear!  We were so worried — You’ve completely changed my mind!” he told me, relieved.

I smiled.  Bless his heart, I thought, imagining all Americans as identical to those in New York.  I was happy to set the story straight — give the English faith in America through stereotypes — and I felt proud to represent the more welcoming southern-half.

Speaking of culture fuss — Our last evening had us at the pub for a few cheeky beers with his best friends.  Here, one of his oldest mates — who I had never met before — introduced himself then, directly after, questioned, “So do Americans really carry their groceries in paper bags?  And do they really not pay for the bags?!”

The conversation hinged on my answer as he waited with bated breath and anticipation.  “Of course we use paper bags — They are more environmentally friendly.  And hell no, Americans wouldn’t pay for their bags.  That’s crazy — You British tax your citizens for everything.”

There was a moment of astonishment then uproar-laughter.  Apparently the English see Americans toting paper bags with groceries in movies and shows, and they find it unbelievable.  This was hilarious and I knew from that moment, we would get along just fine.

Soon though, Andrew and I were on a plane headed back to America, our time in his home country in the past again.

It is strange how this trip felt different than our first — maybe it was because of the different places we went or the different people we were fortunate to spent our time.  But the trip also made me feel differently too: I felt American . . .

Rarely are we aware of our nationality — It is a part of our identity, one we did not choose and one we do not make a conscious decision to be daily.  But on the flight back, I felt aware and proud of being American — proud of being from the South with friendly, welcoming people, proud to call the States my home.  So that when we did get home to our little apartment, we were greeted with our pup who scratched and licked us and our kitten who ran to greet us before begging to be picked up and kissed — that I thought it felt good to be home.  It felt good to exist in that moment but also have a dramatically different home in another country that isn’t so far away.


Scuba Diving off the Coast of Isla Seymour Punta, Islas Galápagos

Our last two dives in the Islas Galápagos were here before we knew it.  Returning to diving company Scuba Iguana, we headed this time to Isla Seymour Punta and Isla Gordon, which I was extremely grateful for because it meant a dramatically shorter boat ride of about forty-five minutes.  However, this dive was not without reservations — It was more advanced, mainly Gordon which was known for extremely strong currents.  The divers in our group here had over fifty dives, others had surpassed 100, and still more had given up logging because they had been on so many that they had lost count.  At the time, Andy and I had a whopping record of six and seven.

Fear not! I told myself because the instructors (different from before) knew our level and said we would take it slow (probably afterhearing rumors of my life on the seas from the previous dive).  Our dive group too was fine with this — a woman from Texas, a man from Japan that had immigrated to Peru as a child, a man from Norway, and a woman from Australia that had immigrated to Virginia.  All of this made me happy but what made me more excited was the fact that I never chundered off the side of the boat so I actually made friends!  A sheer miracle!  Added bonuses: When we arrived to the site, both Andy and I were able to get into the water and — for the most part — go down without any problems.  Andy had been given a larger air tank too so that we could all stay under longer on, what would be, his and my deepest dive (nineteen meters/sixty-two feet).

NOVATEK CAMERADown, down we went and I held Andy’s hand.  This isn’t an action we have to do out of necessity but instead one we chose to do so that it is easier and faster to point out animals to one another.

Swimming, swimming, swimming we passed large schools of fish until we reached the bottom.
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We are doing it! I thought.  We are diving!  We are divers! and right as I started to get confidence, feel comfortable — content — underwater, an instructor comes in front of us and directs us to let go of one another’s hands.  Confused, we did as directed but that didn’t seem to be enough.  Possibly he thought we were holding hands due to fear or lack of diving talent, so he promptly took my hand and motioned for the other instructor to take Andy’s because Andy was apparently guilty by association.

Confidence shattered, this is how the rest of our dive went.

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Me with the instructor

I still don’t understand why I had to have my hand held — not that I’m complaining because, again, I got my own personal dive expert.  But we were doing well before — We were keeping up with our group, we were looking where directed, we were responding immediately to questions, we weren’t focusing much on photography — we looked and felt like actual divers.

Regardless, onward we roamed underwater — hand-in-hand with our instructors — and that’s when we find this extraordinary site: a school of five white-tipped sharks.
NOVATEK CAMERANOVATEK CAMERAThe sharks were about four feet long and were sleeping in a cave together, resting on top of one another.  When they saw us, they became nervous and scared, swimming in circles within the cave.
NOVATEK CAMERAI’ll never be able to express the amount of absolute joy I felt looking at those sharks.  I got into diving to be able to see wonders like this, to be able to see sharks — calm, shy creatures and not the man-eating machines Hollywood has made them out to be.  And here they were, right before my eyes!

I could have stayed looking at the sharks until my air tank ran low but our instructors urged the group on and so we passed numerous large starfish and more schools of fish that were bright yellow and blue, others stripped like zebras . . .

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This picture alone has at least eight starfish!

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Deeper still we dove with the goal of seeing larger sharks.  It was around this time the instructor let go of my hand and went to point out some type of coral opening and closing on the rocks.  “Stay here,” he directed with his hands, “and do not move!” so I waited, patient, as he showed each diver the coral.
NOVATEK CAMERASoon the instructor returned, swimming back towards me and ready to take my hand.  That’s when I watched as his eyes suddenly went wide, as he pointed directly below me.  Nervous, I glanced down and found a large five-foot shark a few feet under my fins.
NOVATEK CAMERAThe white-tipped reef shark was easily as big as me and it immediately garnered attention from the other divers who wanted a look, such as this idiot who ignored the two meter rule and continued to get a closer shot with a GoPro.
NOVATEK CAMERAThe instructor began to rapidly tap his tank with a piece of metal in his hand.  “Click!  Click!  Click!” the sound echoed, loud, through the ocean until the diver realized the warning to swim away.  Eager to move on and leave the shark alone, we continued to what is called the “Cleaning Station” where the fish cleanse each other by eating parasites off each other’s scales.
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With the dive nearing an end, we swam a bit more, seeing schools of cornetfish, parrot fish, trigger fish, and more.
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Before we realized it, it was time to go to the top so Andy and I made our way to the top with an instructor.  We had run out of air before the others so at the surface we waited . . . and waited . . . and waited for the boat, which was not in sight.  Our instructor continued to whistle and whistle again, loud and shrill, to get the captain’s attention but still no sign of the boat as we floated, bobbing in the water.  I’ll say here, I’m not scared of the ocean or animals inside . . . until if I am bobbing at the surface of water.  The image of Jaws — the first movie cover — with the massive great white racing straight up under an unsuspecting swimming woman appears in my head each time.  Truth be told that movie cover alone terrified me so much that I could never watch the movie or even look at the movie cover a second time.  So here, at the surface of the water like that swimming woman, I began to panic.  Inside my head I knew there were no great whites in the Galápagos.  Inside my head I knew I had just witnessed sharks, calm and far from aggressive, but still I was overcome with dread and fear.  I heard our instructor whistle again and again, and I thought This is how it feels to be lost at sea — the fear, the worry, the — and finally our boat was in sight!NOVATEK CAMERAQuickly climbing aboard, we waited while the other divers surfaced and got inside.

In the end, we did not go on the second dive this day.  I regret not going on this one too, but at the time I wanted to end diving on a high note: I hadn’t been sick, I hadn’t dry heaved, I had actually enjoyed myself.  I didn’t want to risk it.  Not only that, but the last dive was advanced so much so the instructors earlier informed us that we may not qualify for it due to lack of experience.  True, they said they did feel confident we could go but Andy and I agreed it was for the best to end ahead.  So at our instructor’s suggestion, the captain dropped us off at a dock where we got a taxi back.

“To the Red Mangrove,” we told a man herding taxi driver.  He pointed to a taxi and we got inside.

“Mangle rojo?” Our taxi driver had rolled down his window and was questioning other drivers, a look of confusion on his face.  Mangle rojo – What is that? I asked myself. Okay, ‘rojo’ means ‘red’ so what’s ‘mangle’? I silently worked to figure out the Spanish.  Mangle. Mangle.  Mangrove!  That’s when it dawned on me our driver was trying to confirm where we were headed. “Mangle rojo?” he asked again but no one looked at him.

“Si! I said in my head.  Si, Mangle rojo!” 

“Mangle rojo?!” he shouted until someone turned and confirmed.

“Si, mangle rojo” I heard a voice echo my thoughts and off we zoomed from the sea.

That was my one shot at speaking Spanish — at not only understanding but communicating in regular conversation — and that shot slipped from my grasp, opportunity missed.

When we returned to the dive shop later that day to log our dive, we learned the one we did not go on was the most incredible of all — Hammerheads, a school of about fifteen adult hammerheads, swam above and below our dive group.  Hammerheads — the ones I had traveled all this way to see — now gone.  While I know it was for the best, damn do I regret missing that dive the most . . .


Scuba Diving off the Coast of Isla Floreana, Islas Galápagos

The moment Andy’s alarm clock went off, we knew it was the day we had been anticipating, the reason we were in the Islas Galapagos: We were going scuba diving!

