Reflections of a Traveler

As I fly back to the grand U S of A today, I have taken the time to reflect on my travels.

Three months ago I left on a whim, with an inkling of a plan, and it turned out nothing like I had ever imagined.  I ended up spending the most time I’ve ever spent away from my home in New England, traveling in a country within a corner of the sea I never had anticipated myself ever even visiting, learning a language I never before had wanted to learn, spending time with friends I didn’t even know I had.  Before I had left home, Colombia wasn’t even on my traveling radar, but as I return home today, I am ever so grateful to say, I have family ALL throughout Colombia.

A few of many highlights:

Surviving the crash at Alburqurque Reef 20 miles south of San Andres with this piece of shit:

Good ole' Carrie Ann.  She still floats.

Good ole’ Carrie Ann. She still floats.

(oh, did I forget to mention that 10 weeks ago…must have slipped my mind).  Something Mary and I will talk about the rest of our lives.

Going on over 75 dives, with people I consider my good friends:

In particular, diving at Grouper Palace, the buoy, sunken embarco, the deep dives, and taking my best friend Sandra diving for her first time

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sleeping on the job

DSC_0313 DCIM100GOPRO

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Isiais photo of our cove friend

DSC00549

His name’s Charlie

Swimming in crystal clear waters

DCIM100GOPRO OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Working on the Los Amigos

DCIM100GOPRO

Fried Fish and Plantino’s cookouts at the marina

Barracuda and Plaintains

Barracuda and Plaintains

Relishing in the Islander’s lifestyle: Creole (music to my ears), Rondon, Rasta Bars, Fresh Fish, Great Music and Excellent Dancers

DSC_1697 DSC_0355 DSC_1269

Golfcart Extravaganza with Mary and Sarah

DSC_0253

Riding around on motorcycles every day

Riding with Joan

Riding with Joan

Swimming to the buoy

Swimming

Swimming to the buoy

Playing football with my girls

Running the perimeter of San Andres before the light of day

Finding Sarah Orne Jewett in the middle of the Caribbean

Sarah Orne Jewett, "Country Doctor"

Sarah Orne Jewett, “Country Doctor”

Sailing to Providencia

First light of Providencia

First light of Providencia

Spotting the Colombia Mainland for the first time

Rinconn del Mar

Rinconn del Mar

Playing blues piano on a boat in open water

and subsequently being adopted by Jessie and Kenny

Jessie and Kenny

Jessie and Kenny

Making friends on the street

Making friends on the street

Cartagena from the boat

Cartagena from the boat

DSC_0483

Bed Window

Bed Window

View from my window

View from my bed window

Offloading Tankers

Offloading Tankers

Running into a Mainer in the Harbor at Club Nautico in Cartagena

Swimming in the Harbor

Swimming in the Harbor

Jessie Feeding the Birds

Jessie Feeding the Birds

DSC_0556Traveling through the city via horse carriage

Horses all around the city

Horses all around the city

Taking a dinghy tour of the harbor, visiting anyone who would have us aboard

 

And that’s only the tip of the iceberg as they say;

I’ve been spoiled beyond belief the past 3 months.

Below are some REFLECTIONS on my time away. 

Both new revelations and old.

 

[it’s a lot to digest, but bare with me]:

1.  I am a traveler; not a tourist, a vacationer, or a backpacker. A Traveler.

San Andres from Above

San Andres from Above

2.  I am a college graduate!  (still new to me)

3.  There’s no shame in being an American; it’s a greater piece of your identity than you realize, until you find yourself so FAR (both figuratively and literally) from home.

I am an American

I am an American

4.  The best plan when traveling, is to have no plan. Don’t box yourself in.

5.  Learning a second language is in fact, an attainable goal.

Speaking Spanish is only as difficult as you decide to make it.

6.  An honest smile and some patience can go a long way.

7.  You are never really alone.

8.  Pass it on.  Take care of other travelers the way others have taken care of me.  You never know what may come of it.  In the end, we all belong to the same family.

9.  Sailing is better than flying.  It gives you the time you need to truly appreciate a place, as well as the physical act of coming and going.

10.  The best way to seek out a new adventure is to be patient and wait for the adventure to find you.

11.  When there’s a will, there’s a way.  More often than not, what you need to make your ideas become a reality has been right in front of you all along.  And most importantly, New is not always better.

Reuse. Recycle. Reinvent.

Creativity is a gift to be cherished.

Again; patience.

12.  There’s more to communication than language.

13.  Leave your box of a house more often and step outdoors, you may just run into someone you know.

14.  You don’t have to be spending money to be happy.

15.  It’s okay to sit and do nothing.  Life doesn’t have to be fast.

It’s hard to believe, but it’s true.

