Well, my friends, it has been awhile. I come to you tonight a little emotionally distraught. You see, my phone took a beating (it's the cats fault). I received a replacement that didn't work. Then I received a replacement for the replacement that worked. Sounds all good and happy, right? Nope. Somewhere in the transfer of contacts and apps, I lost something near and dear to my heart. I lost my friend Ana. We met in Belize. In Placencia, she's gorgeous and sweet and kind. She was moving to Belmopan two weeks after I left. I have a Bible (Latin American in Spanish) for her that I was going to ship to her. We were going to meet for dinner in the spring when I return. We texted the traditional method a few times but she could not keep her phone after the move, so all correspondence was through a "chat" "text" app on her sisters phone. And then my phone died, and I lost the contact details for her sister. All I have left is the 10 memories and her original phone number on a small sheet of paper forever tucked away in my travel notebook. And her Bible. Thinking it's time to buy a plane ticket.
What happens when you step onto a 45' cat with 8 people you don't know and sail close to 100 miles in a week off the coast of a country roughly the size of New Hampshire? "This doesn't suck" "...isn't fun the best thing ever?" "Everything that kills me... makes me feel alive" "Has anyone ever seen a baby pigeon in NYC?" Destination, off the coast of Placencia in the Stann Creek District, Belize, Central America. Except for the first day and last day of my ten day escape, there was no internet, no phone, no television; my virgin unplug from the world exercise. I am often criticized for traveling alone. It's not safe. You will be lonely. What if something happens to you? None of these are true. Although a guy I met at the airport waiting for my return flight described Belize City as a shit hole, Placencia, on the other hand, was full of laid back wonder and amazement. And I met many awesome people. From Ana at Laru Beya where I stayed the first and last night who is now a texting friend (think old school pen pals) to Charlie. She was from Whales and staying at Toms Cove for three weeks for advanced dive certifications and gave me the biggest hug when I left in the dinghy and she completed final checks of her gear before embarking on her first ever night dive. Of course there was Captain David and First Mate Patries. Their expert sailing experience saved us from a late night storm that caused our anchor to lose hold. We were heading straight for the reef. I'm not sure how they were able to navigate and reset the anchor in the pitch black night with 40 mph wind and pouring rain, but they did, and I'm still here to tell the story. I cannot forget my sailing mates. Todd and Rhonda, Wes, George and Diane, and Jim. We stepped on the boat at 5 PM Saturday and by Sunday morning, after the first night on the boat, had a well oiled machine of social interaction and fun. The problem, though, is that so much happened. I set out to, as I typically do, with the plan to blog about everything. The problem? I can't. I can't find the words. I've talked to a few people, I've shared the photos with my kids. But every time, another story comes to mind. I went camera crazy during the beginning of the trip, but as the week went on, I found myself taking fewer and fewer pictures. I started to breathe slower, I started to observe more. While I came back with over 1000 photos, they were whittled down to a little over 400. Every one of them has a story. I was disappointed in most of the underwater ones, not sure what happened to the settings on my camera this time. Even the ones that did turn out decent will never capture the true beauty. The 64 million shades of blue. The way the sky blends into the water. The rich purples of fan coral. The blues and yellows of trigger fish. Only the naked eye can truly see the colors, your Retina display has nothing on what I saw! The best I can do is to share a few memorable experiences of the thousands I had. 1. I swam with sharks. Nurse sharks to be exact. Yes, I had a few irregular gasps for air in the snorkel at first, but after that, seeing them glide under me so gracefully, it was relaxing. My mask has prescription lenses in it, but they are not exact, so my depth perception in the water is a little off. I found out after we were out of the water that the depth was only 4-5 feet and those sharks, yeah, a foot below me. 2. Eagle rays are magnificent creatures. Six foot wingspan gliding right under me, I could feel the push of the water. 3. Sea to table. Harvesting conch which turned into the 1st course for dinner as conch ceviche. 4. Eating the conch "nerve" which legend has it, is a natural Viagra. This turned into "Oh Patries, I'm feeling a little frisky" and a great laugh for everyone on board. 5. Intro dive. In 40 feet of water, I made it to a depth of 2 feet. Time for certification this year for sure. 6. Lion fish are invading the reef, eating everything and laying 20,000 eggs every 4 days. Polly, who owns and manages Tom's Cove has a license to spear them. Lion fish ceviche rocks as did the snook and coconut rice pilaf she served on Wednesday night. 7. I missed the boat. Well, the dinghy. Stepping from the cat to the dinghy, yeah, a really good miss as I went straight into the water. I was laughing so hard that I couldn't lift myself out of the water into the dinghy. No one let me live that down and I was asked numerous times to provide demonstrations for boarding a dinghy. 8. Night swimming. I will not reveal whether I had clothes on or not. 9. Night snorkeling. Splashing the water to see the phytoplankton light up and millions of baby fish swimming about. I was asked on numerous occasions to get out of the water and go to bed. I could not get enough of it. 10. You may think taking a walk in the park holding hands is romantic. Nah! Try holding hands "taking a walk" on water, uh, snorkeling. Where burping in your snorkel is OK and blowing boogers into the water after your "walk" is acceptable. All while having garlic breath after a yummy lunch. Yeah, the next person who is lucky enough to go out on a date with me... this is your warning! I came back. I came back alive. I was extremely land sick. It is a true thing that happens. Even a week later, I still cannot close my eyes in the shower without feeling like I'm going to fall down. I also came back having had time to think. Reaching inner peace as the boat rode gentle 12 foot swells on the open ocean. But the strangest thing that I came back with is that every single magical moment I experienced, I kept saying to myself, "She would love this!" She would love the open water and beautiful blues, the black of the night and the rays dancing on the water at sunrise. The gentle rocking of Mother Nature. "Lately I been, I been losing sleep Dreaming about the things that we could be But baby I been, I been prayin' hard Said no more counting dollars We'll be counting stars" ~ OneRepublic, Counting Stars "Sail away with me honey I put my heart in your hand Sail away with me honey now, now, now Sail away with me, what will be will be I wanna hold you now, now, now" ~ David Gray, Sail Away "When you're happy like a fool Let it take you over When everything is out You gotta take it in" ~ OneRepublic, Good Life "And I drink to that." ~ Rihanna, Cheers (Drink to That) The photo albums: Belize 2013