Dressing quickly, we shot down to our resort’s restaurant where various yogurts, granola, fruits, breads, and more were splayed out for breakfast.IMG_3721.jpgOnce again we saw the deck scattered with lazy iguanas.
IMG_3797IMG_3813.jpgIMG_3764IMG_3765Below, the crabs continued to scramble on the rocks . . .

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I love this because there is a yellow-orange crab, a blue-grey one, and a bright and dark red too.

IMG_3807Meanwhile, pelicans landed on tiny posts above the dock . . .IMG_3740
while a family of large puffer fish swam in the sea.
IMG_3801IMG_3802 (2)IMG_3799We also found more sea lions sleeping on the dock . . .IMG_3811IMG_3810IMG_3809

Shortly after eating, we headed a block down to Scuba Iguana to take on our first two of six dives.  Earlier, we were fitted for our wet suits and equipment so that we could immediately head out with our group of eight divers.
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The Galápagos is a marine reserve, meaning it is a protected marine area.  This is important because the world’s marine reserves are tiny: In 2007, reportedly less than one percent of the world’s oceans were protected; in 2015, only four percent.  The Galápagos alone has the second largest marine reserve in the world, with Australia’s Great Barrier Reef taking first place.

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Santa Cruz is the island in the middle with the image of a red bird on it and a giant tortoise to the south-west side.  Floreana is directly below.

Because the sea is protected, there are rules and regulations to minimize impact to the environment, such as only small groups of scuba divers and snorkelers can visit one area in two to four hour shifts.  With this in mind, most diving companies travel to two dive spots a day.  In our case, our first dive was outside Isla Floreana, the farthest we would travel from Santa Cruz (where we stayed).

This two-hour boat ride would bring us to an area where sea lions roamed.  “You don’t have to search for animals in the Galápagos,” everyone said to us.  “They find you.”  Our dive instructors spoke of how the animals were curious and friendly, lightly nibbling on divers’ fins and swimming so close they could be felt slipping past. To say Andy and I were excited and overwhelmed was an understatement — It felt more like an out-of-body experience, an opportunity I couldn’t imagine having.

Unfortunately what was also overwhelming was my seasickness.  The waters were rough as soon as we got into our boat and sped across the sea.
20180625_090336Up and down we splashed and jerked, making my increased dosage of Dramamine unable to compete.  This means those pleasant diver introductions — as in “Hi, my name is Andy, and I’m from England but recently immigrated to America” — I was not able to partake.  I didn’t have a chance to even pretend to be super cool and hip because five minutes in, I was throwing up off the side of the boat.

“Move here,” the instructors encouraged, gathering my helpless body and taking me to the end of the boat, which — for all curious, let me save you now — is supposedly the best place to sit if you’re seasick. True, it was better than anywhere else but due to the choppy conditions and boat’s speed, I was doomed.  I threw up again . . . and again . . . and again . . . and — here, let me shorten this: I threw up the entire two hours there.  Honestly and truly.  And (I’m going to spoil this climactic ending for you) the entire two hours back.  Well, I guess I didn’t technically ‘throw up’ the entire two hours back because at one point, I had finally emptied my stomach so I non-stop dry heaved the last hour back.  Listen, I’ve been sick before — carsick, airsick, seasick, you name it — but this was beyond any realm of reality.  As Andy — baffled — tells people, “I honestly have no idea how to describe it.  I’ve never seen anyone quite so sick.”

This also means I made zero friends on the trip.  Those trendy tattooed Danish best friends I wanted to talk to — nope, not a chance.  The Spanish family and friends of four — never.  Oh but there was that couple from Colorado — forget it.  Meanwhile, I heard my socialite fiance flourish without me.  As I retched beside the motor, he was the center of attention.  Bits of his conversation would make its way to my ears, such as “Does she need help?” the concerned and sweet Colorado female asked Andy.  “No.  Trust me,” he answered.  “She would much rather me stay over here.”  He was right too.  As I tried to listen — to be somewhat involved — I was grateful that there was not someone next to me, rubbing my back as I continued to vomit.  Let’s be honest, I had embarrassed myself enough already from afar; I didn’t need a close-up audience too.  “Well, at least she’s feeding the birds.  Circle of life and everything,” the Colorado female’s husband piped in as I spewed more ‘food’ into the ocean.  Actually, I believe that bout was when I threw up on the sleeve of someone’s wetsuit before flinging myself closer to the ocean to chunder again.  It was a disaster.  I was a disaster.

The good news: After growing up with this type of sickness, I’ve learned to be an ultra-quiet vomitter so beyond knowing I was sick, no one could actually hear me.  What I’m trying to say is that I didn’t entirely ruin the ambiance of the boat ride.  Plus every time I chucked it over the edge, I passed out in a coma-like state so it’s not as if my actions were desiring attention.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s a glimpse of me in all of my glory.
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This is around when — in a stage of unconsciousness — Andy later said people on the boat became highly concerned over me.  True, I was shaking so severely it appeared I was having convulsions and then I went from my normal color to an absolute white to a deep blue.  People tried to help but sadly I was past a point of politeness — They asked if I wanted something to eat, which I uttered a definite no.  The captain gave me a cup of water, which I immediately handed to a nearby man (who, bless his heart, had my water slosh all over him in his attempted to keep it steady).  Even Andy came briefly to sit next to me, but in my gratitude all I could manage was leaning into him before puking again.  I did try to utter the most sincere appreciation though when a Spanish woman offered me her jacket and buff (to wear on my head) to keep me warm; however, my “thank you” came out sounding like the dying noise of “Uhhhhhh-uhhhhhh.” This is essentially how the two hour trip to Isla Floreana went.

Emotionally (and let’s face it — physically), all felt ruined as I was struggling to survive.  Here’s how much this dive was overthrown by my sickness: I didn’t even care when someone saw a dolphin leap out of the water in the distance.  And I was still beyond caring when — right as we arrived to our dive and our boat’s engine was cut off — the captain continued my agony by turning the boat’s engine back on to zoom-zoom out to catch the dolphin.
20180625_110637As we raced, we found an incredible pod of about twenty dolphins, and they surged out of the water, many jumping trick-style mere feet from the boat.
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I tried to look, I did, but every time I peered into their sweet little eyes, I threw up again — this time in the small space between boat and dolphin — and to be honest, that’s not how I envisioned meeting a wild dolphin for the first time.  But everyone else was elated, as they should have been of course, so we zoom-zoom-zoomed in circles for at least half an hour, chasing this pod while I tried to remain conscious.
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Slowly the dolphins began to disappear so slowly we turned back to Floreana, where the boat’s motor was cut off once more.20180625_103100

“Normally it feels better to go into the water,” people chimed, though their voices had doubt because, let’s face it, I was in fact the sickest person anyone had ever witnessed.  But I’ve been in this situation before when people — who have never even remotely been in the same situation — feel their advice will help.  Regardless, I agreed because it was clear being on the boat was fatal so I tried to stand . . . and failed . . . and tried again . . . and failed, causing me to take my final action: begged Andy to help me.  “Canuhhhhh youuuuhhhhh pleashhhhhhhh ggghhhelpppp mmme?” I tried and he looked at me as if I appeared the way I felt.  Somehow he came around and perfectly translated my sentence to be “Please find a way to get my body into the wet suit and please get me in my diving equipment after please checking over it because I’m trusting you with my life right now.”  Listen, I know in our scuba diving certification courses one aspect most important is checking over your own gear, but I had given in to the idea that if I died underwater in a scuba diving mishap that was entirely better than what I had been through . . . or would go through on the way home.  Let fate have its way.

And bless my fiance’s heart — He did just that.  He helped find my fins, boots, and mask.  He miraculously got me into my wet suit.  He helped me put on my fins, boots, and mask.  He checked my equipment and assisted in getting me into it too.  I’m saying the only way to put this is in an understatement: The man is a saint.

Finally I was ready.  “We are going to flip backward off the boat,” one of our instructors said.  “On a count to three — One . . . two . . . ”  Wait! I thought.  I’m not ready!  My mask is slipping down my face.  I’m not positive I’m even in the right stance — “and THREE!” the instructor shouted.  Screw it, I thought.  I’m already a world of problems.  What more can happen? and over I flung myself over because I simply wanted off that Godforsaken boat.

I wish I could say my diving mishaps end there, but it is only beginning . . .

In the water, all of us floated until we received the command to go under from our instructor.  I was beginning to find a bit of positivity — Maybe I would be alright — when I felt my flipper come off my foot.  Sinking, sinking, sinking quickly with the weight of a super heavy air tank and weights, I scanned to find my flipper when out of the blue our instructor appeared and shoved the flipper back onto my foot.  Together, we continued down but because I had dropped so quickly and so fast my left ear felt swollen and the pain was incredible.  I motioned to the instructor that I had to go back up so up we went, pausing every so often to see if I was okay.  “Nope,” I’d motion in scuba-language.  “Up more” so we continued up still when — yep, this has to happen to me — I lost my flipper a second time.  Let me interject and say I did try damned flippers on beforehand and they fit really snugly; the instructor even checked and noticed, as I did, that they fit snugly.  So I’m sinking again and the instructor is finding my flipper again and jamming it back onto my foot again and we are swimming up again because my ear hurts again.  Meanwhile, the rest of my dive group is apparently sitting on the ocean floor waiting and staring at me . . .
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To make this long story short, I lost my flipper a total of four times so it took me a crazy-long amount of time to even get below the water comfortably.  But — the positive — I did have my own diving instructor, who by now thought I was a liability so he held my hand the entire dive.  Literally held my hand.