16.  Football is more than just a sport.

17.  I’m going to spend the rest of my life on boats on the water.  Fact.

18.  The best fiestas are those that are unplanned, with both old friends and new.  Slow down, and take the time to sit and really be with those you dare call your friends.

19.  It is possible to have too much fun, and important to possess the ability to acknowledge the point when enough is enough.

20.  Everyone has something to teach.

21.  Friends can be found in the most unlikely of places.

AND MOST IMPORTANTLY:

 Never say goodbye, because you never know when you’ll be back.

Sunrise

Sunrise

When faced in the right direction, just keep swimming.

As a good friend recently put it:

“Tranqulia [Relax],

Your travels are not ending; your life is just beginning.”

As Ever, Sarah E.

As Ever, Sarah E.

As Ever,

Thanks for listening,

Sarah E.

Over and Out

True Colombia: Mainland

Noon friday we departed from Providencia and headed 120 degrees, east-south-east towards Rinconn Del Mar, “Corner of the Sea,” where captain Franco’s family was anxiously awaiting our arrival, just past the world’s most densely populated island, Santa Cruz del Islote, with over 1,200 people inhabiting just over 1/10 a square km.  Unbelievable.  Great trivia fun fact; you can thank me later.

Rinconn del Mar

Rinconn del Mar

With calm seas and favorable winds, we made great timing, with no complications and spotted land by 11:00 monday morning.  And just as soon as we had spotted the beach of the small fishing village, our current destination, Franco’s family had spotted us, and a small speed boat pulled up alongside us packed full of Colombians cheering us on.  They escorted us to shore where we anchored just 30 meters out front of their waterfront beach cabana.  Here in Colombia it is Holy Week, more commonly known at home as Easter Week, and therefore the whole country is on vacation, hence his entire family here in Rinconn del mar.

Mainland. Finally

Mainland. Finally

Family's Boat

Family’s Boat

Julie, the real sailor aboard.  Seriously though.  She could man that boat single-handedly.  Amazing

Julie, the real sailor aboard. Seriously though. She could man that boat single-handedly. Amazing

Franco’s family welcomed me with open arms, fed me, gave me a shower to use, and more.  They offered for us a place to stay, but Julie and I opted to stay the nights on the boat, a great escape from the family chaos, all too familiar to me.  Days in Rinconn consisted of beach football, sunbathing, eating, drinking.  People from the town worked as servants at the house and I felt guilty having people less privileged than I waiting on me hand and foot, carrying my bags, bringing me sliced fruit on the beach, hanging my clothes to dry when I looked away.  It took no more than a day before I was itching to move on.

Franco and family aboard Paldemar

Franco and family aboard Paldemar

Franco Fun Facts:

1.  He owns 5 dolphins and an entire aquarium in Santa Marta, Colombia and I’m welcome any time.  I can dig it.

2.  He’s a certified Dive Instructor and owns a dive shop in Medellin.  

3.  He bought his first sail boat at my age from a professor at his school in Miami which he would sail around the bay, until the winds would suddenly die off and he’d have to swim the boat 2 miles back to shore.  Luckily he was on the swim team at the time…

4.  He went to school for Marine Sciences.

Map of their cirumnavigation on the wall of the cabin

Map of their cirumnavigation on the wall of the cabin

Last minute, "Shit, I didn't take any photos of the cabin," photo

Last minute, “Shit, I didn’t take any photos of the cabin,” photo.  My makeshift bed.

Unfortunately, I quickly realized that Franco was not planning on sailing to the closest city, Cartagena, a boat mecca, for another 6 days, at the end of his vacation, and so I began scheming a way out.  So when my forearm turned bright red and decided to swell up to the size of a small balloon animal due to some sort of bug bite, I jumped at the opportunity to take a taxi 2 hours to the city to go to the hospital.

8 am thursday morning, I said goodbye to the clan, and took 2 moto taxis, one for my bags and one for myself, 30 minutes down desolate dirt roads, to the closest town, where I caught a taxi.  From there we drove 2 hours to the city of Cartagena, driving past cattle ranch after cattle ranch, until suddenly a skyline seemingly had arisen from the dusty landscape.  Fearful of the cost of a taxi ride, I mentally prepared myself to fork over at least 100,000 pesos, the equivalent of 60 dollars, the most money I would have spent at one time since I left Panama 3 months ago.  Least to say when he pulled out front of my hotel in Gestemani district, carried my bags to my room, shook my hand, and then asked me for a measly 40,000 pesos for the 2 hour drive, I was left discreetly scraping my jaw of the tile floor.  25 dollars?!  Sweet.  I felt so guilty I gave him 50,000, especially considering he had spent 18,000 pesos just driving through the 4 tolls along the way.  What a life, making that horrible drive each day.

