Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Culture shock?

Sometimes its not the big differences that get you when you travel - you are on some level expecting things to be unlike they are at home, like the language. But the little changes can really take you unawares.

Something as humble as our morning oatmeal really should be the familiar comfort food. The first clue should have been that the package is plastic rather than the cardboard I’m used to. The Spanish-language directions on the back instructed us to cook it in milk rather than water as we commonly do in the US, and add plenty of sugar. The result was a smooth-textured creamy soup, thinner than we’re used to. Oddest of all was the instruction not to strain the oatmeal before serving. Hmm. (We switched back to making it our familiar US way next morning.)

But What Will You Do? (placeholder for photo essay)

When I told one of my friends that we were going to spend two months in Aruba, that he asked me how we’d keep busy. Perhaps he had visions of us lazing in the sun on the beach reading trashy novels. Or as another friend who gave up cruising said, “Well, partly, I went back to work because, really, how many games of golf or tennis can you play on different beaches before even playing gets old?”

Us? I can still hear my fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Cohen, many of whose apt proverbs … “Only boring people get bored.” So after a few days of beach sand, and a day or two of pure logistics like unpacking our suitcases, buying groceries, changing money, we started looking for ways to make our own fun. We’d already visited most of the typical tourist sights, and weren’t interested in shopping for diamonds or going to the casino. But:

I learned to melt glass (in a half-day workshop that had me utterly addicted, except glass and sailboats really don’t mix very well)

We did a lot of diving

Watched most of the carnival parades

Studied the local birds (this is a ‘tropical’ family, mom feeding her teenage offspring. Tropial are native to the ABC islands and only here, much loved, and have a beautiful song.)

And architecture (this is a ‘cunucu’ style traditional house. The high gable is oriented to the prevailing trade winds which blow through to keep the interior cool; energy-efficient air conditioning)

Watched a lot of sunsets

Learned new and interesting foods (love eating things whose names we can’t pronounce - lekkerbekje is a kind of fried fish as is kibblingen; keshi yena is a chicken and fruit stew baked in the rind of an edam cheese; Tai leaf (sp) looks like an ornamental plant; and pastechi, my all-time favorite, is a turnover filled with melted Dutch gouda cheese)

Renewed old friendships and made new ones

And, yes, spent a lot of time on the beach!

The Art Scene

(this is a placeholder; the photos and half-written post for this were lost when my computer crashed)

One Square Mile Living

(this is a placeholder; the photos and half-written post for this were lost when my computer crashed)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

More Diving!

I just love the colors
Exploring a cargo ship sunk in WWII
Lionfish - okay, I know they're an invasive species, but its hard to hate anything so interesting-looking

Coral growth on that boat

Me at about 50 ft below sea level - there ain't no gravity here!
all photos by our wonderful dive instructor Manon