At first I was embarrassed by this.  Here I was with people that have logged over fifty dives, beyond 100, and I am clearly the newbie having my hand held because I was struggling to even go under the water’s surface.  Again, at first that embarrassed me.  But by now I was so worn out having thrown up for two hours straight and having sank due to flipper-loss multiple times that I really didn’t care if my hand was held or even if a “This woman is going to kill herself diving and I’m not responsible” sign was attached to me.  Little mattered at this point . . . which is sad because while I was floundering, my dive group had moved on — aware that they could not wait for me forever — to performing safety skills, such as how to clear their masks and how to recover their respirators.  Skills critical with new dive companies.  However, did I have to prove these life-essential diving skills?  Nope!  Because remember, I was having my hand held.  There wasn’t much I could fuck up at this point with my personal instructor making sure I survived.

Meanwhile, all was apparently wonderful below!  Here’s what they saw, courtesy Andy and his underwater camera.  Schools of fish — many different types — apparently swimming together and sea lions slowly approaching.
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Of course I use the word “apparently” because I didn’t witness any of this.  Don’t believe me?  These pictures are in chronological order and yep, there’s me . . . trying to get deeper but still at the top of the damn water with — take note — my hand held.
NOVATEK CAMERABelow, Andy got so tired of waiting for me that he continued taking pictures — pictures not only of the amazing animals but also of himself because, as he says, “You weren’t around to do that for me.”
NOVATEK CAMERAMeanwhile, sea lions still whirled by doing as we were told: They lightly nibbled on fins and even brushed against divers to be touched.
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My instructor then dropped me off — literally — by letting go of my hand and making a movement with his arms that said, “STOP!  Do not DARE move from this point!” as he went off to, well, instruct.  (I suppose he couldn’t be my personal guide the entire time.)NOVATEK CAMERA

My instructor did return to hold my hand again because of course he would — I was a lawsuit waiting to happen.  It was here I realized I not only had my own personal instructor but I had my own guide.  While the others were swimming who knows where behind us, I was now the leader with him!  I should have been concerned where Andy was, but honestly one, I clearly had enough problems of my own and two, he had survived this far without me so I continued on as commander!  I pointed out every animal that passed — Massive school of fish, there!NOVATEK CAMERAGreat big fish following me, there!NOVATEK CAMERAIt was wonderful, I felt large and in charge . . . until there went Andy, going up to the surface with our other instructor and I see him with the instructor’s back-up regulator in his mouth.  In essence, we are opposites when it comes to diving: I can barely get myself down but when I am finally near the bottom, I am calm, barely moving, under control.  Andy, on the other hand, is a rock star at dropping but once he is at the bottom, his arms flail at his sides.  He tells me it is because he feels he isn’t in control but this energy uses a large amount of oxygen.

In the end, as Andy went up one of two things happened:
1. My photographer disappeared so there are zero pictures of me — for the first time this day — looking in control and like an actual scuba diver.
2. The moment I became confident, comfortable and dare I say happy, our group had to return to the top because when one person is up without air, the rest follow.
I know, I shouldn’t harbor ill feelings towards Andrew.  After all, he was my caretaker and rescued me more times than I can count.  (This, dear friends, is one of many examples to come . . . )

And here, I’ll say again I wish the story of our first Galápagos dive ended there but that’s apparently not our style.  The moment I stepped on the boat was the moment I ran back to my little corner and began to vomit once more.  And more.  And more.  And . . . you get the picture.  Meanwhile, the other divers were surfacing and sitting down to prepare for the boat to take off for our second dive location. Instead of gathering my supplies, I began to drunkenly shed them, moaning at each attempt to get off my wetsuit.

“Aren’t you going on the second dive?” the instructors asked me.  Andy asked me.  The other divers asked me.  But I was through — I was exhausted, shaking violently, struggling to stay awake, and still vomiting.  Even if the ocean provided a type of reprieve from seasickness, trust me — at this state, it was not going to be enough.

“Hey, I won’t go either,” Andy told me, trying to hold my hand as I continued dry heaving.  But that was absurd — We were here, he was able to dive, he needed to go.  This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“Take pictures while you’re under!” I tried to call to him as I moved to the other end of the boat to curl up on a cushioned seat to sleep.  Before he had leapt into the water, I was already gone.
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In truth, I have no idea how long they dove.  With the captain and first mate talking quietly in Spanish and the boat in an area of still water, I was lulled into a deep sleep, waking only for a matter of seconds when I felt blankets placed on top of me and tucked into my sides.

At some point the divers resurfaced and I was ushered back to my vomit-station-of-quarantine while lunch was served.

“Does she want food?” they asked.

“Definitely no,” Andy told them, which I was thankful for as the start of the engine and movement refueled my body’s desire to vomit.

“Do you want lunch?” they asked him.

“No, thank you,” I heard him say from the other side of the boat at the same time food was brought out.  Then I heard pounding footsteps.  Then I felt someone next to me.  And then I heard Andy, explosive-vomitting over the side of the boat, retching and throwing up with such force and noise, I looked into the water to see if he had spewed his insides.  Two times he heaved so fiercely and loudly that he, too, collapsed next to me, exhausted. 

Leaving Floreana, leaving bits of ourselves to feed the sea creatures, and leaving our dignity behind, that — my readers — is how our fellow divers ate their lunch and how we will be remembered.  The sound of Andy snoring loudly after losing his internals to the sea and the sound of me, still throwing up for another hour until my body dry heaved the last sixty minutes back to Santa Cruz, where — only until we were within sight of the island — did we both sit up to maybe, kind of, sort of,  somewhat smile.NOVATEK CAMERA

Returning to our resort, I fought back the urge to throw up again as our room spun violently.  Surrounded in a blur of colors, I collapsed onto the bed and fell asleep once more.

In the conclusion, I had such high hopes for this day — Diving was, after all, the reason we went to Galapagos: To dive with sea lions.  To see sharks.  To see a schools of hammerheads.  That was our goal so when I woke, I was filled with sadness.

“I cannot do the dive tomorrow,” I told Andy, unable to stand straight and falling as the room spun.  “Even if I feel better in the morning, I honestly worry how it will affect my health.  I don’t want to risk other things we have planned.  I think I need to cancel tomorrow’s dive and aim to dive again Thursday.”  Tomorrow’s dive was at Isla North Seymour and Mosquera, spots known to have sharks, schools of large fish, eagle rays,  eels, turtles, and more.

Agreeing it was best, Andy ended up cancelling his dive too due to the fact that it was with a different dive company so he would have to repeat trying on equipment and doing safety procedures in the water.  “I’d rather explore Santa Cruz with you,” he rationalized.

Walking to the restaurant, we ordered dinner until I swayed so much that I fell onto the table, until the smell of our food had me nauseous again and here I ran to our room to fall asleep again in bed.  It was 7:00 p.m. and I had left Andrew to eat dinner alone at an ocean-edge candlelight table for two.



Sloth Cuddling, Monkey Playing, and Bird Hand-feeding in Roatán

Choosing not to do the shark dive allowed for an extra day to open before us, which meant one last debt to be paid:  Hours-long fishing venture, check.  Now was the event Andy was most enthused about and also most testing me on: petting a sloth.

Anyone that knows me probably just did a deep inhale at the aspect of me petting a sloth.  For those that do not, let me say here that I don’t care for the animal.  They are actually the only animal in this world I have no desire to pet, touch, look at, or even go near.  They have Little Head Disease and these uber creepy smiles that never move with their unblinking piercing little black eyes.  Oh and their legs are even worse!  DOUBLE their body lengths and they stretch-streeetch-stretch their limbs out as if with a desire to slow-murder you due to their disgustingly long, thick nails.  Maybe they should have ears?  Or a tail?  Or something because they just seem this wiry slow-moving mass, which — by the way — on principal you shouldn’t trust them: Never trust something without knees.  Mainly something that moves that slow.  I’m positive sloths fake being slow and will absolutely rip faces off of living things.  Oh and who thought it would be a cool marketing ploy to make sloths the latest “thing”?  I imagine a group of people, determining what the Animal of the Year will be and Ed in the corner, nibbling his pencil’s eraser says, “You know what?  Sloths.  Sloths are our Animal of the Year” and then the rest of the group pauses, really thinks before saying, “Gosh darn it, Ed!  You’re brilliant!  Sloths it is!”  You cannot go into a store now without having sloth smiles on canvas bags or sloth faces on aprons or stuffed sloths because, well hell, I don’t know — just because.  I don’t get it.  First it was sheep then llamas — unicorns somewhere in between, if I remember correctly, and weren’t owls somewhere in there too, but now sloths?  I cannot imagine items selling fast with a sloth on the front.  Moral of the story: Don’t risk it.  There’s nothing redeeming about a sloth.