I checked into my hotel room, ecstatic to have my own space for the first time in a long time, and couldn’t help but relish in the clean sheets, air conditioning, a television, my own bathroom, a clean toilet, a functional shower, and wifi.  Complete and utter luxury.  I moved in real quick, and did not hesitate to sleep naked, a favorite past time of mine from home.

Luxury

Luxury

It took a solid 3 hours before I was able to drag my ass from my room to the streets where I flagged down a cab to the Hospital de Bocasgrande in hope of a cure for my throbbing arm.  The doctor and I had met somewhere in the middle, I guess you can call it Spanglish, and in 15 minutes, and a small fortune later, I walked away with a band aid and 2 boxes of antibiotics.  Things were looking up.  Having already been 6 days since the pain had started, it seemed it was beginning to improve anyways, but the doctors okay and some medication gave myself, and more importantly my mother, the reassurance that I will in fact survive to see another day in the grand U.S. of A, whenever that may be…

I since have been exploring the city by foot, and am sincerely in love.  Didn’t think I was going to like it because I’m not much of a city girl, but it’s a real fun, entertaining place.  The old city is so beautifully rustic, with cobblestone pathways just wide enough for a small car, full of horse drawn carriages, bright colors, delicious street food, bohemian cafes and shops, and a fresh juice stand on every corner.  And everything here is dirt cheap.  No complaints.  I spent last night sitting on a park bench in Centro square drinking cervaeza and eating every bit of street food that passed my way.  Great people watching too.  [Haven’t taken many pictures of the city thus far, but I promise to pack the next post full]

Residential section of Gestemani District

Residential section of Gestemani District

Digging the fresh juices.  Mango, Strawberry, Banana with strawberry ice cream

Digging the fresh juices. Mango, Strawberry, Banana with strawberry ice cream

Curious as to what the boat scene was all about here, today I walked across the bay bridge to the Club Nautico where I walked up and down the docks of hundreds of boats, some occupied, others not, making small talk with anyone willing.  It didn’t take long before I ended up aboard this gorgeously clean and spacious sailboat drinking cava and talking with one couple who had been living in the marina for the past 5 years.  Beautifully wonderful people with so much to share.  I felt as if I had run into some old friends.  And to top it all off, I soon learned that Jessie, a Belgian woman, had spent a good portion of her life living in Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa near the embassy, at exactly the same time both my mother and father had been living there in the ’80’s.  I wonder if their paths ever crossed.  In my mind, I can’t help but believe they must have.  Amazing.  She’s currently working on a book about her 8+ years she had spent there.  First copy: SOLD. Can’t wait to hold the final product in my hands.

A photo from my time in Sierra Leone, West Africa, Liberia's neighbor

A photo from my time in Sierra Leone, West Africa, Liberia’s neighbor.  Beautiful people

After an hour or two of inspirational conversation, the topic of music came up, and next thing I knew she was dragging me down the stairs to her dining room, where she pulled out a beautiful piano from beneath their dining table; she had custom designed the set-up herself.  I could not believe it.  A piano aboard a boat.  I began dreaming of the open ocean breeze billowing through the portholes as they sailed through the night, the sails flapping and the waves splashing at the hull accompanied by the sweet sound of the keys.   I may have now seen it all.  So cool. Jessie and her husband Kenny then proceeded to play a duet for me, her on the keys and him on the harmonica hooked up to an amplifier.  And that was it.  I was stuck.  We spent the next several hours jamming, and she taught me a few tricks, and I taught her a few blues scales, and we were lost in a black hole of music, not a bad place to be.

Jessie and Kenny

Jessie and Kenny

Coolest piano yet

Coolest piano yet

We soon realized the time, and decided to walk to town for a pizza.  I mentioned how I longed to hear her play in the open ocean, and Kenny immediately responded, “Well pack your bags and come by in the morning, we’ll go for a 2 day sail.”  Uhhh, okay.  Why not take this traveling gipsy band to the seas.  I cannot wait.  Packing my bags now, and am checking out of the hotel in the morning to move onto the boat with them for a few days.  We plan to buy a boatload, no pun intended, of fruit in the morning, so we can make all sorts of delicious concoctions with her juicer, and some fresh fish to barbecue on the deck.  We should be back sometime sunday or monday.

I since have made another friend at the marina as well, who is making a hard sell for me to work on his backpackers surf/kitesurfing charter heading to Bocas del torro next wednesday.  He wants to pay me some good money, and possibly my flight home, but I fear the timing just isn’t right, not to mention I already feel as if I’ve been there done that.  Not really into sailing ginormous squares.  Octagons perhaps; then maybe we’d talk.  Maybe we could work together another time.  We’ll be in touch.  He wants to fly to Gloucester in the next month or so to look at buying an old fishing boat to renovate.  I’ve promised to be his guide.