And I say all of this to return to the issue at hand: Andrew wanted to go to this animal sanctuary where you can pet and actually hold sloths.  Have I said already fishing and now this did not seem near equal to diving, a sport he ended up enjoying?  I think I got the bad end of the bargain.  However, again, relationships are about compromise and I was doing one heck of a compromise this day.

Alright, so we arrive at Sloth Land (which wasn’t actually called Sloth Land but Daniel Johnson’s Monkey and Sloth Hangout).  The story goes it is owned by this guy who rescues animals, such as sloths.  He started taking in more and more and before he knew it, he needed additional help and money to support his cause so he opened his Sloth Land to the public, charging a small entry fee, and people can come in to cuddle the little beasts, among other things.  Good story.

The first beastie to see was the South American raccoon, a large animal only seen in this part of the world.  It enjoys digging in the sand to eat crabs and climbing trees.

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Next up were the dreaded sloths, which Andrew was beyond himself with excitement for the opportunity to see and hold one.  “It was a life goal — a genuine life goal!  Definitely Bucket List!” he told me multiple times with gleaming eyes and a bright smile.

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Then it was my turn . . . and I’ll be honest, touching a sloth wasn’t that bad.  I’m an animal lover through and through . . . buuut I’m not going to go as far as to say sloths are actually cute because — be honest with yourself — they aren’t.  However, they are these squishy, helpless, delicate creatures that did make it hard to not cuddle them and smile.  This female sloth absolutely loved holding onto me, too — I think she could feel my heart pounding against her and for whatever reason that made her feel more comfortable.

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Facts about sloths: Sloths absolutely adore hibiscus flowers . . . and on the topic of eating, they digest food extremely slowly (surprise, surprise) — so much so that they pee only once a week!

Sloths also have super long, strong nails, as you saw above.  They use their nails to hang off branches (or in this case, off people’s shoulders or necks). In sad news, we were told people actually cut sloths’ nails — whether because they have sloths as pets or because people are cruel.   Either way, if sloths’ nails are cut, this essentially kills them because they cannot climb for protection or food.  They end up being forced to stay in one spot on the ground where they are unable to fend for themselves and so they remain there until they die.  That really upset me that people can be so callous and ignorant, particularly to such a fragile animal . . . and yet, this is what humanity does. People come in, wreck what is natural, and leave. We are careless and selfish so if you, dear reader, find yourself here — Let’s take action to aide, protect, and cherish what is natural about this land.

On that note, let’s move to the monkeys!  There were two different types of monkeys here: capuchin and spider.  We were taken to the capuchins first — These monkeys are common pets in Honduras so much so that it is equivalent to owning a dog in America.

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There were three monkeys in this enclosure, all of which flew onto your head then leapt off as quickly as they arrived. In fact, when they jump onto you, they give no warning so it is quite a surprise to not only feel them land but feel how they secure themselves, as Andrew found when the monkey used his nostrils to steady its little body!

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Their attention was also diverted within seconds — One millisecond, they are focusing on eating sunflower seeds . . . the next, flying to your head . . . a second later, investigating your camera . . . and then (before you could take in any of that — never-the-less take pictures) they were gone.

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All in all, the best word to describe these monkeys is “bouncing” as that is what they did physically and mentally too.  From capuchins to spiders monkeys, these were a bit different . . .

Spider monkeys are known to imprint, or form strong bonds.  This particular monkey, named Tony, imprinted on the owner of the sanctuary.  Only the owner is allowed to go into the spider monkey enclosure because Tony will get extremely upset.  The owner also has to go into Tony’s home alone or else Tony gets highly jealous and won’t let the owner go.

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Fun fact: Spider monkeys have only four fingers and that’s because their fifth finger — which is their thumb — is located on the bottom of their tail!

Next were the birds, which I was over-the-moon to see as I adore birds and have wanted a green-cheeked conure.  Birds are highly intelligent.  In fact, green cheeks can be taught loads of tricks.

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Speaking of super intelligent birds — Enter the macaws. They know how to take off the lock on their enclosure.  The only thing is they didn’t seem to have a desire to leave but instead wanted to prove they could go.  Those that worked there said the sanctuary provides protection and a steady food and water supply so, even if the animals get out, they mostly always return.

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There were different macaws, too — These red birds were larger than their green mates so they were more heavy. This means when they landed on you, you can feel it.

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Overall, I was happy I went.  True, this did not equate to a shark dive but to see Andrew elated at the mere opportunity to hold a sloth — that alone was worth it to me. Plus, the laughs we had from how the animals jumped or perched on us — I would not have traded it for the world.

Sometimes life is about compromises.  And sometimes those compromises aren’t so bad . . .


Scuba Diving in Blue Cave and Urchin Reef, Roatán

Large droplets fell as cold rain sprayed onto the boat, but we needed to complete two more dives in order to make our certification for the shark dive the following day.  Michelle and Shay wanted that dive too so we all doned our wetsuits again — Andrew, this time getting into his with ease.  For this trip, several certified divers we had not met yet joined us.

As the boat roared out to the Blue Cave, we hunkered down but found no reprieve from the rain.  Droplets felt like ice pelting against our skin so much so that it got to a point where I was comparing it to water torture.  Not only that, but the waves were angry and increasing in size, making the boat rock up before slapping down.  The combination of boat movement and my shivering made me feel seasick so I had to battle the urge to vomit in front of all on board.  It was a miserable ride out.  Miserable.  And these two pictures sum that up wonderfully.

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Anja quickly gathered the four of us in a huddle and explained what final techniques we needed to prove underwater.  Andrew and I had a total of four techniques left, which seemed simple enough . . . except for the fact that nothing was simple in the cold . . . in the rain . . . while nauseous.

“Andy, L — You will get in and put on our BCD and weights in the water.”  That was Anja who told us the welcomed news of essentially getting into the water as quickly as possible.  This decreased the hazard of slipping on the boat in the rain, and it also meant the water was much warmer so I was all for getting in faster.  “Once that is on, you’ll practice compass navigation first on top of the water.  Then you will do the drill again under the water.  Now is the time to focus,” she ended, warning that floating at the surface was dangerous and where we needed to be was underwater as soon as possible for protection.

“Right,” we said in unison before stepping into the water — no hesitation — with our compasses.

“L, I want you to go ten kicks to 120 degrees.  Andy, you will go ten kicks to 240 degrees.”  Off we went.  Anja had showed us how to use the compasses on land earlier so I felt confident in my skills.  Putting our snorkels in our mouths then placing our heads and compasses underwater, we began.

Okay, okay, I silently told myself.  You can do this.  Take it slow.  What I had learned earlier was to not rush compass navigation — one slight inaccurate degree could morph into a problem, mainly when diving for an extended time in unknown territory.  Keeping the compass as level as possible, I moved the lubber line, found North, set my compass, and began counting my kicks.  One, two, three until finally I reached ten.  Keeping my head underwater, I fixed my attention on my compass before rotating and kicking again, counting as I went.  . . . eight, nine, ten.  There, I should be at the boat! I told myself, proud I had seamlessly completed my first solo compass navigation . . . except when I looked up, the boat was a good twenty kicks away and I was at a strange diagonal off the bow.  Basically, I was not where I started and not where I should have been.  Great, just great, I told myself, angry that I failed and failed so visibly.  Meanwhile, Andrew was waiting at the boat ladder.

“How do you think you did?” Anja yelled against the rain and distance.

How was I supposed to answer that?  Clearly I messed up.  “Well.”  I hesitated unsure of how to answer.  “I mean, I’m not remotely where I should be.”

“Come back,” she shouted.  “Try again.”

Damn, damn, damn, I said to myself with each kick of my fin until I reached Anja.

“Now try twelve kicks to 220 degrees” and I was off a second time, hearing the divers hollering at me to hurry as they were about to freeze to death. But I made it — not perfectly back to the same spot but within a kick or two. 

“That was good enough.  Maybe not exact but that could be because of the waves and the boat moving,” Anja said before turning to Shay and Michelle and directing them into the water with us.

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“Once everyone gets into their gear, gives the all-clear, and I am in the water, we will go under.  Do not wait on the surface for an extended time.  We are above a clearing where it is just sand below so if you reach the bottom before me, stay there and do not move.”  Anja’s voice was stern so we were quick to follow her directions.

Deflating my BCD, I sank with the others into the turquoise water.

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Settling on the sand, I looked around.  We were about forty feet under and, while our visibility wasn’t as clear as our other dives (it was about fifty-five percent due to the storm churning the water), all was still stunning.  Looking up, the rain  splattered on the surface of the water creating this sound of little pings.  One aspect I love about diving is how quiet life is — All you hear is your breathing, deep and calm, but what I found I loved more was hearing the rain underwater.  I could have stayed in that one spot for hours.