Bocas del torro, Panama

Bocas del torro, Panama

As far as future plans go, I am anticipating heading to west coast Florida in the next week or so to catch up with a dear friend of mine, at a time when it’s needed most.  A reunion long overdue.  Get ready Kus, huge, HUGE Sarah hug coming your way.

And from there, yeah that’s right, I guess the travels are ending here soon; I should be making my way back north.  As my former boss Evan Mallet has recently put it, You are an absentee heroine in an epic fish tale that is waiting for you.  My people and I have a seacoast fish revolution in the works.

Prepare yourselves…

Shit’s gonna get fishy.

As Ever, Sarah E.

As Ever, Sarah E.

I Finally Made it to Providencia

Good Bye San Andres

Good Bye San Andres

As Captain Franco had said, we were pulling away from the pier at the Marina in Centro, San Andres by 4 pm.  No different than any other day throughout the past 3 months, I had absolutely no idea what time it was until all of a sudden someone was tossing me the spring lines at the stern of the boat from the dock, and there we were on our way as my shipmates had most likely conversed; the Spanish language had eluded me once again.  It was probably for the best, because like a band aid, they’re better ripped away fast (sorry for the cliche, but hey, it’s the truth).  We departed San Andres with the setting sun, and I could not help, but look back as the glowing island faded away into the distance.  As soon as the three sails were up, Julie began to open the first bottle of red wine of the night.  Passing me my glass Franco added, “You really loved that island, huh?” stating, more than inquiring as he caught me stealing my hundredth glance back.

Looking back

Looking Back

Sailing out

Sailing out

Sunset Happy Hour

Julie & Sunset Happy Hour

DSC_0354

Second thoughts around here...

Second thoughts around here…

DSC_0371

As far as departing somewhere you care about, there is something therapeutic to be said for sailing away.  The actual act of allowing the wind to gradually carry you onward, feels much more empathetic than the act of bursting down a concrete runway entirely encased in a metal tube, peering out of tiny, 3 inch-thick, portholes made of plastic, breathing recycled air, only to depart in a flash.  At least by sail you have a moment, or maybe more like an hour or two on a clear day, to move on and say your goodbyes, physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Last Goodbyes

Last Goodbyes

With four people aboard, we split the night in two taking turns keeping watch as we set the heading for 60 miles north towards the island of Providencia.  Averaging around 6 knots an hour, we had made good time.  By early dawn as I awoke for my second shift, Providencia was coming into view, and I knew by her mountainous landscape, more wild, rugged, and desolate than San Andres, that I was not going to want to leave.  Half asleep I turned to Franco at the helm and made him swear no matter how much I whined and begged, to make sure I was back on that boat by midday.  With his first sip of coffee he gave me a reassuring nod, followed by a smile.

First light of Providencia

First light of Providencia

Sunrise

Sunrise

My flag flying high

My flag flying high

By morning light, we were pulling into the island marina tying alongside the cargo ship, Wave Crest from San Andres, piled to the brim with goods from it’s neighbor island, including a horse, an actual pile of live chickens, and several goats and lambs.  Julie (keep in mind the Spanish pronunciation being Huulie), the real sailor onboard, was exhausted from keeping watch the majority of the night, and having experienced the island before opted for a few hours sleep over exploring as did Franco; so Alvaro and myself, virgins to Providencia decided to head off on our own.  At the dock we flagged down a taxi van to drive us the 9 miles around the perimeter of the island, our only request being that we stop at the beach somewhere so we could go for a quick swim to freshen up before the 400 mile haul to the mainland.

Providencia

Providencia

Wave Crest from San Andres

Wave Crest from San Andres

Within the hour we were back where we had started, at which point we decided to walk across the bridge to Santa Catalina, the neighboring island, even more primitive than Providencia with no roads to be heard of. The whole time on land I couldn’t help, but think how I had missed my traveling amigas, Mary and Sarah, by just a week or two’s time, and I imagined all the places and people they must have befriended throughout their stay on the island as I had in San Andres.  I can’t wait to hear about their time in Providencia.  For those of you wondering, last I heard, 3 weeks ago, they were sailing towards Honduras, but I have heard nothing more since then.  I wish them safe travels, and am anxiously looking forward to running into them at our usual stomping grounds back home where we can reminisce on our travels and the hospitable shades of blue of our winter home.

DSC_0426

Why not pick up the kids from school?

Why not pick up the kids from school? Alvaro in the back. The one kid is crying because he wanted to ride a motorcycle home instead of going in the van.  I don’t blame him.