We had to move on though so Andrew and I navigated with a compass again (this time, we aced it) then we had to fully flood our masks — or, better worded, we had to take our masks off to emulate them accidentally coming off underwater.   This drill was the one we least looked forward to as it required mind-games with yourself, convincing yourself that you are okay and can still breathe even though you can feel water around your eyes and under your nose.

Next, Shay (on the left) and Michelle (on the right) completed their Dive One and Two techniques.

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With these out of the way, the four of us relaxed and swam after Anja, enjoying our dive.

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It appears darker in many of these pictures due to the fact that the sun was nowhere to be seen.
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Whether it was because we were underwater longer (completing the last two separate dives) or because we saw numerous sea animals, this dive was incredible.  There were various fish . . .

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There are three blues in the middle.  Fun fact: Objects underwater not only appear closer than they really are, but they also lose their color.  The colors get lost, disappear in the same order they appear in the color spectrum with red going first.

a shrimp seeking protection inside a coral . . .

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a large crab, a moray eel, and more lion fish.  (Lion fish are not native to the area and are considered an invasive species because they have no predators.  Because of this, some locations [such as Honduras] hold lion fish competitions certain times of the year.  The competitions span from largest lion fish to smallest ones and so on.)

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As we continued, the reef suddenly stopped — as if on the edge of a cliff — before plummeting into deep blue. Anja motioned us on, despite the fact that — if we could talk — Andrew and I both would have probably preferred a pep talk before swimming over the edge of the reef and into deep, dark water.  However, onward we went, moving both beside a reef and nothingness.

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Too soon though it was time to pass over the reef again and return to our sandy bit to finish showcasing the last of Andrew’s and my techniques . . .

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Our last techniques were the surface marker buoy deployment — or inflating a buoy underwater so that your boat can locate you if you end up farther than planned.  We also had to do our Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent — essentially where we pretend we no longer have air, no longer have a buddy to use his or her air, and have to get to the top of the water on one breath where we then have to inflate our BCDs manually to stay afloat at the surface).  I was excited about the last drill due to the fact that when we practiced in the pool, I aced it; Andrew used the air in his tank to inflate his BCD, causing Anja to immediately pull a release valve to let out all the air and yell at him about how he forgot the purpose of the drill was to show what he would do in a no-air situation.

Back to this dive: Andrew went first, inflating his vibrant buoy manually before releasing it to the surface.  It shot up into the air, making both him and I feel he had puffed enough air into it for the sucker to look like this Googled image below and basically stand erect and noticeable.

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Then came his Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent.  Shay, Michelle, and I were told to wait underwater until Anja returned so I watched him go up with one breath of air, releasing little bubbles the entire way, and I thought, Amazing job!  You’re doing great! only now to learn, bless his heart, he didn’t do so well.

Me: “Hey, Andrew.  Was your buoy fully inflated when you reached the surface?”

Him: “Nope.  It was limp — flaccid.  I had a poorly erected buoy.”  What he means is that while his buoy shot out of the water, once it reached the surface, its air disappeared and it lay flat, floating on the water.

Me: “Andrew, did you remember to manually inflate your BCD when you got to the top?”

Him: “You know I didn’t — You fucking know I didn’t.”  Clearly, he’s still a little upset with himself and his errors.  Yet, he survived — Anja pulled a release valve (again), letting out his BCD’s air (again), leaving him to manually blow it up (again).

Regardless, Andy’s last certification training was done!  Amazing job, Andrew, and so he relaxed at the surface!

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Then it was my turn . . .

Sad to say, I made the same daggon mistakes Andy did.  I started strong — puffing a massive amount of air into the surface marker buoy . . . only to have it fizzle out and be airless on the surface.

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Then I screwed up the number one drill I was so happy at acing earlier — I forgot my no-air situation and inflated my BCD using the air from my tank.

“Nope,” Anja said, immediately releasing the air, causing me to sink again before realizing I needed to manually inflate it.  “Good,” she told me before setting back under the water for Shay and Michelle.

In the end though, we finally made it — Through the churning waters, through the rough weather, through our dive training!  That means Andy and I are new fully certified divers!

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With our remarkable dive master, Anja

Full of excitement, Andrew and I went out for drinks and food to celebrate over lunch . . .

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Then, feeling beyond drained, we returned to our cabana as light rain fell once more.  There, we squeezed into our hammock, letting the warm breeze brush against our skin until we were both asleep.

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Once we woke, we discussed the anticipated shark dive, scheduled for the next day,  and — in an anti-climactic decision realized we were exhausted from diving almost every day of our vacation . . so we changed our minds.  Just like that — No sharks, no reason to get certified, no reason to have worked tirelessly our entire trip.

“Are you sure you don’t want to go?” Andrew kept asking me, concern evident on his face.  I think he was worried I would regret our decision.

In the end though, it felt right.  True, I would have loved for us to have dived with sharks; that was the plan after all.  However, I feel we did something larger — We went on our first trip together somewhere new.  We not only learned how to scuba dive but also became certified divers.  That’s why — to us — missing this shark dive meant one thing: an opportunity for us to dive with sharks in a new location in the future.

“Every trip we go on, let’s do something big,” I told him.  “Something challenging and new that is unique to the area.  Let’s do it together, each time, something new.”

So that’s what we plan on doing and, in a massively more relaxed state of mind, we settled back on the hammock and closed our eyes again.

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Barracuda Fishing in Roatán, Honduras

Tucked away inside a little oceanside bungalow in Roatán, Honduras, Andy and I woke bright and early to the calmest seas I’ve ever witnessed.  The ocean appeared more an undisturbed lake of pastels . . .

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This was welcomed news because I get seasick easily and today Andrew was going fishing

Andy is a passionate fisherman so at this point in the trip, I was paying my dues — dues as in the ones I had promised him when he was either not interested, terrified, or pressured into scuba diving with me.

“We can go fishing!” I begged.  “And we can see the sloths!  You wanted to see the sloths!”  I was desperate to get him diving so I threw out every trick in my bag, when in reality I was tiptoeing along the line of fishing being ethically wrong and the only animal in the world I am beyond-disgusted to see is a sloth.  Yet, somehow my plan worked — Andy did go diving (and happened to love it) so now I was stuck on a three-hour fishing venture with plans of sloth-holding in the near future.  But people say relationships are about sacrifices, and this is what I remind myself as we stepped into the boat and glided across the water . . .

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In truth though, I was happy I went.  The view from the boat was incredible.  Because the sky was clear, we were able to see mainland Honduras in the distance, which Chris and Banks (the guys in charge) said was a way to judge if it will be “a day of boating” — that equates to an amazing day.

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The island of Roatán is about forty miles off the coast of the mainland.

All felt magical, as if we had stepped into a van Gogh swirling painting.

Lush seaweed grows in the sand, making waters appear darker. The light teal here is where the seaweed has not grown.

When we got into the boat, we were introduced to Chris and Banks, who asked if we wanted to keep our catch.  Earlier, Andrew and I had talked about this and — if I remember correctly — that may have been the night we were having a pleasant sunset dinner by the ocean when I couldn’t stop sobbing about the amount of poor fish killed, which translated into the poor skinny kittens that weren’t allowed to eat any fish, which then morphed into a massive ball of depression on how I did not know the rules on being able to fly five kittens back to America to live with us.  Yep, I believe it was that night . . . 

Anyway, while crying and hyperventilating, I somehow agreed with Andy that if he caught a fish, we should keep one because we would not have opportunities such as this where we could literally catch our own fish and eat it in a matter of hours.  Therefore, when Chris and Banks asked if we wanted to keep our catch, Andrew proudly told them yes, while I nodded in sorrow.

“All I’m asking is for you to please dispatch of the fish quickly,” I had told Chris and Banks, “or I’ll be doomed to sit on the boat crying the rest of the time.”

“She’s being honest, mate,” Andrew said with a heavy sighing.  “Trust me, we would all rather avoid that.”

Crisis averted, off we went . . .

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There was a gentle wind as we slid over the water and Andy cast line after line before — very soon — he caught his first barracuda . . . which Chris did promptly take care of the poor fellow.  (Thank you, Chris!)

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While we were on our way back to the resort, we saw this horrible scene: a boat billowing massive amounts of black smoke. This is a Mayan Princess boat, and Mayan Princess is one of the more successful resorts in Roatán, which equates to having more money.  They take divers, fisherman, and others out more than daily.  This resort is not the only one with poor boating ethics, either: Another large resort named Infinity Bay leaks oil into the water!

I originally posted this on TripAdvisor but pulled it after hearing people at Las Rocas were accused of trying to decrease others’ business so I want to make myself clear: What is written here is my view entirely. Further, no one told me this — This was simply captured in November 2017 on my camera, which blatantly shows these two resorts not being environmentally-friendly.  Harming the environment in such a way hurts local businesses and, therefore, livelihoods. In conclusion, readers, if you go to Roatán, do not support Mayan Princess or Infinity Bay.  They should be pushed to correct this issue; however, without rules governing boats in Honduras, tourists can take a stand against this and decrease bookings at these two resorts.