Santa Catalina

Santa Catalina

DSC_0434

DSC_0436

DSC_0425

Big Con-Oil Campaign around the island

It wasn’t long before we were back at the boat where we met Franco to walk to the market    for a few last things, some fruit, more wine, crackers, etc.  By 11:00 am, we were pushing off, Wave Crest still offloading to our right, the horse still patiently waiting aboard within it’s planked stall beneath the rising sun.  As we departed, the sun hung in mid-sky as we set our heading for 120 degrees, east-south-east, towards Rinconn del Mar, “Corner of the Sea,” a small fishing village on the mainland, where Franco’s family anxiously awaited our arrival at their family’s beach house.

Still wating

Still wating…

Chao Providencia

Chao Providencia

Farewell Providencia.  Thanks for having me

Farewell Providencia. Thanks for having me.

Cuidate San Andres

The captain has given the go ahead and we are setting sail today, Thursday at 4 pm, sailing north to Providencia and then south for the night and then southeast towards Cartagena at which he expects to arrive by Monday evening.  And I am having the hardest time saying good bye.  Everyone I’ve met the last 24 hours has brought me to tears asking why don’t I stay longer and when will I be coming back.  Both questions I cannot answer, but with all my heart, I hope to come back, sooner rather than later.

The people I am going to miss:

DSC_0306

Isaias

DSC_0310

Joan

Juan Pablo

Juan Pablo

DSC_0313

San Andres Divers

DSC_0316

Jon

DSC_0325

Emildo. My first friend in San Andres

DSC_0330

My Roommate Carlos

DSC_0334

My Cayo boliviar amigos

DSC_0344

Rasta Dicio

DSC_0352

My best girl Sandra from Czech Republic

DSC_0377

Julio and Camillo (Lakka’s brother)

DSC_0399

Julio and Luz Helena, the owner of San Andres Divers

DSC_1421

Jaime, the captain of Los Amigos

DSC_1477

Lakka Lakka

DCIM100GOPRO

Eilen

DSC_0322

Joris

DSC_0300

Mi amiga next door to the shop

Peter

Peter

Cornelio

Cornelio

DSC_0304 DSC_0315 DSC_0320 DSC_0330 2 DSC_1214

And this Cove:  

The view from my daily swim to the buoy

The view from my daily swim to the buoy

I will be forever grateful for the opportunities I have been given here on this island.  Much love to each and every amigo.

Chao San Andres.

I will be back one day…

To New Adventures

A lot’s happened since I’ve last wrote.  San Andres has since recovered from the storm and since we’ve begun diving once again.  It took a solid week of removing trash from the water that had been swept from the shore, but our local reef has begun to look a bit more like itself.

IMG_5040

Keep your ocean clean

Keep your ocean clean

Due to a sporadic change in my travel plans.  I’m feeling extremely crunched for time, so excuse my brevity.

I’ve been continuing to work on the boat on the north side of the island here, Los Amigos, taking people on fishing tours and day trips to Cayo Boliviar, a beautiful island 20 miles north of here.  It’s a pretty great job, as far as jobs go.  And I love the group of guys that I get to work with.  It looks a little something like this:

DCIM100GOPRO DCIM100GOPRO

Trawling with 6 lines in the water
Trawling with 6 lines in the water
Barracuda I caught myself.  And then ate for lunch.  Delicioso
Barracuda I caught myself. And then ate for lunch. Delicioso
Flying fish that flew into my lap
Flying fish that flew into my lap
Clear Water
Clear Water 

DSC_0343

Cleaning Up

Cleaning Up

When not working on the boat, I’ve been diving.  And have finally gotten to go to some different dives by boat on the other side of the island.  One spot called Grouper Palace has since topped all other dives, and is now my favorite spot.  It’s essentially like the Grand Canyon under water.  Absolutely magnificent.  Diving on the north side of the island is very different than that of the south side, and having had the pleasure of thoroughly experiencing both, it’s cool to be able to notice the differences.  The most prominent difference between the two being that our cove side has a lot calmer waters and greater diversity, while the north side has a lot more larger fish and crystal clear waters in certain spots.  They are both special places in their own way.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Class with the new instructor Martine and mi amig Joan

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A dream come true. A truck full of Chilean boys.

Juan Pablo came back for a visit.  I missed him tons.  Trust me, he’s not as serious as he looks.

DSC_0304

Since I last wrote I’ve begun coaching a girls football (soccer) team with another guy thanks to my friend Joan from the dive shop.  Joan plays on a team here on the island and when he found out I love playing as much as him, immediately took me to the beautiful island stadium and introduced me to all the right people.  The next day he suited me up with shorts, socks, a jersey, my own pair of cleats and I’ve been playing every monday and wednesday ever since.  I forgot how much I love to play football.  The girls are around high school age and are very entertaining to play with.  They have a lot of sass and very little energy, and they get a real kick out of me dragging them around the field, cheering them on in my English phrases from back in my glory days.  Their favorite word is, “HUSTLE.”  It’s the first thing they say to me each time they see me.  I don’t have a team picture yet, but I will post one soon.