Back to our boating venture, once we returned, Chris expertly filleted our barracuda to prepare for — what’s known as — the “edible test” . . .

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Apparently, in certain months that end in “–ber”, barracuda (and other large reef fish) contain ciguatoxin, which is produced by certain algae at that time.  Little fish eat that algae then bigger fish eat those little ones so that once the fish are digested, the ciguatoxin contains a poison that seeped through the large fish’s body.  Harmless to fish, it is poisonous to people and can cause severe problems from prolonged nausea to paresthesia (tingling and numbness in nerves).  One person even told us of dogs dying after eating bad barracuda due to people leaving the fish on the ground following a failed edible test.

So how do the locals know — for sure — the barracuda does not have this poison? They give it the edible test — The edible test is when a small piece of the barracuda is placed in an area of ants.  If the ants swarm the fin, it is safe.  However, if the ants steer clear, people do too.

Anxiously, Andy and I waited to see what would happen as a fin was placed by a colony of ants and then — there they gathered in droves for a massive eating-attack!

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In truth though, this poison rarely causes deaths in people and our barracuda was small so it had not consumed several of the smaller ciguatoxin-filled fish.  Knowing this — and seeing the ants on the discarded fin meant — decision decided — we were eating that barracuda too so Chris finished filleting our fish.

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People told us the best way to prepare barracuda is to cover it in lime juice for a few hours then cook it simply using lime, salt, and pepper so while we were asking our resort’s chefs if they would do this, Chris reappeared by our side, urging us to return to the water because this guy slid out from under our resort’s dock . . .

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This beautiful moray eel was several feet long and smelt the blood from our just-filleted fish.  Moray hesitated in coming out and wound itself around the boat’s idle propeller, hoping for scraps.

Our dive instructor Anja later told us people are more prone to get too close to animals like turtles while scuba diving; however, turtles should be avoided more than eels.  While all wildlife should not be disturbed when diving, she admitted the turtle can cause more injury to people because its jaws are incredibly strong so it could bite through fingers if it felt provoked or trapped.  True, eels are dangerous also, but people mostly leave them alone because they are perceived as ugly creatures.

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Andrew had his underwater camera with him and Moray must have thought the camera was food so it came from under the dock again, ready to eat . . .

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Soon, Moray lost interest and, as quickly as he slid out from under the dock, he hid again . . .

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Moray wasn’t the only one with plans though — We were to take on our second dive after our boating trek.  This meant completing another quiz before we were in the boat once more.  Dive buddies Shay and Michelle had previously scheduled an all-day boating trip so Andy and I were the only ones diving with Anja again.

Unlike our first trip though, Andrew was excited to get back in his diving gear to go underwater and for good reason — This dive was the best dive we would go on while in Roatán.  It had slightly better visibility at around eight-five percent, and we saw even more amazing aquatic life, such as a large sea turtle that was on the ocean floor before it gracefully swam towards the surface where the light was streaming in just right.  We also saw more lion fish in addition to barracuda and another large snapper that followed us.  The dive couldn’t have lasted long enough but, running lower on air, we returned to the surface, making Dive Two in our steps to certification completed.

Loading back into the boat, we headed towards Roatán where Andrew and I strolled the island before getting ready for our most anticipated meal . . .

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And that barracuda?  It was the most delicious fish dish either of us has ever eaten or are convinced we will ever eat.  Honest.

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We were not the only ones to enjoy it either — Stuffed on our sizeable barracuda, we had one fillet left so we snuck portions of it under the table to the kittens who generously gobbled it up.  That night, it felt everyone went to sleep full, happy as another vibrant sunset turned the ocean a deep plum . . .

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Scuba Diving in Seaquest Shallow, Roatán

With the magic words of “right now,” Andrew and I raced to our bungalow to change into our swimwear because we were going scuba diving! This is me — beyond elated; and this is Andrew — petrified.

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Then we were off, darting back to the dive shop . . . filling out forms that signed our life away . . . before following a woman we knew nothing about . . . into the ocean . . . to go diving.

“We will get in here.”  She pointed by the dock and boat.  “This is where we will go over basics.”

After a few minutes of information — “This is your regulator.  You breathe with this in your mouth.  Take a full, deep breath in followed by a full, deep breath out.  I will model first, you will watch me, then you will try and I will watch you” type-of-thing — we loaded into the boat and set off from the shore, cutting across the calm water.

I turned to Andrew — full of excitement — only to see him appear the complete opposite.  “You okay?” I asked.

“Whatever we do, I just don’t want to go first.  I’m scared to go first,” Andy confessed and that’s when it dawned on me that I was dragging him far out of his comfort zone.  Year One knowing me: Surprise skydiving.  Year Two: Surprise scuba diving.  Poor chap doesn’t know what to expect.

“Hey,” I tried to comfort him.  “It’s okay.  I’ll go first.  It’s not a big deal.”  He appeared calmer . . . until the boat’s motor was shut off. We had arrived at our spot: Seaquest Shallows.

“Who wants to go first?” Anja asked.

“Him.”  I pointed at Andrew, forgetting what he had told me minutes ago.

“What?!” he gasped.

“I’m scared!  There could be sharks or something, Andy!”

“WOT!!!  Bloody hell, L!  Sharks?!?!  That’s what you wanted!!!” and without another word, he puffed and waddled in his fins, under the weight of his air canister, towards the ladder.

“Good luck!  You can do it!” I yelled from my seat before he cast a horrid glare my way.

(Let me say here — While I am writing this, I realize Day Two was not filled with my most shining moments.  I realize now I essentially forced one scared Englishman to go scuba diving . . . and made him go first . . . after I frightened him about sharks below.  Andrew, chap, I realize my errors and I do apologize!)

“Whenever you’re ready, take one big step into the water,” Anja told Andy from his side.

“Unnn ssshhhep,” he repeated, or at least I think repeated because he was biting down on his regulator so hard he could not be understood.

“One step.  Look straight ahead, one hand against your weights, one hand against your goggles and regulator.  Then one step into the water,” Anja directed him again.

“Un shep.  Righ.  Un shep . . . ”  I was scared to glance at him for fear of another evil look but I took the risk only to see his flippered foot shaking in the air above the water before he’d return both flippered feet side-by-side.  “Un shep . . . ” He moved his foot back over the water, flipper quivering again.

“Chap?  You okay?” I asked.  I was nervous for him.  I did care.  I also did feel guilty because it was around here I realized he had said he didn’t want to go first.  “Want me to go first?”  Again, a nasty gaze.

“Just one step — look straight,” Anja repeated calmly.

“Unnn shhhep . . . Shish hs harer shn skhi-ivin!!!” he declared, which I took to be “This is harder than skydiving!!!” which also made me laugh because he was maybe three feet above crystal clear water on a smooth ocean and — let’s be honest — didn’t have a Navy Seal strapped to his back throwing him into the air.  “Righ!” he suddenly shouted, appearing to regain confidence as he did — what was that? — miniature squats because he couldn’t jump up and down with the weight of the air canister.  “Righ!  Un a cowt uhf shree!”

“Okay,” Anja said. Somehow she spoke regulator.

“Okay!” I said but only because Anja seemed more relaxed with his words.

“Unnn!” he whispered, mini-squatting again, shaking his fists in front of his chest at the water.  I wondered if he was about to fist-pump his chest — American-style.

“ONE!” Anja and I yelled.

” . . . shhhuuu . . . !”

“TWO!”

“Righ . . . ” I heard the deepest inhale I have ever heard before a more guttural, deep growl of “SSSHHHREEE!!!”  Then — with a quick one-step — he fell into the ocean. Gone.

“ANDREW?!” I yelled after him, worried some unseen horrible event would happen to him and I would have to live the rest of my life knowing I forced him to go first on an extreme sport he did not even want to take part in.  How would I explain this to his parents?!  But then — as I was going through answers in my mind — I saw his head pop back up.   “Andrew!  Are you okay?!”

“Your turn,” Anja called to me, waving her hand in my direction.

“Right,” I told her, waddling to where Andrew dropped into the ocean.  “On three — One, two, three” and in the water I fell without a moment of hesitation, which I think is the reason why I prefer him to go first.  When I see him fall to his potential death, I have this massive guilty feeling that I should not have allowed the activity and the only way to rectify the situation is if I follow him — suicide-mission-style — into the air or, in this case, out of the boat.

“Hey!” I said to him the moment we were in the water beside each other.  “You okay?!”

“HAVE YOU LOOKED INTO THE WATER YET?!  Through your goggles!  LOOK INTO THE WATER!” and his face plunked into the water before popping back up.  “IT’S BEAUTIFUL!!!” and down his head went once more.

Thank God, I thought, feeling my heart relax.  He actually likes it!  So without another word, we waited for Anja before dropping under the water.