Practice looks a little like this...

Practice looks a little like this…

In other news.  My plans have changed greatly in just the past day, completely unexpected to me and every one around me.  On my walk home from playing basketball with some friends, I decided to just swing by the marina where all the yachts come in.  I noticed a pile of books there, and started ruffling through them, desperate for some new reading material in English.  On top of the pile was a book by Sarah Orne Jewette, “A Country Doctor.”  For any of you who don’t know, Sarah Orne Jewette is a historical writer from my home town South Berwick, Maine, and growing up as a kid in the Marshwood school district, we continually were dragged on tours to her house, just around the corner from my own, each year.  Needless to say, I could not believe my eyes, and at that moment, I had decided whatever happened from that point on, I just needed to say yes.  So when the captain of this beautiful boat began speaking to me in English immediately following, asking if I would like to join him and his crew to Cartagena, Colombia, a boater’s mecca, on their last leg of their 3 year circumnavigation, I could not say no.

The boat

The boat

He wants to leave this Thursday night or Saturday morning at the absolute latest.  Though I hardly feel I’m ready to go, and have been stressed to the max since then gathering all my things and saying my goodbyes, finding that book feels like far too profound of a sign to disregard.  Not to mention knowing me, I’ll never really be fully ready to leave; I’m known to fall hard for good company, and I’m already scheming how and when to come back.

And to top it all off, when I went back to the boat the next day with Isaias and Juan Pablo, to confirm that I was in fact going to join them, Franco the captain immediately recognized my friends as good friends of his own.  As it turns out, Franco has been friends with Luz Helena, the owner of San Andres Divers, for over 10 years, and he has a dive shop of his own on the mainland.  The world just keeps getting smaller.   So last night Luz Helena, her husband Julio, Isiais and myself joined the captain and some of his friends to celebrate taking down the American flag that had traveled around the world with him and replacing it with the his own, Colombian flag.  And to top it all of, he gave me the privilege.  My American pride was swelling; and he then proceeded to give me the flag.  I have promised to hold on to it, until I have a sailboat of my own.  I’m so honored.  I hope I can see as much as this flag has in the years to come.

America.  with Luz Helena

America. with Luz Helena

Taking down the flag

Taking down the flag

So Proud

So Proud

So Salute to my last few days here in San Andres.  We may be leaving tomorrow night, but I have my fingers crossed for Saturday morning.  I’ve just got so much to do.  I’m overwhelmed to say the least, but am doing my best to savor every last bit.

Mal Tiempo

“BAD WEATHER”

36 hours ago marked the beginning of a crazy storm here in San Andres.  Saturday, I had spent the day working on the boat, taking a group of tourists to the island Cayo Boliviar 20 miles north of here, when we were forced to come back early afternoon, due to rising seas and increasing winds.  Over the next 24 hours we experienced 30 mph hour winds and ridiculously rough seas.  The once calm south side of the island, was stirred up beyond belief, more so than the typically more rowdy north side of the island.  Needless to say, I had no work, on neither the boat or the dive shop for 2 days now.  It turned out to be a great day for sleeping, catching up on my Zzzz’s.  This morning we went to the shop to check the wreckage and went for a quick dive to recover some of our dive platform belongings lost to the waves.  We caused quite the buzz with the onlooking tourists.  The water is much calmer today but still pretty rough, and the visibility for diving is at the bare minimum.  Probably won’t have any classes for another day or so.  I’m not sure where Mary and Sarah are aboard Carrie Ann these days, but I am hoping they are alright, and found a save place to hide from the storm.  Yesterday was a great reminder of how powerful a force the ocean really can be…

the normally calm south side of the island

the normally calm south side of the island

DSC_0300 DSC_0316 DSC_0348 DSC_0349 DSC_0350 DSC_0358 DSC_0370 DSC_0373 DSC_0377 DSC_0387 DSC_0415

Friday I caught my first fish on line and hook while working on the boat, a big juicy barracuda, which I preceded to scale, gut, and slice to throw into a boiling pot of oil over the fire, just in time for lunch.  Delicioso!

Thursday was a slow day at the shop and so we spent the afternoon working on our free diving, or diving without air.  Isaias is the reigning champion and can stay under for over a minute.  He makes it look so easy.

They're not as tough as they look

They’re not as tough as they look

Eilen, New at the shop

Eilen, New at the shop

Isaias filming our dives

Isaias filming our dives

I made it to 25 feet, but you have to make sure you come up slowly

I made it to 25 feet, but you have to make sure you come up slowly

Jon heading for the surface

Jon heading for the surface

I have my first Spanish class with my teacher Lodesca, at 5 pm today for 2 hours.  Hopefully my comprehension of the language will begin to pick up a bit more quickly than it has been the past 2 weeks.  We shall see.

p.s. Cakka racha and I finally came to meet face to face, quite literally, and let’s just in the end the cakka racha did not win.  No mas cakka racha.

What’s new?

Six weeks on the island now.

Things had become a bit routine here, waking up early in the morning and either taking the bus, the company truck, or running 6 miles to the dive shop for our first class of the day at 9 am 7 days a week.  No complaints from me, but was fearful of how predictable my days had become for someone who was supposed to be “traveling.”  Therefore I was strongly considering leaving the island for the past week, but then I landed a job working on 2 different boats with the same captain and one other deckhand, taking tourists around the island on shall we say, joy rides, diving, snorkeling, and fishing.  Today was my first day on the job.  Not a bad gig.  I’m getting paid, but minimally by America’s standards, but for here in San Andres, it’s more than I need.  It’s a pretty great feeling to have money coming in, and very little going out while away from home.  I’m hoping that if I keep this up for a month or so, maybe I will have enough money to visit one or two more places enroute to home.  Who knows?

On the boat today, we had a Colombian, an Argentinean,  a couple from El Salvador that own a surfing hostel on the best surf beach in the country, and a guy from Poland.  It was a beautiful sunny day, and I got to visit the two cays that I had yet been able to visit:  Johnny Cay and Rocky Cay.  On Rocky Cay, the tourists treated me to lunch and I got to taste my first Caribbean lobster…(Maine lobster is better).  On the boat my job is to help people in and out of the boat, man the helm while the captain is setting the fishing gear, and to prepare any beverages the passengers may like. And I get free food and drinks throughout the day.  Pretty easy going.  Today I worked on the smaller recreational boat, but we’re hoping to have a larger fishing yacht up and running by next week, which will be my main gig, a few days a week. After today, I’m a whole new level of brown.

Surfer from El Salvador

Surfer from El Salvador

First Mate

First Mate

Clearest water yet...

Clearest water yet…

The boat

The boat

I'm in charge

I’m in charge

DCIM100GOPRO
DCIM100GOPRO DCIM100GOPRO DCIM100GOPRO DCIM100GOPRO

The past 4 nights, I’ve gotten to eat dinner outside after preparing it over an open fire; fresh fish each time, so delicious.  Can’t wait to cook back home and corrupt all mi amigos with my Caribbean ways.  They really know how to enjoy a fresh fish.  You don’t need anything else to go with it.

Dinner with Sandra and Emildo

Dinner with Sandra and Emildo

Also, I’ve made a friend from Czech Republic who has been living on the island for a year now with her Rasta boyfriend.  She’s the first girl on the island that I’ve become good friends with because there are few girls around that are my age, because most of them are married, have kids and spend most of their time around the house.  Needless to say, I have a LOT of guy friends, but luckily I’ve always been pretty good at hanging with the guys, so it’s ok.  Anyway, her name is Sandra, and she paints signs for restaurants and bars around the island and makes beautiful pieces of jewelry to sell for a living here in San Andres.  Since we’ve been hanging out, she’s been teaching me how to bend wire into bracelets and necklaces in different ways.  She’s also a fire dancer, who has been in 2 different music videos filmed around the island.  She’s quite the gal.  I’ve learned a lot from her and am thankful for her friendship.  You can watch her dancing as well as see the sights of the island in this video.  She’s the one with the fire…

DSC_0339

Sandra's Jewels

Sandra’s Jewels

I also got to go spearfishing for Lion fish 2 days in a row now with my friend Jon from the shop.  Each time we got 7 lion fish.  There’s an overabundance of them around the island and they are known to eat lots of the other more beautiful native fish, so we try to kill every one of them that we see.  Their frilly fins have sharp spines in them that hold a strong strong poison so you have to be careful when handeling them in the water.  Once you gut them on the shore, you can cut the poisonous fins off an they are safe to eat.  They make for a great Ron Don.

DCIM100GOPRO

DCIM100GOPRO

DSC_0335

DSC_0334

DSC_0314

I also got to go on 3 dives the other day with a group of 3 who were completing their open water certification.  I got to dive at ship wreck close to the Cove for the first time, as well as one of my favorite dive spots on the island known as Nirvana, something about the reefs there are extra beautiful.  At the ship wreck we saw several Barracuda and the largest blow fish I’ve seen yet; we tried to corner it so we could make it inflate like a balloon but no cigar, they were too quick.  We also saw a massive, bright green moray eel on the prowl along the reef at Nirvana.  I’ve officially begun working on my Advanced Open Water Certification and should have it completed by next week sometime.