Our first dive at Seaquest Shallow left us speechless.  The water was calm and clear, undisturbed.  Not only that, but we saw a host of animals: lion fish, barracuda, lobster, and a massive snapper that stayed a couple feet away to swim beside us due to the fact that some divers bring bits of food for them.  Overall, it was incredible to say the least.  Andrew thoroughly enjoyed himself too.  “It was like swimming in a gigantic aquarium!” he — the-guy-that-loves-aquariums — gushed.  “It was absolutely amazing!”  You’re welcome, Englishman.

Anyway, that solidified it — Once we were out of the water and able to talk, we were going to become fully-certified divers.  We were going on that shark dive.

“To be certified, you need a total of at least four dives,” Anja told us.  That cut it close to the shark-dive date, which was Friday — six days away.  That meant if the weather was bad or the waters worse, we couldn’t afford to miss days.

“Right,” we said in unison and evidently on the same page now.

“Let’s start on the paperwork” and with that, Anja passed more forms for us to complete.  “Know if you say ‘Yes’ to any of these questions, you cannot dive.”  She said this simply, honestly, then disappeared inside the shop.

“Pst,” I whispered to Andrew after spotting a question further down.  Do you take daily medication? it asked.  “What do I do about the medication question?”  I knew if I checked the ‘Yes’ box due to my multiple sclerosis medication, it would cancel me out of diving; but I also knew if I said no and lied, it was my own health that was gambled.

“I was just wondering that myself . . . ”  His look was one of concern so we called to Anja.

“It is because some medications react to the pressure change,” she told us then peered at me and grabbed the first form we completed.  “How did you get away with this for your first dive?” she said more to herself.  That was because the first form asked something about medication for a specific illness.

“I don’t have that,” I told her.  “But I do take medication daily.” 

Her shoulders slouched as if the forms let her down.  “Listen, it is your health.  I would contact your doctor” and she was right. I wanted to be certain Aubagio would not negatively affect me if I went diving.  We wanted to enjoy our time here — not return with more health issues.

Needless to say, we were stuck — stuck between paying a-dollar-a-minute for long-distance international calls to my neurologist and stuck because my doctor didn’t pick up whenever I called.  I even enlisted the help of my family, pleading in emails for them to obtain a letter of approval.  Until I got that letter, diving certifications and a shark dive was all a waiting game.

Not knowing if I’d get a written statement during our trip, we left the office and walked down the beach, enjoying more scrumptious food and drink until the sun exploded in color then slipped into the sea.

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Full physically and mentally, we headed back to our cabana in the dark, attempting to dodge massive crabs that jittered over our toes.

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To me, crabs are essentially enormous spiders — though harder to kill due to their shells so in terror, I flung myself onto Andrew’s back and forced him to shuffle our way back as we laughed the entire way.

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And here’s proof of our antics: We didn’t mean to take this picture.  Andy meant to get a shot of the crab but, because it was so dark, he didn’t realize the camera direction was wrong until the burst of light illuminated us.  I secretly love this image because it isn’t posed so it captures how happy we truly are.


Misunderstood Honduras: Staying in Roatán

“What about Honduras?” I asked Andy, wrinkling my brow as if we had been in the middle of a conversation when, instead, he had just arrived home after work on an unimportant Tuesday, the door not even closed behind him.  But this is our type of greeting, one that starts when he is in the process of stepping into our apartment, a greeting that begins mid-sentence, mid-thought with me bombarding him of travel destinations and questions, partially formulated plans, thoughts I had been having a mental conversation on all day, ones brimming at my lips so that when I see him, they overflow, surge forth like love.

“Honduras?” he repeated, also wrinkling his brow while taking off his shoes at the door.  He never hesitates to join my mid-conversations.

“Honduras,” I said again, sitting straighter, one pronounced nod in front of him.  I had decided.

“Why Honduras?  What’s in Honduras?”  And this is what we soon found many people asked us.

“Com’ere,” I whispered, captivated by the Honduras I saw as we looked at picture after picture of white sand beaches and clear turquoise water teeming with life so much that it appeared a meticulous posh aquarium.  “Did you know Honduras is surrounded by the second largest coral reef in the world?” I asked him.  “We should go and scuba dive.”

“We should,” he agreed, forgetting he had no intention of going past waist-deep in the ocean, failing to remember he had never been snorkeling, and not recalling that scuba diving frankly scared him.  “We should go,” he said, captivated with Honduras’s beauty too.

So we booked our trip, suddenly and without further questions.  Because this is the life we want to create, where we live in surprise of each other, the world, our future.

So we packed our bags and left . . .

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Located in South America with the neighboring nations of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, Honduras feels a forgotten destination; and that could be because it is going through rough times.  This is a third-world country after all where many do not have hot water in homes; electricity is unstable; and drinking water, a pricey commodity.  There are no animal shelters here so bony dogs and cats loiter with skeletons so feeble they barely cast shadows onto the streets and sand.  The roadways are poor, but that’s because of the weather, which heats up and causes the pavement to bubble and swell until massive crater-sized potholes pop forth, resembling more teenagers’ acne scars.  At the same time, the rainfall can also be so heavy that it transforms roadways into angry rivers and forms mudslides that create and smooth wide portions of the earth into new property lines.  This is a country that stretches, dotting the Caribbean Sea with small, overlooked islands.  And it is on these islands that tourism prospers, so much that many people here are fluent in English, French, Italian, and more, switching between these languages as easy as they blink.  But that tourism comes with a price because Honduras is also a country that steals from itself, where the mainland pockets the money the bay islands make, leaving those areas overlooked, the people there bursting with energy to break free and become a separate identity.  But these island people are far from weak; they have learned to fend for themselves and thrive, finding profits in the holes of what is not offered so that when tourists utter the words “I wish I could,” the locals are ready, dishing out customized plans for the following day as if it were a massive dessert tray for the taking.

But the real reason Honduras may be forgotten is because of it’s crime rate: It had (and flirts with having) the highest violent crime numbers in the world, making murders, rapes, stabbings, and a slew of other horrors cast a grim and dirty light on the entire country.  Locals know of these statistics, and they will shake their heads, slouch their shoulders, begrudgingly speaking of it when the topic steeps into conversation.  That’s also because the truth is they know more: They know of people killing people for a measly five dollars . . .

But that’s the dark side of Honduras.  And don’t we all have a dark side?  What is the difference in Honduras’s five dollar murders verses America’s Black Friday stampede deaths?  Or America’s child killings over the newest kicks?  Or the US’s steady climb towards the highest rate of gun violence?  Or let’s go back further to America’s gun craze in and of itself, which topples other nations and makes the US known to possess about half of civilian-owned guns worldwide?  I point all this out to show darkness can taint other truths because essentially, the truth about Honduras is that this country is an assortment of things — overlooked, improving, building, starting.  And maybe that’s the point.  There is not one way to describe this nation.  Honduras is a country of differences, contradictions so that in the end, maybe Honduras’s one word is mostly misunderstood.

This is why I want to show you its glimmering side, the one that can blind you with beauty so golden, good, pure.  This is the Honduras I want to show you . . .
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I am getting ahead of myself though.  Let’s go back to when Andy had just arrived home after work on an unimportant Tuesday.  That word: home.  Home as in what was once my little apartment is now ours because Andy’s visa got accepted in March so he has now officially immigrated to America.  Yet, home is also not a physical address, a place on a map, but a feeling one can only find in someone else, a feeling I have found in him so that the moment his plane landed in the States, we were finally able to announce our secret engagement proposal.  He — we are home.

This is why we jokingly call this Honduras trip our “engagement-moon” because for months we had been engaged but unable to tell anyone for fear the government would find out, see his visa application, and pull his one shot at moving and working here.  So we kept quiet until his visa was in hand.  Now, we have much to celebrate and yearned to do that in a place somewhere new — not his home of England where he had left or mine in America where I had wished the days be controlled by a light switch, disappearing and passing in seconds until he could arrive.  Instead, we wanted a place of new beginnings, a place to start our story even though our story is a hodgepodge of starts . . .

So back to that original conversation when Andy came home from work and found me on the sofa in front of my computer, asking, “What about Honduras?”

“What about Honduras?” he had said, smiling in a fashion that made there be only one answer: Let’s go.

Alright, so now we packed our bags, got another Passport stamp . . .

 

and arrived to this tiny island of Roatán, which is off the coast from the mainland.

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I say tiny because Roatán is thirty-seven miles long and five miles wide at its widest point.

Here, we stayed at Las Rocas Resort and Dive Center, where there are picturesque beaches and ocean waters, amazing people I will miss, some of the most delicious food I have ever eaten, and a place so safe that we may or may not have left our key in the door multiple times without once being disturbed.

We lucked out on having the best bungalow, the one used to advertise to tourists, which was feet from the soft sand and had amazing views of the ocean.
IMG_0011IMG_0010.JPGIMG_0350.JPGIMG_0029There are numerous resorts dotting the island and all that we came across had their own restaurants and bars, like ours.
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The view of our restaurant and pool from the beach

Las Rocas was wonderful, serving a variety of Spanish breakfasts . . .
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This is Roatán’s specialty frozen drink, a Monkey La-La, which is a blend of Kahlua, Bailey’s Irish Cream, coconut milk, vodka, dark rum, pineapple juice, a banana, and chocolate syrup.

Our resort was tucked away from the more bustling locations, like West End, but water taxis were available to send you there.  However on Day One, we ventured a short distance on foot to the more populated West Bay area.  Strolling along the coast before dinner, we followed a winding wooden platform over the ocean then walked in the warm water and breathed in sea air.
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That night, we ate on the shore, watching the sun melt into the sea.
IMG_0077.JPGWe were here, our first place somewhere new, so after fourteen and a half hours of non-stop travel, sleep found us at an early 6:30 p.m.

 

Day Two: A Day of Somehows

I awoke to this, which somehow was how my hair looked the entire trip.
20171120_062455-2But we were on vacation and short of tranquilizing the beast of my own hair or buzzing it off, there was nothing I could do which meant Andrew, my hair, and I moseyed our way to a scrumptious Spanish breakfast.  Meanwhile, everyone was very accepting of my odd mohawk, mainly the frail homeless kittens who didn’t hesitate to come over, twist around our legs, rub against our ankles.

We had seen these kittens the first day and slowly began to give them names, such as Alli, the more friendly feline who was highly intelligent and could be seen nightly climbing palm trees onto our resort’s restaurant’s roof where she then catapulted herself off in an effort to successfully catch bats, which she would then eat every morsel — bones and all — in joyful glory; Rummy was a terribly shy grey-stripped kitten, often scared away by people, other cats, heck even the wind;  Bones, an emaciated black kitten who I’m positive will have perished by now without a tender heart to help him; Jasper, the bolder and larger-breed that had scars to prove his many rough battles; and Sebastian (not pictured), who we nicknamed “the resort’s cat” because he was the only privileged one fed by the employees and therefore, allowed to slumber day and night on chairs in the dive shop’s entryway.
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Speaking of that dive shop, my wild hair (or clearly, many hairs) were evident as I was hellbent and determined to scuba dive.  That was what lead us to Roatán after all.  With the dive center located next to the main office, I had snuck a peek inside when we first arrived and found a small ad mentioning Roatán’s well-known shark dive.

“Andrew!” I told him.  “Let’s go on the shark dive!”  I said the words ‘shark dive’ with wonder and enthusiasm dripping from each syllable.

“L.  We don’t even know how to dive, never-the-less dive with sharks.”  He needed convincing I could see.  I wasn’t to be put-off.

“I know . . . sooo,” I said nuzzling into him, “let’s find out more information!”

The only problem was when we arrived at the dive center, no one was inside.

“Excuse me,” I stopped a random man walking by.  He could have been a tourist or the CEO of the resort for all I knew.  “Do you know when the divers are coming back?”

“Two hours,” he said.

“Two hours?” I repeated.

“Two hours.”

I didn’t believe him.  Something about him seemed to say he was left behind for a reason.  My hope and excitement vanished.  “Andrew, we are NEVER going to shark dive!” I cried after we moved from earshot of the stranger.  “That’s why we are HERE!  What are we going to DO?!”

“Calm down,” he said exasperated because as you know, telling an irrational person to calm down is a good idea.

“CALM DOWN?!  What are we DOING?!  We should have booked this BEFORE!  What were we THINKING?!”

“Okay, listen.”  This must be important.  “We are here because we wanted to get away and enjoy ourselves and celebrate and spend time together.”  Suddenly, I didn’t agree.  “There is a beautiful beach here and water — ” he spanned his hands in front of us.  “Let’s go on a walk and explore!”

My sense of exploring was bending down and spotting dead coral.
IMG_0108.JPG“I don’t want to explore,” I signed.  I knew I was being childish, but I was also beyond a point of caring.  The one activity that centered around our flying hours from home was a shark dive.  And that one said-activity was gone our first full day.

“Bloody hell.  You’re a nightmare,” Andy told me.  “Great.  This is just great.  We are at the most beautiful place on earth and you’re miserable.  Now I’m miserable.  Are you happy?”  I was.  But I didn’t confess that.

Somehow, Andy convinced me to go on that walk, which I know he regretted because it was the most depressing, sullen walk we had yet been on.  And somehow we also found a dock to sit on, which provided me with time to recuperate.
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Somehow this man still loves me . . . even though I do not make his life easy at times.

It was around this time we saw a motorboat speeding towards our resort’s dock.

“Hey.  L.  That’s them.  I think that’s them . . . “

There was only one person aboard.

“Andrew.  That’s not them.  How can you have a dive class without divers?  Or instructors?  Or anyone besides the person operating the boat?”

Yet, in that moment — that moment of sheer glory — two other people appeared, just like that — *poof* out of the air.  Seriously.  And we ran — literally ran to the dock.

“THEY’RE HERE!!!!” I screamed as we bounded over sharp rocks in an area not fit for walking.  “CAN YOU BELIEVVVE THEY’RE HEEERE!!!”  Joy, happiness, laughter, everything holy and good was shooting out of my body.

“Hi!” I told a woman who appeared to be in charge with barely enough time to get off the boat.  “We want to shark dive.”  Except what made me a “we” was just arriving, slow and hesitant.  He didn’t seem to want to shark dive.  And I think she sensed this.

“Hi.  First, my name is Anja,” she said in a mixture of accents.

“Oh,” I hesitated, knowing I probably didn’t make the best first impression.  “Hello.  My name is L.  This is my fiance Andy.”  I hesitated.  What more did she want me to say to gain approval to go on this dive?  I have never been good with small talk; this is one of my weaknesses.  So we waited.  And waited longer.  Nothing happened.  I couldn’t stand it anymore.  “And we want to shark dive.”  There I said it.  Again.

“Okay.  Second, are you certified divers?”  She peered around me at Andy, who seemed to be — well, behind me.

I barely whispered a “no.”

“Alright.  Have you ever been diving?”  Her look pivoted from Andrew to me, Andrew to me.

“Yes!  I mean, no.  Well, I have but he has not.”

“You have to be certified to go on that dive” and with that, she turned around, moving and unattaching and arranging her diving thing-a-majigs around her.  This was not the answer I was settling for.  I may have screamed, “Wait!” at her.  I don’t remember.  I seem to forget things in my ecstatic states.

“Yes?” she asked, turning towards us again.  Him, me, him, me.

“We want to go on the shark dive.  If you say we need to get certified, we will be certified.”  People say that I am indecisive.  People say that I take forever to make decisions.  But daggon it, the moment I make decisions, it never fails someone has a problem with it.

“Wait, wait, wait!”  That was Andy.  “I don’t know if I want to be certified!  I don’t even know if I want to go diving!”  Anja laughed and resumed moving her thing-a-ma-bobers.  I wasn’t laughing.

“What do you mean?” I whispered.  “That’s why we are here!”

“Nooo — That’s why maybe you are here.  That’s not why I am here.”

“Andrew.  I remember a day of sunshine and rainbows where we were sitting on our couch, looking at pictures of Roatán, and you said the words, ‘Yes, let’s go and dive.'”

“Okay.  Maybe I did.”  I knew he did.  “But I thought you were joking.  Diving with sharks?!  Who does that?!  Maybe I changed my mind.”  And keep this in mind too — The whole time we were talking, or debating, it was in front of this Anja-woman, who we just met, who I really wanted to butter up in an effort to teach us how to be certified.  We were not making a good impression.  Again.

In the end, I . . . or Anja . . . or we somehow managed to convince Andrew to give diving a try.  “Listen,” she said with a strong accent I still couldn’t pick up.  “We will do a little dive, you can see how you like it, and if you do, we can continue towards certification.  No big deal.”

“Deal!” I said, unable to contain myself.  This was an opportunity of a lifetime!  I wanted him to take it.

“Deal,” he said after me, sort of huffing, sort of happy, sort of confused-at-how-he-gets-into-these-situations.

“When do you want to start?”  “What’s the earliest you can do it?” Andy and I asked in unison.

“How about right now?”  She shrugged her shoulders, ignoring the doohickeys scattered at her feet.  We had her.  We almost had her.

“Right now?” we repeated.

“Right now,” she said again.

For more on our first dive together — which, no surprise, comes with its mishaps — seek Scuba Diving in Seaquest Shallow, Roatán.

 

Day Three: Waiting Game

The moment we woke and the office opened, I checked my email . . . without luck, which meant we were left exploring the island.  This wasn’t bad news though — Unlike earlier, we had no control over future dives so this gave us an opportunity to explore.
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Several of these little lizards were seen leaping from one leaf to another.  Andrew said, “He’s a shifty looking character.  He’s asking, ‘Pst.  Wanna buy some bugs?'”

Flowers

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An amazing treehouse that even had a toilet!

Roatán has many massive almond trees that scatter almonds over the ground.IMG_0478IMG_0477IMG_0480.JPGWe also found these little (what I will call) berries, which appeared as festive Christmas ornaments dangling off the middle of palm trees’ trunks.  I asked locals if they eat the berries, but they said they did not know what they were.IMG_0506IMG_0507