Barracuda

Barracuda

Blowfish

Blowfish

DCIM100GOPRO DCIM100GOPRO DCIM100GOPRO DCIM100GOPRO DCIM100GOPRO DCIM100GOPRO DCIM100GOPRO DCIM100GOPRO Hmmm…what else.  I saw my first cock roach in my apartment since I’ve gotten here, and yes, I screamed.  I’ve seen it twice since then, each time in the same place, but I am much to squeamish to do anything about it, so I just look away and avoid that corner of the room…which happens to be my bedroom…which happens to be the kitchen/dining room. Yes, I sleep in the kitchen.  Why not?

Since Juan Pablo has left and we have an extra room here at the apartment and we’ve been talking about moving to somewhere else. I’ve got my fingers crossed for somewhere outside of the city hopefully near the water (not hard to do) with some sort of yard so I can learn to cook outside on my own.  I really want to master some of the Caribbean dishes I’ve been tasting.

I also have a date with my friend Sandra’s Rasta man to learn how to bear climb a coconut tree for coconuts, and then how to machete them for eating.  I’ve always wondered how do they do it.  Hopefully I’ll become a natural.  Coconut is my favorite treat here on the island, directly followed by fresh mango, with a dash of salt.  Salt?!  Yes!  you have to try it.

Rasta Doricio

Rasta Doricio

DSC_0347I also have a date to go kite surfing in the near future, with the man himself who brought the sport to this island several years ago.  He’s very well known in the kite surfing community and he has put San Andres on the map for the sport; a great thing for the tourist industry.

Kite Surfing

Kite Surfing

Legendary Kite Surfer

The Legendary Kite Surfer

And since I plan on staying here for a few more months now, I’ve decided to increase my efforts to learn Spanish.  I’ve been slacking the past 2 weeks because I was anticipating leaving, but now I have no excuse.  I’m actively searching out somewhere to take a class once or twice a week, and have been studying from a text book Isaias loaned me, as well as practicing with my friends and strangers I’m forced to interact with around the island.

Isaias also took me to meet one of his good friends, Lakka, who builds boats.  He does amazing work, and I am hoping to learn a thing or two from him.  Definitely one of the most interesting men I’ve met in quite some time.  He’s an individual with great amounts of humble wisdom, that I am so eagerly thirsty for.  He’s been a captain of a fishing vessel since he was 16 and I’m hoping to go on an overnight fishing trip with him as soon as the conditions are right.  And you better believe there will be a KILLER fishue to follow.  I can’t wait.  He showed me one of the boats he’s working on restoring.  He’s hoping to turn it into a floating hotel out by they cays which he’d like to do private diving tours on.  He said I’ll be the first person he’ll call once he starts hiring.  It would be an amazing opportunity to work for him.  We’ll see where it goes.

Fiber glassing with Laka

Fiber glassing with Laka

DSC_1455

Moby Dick

Moby Dick

Laka's Boats

Laka’s Boats

My potential future place of employment

My potential future place of employment

Sweeping the engine room down below

Sweeping the engine room down below

My dream boat

My dream boat

Laka, Isaias and the kite surfer enjoying the setting sun

Laka, Isaias and the kite surfer enjoying the setting sun

I went to a night club with 2 guys from the shop the other night, called Sweet Mama’s House.  I’m falling in love with the music here.  Everything people listen to here has such an awesome beat, it grounds you straight to the earth.  I’m hooked.  Reggae, Reggaeton, Salsa and Mariachi are the most common types of music around the island.  Although I hate to say there’s not much live music if any, although there’s quite a few musicians from San Andres who have since left and have done well for themselves, and are worshipped here on the island.  I brought my ukulele with me, and so I’ve had a lot of time to improve my skills.  I’ve gotten much better.

I’ve also been running quite a bit, but way early in the morning because otherwise it’s too hot during the day, although it is the perfect temperature to hang around, aka, not exercise.  From my apartment to the dive shop is approximately 9 km, so I’ve been trying to run that a few times a week.  My goal is to train to run the entire perimeter of the island, 29 kilometers, around 18 miles.  It will be the longest distance I’ve ever run, 13 miles being the furthest.  I’m not looking to make any crazy times, just something to work towards we’ll see.  The joys of the not being in school I guess.  You can have crazy goals, like running around an entire island, or learning to climb a coconut tree, or learning every chord on your ukulele chart.  Sweet.  The post-college life is suiting me well.

Photos from my morning run:

Fishermen's Place

Fishermen’s Place

Free Range Sheep

Free Range Sheep

Sheep Crossing

Sheep Crossing

DCIM100GOPRO DCIM100GOPRO   Shout out to my good friend Rob:

Happy Birthday Beb!!!  Much love mi amigo.  

Let’s hike a mountain when I get back.  

DSC_1576

Guess that’s all for now.  Love you all.

Ciao!